GREENAIR NEWSLETTER 20 DECEMBER 2019
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Technology improvements unlikely to compensate for emissions from growth in European flights, says Eurocontrol
Thu 19 Dec 2019 – The European aviation industry has made big strides in improving its fuel efficiency, says Eurocontrol. However, it believes decarbonising aviation is arguably the greatest challenge facing the sector, at a time of increasing scrutiny from European governments and climate action groups, with countries like Germany and the United Kingdom legislating for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Eurocontrol estimates fuel efficiency on departure flights from within the 44-State ECAC area was 4.49 litres litres per 100 passenger kms in 2005 and had improved to around 3.40 in 2017. However, it is unlikely that future improvements in technology will compensate for the emissions from a forecast 53% growth in flights within Europe by 2040, it adds. Eurocontrol’s Head of Environment, Andrew Watt, says the industry needs to deliver a completely new aviation system if it is to meet 2050 decarbonisation targets.
Eurocontrol, Europe’s air navigation operations and services organisation, estimates an annual average fuel efficiency improvement of 2.1% between 2006 and 2016, with fuel burn per 100 passenger km flown of less than 3 litres for the latest commercial jet aircraft. This is comparable, if not better, than most family cars, Watt told the recent Aviation Carbon 2019 conference in London.
The steep rate of improvement in fuel efficiency since 2010 is due to deliveries of new, fuel-efficient aircraft types, says Eurocontrol. However, cautioned Watt, “What we see going out to 2040 is that fuel efficiency should continue to improve but at the moment it’s difficult to predict as to what degree it will go below 3 litres because we do not know what aircraft will be coming off the production lines.”
The last of the new generation of aircraft to enter into service will be the Boeing 777X early in the coming next decade. No firm plans have been announced for an airliner of the generation beyond that which would be expected to deliver a further 15-20% reduction in fuel burn and emissions. Watt said it was likely the Boeing 737MAX, 777X and 787, plus the Airbus A320neo, A330neo and A350, would still be flying in 2050.
By 2040, Eurocontrol forecasts an average fuel efficiency of 2.64 litres per 100 passenger kms if average annual technology improvements of 1.16% are incorporated into new aircraft deliveries.
Eurocontrol has based its long-term European aviation CO2 forecast on traffic growth, which has climbed to around 11 million flights per year. In a high-growth scenario, which assumes dynamic global economic growth with barriers to trade reducing, this could reach 19.5 million flights (+84%) by 2040. The base business-as-usual ‘regulation and growth' scenario, with a fairly heavily regulated aviation system but retaining a 'licence to grow', shows 16.2 million flights in 2040, 53% above current levels. The low 'fragmenting world' scenario, with increased trade barriers and sluggish GDP growth leading to stalling air traffic growth, could see flights at not much more than current levels, around 11.9 million flights, estimates Eurocontrol.
The most likely, said Watt, is around 16 million European flights per year. “This is handling around 55,000 flights per day in the European system, which is going to be a real challenge to deliver,” he warned.
European aviation CO2 emissions have risen from 150 million tonnes (Mt) in 2005 to around 180 Mt in 2017. Based on the three traffic scenarios, and depending on how aircraft technologies develop, the high forecast shows CO2 emissions in 2040 ranging from 316 to 366 Mt, a base forecast of 234-268 Mt and a low forecast of 157-176 Mt in which emissions remain stable to those of today.
Aviation CO2 emissions by European countries for the first nine months of 2019 have included a fall of 23% in the case of Iceland, as a result of the collapse of its second biggest airline WOW, and 3.6% in Sweden because of a decrease in domestic traffic due to the Flygskam movement and other factors at play, believes Watt. On the other hand, Austria has seen a big increase, 15.1%, in its aviation emissions, which Watt attributes to Ryanair's take-over of Laudamotion and subsequent ramping up of operations in Vienna, and Austrian Airlines swapping out turboprops for bigger Airbus A319/320 aircraft that burn more fuel on the same sectors.
The growing response in Europe from governments to the climate issue, for example net-zero emissions legislation in Germany and the UK, along with more active and vocal public opposition, has considerable significance for the aviation industry, said Watt. Airline investors too were becoming concerned about climate change impacts and saw a sector that was both a generator of CO2 and vulnerable to its climate effects through changes in weather.
Watt said the Eurocontrol Performance Review Report for 2018 showed air traffic management (ATM) measures can influence just 6% of airspace users fuel burn. The European Air Traffic Management Master Plan looks to reduce that to below 3% by 2035, he added.
“ATM is able to do things that would apply to all flights overnight. So whereas aircraft fleets may be rolled over a 20-to-30-year period and with just an expected gradual introduction of sustainable aviation fuels, we can implement measures to reduce emissions much more quickly.
“For example, in 2002, we introduced six new flight levels above 29,000 feet for all aircraft with the correct equipment and a trained crew, and that led to an instantaneous improvement in fuel efficiency of 5%. That's what ATM can do − relatively rarely but nevertheless make big improvements.”
He reported free route airspace, which has been implemented gradually since 2014 and has saved an estimated 2.6 Mt CO2, will be implemented above 29,000 feet across all of Europe by 2022. It will enable airlines to choose what is the most efficient routing for its operations. Eurocontrol is also working with industry on developing a joint action plan to implement continuous climb and descent operations in a wider deployment across Europe. “If we can do that perfectly, which we know is not going to be the case, we could potentially save over one million tonnes of CO2 a year.”
A future architecture study of the European airspace published by the European Commission, SESAR-JU and Eurocontrol this year showed overall savings of 30-60 Mt CO2 could be delivered by ATM between 2019 and 2035, he said.
Watt believes the five most important actions required to decarbonise the European aviation sector were:
- Change the European ATM network;
- Fund rapid transition to sustainable aviation fuels (SAF);
- Develop highly-efficient, large-capacity short-haul aircraft;
- Undertake a total fleet renewal by 2050 so that aircraft can only fly if they are wholly or partly electric, of for long-haul flights only use SAF; and
- Bridge the gap to electrification of short-haul aircraft through hybridisation of the fleet.
“We're at a tipping point where we are being driven from outside the industry to think outside the box and we need to deliver a completely new aviation system by 2050,” he said.
Link: Eurocontrol Think Paper: ‘The aviation network – Decarbonisation issues’
Rate of growth in airline carbon emissions has slowed this year but will pick up in 2020, forecasts IATA
Tue 17 Dec 2019 – According to IATA’s latest half-yearly industry outlook, the rate of growth in carbon emissions will have slowed in 2019 as a result of lower growth in capacity and improvements in fuel efficiency. Fuel consumption and carbon emissions from the global fleet have in recent years risen at rates above five per cent per year but carbon emissions in 2019 are estimated by IATA at 915 million tonnes (Mt) compared with 905 Mt in 2018, a rise of 1.1%. Fuel use in 2019 is expected to top 363 billion litres. Addressing journalists at the annual Global Media Days in Geneva last week, IATA Director General Alexandre de Juniac said the industry could be proud of its record on climate action but that there was more work to be done by industry and governments. IATA also announced a partnership with CBL Markets to establish a CORSIA carbon exchange for airlines.
“As the world focuses on cutting carbon to avoid a climate calamity, all industries need to step up,” said de Juniac. “Aviation made serious climate action commitments in 2008 – long before the word ‘flygskam’ entered our vocabulary.
“We committed to improve fuel efficiency by an average of 1.5% annually between 2009 and 2020 – we are achieving 2.3%. We committed to carbon-neutral growth from 2020 and the ICAO Assembly [in October] confirmed its resolve to make a success of CORSIA. It is the global measure that will enable us to cap net emissions and it will generate some $40 billion in climate funding over the lifetime of the scheme.
“And we committed to cut our emissions to half 2005 levels by 2050, which aligns aviation with the Paris Agreement. Industry experts are collaborating through the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) to map out how we will achieve this based on realistic technology and policy solutions. Moreover, at our strong instigation, governments, through ICAO, are now looking to set their own long-term goal for emissions reduction.”
He said there was a need to ensure the global CORSIA carbon offsetting scheme for international aviation emissions was a success and was not compromised by a patchwork of competing taxes and charges. Governments too were required to focus on driving technologies, such as sustainable aviation fuels, and policy solutions to make flying sustainable, he said.
“We need to support these efforts with effective communication, so that people and governments are fully aware of what aviation is doing,” he said. “And let me be clear – carbon is the enemy, not flying. Our goal is to keep the world flying sustainably and with pride.”
He claimed global goodwill towards implementing CORSIA was being compromised by governments in Europe deciding or proposing to levy air passenger taxes.
“Taxation aimed at stopping people from exercising their freedom to fly will make travel more expensive but do very little to reduce emissions,” said de Juniac. “It is a politician’s feel-good solution, without taking responsibility for the negative impact it has on the economy or the mobility restrictions it imposes on people with lower incomes.”
IATA argues that using taxes to decrease demand and therefore reduce emissions does not work. Creating a lower demand risks making certain flights unprofitable and if the flight is cancelled, the aircraft is merely deployed to a different market, it said.
People are adjusting their personal habits to manage their individual carbon footprints, said de Juniac. “That’s a good thing. It is our duty as an industry to ensure they have the facts needed to make the right choices on air travel.”
Brian Pearce, IATA’s Chief Economist, told GreenAir his team had been exploring the implications of the ‘flight-shaming’ movement in Sweden but had not been able to make a direct link. “The Swedes put on a travel tax in 2018 and we have also seen economic and currency weakness in the country, and we consider those factors pretty much explain the fall in air travel.” He conceded there had been a small shift from air to rail travel, particularly on city pairs with high-speed train connections.
“At the moment, we don’t see consumers reducing their travel but it’s clearly a key issue for the future,” he said.
Europe, though, was a mature market and most of the growth in travel was coming from countries like China, India and Indonesia, he added. “It would be a mistake to prevent airlines there from growing. What is critical is to decouple the growth in air travel from emissions.”
The number of trips per person is forecast by IATA to increase by 4-8% per year for many emerging countries but could be as high as 10-11% in the case of China and India. In contrast, trip frequency is likely to grow much more slowly, just 1-2%, in the developed countries.
According to IATA, the global fleet in 2019 is estimated at 29,805 aircraft, a growth of just 1.0% over 2018 – much lower than previous years – but is expected to increase by 5.3% in 2020 to 31,375 aircraft, partly as a result of the anticipated return to service in 2020 of the currently grounded Boeing 737 MAX and also new deliveries.
“Load factors have picked up this year but there are a lot of aircraft deliveries due to come,” said Pearce. “Next year, capacity will accelerate above passenger growth, particularly in North America but less so in Europe where climate issues are forcing airlines to replace older aircraft with more fuel-efficient models.”
Fuel use is forecast to rise from an estimated 363 billion litres in 2019 to 371 billion litres in 2020 (+2.3%), with a corresponding increase in CO2 emissions from 915 Mt to 936 Mt. The airline industry’s fuel spend in 2019 is estimated at around $188 billion but is expected to fall to $182 billion – representing 22.1% of average operating costs – as a result of the delaying effect of hedging and the continuation of low oil prices.
IATA expects overall industry fuel efficiency, in terms of capacity use, to improve by 2.1% in 2020, up from an anticipated 1.9% in 2019, as a result of the growth in new aircraft deliveries. It said the annual average per RTK fuel efficiency improvement from 2009 to 2014 stands at 2.4%, compared to the 1.5% industry target. The airline body said carbon emissions per passenger have declined by more than 50% since 1990, with around $1 trillion invested in new aircraft since 2009.
The expected fuel efficiency gain in 2019 would save over 17 Mt of CO2 and $3.3 billion in industry fuel costs, estimates IATA.
Passenger numbers are expected to reach 4.72 billion in 2020, up 4.0% on 2019, with a passenger traffic (RPKs) growth of 4.1%, similar to 2019 but below historical trends.
Attended by around 200 journalists from around the world, this year’s Global Media Days event dedicated a half day to aviation and the environment, covering carbon offsetting, sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), emissions reduction from air traffic management, single-use plastic and waste and future aircraft technology developments.
Michel Adam, IATA’s Senior Manager, Aviation Environment, said getting 193 countries to agree on CORSIA, the first-ever carbon pricing instrument adopted for a single sector at a global level, had been a very challenging task, with countries having different priorities in terms of economic development and the environment.
“It is a significant achievement and should not be underestimated,” he said. “For many, carbon-neutral growth and CORSIA are not enough, for others it is too ambitious but what I think matters is that CORSIA is going to mitigate in the region of 2.5 billion tonnes of CO2 over the next 15 years and provide around $40 billion investment in climate projects.”
He said the priority for the industry remains in in-sector reductions. “When an aircraft emits one tonne of CO2, it is actually burning around $200 worth of fuel so there is a very strong incentive for airlines from a financial perspective to reduce actual consumption,” he said. “Obviously the industry is well aware of its responsibilities to mitigate its impact and offsetting compensates for what airlines cannot otherwise achieve.”
Adam said a global approach to mitigation through ICAO had to remain the priority and States needed to commit to full implementation of the CORSIA resolution they had agreed to in 2016, along with finalisation of criteria and eligibility on sustainable aviation fuels and emissions units.
He called for the global approach to be supported by effective policies at the national level, such as delivering on infrastructure improvements and air traffic management reforms.
“We also need a lot of support for SAF uptake and R&D in radically new technologies,” he added. “When we look at carbon pricing at the national level, it is absolutely critical that what States put in place for domestic aviation is compatible with CORSIA and supports what has been agreed at the global level.”
IATA announced it is about to partner with carbon exchange solution provider CBL Markets to assist airlines in their upcoming CORSIA compliance and help ensure they invest in eligible carbon credits.
“Those credits will be listed on an exchange just as soon as ICAO is in a position to publish a list of credits accepted under the scheme,” said Michael Gill, IATA’s Director, Aviation Environment, who said trialling would begin in the first quarter of 2020 with interested airlines. “This is a big milestone for airlines on the climate action journey and a very exciting development.”
Air France agrees SAF initiative on flights from San Francisco while KLM buys renewable fuel from Neste
Tue 10 Dec 2019 – Airline group partners Air France and KLM have each entered into new commitments to purchase sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Air France and Shell have signed a memorandum of undertaking with World Energy through which the airline plans to use SAF made from inedible waste fats and oils on flights from San Francisco with effect from 1 June 2020. No details have been released of how much fuel Air France intends to purchase but the initiative is expected to help save around 6,000 tons of CO2 over a period of 16 months. Meanwhile, KLM has purchased an undisclosed amount of SAF from Neste, which will be produced from used cooking oil and used on flights out of Amsterdam. For the first time, the fuel will be supplied through the existing infrastructure at Schiphol. KLM said the purchase had been made possible as a result of contributions to its Corporate BioFuel Programme, which Neste has announced it will join.
“Using sustainable aviation fuel is currently one of the most effective ways to reduce CO2 emissions in the airline industry,” said KLM CEO Pieter Elbers. “Owing largely to the companies taking part in the Programme, we have been able to make this purchase for the Dutch market, giving a further impulse to the consistent production of SAF.”
The airline said it only sources SAF based on waste and residue feedstocks that significantly reduce the carbon footprint and do not have a negative impact on food production or the environment. The sustainability of the supply chain is ensured through certification by the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification Plus and the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials, it stressed.
The blended fuel supplied to Schiphol will be treated as a drop-in fuel using the conventional fuel infrastructure, pipeline, and storage and hydrant system. KLM said the SAF was additional to the supply it was already taking at Los Angeles and was intended to bridge the period until the opening of a new Dutch SAF production plant in Delfzijl, due to open in 2022. The plant, which is being developed by SkyNRG with the support of KLM and industry partners, will supply the airline with 75,000 tonnes of SAF per year.
Neste reported its renewable jet fuel annual capacity in the US and Europe is currently 100,000 tonnes. With further expansion underway, it said it will have the capacity to produce over one million tonnes globally by 2022.
KLM’s Corporate BioFuel Programme enables companies and organisations to ensure SAF is used for all or a portion of their air travel. Participants pay a surcharge that covers the difference in price between SAF and regular kerosene. With Neste, there are now 16 partners in the programme, including ABN AMRO, Accenture, Microsoft, Schiphol Group and the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. KLM’s public customers are invited to offset the emissions from their flights through the airline’s CO2 compensation service CO2ZERO.
Air France, meanwhile, said the RSB-certified fuel it intends purchasing from World Energy meets strict sustainability standards and can be delivered via San Francisco International’s hydrant system.
“Sustainable aviation fuels are integral to our sustainability approach,” commented Anne Rigail, CEO of Air France. “They constitute an immediate concrete response to our environmental challenges and we must encourage their production. This initiative in California demonstrates that when States set up incentive mechanisms, production picks up and airlines are given the means to take action. We as a community must look at this as an example and duplicate it around the world, notably at home, in France.”
Responded Bryan Sherbacow, Chief Commercial Officer of World Energy: “The route to widespread availability and use of SAF is awareness and supportive policy similar to that of California. This important collaboration elevates visibility with both international consumers and legislators.”
Anna Mascolo, Vice President, Shell Aviation, said that along with new technologies and offsets, SAF had a major role to play in reducing emissions from air travel. “With urgent action and industry collaboration it is possible to fly and emit less. However, we are still at the beginning of the journey with significant opportunity to increase the supply of sustainable aviation fuel and replicate successes such as this globally. At Shell, we are committed to working with the industry towards a more sustainable aviation industry. Commitments like this from Air France can only help accelerate this journey, giving producers the assurance to invest in building refinery capacity and enabling us to develop the supply infrastructure required.”
As part of Air France’s sustainable development agenda for 2030, CO2 emissions are targeted to be cut by 50% compared to 2005, mainly through investment in fuel-efficient aircraft. It also recently announced that as from 1 January 2020, all emissions from domestic flights will be offset.
The airline has also entered into a partnership with the Solar Impulse Foundation to find solutions to accelerate the sustainable transition of the aviation sector. A digital platform has been set up to enable applications online and the foundation, using the criteria of its Solar Impulse Efficient Solution Label, will initially assess them based on their environmental impact, economic profitability and technological feasibility.
“Numerous clean and profitable solutions already exist to make aviation more sustainable. We want to promote and implement them at scale in the air and on the ground. This is precisely the objective of our partnership with Air France, who is committed to taking the lead in the future of clean aviation. The Solar Impulse Foundation is dedicated to helping them get there,” said its President, Bertrand Piccard.
Projects that meet the Label’s requirements will all be made available to the aviation industry, promised Air France. Those that come within “the framework of Air France’s trajectory” will be developed inside the company. Solutions put forward must address one or more of the following: carbon footprint; efficiency (e.g. fuel, weight), alternatives to single-use plastics and cabin waste management; clean ground operations; noise reduction; and aviation and new energies.
“My ambition is to offer everyone, both current and future generations, a responsible travel experience,” said Rigail. “We must step up the transition to a more sustainable air transport and we voluntarily make new commitments for today and 2030. The Solar Impulse Foundation is our partner of choice, to help innovate now and pioneer a more sustainable aviation for the future.”
Carbon offsetting programme applicants fall short of meeting criteria for CORSIA scheme, finds study
Mon 9 Dec 2019 – None of the 14 carbon offsetting programmes that have applied for eligibility under ICAO’s CORSIA currently perform well against the most important criteria stipulated by the scheme, according to a paper prepared for the German environment ministry by Öko-Institut and others. Some applicants hardly meet any of the emissions unit criteria (EUC) and are unlikely to be even considered carbon offsetting programmes. The report recommends that programmes should only be approved by ICAO once they have adopted the necessary standards and procedures to satisfy all EUCs. The approval process and the environmental integrity of CORSIA would be greatly facilitated if the current UN climate conference in Madrid adopted rules that explicitly addressed offset credits under the scheme. ICAO’s Technical Advisory Body (TAB) is due to submit recommendations on eligible programmes to the ICAO Council’s next Session in March.
ICAO has agreed on eight integrity assessment criteria that programmes must comply with in order to be considered eligible under CORSIA and the study by Öko-Institut, with input from Perspectives Climate Group and the Stockholm Environment Institute, evaluated the programmes against five of what it considered the most important, namely that carbon offset credits are:
- Based on a realistic and credible baseline;
- Represent permanent emission reductions;
- Are only counted once towards a mitigation obligation; and
- Do no net harm.
The paper does not attempt to include an assessment of specific programmes but rather summarises general observations from the evaluation of the 14 applications. However, it points out that four of the programmes – the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, State Forests of the Republic of Poland, myclimate and REDD.plus – do not fulfil the basic features of being an eligible offset standard. The first is a fund that supports programmes that may generate carbon certificates but lacks key elements of a full carbon offsetting programme, while the other three do not have procedures for the approval of projects and issuance of carbon market units, managing protocols for the quantification of emission reductions and operating or accessing a registry system.
It is understandable, given the adoption of the EUCs by the Council only last February, that none of the programmes have standards and procedures in place that address all EUCs, says the paper. It notes that many programmes claim they will address those requirements in the future but, it argues, it is essential they are not approved based on promised “plans” to do so. Approval should only take place after programmes have adopted all necessary amendments to their standards, procedures, guidelines, forms and programme operations have been assessed by the TAB, it says. As long as offset credits are not yet eligible for use under CORSIA, it adds ICAO may alternatively consider approving programmes ‘provisionally’, subject to changes that they need to implement and subject to a final assessment by ICAO of whether these changes have been implemented appropriately.
It recommends the TAB itself should develop a transparent and clear procedure for the initial establishment of programme eligibility, the subsequent continuous surveillance of programmes in relation to their performance against the EUCs, as well as procedures for suspension of termination of programme eligibility if the programmes do not continue to meet all requirements. This procedure should be publicly available and public comments should be invited on the procedure prior to its final adoption. Some programmes do not include any substantive information on how they plan to meet a criterion in the future and there is a lack of sufficient information to inform public comments, says the paper.
The researchers point out that offset credits issued by carbon offsetting programmes are often used for multiple purposes that may involve different requirements than those under CORSIA. For the integrity of CORSIA, it is important that programmes distinguish units that meet all CORSIA requirements from those that do not, they recommend.
The study says there is a lack of clarity in the ICAO documents on a number of features that are important for the overall integrity of the scheme and which need to be addressed, for example on how long programmes will be approved and how it will be ensured that they continue to satisfy the EUC after their approval.
“We recommend specifically that the TAB develops a transparent and publicly available procedure for the initial approval, ongoing supervision, re-approval, suspension and termination of programme eligibility for CORSIA,” say the researchers.
The TAB is reported to be continuing its assessment of programmes against the EUC alongside discussions on vintage and timeframe approach. At its fourth meeting in January, the TAB is expected to finalise its recommendations and report for submission in time for the Council’s 219th Session in March. A second application process is envisaged to start in March.
Sunchem’s Solaris tobacco plant to be used in new project to supply biodiesel at Johannesburg OR Tambo
Tue 3 Dec 2019 – A new South African project has been launched that will use a locally produced feedstock to manufacture biodiesel for ground handling operations at Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport. If the project is successful, it will be scaled up in the coming years to produce biojet fuel as well as green diesel. The move follows an earlier pilot project to produce sustainable aviation fuel that was derived from Sunchem’s nicotine-free tobacco plant called Solaris that has a high yield of oil and biomass compared to conventional crops. The fuel was used to power a South African Airways flight in 2016 that had been refined by World Energy Fuels in the US, supplied by SkyNRG and supported by Boeing. In addition to Sunchem, partners in the new Project Reya Fofa – Setswana for ‘We are flying’ – include Swissport, the Royal Bafokeng Nation and iLive, and is endorsed by South African Airways.
The partners, who have signed a Memorandum of Understanding, said they are committed to achieving Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) certification for the project to ensure it delivers real social, environmental and climate benefits. It is also intended to demonstrate that locally-produced biofuel can support food security, job creation, biodiversity and showcase the potential of the South African bioeconomy to the world. Project integrator Sunchem, Africa’s first RSB certified company, added that its commitment to bringing its Solaris crop to Africa would help support the continent’s energy transition.
Ground handler Swissport said its goal was to promote environmental responsibility in its services and was working alongside South African Airways to support a more sustainable and localised fuel supply at O.R. Tambo International.
The Royal Bafokeng Nation (RBN) is the ethnic homeland of the Setswana-speaking Bafokeng people and is located in the North West Province of South Africa. Through its agent Moumo Integrated Development, it is seeking to diversify the land away from a current reliance on mining activities and to create productive agricultural initiatives with a focus on job creation and economic upliftment.
Following an anticipated pilot phase with Moumo, underutilised RBN land will be made available to grow Solaris for the project. The local community will not only be involved in the agricultural phase but will also participate in the processing steps of the value chain. The goal is to replicate the project in other regions of the RBN and the rest of the country.
Fuel production partner iLive will transform the Solaris oil into a biodiesel meeting the SANS1935 (ASTM D6751) standard, which will then be blended to the correct requirements for Swissport’s use. The target is for the biodiesel to be used in 20% of all ground handling fuel supplies at O.R. Tambo International by 2023.
The partners expect to increase the feedstock supply over time to meet the requirements of a biojet production facility.
“We are very proud to have achieved this next milestone in commercialising the Solaris crop in South Africa and contributing to the development of localised sustainable fuel production,” said Sunchem CEO Sergio Tommasini.
Airport carbon programme continues to grow as industry sees climate as an increasing concern
Tue 3 Dec 2019 – Following its tenth year since launch, the airport industry’s four-level carbon accreditation programme now has participation by 288 airports worldwide, with 61 airports at the highest carbon neutral level. The reporting year to May 2019 ended with 274 airports accredited, an increase of 16% over the previous year, which collectively reduced carbon emissions by 322,297 tonnes or 4.9% on the previous year. The 50 carbon neutral airports in the reporting year offset over 700,000 tonnes of CO2 to balance out their residual emissions. Following ACI Europe’s commitment earlier this year for all European airports to reach net-zero emission operations by 2050, the UK’s Birmingham Airport has revealed its goal of reaching the target by 2033. Meanwhile, climate change and its impacts has been identified by the industry as a foremost and increasing concern.
Since May, 14 airports have joined the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme and become accredited at one of its four levels – mapping, reduction, optimisation and neutrality. Out of these, 147 are in Europe, 53 in Asia-Pacific, 47 in North America, 27 in Latin America and the Caribbean, and 14 in Africa. The 50 airports at the neutrality level offset 710,673 tonnes of CO2 in other sectors, compared to 672,000 tonnes the previous year, a 5.8% increase. In 2017, ACI Europe set a goal of reaching 100 carbon-neutral airports by 2030.
“Airports have been hard at work to deliver tangible CO2 reductions through the programme,” commented Angela Gittens, Director General of ACI World. “It has been a decade since its launch and it keeps on growing – both in the number of airports coming on board and in the level of ambition for carbon management.”
Late last year, ACI published guidelines that set out new requirements and recommendations for carbon-neutral airports to help them procure high-quality offsets. This year’s annual report for the accreditation programme includes a dedicated section on carbon offsetting with more detailed information on the particular projects supported by accredited airports.
According to ACI, carbon neutral airports have a preference for Certified Emissions Reduction (CERs), through which 54% of emissions have been offset, although this is a drop from the 62% share during the previous reporting period. Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) offsets have been gaining ground with a 27% share, compared to 20% during the previous reporting period, with the Gold Standard remaining relatively steady with 19% of emissions offset.
In terms of project types, hydroelectric projects represent 24% of offsets, down from 66% during the previous reporting period, with biogas also at 24% but up from 8% in the previous period. This development represents a shift towards what the programme has identified as higher quality types in its guidance document, says ACI, which expects this trend to continue in the future.
ACI says it is important that prior to any carbon offsetting, airport operators need to pursue “every possible path” to reduce emissions under their operational control.
“In the wake of the Climate Emergency, the need for non-State climate action has never been more burning,” said Niclas Svenningsen of the UNFCCC, which is supporting the airport carbon programme along with ICAO, the European Commission, ECAC, Eurocontrol and the US FAA. “It is encouraging to witness the airport industry’s push for ambitious carbon management from within. There is much that other industries can learn from this and even emulate.”
In June, ACI Europe launched a Sustainability Strategy at its annual assembly and adopted a resolution that committed the European airport industry to becoming net zero for emissions under its control by no later than 2050 (see article).
The UK’s seventh biggest airport, Birmingham, has published its own Sustainability Strategy that focuses on reducing its environmental impact and making improvements in areas such as local air quality, waste, supply chain and the circular economy, water and biodiversity. The airport’s main commitment is to become a net-zero carbon airport by 2033 through prioritising zero carbon operations and minimising carbon offsets.
Over the next six to 12 months, the airport will work to revise its existing carbon management plan and develop a roadmap.
“This will set and prioritise genuine carbon reduction objectives rather than carbon offsetting schemes, which we see as the least favourable option,” it said. “Technology is changing at some pace and the movement to a net-zero economy itself is driving innovation across the energy and transportation industry, and the airport will take advantage of this.”
Airports in the UK are feeling the pressure in regard to the impact of climate change, said Derek Provan, CEO of AGS Airports, which owns Aberdeen, Glasgow and Southampton airports, at last week's annual conference of the UK Airport Operators Association.
“We haven't lost the argument but we do need to change the way we get our message across around climate change. It’s true the game has changed in the last six to eight months and it’s true that we are probably behind the curve on this. We have a lot to offer and we shouldn’t be too apologetic as an industry but we must speak with more integrity and be more collaborative.”
Fredrik Kämpfe, Director of Industry Affairs for the Swedish Aviation Industry Group, told the conference: “I am soaked in the climate issue every day.” He reported there had been a drop of 9% in domestic and 1.5% in international air traffic over the past year. Despite reports, he said there was no clear evidence that this was all due to the ‘flygskam’ movement and a fall in the Swedish currency and economy issues had also contributed. Swedish aviation’s plans to be fossil-free on domestic routes by 2030 and all flights by 2045 had triggered numerous projects across a number of industries on a disruptive level, he said.
Andrew Cowan, CEO of Manchester Airport, which in 2015 became the first UK airport to become carbon neutral, said: “All airports recognise what an important issue climate change is and how it is right up the agenda now. We know we need to get this into our narrative and do things that improve our reputation but let’s not forget there is also a huge amount going on in the industry already. Between 2010 and 2016, UK passengers grew by 25% but carbon emissions only grew by 4% so we’ve already detached growth in aviation from growth emissions. However, over the next 30 years there’s clearly a lot more to do.”
A recent conference held by the Willis Towers Watson Airport Risk Community (ARC) heard that climate risk was becoming a major concern for airports. Around 86% of attendees felt that airports are either very exposed or somewhat exposed to climate risk with 48% highlighting flooding as their main weather risk.
“We established ARC to identify top risks affecting the airport community,” said John Rooley, CEO Willis Towers Watson Global Aerospace. “Our conference clearly demonstrated that airport clients were quite specific in their concerns about climate risk and its impact on airport functionality. Our commitment to tackling climate risk enables us to provide guidance on identifying and mitigating this issue.”
Meanwhile, Greenland’s main airport, Kangerlussuaq, is to end civilian flights within five years due to climate change, as the melting of permafrost is cracking the runway. The airport handled 11,000 traffic movements last year and commercial operations will be shifted to a new airport in Nuuk, where construction is due to start soon, reports Euronews.
COMMENTARY: As ICAO prepares to make carbon offset eligibility decisions, the Madrid COP provides some guidance
Fri 20 Dec 2019 −The dust is still swirling after the recent UNFCCC’s COP25 climate talks sputtered to a halt in Madrid. Observers who follow the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) had hoped the meeting would deliver clear carbon market rules. But in the aftermath of the COP, it is unclear how ICAO’s Technical Advisory Body (TAB) and the36-member governing Council will decide which, if any, of the 14 carbon credit programmes that have applied to date actually meet CORSIA’s emissions unit eligibility criteria. However, COP25 did provide three outcomes that may help the ICAO decision-making process. The stakes − for ICAO’s credibility, for airlines’ reputations and for the global effort to combat climate change – are high, writes Annie Petsonk.
Airline customers are increasingly pressing carriers to address not just the emissions growth above 2020 levels, as CORSIA does, but the entire climate footprint of flying. While airlines can use alternative fuels to meet their mandatory and voluntary targets, CORSIA establishes for the first time a requirement that those fuels not only meet sustainability criteria but also that they deliver real carbon reductions as quantified on a life-cycle basis. Such fuels are not yet available in quantity at competitive prices. Airlines therefore will need to rely on offsetting as an interim measure, even as it is increasingly regarded with scepticism, particularly in Europe. That places airlines’ offset quality under the microscope. Will ICAO deliver?
Headlines at the end of the Madrid conference highlighted what didn’t happen there. But the COP did three things that should guide ICAO’s Council − and airlines – as they make offset decisions in the months ahead.
First, the UNFCCC Parties essentially agreed standards for implementing Article 6.2 of the Paris Agreement. This text, which contains no internal brackets, speaks to “internationally transferred mitigation outcomes” – including transfers for use in CORSIA. It specifies that host countries should undertake robust accounting, including “corresponding adjustments” for transfers, whether the transferred reductions arise within or outside the scope of nationally determined contributions (NDCs). This text follows ICAO’s own agreed guidance. ICAO should accordingly reject emissions units if the programmes offering them have not published written attestations from host country governments delineating that the host countries will undertake “corresponding adjustments” for all reductions authorised for use in CORSIA, whether those reductions arise within or outside their NDCs.
Second, the Parties left legal clouds hanging over the huge stockpile of questionable credits from the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol. The COP’s failure to provide a legal pathway for CDM transition means that the CDM lacks the legal basis necessary for use in compliance programmes – including CORSIA. The short letter that the CDM provided to ICAO in lieu of a full programme application did not clarify the legal basis, and neither did COP25, leaving the TAB and Council with no solid legal footing on which to accept any CDM credits into CORSIA.
Third, as Brazil, China, and India unsuccessfully pressed the COP to recognise their old CDM credits, some Parties took a leaf from the ICAO 2016 Assembly’s book: they proposed to examine the old credits based on ‘vintage’ (when a project was registered, or when its reductions occurred) and timeframe (for example, the first three years of CORSIA). Vintage and timeframe restrictions, if adopted by ICAO’s Council, might help address the environmental integrity issues – but they would need to be carefully tailored to do so effectively. For example, estimates for different vintage limitations range from hundreds of millions to billions of tons of credits. As my EDF colleague Nat Keohane noted after the COP, the climate benefits of most CDM credits have rightly been called into question, as the decades-old CDM was neither structured nor purposed to cut global emissions. So whether they could meet ICAO’s additionality and double counting criteria is highly uncertain.
It is also not clear they could meet ICAO’s transparency criterion, which states “Carbon offset credits must have a clear and transparent chain of custody within the offset programme. Offset credits should be assigned an identification number that can be tracked from when the unit is issued through to its transfer or use (cancellation or retirement) via a registry system(s).”
ICAO’s Supplementary Information Appendix provides that “The programme registry (or registries) should…transparently identify unit status, including issuance, cancellation, and issuance status.” To make a vintage and timeframe limitation work, the limits would need to be applied to all CDM units. But the CDM does not identify, by unique number, the units that have been cancelled or retired by Parties. Its Standard Electronic Format (SEF) does summarise, by year by Party, total transfers to and from national registries, and its platform for voluntary cancellation identifies the unit numbers of listed projects. The CDM’s application letter to CORSIA states, “The Kyoto Protocol’s ITL [International Transaction Log] assesses the holdings of all units in national registries and the CDM registry to ensure that each unique unit is held in only one account at a time and to ensure that units which have been cancelled or retired are not subsequently transferred from the cancellation or retirement accounts.” But the CDM has not published unit status by unit number. And even if a vintage and timeframe restriction for CDM could be implemented, it would not necessarily sift the troublesome non-additional projects from the CDM’s supply overhang.
If vintage and timeframe restrictions are to be examined, ICAO – and airlines − should consider, in CORSIA’s first voluntary timeframe, limiting CDM inflows to those credits from projects in least developed countries and other countries that have volunteered to participate in CORSIA’s initial pilot phase. Many of these projects are more clearly additional. Moreover, these countries’ supply of credits was overwhelmed by the supply from Brazil, India, and China – none of which has, to date, volunteered for CORSIA.
The quality concerns come into sharp relief given the focus in Madrid on carbon market integrity from companies that intend to use them. There, a large array of companies – including many with large corporate travel departments – declared their commitment to sound carbon accounting. They will not want the actions they are taking to reduce their aviation carbon footprints to be vitiated by airlines’ use of substandard credits from questionable sources. It will be important for the TAB and ICAO’s Council, in the aftermath of the Madrid COP, to safeguard CORSIA’s integrity and not give questionable credits an expedient imprimatur.
Annie Petsonk is International Counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). She coordinates EDF’s advocacy efforts on aviation law, designing international agreements, policies and institutions to provide economic incentives for environmental protection in aviation and related sectors.