GREENAIR NEWSLETTER 31 JANUARY 2020
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The European aviation sector must come together to work on a net zero goal, says airport industry leader
Fri 31 Jan 2020 – The aviation sector in Europe is facing a daunting challenge over climate change and there is a need to go beyond the industry’s current emissions goals with an ambition to collectively achieve net zero over the long term, said Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI Europe, at last week’s Aviation Sustainability Summit in Brussels organised by the airport trade body. The climate emergency was not only driving EU policy but also financial investors were starting to limit their exposure to the most carbon intensive industries and it was clear aviation was under the spotlight for its contribution to global warming, he said. Policies and regulations should be focused on decarbonising the sector but not reducing demand for the sake of it, he argued. Despite the sector’s significant economic and social benefits, its fast-growing emissions meant aviation has no choice but to transform, Ovais Sarmad, Deputy Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, said in a keynote address.
Attended by EU policymakers and aviation industry representatives, Jankovec told the conference: “We may be a small part of the problem but the reality is that we are a growing part of the problem and this is what we need to change. Aviation is facing the challenge of societal acceptability. We have gone in a very short space of time from a sector associated with freedom, fulfilment and progress to also being seen as a sector damaging the planet, with ‘flygskam’ becoming a common buzzword.
“This is a reality we cannot ignore. It has significant potential impacts, firstly with our growth prospects but also with our reputation, our social and business mandate and our ability to access capital, both human and financial. We are therefore facing today a business transformation imperative, at least as ACI sees it for the airport industry and, of course, we must address our climate impact fully.”
ACI Europe is currently piloting its sustainability strategy launched last year, which targets airports becoming net zero for the emissions under their control by 2050 in alignment with current EU climate action policy and the Paris Agreement.
“Crucially, this is not just a collective commitment by ACI but is a pledge that has been undersigned by more than 200 European airports that are individually committed to the same objective,” said Jankovec, adding that eight more airports had signed since December to bring the total to 212.
“What we need to do now is look beyond airports to the entire aviation sector and in doing so we need, of course, to recognise and accept that cutting emissions from aircraft is much more difficult than cutting emissions that airports control.
“We do have common goals under the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) umbrella that airports of course support but clearly we need to go beyond those goals and complement them with an ambition to collectively achieve net zero over the long term. This is a must and as airports we are very encouraged to see some airlines, such as IAG, leading the way along that path.”
Policies and regulations to decarbonise the aviation sector should ensure they preserve air connectivity and “positive externalities”, as well as enabled and incentivised the industry effectively, cautioned Jankovec.
He said a roadmap to reach long-term goals should focus on ATM reform, CORSIA and the EU ETS, sustainable aviation fuels, intermodality and R&D in alternative propulsion.
Despite the Paris Agreement being the most successful multilateral agreement in the UN system, the world remained on the wrong path and climate change is moving faster and stronger than was expected, the UNFCCC’s Ovais Sarmad told the conference.
“We will not reach our goal if we continue on this path,” he said. “We simply cannot continue to use the same resources in the same way as we have been doing up till now. This includes major industries that consume fossil fuels such as transport and aviation.
“We in the UNFCCC secretariat support the sovereignty convention of all States. However, we continue to stress that addressing climate change is the job of everyone and every industry, including yours. Article 12 spells out very clearly that everyone of us has the responsibility to implement the Agreement.”
Sarmad praised the airport sector for its carbon accreditation programme and the European net zero commitment. “I wish to applaud ACI for this bold and necessary action on climate change, which is an example to the rest of the aviation industry and to others.”
The travel and tourism sector was a “global economic powerhouse”, he said, and responsible for more than 10% of global GDP, with more and more people being able to fly to new destinations and visit family and friends, as well as creating jobs, most significantly in developing countries.
However, aviation emissions are growing fast, he added, with travel and tourism responsible for 8% of global emissions.
“Despite its significant economic and social benefit, the sector has no choice but to transform,” he said. “Aviation will need to find new technologies, find efficiencies where possible and come up with an effective offsetting system, which the sector is working on now – with some difficulty but there is a lot of hope.
“And with respect to new technologies and new fuels, is there good news on the horizon? If companies and industries fail to adjust, they will cease to exist.”
Sarmad said COP25 in Madrid had been a disappointment due to a lack of agreement on the guidelines for a “much-needed” carbon market and countries would need to up their ambition this year through enhanced nationally determined contributions (NDCs).
“The world faces a climate emergency and strong political decisions must be taken,” he said. “Ambition to address the emergency will be high on the agenda at COP26 and we will have to finish the work outstanding from Madrid.
“The challenge in 2020 for all policymakers, companies and individuals must be ambition beyond much of what we have already been doing. We have no more time to waste.”
ASTM approves ARA’s synthetic kerosene process for the production of sustainable aviation fuel
Fri 31 Jan 2020 – A new sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) specification has been approved for commercial airline use by standards development organisation ASTM International, with support from the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI). The new annex to the SAF specification D7566 establishes criteria for the production and use of catalytic hydrothermolysis jet fuel (CHJ), a type of synthetic kerosene developed by Applied Research Associates (ARA) in the United States. Developed with Chevron Lummus Global (CLG), ARA’s Biofuels ISOCONVERSION (BIC) process uses catalytic hydrothermolysis to convert any renewable fat, oil and grease feedstock into high yields of drop-in hydrocarbon fuels. The ASTM standard provides that CHJ fuel may be blended at up to 50% by volume with conventional jet fuel. The fuel process represents the sixth approved pathway for the production of SAF.
“The new standard provides another important pathway,” commented Nancy Young, VP Environmental Affairs at Airlines for America (A4A), which co-founded CAAFI in 2006. “The more pathways we have, the more SAF that can be produced and used to sustainably power our planes.
“We commend ASTM International, the US FAA, the airframe and engine manufacturers, the US military, jet fuel producers and our entire CAAFI team for continuing to advance the commercialisation and deployment of SAF to help the aviation industry meet its emissions reduction goals, diversify fuel supply and enhance energy security.
“The development and deployment of SAF is a critical part of the US airline industry’s continuing commitment to reducing our carbon emissions.”
ARA is an employee-owned scientific research and engineering company headquartered in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The BIC process is based on ARA’s patented catalytic hydrothermolysis process and CLG’s Hydroprocessing technology.
IATA and XCHG confirm partnership to develop an airline carbon exchange for CORSIA emission units
Thu 30 Jan 2020 – A partnership has been announced between IATA and Xpansiv CBL Holding Group (XCHG) to develop the Aviation Carbon Exchange (ACE) that will serve as a centralised marketplace for emission units eligible under ICAO’s global carbon offsetting scheme CORSIA. Powered by CBL Markets, an XCHG company, the exchange will provide airlines with CORSIA offsetting obligations secure access to real-time data with full price transparency. CBL and IATA plan to trial the exchange during this first quarter of 2020 with airlines that want to start offsetting voluntary credits as a pilot phase. ACE trading will be supported by the IATA Settlement System and Clearing House and offer seamless and risk-free settlement to airlines, including non-IATA members. The partners say CORSIA eligible units will be listed on ACE once ICAO has published those accepted under the scheme.
“XCHG is thrilled to announce our partnership with IATA to help airlines achieve their carbon emission reduction goals,” said Rene Velasquez, Head of Global Carbon at CBL Markets. “ACE is a level playing field for all airlines, eliminating complexities by providing an efficient solution for sourcing emission units – without needing to enter into contracts with disparate parties.”
Michael Gill, IATA’s Director Aviation Environment, stressed ACE would be open and accessible to both buyers and sellers.
“ACE will ensure that carbon offsets are competitively priced, with the goal of lowering compliance costs and increasing confidence by ensuring that only high-quality, verified offsetting credits are available,” he said. “CORSIA could generate upwards of $40 billion in climate financing – this exchange will play a major role in ensuring success.”
He added: “Air travel creates countless benefits for the world, but it’s essential we accelerate our work towards sustainable flight, as part of the collective fight against climate change. CORSIA is a crucial mechanism for delivering our aim of carbon-neutral growth for international air travel. But we recognise the need to build capacity and deliver solutions in order for airlines to meet CORSIA requirements.”
ICAO’s governing Council is due to discuss emissions unit eligibility at its two-week 219th Session in March when it will consider recommendations from its Technical Advisory Body (TAB), which has been assessing emissions unit programmes against agreed ICAO CORSIA criteria. TAB members recently concluded their fourth meeting to agree individual programme recommendations, as well as eligibility on dates (vintage) and timeframe.
Applications for assessment were received from 14 organisations, with around 11 expected to be recommended for eligibility either immediately or conditionally.
UK public wrestles with environmental impact of aviation in face of mid-century net zero emissions target
Thu 30 Jan 2020 – A survey conducted by UK air navigation service provider NATS in conjunction with research consultancy ComRes shows that a large majority of the British public – 81% – have a positive view of aviation to them personally and to the UK economy as a whole. However, the annual tracking survey also showed a growing public consciousness over aviation’s environmental impact. Six select committees of the House of Commons have commissioned a citizens’ assembly, called Climate Assembly UK, to give the public an informed say on how the UK should meet its net zero GHG emissions target by 2050, which will include deliberations on travel and aviation. To help achieve net zero through changes to land use, the UK’s Committee on Climate Change has suggested a levy on the aviation sector to help fund a substantial increase in tree planting.
The NATS survey found that although two thirds (67%) of those interviewed believed the benefits of aviation outweighed the drawbacks, this is down by five percentage points compared to the previous year. Despite the increasing environmental concerns, NATS says the survey also shows the British public do not want to be penalised for flying, with only 34% agreeing that people should be discouraged from flying and just 37% willing to pay an environmental levy. However, nearly all respondents expect the aviation industry to act on reducing the sector’s environmental impact and 93% agreeing fuel and emissions savings are the biggest benefits of airspace modernisation.
“It is encouraging to see the positive views about aviation, but the figures also tell us that we clearly need to communicate our plans to modernise airspace and increase our engagement with the public on the changes that are coming so that they can get involved in the process,” said Jane Johnston, Head of Corporate & Community Affairs at NATS.
“The environment is a priority as we look at redesigning our skies over the next few years. However, the results also show that the British public hold different priorities for the environment, with differing views over the importance given to reducing carbon emissions, shrinking noise profiles and routing flights over Areas of Outstanding National Beauty (AONBs). This demonstrates some of the challenges we have as we modernise flight paths and routes, but it is a challenge we need to deal with urgently if we want to secure a sustainable future for aviation.”
Climate Assembly UK comprises 110 members intended to be representative of the UK population across demographics and views on climate change. The assembly takes place over four weekends from January to March 2020, with evidence presented by a range of expert speakers and advisors including academics and stakeholders. A group of members on the second weekend (February 7-9) will hear detailed evidence on the subject of “How we travel”, covering personal transport use, including surface transport and aviation. The members will discuss what the UK could do to reach net zero emissions by 2050 and how it should achieve it, for example, whose role it is and who should bear any costs. Climate Assembly UK weekends are being live-streamed on its website.
To ensure information provided to the Assembly is balanced, accurate and comprehensive, ‘Expert Leads’ have been appointed, who include Chris Stark, Chief Executive of the Committee on Climate Change, and Jim Watson, Professor of Energy Policy and Research Director at the University College London Institute of Sustainable Resources.
The results of the Assembly will be made public in April 2020 and will be used by the select committees to inform their future scrutiny work in Parliament and a debate in the House of Commons will follow.
The UK government’s advisory Committee on Climate Change (CCC) said in a report last week that meeting the UK net zero goal will require a transformation in land use across the nation. In 2017, land use – including agriculture, forestry and peatland – accounted for 12% of total UK GHG emissions. CCC analysis shows that these emissions can be reduced by 64% to around 21 MtCO2e by 2050 through increased tree planting, encouraging low-carbon farming practices, restoring peatlands, encouraging bioenergy crops and reducing food waste and consumption of the most carbon-intensive foods.
An objective, the CCC recommends, should be to increase UK forestry cover from 13% to at least 17% by 2050 by planting around 30,000 hectares – between 90 to 120 million trees – of broadleaf and conifer woodland each year. It proposes a new market-based measure to promote tree planting, either through auctioned contracts similar to those offered for renewable electricity or with the inclusion of forestry in a carbon trading scheme. This should be funded by a levy on GHG emitting industries like aviation, it says, but must not offset emissions reductions needed to meet net zero in other parts of the economy.
Next week, cross-industry group Sustainable Aviation will unveil a new CO2 roadmap to demonstrate how the UK aviation sector can decarbonise in line with the government’s net zero ambitions. It will also launch an updated version of its sustainable aviation fuels roadmap.
Major European hybrid electric propulsion research project launches as Nordic electric aviation initiative gets Finavia boost
Wed 29 Jan 2020 – French aerospace research lab ONERA is to lead a consortium of 33 aviation industry and research stakeholders on a new European research project called IMOTHEP into hybrid electric propulsion for commercial aviation. The four-year initiative has received a €10.4 million ($11.5m) grant from the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 framework programme. Meanwhile, Finnish airport operator Finavia is the latest to join the Nordic Network for Electric Aviation (NEA), an initiative to develop electric aviation in the region that is funded by Nordic Innovation, an organisation under the Nordic Council of Ministers. Finavia itself has been funding a fully electric aircraft since 2018, which had a successful test flight at Malmi Airport in Helsinki in the summer of that year. Following a first meeting held in Östersund, Sweden, in December, NEA network members are meeting in Helsinki this week for a series of workshops.
Finavia becomes the twelfth member of the NEA network, which includes airport operators Avinor and Swedavia, and airlines Air Greenland, Braathens Regional, Finnair, Iceland Air and SAS. The network has four focus areas for driving the growth of electric aircraft:
- Standardising electric air transport infrastructure in the Nordic countries;
- Developing business models for regional point-to-point connectivity between Nordic countries;
- Developing aircraft technology for Nordic weather conditions; and
- Creating a platform for European and global collaborations.
“We aim at highlighting the necessary aspects needed to provide a credible roadmap towards Nordic electric aviation,” commented Maria Fiskerud, NEA Project Manager.
Finavia Technical Director Henri Hansson believes electric aircraft will be flying on Finnish domestic routes by the end of the decade.
“Electric-powered aircraft will likely be a vital part of tackling the environmental challenges of the aviation industry,” he said. “If a clean method, such as wind or solar power, is used to produce the necessary electricity, the electric aircraft of the future could fly completely emission-free. Electric aircraft will be suited especially for short routes.”
Commenting on joining the NEA network, he said: “As an airport operator, we want to find out what kind of development electric flying will require from our airports.”
The European project IMOTHEP (Investigation and Maturation of Technologies for Hybrid Electric Propulsion) will investigate electric technologies for hybrid electric aircraft as well as advanced aircraft configuration design and innovative propulsion architectures.
“Analysing potential technologies and technical issues at the relevant scale is fundamental for hybrid electric propulsion and addressing the challenge of climate change requires exploring the technology for commercial aircraft. This is the central focus of IMOTHEP,” said the consortium in a statement.
“The ultimate goal of the project is to achieve a key step in assessing the potential of hybrid electric propulsion for reducing the emissions of commercial aviation and eventually to build the technology roadmap for its development.”
The consortium includes airframe and engine manufacturers Airbus, Leonardo, Safran, GE Avio, MTU, ITP and GKN, as well as European aeronautical research and higher education organisations. Other members include think tank Bauhaus Luftfahrt, Eurocontrol and innovation management company L’Up, with the project receiving third-party support from EASA. IMOTHEP will also involve leading research organisations in Russia and Canada.
Coordinating the initiative is Philippe Novelli of ONERA, who also coordinated a major European research project called SWAFEA (Sustainable Way for Alternative Fuels and Energy for Aviation) a decade ago (see article).
“For ONERA, reducing greenhouse gas emissions is key for aviation to pursue its development in the service of society and people mobility,” commented Bruno Sainjon, CEO of ONERA. “This calls for ambitious research and disruptive solutions allowing to go well beyond the continuous improvement of current aircraft technologies.”
French government announces launch of roadmap and deployment targets for a national sustainable aviation fuel industry
Mon 27 Jan 2020 – The French government has launched a roadmap to develop a national sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) industry with the aim of replacing fossil kerosene with 2% of SAF from 2025, 5% in 2030 and 50% in 2050. This, says the government, is consistent with the country’s long-term low-carbon strategy. In December 2017, it signed a ‘Commitment for Green Growth’ with five industrial groups – Air France, Airbus, Safran, Total and Suez Environment – to define and collaborate on the roadmap. Alongside the roadmap, a Call for Expressions of Interest (CEI) has been opened by the Ministries of Ecological and Inclusive Transition, Economy and Agriculture. It will determine the best tools to encourage the development of the new sector and identify and support innovative investment opportunities for advanced aviation fuels.
“This CEI is a fundamental first step towards the emergence of a sustainable aviation fuel industry in France,” said the five companies in a joint statement. “The implementation of an economically viable and lasting industry is key for accelerating the use of SAF and for reducing net CO2 emissions in air transport.”
The initiative was announced in Toulouse today by Elisabeth Borne, Minister for Ecological and Inclusive Transition, and Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, Secretary of State for Transport.
The government says although the use of aviation biofuels does not pose a problem from an operational and technical point of view, the lack of economic viability is holding back their deployment. “France, nevertheless, has all the assets to be a pioneer of this deployment: resources, mastered technology, industrialists and committed public authorities,” it argues.
To achieve a successful energy transition in air transport, five conditions have been recommended:
- Mobilise the necessary volume of raw materials towards the aviation sector;
- Ensure that sustainable and diverse resources and technologies, especially resources sourced from the circular economy, are used for SAF production;
- Testing of biofuel distribution to verify integration into existing airport fuel logistics and infrastructure; and
- Guarantee through appropriate incentive mechanisms an economic viability for all industry participants in the value chain.
The government says it wants the deployment of SAF in France to be consistent with European (for example, the Green Deal) and international (for example, CORSIA) initiatives in this area. It says several projects have been identified and the aim is to define in the short term a framework for achieving the 2025 and 2030 objectives.
The CEI is intended for any contracting authority, including groups of companies, interested in supporting all or part of an investment in France for the production of advanced biofuels that can be used in aviation. Applications should be submitted to email@example.com.
Airlines need to implement a wide range of initiatives to compensate for high growth in carbon emissions, recommends report
Thu 23 Jan 2020 – An analysis of leading international airlines has found initiatives to save emissions fall into 22 different categories of action, ranging from aircraft efficiency measures to improving flight operations, with the most notable being fleet renewal, retrofits and weight reductions. However, to compensate for the high growth in emissions, an airline would have to implement a large number of these measures year on year. Professor Susanne Becken of Griffith University, in collaboration with Amadeus, assessed the largest 58 airlines that make up 70% of the industry’s total available seat kilometres (ASKs). She found only 35 of them provided information on their emissions, which collectively showed an efficiency improvement of around 1 per cent in in 2018 compared to 2017. Her report highlights the need for improved public disclosure and reporting by the industry and calls for an acceleration of efforts to decarbonise the sector.
“Whilst more airlines now report on their carbon emissions and decarbonisation activities, the quality of reporting is still low,” Becken says in her report, ‘Airline initiatives to reduce climate impact’. “Even submissions filed with the CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project) contain inconsistencies and errors. For other reports, formats and coverage differ widely and it is challenging to obtain a coherent picture of progress.”
In 2018, a total of 19 airlines provided information to the CDP, which reports on global disclosures on environmental impacts. Improvements in carbon performance of airlines are reported in the form of relative metrics and the CDP reports reveal that seven different metrics are used by airlines to measure their carbon intensity or efficiency, the most common being kg CO2 per revenue tonne kilometre (RTK) or per revenue passenger kilometre (RPK). Becken’s report opts for CO2 emissions per available seat kilometre (ASK) on the grounds that it is the most transparent variable and does not consider the effects of occupancy or cargo.
In total, 35 airlines provided information on emissions through CDP, their annual reports or their websites that enabled an assessment of changes in terms of absolute and relative emissions for 2017/18 and 2016/17. Most airlines increased their absolute emissions but at the same time most were able to demonstrate efficiency improvements. Whilst the 1.04% collective efficiency gain is a positive outcome, says the report, it falls short of industry targets and it is also insufficient to compensate against growth.
Only 16 airlines were found to have specified emissions targets that differed, and were usually more ambitious, from the IATA industry targets, with 29 airlines mentioning the ICAO CORSIA carbon-neutral growth scheme.
The report notes that eight airlines are accelerating carbon reduction outcomes by using an internal price on carbon. “Building a carbon price into internal financial systems helps drive investment decisions towards lower carbon outcomes. Airlines that already ‘internalise’ carbon will be better prepared for policy instruments such as carbon taxes,” suggests Becken.
Examining carbon reduction initiatives, the most frequently reported measures are to reduce weight of the aircraft, along with fleet renewal and retrofitting winglets or sharklets. Airlines such as Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines have achieved significant emission reductions through modifying the Trent engines on their older Airbus aircraft. Optimal fuel load management by Asiana Airlines enabled CO2 reductions equivalent to 0.36% of annual emissions.
While replacing older aircraft with new more fuel-efficient aircraft constitutes an environmental improvement, the greater benefit is often higher profits by having significantly increased payload and range. “This in turn could stimulate further expansion by the airline company, leading to more emissions,” points out the report.
Further emission reduction initiatives include route and airspace optimisation, descent management and tools to guide pilot decision-making.
A key finding of the report is that there are many ways of saving carbon but most of them result in relatively small reductions – in the order of 0.1 or at best 0.3% of annual fuel use – compared with overall emissions. “However, taken together these small steps may have some overall impact,” it says.
Nineteen airlines reported on investing in biofuels through some sort of partnership, with four airlines mentioning electric aircraft in their carbon reduction strategies. Offering carbon offsetting to customers is increasingly popular among airlines, although reporting on implementation is still rudimentary. Of the 58 airlines assessed, 28 made reference to carbon offsetting in some form, nine provided information on uptake by customers and 13 attempted to quantify the impact of their offsetting activities. Tangible information on uptake and volume of credits was found to be limited and where available, indicated very low numbers.
“The purchase of offsets does not decarbonise aviation and fails to deliver real reductions,” says the report. “However, whilst carbon offsetting might not provide a long-term and definite solution, it is an important transition mechanism that helps travellers and businesses contribute to positive climate action for those emissions that cannot be avoided, at least in the short term and when high quality schemes are chosen.
“Airlines still have to improve the delivery of their carbon offsetting programmes to secure customer uptake and measurable impact. At this point, offsetting is in the order of a few per cent at best.
“Some airlines have begun to offer their passengers an opportunity to invest into either alternative fuels or offsets. This may help increase awareness amongst travellers and give people the feeling that they are doing something. It also helps raise funds for projects that at this present point can deliver carbon reductions at a cheaper cost than aviation.”
The report highlights the important role governments can play in decarbonising the sector, such as accelerating investment in research and development into new technologies and providing positive signals to help airlines write off old and inefficient aircraft relatively sooner.
“More creative thinking will be required to lead airlines out of the conundrum of growing emissions and increasing pressure to reduce them,” it concludes.
JetBlue follows European lead and becomes first US major airline to offset CO2 emissions from its domestic flights
Fri 10 Jan 2020 – Low-cost airline JetBlue is to offset the CO2 emissions from all its domestic flights beginning in July, becoming the first major US airline to make the move. JetBlue said it expects to offset between 7 and 8 million tonnes of emissions annually through projects focused on but not limited to forestry, landfill gas capture and solar/wind projects. In Europe, Air France, British Airways and easyJet have begun offsetting their domestic emissions from January 1. With French partner EcoAct, Air France will offset the emissions of 450 flights per day, which carry around 57,000 passengers, through projects in South America, Africa and Asia, and will develop two projects in France. British Airways is undertaking a tender process to select offsetting partners and specific projects for its carbon neutral UK domestic flights initiative.
JetBlue said it had already offset 2.6 billion pounds (1.18m tonnes) since 2008 through US-based Carbonfund.org and has now added two new offsetting partners, South Pole and EcoAct. High-quality carbon credits that adhere to a strict set of standards have been purchased, assures the airline. Projects are registered with a third-party internationally recognised verification standard, including the Gold Standard, Verra’s Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), Social Carbon and Climate, Community and Biodiversity (CCB) Standards, or standards verified by the UNFCCC. JetBlue said its selected projects follow principles to ensure emission reductions are real, measurable, permanent, additional, independently audited and unique, with transparent disclosure of GHG-related information along with a conservative approach to reduction estimation.
“Carbon offsetting is a bridge to, not a silver bullet for, a lower carbon future,” commented Robin Hayes, JetBlue CEO. “We reduce where we can and offset where we can’t. By offsetting all of our domestic flying, we’re preparing our business for the lower-carbon economy that aviation – and all sectors – must plan for.”
The airline has also announced a sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) purchase agreement with Neste for use on flights from San Francisco starting this year. When blended with fossil jet fuel, it will be shipped via SFO’s fuel distribution infrastructure. The Neste MY Renewable Jet Fuel product is produced from waste and residue raw materials and claims up to 80% smaller carbon footprint compared to fossil jet fuel.
The airline said it was continually exploring SAF options and views SAF as a critical part of the industry’s transition to a lower-carbon model. “With agreements like these, JetBlue is helping to kick-start the SAF market and lead the economics on these lower carbon fuels,” it added.
Carbon offsetting and SAF purchase were just two examples the airline said it was making to mitigate its contribution to climate change “in response to public and market demand”. JetBlue claims its incoming 85 new Airbus A321neos will improve fuel economy by 20%, as well as 70 Airbus A220s aircraft that will reduce emissions per seat by around 40% compared to the older aircraft they will replace. The airline said it was also advocating for a more efficient ATC system, where current inefficiencies were accounting for as much as 12% of unnecessary fuel burn and resulting emissions.
Air France said its six offsetting projects would focus on reforestation, forest preservation and biodiversity, along with the development of renewable energies, “while guaranteeing the protection of the most vulnerable populations”. All projects selected, it added, have received the highest certification standards on the voluntary carbon standard market – Gold Standard, Verra’s VCS or CCBA’s additional CCB Standards.
“Projects supported will include the Floresta de Portel initiative in North-West Brazil, whose mission is to prevent deforestation and protect one of the planet’s richest ecosystems with the support of the local population, with 22 million tons of CO2e at stake,” said the airline. “Wildlife and plants will be protected and jobs created by supporting entrepreneurial projects for the creation of a local agroforestry sector.”
Air France declined to reveal the CO2 emissions from its domestic flights or how many tonnes would be offset but told GreenAir: “However, it can be said that we will invest several million euros in compensation.”
The airline reported additional details about the other selected projects would be released progressively early this year and some of them may be submitted to a vote by Air France’s customers.
The company aims to reduce its CO2 emissions by 50% per passenger/km compared by 2030 to 2005 and between 2011 and 2019 reduced emissions per pax/km by 20%. It recently signed a partnership with the Solar Impulse Foundation to develop sustainable solutions for aviation (see article).
“We owe it to our customers, our children and our children’s children, and also to ourselves, to set ever higher goals and to expect everyone to make the same commitment,” said Air France CEO Anne Rigail. “I’m asking the airline to take up this extraordinary collective challenge between now and 2030, and to make sustainable development an increasingly important part of its actions and services.”
In contrast to Air France’s 450 daily domestic flights, British Airways operates up to 75 flights a day between London and 10 UK cities. It estimates these flights emit a total of around 400,000 tonnes of CO2 per year, which are already partly covered by the airline’s participation in the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS).
“All our offset calculations take account of the emission reductions made through the EU ETS legislation by subtracting them from the total,” a BA spokesperson told GreenAir. “This means that intra-European flights have lower residual emissions remaining to be offset because those flights have already been subject to government legislation to reduce emissions. Therefore, the residual amount that is left to be offset by British Airways for our flights within the UK is around 54% to make the flight carbon neutral.”
The airline said the offsets would be invested in high-quality verified carbon reduction projects around the world, covering renewable energy, rainforest protection and reforestation. Customers flying beyond the UK can continue to use BA’s carbon offsetting tool to calculate their emissions and choose projects in Peru, Sudan and Cambodia through the airline’s partnership with not-for-profit charity Pure Leapfrog. Using the tool, flyers pay around £1 ($1.30) to offset an economy return flight from London to New York, while from London to New York in business class costs around £15.
BA said carbon neutrality on UK domestic flights was one of a range of initiatives towards the airline’s commitment to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, which include flying more fuel-efficient aircraft, investing in sustainable aviation fuel and changing operating procedures.
“We know that air travel continues to grow, but we also know that our future has to be sustainable,” commented CEO Alex Cruz. “Solving the complex issue of climate change requires a multifaceted response and offsetting emissions on all flights within the UK is just one step that we are adopting to reduce our environmental impact while more solutions to decarbonise are found. Our emissions reduction projects are carefully chosen to ensure they are proven and deliver real reductions as well as economic, social and environmental benefits.”
European low-cost airline easyJet announced in November that it would be offsetting the carbon emissions from all its flights with immediate effect (see article). It is being advised by Climate Focus on selecting projects and partners, and helping develop its offset project portfolio. The airline has also formed partnerships with EcoAct and First Climate, and Gold Standard and VCS projects have been selected in South America, Africa and India covering forest conservation, solar energy and clean water.
According to its latest annual report, easyJet’s CO2 emissions for the 2019 financial year amounted to 8.2 million tonnes, compared to 7.6 million tonnes the previous year, with the rise attributed to the continued expansion of its operations and an 8.6% increase in passenger numbers. The airline has estimated the cost of purchasing offsets to be in the region of £25 million ($32m) per year.
Also in November, the Lufthansa Group announced corporate customers on Lufthansa, SWISS and Austrian Airlines flights within Europe can fly carbon neutral from January 2020. Through the Group’s Corporate Value Fares, carbon offsetting is automatically included for contract customers. The certified high-quality offsets are being sourced through long-term Swiss partner myclimate. The Group said it was working on a tariff option that excluded carbon offsetting for those companies that already have their own initiatives.
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’