GREENAIR NEWSLETTER 1 MAY 2020
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Blow for commercial aircraft electric propulsion as Airbus and Rolls-Royce cancel E-Fan X programme
Fri 1 May 2020 – Airbus and Rolls-Royce have announced an ending to their joint hybrid-electric E-Fan X demonstrator programme, a pioneering project directed towards the electrification of commercial passenger aircraft. A BAe 146 RJ100 test aircraft with one of its four jet engines replaced by a 2.5MW motor was due to embark on its first flight in 2021. With the industry in Covid-19 crisis mode, both parties have decided the actual requirement to carry out the test flight was “not critical at this time”. Airbus Chief Technology Officer Grazia Vittadini said as the aircraft manufacturer started “to navigate the realities of a post-Covid-19 world”, it needed to refocus and reprioritise its efforts to decarbonise the aviation industry. Rolls-Royce CTO Paul Stein said the company would continue with ground testing of the power generation system it had developed for the programme.
Vittadini said when the E-Fan X project was launched in 2017, the ambition had been to push the limits of testing disruptive technologies for future aircraft.
“And we did just that – E-Fan X has shattered pre-conceived notions of what is possible in future flight,” she said. “This helped us pave the way for an industry-wide decarbonisation movement of which we’re proud to take the lead.”
However, decarbonising the industry was “no small feat”, she said. “To achieve this, we need to re-focus all of our efforts on technology bricks that will take us there. It’s for this reason that Airbus and Rolls-Royce have decided to bring the E-Fan X demonstrator to an end. As with all ground-breaking R&T projects, it’s our duty to constantly evaluate and reprioritise them to ensure alignment with our ambitions. These decisions are not always easy, but they’re undoubtedly necessary to stay the course.”
Those “technology bricks” included hybrid architectures, high-voltage systems and batteries that would be employed on other demonstrator projects, and would continue to be developed and matured at the Airbus E-Aircraft System Test House, reported Vittadini. Exploring the possibilities and limitations of serial hybrid-electric propulsion during the E-Fan X project had also opened up inquiry into other new technology pathways, such as hydrogen, she added.
“With our research partnerships on hybrid-electric and hydrogen airport infrastructure and operations, we will have laid a foundation for the future industry-wide adoption and regulatory acceptance of alternative-propulsion commercial aircraft,” she said.
“Thanks to these key learnings, Airbus has developed a more focused roadmap on how to progress on our ambitious decarbonisation commitments.”
Created at a scale never previously seen in the industry and one of the many great achievements of the programme, according to Stein, the power generation system developed by Rolls-Royce for E-Fan X comprised an embedded AE2100 gas turbine driving a 2.5MW generator and 3000V power electronics and an electric propulsion unit. The same size as a beer keg, the generator produces enough power to supply 2,500 homes, he said.
“The learning that has already placed us in an industry-leading position will be taken even further through the completion of the ground testing of our power generation system, which is already well advanced,” said Stein in a blog. “That work – one of a whole host of projects we are actively involved in – will ensure that we remain a pioneer of electrification, ready to power the more sustainable aircraft of the future.”
Zunum Aero, a US start-up that was developing a 12-seat hybrid-electric aircraft for short-haul passenger services failed last year, despite backing and funding from Boeing HorizonX and JetBlue Technology Ventures.
Aviation and fuel sectors respond favourably to major new EU policy initiative to boost sustainable aviation fuels
Thu 30 Apr 2020 – The European Commission has received a largely enthusiastic response to its new roadmap initiative, ReFuelEU Aviation, aimed at boosting the supply and demand for sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) in the EU. The Commission acknowledges that without EU-level intervention, the demand for SAF – currently just 0.05% of total jet fuel supply – will likely reach just 2.8% by 2050. The objective, it says, is to reduce the sector’s environmental footprint in line with EU climate targets and the Paris Agreement. Policy options under consideration include a blending mandate to impose a minimum share of SAF, a revision of the multiplier under the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive, a central auctioning mechanism and a funding mechanism to encourage deployment and uptake of SAF. The Commission’s transport directorate (DG MOVE) has carried out an initial impact assessment (IIA) under the roadmap, which received over 120 responses from airline and aviation groups, oil and SAF producers, NGOs and government agencies.
Renewable and waste-derived advanced biofuels, as well as electro-fuels (e-fuels) produced using additional renewable energy, have the potential to make an important contribution to tackling aviation GHG emissions, says the Commission. However, the SAF production base in the EU is limited to a handful of producers and volumes do not exceed 100,000 tonnes. The current 0.05% use of SAF in total EU jet fuel consumption, around 57 million tonnes in 2017, is imported from or tanked in third countries, such as the United States.
With production costs at least twice as high as that of conventional jet fuel and higher than that of sustainable fuels used in other transport modes, in the absence of support, SAF are not an economically attractive substitute. The price volatility and limited availability of SAF feedstocks also contributes to market uncertainty and act as a disincentive to investment and scale-up of production. While EU policy can provide an incentive through the multiplier in the recast Renewable Energy Directive (RED II), its impact remains uncertain as Member States have until June 2021 to apply it and have a considerable degree of flexibility over implementation. The EU ETS also contains mechanisms to reward aircraft operators using SAF.
“The impact of these incentives on SAF supply and demand appears to be so far limited and may therefore also need to be reviewed,” concedes the Commission.
Incentives to develop food and feed crop based aviation fuels are undesirable, it says, and while waste-derived SAF can achieve emissions savings as high as 80% compared to conventional jet fuel, availability of waste-based feedstock is currently limited by suboptimal supply chains and can also be diverted to other more cost-effective usages. Electro-fuels are receiving increasing interest as they can achieve even higher emissions savings but require additional amounts of renewable electricity because of the suboptimal energy efficiency of the conversion process. In addition to the overall feedstock scarcity, there is a competing demand from the road transport sector where production costs for biodiesel and green diesel are lower.
On the technical side, the fuel approval process is a lengthy, expensive and challenging barrier to market entry of new SAF pathways, finds the Commission. These constraints can lead fuel producers to favour using their products in other lower-risk markets, such as road transport, where fuel approval is easier, it says.
Lastly, it notes, there is currently a lack of an effective framework for monitoring the supply and use of SAF in the EU, which makes it challenging to assess in a reliable manner the effectiveness of future policies aimed at boosting the SAF market.
These problems require EU action and cannot be solved by Member States acting alone, it argues. “The harmonised implementation of a common policy mechanism is important to avoid possible market distortions that could be caused by a patchwork of national policies. It is essential to take into account the complexities of the aviation Internal Market and ensure its proper functioning. Concretely, a policy mechanism for the uptake of SAF needs to be common across all Member States, to allow airlines and other market players to operate based on equal opportunities.”
DG MOVE has proposed eight possible measures for consideration:
● SAF blending mandate: A minimum share of SAF that would gradually increase over time, to be supplied to airlines and/or a minimum share of SAF to be used by airlines. This could create a stable policy framework over a sufficient time horizon to provide investors with the necessary confidence to invest in SAF production and for airlines to pursue an efficient fuels policy.
● Revision of the multiplier: Currently RED II provides for a 1.2 multiplier for aviation that allows Member States to count towards their national biofuel target 20% more than the SAF volumes provided. The approach could be further specified ensuring a harmonised implementation and the multiplier could be increased.
● A central auctioning mechanism: SAF producers would be invited by a central auctioning authority to bid at the lowest price to supply a certain volume of SAF to the aviation market over a certain period. Such schemes have been used in the field of renewable electricity.
● A funding mechanism: The EU would channel funds through one or more EU financial instruments with the aim of encouraging the deployment of SAF production facilities in the EU and accompanying the gradual uptake of SAF by the aviation market at competitive prices by helping bridge the cost gap and upscale production.
● Prioritisation: With feedstock used to produce sustainable transport fuels a scarce resource, these fuels should be directed to transport modes where they are needed the most in order to decarbonise. A degree of prioritisation of feedstock for SAF production could be necessary in this context.
● Voluntary agreements: Set up a collaborative platform to facilitate purchase agreements between SAF producers and airlines. It could also issue guidance on how to efficiently conclude purchase agreements.
● Technical facilitation and support initiatives: The objective would be to accompany SAF producers along the approval process, by providing the necessary technical support. An EU coordination platform could also be envisaged to bring closer together aviation stakeholders, SAF producers and regulators with a view to communicate and engage towards the common objective of developing the SAF market.
● Monitoring: A dedicated data stream could be put in place to better monitor the production and use of SAF in the EU. Key Performance Indicators could be designed to monitor the effects of SAF policies.
Independently from the instrument used to promote SAF, the Commission says it will be essential to ensure coherence with the existing sustainability requirements, definitions and methodologies set out for renewable fuels in the recast RED, as well as the EU ETS.
Aviation sector responds
The initiative has received positive backing from SAF stakeholders, including the aviation sector.
“IATA supports the ReFuelEU Aviation objective of designing effective policy to help reduce the environmental footprint of the aviation sector,” said the trade body in its submission, which noted that in the absence of support, SAF was not an economically viable substitute to conventional jet fuel.
“Specifically, the incentive-based approach is favoured which can support stable market demand and incentivise production. This approach can enable end users to make purchase commitments at prices which are competitive to conventional fuel,” it said.
However, IATA is cautious over mandate obligations on airlines and says key criteria need to be carefully assessed when designing mandate policies. It favours revising the RED multiplier as the mechanism has the potential to put SAF production on a more equal footing with ground transport sustainable fuels.
Airlines for Europe (A4E) responded that blending mandates should only be introduced under mature market conditions and coordinated at a global level through ICAO. “This approach should be part of the global CORSIA scheme, ensuring that airlines do not suffer competitive distortions as a result of regional mandates,” it said.
“Mandates implemented prematurely would lead to higher prices for the industry, since there is limited availability of SAF. Moreover, it would also stimulate a ‘race to the bottom’ and lower sustainability standards as users seek to fulfil their obligations under such a mandate. It could also lead to more tankering of fuel.”
A4E recommends a policy framework should last for at least 15 years in order to generate a solid business case and to create confidence amongst investors.
European regional airline association ERA also said the much higher prices of SAF meant they were unviable and the market uncertainty did not incentivise the investments necessary to increase production, which it hoped the Commission’s initiative would address. ERA added its support for a blending mandate that enabled gradual, minimum levels of SAF to be supplied to airlines.
US airline association A4A has also responded to the IIA, saying it had a strong interest in the EU initiative, which it applauded. It concurred with the Commission’s assessment on the lack of progress in the development of SAF “despite our concerted and continuing efforts”.
While it agreed that policy options for boosting the supply and demand for SAF in the EU need to be explored, it recommended the focus should be on providing incentives for the energy sector to increase SAF supply rather than mandating any SAF quotas on fuel suppliers or SAF usage requirements on airlines. The imposition of a blending mandate was premature, it argued, and had already led to a significant increase in the price of SAF in Norway, which introduced a mandate in January.
“As the roadmap acknowledges, SAF are still a long way from being commercially viable at scale,” says the submission. “Until they are, the Commission should focus instead on positive measures and incentives that are geared towards improving cost competitiveness, expanding supply and establishing the long-term commercial viability of SAF.”
While the RED 1.2 multiplier should help, A4A believes a 2.0 multiplier would do more to overcome the strong economic incentive for biorefineries to choose to produce lower-cost green diesel for road and marine transport over more complex and costlier-to-produce SAF.
It recommended an EU policy framework should prioritise SAF production and use over road and maritime transport, policy timeframes that matched return on investment 10-20-year timeframes, seek opportunities for public-private SAF production partnerships and provide continued support for SAF R&D.
The European Business Aviation Association said the Commission’s initiative was a critical future step in achieving industry and EU climate goals and emphasised that business and general aviation be included in order to provide a level playing field across the aviation sector in any recommendations and policymaking decisions.
It recommended incentivising the entire SAF value and supply chain, as well as additional R&D efforts on SAF technologies, and increasing the multiplier from 1.2 to 1.5; ensuring priority and allocation of SAF to general and business aviation as well as commercial aviation; providing an EU-wide ‘book and claim’ system, with credits granted to voluntary participants; and monitoring SAF purchase and use to obtain recognition in offsetting mechanisms such as CORSIA and the EU ETS.
In its response to the IIA, International Airlines Group, parent company of British Airways, which is partnering the Velocys Altalto project, said the highest sustainability standards should be the foundation for any future policy. It expressed concern that any policy that requires large volumes of SAF to be supplied in a short timeframe could lead to significant sustainability risks. IAG recommended the EU should align with ICAO’s developing broader standards that will be applied to CORSIA eligible fuels as this would reduce the administrative burden on airlines and fuel suppliers.
The group also warned of significant competitive distortion risks if the EU imposed a blending mandate that could lead to higher fuel costs for fuel uplifted in the EU. Among the IIA options, IAG supports a requirement for funding mechanisms and the prioritisation of aviation over road and marine transport. It also favours a higher multiplier than for marine fuels but said an auctioning mechanism would be of little value in an immature market.
Ryanair, Europe’s largest airline in terms of passenger traffic, said that while it broadly agreed with the ReFuelEU Aviation objectives, SAF should be regulated by one set of global rules, ideally established by ICAO, with methods of quantifying lifecycle CO2 savings that apply uniformly to all airlines. It also opposes introducing mandates in the near future and stressed that only a global mandate would be a solution as and when volumes of feedstock had reached a level that SAF production would benefit all airlines and not only selected ones.
“We appreciate the Commission’s efforts to provide a framework for enhancing supply of SAF in the EU and are closely monitoring the issue, so as to start using these fuels whenever a competitive price will be offered,” said the airline.
Aircraft and engine manufacturers Boeing, GE and Rolls-Royce responded favourably to the Commission’s initiative. Policy is a key instrument for incentivising SAF production because it reduces perceived risk for would-be investors and provides a clear path to commercialisation, said Boeing. Funding mechanisms could draw on the experience of the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard, the UK’s Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation and Brazil’s RenovaBio, it suggested. Boeing also supports increasing the RED multiplier but is against imposing a mandate.
GE Aviation recommended that any measures to be introduced should not create additional demand for SAF without equally ensuring simultaneous growth in supply, otherwise it would lead to an increase in the already expensive price of SAF. The EU initiative should therefore consider ways to incentivise the entire value chain related to the production and use of SAF to level the playing field, it added.
Rolls-Royce said investment in SAF production would need be in the hundreds of billions of euros, whichever the technological pathway, yet any SAF will be significantly more expensive than conventional jet fuel, regardless of production method. Potential SAF producers therefore needed to know that they will be able to sell the more expensive product.
“The greatest confidence for producers can be gained from a mandated percentage of SAF within all of Europe, increasing from 2030 to 2050,” it said, going against the recommendation of most other aviation sector respondents. “This is the highest priority and most effective action for the EU.”
The respondent suggested the EU could encourage SAF with the highest levels of CO2 benefit by applying blend mandates linked to overall GHG intensity rather than a simple percentage blend.
Support for a mandate also came from German aviation renewable energy association aireg, which said a binding quota should be introduced as soon as possible. “A GHG reduction quota at a European level seems to be a promising approach,” it recommended, suggesting a sub-quota to promote the early stage development of electro-fuels. Aireg also favours consideration of the central auctioning mechanism and changes to the EU ETS to allow for a more simplified and easily operationalised procedure for the crediting of SAF in the scheme.
SAF fuel sector
Major SAF supplier SkyNRG, which is leading a Dutch project to build Europe’s first commercial-scale SAF production facility, advised that in order to secure investment and to build additional facilities, an EU-wide blending mandate should be announced at least three years in advance. Preferably, the mandate should last for 10-15 years in order to generate confidence amongst investors and create an attractive business case. It was also important to impose a cost on non-compliance with the mandate that was higher than the cost of compliance, it said.
SkyNRG supports the use of a RED multiplier as an intermediate policy mechanism until an EU-wide policy mechanism is put in place. It also recommended the Commission adopt an encompassing approach to sustainability being at the forefront of the SAF industry, with lower carbon intensity fuels getting higher rewards, which is not the case at present.
Responses were received from SAF producers Gevo, Velocys, LanzaTech and Fulcrum. US alcohol-to-jet fuel company Gevo said an obligation to use SAF was the best way forward.
“Such a blending mandate should be modest and in line with what industry can supply in Europe – considering this is a global market – and be increased yearly,” it said. “A blending mandate is needed because voluntary action is taking too long and also the ICAO process is rather slow.
“The chosen policy needs to be stable and kept in place for at least a decade to trigger investment, and certainty of investment, for developing at scale the pathways, like ATJ-SPK, that are at a high enough technology readiness level. Gevo doesn’t think that an obligation to blend SAF requires a multiplier. A mandate is incentive enough to both produce and use SAF.
“High CAPEX and OPEX make SAF relatively expensive. A decent ROI and market prices are needed. An auctioning mechanism cannot deliver a reasonable price as long as liquidity in SAF is modest.”
In its response, Velocys said it was important to distinguish between the different routes to SAF production. Currently, the only plants producing SAF use the HEFA process, which requires natural oils as feedstock but these are a limited resource. Looking ahead, Velocys said the Fischer-Tropsch and ATJ routes offer access to a much broader feedstock base. These resources have low or no land use change impact and could be enough to meet more than half of global jet fuel demand, it claims.
“The key barrier for rollout of these routes to SAF is therefore not feedstock, but the financing of first-of-a-kind projects,” said the Velocys submission. “Once these early plants are in operation, much more capital can be deployed.”
A blending mandate could provide certainty of demand and thereby support investment, the company believes, but should be incentivised towards production of second-generation fuels or feedstocks listed in Part A Annex IX of RED II. A revision of the multiplier makes sense, it said, but requires Member States to translate it into incentives for industry. A funding mechanism would also be a good complement to mandates and/or revision of the multiplier, it added.
Prioritisation for aviation could become necessary in the long term but it believes it is difficult to get right due to uncertainties over future developments in technology, demand and resource supply. However, Velocys does not recommend a central auction mechanism and sees no need for a collaborative platform on voluntary agreements. It does though support a platform to bring together aviation stakeholders, SAF producers and regulators.
ATJ producer LanzaTech also supports a blending mandate, which it suggests should come into force after a minimum of three years, to enable implementation of commercial SAF projects and to allow airlines, airports and other stakeholders time to prepare. The mandate should persist for a minimum of 15 years in order to provide assurance for project financing, said it submission. The multiplier should also be set at a level that reflects the increased cost of SAF production and close to the price gap as production economics improve. Another mechanism to support the price gap could be a feed-in tariff where producers or buyers get a set contribution to cover part of the additional costs of SAF relative to fossil jet fuel. Again, to provide predictable economics for SAF projects, this should be available for an extended period, believes LanzaTech.
US-based Fulcrum BioEnergy, which is currently commissioning the world’s first commercial scale waste-to-SAF facility in Nevada, said it intends bringing its platform to Europe “once the supportive policy landscape is in place”. Scaling up the production of advanced waste-based SAF in the EU would require incentive support to enable a cost-effective price point for airline purchase while maintaining producer margins sufficient enough to attract the necessary project capital, said the company’s IIA submission.
Incentives should be based on net carbon reductions on a sliding scale and, to provide additional security to SAF development, an EU-wide backed loan guarantee programme should be employed to enable developers to attract the necessary financing, said Fulcrum. The company also supports the gradual introduction of long-term mandates, which should apply to existing fuel producers as well as end users to ensure both ends of the supply chain are incentivised to produce and purchase SAF respectively. Mandates and the multiplier should also relate to the type of feedstock being used, which reflect the overall costs associated with production.
Major oil producers Shell and Total, both of which have entered the SAF market, also responded to the IIA.
“The commercial development and rollout of SAF in Europe needs long-term clarity and legal certainty,” said the Shell submission. “In its assessment of policy options, the Commission should ensure supply side and demand side measures go hand in hand to allow the large-scale availability of SAF in the medium to long term. Scaling up SAF will require time-limited financial support to reduce costs and help emerging advanced biofuel technologies become ready for commercial deployment.”
The oil giant said it supported an EU-wide SAF mandate in order to strengthen long-term certainty for investors, with fuel suppliers as obligated parties, and should be set as a CO2 intensity target on a ‘well-to-wing’ basis. To support the long-term diversification of production pathways and feedstocks used, Shell said a mandate should include a sub-target for SAF made from advanced feedstocks and synthetic fuels such as electro-fuels.
“The impact of Covid-19 has provided the aviation sector with unprecedented challenges,” said Shell. “Further analysis will be needed on the conditions, level and timing for the introduction of a SAF mandate. EU and national measures to support the recovery of the aviation sector could play an important role in encouraging a sustainable transition, aligned with the EU Green Deal objectives.”
Total said it favoured a SAF blending mandate since voluntary agreements had achieved no significant results above a willingness to use SAF. Mandates for SAF should be separated from those for road transport and multipliers favouring aviation rather than road transport were not needed. They should also be technology neutral, according to Total, and should define sustainability criteria and recognise all sustainable feedstocks, either biogenic or non-biogenic. An effective monitoring system would be required to mitigate the risks of fraud, it added.
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New report highlights the growing impact and health risks associated with wildlife trafficking through the air transport system
Thu 30 Apr 2020 – A new report on wildlife trafficking in the air transport sector shows that last year more than one million illegal wildlife products and live animal were seized at airports, with around one seizure recorded every day. The report, ‘Runway to Extinction’, examines the trends, transit routes and trafficking methods used by wildlife smugglers exploiting the aviation industry in six world regions. Produced by C4ADS as part of the USAID Reducing Opportunities for Unlawful Transport of Endangered Species (ROUTES) Partnership, this is the third report highlighting the world’s fourth most valuable type of international organised crime. As Covid-19 ravages countries across the globe, the illegal wildlife trade is also an important factor in the spread of zoonotic – animal to human – diseases, with trafficked live birds, reptiles and mammals at risk of ending up in illegal or unregulated markets.
“This report highlights the widespread, pervasive nature of wildlife trafficking by air, with each major world region impacted,” commented its author, Mary Utermohlen, Program Director at C4ADS. “Our analysis shows that traffickers of all types exploit the same vulnerabilities within airports, often using the same trafficking methods to circumvent law enforcement and airport authorities.
“Furthermore, seizure data shows that many wildlife trafficking networks rely on the same smuggling methods over time, suggesting that a thorough understanding of airport-specific or country-specific trafficking patterns could be instrumental in reducing the air transport system’s vulnerability to trafficking.”
Once largely confined to Africa and Asia, wildlife trafficking is now prevalent and rising in all continents with the exception of Antarctica, being supported by the world’s increasingly interconnected systems of finance, communications and transport. The negative side effects of economic progress are evident in the substantial population decline of vulnerable species over the past few decades alone, says the report. If wildlife poaching and trafficking continues unabated at this scale, regional ecosystems face not just species extinction but complete collapse, it warns.
“In the face of such catastrophic overexploitation, steps must be taken to reverse the damage caused by the creation of a global marketplace,” says the author in the report.
Asia is by far the world’s largest demand region for trafficked wildlife and wildlife products, with trafficking routes extended to every region. China dominated every seizure and trafficking instance count in the latest C4ADS analysis, likely due, says the report, to extremely high demand for trafficked wildlife driven by a large population, but also effective enforcement and good reporting.
Trafficking of Asian species has declined as their population numbers have fallen, and Asian trafficking networks appear to increasingly rely on species found mostly in Africa to satiate demand. Sufficient numbers of Asian species remain to support significant intra-Asian trade in reptiles, birds, pangolins and marine species. Driven by an increasing demand, Asian countries seized more pangolin scales by weight than any other wildlife product, including ivory. Although so far unsubstantiated, an infected pangolin sold at a Wuhan wet market has been reported as a possible source of the Covid-19 outbreak.
All animals can potentially carry infectious diseases that when not managed appropriately, can create a health risk to related species, says the report. Birds, for example, can carry over 60 diseases that are transferable to humans and other species. National and international health organisations have instituted regulations to try to reduce the potential spread of avian diseases by prohibiting the importation of birds from certain countries and requiring that exported and imported birds receive certificates of health before travel. But wildlife traffickers, adds the report, intentionally operate outside of the legal transportation system and pay no attention to these precautions, and so seizures sometimes include birds sick with infectious diseases.
In one seizure, two Vietnamese attempting to fly from Singapore’s Changi Airport back to their country were found to have 12 Chinese hwamei birds in their suitcases and in a follow-up investigation, one bird tested positive for influenza A strain H3N8, a virus that was the apparent cause of the 1889 to 1890 flu pandemic, although it does not generally appear to be transmissible to humans.
“Faced with the current health crisis caused by the novel Covid-19 virus, the world is unfortunately grappling with the danger and economic turmoil that zoonotic diseases can pose. Trafficked wildlife present particular risks in this context,” said Michelle Owen, ROUTES lead. “By training staff to detect and report wildlife trafficking and working with enforcement agencies to intercept traffickers, airports and airlines can help strengthen their operations and can play a role in reducing the risk of future outbreaks.”
Jon Godson, Assistant Director of Environment at IATA, said many airlines recognise the need to combat wildlife trafficking and are stepping up global efforts.
“Airline staff spend more time with passengers and baggage than custom authorities, and can provide a key source of intelligence for enforcement agencies,” he said. “Also, the rapid introduction of new technology in the sector presents an opportunity for public-private partnerships based on the smarter use of digital intelligence to apprehend wildlife traffickers.”
Trade body Airports Council International, which has set up the ACI Wildlife Trafficking Task Force and is helping members with various tools to help increase awareness of the issue, has just released two new training videos for airports to include in their onboarding programmes.
“Traffickers are increasingly abusing transport systems to move their products quickly and securely. During the journey from source to market, airports may be used in transit,” said Juliana Scavuzzi, Senior Manager of Environment at ACI World. “This provides airports with an important opportunity in preventing wildlife trafficking. ACI is committed to developing a framework to fight wildlife trafficking and support our members with their efforts.”
The report does come up with a silver lining: “As wildlife traffickers have increasingly come to rely on income derived from wildlife native to other world regions, they have made themselves dependent on the international systems of transportation that made their illegal trade possible in the first place. As a result, implementing preventative measures against wildlife traffickers using these systems could increase the cost associated with trafficking to such an extent that they may abandon the attempt.”
In addition to the full report, region-specific versions are available that show trends and data from hotspots around the world. There is also the ROUTES dashboard where seizure data going back to 2009 can be filtered.
The USAID ROUTES Partnership has a core group comprising C4ADS, ACI, IATA, TRAFFIC and WWF, and collaborates with the US government, the transport sector and more than 20 partners.
Covid-19 air traffic slump provides opportunity for European ‘perfect flights’ initiative and more direct routes
Fri 24 Apr 2020 – While European air traffic volumes are considerably lower due to the coronavirus pandemic, airlines and air navigation service providers (ANSPs) have launched an environmental initiative to facilitate ‘perfect flights’ through optimising flight paths. The effort is being led by the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO) in association with IATA, A4E, ERA, AIRE, IFATCA and the Eurocontrol Network Manager. In order to manage traffic safely and efficiently into and out of busy airspace, ANSPs normally apply airspace restrictions to maximise capacity, reduce complexity and organise aircraft into specific flows. In the current low-level traffic scenario, most of these airspace restrictions can be lifted, which enables more direct routes and allows aircraft to fly their optimal vertical profiles, says CANSO.
“ANSPs across Europe are still playing a vital role enabling the transportation of urgent medical supplies and food, and the repatriation of individuals, but clearly traffic numbers are much lower than before the pandemic,” said Tanja Grobotek, CANSO Director Europe Affairs. “So CANSO and our partners are using this downtime to facilitate optimum flight paths that will deliver environmental and economic benefits by reducing fuel burn, emissions, noise and fuel costs.
“There is no reason right now why an aircraft should not be flying its ‘perfect flight’.”
Last Tuesday (April 21), Eurocontrol recorded 4,033 flights in the European network, compared with 31,083 flights on the same day in 2019, a drop of 87.0%. Freight operator DHL Express operated the most flights (253 movements), followed by Norwegian carrier Widerøe (204), Turkish Airlines (103) and Lufthansa (96). Frankfurt was the busiest airport (200 movements), followed by Leipzig (179), Oslo-Gardermoen (179), Schiphol (166) and Heathrow (156).
Air traffic management (ATM) can influence up to 10% of all aviation-derived CO2 emissions in Europe and there is a target to reduce this share to 2.4% by 2035. Free route airspace is one of the most significant aspect of ATM emission improvement measures and Eurocontrol claims that when all cross-border implementations have been completed, it will allow airlines to reduce their daily fuel burn under normal circumstances by 3,000 tonnes and CO2 emissions by 10,000 tonnes.
IATA starts discussions with ICAO on changing CORSIA baseline to exclude 2020 emissions
Tue 21 Apr 2020 – As IATA’s regular updates on the Covid-19 impact on the air transport industry become increasingly pessimistic, many analysts are warning of an extended crisis with global air traffic not returning to previous levels for some years. IATA has raised its previous forecast on industry losses in 2020 by 25% to $314 billion and a near halving of passenger traffic (RPKs) and capacity. The airline industry body has already started discussions with ICAO on changing the CORSIA baseline to avoid including 2020 emissions in the calculation, which would lead to an increased offset purchasing requirement during the course of the 15-year scheme. Both the EU and the US have shown some sympathy with the request. However, the European mood is that airlines should not escape their climate responsibilities as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and that aid should come with strings attached.
The CORSIA baseline is to be calculated as the average of the emissions from international flights for 2019 and 2020, designed to iron out minor fluctuations between the two years. A forecasted 45% reduction in capacity in 2020 compared with 2019 would have a major impact on the baseline that would impose an economic burden on the industry, said IATA in a recent position paper.
An IATA spokesperson told GreenAir the trade body had spoken with a senior representative from the ICAO secretariat about its proposal to use only emissions from 2019 as the baseline. He said it was his understanding that ICAO “wanted to understand IATA’s position better”.
Any change to the baseline calculation would have to be approved by ICAO’s governing Council, which is next due to meet in session in June. IATA is keen for a decision to be made by then as it may impact the willingness of certain countries to join the voluntary pilot phase starting next year.
The early signs are that major participating countries are open to the move. An FAA official familiar with the CORSIA process at ICAO told GreenAir: “Changes to the baseline are highly likely once there’s a chance to review the situation and those can be done without disrupting CORSIA’s rollout.”
EU Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean told EURACTIV that Europe had to implement CORSIA “to show that we are true to our word” and added “I’m sympathetic towards airlines because I know how hard the industry has been hit and we need to maintain its competitiveness. If discussions evolve, we’ll take stock of them.”
Prior to the global crisis, IATA forecast CORSIA would mitigate around 2.5 billion tonnes of CO2 between 2021 and 2035, an annual average of 164 million tonnes. ICAO’s own previous analysis estimated the industry would need to offset around a total of 104 million tonnes of CO2 in the 2021-2023 pilot phase, rising to 216 million tonnes in the 2024-2026 first phase.
Among the various fuel sectors, oil consultancy Rystad Energy expects jet fuel to be hit the hardest by the pandemic, with global demand falling by almost 31% year-on-year, from an average 7.2 million barrels per day in 2019 to around 5 million bpd. It forecasts demand in April to be as low as 2.6 bpd and in May 2.4 million bpd. Jet fuel prices in Singapore have fallen by 61% over the last two months.
Jet fuel consumption may not recover fully even in 2021 as travellers remain concerned about long-haul vacations and businesses get used to online meetings, said Per Magnus Nysveen, Rystad’s Head of Analysis.
According to an IATA analysis in December, global carbon emissions in 2019 – from domestic as well as international flights – totalled an estimated 915 million tonnes, with a projection of 936 million tonnes in 2020. IATA is now estimating a fall this year in terms of capacity – aircraft movements – in the order of 45%, suggesting global emissions in 2020 from the sector could amount to around 500 million tonnes in total.
In 2015, around 65% of global aviation fuel consumption was from international aviation, a proportion which ICAO expects to remain stable out to 2050. CORSIA does not cover emissions from domestic aviation, which are the responsibility of individual States under the Paris Agreement.
A further outcome of the pandemic for CORSIA, although to some extent this may have happened anyway, is that a number of countries have extended the deadline for airlines and other aircraft operators reporting their CO2 emissions for 2019 to their national authority.
The official date is May 31 – just over a month’s time – but in some countries the deadline is earlier, for example Mauritius (March 31), Ukraine (May 1) and the Philippines (May 8). Operators based in Hong Kong, which is administered by China, have to meet a deadline of April 30. Countries that have postponed the deadline include Australia (June 30), Mexico and the United States (July 31) and Canada (October 31).
Numerous operators are still working to complete the reporting and verification process by the end of May deadline despite the pandemic, reported Verifavia, a leader in CORSIA emissions verification.
“We strongly encourage operators to continue and complete the process as originally planned,” said Verifavia CEO Julien Dufour. “If people are working from home with a good internet connection, and with access to their company’s systems and databases, then there should be no problem to complete the process. However, in case this is not possible, we recommend operators contact their CORSIA administering authority to request an extension of the deadline.”
Dufour said despite reports to the contrary, it is not a requirement for operators to have their emissions verified on site. “Our CORSIA verification team is working full time and remains fully committed and operational around the world – working from home – to answer queries, perform verification activities and ensure operators meet the CORSIA compliance timeframe,” he said. “We have developed remote verification techniques for all our aviation customers, including the use of basic audio and video conferencing facilities as required.”
He confirmed that many operators are concerned about the baseline implications of using 2020 emissions.
In her EURACTIV interview, EU Commissioner Vălean said the pandemic crisis was the wrong time to condition state aid for airlines on green measures. She was responding to a recent open letter from 250 NGOs, trade unions and academics, mostly European, demanding governments embed social and environmental conditions into bailouts for the industry, as well as imposing taxes on jet kerosene and frequent flyer levies.
“Raising these conditions now is not necessarily something I would support,” she said. “When talking about investments in greening measures while companies are facing bankruptcy, we need to have more caution.”
One of the authors of the letter, Magdalena Heuwieser of Stay Grounded, a network of 150 organisations worldwide, said: “For decades, the aviation industry has avoided contributing meaningfully to global climate goals and resisted the merest suggestion of taxes on fuel or tickets. Now airlines, airport and manufacturers are demanding huge and unconditional taxpayer-backed bailouts. We cannot let the aviation industry get away with privatising profits in the good times and expect the public to pay for its losses in the bad times.”
Added Andrew Murphy, Aviation Director at Transport & Environment: “EU governments should make airline bailouts conditional on carriers paying fuel, ticket and other taxes once the crisis has passed. They should also require airlines to start using low-carbon fuels once conditions improve. Public money should support the technologies of the future to help combat the next looming global crisis, climate change, and not reinforce the mistakes of the past.”
T&E has revealed that Europe’s largest low-cost carrier Ryanair, which in 2018 became the first airline to join the top ten list of emitters within the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), climbed up the table last year to seventh place as a result of a 5.9% increase in emissions. Airline carbon emissions grew 1.5% overall in 2019, it said, in contrast to other sectors covered by the EU ETS, which declined 8.9% overall.
“Airline emissions continued their upward trajectory while other sectors continued to decarbonise,” said Murphy. “That trend will resume post-crisis unless governments act now to rein in their pollution.”
Former EU Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete agrees that taxpayer help for airlines hit by the current crisis should come with conditions. “It must be conditional, otherwise when we recover we will see the same or higher levels of carbon dioxide [from flying],” he told The Guardian.
Pascal Canfin, French MEP and Chair of the European Parliament’s environment committee (ENVI), said in a tweet: “If the state is to save Air France-KLM, it must be done for reasons of sovereignty. But this must be accompanied by a commitment to define an ecological transition contract for the company because public money must not only be used to save but also to transform.”
The Austrian government is reported to be in talks with Austrian Airlines’ parent Lufthansa over the conditions of aid to the subsidiary, which may cover action on climate protection. Options could include a pledge to reduce short-haul flights, increased cooperation with rail companies, heavier use of sustainable fuels and bigger tax contributions. It makes a lot of sense to use this situation to support this transformation, said Austria’s environment minister, a member of the Green party.
Plans though to implement flight taxes by France and the Netherlands this year are reported to have been postponed.
IATA calls for change in CORSIA baseline to protect airlines from future higher offsetting requirements
Fri 3 Apr 2020 – As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, IATA has called on the ICAO Council to change the baseline calculation used for the CORSIA offsetting scheme for international aviation emissions. Under rules agreed by ICAO, the baseline is set at the average emissions for the years 2019 and 2020. For the 15-year duration of CORSIA starting next year, airlines are required to purchase offsets to cover any annual growth in emissions above the baseline. The collapse in global air traffic as a result of the outbreak, with demand unlikely to recover this year, will lead to significantly lower 2020 emissions. This in turn will lower the baseline considerably than was previously projected and result in much higher anticipated offsetting requirements and therefore costs once the sector returns to previous levels, says IATA. It requests the Council to make the change no later than the end of June.
In a position paper, IATA says the baseline must be adjusted “to ensure the sustainable development of international aviation and avoid an inappropriate economic burden on the sector.” It recommends that only emissions for 2019 be used for calculating the baseline.
In support of its justification for a change in the baseline, the IATA paper quotes paragraph 16 of the A40-19 CORSIA resolution passed at the last ICAO Assembly in 2019, “… on the need to provide for safeguards in the CORSIA to ensure the sustainable development of the international aviation sector and against inappropriate economic burden on international aviation, and requests the Council to decide the basis and criteria for triggering such action and identify possible means to address these issues …”.
The IATA paper argues: “Allowing the use of 2019 emissions as an alternative would preserve the environmental benefits that were forecast to be achieved through CORSIA as the adjusted baseline would remain more stringent than what the baseline would have been without the Covid-19 crisis.”
The airline trade body is also concerned that countries already signed up to join the voluntary pilot and first phases of CORSIA, and those still considering joining, may reconsider their positions in order to protect their airlines from potential higher compliance costs if no change is made to the 2019/20 calculation. States have until June 30 to notify ICAO of their intention to join the scheme from the beginning or decide to discontinue their voluntary participation.
Accordingly, IATA urges the Council to take a decision on a baseline adjustment before this date at the latest.
IATA also calls on ICAO to urge States to extend the May 31 deadline for the submission by aeroplane operators of their 2019 verified emissions report until at least the end of October 2020. It argues Covid-19 travel restrictions and confinement measures in many countries “have made it impossible for verification bodies to conduct verification activities.”
Historically, air transport activity has rebounded quickly after previous global crises but IATA’s March 24 Covid-19 impact assessment points to the potential for a deep financial recession following the outbreak that would delay the air transport sector’s recovery to previous levels. If this was to be the case and a 2019 only baseline applied to CORSIA, this could considerably reduce airline demand for offsets, at least in the 2021-23 pilot phase.
Although it is too early to predict the impact of the pandemic on total emissions from international aviation this year, IATA’s current forecast is for a 38% fall in global passenger traffic in 2020. According to IATA, global emissions in 2019 – from domestic as well as international flights – totalled 915 million tonnes. Emissions from international aviation activity, which will be covered by CORSIA, account for around 60% of the global total.