GREENAIR NEWSLETTER 20 NOVEMBER 2020
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Sustainability to be at core of airport sector recovery plans as ACI adds levels to its CO2 programme
Fri 20 Nov 2020 – Representing nearly 2,000 airports worldwide, trade association ACI World has adopted a resolution at its annual assembly that recognises climate change requires global collaboration and action, and adaptation and resilience should be key issues included in airport recovery plans despite the Covid pandemic. Opportunities should be identified to ‘build back better’ by keeping sustainability and resilience at the core of recovery strategies, says the resolution. A survey conducted by ACI in 2019 found almost 70% of airport operators who responded reported they had already been impacted by adverse weather patterns and conditions. Meanwhile, at ACI Europe’s annual congress, two further levels were unveiled of the industry’s Airport Carbon Accreditation programme that require airports to align their carbon management strategies and plans with the ambition of the Paris Agreement.
“Sustainability is one of the key pillars of our industry and climate change continues to pose the highest long-term risk that the world faces,” said ACI World’s Director General, Luis Felipe de Oliveira, commenting on the adoption of the resolution. “While airports contribute only a small fraction to the total level of industry emissions, we are focused on a carbon neutral goal for 2050, with some regions achieving the milestone earlier than that.”
ACI is urging governments to support the recovery of airports by providing policies, investment and incentives to decarbonise the sector and make it more resilient. It advises members to consider multiple solutions for decarbonisation, to gradually transition towards net-zero carbon in the long term and to continue to conduct risk assessments as an integral part of their master planning.
“We also encourage members to support the protection of biodiversity, which can also help in preventing the emergence of zoonotic diseases contributing to future pandemics,” said de Oliveira.
In a keynote ‘state of the industry’ address at ACI Europe’s live-streamed 30th Annual Congress, Director General Olivier Jankovec said the European airport industry was facing extreme financial distress and massive job cuts, with 1.5 billion passengers lost so far this year.
“Our airport economic model has been dependent upon and driven by the assurance of continued dynamic growth in air traffic,” he said. “But we can no longer assume that will be the case in the post-Covid-19 environment. Our industry needs to look to robust future-proofing with new ways of trading and operating.
“Crucially, the combination of powerful structural determinants including the Climate Emergency, continued push-back against globalisation, geopolitical instability and increased regulatory risks will result in lower long-term growth in air traffic.”
However, said Jankovec, the drive to ‘build back better’ had only served to increase the European airport industry’s determination to take a lead in crafting a sustainable future, as evidenced by its existing commitment made last year to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. He announced the publication of a revised ‘Sustainability Strategy for Airports’, first published last year, which provides guidance to airports on how to step up sustainability efforts in the post-Covid era.
ACI Europe first launched the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme at its annual congress in 2009 and is now established in all of ACI’s global regions. It independently assesses and recognises airports’ efforts to manage and reduce their CO2 emissions through four levels, with the first level requiring measurement of an airport’s carbon footprint. The highest level, Level 3+, requires airports to reach carbon neutrality through a combination of carbon reduction efforts and offsetting.
For the first time since its inception, the programme now adds two new levels: Level 4 Transformation and Level 4+ Transition. ACI says this marks a shift in the ambition of the programme to align with the objectives of the Paris Agreement and airports seeking attainment at the higher levels will have to define their reduction targets and associated emissions pathways according to IPCC scenarios.
The levels require extending the carbon footprint so that additional sources have to be included, notably covering all significant operational emissions from third parties, including airlines. Requirements related to stakeholder engagement are also tightened, with effective partnerships oriented towards delivering emission reductions coming to the fore.
“The programme has always set the bar high in terms of our industry’s leadership and commitment to striving towards measurable change. We do not shy away from the role aviation plays in the climate emergency,” said Jankovec, who revealed that 29 airports had joined the programme this year since the start of the pandemic and a further 22 airports had achieved new levels of accreditation.
“The introduction of these two further levels sets the bar yet higher. They bring the programme into line with the latest scientific and policy developments of recent years, and quite rightly reflect enhanced public expectations of the societal and environmental role we play. And already, airports are showing themselves able to step up.”
During the congress, ACI announced two airports are the first to achieve Level 4+ certification, Dallas Fort Worth International (DFW) and New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International. DFW recently received a 2020 United Nations Global Climate Action Award for its continued efforts to find innovative ways to reduce its carbon footprint.
The introduction of the new levels to align with global climate goals was praised by Patricia Espinosa, UNFCCC Executive Secretary. “This is encouraging. I commend airports for this leadership – a signal that can set an example for others to follow with ambitious climate action.
“To achieve the deep transformation needed for sustainable development and stabilisation of global temperatures, we must require commitments and participation from all sectors and levels of society. Airports have been severely hit by the Covid-19 crisis and yet they are continuing their efforts to map and reduce their CO2 emissions year by year, as well as to engage their business partners in this endeavour.”
Details of the programme and the six levels of certification are contained in a new publication ‘Airports Responding to Climate Change’.
EU aviation sector calls for policy support and investment to help achieve carbon neutrality by 2050
Thu 19 Nov 2020 – Over 20 European aviation and travel associations have called for a joint commitment between industry and policymakers to achieve net zero CO2 emissions from all flights within and departing from the EU by 2050. As signatories to an ‘Aviation Round Table Report’, they have urged EU leaders to join and actively support an ‘EU Pact for Sustainable Aviation’ by the end of 2021 by contributing to a policy and financial framework they see as vital to enable the aviation sector to deliver on its sustainability commitments. The report details ways aviation can recover from the Covid-19 crisis whilst supporting the EU’s Green Deal objectives and build a greener, socially and economically robust future. These include an EU legislative framework on sustainable aviation fuels, funding and investment for low-carbon aircraft innovations and an incentive scheme for fleet renewal. The sector is also looking for EU aid in recovering from the pandemic.
“The European aviation sector believes that its recovery is fully compatible with, and should be accompanied by, broader efforts to reduce its environmental footprint, provided the right policies are in place,” say the authors of the ‘Aviation round table report on the recovery of European aviation’. “Therefore, the sector is committed to continue its efforts to reduce its negative environmental impacts, both locally and globally.”
However, they say, a bold strategy is firstly required for a sustainable recovery of the European aviation sector and to restore public confidence in air travel through effective coordination of travel restrictions and requirements by EU member states. The EU and member states should put in place a targeted European Aviation Relief Programme until the recovery of air traffic, advises the report, which the sector does not expect before 2024 or 2025. Support measures should aim to stabilise the sector and help prevent widescale loss of employment and air connectivity, it adds.
“The European aviation sector believes that its recovery is fully compatible with, and should be accompanied by, broader efforts to reduce its environmental footprint, provided the right policies are in place,” says the associations’ declaration. “Therefore, the sector is committed to continue its efforts to reduce its negative environmental impacts, both locally and globally. The latter implies in particular for all stakeholders and all policymakers to work together to achieve net zero CO2 emissions from all flights within and departing from the EU by 2050.”
The pact between the sector, stakeholders and government should chart a path towards the 2050 carbon neutral target with the aim of achieving significant emission reductions by 2030, in line with EU Climate Action objectives, states the document, and also consider the feasibility of making 2019 the peak year for CO2 emissions from European aviation, “while enabling the sector to continue delivering its social and economic benefits.”
The signatories say the pact should specify the supporting policy framework and financial mechanisms needed at EU level to achieve the goals. This includes an urgent need for a comprehensive EU legislative framework to promote the uptake and deployment of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) as well as the establishment of a green incentive scheme for fleet renewal coupled with retirement, and an increase in public co-funding for civil aviation research and innovation in fields such as electric propulsion and hydrogen and synthetic fuels. Recognition should also be given to the revision of the Single European Sky and the continuation of the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) alongside the global CORSIA carbon offsetting scheme for international aviation.
A comprehensive SAF framework with a dedicated stable set of policy measures and public investment plans to boost European production and uptake would help accelerate aviation decarbonisation and contribute towards achieving the EU’s 2030 climate goals, say the report’s authors. Particular attention should also be given to the medium- and long-term potential for synthetic fuels to be scaled up.
Subject to meeting strict sustainability criteria, they say measures should include:
- Public investment (including possible ownership) in SAF production facilities enabling the necessary de-risking required to debt finance projects as well as the execution of offtake contracts with aircraft operators;
- Support to private investment in SAF production, for example through grants and/or loan guarantees;
- Support to R&D in new SAF feedstock and production pathways.
The industry also advocates a progressive EU-wide blending mandate that would enable the European aviation sector to gradually increase the use of SAF, based on strict sustainability criteria, without compromising its competitiveness.
The report estimates around 780 aircraft in European in-service fleets could be “early retired” and replaced by more modern and efficient aircraft, which it says has the potential to save up to 50 million tonnes of CO2 up until 2030. Fleet renewal coupled with retirement could be maintained through the implementation of a corresponding temporary and airline/aircraft operator non-market distorting co-financing EU incentive scheme, it recommends.
“Such a scheme could be a win-win for all stakeholders in the aviation ecosystem as it will help the aviation sector to recover from the Covid-19 crisis. Most importantly, it would have important environmental benefits in the short term.”
On market-based measures, the report says policymakers should ensure the continuation of aviation’s inclusion in the EU ETS and reforms to the scheme should be done in a complementary way to CORSIA, while avoiding distortion of competition for European aviation. It also calls for revenues collected through ETS allowances be ring-fenced and reinvested into aviation decarbonisation, for example through R&D funding or financial incentives to the deployment of SAF. By 2050, to achieve the net zero target, the report envisages any residual aviation emissions being removed from the atmosphere through offsetting involving natural carbon sinks, for example forests, or dedicated technologies such as carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS).
The report also recommends industry and governments should work together to facilitate multimodal choices of passengers to support the most efficient journeys across an integrated transport system and include multimodal ticketing and distribution. It also has proposals on the local impacts of aviation such as noise and air quality.
The drafters of the report included ACI Europe (airports), A4E (airlines), ERA (regional airlines), ASD (aerospace), CANSO (air traffic management), ECA (pilots) and ETF (transport trade unions).
One of the 20 signatories to the report is campaign group Transport & Environment (T&E), a longstanding critic of efforts so far to decarbonise aviation.
“We haven’t always been best friends with the aviation sector but we have signed this joint roundtable report,” said William Todts, President of T&E, during a session at this week’s virtual ACI Europe Congress and Assembly. “It wasn’t an easy decision but I genuinely believe there is a big opportunity to build back better. The airline industry is in a big crisis. It will ask and get additional support and we can use this as an opportunity to do much better.
“But we need to be clear what a sustainable recovery is and what it is not. It is not a return to 2019 with similar levels of growth, add a bit of biofuels and CORSIA, and it’s done. We’re looking for the type of change that’s taking place in the automotive industry where they are completely changing their factories, retraining their people and investing billions of euros. That’s what we are going to have to see in the aviation industry but I’m really hopeful that the sustainability pact that we are jointly calling for will create a framework and set ambitious goals. We all need to work together.
“There are three elements that are very important. Firstly, it is essential we scale up clean new fuels and we need to focus on those fuels that are sustainable and scalable. First generation biofuels are not sustainable and the problem with advanced biofuels is they are not scalable, so we need to focus on those we can scale up, such as e-fuels. This will save us a lot of trouble down the road. Secondly, we need a lot more innovation in this sector. It’s exciting that Airbus are promising us hydrogen aircraft by 2035 but we don’t have any means to hold them accountable. That’s not the way it works in the automotive sector – targets are set and binding. Thirdly, we will need to have a discussion about tax. It’s going to be hard to have untaxed fossil kerosene in a net-zero world.
“There has been a lot of fighting between civil society and the aviation industry but we now have an opportunity for the industry to emerge very differently from this crisis. It’s going to be a big change.”
The European Commission’s Executive Vice President, Margrethe Vestager, said the report provided important food for thought both for immediate issues and forward-looking challenges.
Added Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean: “I welcome this report from the aviation sector and civil society on what is needed to rebuild passengers’ trust, and for the recovery of this hard-hit sector, which remains critical for global supply chains and people’s mobility. It offers a vision of how to make the sector stronger, more sustainable and more forward-looking than it was before the Covid-19 pandemic. I applaud the commitment to reach net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050, and the proposal to create a pact for social sustainability. This is fully in line with our ambitions for the future growth of the EU.”
In the UK, meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week unveiled a 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution to help achieve the government’s net-zero emissions by 2050 pledge. One of the 10 actions is to support difficult to decarbonise industries such as aviation through research projects for zero-emission planes. The government recently set up a Jet Zero Council with high-level representatives from the sector.
Ahead of the government announcement, the industry coalition group Sustainable Aviation had called for support in three areas it considered critical to achieving net zero flight: the delivery of a UK SAF industry; making electric, hybrid and hydrogen powered aircraft a reality through the UK’s Aerospace Technology Institute; and the completion of airspace modernisation. Targeted loan guarantees and the provision of capital grants would be critical, they said, to delivering first-of-a-kind SAF plants that could lead to up to 14 UK plants generating sustainable fuel from household and industrial waste by the middle 2030s.
Welcoming the government plan, the Chair of Sustainable Aviation, Adam Morton, said: “It is particularly encouraging that Jet Zero is identified as one of the priority areas. Through this investment and the work of the newly formed Jet Zero Council, UK aviation has the potential to lead the world in developing and deploying cutting edge technologies such as sustainable aviation fuel.
“SAF technology is available now, can be used in existing engines and aircraft, and its production overlaps strongly with the regions that have been earmarked for hydrogen and CCUS projects. However, follow-up action is needed urgently to stimulate the required private sector investment and remove obstacles to deployment. Over the longer term, these synthetic fuels will be joined by electric and hydrogen propulsion as part of a package to deliver net zero flight.”
Microsoft, Alaska Airlines and SkyNRG partner to reduce business flight emissions through SAF purchase
Fri 13 Nov 2020 – Microsoft, Alaska Airlines and SkyNRG have entered into agreements whereby employees of the software giant will have the CO2 emissions from their air travel between Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and three West Coast destinations reduced through sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) credits purchased from SkyNRG. The funds from the credits will be used by SkyNRG to supply SAF produced by World Energy in California and delivered to the airport fuelling system used by Alaska Airlines. The three companies hope the partnership, the first of its kind in the United States, will serve as a model for other companies and organisations that are committed to reducing the environmental impact of business air travel. They said they would explore expanding the programme in the future and are supporting the development of a global environmental accounting standard for voluntary corporate SAF purchases.
“After a decade advancing sustainable aviation fuel, this partnership marks a significant milestone in the work to make SAF a commercially-viable aviation fuel alternative,” said Brad Tilden, CEO of Alaska Airlines. “SAF enables us to fly cleaner and reduce our impact on the environment. However, we cannot do this alone – we must work together with other industries and business leaders like Microsoft and SkyNRG, among others who are thinking big, to achieve our goals and grow the marketplace for SAF.”
The agreement between Alaska and Microsoft relates to flights by Microsoft employees from Seattle-Tacoma to San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles airports – the three most popular routes they travel on Alaska.
As part of Microsoft’s partnership agreement with SkyNRG, Microsoft will become the newest member of Board Now, a coalition of organisations committed to reducing carbon emissions from flying through directly contributing to the development of new SAF production capacity.
The SAF produced by World Energy uses waste oils and is claimed to deliver a life-cycle carbon reduction of 75% compared to fossil jet fuel and sustainability is guaranteed by SkyNRG through certification from the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials.
“The emergence of a SAF production system and market is a once-in-a-century opportunity to launch a new energy source for an entire industry, guided by strong sustainability standards from day one,” said Theye Veen, SkyNRG’s Managing Director. “We are very pleased to be joined by leading companies Microsoft and Alaska Airlines in this next step.”
Microsoft has committed to be carbon negative by 2030 and by 2050 remove from the environment more carbon than it has emitted since its founding.
The company’s EVP Worldwide Commercial Business, Judson Althoff, told a World Economics Forum webinar this week that Microsoft’s carbon emissions from employee air travel accounted for around 400,000 tonnes each year.
"It's easy to do certain things in getting to net zero carbon but air travel is one of the more difficult ones, so this year we decided to make an additional commitment relative to sustainability and while right now not many of us are travelling we do expect business travel to return to significant and substantial levels,” he said.
“To address the challenge, we have formed partnerships with airlines like KLM and Alaska to invest in SAF for our business flights. In October, we partnered with KLM to purchase an amount of SAF equivalent to all flights taken by Microsoft employees between the US and the Netherlands. We've now built on this momentum by announcing a partnership with Alaska to acquire SAF for the total amount of fuel we would burn on Alaska for our busiest and most common routes for business travel.
“Whilst Covid has created a bit of relief on business travel, we expect to continue to travel in the future to engage with our customers and support them around the world, and we want to return to flying responsibly.
“Right now, SAF is more expensive and so it is harder for energy companies to justify production, so you end up with a chicken and egg conundrum between supply and demand. In order to break this cycle, companies like Microsoft need to step forward so that energy companies can see the demand signal and produce more SAF, and so the costs will come down to allow airlines like KLM and Alaska to purchase more SAF. At the end of the day, we're all in this together.”
Microsoft, SkyNRG and Alaska are participating in a pilot project of the World Economics Forum’s ‘Clean Skies for Tomorrow’ initiative to develop a global environmental accounting standard for voluntary corporate SAF purchases. They have also pledged to hold supplier and corporate forums to share learnings and increase interest in using SAF to lower the carbon emissions from business travel.
Japan’s ANA becomes Neste’s first Asian airline customer and starts SAF-fuelled flights from Tokyo
Wed 11 Nov 2020 – Finnish sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) producer Neste, which has ambitions to becoming one of the world’s biggest suppliers to the sector, has signed its first agreement with an Asian airline. The mid-to-long term collaboration with All Nippon Airways (ANA) started with SAF-fuelled commercial flights from Tokyo’s Haneda and Narita airports late last month. On November 6, an ANA flight from Haneda to Houston, Texas, was the first international commercial flight departing from Japan to use SAF. The delivery of SAF was made possible through a collaboration and logistics coordination between Neste and the Japanese trading house Itochu Corporation. The fuel from Neste is made from sustainably sourced renewable waste and residue raw materials.
“ANA takes pride in its leadership role and has been recognised as an industry leader in sustainability, and this agreement with Neste further demonstrates our ability to serve passengers while also reducing our carbon footprint,” said Yutaka Ito, Executive Vice President at ANA overseeing procurement. “While Covid-19 has forced us to make adjustments, we remain committed to meeting our sustainability goals. We recognise that preserving our environment requires humanity working together to achieve a common goal, and we are proud to be doing our part to protect our shared home. We are also pleased to report that according to the ISCC Proof of Sustainability certification, the Neste MY Sustainable Aviation Fuel supplied in Tokyo provides approximately 90% greenhouse gas emissions reduction through its lifecycle and in its neat form compared to fossil jet fuels.”
ANA and Neste plan to expand the partnership after 2023 based on a multi-year agreement. The airline has pledged to reduce its CO2 emissions in 2050 by 50% compared to its 2005 level.
“We recognise the major role SAF has to play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions of aviation, both in the short and long term. Through this new collaboration, we are enabling the supply of SAF for the first time in Asia. We are very honoured to partner with ANA and support them in achieving their ambitious sustainability goals,” said Thorsten Lange, Executive Vice President for Renewable Aviation at Neste.
Neste currently has an annual capacity of 100,000 tons of sustainable aviation fuel but with refinery expansion taking place in Singapore and possible additional investment into its Rotterdam refinery, the company is expecting to have the capacity to produce around 1.5 million tons annually by 2023.
Meanwhile, Neste said it was taking seriously allegations of sustainability violations contained in a report by Profundo and commissioned by Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands) that was published last week. The report alleges raw material suppliers to Neste were responsible for the deforestation of over 10,000 hectares of tropical forest since the beginning of 2019, nearly 13,000 fire alerts during the same period and other violations. Milieudefensie has demanded the EU bans the use of crop-based biofuels, including fuels made from PFAD (palm fatty acid distillate), a residue raw material used by Neste.