Qantas calls on the Australian Government to establish a national aviation biofuels industry
Thu 12 Mar 2009 – Qantas has urged the Australian Government to encourage the development of a sustainable biojet fuel industry in the country. The proposition was included in the airline’s response to the Government’s green paper on national aviation policy, ‘Flightpath to the future’, which has gone out for consultation following its publication in December. Qantas also said in its submission that a global emissions trading system for international aviation was crucial to avoid the proliferation of uncoordinated measures.
The national carrier said the green paper had recognized that with no alternative clean fuel likely to be available in commercial quantities in the immediate future, aviation will remain a carbon-intensive industry. “However,” it points out in the submission, “it does not focus on the development of a local sustainable low emissions jet fuel industry, which is critical to the future reduction in aviation industry emissions.
“In Qantas’ view, Australia is uniquely positioned to drive this development given its large areas of non-arable land.
“Building an economically sustainable biojet supply chain is not possible for an individual airline given the huge capital cost requirement and supply chain challenges. Government support and partnerships with industry will be critical to accelerate development.
“Qantas would like to engage the Government on this issue, particularly as there have been promising developments with recent trials of biojet fuel exceeding technical expectations.”
According to an article in The Australian newspaper, Air New Zealand has already suggested that Australia could be a potential source of jet biofuel. The airline tested a biofuel made of jatropha on its demonstration flight late last December and is seeking to satisfy 10% of its total jet fuel requirements from biofuels for its domestic fleet by 2012.
However, jatropha is considered a noxious weed in some Australian states and scientists from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Integrative Legume Research have said, according to the article, that considering jatropha a suitable feedstock for aviation fuel displayed a disregard for the Australian landscape and a lack of concern for the environment.
In its green paper submission, Qantas also expressed concerns over the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS), the Government’s domestic emissions cap-and-trade system proposed as part of its climate change strategy. The airline said the CPRS would introduce significant compliance costs as aviation had not been included as an industry that will receive transitional assistance under the scheme.
“The inherent assumption that airlines can pass the cost of compliance on to the customer does not accord with the impacts modelled by Qantas, and in the economic conditions present today, pass-through of costs to the customer would be negligible.
“Qantas supports a transitional approach for domestic aviation emissions with a realistic and achievable reduction trajectory, a low fixed carbon price and a phasing in of obligations.”
The submission welcomed the Australian Government’s recognition of the need to adopt a harmonized global approach to the management of international aviation emissions under the stewardship of ICAO’s GIACC in line with the approach agreed in the Kyoto Protocol. It noted the January meeting in Japan of 21 transport ministers that affirmed support for ICAO in leading the development of global emissions trading.
“We are pleased to see the Government is conscious of the potential impact of these proposals on the competitiveness of Australian carriers, particularly given the long-haul nature of services to Australia and the price sensitivity of tourist markets, and that it will seek to ensure that differential impacts and competitive distortions which could unduly affect Australian carriers are avoided.
“Preservation of ICAO’s leadership in developing aviation specific elements of a new protocol is critical in this regard over the longer term. In the absence of a global scheme under the auspices of the United Nations, the application of regional and individual schemes to international flights, with their associated competitive distortions, is almost certain.”
The submission said that these issues had already surfaced in the context of the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme and individual governments, such as the UK, had also begun to apply “punitive and discriminatory” environmental taxes to international aviation that would have a significant impact on the competitiveness of Australian tourism from the UK.
“Against this background, it is critical that the development of a global emissions trading system for international aviation is concluded before the proliferation of uncoordinated measures at national and regional level becomes irreversible.”