Civil aviation High Ambition emissions reduction at COP26? yeah nah just more greenwashing, blah, blah , blah – back to you ICAO
|Spoof Aviation ambition website details what true ambition might look like|
The United Kingdon today unveiled the International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition at the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
High ambition? Get out . There is nothing substantially new in this declaration.
The declaration notes that the number of global air passengers and volume of cargo is expected to increase significantly over the next 30 years, and they want the aviation industry to continue to build back better and grow in a sustainable manner.
It also acknowledges that international action on tackling aviation emissions is essential, including specifying the 1.5C and 2C Paris Agreement temperature targets.
Meanwhile activists set up a spoof International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition website which put forward actual aviation emissions reduction ambition. It listed 5 commitments that would actually reduce emissions from this sector:
- Halve air traffic emissions departing from signatory countries by 2030, from 2005 levels. This is in line with the Paris Agreement’s Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDR-RC) approach, and will allow improved equality of access to travel in developing countries, within the context of reducing global aviation emissions.
- Include emissions from flight departures (both domestic and international) within signatory country’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), accounting for both CO2 and non-CO2 warming effects.
- Introduce a minimum jet fuel tax of €0.33 per litre on flights between member states, with the revenue raised used for climate mitigation and adaptation in climate vulnerable countries.
- Not use carbon offsetting as an emissions reduction measure. Coalition members are therefore raising the ambition beyond that previously agreed with the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) within the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
- 5. Ban crop-based aviation biofuel. This involves the commitment to strengthen CORSIA’s sustainability criteria for Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).
So the actual low ambition International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition says back to you International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
The solutions being proffered are:
- development of a global sustainability framework to support the deployment of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and
- the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).
- technological magic of development and deployment of innovative new low- and zero-carbon aircraft technologies that can reduce aviation CO2 emissions.
Aviation declaration ambition a failure say Transport NGOs
“IACAC’s commitments are neither new nor ambitious. The initiative does not address the elephant in the room: the growth of air traffic, which is closely linked to higher climate pollution. More flights mean more emissions – that’s why any serious climate deal for aviation must include measures to reduce air traffic in rich countries,” said Stay Grounded spokesperson Mira Kapfinger.
“IACAC relies on the same strategies that have been proven not to work for years such as offsets and the wait for technological solutions that will not be ready for decades. While most offsets have been shown not to reduce emissions, ‘sustainable aviation fuels’ are neither available at scale nor without harmful side effects. We cannot wait for technical solutions. The time to act is now – we are in a climate emergency!”
While the declaration supports “the industry’s commitments towards net zero CO2 emissions by 2050”, there are no interim emissions targets in the statement at all.
“Far-off targets for 2050 are not worth the paper they are written on. We need strong emission reduction targets by 2030 to bring aviation in line with Paris. And we cannot achieve these without finally taxing aviation and additional regulations such as a halt to aviation infrastructure expansion and demand reduction measures.” said Ms Kapfinger.
“Relying on CORSIA to reduce flight emissions is like waiting for flying pigs. It simply does not work.
“The same goes for the ‘new low- and zero-carbon aircraft technologies’ mentioned in the IACAC declaration. By 2050, we will still be flying overwhelmingly with today’s aircraft – so flights need to be reduced as much as possible,” said Mira Kapfinger.
Stay Grounded has produced analyses that show: none of the touted technologies such as electric aircraft, hydrogen, biofuels or e-fuels can significantly reduce emissions in the next decades without unleashing huge negative side effects.
“What we need instead are finally taxes on jet fuel, bans on short-haul flights and airport expansions, and the promotion of alternatives to air traffic such as rail,” Kapfinger concluded.
Transport and Environment NGO has been examining transport emissions for several years.
The NGO warned that relying on ICAO and its carbon offsetting scheme to achieve net-zero in the long-term, will be just another distraction from real measures to clean up flying in the near term.
“The world is crying out for strong action to address global aviation emissions. This is not it. We cannot let this declaration detract us from the fact that individual countries should be going further and faster.” said Matt Finch, UK policy manager at T&E.
T&E highlight that the most of the signatories have failed to take the most essential step to address aviation emissions: to include the emissions in their national climate targets. The UK who led the declaration, at least committed to include emissions in its NDC and set emissions reduction targets earlier this year. The UK aviation Industry is targeting at least an overall 15% reduction in net emissions relative to 2019 by 2030, and a 40% net reduction by 2040, but is reliant on yet to be developed technologies and solutions to reach net zero.
“with the pace of decarbonisation ramping up as game-changing sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), permanent carbon removal, and new low and zero-carbon technologies – such as electric and hydrogen-powered aircraft – become mainstream in the 2030s.” – UK Aviation Industry strengthens Commitment to achieving Net Zero and launches first interim decarbonisation Targets. June 2021
Matt Finch concluded: “At a COP dedicated to raising ambition, it’s disappointing that these states continue to rely on the UN’s deeply flawed aviation agency. The signatories should follow the UK’s lead and take the essential first step of including their share of aviation emissions in their individual country budgets. Clean aviation will remain grounded so long as states continue to shirk their individual responsibility to act.”
The rise of Sustainable Aviation Fuels?
The Clean Skies for Tomorrow Coalition released a declaration to ramp up Sustainable Aviation Fuels to 10 percent by 2030.
The key issue currently preventing the production and use of SAF from taking off is the price gap between fossilbased jet fuel and SAF, which remains prohibitively large. The SAF supply chain faces a “chicken and egg” problem with supply and demand: costs will come down if production scales up (thanks to learning curve effects and economies of scale), but fuel providers are lacking a strong demand signal to increase production and demand is low due to the high price premium. Furthermore, policy uncertainty deters investment, as does the high level of risk associated with new technologies.
Aviation and Shipping are covered under Paris Agreement – legal brief
The Paris Agreement doesn’t say anything about aviation and shipping emissions, so it has been assumed this is the province of UN auspiced ICAO and IMO to regulate (which have so far done so pretty poorly, and are sometimes accused of being industry captured).
A new legal assessment advises that Shipping and Aviation ARE subject to the Paris Agreement. Contrary to industry claims, shipping and aviation are included in the global agreement to limit global warming to 2°C, according to a legal brief commissioned by Transport and Environment in October 2021. From the legal brief summary:
The legal analysis finds that the Paris Agreement has fundamental differences from the Kyoto Protocol, with the effect that these sectors are clearly subject to the obligations of the Paris Agreement and must be included in Parties’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Unlike Kyoto, the central pillar of the Paris Agreement is a temperature goal.
Parties are obligated to implement “economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets”, that is, to control anthropogenic emissions so that global warming is limited to well below 2°C and preferably stays within the limit of 1.5°C. A failure to address all anthropogenic emissions – including shipping and aviation – would violate the central aim of the Agreement.
But while the Paris Agreement is clear in this regard, related guidance documents have not fully integrated the new, temperature-based approach. In light of this legal clarification, three actions must be taken:
- States should revise their NDCs to take into account all their shipping and aviation emissions;
- Amend or clarify paragraph 53 of decision 18/CMA so that emissions from international aviation and shipping bunker fuel emissions are reported within (not separately from) national totals in NDCs;
- Update the 2006 IPCC Reporting Guidance to include all aviation and shipping emissions as part of all other national emissions totals.
This legal analysis should decisively dispel the dangerous misconception that international aviation and shipping emissions are not subject to Parties’ obligations under the Paris Agreement. This is relevant in the context of international organisations (International Maritime Organization, IMO or the International Civil Aviation Organization, ICAO) and agreements (offsetting schemes such as the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, CORSIA): it is the obligation of Parties themselves to ensure these emissions are tackled and they cannot discharge this obligation to international organisations.
Non CO2 high altitude climate impacts not addressed
There is another aspect of aviation not talked about in the High Ambition declaration: the non CO2 climate impacts are twice as strong as the carbon dioxide emissions.
The problem of aviation emissions and short term targets
Milan Klöwer, a Postdoctoral Researcher in Weather and Climate Modelling at University of Oxford, wrote at the Conversation the essential problem with aviation amissions:
In new research, my colleagues and I calculated that if the aviation sector continues to grow on its present trajectory, its jet fuel consumption will have added 0.1˚C to global warming by 2050 – half of it to date, the other half in the next three decades.
Aviation is responsible for 4% of the 1.2°C rise in the global mean temperature we have already experienced since the industrial revolution. Without action to reduce flights, the sector will account for 17% of the remaining 0.3°C left in the 1.5°C temperature target, and 6% of the 0.8°C left to stay within 2°C. Airlines effectively add more to global warming than most countries.
Klöwer also highlights the non-CO2 climate impacts of aviation: “the total warming footprint of aviation is between two and three times higher than a conventional carbon footprint.”
“Our calculations show that flying does not need to stop immediately to prevent aviation’s contribution to global warming expanding. Flying has already caused 0.04°C of warming to date.” says Klöwer, “But with a yearly decrease of 2.5% in jet fuel consumption, currently only achievable with cuts in air traffic, this warming will level off at a constant level over the coming decades.
He asks the question, When do we really need to fly?, and raises some possible interim solutions:
- Politicians should shift subsidies from flying to more sustainable modes of transport, such as train journeys;
- Encourage people to fly less;
- Combining in-person and virtual attendance in hybrid meetings wherever possible
- Reducing the space that business classes take on aeroplanes (fit more people per flight)
- Not allowing airport expansions
Climate Action Tracker assesses international aviation as critically insufficient
Climate Action Tracker highlights that there is no one silver bullet for reducing aviation emissions and climate impact. They suggest that governments should impose a combination of abatement measures including demand management, operational measures, improving energy efficiency and the adoption of decarbonisation technologies.
The CAT now projects that emissions from international aviation could increase by 190-277% between 2015 and 2050, as compared to a 230-310% projected increase pre-COVID-19. The larger the increase in CO2 emissions, the more difficult it will be for international aviation to hold even “net” emissions to 2020 levels.
The CAT rates the target of carbon neutral growth from 2020 as ‘critically insufficient’.
- Policy paper, 10 November 2021 – COP 26 declaration: International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cop-26-declaration-international-aviation-climate-ambition-coalition/cop-26-declaration-international-aviation-climate-ambition-coalition
- Stay Grounded 10 November 2021, COP26 Aviation Deal Fails to Align Sector with Paris Agreement Goals https://stay-grounded.org/cop26-aviation-deal-fails-to-align-sector-with-paris-agreement-goals/
- Spoof website – International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition, https://www.iacac.uk/
- Sustainable aviation, 21 June 2021. UK Aviation Industry strengthens Commitment to achieving Net Zero and launches first interim decarbonisation Targets. https://www.sustainableaviation.co.uk/news/uk-aviation-industry-strengthens-commitment-to-achieving-net-zero-and-launches-first-interim-decarbonisation-targets/
- Transport and Environment Press release, 10 November 2021. UK-led COP aviation declaration too weak to clean up flying https://www.transportenvironment.org/discover/uk-led-cop-aviation-declaration-too-weak-to-clean-up-flying/
- Milan Klöwer, The Conversation, 6 November 2021, Reducing air travel by small amounts each year could level off the climate impact https://theconversation.com/reducing-air-travel-by-small-amounts-each-year-could-level-off-the-climate-impact-171184
- Climate Action Tracker, International Aviation, assessment 2 August 2021. https://climateactiontracker.org/sectors/aviation/