ICAO opens consultation with States on proposed rules for CORSIA implementation

Thu 7 Dec 2017 – ICAO’s proposed rules for States and aeroplane operators on the administration; monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of CO2 emissions; carbon offsetting requirements; and emissions units under the CORSIA scheme have been circulated to the UN agency’s 192 member States for comment. The so-called CORSIA Package is made up of Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) and related guidance material. The 128-page document sent by the ICAO Secretary General to States on Tuesday contains a proposal for a first edition of a new Volume IV (CORSIA) to Annex 16 (Environmental Protection) of the Chicago Convention to apply from 1 January 2019. It also includes draft Implementation Elements and supporting documents. States have been requested to forward their comments on the proposals to ICAO by 5 March 2018, an unusually short consultation period.

While the administrative and MRV requirements are proposed for applicability from 1 January 2019, CO2 offsetting requirements and related actions are proposed to apply from 1 January 2021.

States’ comments on the proposals will be considered by ICAO’s Air Navigation Commission, a 19-member technical body that recommends SARPs for adoption or approval by the governing ICAO Council. The CORSIA SARPs are expected to be formally adopted by the Council at its session next June.

States may respond to the Package by agreeing or disagreeing with the proposals, with or without commenting, or having no indication of position. No objections or comments will be taken as an agreement without comment or no indication of position respectively.

Following adoption by the Council, contracting States will then have to incorporate the SARPs into their national regulations but can notify ICAO if they do not intend to adopt all the standards and recommended practices contained in the new volume.

Aeroplane operators – ICAO is using the word “aeroplane” instead of “aircraft” as CORSIA only applies to fixed-wing aircraft – conducting international flights will be required to develop an emissions monitoring plan during the second half of 2018 and submit it to their State no later than 28 February 2019. As the CORSIA baseline will be set using the average emissions between 2019 and 2020, all operators will need to start monitoring their CO2 emissions from 1 January 2019.

The SARPs apply to an operator that produces annual CO2 emissions greater than 10,000 tonnes from the use of an aeroplane with a certificated take-off mass greater than 5,700kg conducting international flights on or after 1 January 2019, with the exception of humanitarian, medical or firefighting flights. The regulation applies to all such operators, regardless of whether the country it is registered in is one of the 72 that have so far volunteered to join CORSIA from the start in 2021.

Links:

ICAO – Mechanisms for CORSIA implementation

Countdown to CORSIA checklist

ICAO CORSIA implementation video:

Copyright © 2017 GreenAir Communications

Dutch government urged by airlines to drop tax proposals as NGOS take it to court over ICAO aircraft CO2 standard

Thu 14 Dec 2017 – Eight years after ditching an air passenger ‘eco’ tax introduced a year earlier, the Dutch government is reportedly planning new aviation taxation measures to address the sector’s environmental impact. International airline associations have written to the Dutch finance minister urging the government not to proceed with the policy. They believe the government envisages a Europe-wide aviation tax resulting from negotiations due in 2019 over the Paris climate objectives and a tax on noisy and polluting aircraft. If the two measures are deemed insufficient then an aviation passenger tax may be introduced in the Netherlands from 2021, they fear. Meanwhile, the government is being taken to court by three NGOs for refusing to release ICAO documents on the global aircraft CO2 standard adopted by the UN agency in March this year.

A Dutch aviation tax could generate around €200 million ($230m) annually from the sector, but KLM and Schiphol Group say it would not help the environment and instead would interfere with maintaining a competitive aviation market. When an air passenger tax was introduced in July 2008, it was expected to raise in the region of €300 million a year but was scrapped a year later following a steep decline in passenger traffic at the main Dutch airports, particularly at Amsterdam Schiphol, with air travellers said to have taken flights from airports in Belgium and Germany to avoid the tax (see article).

Not only would the proposed new tax would have the same negative impact on the Dutch economy, it would contradict international law, standards and principles, claim the nine associations – IATA, ERA, AIRE, AFRAA, A4A, AACO, AAPA, ALTA and NACC. The taxation policy would be “at odds with the principles that underlie all of ICAO’s requirements regarding environmental levies,” they said, pointing out that the resolution underpinning ICAO’s CORSIA scheme was to be the sole market-based measure applying to CO2 emissions from international aviation. “Moreover,” they added, “intra-EU flights are subject to the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, in which airlines already pay their contribution towards reducing the environmental impact.

“As an absolute minimum, the associations request that the Dutch government undertakes an independent evaluation of the economic and environmental impact of the policy and holds an open and constructive public consultation process before making any final decisions.”

In October, another airline association, Airlines for Europe (A4E), released a study it commissioned from PwC that showed abolishing the German air passenger tax would boost the country’s GDP by €67 billion ($79bn) cumulatively over the next 12 years. PwC estimated that Germany’s revenues from air passenger taxes would raise €1 billion in 2017.

“The study demonstrates the impact of passenger taxes, which hinder economic growth and tourism. Countries that have scrapped them have seen a boom in air traffic, which has benefited their economies,” said Thomas Reynaert, A4E’s Managing Director. “Removing all air passenger levies would add more than 24.6 million passengers by 2020.”

The study estimated that around 79% of the additional passengers would come to Germany for leisure purposes and the remaining 21% for business reasons. Currently, air passenger taxes are collected in Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Norway and the UK, with Germany the second largest collector after the UK.

NGOs counter that the European sector is under-taxed as it escapes taxation on its aviation fuel and airline tickets.

The three NGOs taking the Dutch government to court – Natuur & Milieu, Transport & Environment (T&E) and environmental lawyers ClientEarth – say that by refusing to publish decisions and research about ICAO’s aircraft CO2 standard, EU citizens and civil society are being denied their right to access environmental information under Directive 2003/4/EC.

The standard was ineffective as a result of commercial pressure, said the NGOs, who claimed that two-thirds of the observers on ICAO’s rule-making environment committee CAEP were industry lobbyists and accused aircraft manufacturer Airbus of having undue influence in drafting the EU’s position on the CO2 standard.

“We’re exclusively reliant on tidbits of information from ICAO and governments about how they are addressing aviation emissions,” said Andrew Murphy, Aviation Manager at T&E. “That makes it difficult for civil society groups and outside experts to examine claims about ICAO’s effectiveness. Only by making such reports public is it possible to conduct a fair assessment of ICAO’s efforts to take climate action.”

Supported by T&E and ClientEarth, the lawsuit is being taken by Natuur & Milieu at Utrecht district court to appeal a previous decision by the Dutch government not to disclose the information.

“Emissions from aviation have a global impact that cannot be ignored. The public has the right to access information on how emissions from aircraft will be reduced and to participate in decisions that affect their health and environment,” said Ugo Taddei, a clean air lawyer at ClientEarth. “By making these decisions behind closed doors, the Dutch government is breaking EU transparency rules and putting business interests before those of the planet as a whole.”

Copyright © 2017 GreenAir Communications

UK aviation has managed to decouple passenger increase from carbon and noise growth, says industry report

Tue 19 Dec 2017 – UK cross-industry coalition group Sustainable Aviation (SA) says the sector has succeeded in disconnecting the growth in passenger numbers from the rate of growth in carbon and noise emissions. In its latest progress report, carbon emissions from the six airline members of the group – British Airways, easyJet, Monarch, Thomas Cook, Thomson Airways and Virgin Atlantic – increased by less than half a per cent between 2014 and 2016 despite a 9% increase in the number of passengers flown. During the same period, it reports a reduction of 12,000 people in the noise contour areas of five SA member airports. Commending the report, the UK Aviation Minister, Baroness Sugg, said sustainable growth was one of the key objectives of the government’s long-term strategy for UK aviation.

Total CO2 emissions from the five airlines in 2016 amounted to 33.6 million tonnes, a 0.2% increase since 2014 compared with a 2% in passenger revenue tonne-kilometres (RTKs). Fuel efficiency reached 0.347 litres/RTK in 2016, a 2% improvement over the two years and 13% better than 2005.

“Aviation is a UK success story. However, delivering environmentally sustainable aviation growth in the UK, with the significant economic benefits that it brings, is a challenge that our industry is ready to meet,” said SA Chair, Ian Jopson, acknowledging “there is more to do.”

Jopson, who is Head of Environment and Community Affairs at air navigation services provider NATS, stands down after a two-year tenure. Achievements made by the group and its members during that period, he said in the introduction to SA’s Sixth Progress Report, included an updated roadmap on delivering long-term carbon emission reductions from the sector, a leading contribution by UK airlines in securing global progress on the CORSIA emissions scheme and significant progress in creating a UK sustainable aviation fuels sector.

The latter had been achieved by securing the inclusion of such fuels in the government’s Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation and working with the government agency Innovate UK to form a group to bring together interested stakeholders. Jopson also noted progress on airspace modernisation following the government’s publication earlier this year of a revised UK Airspace Policy.

“The industry is committed to playing its role,” said Jopson. “However, we can’t achieve sustainable growth without the support and action of government.”

Sustainable Aviation published a report earlier this year on local air quality around airports, which found that aircraft emissions contributed just 1% of UK NOx emissions, compared to 32% from road transport, and 0.1% of PM10 emissions.

“However, we recognise the need to tackle this issue head on and we set out in that report a number of activities to further reduce the air quality impact of aviation,” said Jopson.

Noise, though, had been a priority for SA’s activities in 2016, he said. “We have made good progress against our 2013 Road-Map. However, I think it is fair to say that these benefits have not always been reflected by community perceptions. It is essential that we better understand the concerns of local communities.”

The group has commissioned independent research involving focus groups and one of the first tasks of incoming Chair, Neil Robinson, is to oversee the publication in early 2018 of a discussion paper on ways to further reduce aircraft noise.

Also in 2018, SA is to publish its vision for aviation in 2050 and the following year to update again its CO2 roadmap.

“I am delighted to be taking over as Chair at such an interesting time,” said Robinson, who is Group CSR Director at Manchester Airports Group, in the progress report. “As we prepare to enter the CORSIA scheme from 2020; the UK government develops a new Aviation Strategy, which places safe and sustainable growth at its heart; and we seek to limit global temperature rises to less than 1.5C, it has never been a more important time for Sustainable Aviation and our members.”

Speaking at the launch of the report, Baroness Sugg, the new Aviation Minister, said: “The aviation sector is one of our key industries, essential to our future prosperity and the very symbol of global Britain. But as we continue to push the boundaries of success, sustainability must remain at the heart of everything we do. I am encouraged by the actions of the aviation industry to embrace that commitment.”

Copyright © 2017 GreenAir Communications

Airline fuel efficiency gains not keeping pace with rapid growth in passenger traffic and emissions, finds studies

ICCT and atmosfair found Alaska Airlines to be the most fuel efficient US carrier

Wed 20 Dec 2017 – Fuel efficiency gains and fleet modernisation have failed to keep pace with overall growth in aircraft carbon emissions as a result of the rapid increase in air passenger travel, finds two reports monitoring airline performance. In its annual ranking of the carbon efficiency of 200 of the world’s largest airlines that are responsible for 92 per cent of worldwide air traffic, German organisation atmosfair says global CO2 emissions increased by 4 per cent in the past year, while the kilometres flown rose by almost 7 per cent. It says airlines are only modernising their fleets at a slow pace with just 1 per cent of aircraft worldwide classified as highly fuel efficient. A study by US NGO the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) found a sharp increase in passenger traffic drove up both profits and fuel consumption on US domestic airline operations between 2014 and 2016.

Atmosfair says even the best performing airline fleets emit on average 20% more CO2 per kilometre than the most fuel efficient planes operating at full capacity such as the Airbus A350-900 or Boeing 787-9. A fleet with only a medium level of efficiency in technology and operations releases twice as much carbon than the most fuel efficient aircraft. These new aircraft models, which can achieve consumption values of less than 3.5 litres of kerosene per 100 passengers, have raised the bar considerably in terms of carbon efficiency, it says.

Airlines that have not updated their fleets or have only made small improvements have lost ground in its latest 2017 ranking, notes atmosfair. The Atmosfair Airline Index is based on the CO2 emissions of an airline per passenger-kilometre flown on all routes, and calculated using the aircraft type, engines, use of winglets and seating and freight capacity, as well as occupancy. The efficiency index is intended to be used by travellers to compare airlines when planning their flight.

The highest ranking airlines in the index will therefore be those with the most modern fleets with high seating densities and high passenger and cargo loads. Differences among airlines on the same route can be substantial, says atmosfair, with fuel consumption per passenger-kilometre possibly being twice as high for one airline than for another.

UK charter airline TUI Airways (formerly Thomson Airways) once again topped the index, reaching 80% of the technically achievable optimum. Its German counterpart TUIFly ranked third, with regional carrier China West Air in second place in the overall ranking.

European and Chinese airlines performed well, says atmosfair, with South America’s LATAM ranked as the best international net carriers as a result of its modern fleet and high rate of occupancy. US carriers performed less well overall with only three – Alaska, Delta and United – making it into the top 50 airlines in the world.

For the 2015-2016 period, Alaska Airlines was also ranked by ICCT as the most fuel efficient on US domestic operations for the seventh year in a row, while the gap between it and the least efficient carrier, Virgin America, in 2016 widened slightly to 26%.

Between 2014 and 2016, ICCT calculates overall passenger-kilometres on US domestic operations rose by 10%, outstripping a 3% overall improvement in fuel efficiency, causing fuel use and CO2 emissions to jump by 7%.

“Industry-wide, demand is swamping energy efficiency improvements and emissions are spiking as a result,” said ICCT’s Naya Olmer, lead author of the study. Since 2012, the average profit margin for US domestic carriers has increased nearly six-fold thanks to lower fuel prices and higher ancillary fees, finds ICCT, and those carriers saved around $17 billion in fuel costs last year, about 20% of which was passed on to passengers in lower fares.

Around 30% of global CO2 emissions are attributable to US aircraft and the FAA projects aviation activity to increase 2-3% annually through to 2037.

“With airline profits surging, we need to explore environmental and consumer protection if the US is going to cap aviation carbon emissions from 2020, as it has committed to do,” commented Dan Rutherford, ICCT’s aviation Program Director and co-author of the study.

Said Dietrich Brockhagen, CEO of atmosfair: “Our findings show that aviation worldwide is not on track to meet the 1.5 degree or the 2 degree target for global warming. While some airlines have significantly improved their carbon efficiency by purchasing new aircraft, the pace of modernisation is not fast enough from a global standpoint.”

Copyright © 2017 GreenAir Communications

UN senior climate official calls on all governments to join CORSIA and up long-term ambitions to reduce aviation CO2

Mon 9 Oct 2017 – The participation of all countries in ICAO’s global CORSIA carbon offsetting scheme is needed for it to be fully effective, a senior UNFCCC official told industry leaders at last week’s Global Sustainable Aviation Summit in Geneva. Even then the sector’s aspirational goal of stabilising emissions at 2020 levels would not be enough to reach the Paris climate agreement targets, said Ovais Sarmad, Deputy Executive Secretary of the UN climate change agency. However, he commended the aviation industry’s 2050 reduction target and called on ICAO to up its own long-term ambitions. Dr Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, President of ICAO’s governing Council, told the conference that a steering group of ICAO’s CAEP environmental committee had finalised recommendations for new CORSIA regulations and the UN aviation agency was working with the UNFCCC on eligible emissions units for the scheme.

In a keynote address, Sarmad said the success of the Paris Agreement would “depend on the combined efforts of every man, woman, child, government, business and industry – including the airline industry.”

While under the Agreement and its Kyoto Protocol predecessor only emissions from domestic aviation were taken into account, “climate change knows no borders nor does it have an opt-out clause,” he said.

“That’s why we welcome the decision of ICAO to implement the first global carbon market-based mechanism – CORSIA – to stabilise emissions at 2020 levels. CORSIA is the world’s first market-based measure for dealing with climate change from any industrial sector. This alone is significant and represents a much-needed step forward in ensuring that international aviation will be part of the solution to climate change.

“Nonetheless, we feel the long-term goals of ICAO need further improvement in order to be in line with the Paris Agreement. Remember, we set ourselves the target to stay well below 2 degrees C of global temperature increase. To reach it, science tells us that emissions must peak as soon as possible and we must achieve climate neutrality in the second half of this century.

“The aspirational goal of stabilising emissions at 2020 is therefore a good start, but these levels will not be enough to reach the Paris Agreement’s targets. Simply put, we need more ambition.”

Sarmad noted the aviation industry had accepted responsibility with a more ambitious target to reduce its emissions by 50% by 2050 compared to 2005 levels.

“This is the kind of ambition that every government should be happy to support the aviation industry to achieve,” he said. “Therefore, in addition to ICAO upping its long-term ambition for aviation overall, we need more member states joining CORSIA.

“The industry has pushed to get CORSIA implemented for more than six years but, as of September, only 72 member states out of 191 have volunteered to be part of its first phases. Let’s be clear: this represents close to 88% of international activity and 80% of emissions growth above 2020 levels – but the participation of all member states is needed for it to be fully effective.”

In the period leading up to the start of CORSIA, he said, clear guidelines on emissions units needed to be set, for example to avoid double-counting, and he encouraged airlines to take early voluntary action to reduce and offset their greenhouse gas emissions.

“The early actors will have the benefit of having complete systems, experience and a good understanding of what climate action means for their companies. There are significant benefits for airlines to benefit from learning-by-doing.”

ICAO’s Dr Aliu said the agency was “fully engaged” on the full implementation of CORSIA and was “very hard at work” on its regulatory framework. The Steering Group of its Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP) had recently finalised recommendations for the new Volume IV of Annex 16 to the Chicago Convention containing proposed Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) for CORSIA, he reported.

“These are now being reviewed simultaneously through the ICAO Air Navigation Commission and the Council Advisory Group on CORSIA, and they are expected to be finally adopted by the ICAO Council by mid-2018. The related applicability date is presently being targeted for January 2019,” he told delegates in his keynote speech.

The SARPs would be complemented with standardised templates, guidance and tools for what he described as “robust and transparent” monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of international aviation CO2 emissions, which he said was crucial to the overall effectiveness of CORSIA. ICAO is currently developing a CO2 Estimation and Reporting Tool (CERT) to help simplify MRV procedures.

Recent reports have suggested a difference of opinion by certain states at ICAO on who should determine which emissions units are eligible under the scheme that airlines may use. However, Dr Aliu said that as it had been requested by its Assembly in 2016, the responsibility would rest with ICAO.

“One thing we should be very clear about in this context is that relationship between ICAO and the UNFCCC process,” he said. “We have a very good partnership with the UNFCCC Secretariat, by exchanging information and expertise of mutual interests, while respecting the specific mandates of each organisation.

“In considering carbon credits, special attention will be given to those credits generated from the UNFCCC and its Paris Agreement, as agreed by the Assembly, but our goal must be to make sure that reliable credits will be purchased by international aviation, without the possibility of them being used for double counting by other sectors. I expect good progress in the UNFCCC process, so that ICAO can take into account the relevant developments in our decision on eligible emissions units for CORSIA.”

Copyright © 2017 GreenAir Communications

Flights in all world regions at greater risk of severe turbulence incidents as a result of climate change

Tue 10 Oct 2017 – In May, 27 passengers on board an Aeroflot flight from Moscow to Bangkok were injured when the Boeing 777 encountered clear-air turbulence. Because the plane was unable to detect the turbulence ahead, passengers had not been warned to fasten their seat belts. There is evidence that clear-air turbulence (CAT) has already risen by 40-90% over Europe and North America since 1958 and studies by researchers from the universities of Reading and East Anglia in the UK have shown that as a consequence of climate change, the frequency of turbulence on flights between Europe and North America could double by 2050 and the intensity increase by 10-40%. The same researchers have since extended their previous work by analysing eight geographic regions, two flight levels, five turbulence strength categories and four seasons, and found large increases in CAT.

“While turbulence does not usually pose a major danger to flights, it is responsible for hundreds of passenger injuries every year,” said Luke Storer, a researcher at the University of Reading and co-author of the new study. “It is also by far the most common cause of serious injuries to flight attendants. Turbulence is thought to cost US air carriers up to $200 million annually.”

Previous research focused on turbulence over the North Atlantic region – one of the busiest air routes in the world – and suggested climate change will increase high-altitude wind instabilities in the jet stream in winter, generating stronger and more frequent pockets of CAT. Using supercomputer simulations of the future atmosphere, the new study analysed changes to CAT over the entire globe by the second half of the century.

The researchers found strong increases in CAT in all regions, in particular the mid-latitudes in both hemispheres where the busiest flights are in operation, and some regions may experience several hundred per cent more turbulence. They also found that of the five turbulence strength categories, the strongest turbulence will increase the most.

Flights to the most popular international destinations are projected to experience the largest increases, with severe turbulence at a typical cruising altitude of 39,000 feet becoming up to two or three times as common throughout the year over the North Atlantic (180% more common), Europe (160% more common), North America (110% more common), the North Pacific (90% more common) and Asia (60% more common).

The study also makes the first ever turbulence projections for the Southern Hemisphere, finding the amount of airspace containing severe turbulence is calculated to increase over South America by 60% and over Australia and Africa by 50%.

“Air turbulence is increasing across the globe, in all seasons, and at multiple cruising altitudes. This problem is only going to worsen as the climate continues to change,” said Paul Williams, Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Reading and lead author of the study.

He said the results highlighted an increasing need to improve operational CAT forecasts and to use them effectively in flight planning. “Despite containing useful information and demonstrably improving the safety and comfort of air travel, these forecasts continue to include a substantial fraction of false positives and missed events,” he added.

The study points out that future aeronautical advances, such as remote sensing of CAT using onboard light detection and ranging (lidar) technology, might be able to mitigate the operational effects of the worsening atmospheric turbulence. For example, Boeing is collaborating with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to develop a system that will detect CAT more than 60 seconds, or about 17.5km, ahead of the aircraft (see Wired article). Even if it does not give pilots enough time to divert round the threat, it would alert crew and minimise the risk of injuries.

“Our findings may have implications for aviation operations in the coming decades,” say the researchers. “Many of the aircraft that will be flying in the second half of the present century are currently in the design phase. It would therefore seem sensible for the aircraft manufacturers to prepare for a more turbulent atmosphere, even at this early stage.”

The study, ‘Global response of clear-air turbulence to climate change’, is published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.


Copyright © 2017 GreenAir Communications

Zunum Aero reveals details of its 12-seat hybrid-electric passenger aircraft that it hopes to be operational by 2022

Fri 13 Oct 2017 – US-based Zunum Aero has revealed more details of its hybrid-electric 12-seat regional aircraft that it claims will be operational by 2022. In April, Zunum announced it had received backing from Boeing HorizonX and JetBlue Technology Ventures (see article). The aircraft is being designed to have a maximum cruise speed of 340 miles an hour and a take-off distance of 2,200 feet (670m), and the company believes it can open up fast and affordable travel for thousands of communities across the United States. It is expected to have up to 80 per cent lower emissions compared to comparable jet aircraft, and over time Zunum’s quest is to eliminate emissions with an all-electric version. UK low-cost carrier easyJet recently unveiled its support for an electric regional aircraft in development by US start-up, Wright Electric (see article).

The US has many thousands of small airports yet Zunum says around 96% of air traffic travels through 1% of its airports, leaving a large untapped market on short routes where it is unprofitable for private jets and commercial airlines to operate. The company believes that with advances in battery technology, lightweight electric motors and carbon composite airframes, direct costs could work out at eight US cents per seat-mile, or $250 per hour – about one-fifth that of a small jet or turboprop plane. Many smaller airports also have environmental constraints that Zunum says its aircraft can overcome.

The aircraft would be powered by two electric motors and a supplemental jet-fuel engine to ensure the plane has a range of up to 700 miles – about two hours of flight – and so well beyond current battery technology capability. The motor being designed by Zunum will drive a fan similar to the bypass fan on a conventional jet engine but without combustion. These quiet electric propulsors with their variable pitch fans would enable a 40% reduction in runway needs and a 75% drop in community noise. Wing-integrated batteries would enable tailoring of onboard battery capacity and quick-swap or recharge at airports.

The company says it is discussing with aircraft manufacturers about building the airframe. It is planning to open a second development in the Chicago area and start ground tests ahead of first flights planned for 2019.

With projected advances in battery technology Zunum is setting its sights on a larger 50-seater plane with a range of 1,000 miles by the end of the next decade.

“Regional travel is ripe for reinvention,” says JetBlue Technology Ventures, which backs travel and technology early start-ups. “Options for journeys up to a thousand miles are far from ideal, limited to slow travel on the ground and air service consolidating to large hubs. As a result, door-to-door times have not improved for decades, and the only alternative, high-speed rail, is limited by heavy capital needs for a few dense corridors. Zunum Aero aims to change that.”


Copyright © 2017 GreenAir Communications

States agree not to set targets as ICAO unveils its long-term vision on sustainable aviation fuels deployment

Mon 16 Oct 2017 – ICAO concluded its second Conference on Aviation and Alternative Fuels (CAAF/2) held in Mexico City with an agreement on a long-term vision for the development, production and supply of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) through to 2050. Delegates from Member States, industry and environmental groups had initially been asked to support ICAO’s Vision 2050 proposals for short, mid and long term goals that would ensure a 2% share of SAF in international aviation fuel demand by 2025, rising to 32% in 2040 and 50% by 2050. However, a number of States, along with industry and NGOs, failed to back the setting of targets and the conference settled instead for wording that calls for a “significant percentage” of SAF by 2050. The aviation industry said it welcomed the emphasis on developing robust sustainability criteria as a central component of alternative aviation fuels deployment.

Opening the conference, ICAO Council President Dr Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu said current progress on reducing aviation emissions through technological innovation and streamlined operations was not sufficient to meet ICAO 2020 targets.

“Even after these have been accounted for, we are still left with a significant mitigation requirement,” he said. “Sustainable alternative fuels are critical to closing this gap.”

He noted that more than 40,000 flights had been conducted using sustainable fuels since they were first introduced and a number of airports were now offering such fuels to airlines interested in purchasing them.

“Through these numerous actions, the aviation sector has now supplied the proof of concept for sustainable aviation fuels, confirming their operational viability and the feasibility of producing them in sustainable ways which lessen the impact of aviation on the climate,” he told delegates.

The proposed ICAO Vision 2050 targets represented 5 million tonnes (Mt) per year of SAF being used by airlines in 2025, 128 Mt per year at the mid-term 2040 waypoint and 285 Mt/year by 2050.

ICAO figures show that international aviation consumed around 142 Mt of conventional jet fuel in 2010. By 2050 the UN agency estimates fuel consumption will reach 860 Mt if considering only rising demand for air travel and natural fleet renewal. If the potential contribution of advancing technology together with air traffic management and infrastructure use improvements are taken into account, the estimated fuel consumption could decrease to 570 Mt in 2050, representing a 71% share of the expected global – international plus domestic – aviation annual fuel burn. The ICAO Vision therefore only considers SAF usage on international flight routes.

Given accepted significant uncertainties in predicting the long-term contribution of SAF, ICAO’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP) evaluated 120 SAF deployment scenarios for 2050, taking into consideration the global availability of resources, economic conditions, financial investments and policy decisions required to reach the assessed levels of global SAF production. The associated CO2 emissions reductions were calculated for each scenario.

The short-term goal of 5 Mt per year of SAF by 2025 is considered by the ICAO Secretariat as a “reasonable assumption”, based on current off-take agreements reached by airlines with biofuel producers of around 0.9 Mt per year. It sees recent policy decisions in countries like Norway, India, France and the UK to end the sale of gasoline and diesel cars by or before 2040 as driving large quantities of ‘green diesel’ – a current global capacity of 3.45 Mt/year – from road transport towards the aviation sector.

The Secretariat also believes international agreement on the SAF sustainability criteria under the ICAO CORSIA carbon offsetting scheme will address some of the uncertainties faced by industry and foster confidence in SAF investment.

CAEP narrowed down its 2050 forecast to four scenarios: low (4% SAF share of jet fuel consumption), illustrative (28%), intermediate (50%) and maximum (100%). Although 100% was possible, it says in a paper (WP/6) presented to CAAF/2, this would require 170 new biorefineries to be built annually from 2020 to 2050, at an approximate cost of $15-60 billion per year if growth occurred linearly. If investment and growth began slowly and ramped up over time, it estimates over 500 new biorefineries would have to be constructed every year in the late 2040s and almost 1,000 new biorefineries would be required in 2050, requiring capital investments of $1-3 billion per year in 2025 and $80-340 billion per year in 2050.

Achieving a 100% SAF consumption by 2050 could reduce net CO2 emissions by about 63%, determined CAEP. However, this would require the realisation of the highest assumed increases in agricultural productivity, highest availability of land for feedstock cultivation, highest residue removal rates, highest conversion efficiency improvements, largest reductions in the GHG emissions of utilities, as well as a strong market or policy emphasis on bioenergy in general and SAFs in particular.

“This implies that a large share of the globally available bioenergy resource would be devoted to producing aviation fuel, as opposed to other uses,” says the ICAO Secretariat.

The intermediate 2050 scenario with 50% substitution by SAF – the scenario proposed by the Secretariat – assumes improvements in fuel production efficiencies and high availability of bioenergy feedstocks, the production of which would need to be significantly incentivised by favourable markets or policy mechanisms.

The three targets, however, met with resistance from a number of States attending CAAF/2, with some calling into question whether biofuels provided a solution to the carbon neutrality of the aviation sector. In a paper to the conference (WP/20), the Russian Federation said the lack of land resources required in order to meet the world’s energy needs using biofuels was “a major concern”, adding: “Thus, since forested areas need to be cleared, vast amounts of carbon will be released, creating a carbon debt requiring centuries to repay.” The paper argued biofuel production posed a serious global risk to food and water resources.

In its paper (WP/26), China said it had proactively pursued the adoption and deployment of SAF since the first CAAF in 2009 and welcomed initiatives to maximise the contribution of such fuels to the environmentally sustainable future of international aviation. However, it had “serious concerns” with the goals set out by the Secretariat that had been “developed without full political and technical consultations among States”. It also said the uncertainty over the contribution of SAF to emissions reduction from international aviation made the ICAO carbon-neutral growth target (CNG2020) “impracticable”.

Supporters of the deployment goals put forward by the Secretariat, Brazil and Indonesia said in a joint paper (WP/18) that to ensure the long-term take-up of SAF, a mechanism should be developed and incorporated into the CORSIA review process that guaranteed a smooth transition from the use of market-based measures to the use of SAF. This, they suggested, could be achieved by establishing a ceiling that would be lowered year by year on the total amount of the growth in emissions post-2021 that could be neutralised through offsetting. The two countries expressed their concern that under present conditions, policies and mechanisms, it will be cheaper for aircraft operators to offset their emissions by purchasing emissions units than by covering the price gap between fossil fuels and SAF.

The United States’ view is that the role of ICAO in the global deployment of SAF should be as a facilitator rather than coming up with policies that direct State action. What might be a successful policy in one State may not be applicable to another and development and deployment will vary among States and regions, it argued in WP/16. “Thus, while we agree with a defined goal, we would not support specifying the means to achieve that goal,” it said.

It was important that States learn from one another, it added, and ICAO was ideally situated to facilitate information sharing and coordination.

ICAO’s facilitating role was supported in a joint paper submitted on behalf of industry (WP/25), which also encouraged States to put in place policy frameworks that strongly incentivised SAF development, production in use. While supporting the Secretariat’s aspirational 2025 goal of 5 Mt per year of SAF, the paper said there should be a focus on identifying pathways to achieve it, which should articulate the requisite policy drivers. However, industry believes there is too much uncertainty at present, particularly concerning the costs of SAF, to define a long-term goal.

“For that reason, we believe it would only be appropriate to consider defining a mid-term SAF aspirational goal, including identification of pathways for striving towards the goal, once progress and achievement of an aspirational 2025 goal can be assessed,” said the paper.

In its submission (WP/21) to CAAF/2, the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation (ICSA), which represents environmental groups at ICAO, urged States to avoid endorsing volumetric targets for SAF. “In effect, the targets maximise the volume of SAF utilised rather than the amount of carbon abated,” it said. “This could result in substantial policy support going towards fuels that either increase aviation sector emissions or, at best, provide marginal benefits.”

It added that the CAEP scenarios relied heavily on optimistic assumptions on land availability for feedstock cultivation and did not take into account indirect land use change and other sustainability considerations.

The three-day conference, which included representatives from 29 Member States, concluded with an agreement on the 2050 Vision that replaced the initial reference to the aspirational goals with text that States “will seek to ensure that a significant percentage of current conventional aviation fuels would be substituted with sustainable alternatives by 2050.”

ICSA commended the States for rejecting the targets. “The version of the Vision that countries accepted is more reasonable and better reflects the risks of forging headlong into alternative fuels without putting climate change and sustainability concerns first,” said Brad Schallert, Deputy Director at World Wildlife Fund in an ICSA statement.

“Producing alternative fuels at scale globally is inherently risky and should be approached with caution. In ICSA’s view, the Vision should primarily inspire innovation and technological breakthroughs at a level required to meet the challenge of mitigating international aviation’s climate impact.”

Although supportive of a short-term aspirational goal, industry too was pleased that the targets were dropped and greater emphasis had been placed in the Vision on sustainability criteria, which industry representative Michael Gill of the Air Transport Action Group told the conference “should be at the heart of any vision on sustainable aviation fuels.”

He added in a statement after the conference: “Most importantly, delegates confirmed that any alternative fuel deployment should follow sustainability criteria currently being developed by a task force at ICAO, including representatives of environmental groups. Aviation industry representatives strongly supported this, as sustainability should be a central component of any deployment of these new fuels.

“The ICAO Vision represents a commitment from stakeholders meeting at ICAO to follow a path towards increasing deployment of sustainable aviation fuel, one of the key components of our industry’s climate action plan. Periodic reviews of the Vision should look to ramp-up ambition, including at the next conference before 2025. We can then look at the longer-term prospects with the hope that sustainable aviation fuel will make up a significant proportion of our fuel mix in 2050, bringing down emissions and diversifying our energy supply.

“We now urge governments all over the world to join with industry to promote and develop this new source of energy that can bring up to an 80% reduction in CO2 compared with traditional jet fuel. The Vision will need to be developed further over time, but it also sets industry and governments a challenge we will meet together.”

ICAO stressed the Vision was “a living instrument”, with progress towards achieving it regularly assessed through a stocktaking process.

“The new ICAO Vision agreed at the Mexico event will now help guide international civil aviation stakeholders as they work to employ sustainable fuel alternatives and significantly reduce aviation emissions,” said the UN agency in a statement.

Links:

2nd ICAO Conference on Aviation and Alternative Fuels – Documentation and working papers

ICAO and Aviation Alternative Fuels


Update Oct 24:

ICAO has now released its CAAF/2 Declaration that defines the ICAO Vision on Aviation and Alternative Fuels and Future Objectives. It can be downloaded here

Copyright © 2017 GreenAir Communications

Environmental groups criticise ICAO over lack of CORSIA transparency and threat to biofuel sustainability criteria

Fri 18 Nov 2017 – ICAO has come under fire from two environmental groups over a perceived lack of transparency on decisions concerning its CORSIA global carbon offsetting scheme and fears that sustainability criteria for the use of biofuels qualifying under the scheme are being heavily watered down. ICAO’s governing Council has been meeting in Montreal to discuss detailed regulations on the operation of the scheme that have been drawn up by its technical committee CAEP. However, CAEP confidentiality rules and the closed-door Council sessions are allowing ICAO to develop climate policy in isolation and this risks undermining the Paris Agreement, argues Carbon Market Watch. Meanwhile, Transport & Environment says it understands political interventions in the Council could lead to the removal of 10 out of the 12 sustainability criteria for biofuels recommended by CAEP. The CORSIA Package, as it is known, is due to be sent shortly to all ICAO states for scrutiny and approval.

CORSIA, says Carbon Market Watch (CMW) in a new analysis report, is currently the only significant carbon offsetting scheme in the post-Kyoto period when the Paris Agreement comes into force, and the reliance on purchasing carbon credits from reductions in other sectors poses significant challenges to ensure the integrity of the scheme. Transparency on how the CORSIA rules will be designed as well as opportunities to engage in this process by all affected stakeholders are paramount for the scheme’s effectiveness, it argues.

However, it accuses ICAO of developing the rules “locked away from the public domain … and shielded from public scrutiny.”

CORSIA will have a direct impact on countries’ compliance with the Paris climate targets and at a time when wider UNFCCC climate talks are taking place at COP23 in Bonn to discuss emission reduction transfers between countries, it is unclear how carbon credits purchased by airlines are booked to avoid double counting of reductions towards ICAO and the Paris goals, says CMW.

“Aviation’s measure risks blowing a giant hole in the Paris Agreement,” said CMW Aviation Policy Officer, Kelsey Perlman. “The irony is that delegates in Bonn and Montreal are currently negotiating interlinked climate issues, with one held in public and the other behind closed doors.

“ICAO needs to allow for more public scrutiny, but the truth is we can’t afford to keep waiting to see how this measure affects global climate ambition.”

CMW points to parliamentarians in Europe asking their governments for more information on CORSIA. During a recent debate in the European Parliament, a Commission official with knowledge of the contents of the CORSIA Package was unable to reveal details to members of the Parliament because of ICAO non-disclosure rules.

“The European countries that have defended transparency this week in Bonn while sitting in the dark in ICAO, need to open up the debate,” said Perlman.

How ICAO interprets transparency and public participation requirements is covered in a new paper by the Columbia Law School, which finds the ICAO governance process falls short of the public information requirements of the Aarhus Convention. The international treaty grants the public rights of access to information, participating in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters, according to the report. Of the 45 countries that are members or observers of the ICAO Council and CAEP, 13 have signed up to the treaty.

“The ICAO rules of procedure allow for access to information and public meetings but inexplicably these rules have not been followed in the decision-making process around the sector’s offsetting scheme,” said Aoife O’Leary, author of the study. “And this despite the obligations the Convention places on many of the ICAO member and observer countries.”

The CORSIA Package – comprising draft regulatory Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) and guidance material – is due to be sent to all ICAO States next month, who will only be given up to four months to scrutinise and respond before adoption by the Council in June next year.

In its annual submission to the UNFCCC subsidiary body SBSTA, which met during COP23, ICAO said having rules in place covering monitoring, reporting and verification of the sector’s carbon emissions was the immediate priority so that States and airlines can be ready to report emissions from 2019. “After that, ICAO will determine eligible emissions units which airlines purchase in order to meet offsetting requirements under CORSIA,” it added.

In another submission to SBSTA, Chile – with the support of Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Peru – said given its projected growth, the aviation sector would be required to compensate 3.3 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions during the period of CORSIA’s existence (2021-2035).

“As these compensations would mainly be supplied by activities outside the sector, Parties to the Paris Agreement should carefully consider the relationship between CORSIA and the Paris Agreement. Parties should seek ways to further collaborate in the climate change process. This should create synergies and mutual support on the overall objectives of the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement, and the objectives of ICAO Resolution A39-3.”

Meanwhile, Transport & Environment fears that at the current ICAO Council Session, member states have voted to reject ten key sustainability criteria out of the 12 that were submitted to the Council by CAEP experts for biofuels that would qualify under CORSIA. Under the scheme, airlines using sustainable aviation fuels can be credited against their emissions obligations. A CAEP working group had recommended the defining criteria of “sustainable” that included 12 environmental and social safeguards.

According to T&E’s own sources, the two surviving rules are a 10% greenhouse gas reduction target for biofuels compared to fossil jet fuel and a ban on crops grown on land that was deforested after 2009. Removing the remaining safeguards is contrary to UN’s globally agreed Sustainable Development Goals, it said.

The sustainability rules have implications beyond CORSIA because they will become the de facto global standard for biofuel use in the aviation sector, it added.

The Brussels-based group criticised the European Commission for agreeing to the Council position, which T&E claims has been supported by France, Sweden, Italy, Spain, Ireland and Germany, although opposed by the Netherlands and the UK.

“If this extreme weakening of the sustainability criteria for biofuels is confirmed, the European Commission will have effectively surrendered to ICAO, showing how little it cares about human rights or biodiversity,” said Carlos Calvo Ambel, T&E Analysis and Climate Manager.

Responding to T&E’s claim, an aviation industry spokesperson said: “The aviation sector has been working hard to ensure that the deployment of alternative fuels is done in a sustainable way, including as part of the CORSIA package. Industry is working with environmental groups and governments through the ICAO experts process to develop a robust set of sustainability criteria for the use of these fuels.

“We await the outcome of the Council meeting but according to reports, the sustainability criteria were partially adopted, with some being sent back to the experts for further evaluation in the coming months. Nothing was rejected, as we understand it, but rather needs more study. It is vital that this process is able to be done in a robust manner so we can rely on these elements well into the future.”

In its SBSTA submission, ICAO said its recent Conference on Aviation and Alternative Fuels had “confirmed the critical importance of ensuring the sustainability of aviation alternative fuels, which is currently under consideration by ICAO.”

Editor’s note: CORSIA will be the focus of the upcoming Aviation Carbon 2017 conference that takes place in London on December 4 and 5, with a session devoted to the role of sustainable aviation fuels in the global carbon offsetting scheme.





Copyright © 2017 GreenAir Communications

Heathrow adds emissions along with noise metrics to its airline performance league table

Wed 21 Jun 2017 – Heathrow Airport has extended its quarterly ‘Fly Quiet League Table’ to include for the first time the emissions performance as well as the noise performance of airlines serving the airport. The 50 busiest airlines at Heathrow are now publicly ranked on their efforts to reduce emissions from the aircraft they use for operations at the airport. A new metric has also been introduced that takes into account unscheduled night flights operating between 11.30pm and 4.30am. The league table has tracked airline noise performance since 2013 and is credited with incentivising airlines to use their quieter aircraft types and operating procedures at Heathrow. Based on data from January to March, British Airways short-haul, Aer Lingus and Etihad Airways were judged to be the cleanest and quietest fleets at the airport.