Latest news and insights from various sources relating to UN Sustainable Development Goals.

UK airspace improvements help NATS reduce carbon emissions but more modernisation required, it warns

Fri 23 Jun 2017 – Air navigation service provider (ANSP) NATS reports that improvements to the design of UK airspace helped save 55,900 tonnes of CO2 in 2016, worth £6.2 million ($8m) in fuel savings for airlines. In 2008, NATS became the first ANSP in the world to set an airspace environmental target and says it is currently tracking at a 5 per cent improvement on a goal to reduce air traffic management (ATM) related CO2 emissions by 10 per cent by 2020. However, warns NATS, it will become more difficult to achieve this unless further efficiencies can be delivered by modernising UK airspace. CO2 savings in the previous year were 157,000 tonnes. In its annual Responsible Business report, NATS says its campaign to increase the use of continuous descent approach (CDA) procedures by aircraft landing at UK airports resulted in an additional 32,070 quieter arrivals in 2016 over 2015.

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

Seaweed cultivation could provide a promising source of sustainable aviation biofuels, finds Norwegian report

Tue 28 Mar 2017 – Seaweed could become a promising source of biofuels for aviation if sustainably produced and economic and policy challenges can be overcome, says a report by Norwegian NGO Bellona. Seaweeds, or macroalgae, generally contain high amounts of carbohydrates (sugars) that make them highly suitable for bioethanol and biobutanol production, where the sugars are fermented. They belong to the fastest growing species in the world and growth rates far exceed those of terrestrial plants, plus the rapid growth also means they absorb significant amounts of CO2. Most importantly, they do not compete for valuable land space or fresh water during cultivation as do many crops grown for biofuels. Industrial seaweed cultivation, where it is mainly used in food production and pharmaceuticals, is largely confined to Asia whereas in Europe it is in the very early development phase. However, says the report, there is a golden opportunity to design a high-potential sustainable aviation biofuel industry effectively from scratch.

EU States back proposals on extending Aviation EU ETS ‘stop-the-clock’ and provisions for CORSIA review

Thu 22 Jun 2017 – EU Member States have agreed a common negotiating position ahead of talks with the European Parliament (EP) on existing regulations concerning the Aviation EU ETS and its post-2020 future when the global CORSIA market-based scheme starts. The Council, which represents the States, says it broadly supports European Commission proposals, including to extend the derogation – known as ‘stop-the-clock’ – for extra-EEA flights until the end of the current phase of the EU ETS in 2020. This is also supported by most EP members but as the derogation ceased to exist at the end of 2016, swift action will need to be taken to adopt a revision by the end of this year to avoid a legal gap. The two institutions must also agree on future steps to be taken in the light of decisions still to be reached at ICAO on the global scheme. A report has already been submitted by EP rapporteur Julie Girling, along with proposed amendments by members of the EP environment committee (ENVI), with a vote scheduled for July 11 and a EP plenary vote in the autumn.

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