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

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

SpiceJet operates India’s first biofuel-powered flight as Indonesia seeks US and European help on palm oil biojet

A SpiceJet Bombardier Q400

Mon 3 Sept 2018 – Low-cost carrier SpiceJet last week operated India’s first test flight powered by biojet fuel. A Bombardier Q400 aircraft flew the 236-kilometre route from Dehradun in the norther part of India to the capital New Delhi using a 75/25 blend of conventional jet kerosene and a biofuel sourced from the jatropha crop.

Heathrow offers landing charge incentive to first electric-powered commercial flight

EasyJet vision of an electric aircraft

Wed 17 Oct 2018 – As part of efforts to encourage airlines to invest in electric technology and speed up the arrival of zero-emissions flights, Heathrow Airport has announced it will offer free landing charges for a year to the first electric or electric-hybrid commercial flight into the airport and then entering regular service.

Eight airlines join ‘Fly Green Day’ to use Gevo’s alcohol-to-jet fuel on flights out of Chicago

Fri 10 Nov 2017 – Eight airlines have flown from Chicago O’Hare International Airport using a jet fuel blend containing Gevo’s alcohol-to-jet (ATJ) renewable fuel derived from bio-isobutanol. Blended and supplied by Air BP, the fuel was made available using the airport’s existing fuelling infrastructure, such as pipelines, terminals and tankage. This was the first time blended fuel had been supplied to airline customers through the main fuel hydrant system. The airlines – Lufthansa, United Airlines, Etihad, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Japan Airlines, Korean Air and Atlas Air – were participating in Fly Green Day, an event to help boost the commercialisation of sustainable aviation fuels, sponsored by the O’Hare Fuel Committee and organised by Gevo.

“This is a significant milestone as we continue to develop our ATJ platform,” said Gevo CEO Dr Patrick Gruber. “We fundamentally believe that our ATJ is one of the most cost-competitive bio-based jet alternatives in the market place. Leveraging existing supply infrastructure should lower the full cost to serve our end customers. Jet fuel is one of Gevo’s core market segments and this represents the next step in building a profitable business from this market vertical.”

Gevo’s ATJ renewable fuel, which can be produced from a variety of carbohydrate feedstocks, was approved for commercial aviation use in April 2016 and was first used by launch customer Alaska Airlines. The isobutanol is produced at its Luverne fermentation facility in Minnesota and converted into jet fuel at a biorefinery in Silsbee, Texas. Test flights using the fuel have been carried out in the past by the US Air Force, Army and Navy.

Involved in the process throughout, Air BP worked with Gevo to bring to the airport a demonstration batch of biojet produced from bio-isobutanol and purchased by the airline customers. The aviation fuel company blended the biofuel with regular Jet A fuel and certified its quality.

“This is the first time we have supplied our customers with biojet produced from alcohol and demonstrates how we are working with multiple suppliers to build a leadership position in this area,” said Jon Platt, CEO of Air BP. “We anticipate that through this promotion we will inspire more of our customers to use lower carbon fuels.”

In January 2016, Air BP introduced biojet via the existing fuelling infrastructure at Oslo Airport in Norway and has since supplied Bergen Airport in the country and Halmstad Airport in Sweden. A year ago, Air BP announced a $30 million investment in aviation biofuel producer Fulcrum BioEnergy, with the aim of distributing and supplying biojet into aircraft at key hubs across North America.

Meanwhile, IATA’s annual Alternative Fuel Symposium takes place next week in Vancouver. It will cover outcomes from ICAO’s recent Conference on Aviation and Alternative Fuels, deployment solutions, 2020 production potential, global and regional initiatives, and airline strategy and demand trends including sustainable aviation fuel eligibility in the ICAO CORSIA carbon offsetting scheme.


Copyright © 2017 GreenAir Communications