Tuesday, February 4, 2020

New Aviation Decarbonisation Report Dismissed as 'Greenwash' by Environmentalists

Putting the Cost of Flying Up is the Only Real Solution it is Claimed
Shipping News Feature

UK – The report published today by Sustainable Aviation 'Decarbonisation Road-Map: A Path to Net Zero' preceded a meeting between leading airline industry executives and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps MP to sign a pledge to completely cut out carbon emissions within three decades. Unfortunately the plan has already be dismissed as 'greenwash' by environmental commentators.

The future as detailed in the policy document relates to all flights, passenger, freight and presumably private, which depart from the UK claiming a total saving of 23.5 million tonnes CO2 by way of more efficient jets leading to the development of hybrid aircraft, similar to road transport adjustments currently under way, using electrical power.

The report proposes a range of other savings including 3.1 million tonnes from ‘better air traffic management’, 14.4 million tonnes from sustainable aviation fuels etc. These savings do not come close to the projections of 70+ million tonnes of CO2 produced by the UK air industry and it is that last item and a shortfall of the remaining 25.8 million tonnes of CO2 which has the doubters up in arms.

That balance is to be made up by ‘effective market based measures’ which seem mostly to revolve around carbon capture and lots of discussions. Not everybody is negative however, the CBI sees the measures outlined as possible if given the right impetus by government, with Tom Thackray, Infrastructure and Energy Director, saying:

“This is an important step for a sector that has a critical role to play in meeting our net-zero target. The roadmap demonstrates how we can deliver a long term future for aviation while at the same time reducing emissions to net-zero. To make this a reality, we need to unlock further investment in new technologies, from sustainable aviation fuels to airspace modernisation.

”This requires working closely with the Government to deliver the policies business needs. The upcoming COP26 summit in Glasgow is a golden opportunity for the UK to lead the world in demonstrating sustainable aviation technologies and growth can go hand in hand.”

The reaction to the policy document from other quarters has however been far more critical. Those ‘green’ fuels are sneered at, despite a variety of tests such products form currently only a tiny proportion of fuel currently available, globally reckoned by some to be just 0.002% of the aviation fuel used. The cost of production might be reduced by economies of scale but critics say that would simply mean land currently dedicated to producing crops being switched to fuel production.

Like carbon capture many see the vision as outlined by Sustainable Aviation as a sop to public scrutiny, even ‘green fuels’ produce emissions and it is the disproportionate effect that aviation has on the planet which is under fire. Whilst ocean shipping delivers 90% of the world’s goods, air freight handles only a fraction, with all air travel contributing an estimated 8% of harmful emissions. Greenpeace was unequivocal in putting the case for the industry to face up to its problems with Executive Director John Sauven saying:

"Carbon offsetting is simply an excuse to carry on with business as usual while shifting the responsibility to cut emissions to someone else, somewhere else, and some other time. It's greenwash pure and simple and ministers should be wary of lending it any credibility.

"There's only one proven way for the aviation industry to cut its soaring emissions, and that's managing demand. This could be done fairly and effectively by introducing a frequent flier levy that makes flying affordable for those who do it rarely and expensive for those who do it often. But this is the one solution the industry doesn't want to look at."

Freight represents only a small fraction of the overall emissions tonnage with dedicated freighter aircraft responsible for about 3% of total CO2 emissions, although no figures are published as regards the belly hold carriage of goods.

Meanwhile the list of Sustainable Aviation supporters reads like a Who’s Who of the UK air industry with operators, airports and tour companies all well represented. Whilst the arguments will doubtless rage on the minister responsible, Grant Schapps, certainly seems convinced, saying:

“The fight against climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing the modern world, but the aviation sector’s commitment today is a huge step forward in creating a greener future. Aviation has a crucial role to play in reducing carbon emissions, and with the help of new technologies, renewable fuels and our continued international co-operation through the UN agency, the International Civil Aviation Organisation, we’ll be able to strike that balance, creating a greener and cleaner future.”