Airlines downplayed climate science to block new regulations

The DfT did, on the other hand, say the government was “exploring no matter whether and how non-CO2 impacts could be incorporated in the scope of the UK ETS (emissions trading scheme)”.

Professor Piers Forster, an atmospheric physicist and member of the independent Climate Alter Committee, told openDemocracy it was “completely wrong” for the aviation sector to claim the science on aviation’s non-CO2 effects was also uncertain to address them.

He stated: “It’s a bit of a joke to say the effects are also uncertain to do something about. We see their contrails and we’ve identified for more than 20 years that they are warming the planet. The sector ought to not hide behind uncertainty.”

He added that “the non-CO2 effects definitely have to be accounted for in some way and action ought to be taken to lower them”.

Milan Klöwer, a climate physicist at Massachusetts Institute of Technologies, stated airlines had been adopting a “typical climate denialist strategy” by overstating the level of uncertainty about non-CO2 effects.

“Even in the most effective case they roughly double the impact of CO2 emissions on the climate,” he stated.

He named on airlines to commence accounting for their non CO2 effects and invest extra in options, such as option fuels, which decreased these effects.

Rob Bryher, aviation campaigner at climate charity Probable, stated: “These documents show that airlines can not be trusted to decarbonise on their personal. Demand management options like a frequent flyer levy, introducing fuel duty, carbon pricing, or management of airport capacity are going to be critical.”

Matt Finch, UK policy manager of campaign group Transport &amp Atmosphere, stated: “Aviation’s non-CO2 impacts are someplace in between substantial and definitely huge. But the sector does not want you to know that. Alternatively of confronting its environmental difficulties head-on, the sector copies the tobacco sector of the ’50s and the oil sector of the ’70s in casting doubt and disbelief about the science.”

BA stated it was functioning with academics and specialists on non-CO2 impacts of flying even though Sustainable Aviation, an sector group that contains airlines, stated it was committing to addressing them but reiterated extra study was required. Wizz Air stated it was currently addressing the impacts by means of a variety of measures.

Some airlines ignore non-CO2 effects in schemes they help to aid passengers calculate and offset the emissions of their flights.

BA’s emissions calculator states a 1 way flight from London Heathrow to New York emits 348kg CO2E (carbon dioxide equivalent) and charges £3.97 for offsetting.

Atmosfair, a German non-profit organisation which supports the decarbonisation of flying, calculates the very same journey on a Boeing 777-200 – an aircraft variety utilized by BA – emits 896kg and charges 21 euros (£18.37) for offsetting. Atmosfair’s emissions total comprises 308kg of CO2 emissions and 587 kg equivalent for “climate effect of contrails, ozone formation etc”.

Whilst the DfT has so far failed to act on non-CO2 effects, they are described in official tips to organizations from the Division for Enterprise Power and Industrial Technique on how to report their emissions.

It says: “Organisations ought to include things like the indirect effects of non-CO2 emissions when reporting air travel emissions to capture the complete climate effect of their travel.”

A DfT spokesperson stated: “Our Jet Zero Technique confirmed our aim of addressing the non-CO2 impacts of aviation, by building our understanding of their effect and doable options, and the UK is 1 of the major nations functioning to address this concern.”

Sustainable Aviation Fuel

International Airlines Group (IAG), which owns BA, Vueling and Aer Lingus, told DfT’s Jet Zero consultation it could address non-CO2 emissions by supporting “sustainable aviation fuel” (SAF).

SAF is a jet fuel produced from sources which the sector claims are sustainable, which includes cooking oil and animal fat. It performs in a equivalent way to kerosene but can create up to 80% much less CO2 based on how it is produced. It potentially also reduces contrails.

IAG told the Jet Zero consultation SAF was “the only viable resolution for decarbonising medium and lengthy haul flights”, which account for about 70% of worldwide aviation emissions.

But additional documents obtained by openDemocracy reveal IAG then lobbied the DfT to water down its SAF mandate.

In response to a separate consultation, IAG argued the SAF mandate ought to only cover flights inside the UK or to the EU, and not the lengthy haul flights on which British Airways tends to make most of its income.

IAG also lobbied against a proposal to ban airlines from dodging the mandate by filling their tanks with inexpensive kerosene at overseas airports – a practice identified as “tankering”.

A BBC Panorama investigation in 2019 revealed tankering by BA and other airlines was making modest economic savings but unnecessary carbon emissions.

IAG also argued against a proposal aimed at creating demand for “power-to-liquid” jet fuel, which is created by combining hydrogen produced by renewable power with carbon captured from the atmosphere.

As opposed to other so-named sustainable jet fuels, energy-to-liquid fuel does not involve a feedstock required by other industries to decarbonise, such as utilized cooking oil or animal fat.

IAG named it “a really pricey pathway to straight decarbonise aviation”.

Sustainable Aviation, an sector group that contains airlines, stated: “We are committed to addressing [non-CO2] impacts primarily based on the scientific proof, but additional study is crucial to building productive mitigation options, for instance the use of sustainable aviation fuels (which include decrease contrail forming particulates), alongside actions such as optimising flight routes to stay away from contrail formation.”

BA, IAG’s principal airline, stated: “We are actively engaging with academics, specialists inside the sector and the government’s Jet Zero Council to take proactive actions to appear into non-CO2 effect.”

Wizz Air stated it was mitigating non-CO2 effects “through route optimisation and jet fuel improvements” and by employing Airbus A321neo aircraft which decreased NOx emissions by 50%.

Ryanair did not respond to a request for comment.

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