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New Certificates Offer Flyers a Sustainable Fuel Option to Cut CO2

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Aviation is one of the world’s most carbon-intensive sectors and one of the hardest to decarbonize. Now, however, a new framework has been developed by a wide range of industry partners to cut emissions by stimulating the use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) via a system of certificates.

Developed through the World Economic Forum’s Clean Skies for Tomorrow (CST) initiative, the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Certificate (SAFc) system is a new accounting tool that will allow SAF emissions reductions to be claimed by the traveller if they cover the higher cost of the fuel. The system works within standard “book and claim” processes, which will allow the actual SAF to be delivered to the airport nearest its production plant.

“Clean Skies for Tomorrow was founded to accelerate the deployment of SAF and aviation’s net-zero pathway,” says Pedro Gomez, Head of Shaping the Future of Mobility, World Economic Forum. “Consumer demand for sustainable air travel is a critical part of that pathway and SAFc was specifically designed to enable a clear and consistent market demand signal.”

The new certificate mechanism is initially designed for corporations with significant air travel and freight footprints but can be expanded in due course.

Why sustainable aviation fuel?

SAFc is an important milestone on the path to carbon-neutral flying. There are benefits for both airlines and customers since SAF is the most promising way to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint in the near term.

Because jet fuel packs a lot of energy for its weight, it is hard to find feasible options for long-distance commercial flight. Hybrid-electric and hydrogen-powered aircraft may help one day, but their development and deployment at scale could take 10 to 20 years and the technology will likely be limited to smaller, shorter-range aircraft, even in the long term.

By contrast, SAF – made from biogenic feedstocks such as waste cooking oil, agricultural residues and municipal waste – is available now and is compatible with existing aircraft and fuelling infrastructure.

With existing technologies, SAF can reduce GHG emissions by up to 80% on a life-cycle emissions basis. However, next-generation SAF technologies, such as Power-to-liquid, which use recycled CO2 and carbon-capture technologies, are already in development and could offer overall reduction in emissions to 100% if using a fully decarbonised supply chain.

The challenge is that SAF is two to five times the price of conventional jet fuel and can be more. As a result, SAF accounts for only 0.1% of fuel used in aircraft worldwide. Such limited availability and high prices deter the investment to scale up production, which is needed to drive down prices and enable greater uptake.

Solving this conundrum requires a significant demand stimulus – exactly what the SAFc mechanism aims to provide. This kind of intervention is particularly critical during the pandemic recovery given the aviation industry’s perilous financial state that leaves it unable to subsidize increased use of SAF on its own.

“This is the time for innovation in aviation emissions reduction. Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) provides the most promising solution to reducing aviation emissions, yet today, demand for SAF far outstrips supply,” says Jules Kortenhorst, CEO, RMI. “The World Economic Forum and RMI have developed SAFc to enable ambitious corporations to address emissions from flying while sending a strong demand signal and catalyzing new SAF production.”

“By purchasing these certificates, companies and private individuals contribute to emission reductions in aviation,” says Joukje Janssen, Partner, PwC Netherlands, “because these purchases generate new income for the accelerated increase of SAF production capacity.”

Before the pandemic, aviation was responsible for about 3% of global carbon emissions, with an even larger overall climatic effect when taking into account impacts such as nitrogen oxide and contrails. COVID-19 has caused a massive slump in both air travel and emissions. Demand, however, is predicted to recover in the 2020s, making this the pivotal moment to put in place a system to transition the industry to more sustainable energy use.

Significantly, corporations have already indicated a willingness to pay more for employees’ sustainable travel practices and the SAFc provides a tailor-made mechanism for firms to take leadership in doing this. In fact, input from stakeholders in the CST initiative suggests that corporate demand alone can cover one-third of the price premium associated with reaching the International Air Transport Association’s 2025 global SAF volume target of 2% (6-7 billion litres).

In terms of ticket prices, feedback from many of the CST’s aviation-customer partners indicates that a 5%-10% increase in airfares would be acceptable, provided this delivers a significant and verifiable decrease in emissions.

Some companies within the CST coalition are already piloting the approach of paying more for SAF, including Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Deloitte, Deutsche Post DHL Group, Microsoft, BCG, Neste and SkyNRG. In the case of Microsoft, for example, an agreement with Alaska and SkyNRG applies to CO2 emissions from employee travel between Seattle and three Californian airports.

How does the SAFc system work?

For the SAFc system to function smoothly and at scale, it requires a robust tracking and verification process as well as a registry to ensure that climate-related claims are legitimate and only claimed by a single party.

This kind of virtual accounting system is already well-established in renewable electricity markets via energy attribute certificates (EACs) and guarantees of origin (GoO) – an important model for the new SAFc framework. These established mechanisms, which verify that electricity is generated from an eligible renewable source, have been instrumental in accelerating renewable electricity investment by allowing companies to claim the resulting environmental benefits without producing electricity themselves.

Over the next year, the development of the SAFc framework will shift into its next phase, including additional SAFc pilot transactions and finalization of a full emissions accounting system.

Mission Possible Partnership

Clean Skies for Tomorrow is part of the Mission Possible Partnership, a coalition of public and private partners working on the industry transition to set heavy industry and mobility sectors on the pathway towards net-zero emissions by mid-century.

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No pathway to reach the Paris Agreement’s 1.5˚C goal without the G20

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“The world urgently needs a clear and unambiguous commitment to the 1.5 degree goal of the Paris Agreement from all G20 nations”, António Guterres said on Sunday after the Group failed to agree on the wording of key climate change commitments during their recent Ministerial Meeting on Environment, Climate and Energy.

“There is no pathway to this goal without the leadership of the G20. This signal is desperately needed by the billions of people already on the frontlines of the climate crisis and by markets, investors and industry who require certainty that a net zero climate resilient future is inevitable”, the Secretary General urged in a statement.

The UN chief reminded that science indicates that to meet that ‘ambitious, yet achievable goal’, the world must achieve carbon neutrality before 2050 and cut dangerous greenhouse gas emissions by 45 % by 2030 from 2010 levels. “But we are way off track”, he warned.

The world needs the G20 to deliver

With less than 100 days left before the 2021 United Nations Climate Conference COP 26, a pivotal meeting that will be held in Glasgow at the end of October, António Guterres urged all G20 and other leaders to commit to net zero by mid-century, present more ambitious 2030 national climate plans and deliver on concrete policies and actions aligned with a net zero future.

These include no new coal after 2021, phasing out fossil fuel subsidies and agreeing to a minimum international carbon pricing floor as proposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“The G7 and other developed countries must also deliver on a credible solidarity package of support for developing countries including meeting the US$100 billion goal, increasing adaptation and resilience support to at least 50% of total climate finance and getting public and multilateral development banks to significantly align their climate portfolios to meet the needs of developing countries”, he highlighted.

The UN Chief informed that he intends to use the opportunity of the upcoming UN General Assembly high-level session to bring leaders together to reach a political understanding on these critical elements of the ‘package’ needed for Glasgow.

A setback for Glasgow

The G20 ministers, which met in Naples, Italy on July 23-25, couldn’t agree to a common language on two disputed issues related to phasing out coal and the 1.5-degree goal, which now will have to be discussed at the G20 summit in Rome in October, just one day before the COP 26 starts.

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Western Indian Ocean region has declared 550,000 square kilometers as protected

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The Western Indian Ocean region has declared 143* marine and coastal areas as protected – an area covering 553,163 square kilometers, representing 7 percent of the total Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for the region – according to a new publication by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)-Nairobi Convention and the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association.

The Marine Protected Areas Outlook, released today, indicates that almost half of the total area – an estimated 63 percent of the overall square kilometers – was brought under protection in the seven years since the 2015 adoption of Sustainable Development Goal 14.5, which committed countries to conserving at least 10 percent of their marine and coastal areas by 2020.

This Outlook examines the current and future status of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Comoros, Kenya, France (in its Western Indian Ocean territories), Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, South Africa, and Tanzania, emphasizing the increased commitment of countries to strengthen marine protection. In 2019 alone, Seychelles brought 30 percent of its Exclusive Economic Zone under protection, safeguarding the habitats of 2,600 species, while South Africa declared 20 new MPAs – enabling both countries to exceed the 10 percent target. Comoros has developed new MPA-specific legislation, while over three hundred Locally Managed Marine Areas – i.e., areas in which coastal communities shoulder the mantle of conservation – have been declared across the region.

The publication further documents the dozens of proposed MPAs currently under consideration by countries, which would cover an additional 50,000 square kilometers or more. Nevertheless, with only 7 percent of the region’s total EEZ under protection, greater momentum and investments will be required by countries to reach the more ambitious target of 30 percent protection by 2030, as proposed under the Global Biodiversity Framework.  

Although the ocean provides us with resources essential for survival, including food, employment, and even oxygen, the world is damaging and depleting it faster than ever. Soon, the region may no longer be able to count on the many jobs, health, and economic benefits – valued at 20.8 billion USD – that the Western Indian Ocean provides. Marine protected areas offer one of the best options to reverse these trends. 

“A well-managed MPA can bring significant economic, social, and environmental benefits to a country,” said Yamkela Mngxe, Acting Director of Integrated Projects and International Coordination in South Africa’s Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment. “They can increase food security by preventing the overexploitation of fish stocks; create and protect jobs in the tourism and fisheries sectors; build resilience to climate change; and protect species and habitats.”

Though countries in the region have made significant strides in protecting its marine and coastal areas, the Outlook outlines best practices, challenges, and several opportunities to build on thisprogressto ensure the entire region meets future Global Biodiversity Framework targets on marine protected areas. The Outlook’s assessment of the management effectiveness of MPAs indicates that MPA frameworks and institutions do not always function effectively. Nor is relevant legislation consistently implemented, due to financial or personnel capacity gaps; weak enforcement on MPA boundaries; and management decisions that are not guided by science.

Key recommendations from the Outlook therefore include:

  1. The need for dedicated budgets for MPA management;
  2. Adopting proactive law enforcement and compliance strategies to ensure MPA regulations and guidelines are being respected which could be informed by the best practices in fishery reserves like Mauritius, which have helped to restore fish stocks and protect biodiversity;
  3. Incorporating research and monitoring programmes on biodiversity and ecosystems into decision-making in MPAs;
  4. Strengthening community engagement in marine protection by implementing lessons learned by the MIHARI Network, which brings together more than 200 Locally Managed Marine Areas in Madagascar.

“The MPA Outlook comes at a time when the region has embarked on large-scale socio-economic developments that are equally exerting pressure on MPAs,” said Hon. Flavien Joubert,Minister of Agriculture, Climate Change, and Environment of the Seychelles. “The Outlook thus provides some answers and innovative approaches to minimize the scale of negative impacts on MPAs.”

The MPA Outlook concludes that by seizing the opportunities it presents, countries in the region can capitalize on this progress to safeguard the Western Indian Ocean’s immense natural beauty and resources for generations to come – and sustain momentum towards achievement of the post 2020 biodiversity framework targets.

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Deadly flooding, heatwaves in Europe, highlight urgency of climate action

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Floods have affected cities across Europe, including Zurich in Switzerland. Unsplash/Claudio Schwarz

Heavy rainfall that has triggered deadly and catastrophic flooding in several western European countries, is just the latest indicator that all nations need to do more to hold back climate change-induced disasters, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Friday.

The agency said that countries including Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands had received up to two months’ rain in two days from 14 to 15 July, on ground that was “already near saturation”.

Photos taken at the scene of some of the worst water surges and landslides show huge, gaping holes where earth and buildings had stood until mid-week, after media reports pointed to well over 100 confirmed fatalities in Germany and Belgium on Friday morning, with an unknown number still missing across vast areas.

“We’ve seen images of houses being…swept away, it’s really, really devastating”, said WMO spokesperson Clare Nullis adding that that the disaster had overwhelmed some of the prevention measures put in place by the affected developed countries.

In a statement issued by his Spokesperson, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, said he was saddened by the loss of life and destruction of property. “He extends his condolences and solidarity to the families of the victims and to the Governments and people of the affected countries.”

The UN chief said the UN stood ready to contribute to ongoing rescue and assistance efforts, if necessary.

“Europe on the whole is prepared, but you know, when you get extreme events, such as what we’ve seen – two months’ worth of rainfall in two days – it’s very, very difficult to cope,” added Ms. Nullis, before describing scenes of “utter devastation” in Germany’s southwestern Rhineland-Palatinate state, which is bordered by France, Belgium and Luxembourg.

Highlighting typical preparedness measures, the WMO official noted In Switzerland’s national meteorological service, MeteoSwiss, had a smartphone application which regularly issued alerts about critical high-water levels.

The highest flood warning is in place at popular tourist and camping locations including lakes Biel, Thun and the Vierwaldstattersee, with alerts also in place for Lake Brienz, the Rhine near Basel, and Lake Zurich.

Dry and hot up north

In contrast to the wet conditions, parts of Scandinavia continue to endure scorching temperatures, while smoke plumes from Siberia have affected air quality across the international dateline in Alaska. Unprecedented heat in western north America has also triggered devastating wildfires in recent weeks.

Among the Scandinavian countries enduring a lasting heatwave, the southern Finnish town of Kouvola Anjala, has seen 27 consecutive days with temperatures above 25C. “This is Finland, you know, it’s not Spain, it’s not north Africa,”, Ms. Nullis emphasised to journalists in Geneva.

“Certainly, when you see the images we’ve seen in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands this week it’s shocking, but under climate change scenarios, we are going to see more extreme events in particular extreme heat,” the WMO official added.

Troubled waters

Concerns persist about rising sea temperatures in high northern latitudes, too, Ms. Nullis said, describing the Gulf of Finland in the Baltic Sea at a “record” high, “up to 26.6C on 14 July”, making it the warmest recorded water temperature since records began some 20 years ago.

Echoing a call by UN Secretary-General António Guterres to all countries to do more to avoid a climate catastrophe linked to rising emissions and temperatures, Ms. Nullis urged action, ahead of this year’s UN climate conference, known as COP26, in Glasgow, in November.

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