The Climate Action Tracker has warned that warned that the “good news” of the potential impact of announced net zero targets was bringing false hope to the reality of the warming resulting from government inaction. The top line results of this year’s update: They have reported that projecting emissions based on current policies, what governments are actually doing, 2.7°C of global warming is to be expected. There is a significant gap between rhetoric and delivery. The UK Met Office has warned that fatal heat and humidity could affect a billion people if the global average temperature rises by 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Some progress has been made in 2015 the Climate Action Tracker was forecasting 3.6°C of warming.
The fossil fuel industry had the largest delegation at COP26; understandably, they have the most to lose. The BBC calculated that there were 503 delegates representing fossil fuel, twice as many as the UK with 230. Aviation made little, if any, progress at COP26, reasserting the International Civil Aviation Organization’s commitment to CORSIA which relies on offsetting and Sustainable Aviation Fuels. Sustainable Aviation Fuels are attractive to the industry – they are drop-in fuels that can be blended with jet fuel, they facilitate business as usual, delaying the fundamental change that aviation needs to make transitioning from carbon to hydrogen.
The Climate Action Tracker continues to rate the performance of aviation as critically insufficient and consistent with 4°C of warming. Carbon emissions accumulate in the atmosphere reaching net zero by 2050 will be too late. Nearly 24 years after being given its Kyoto Protocol mandate, ICAO still has no long-term global aspirational goal for mitigation of international aviation emissions — for the past eleven years, it has been “exploring the feasibility” of one! Chris Lyle, a highly respected International Aviation Policy Consultant, has argued that to get aviation to move away from fossil fuels the international community needs to shift responsibility from ICAO to UNFCCC. Regrettably, this did not happen at COP26, and for aviation, it is business as usual. There was a brief flurry of excitement when a spoof announcement appeared overnight from IACAC announcing that nations had committed to ambitious aviation targets. They hadn’t.
I have argued here before that aviation’s problem is the fossil fuel it burns. It needs to transition to clean fuel and it needs to do it soon. The Achilles’ heel of our sector is aviation. Those few consumers who purchase offsets salve their conscience, although there is reason to doubt what quality and effectiveness of offsets. Ironically by salving their consciences, they remove pressure on aviation to move to cleaner fuels.
I recently interviewed John Coplin, FRAE, RB211 aero-engine Chief Designer, then Director of Technology and Design at Rolls Royce. He spoke with passion about why tourism matters and argues that the engineers need to be funded to make the transition to hydrogen, it needs to happen faster across the world in the next ten years.
Jane Ashton, Sustainability Director, at easyJet also speaks about the promise of hydrogen, they are working closely with Airbus.