April 18, 2023
1) No more cheap flights is the new reality for Europeans
Bloomberg, 17 April 2023
Airlines face an expensive and challenging few decades ahead as climate compliance laws get stricter.
Jetting off to the Mediterranean this summer? I hope you got a good deal, because cheap flights are becoming increasingly hard to find.
You probably had an inkling that the era of absurdly cheap short-haul flights in Europe was coming to an end. After all, according to travel search engine Kayak, summer flights between the UK and the continent are currently one-third more expensive than last year. But two new reports make it clear that this isn’t just temporary turbulence.
It’s the new reality for flying as airlines face a huge decarbonization challenge and tightening climate-compliance laws.
The first headwind stems from two big changes in the European Union’s Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). Airlines must have enough emissions allowances to cover every metric ton of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere on flights starting and ending in the European Economic Area, the UK and Switzerland. Right now, they get about half of those allowances for free. But that deal comes to an end in 2026, as the share of allowances they have to pay for starts to rise from 2024. That is effectively going to double their carbon costs over just three years.
The unit price of carbon emissions has also soared recently, topping €100 ($111) for the first time in late February, and it doesn’t seem to be on its way back down. A report by Alex Irving, European transport analyst at Bernstein, puts the resulting cost from these changes for European airlines at about €5 billion in 2027.
The Daily Telegraph, 18 April 2023
The net zero crusade is in danger of unravelling.
Every time fresh evidence emerges of its true impact, the case for barrelling towards the Government’s self-imposed deadline suffers another damaging blow.
For a better example of the effect that it is having both on people’s lives and electoral politics, you’d be hard pushed to beat the ultra-low emissions zone that Sadiq Khan has imposed on London’s motorists.
The scheme has caused apoplexy among drivers, and with the Mayor accused of ignoring the needs of ordinary people, it represents the most serious threat to his bid to remain in office.
Still, if the capital’s voters think a decision to expand the £12.50-a-day Ulez charge to outer London boroughs is bad, imagine the fury if people wake up one day to discover they can no longer afford to go on holidays abroad.
Decarbonising air travel was always going to come with massive costs.
The chief question is who will foot the bill for such an enormous undertaking. In keeping with all things net zero, it is no surprise to learn that it increasingly looks as if the financial burden is likely to be at least partially shouldered by the consumer.
That such a warning has come from a collective of some of the world’s biggest airlines is no surprise.
The sector talks a good game when it comes to cleaning up its act, espousing the “opportunities” that could come from going green yet it seems reluctant to make the massive investment needed.
In highlighting the costs of switching to more expensive sustainable aviation fuel, the major airlines hope to cajole the Government into partly subsidising the transition.
It is also plainly in the interests of the airline industry to indulge in a little scaremongering.
Stirring discontent and unease throws sand in the wheels of the green revolution, giving big business longer to adapt, and what better way to do that than pointing out that the shift will also partly be paid for out of the pockets of holidaymakers?
Still, at least the impact of net zero has so far remained largely hypothetical.
For all the anger about green levies, household energy bills have been driven higher by fossil fuels and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, not the cost of building more wind and solar farms.
Even the Government’s short-sighted petrol and diesel car ban is still years away, albeit looming increasingly large in the rear-view mirror.
A de facto tax on greener flights would be one of the first, real tangible costs that has a big impact on people’s lives.
Prices could jump as much as 20pc, according to the Sustainable Aviation Group.Yet at the same as highlighting the likelihood of a “green premium”, it can’t quite make its mind up as to how damaging such a development would be.
Though some will be put off, most people will “still want to fly” despite what it calls “slightly higher costs”.
In fact, annual passenger numbers are still expected to “grow significantly” – by nearly 250m by 2050 – because most travellers are “happy to pay a bit more to travel”, it predicts.
It would be easy for the Government to be dismissive, too.
Sitting in Westminster, there will be a temptation to be snobbish about the idea of a week’s all-inclusive in Benidorm – but for many people, getting away every year ranks top of their priorities, and the advent of the budget airline industry means that overseas travel is often cheaper than holidaying in Britain.
Our ministers overlook the importance of foreign getaways to the public consciousness at their peril.
Any suggestion that overseas holidays, like electric cars, have become the preserve of the rich, would trigger widespread discontent that would make the Ulez backlash look like a storm in a teacup.
Net zero and the fight against climate change is enough of a confused mess as it is without denying hard-working families a well-earned summer break.
Everywhere our political overlords turn, they run into another humiliating dilemma caused by the blind pursuit of decarbonisation.
On Monday, Germany, bullied into a u-turn by the country’s catastrophising eco-fascists, pulled the plug on its last three nuclear power plants.
The move was a massive victory for the anti-nuclear movement, whose opposition had grown louder following the Fukushima disaster of 2011, but as an act of self-harm there aren’t many greater.
The move is a massive setback for energy security, and German emissions, with much of the lost output having been replaced by coal-fired power plants.
Elsewhere, a crunch weekend meeting of G7 energy ministers ended without an agreement on a deadline to halt new coal investments as the reality of the ongoing energy crunch continues to bite; Joe Biden’s climate presidency has been eviscerated by his approval of another Alaskan gas mega-project in the space of just a few short weeks; and our own Government’s heat pump programme has been a disaster, undermined by prohibitive costs and ineffective technology.
The Spectator, 17 April 2023
Are we going to have to give up flying to save the planet? Many climate campaigners have been saying so for years, but now Sustainable Aviation – a trade body which represents the UK aviation industry – seems to agree, at least in the case of less well-off passengers.
It is rather significant that the UK aviation industry seems to have nodded along with the idea that some passengers are going to be priced out of the air
Today, it has published a ‘road map’ showing how the industry intends to decarbonise, in order to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 – in line with the government’s self-imposed, legally-binding target. It proposes that 14 per cent of emissions cuts will come from ‘demand reduction’ – i.e. potential passengers being put off flying by a rise in the price of airline tickets.
A further 39 per cent will come from a switch to ‘sustainable aviation fuels’ – by which it means synthetic fuels manufactured from hydrogen and carbon dioxide, the whole process using only carbon-free electricity. Another 16 per cent will come from the use of hydrogen and electric-powered aircraft for some shorter and lower-speed journeys, 14 per cent from more efficient engines, 4 per cent from more efficient flightpaths and 13 per cent from ‘carbon removals’ (which means using carbon capture and storage to mop up the remaining emissions).
It is a lot more optimistic than the conclusion of a report in 2019 by UK FIRES, a consortium of academics which is government-funded through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The report, which looked into how the aviation industry might be decarbonised by 2050, among other things, concluded: ‘There are no options for zero emissions flight in the time available for action, so the industry faces a rapid contraction.’ It went on to say that it was possible that a limited aviation industry using electric power might be allowed to exist after 2050 but otherwise it would be curtains for our chances of travelling by air.
Nevertheless, it is rather significant that the UK aviation industry seems to have nodded along with the idea that some passengers are going to be priced out of the air in order for Britain to reach its net zero target. There is, after all, little sign of contraction in the airline industry over much of the world. China, for example, is still planning to expand its network of airports from 241 (at the end of 2020) to 450 by 2035. While Sustainable Aviation’s plans don’t necessarily imply an absolute contraction in the UK aviation industry – it forecasts a decline in passengers relative to the numbers who would take to the air in the absence of a decarbonisation plan – it does seem to admit to something that the government has so far been loathe to acknowledge: that net zero means higher costs which for some people will be prohibitive. There was no mention of people having to fly less in the government’s Jet Zero strategy published last summer – rather it promised us that ‘passengers can look forward to guilt-free flying’.
Moreover, it has to be said that Sustainable Aviation’s plans depend on technologies which have yet to be scaled-up on a commercial basis: such as synthetic fuels, hydrogen and electric planes. There is no guarantee that attempts to do so will succeed. If they disappoint, then it may mean a far steeper rise in the price of flying – and a far steeper decline in the numbers of people able to afford do so.
I don’t know if the authors of the Sustainable Aviation report had a sense of irony when calling it a ‘road map’, but in practice that is what it will almost certainly mean: long coach journeys for people who, at present, are able to enjoy holidays by budget airline.
Not Zero: How an Irrational Target Will Impoverish You, Help China (and Won’t Even Save the Planet) by Ross Clark is published by Forum Press