Technical ReportPDF Available

Can We Keep Flying? Decarbonising New Zealand's Domestic and International Aviation

Authors:
  • Callister & Associates

Abstract and Figures

Aviation emissions are an important contributor to climate change. This report examines New Zealand's emissions from domestic and international aviation and explores options for reducing these emissions.
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Can We Keep Flying? Decarbonising New
Zealand’s Domestic and International
Aviation
Wallace Rae
Paul Callister
Working Paper 19/02
2019
INSTITUTE FOR GOVERNANCE AND
POLICY STUDIES
WORKING PAPER
19/01
MONTH/YEAR
AUTHORS
INSTITUTE FOR GOVERNANCE AND
POLICY STUDIES
DISCLAIMER
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
September 2019
Wallace Rae
Paul Callister
School of Government
Victoria University of Wellington
PO Box 600
Wellington 6140
New Zealand
For any queries relating to this working paper, please
contact igps@vuw.ac.nz
The views, opinions, findings, and conclusions or
recommendations expressed in this paper are strictly
those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the
views of the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies,
the School of Government or Victoria University of
Wellington.
3
New Zealand should be pushing much harder on finding ways to do aviation more
sustainably. Without the ability to fly in and out, New Zealand’s got a problem. It’s an
existentially important thing and I’m not seeing the level of urgency and creativity
around solutions. Is it biofuels? Is it synthetic fuels? Is it the electrification of your
domestic aviation? Is it electrification of your ferries? Given the geographic location of
New Zealand, I expected to see much more concern if you’re trying to be net zero by
2050.
Energy expert Michael Liebreich in the Spinoff, 13th July 2019
Introduction
New Zealand is a long way from the world’s large continents and most major population
centres. Humans only recently reached our shores using winds and currents. Maori were the
first to arrive followed by Europeans around 400 years later. Nowadays, almost all visitors to
our remote Pacific islands arrive by aircraft.
Two of our largest export industries are dairying and tourism. Together they earn valuable
income that supports New Zealand’s relatively high standard of living. But both are significant
contributors to greenhouse emissions.
There is a recognition in New Zealand of an urgent need to decarbonise our economy.
Reflecting this, the Zero Carbon Bill was introduced to Parliament in early May 2019. If passed
into legislation, it aims to set a target of zero carbon emissions by 2050. Agriculture, especially
the dairy industry, features prominently in climate change discussions in New Zealand. But
articles on Stuff
, The New Zealand Herald
and The Otago Daily Times
websites have now
begun to highlight the significant impact of air travel on climate change. Eating less meat or
giving up dairy products, catching the bus or driving an electric car can all help reduce both our
personal and national carbon footprints. However, for New Zealanders a single economy class
return trip to Europe elevates one person’s carbon footprint by an estimated 6 tonnes
according to one carbon calculator, 8 tonnes
by another and over 11 tonnes
by a third.
In this paper we focus primarily on carbon. But as will be discussed there are other important emissions from
aviation.
https://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/climate-news/111873871/climate-change-is-an-auckland-professors-nofly-
movement-beginning-to-soar
https://www.nzherald.co.nz/travel/news/article.cfm?c_id=7&objectid=12221564
https://www.odt.co.nz/lifestyle/resilient/trying-stay-
grounded?fbclid=IwAR18kQkVxnsc9sIAKkmsgZyZxziIqf7tBnC0BEfQU-tBOykB73qDmXH3opg
https://www.clevel.co.uk/flight-carbon-calculator/
https://calculators.enviro-mark.com/public?calculator=travel
https://www.atmosfair.de/en/offset/flight/
If travelling first class, using the last calculator the figure rises to nearly 27 tonnes.
4
Given our place in the world, it should be no surprise that domestic aviation emissions are
swamped by emissions from international flights in and out of New Zealand. These are the
flights that bring tourists and business people to New Zealand and allow New Zealanders to
explore the world, attend conferences and undertake business overseas. However, increasingly
it is tourism which is the largest component of international travel, particularly in relation to
New Zealand.
According to Tourism New Zealand, in 2018 total tourism expenditure was $39.1 billion, an
increase of 7.7 percent ($2.8 billion) from the previous year.
International tourism expenditure
increased 9.6 percent ($1.4 billion) to $16.2 billion and contributed 20.6 percent to New
Zealand’s total exports of goods and services. Tourism generated a direct contribution to gross
domestic product (GDP) of $15.9 billion, or 6.1 percent of GDP.
Perhaps reflecting the importance of the industry, the tourism strategy produced by the
government, also in May 2019, does not have climate change at its centre. Instead it has words
such as ‘sustainability’ sprinkled through and avoids setting out a realistic plan for
decarbonising the industry.
In the introduction to the Tourism Strategy summary document it states
International visitor arrivals have grown by 43 percent in the last five years and
spending by domestic visitors is also rising.
This increase in tourism growth is only expected to continue. Annual international
arrivals are forecast to reach more than five million by 2024.
These projections are based on data put out by MBIE which suggests international tourism
arrivals could increase from 3.9 million people in 2018 to 5.1 million by 2024. This is up from 2.8
million in 2005. Almost all will arrive and depart by air. While travel to and from Australia is
popular, many are forecast to come from China and other places a long distance from New
Zealand.
In a Biodiversity Strategy consultation by the Department of Conservation, beginning in August
2019, climate change is seen as a major threat. But while tourism is seen as placing pressure on
our environment, continued growth in international arrivals is also assumed.
The New Zealand government also has a direct interest in aviation. As a majority shareholder in
Air New Zealand, the government has an interest in solving this problem for an airline which
https://www.tourismnewzealand.com/about/about-the-tourism-industry/
https://www.mbie.govt.nz/immigration-and-tourism/tourism/new-zealand-aotearoa-government-tourism-
strategy/
https://www.doc.govt.nz/globalassets/documents/conservation/protecting-and-restoring/biodiversity-
discussion-document.pdf
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presents itself as sustainable.
However, due to network expansion in recent years its
emissions have until recently been increasing.
In May 2019 the company announced it would
buy eight Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner long distance aircraft. These could be flying for the next
two decades. In the press release the efficiency gains of the new craft was emphasised.
During a subsequent interview Air New Zealand’s CEO, Christopher Luxton, claimed a 25% fuel
saving (over the 777-200 ER), but this gain in efficiency will depend on the number of seats
sacrificed to extend the normal range of 11,900 km to 14,180 km by adding New York as a
single flight destination.
It is clear from this interview that there will be fewer seats in
economy and more in the premium class. A claim was made that the airline would save the
emission of 190,000 tons of carbon per year and become more sustainable, yet the airline is still
expanding and extending its network to Taipei, New York, and Chicago. Borne out by the
overlap of delivery dates, the 787-10 aircraft will be phased in from 2022 whereas the 777-
200ER aircraft will not be phased out until 2025.
It is likely the Jevon paradox will be invoked that is; the increase in efficiency will encourage
the airline to seek an increase in passenger capacity. The result is very likely to be an increase
in carbon emissions not a decrease.
More significantly there was no mention of how fossil fuels will be amended or replaced with
either biofuel or synthetic fuel. Despite some early experiments with biofuel, Air New Zealand’s
short term sustainability strategy relies heavily on efficiency gains and on promoting an
ineffective voluntary carbon-offset scheme. Based on their own information sent out to
Frequent Flyer members in early 2019, under 2% of their frequent flyers offset their flights
through the Air New Zealand offset scheme. Long term plans are vague but depend on
technological innovations.
Air New Zealand is also replacing some of its turboprop fleet.
As of April 2019 it had 22
ATR72-600, with an average age of 3.1 years. Seven new ones are on order. Given the young
age of these currently fossil fuel powered aircraft, Air New Zealand is likely to want to keep
them flying to well beyond 2030.
If all aviation, both domestic and international, is included in New Zealand’s carbon reduction
targets we face a very significant challenge.
https://p-airnz.com/cms/assets/PDFs/2018-sustainability-report-exec-summary-report.pdf
https://www.airnewzealand.co.nz/sustainability-carbon-reduction-management
https://www.airnewzealand.co.nz/press-release-2019-airnz-announces-multi-billion-dollar-investment-in-new-
fuel-efficient-boeing-787-10-dreamliners
https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/travel/2019/05/the-reasons-behind-air-new-zealand-s-decision-to-invest-in-
boeing-s-787-10-dreamliner.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jevons_paradox
https://www.airnewzealand.com/fleet
6
We also have another major challenge: that of dealing with our waste stream, including a
considerable amount of difficult to recycle plastic. How is this related to aviation? As we will
explore, one of the partial solutions to decarbonising New Zealand’s aviation industry may also
help us better deal with our waste.
Like Michael Liebreich, we believe that New Zealand urgently needs to develop a credible plan
for decarbonising our aviation industry. In order to help further discussion around this issue we
have produced this working paper. In this paper we focus primarily on air travel for people.
Clearly airfreight is also very important for New Zealand whether it be importing goods or
selling our products overseas.
Many flights combine freight and passengers, but freight is not
an area we have specifically researched. We also do not consider emissions from military-
related aviation. We present some of our own ‘back of the envelope’ calculations but are
conscious that more detailed investigation is needed.
We would like to thank Simon Millar of Pure Advantage for allowing us to re-use much of the
material published on that website in July 2019.
We have also drawn on material posted on
New Zealand’s Fly Less Kiwi Facebook page.
While this discussion focuses on New Zealand the issues are relevant to our Pacific Island
neighbours, who are vulnerable to the effects of climate change but also depend heavily on
aviation.
Finally, neither author is an aviation expert. However, as individuals concerned about climate
change we consider it is important to generate debate about flying. We need others to take
these discussions forward, refine the arguments, and more importantly determine the
solutions.
Increasingly there is discussion in the media about food miles, including isolating out air miles
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/food-miles-carbon-footprints-climate-change-sustainability-
a9050406.html?fbclid=IwAR231j35-5to88tyAWYd_8KUDdhjbh84RPyuz2q1r9oS3Rh4pyXWeWdibwA
https://pureadvantage.org/news/2019/06/18/can-new-zealanders-keep-flying-while-reducing-their-carbon-
footprint-1-3/
https://www.facebook.com/groups/352684145282681/
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Our demographic makeup
We have already mentioned New Zealand’s remote location. But our demographic mix also
adds to the challenge of decarbonising aviation. Over recent decades the number of people
living in New Zealand who were born overseas has continued to increase. In 2013, 1,001,787
people (25.2 percent) were born overseas, an increase of 303,159 people since the 2001 Census
(19.5 percent).
More difficult to estimate is the number of New Zealanders who live overseas. Some estimates
put this at over 1 million.
This includes one in six Maori.
This suggest that many individuals have family and friendship links outside New Zealand.
So what is the contribution of aviation to national and international
greenhouse emissions and who flies?
A headline in the July 26th 2019 Australian Business Insider notes ‘Wednesday was one of the
busiest recorded days in aviation history and it's going to keep getting busier’. The story
went on to say that more than 225,000 flights took to the skies on Wednesday, July 24, more
than ever recorded before.
Figure 1: Flights on 24th July 2019
http://archive.stats.govt.nz/Census/2013-census/profile-and-summary-reports/quickstats-culture-
identity/birthplace.aspx
http://archive.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/population/mythbusters/1million-kiwis-live-overseas.aspx
https://www.population.org.nz/app/uploads/2010/01/nzpr-vol-33-and-34_paul-hamer.pdf
https://www.businessinsider.com.au/most-flights-ever-225000-flightradar24-flight-tracking-2019-7?r=US&IR=T
8
Who flies?
Currently, most people in the world do not fly. Writing in 2017, National Geographic estimated
that 80% of the world population had never set foot on an aircraft.
In the UK, an often-quoted figure is that 70% of flights are taken by just 15% of the
population.
In the United States a survey conducted by Ipsos in early 2018 provides some
additional information.
It shows the steady growth of both those who had ‘ever’ flown and
those who have flown in the last year. But it does indicate that about half the population are
infrequent flyers.
Figure 2:
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/urban-expeditions/transportation/air-travel-fuel-emissions-
environment/.
https://stay-grounded.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/progressive-ticket-tax-frequent-flyer-
levy.pdf?fbclid=IwAR16ImpL3965NBkA5CB-WrW3dmsM7sZrN1g8nrdBVovgtoEySKtSh-I_C64
http://airlines.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/A4A-AirTravelSurvey-20Feb2018-FINAL.pdf
9
Figure 3:
The study provides some important age and income information. It is the younger age groups
who are the most frequent flyers. And people from higher income households also fly more.
However, there is no information on miles flown.
Another important piece of data is business versus tourism travel. Increasingly, it is tourism-
related flying that dominates.
10
Figure 5:
Figure 6:
Statistics New Zealand used to collect reason for travel data for those leaving New Zealand via
departure cards. These were discontinued in Oct 2018. However, their most up to date visitor
statistics also indicate that business-related overseas travel is much less frequent than travel for
11
other reasons. A similar pattern exists for arrivals. It is tourism-related travel which has been
growing strongly.
Figure 7:
Finally, there are some industries and sectors that are more aviation-intensive than others.
Obviously, tourism is very dependent on flying. But another one is academia.
Figure 8 shows a breakdown of Victoria University of Wellington’s emissions in 2018. Aviation
emissions make up just under a third of total emissions.
As they note ‘[a]ir travel remains a very
challenging source of emissions for us to manage.’
https://www.victoria.ac.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/1770785/Zero-carbon-
plan.pdf?fbclid=IwAR1OI9HUuGSIpOiZmfnq8TqOHrEiv5Zc6krNB-TvPlcACYIHJOzja2jJ7do
0
500
1,000
1,500
2,000
2,500
Holiday Visiting friends &
relatives Business Education Conferences &
conventions
2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
(000)
Source: Stats NZ
Travel purpose
Travel purpose of visitors
Year ended December 201418
12
Figure 8
Emissions from aviation
Some forms of environmentally damaging activities are easy to highlight and measure. Pictures
of the burning Amazon forest, cows defecating while standing in a stream, or a diesel truck
belching out black smoke help win over public sympathy for curtailing such activities. But the
effects of aviation are more hidden. The industry claims an overall contribution of 2% of the
total CO2 emissions globally from this one fifth of the world’s population who currently fly.
However, a more nuanced assessment suggests the total contribution to global warming is
far greater. More importantly, there is potential for massive growth in emissions just as other
sectors are beginning to reduce their global impacts.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC and the World
Meteorological Organisation (WMO), air transport contributes to 4.9% of human-caused
climate change.
Another challenging metric is the IATA forecast that the number of people
travelling by air is likely to double to 8.2 billion a year by 2037, with Asia and the Pacific leading
https://phys.org/news/2018-08-effect-global-aviation-environment.html
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the way.
The forecast for jet fuel is a staggering 9 million barrels a day by 2040.
If the 80%
of those in the world who do not currently fly begin to travel at the rate many New Zealanders
do and the world begins to dramatically reduce emissions in areas such as ground based
transport, then aviation would quickly become one of the world’s most significant sources of
damaging greenhouse emissions.
The following graphs give projections produced by the aviation industry. They show an
expected upward trend in emissions under various scenarios.
Figure 9
Source: ICAO Environmental Report, 2013, Aviation and Climate Change
Already many of the busiest air routes are in our region, including in Australia.
https://phys.org/news/2018-10-air-traffic-iata.html
https://www.mordorintelligence.com/industry-reports/jet-fuel-market
https://cfapp.icao.int/Environmental-Report-2013/files/assets/basic-html/index.html#25
14
Figure 10: Passenger numbers
New technologies, such as supersonic
and urban mobility aircraft
, risk increasing emissions
even further.
In New Zealand, domestic aviation, although important, is not the key contributor to the
growth in aviation emissions. According to the New Zealand Productivity Commission’s Low-
https://theicct.org/publications/noise-climate-impacts-unconstrained-supersonics
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HV3bKw2gizc
15
Emissions Economy report,
domestic aviation contributes about 6% of all national transport
emissions, but remained relatively unchanged between 1990 and 2016 as the shift to larger and
more fuel-efficient aircraft offset the increase in domestic air travel. The Air Transport Action
Group estimates that 80% of world emissions come from long flights, that is over 1,500km.
It is international aviation that accounts for the massive growth in aviation emissions. Yet when
countries, including New Zealand, consider their emissions’ reduction targets, emissions from
international aviation have generally not been counted. The New Zealand Productivity
Commission notes (pg 341): ‘International aviation and shipping emissions are not covered
under the Paris Agreement. The main reason for this is that attributing these emissions to a
specific country is more difficult than for other emissions sources. For instance, if a plane flies
from Auckland to London with a stopover in Singapore for refuelling, it is not obvious how the
emissions liability from these trips should be allocated’.
The Commission further notes that countries are required to report separately their
international transport emissions based on fuel supplied. The data relevant to New Zealand are
collated by the Ministry for the Environment.
These show that emissions rose 362,000 tonnes
or 11% in just one year between 2016 and 2017, with MfE calculating these emission levels
have increased by 178% since 1990.
In the last two decades the number of flights out of New
Zealand has more than doubled.
https://www.productivity.govt.nz/inquiry-content/3254?stage=4
https://www.atag.org/facts-figures.html?fbclid=IwAR3qNkKObBkiDxK0mfmGuU1-
UM4zaHYkWy9j199M1uwzSliIDkNKYAqMNFg
For New Zealand this is a somewhat disingenuous argument since New Zealand is essentially a final visitor
destination with Antarctica the only destination further south.
https://www.mfe.govt.nz/climate-change/state-of-our-atmosphere-and-climate/new-zealands-greenhouse-gas-
inventory
https://blog.planetaryecology.org/2019/04/12/new-zealands-greenhouse-gas-update-2017/?fbclid=IwAR0D1-
1xjGAHUK3wwKVhFYOKGAKjSostJbYJnNThBvVSeI5BXkFQ_93RYKw
16
Figure 11:
Source: Statistics New Zealand
Is it possible to get a better estimate of New Zealand’s contribution to global aviation
emissions? For the year ending July 2018 estimated jet fuel consumption for international
aviation in and out of New Zealand by visitors to the country was 1.65 million tonnes;
equivalent to 5.2 million tonnes of CO2. Another 2,830,000 trips are typically taken by New
Zealanders, mainly to Australia, Europe and the Americas, which accounts for another 3.42
million tonnes to make a total of 8.62 million tonne of CO2 emissions.
https://www.stats.govt.nz/news/record-short-term-travel-in-2017
https://figure.nz/table/z1upaWRbmYk2UtfV?types=g%2Cm
0
5,000
10,000
15,000
20,000
25,000
30,000
35,000
40,000
45,000
Number of flights out of NZ, December years
17
Alternatively we could take the Air New Zealand report (2018) on its GHG emissions for
international jet fuel; 2.982 million tonne of CO2.
In a 2018 presentation to shareholders, Air
New Zealand claim approximately 40% of the international long haul business, implying total
CO2 emissions of 7.45 million tonnes.
Significantly, these calculations do not take into account the radiative forcing the impact on
the overall energy balance of the planet caused by non-CO2 warming pollutants, such as
water vapour, aerosols and nitrogen oxides and contrails increasing high cirrus cloud. Following
the publication of a special report by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on
aviation in 1999, the total historic impact of aviation on the climate is estimated to have been
two to four times higher than for CO2 emissions alone. In view of the uncertainty of the
science we have chosen the lower estimate of 1.9 times (Measuring Emissions: A Guide for
Organizations 2019).
Allowing for this additional radiative forcing, the estimate due to aviation emissions becomes
approximately 16.4 million tonnes of CO2e. With tourist numbers doubling approximately
every 10 years, emissions from international flights to and from New Zealand are projected to
continue growing.
For comparison, the total carbon dioxide emissions from all liquid fuelled land transport in 2016
was 14.34 million tonnes of CO2. If initiatives such as supporting EVs are successful in creating a
shift in our light vehicle fleet, a modest saving may be made in the emissions from land
transport, once allowances are made for population growth.
Using airport companies as a source of information, it is not surprising that flight numbers are
forecast to expand. Auckland Airport company is currently planning for 40 million passengers
per year to pass through their facility by 2040.
Wellington Airport have plans for ongoing
expansion.
Various estimates have been put forward for the Queenstown region, including
Wanaka, such as over 7 million air passengers per year expected by 2045.
A range of calculators allow individuals to estimate their own emissions from flying. There are
of course many variables to consider. These include age and type of plane, how full it is,
whether trips are direct, whether you travel economy or first class, and as already mentioned,
https://p-airnz.com › cms › PDFs › Air_NZ_GHG_Inventory_-Report_2018
https://www.nzx.com/announcements/319297
https://www.mfe.govt.nz/sites/default/files/media/Climate%20Change/corrections-to-2019-measuring-
emissions-guide-for-organisations.pdf
https://www.stats.govt.nz/indicators/new-zealands-greenhouse-gas-emissions
https://corporate.aucklandairport.co.nz/airport-of-the-future
https://www.wellingtonairport.co.nz/business/investor-services/2030-masterplan/
https://www.odt.co.nz/regions/wanaka/wanakas-airport-set-eclipse-queenstowns
18
of special importance, whether ‘radiative forcing’ is considered. The Flygreen website discusses
these various assumptions in detail.
Atmosfair also describes their assumptions.
Figure 12 shows a calculation for someone flying from Auckland to Europe.
Figure 12: Atmosfair calculator
https://flygrn.com/blog/carbon-emission-factors-used-by-flygrn
https://www.atmosfair.de/en/faqs/on_co2_calculation/
Carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, soot and sulphur particles as well as water vapour from aircraft engines
affect the climate with different durations and intensities. But because all of these together add to the
layers of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, atmosfair calculates them approximately in terms of
carbon dioxide.
In sum, the different emissions in high flight altitudes of more than nine kilometres have an effect that is
about three times as strong as the carbon dioxide of a flight.
In order to appropriately represent the climate impact of all flight emissions, the atmosfair emissions
calculator multiplies the CO2 emissions emitted at altitudes over 9 km with the global average
multiplicator of 3. This multiplicator results when the global warming potential of all non-CO2 effects is
integrated and discounted over 100 years (UNFCC) and (David Lee et al., “Transport impacts on
atmosphere and climate: Aviation”, in atmospheric environment (44), 2010).50
19
As the Atmosfair calculator indicates, a return economy flight to Europe has much higher
emissions than driving a fossil fuel car for a year.
These data suggest that individually and as a nation, there is a need to quickly figure out ways
to reduce the greenhouse effects of aviation.
Options for decarbonising New Zealand aviation
Courageous new strategies are needed for all of New Zealand’s aviation industry. Currently
the EU and some Scandinavian countries are taking the lead in aviation fuel transformation.
New Zealand needs to reclaim our clean and green credibility through joined-up R&D to help
innovate and decarbonise the aviation industry.
But is it actually realistic to think that in the short-term humans can keep flying at current and
potentially expanding levels and concurrently decarbonise the industry? In the short term, the
answer has to be no. A reduction in actual flying, particularly internationally, is the only
practical option to meet near-term emission reduction targets. However, this would have
significant implications for the tourism industry, for New Zealanders wishing to travel overseas
and for trade. There are currently no practical ways to reach overseas destinations except by
air.
Most notably in Sweden there is a Fly-less movement.
It has been credited with increasing
interest in train travel. There is also a Fly-less Kiwi Facebook page in New Zealand which
discusses ways of reducing flying. And there have been NZ stories about well-known individuals
who have cut back flying. For example, scientist Shaun Hendy had a year without flying in New
Zealand.
Overseas, there are high profile individuals who have dramatically cut back flying or
do not fly at all. Greta Thunberg is probably the most famous.
Those promoting flying less suggest better use could be made of video conferencing, and there
are opportunities for organising of meetings so gatherings in distant places can be clustered.
Many academics, including some of those most concerned about climate change, are reluctant
to give up the opportunities to network offered by attendance at international conferences. But
research suggests it is the well-established senior academics, not early career researchers, who
fly the most.
A small Canadian study whether those who flew the most were also the most
successful. They found that beyond a small threshold there was no relationship between
https://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/transport/aviation_en
https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/11/norway-airports-biofuels-avinor/
https://phys.org/news/2019-04-flight-shame-swedes-rethinking-air.html.
https://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/climate-news/109508954/scientist-shaun-hendys-year-of-no-flying-for-
climate-change
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/apr/26/greta-thunberg-train-journey-through-europe-
flygskam-no-fly
https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/11/9/2694/htm
20
scholarly output and how much individual academics fly. Men were more likely to fly than
women.
While voluntary reductions in flying help bring the issue attention, they are unlikely to have
much direct impact on international tourism.
Disincentives for flying?
Price is a very important factor in determing demand for a product or service. But a study
undertaken in Australia shows the cost of air travel had fallen dramatically over the last 25
years. Economy air fares in Australia in 2018 were 55% of the average cost in 1992 (after
adjusting for inflation).
Taking a longer timeframe, in 1945, it took 130 weeks for a person
earning the average Australian wage to earn enough for the lowest Sydney to London return
airfare. In 2009, it took just 1.7 weeks.
This has spurred increased demand.
If voluntary action does not result in a reduction in air travel, disincentives to flying could be
implemented. The number of international tourist arrivals could be capped, for example, or the
new entry fee of $35 to New Zealand could be increased.
Or, as in Scotland, a departure tax
could be charged, as used to be the case in some airports in New Zealand.
Another option is
to make it more difficult to build or expand airports. A further idea would be to put a cap on the
number of flights that could take place from airports within a particular country and make
these allocations tradeable.
The only suggestion relating to aviation emissions proposed by the Productivity Commission in
its report is to increase the cost of flying, primarily through a substantial increase in the price of
carbon. Quoting Concept Consulting (2017), the Commission estimates that an emissions price
of $100 per tonne of CO2e could reduce domestic air travel demand by up to 12 percent (pg.
345). Compare this to the August 2019 New Zealand price of around $24 per tonne of CO2e. An
across the board increase in the price of carbon lifts the cost of all fossil fuels and will affect
both the poor and the well off.
It seems that currently there is not the political will to dramatically lift the price of carbon in
New Zealand. But aviation fuel could be targeted with a tax. Based on the data already shown
https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2019/06/21/do-the-best-academics-fly-
more/?fbclid=IwAR1sLbhDbk1GMZlbHFH7EO5OWfrUe-iW2LUwLN56t8DkR8m7OeVl7RGFwMU
https://theconversation.com/why-our-carbon-emission-policies-dont-work-on-air-travel-
99019?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Imagine%205&utm_content=Imagine%205+CID_5b51cafb3e97034b3
6c563fbcc1259ed&utm_source=campaign_monitor_uk&utm_term=Why%20Australias%20carbon%20emission%2
0policies%20dont%20work%20on%20air%20travel
https://www.atag.org/facts-figures.html?fbclid=IwAR3qNkKObBkiDxK0mfmGuU1-
UM4zaHYkWy9j199M1uwzSliIDkNKYAqMNFg
https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12132687
https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-
48191110?fbclid=IwAR0bg4mY8QBtvse6URo6zubf6UpXhXSzG1piSNYDHV4XpKEP1Xt3oM-RhTg
21
this would affect higher income households more than lower income ones. Aviation fuel for
domestic flying can be taxed, but a 1944 international agreement prevents taxes being placed
on fuel used for international travel.
Finally, there are not the same personal incentives for reducing flying as there are for some
other climate change-related lifestyle related activities. For example, switching to a vegan diet
can not only help reduce the production of greenhouse gases but can have major personal
health benefits as well as soothing the consciences of animal lovers. Riding a bike or walking
instead of driving a car can also have health benefits. Driving an electric car might induce some
range anxiety but overall simply replaces the mobility offered by fossil fuelled vehicles.
Reducing flying generally involves some sacrifice.
Removing incentives?
There are a number of incentives for flying. One is the loyalty schemes that most airlines run.
The more you fly the more you earn. Potentially, those travelling on business trips can keep the
points themselves thus gaining a tax free incentive. This can be partially stopped by businesses
requiring their staff not to use these schemes. Frequent-flier mileage programs can be valuable
to airlines, as business travellers and other first-class passengers will often link their credit cards
to the programs and allow their consumption behaviours to be monitored.
Organisations such as Z Energy promote sustainability. For example Z runs an offsetting scheme
investing in permanent forests.
Yet, in a mixed message, Z also supports the Fly Buys and
Airpoints tax free reward schemes. This may not only encourage flying but also mean that one
group of customers are subsidised by those not belonging to or using such schemes.
Figure 13: Z Energy promotions
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_Convention_on_International_Civil_Aviation
https://z.co.nz/about-z/news/sustainability-news/z-energy-invests-heavily-in-permanent-forest-sinks/
22
Increasingly, overseas holidays are being offered as incentives for taking up various offers
including home loans and house purchases.
There is even a New Zealand website dedicated to
competitions to win holidays, many of which involve overseas flights.
Figure 14
Internationally, there is a concern that flying is subsidised in various ways including
governments supporting uneconomic airports.
In New Zealand, Regional Development Minister Shane Jones has criticised Air New Zealand for
dropping regional services and attempted to garner support from the Provincial Growth Fund
to boost two small regional airlines.
More recently Jones suggested that the taxpayer should
offer support to struggling regional airports such as Whanganui, an airport that is within an
hour’s drive of Palmerston North airport.
In Kapiti, the local council has provided some
https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/homed/latest/115273467/incentives-to-buy-a-house-are-offered-for-all-price-
ranges?fbclid=IwAR0upY2DKUrxrSBHlLkpeqJ3TiC9CmG1KbpfqwxsE04f3YUc17XA16bzSyc
https://winstuff.co.nz/win-holiday/
https://www.transportenvironment.org/press/24-ryanair-airports-likely-be-propped-subsidies-%E2%80%93-
fueling-rapid-emissions-growth?fbclid=IwAR3o4KvIOHW-bcMG6TEdeThXQuZ2y3W-
zuixPykNzuxUb7PoDuzNkQoVPLA
https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/112266312/provincial-fund-plan-to-spend-30-million-on-airlines-
gets-the-chop
https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/114096731/taxpayerfunded-bailouts-on-the-cards-for-cashstrapped-
regional-airports
23
support to Air Chathams to commence services to the area.
Such support is likely to most
benefit the middle class.
There is also a high level of promotion for international travel through various media outlets.
Even environmentally focussed magazines, such as the Forest & Bird magazine, are supported
by advertisements for such travel. The Department of Conservation has close links with Air New
Zealand.
Finally, global inequalities can be an incentive for long distance travel. If there is a big difference
in wage rates and prices for good and services between countries, then people from well off
nations will be prepared to travel long distances for cheap holidays. Reducing inequalities,
and/or increasing the cost of travel, may encourage more local travel.
Offsets
Corsia
is a UN agreement designed to help the aviation industry make all growth in
international flights after 2020 “carbon neutral”. It is effectively an offset scheme.
As argued by the New Zealand Parliamentary Commission for the Environment, offsetting
carbon produced from fossil fuels is not an effective decarbonisation strategy.
In fact, a focus
on offsetting has delayed real carbon reductions.
There is growing evidence around the problem of aviation related carbon offsets. These
include:
Schemes have not worked. Many offset schemes have been based on unrealistically low
carbon prices and ineffective offsets.
Offsets cannot act quickly enough
Offsets distract from the real issue of necessary reductions
Offsets shift our moral responsibility to reduce to someone else
Offset programmes may have happened regardless
Difficulty in measuring offsets’ contributions
Carbon storage in trees is temporary
Offsets impact on indigenous communities
No incentive for reducing emissions or decarbonising air travel
https://www.kapiticoast.govt.nz/whats-on/news/2018/air-chathams-to-bring-back-kpiti-coast-to-auckland-air-
service/
https://www.doc.govt.nz/about-us/our-partners/our-national-partners/air-new-zealand/
https://www.icao.int/environmental-protection/CORSIA/Pages/default.aspx
https://www.pce.parliament.nz/publications/farms-forests-and-fossil-fuels-the-next-great-landscape-
transformation
https://www.responsibletravel.com/copy/carbon-
offsets?fbclid=IwAR3Z5u_4QvCz8lLSsGZH4LTo7ZQq4MN8vZN5sJafjp2ZlO1lAgRVVed2Yvg
https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2019/aug/02/offsetting-carbon-emissions-how-to-travel-options
24
Take up rates are insignificant. If in fact offset rates increased from the current takeup of 1-
2% it is doubtful whether schemes such as tree planting could expand sufficiently.
As an indication of the problems with offsets, a paper by Smith and Rodger (2009) calculated
the forest offsets which would be required for visitors to New Zealand in 2005.
When
considering these estimates, any calculations for recent years would have to be much higher
given the growth in tourism.
Regenerating New Zealand forests absorb 3 tonnes of CO2 each year per hectare of
forest (Landcare Research, n.d.). By setting aside land for forest to regenerate, some of
the emissions produced by visitors to New Zealand could be offset. In order to offset
the2005 visitor emissions, 26,300km2 of regenerating forest would be required. This is
the size of 15 Stewart Islands, or 10% of the country’s total land area. It would require
increasing New Zealand’s total forested area by one third, probably by decreasing the
50% of New Zealand land area used for pasture (Ministry for the Environment, 1997).
Offsetting at this level is likely not to be feasible given the difficulties the Billion Trees
programme is facing. But perhaps more importantly, it would have a major negative impact on
agricultural production.
As an indication of why offsetting take up rates are insignificant, a US survey shows
environmental concerns about flying are low on the list of considerations when choosing an
airline.
Figure 15
Smith, I. J. and Rodger, C. J. (2009) Carbon emission offsets for aviation-generated emissions due to international
travel to and from New Zealand, Energy Policy, 3438-3447.
25
Alternatives to flying
Greta Thunberg has attracted worldwide attention through speaking at climate change forums
throughout Europe. She has not flown to these but travelled by train, passenger ferry and
electric car.
But while Greta can reach many of the world’s capital cities by these modes of
travel, a New Zealander can only reach one. When Greta decided it was important to speak at
the UN in New York she faced the problem New Zealanders come up against: how to travel
overseas without flying. High carbon emission cruise liners were rejected and Greta used a
racing yacht.
This is a great publicity stunt but not a practical solution.
Some locally publicised New Zealand experiments in reducing flying using land-based low
carbon forms of domestic travel show real difficulties.
Such land transport, especially regional
rail, has been run down over a number of decades. Unlike many European cities, we do not
have rapid rail linking our major centres.
There is no overnight train between Auckland and
Wellington. In Europe such services are being re-instated.
In the past there used to be an
overnight ferry between Wellington and Christchurch.
There are opportunities in the short
term to convert trains, buses and ferries to run on fuels such as hydrogen or electricity.
Some land-based companies are starting to emphasise the carbon savings for their form of
travel.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/apr/26/greta-thunberg-train-journey-through-europe-
flygskam-no-fly
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jul/29/greta-thunberg-to-sail-across-atlantic-for-un-climate-
summits
https://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/climate-news/111873871/climate-change-is-an-auckland-professors-
nofly-movement-beginning-to-soar
https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2019/06/28/a-history-of-regional-and-long-distance-buses-in-new-
zealand/
https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/europe-revives-night-trains-e2-80-94-to-fight-climate-change/ar-
AAG9NFh
https://nzhistory.govt.nz/culture/lyttelton-wellington-ferries
https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesellsmoor/2019/08/18/the-worlds-largest-electric-ferry-has-completed-its-
maiden-
voyage/?utm_source=FACEBOOK&utm_medium=social&utm_term=Paulie%2F&fbclid=IwAR214VuFQeUy0oxGrOe
UOD8BX0r2eshNXYtAjz0EIcnhgfOsA5E1f9DURNc#6409b53f556a
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/sep/17/germany-launches-worlds-first-hydrogen-powered-
train
26
Figure 16
We believe developing and supporting alternative forms of domestic low carbon ground-based
travel is crucial to any effort to reduce the impact of aviation.
Finding alternatives to flying to overseas countries is far more challenging with no solutions on
the horizon. Wind powered freighters have been proposed and potentially there could be wind
powered passenger ships.
Using such services from New Zealand would change travel time
from about a day to many weeks. Trips to Australia and Pacific islands such as Fiji or Tonga
would be much shorter but still days rather than hours. This requires much more research
nationally and internationally.
Figure 17
https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2019/05/21/a-national-public-transport-network/
http://www.dykstra-na.nl/designs/wasp-ecoliner/
27
Better aviation technology?
Generally, evolving technology has been reducing greenhouse gas emissions per flight. There
have been many innovations, including engine design, changing the way air flows over wings to
reduce drag, using advanced materials to make engines and airframes lighter, and better air
traffic control reducing flight times and on the ground fuel saving techniques. These small gains
are likely to continue.
But the growth in the number of people flying keeps outstripping
these gains.
There are also some surprises when it comes to technology. One example is that turboprop
planes create fewer emissions than jets and out to a range of 500 NM (926 km) are more fuel
efficient.
As well as lower CO2 emissions, there is less radiative forcing due to the lower
altitude at which these planes fly.
Where technology could make a much larger difference is in the replacement of fossil fuels.
Alternative fuels
On the Air Transport Action website (representing a consortium of aviation interests) it is stated
in August 2019 that a third of the operating costs of airlines is spent on fuel, up from 13% in
2001.
This suggests that airlines, and their fare structures, will be very sensitive to any
changes in fuel costs.
Electric and hydrogen powered planes
There appear to be two theoretical options to maintain air travel while simultaneously reducing
greenhouse emissions. The first is using electric planes with the electricity supplied from
renewable sources. In 2018 Norway announced an aim for all short haul flights to be electric
powered by 2040.
In the medium term, some short flights may be made by a new breed of electric planes. But
there are many problems with electric powered planes, mainly the energy density of their
batteries and weight.
To store the same amount of energy in a kilogram of kerosene requires
43 kg of the best lithium batteries which must be carried for the full duration of the flight. The
full magnitude of this penalty becomes clear once you consider that the power required to keep
https://www.bbc.com/news/business-48185337
https://aviationbenefits.org/newswire/2019/04/easyjet-and-derwent-technology-will-reduce-aircraft-emissions/
https://aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/1814/which-engine-is-more-efficient-between-turboprop-vs-jet
https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/2016JD025051
https://www.atag.org/facts-figures.html?fbclid=IwAR3qNkKObBkiDxK0mfmGuU1-
UM4zaHYkWy9j199M1uwzSliIDkNKYAqMNFg
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/18/norway-aims-for-all-short-haul-flights-to-be-100-electric-by-
2040
https://doi.org/10.2514/6.2014-0535
28
an aircraft aloft is proportional to 2 times mass2. That is, doubling the mass will increase the
power requirement eight fold.
Figure 18
Zunum Aero Seattle had plans to develop a 1,000 km range, short-haul aircraft (able to carry six
to 12 passengers) powered by two electric turbofans. Power would have been supplied by wing
batteries supplemented by a 500kw turbo generator, with plans to upscale to a 50-seater with a
1,600 km range by 2027. However, this company is experiencing funding difficulties and
recently laid off dozens of employees and brought its operations to a halt.
Airbus, in partnership with Siemens and Rolls Royce, had been using the 200 seat BAE 146 as a
test bed. One of the four engines was replaced by an electric turbofan.
In mid 2019 Rolls-
Royce acquired Siemens' electric and hybrid-electric aerospace propulsion activities.
At the 2019 Paris airshow Israeli startup Eviation Aircraft was reported as taking orders for a
$US4 million electric plane.
The aircraft is rated to fly 1,046 km at around 805 km/h with three
electric motors on the tail and one on each wingtip. The prototype carries a 900 kWh lithium-
ion battery. This was noted as being about nine times bigger than Tesla’s largest automotive
battery. However, the plane carries just nine passengers.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNvzZfsC13o
https://www.geekwire.com/2019/seattle-area-electric-aircraft-maker-zunum-aero-facing-financial-trouble-
reported-layoffs/
https://www.airbus.com/newsroom/press-releases/en/2017/11/airbus--rolls-royce--and-siemens-team-up-for-
electric-future-par.html
https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/paris-siemens-sells-eaircraft-business-to-rolls-roy-459092/
https://qz.com/1650449/electric-airplanes-take-flight-at-the-paris-air-show/
29
One of the first customers is Cape Air, a regional airline in the state of Massachusetts that
completes hundreds of short flights each day. Cape Air is reported as having 92 planes serving
about half a million passengers annually, making it one of the largest regional airlines in the US.
The air show writeup noted for flights under a few hundred miles electric propulsion is much
cheaper. With lower maintenance, faster turnaround, and more durable systems, electric
aircraft may save millions of dollars for short-haul airlines each year. The article went on to
note:
But large jet aircraft makers aren’t waiting for the electric revolution. Hybrid technology,
in which electric-assist kicks in throughout the flight, will be ready in the next few years.
Boeing and JetBlue have invested in Zunum Aero to roll out a hybrid craft later this year.
Right behind is the merged United Technologies-Raytheon releasing a hybrid retrofit of
its regional turboprop, and Airbus’s entry is due out in 2022. Meanwhile the number of
electric aircraft under development keeps growing. Consultancy Roland Berger expects
the number to jump from 170 to 200 by year’s end.
The fact that Zunum Aero is now in financial difficulties shows some of this optimism needs to
be tempered.
While electric hybrid planes seem unnecessarily complicated, they may begin to have some
small impact on domestic aviation in the medium term. But all the electric options would
require significant increases in production of electricity from renewable sources, an issue we
will return to shortly. The cost of flying would likely increase too, simply through having to
abandon the current fleet of aircraft and replace them with a new fleet.
A more feasible approach might be small electric planes powered by hydrogen fuel cells,
making short, regional trips. ZeroAvia has conducted a number of successful flight tests using a
Piper M-class airframe with a target of producing a low cost commuter plane of 10 to 20 seats
and a range of 800 km.
Another highly innovative approach to air travel is a back-to-the-future-airship with 50% of the
lifting capacity provided by helium and the remainder by winged powered flight with normal
landing and takeoff.
https://www.theverge.com/2019/8/14/20804257/zeroavia-hydrogen-airplane-electric-flight
http://www.ohioairships.com/dynalifter--drone-runner-.html
30
Figure 19
Figure 20
While electric planes offer some potential to transform regional airlines, unless there is some
significant scientific breakthrough in the foreseeable future, international flights in and out of
New Zealand will continue to use liquid fuels.
31
Liquid fuels
Liquid fuels appear more attractive for New Zealand. With our current stock of aircraft reliant
on liquid fuels, increasingly blending lower carbon synthetic biofuels with fossil jet fuel will be
essential to beginning to decarbonise aviation.
CAAFI, (Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative) was formed in 2006 in response to
three concerns regarding aviation fuels: 1) supply security, 2) affordability and price stability,
and 3) environmental impacts. Membership is diverse but includes few airlines outside the US,
notably Cathy Pacific and Lufthansa. Air New Zealand is not listed as a member. However Air
New Zealand is a member of SAFUG (Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group) who have signed a
Sustainability Pledge, and believe that a key driver to a carbon neutral industry is advancing and
adopting sustainable aviation biofuels. This will significantly reduce the life cycle GHG emissions
over conventional petroleum-based aviation fuels. A decade has passed since the first biofuel-
powered flight which raises the question of why progress has been so slow.
Members of SAFUG aim to use fuels that:
Exhibit minimal impact on biodiversity
Meet a sustainability standard with respect to land, water, and energy use
Do not displace or compete with food crops
Provide a positive socioeconomic impact
Do not require any special fuel handling equipment, distribution systems, or changes to
engine design
The EU and Nordic countries are mandating biofuel content for transport fuels. The Finnish
Parliament has (6 February 2019) approved a law that sets a gradually increasing proportion to
30 percent biofuels as a target for 2030. Many other countries, such as Sweden and Norway,
are also walking the talk on climate change mitigation in the transport sector. To help jump-
start this transition, the Norwegian government announced last October that airlines operating
in Norwegian airspace will have to use 0.5 percent biofuels in their jet fuel by 2020.
If biofuel is going to be mandated in the near future, what is the state of the production and
supply chain? First, the requirements are defined by an ASTM specification D7566. Broadly, jet
fuel is a kerosene fraction of mainly paraffinic C8 to C16 hydrocarbons and a minor amount of
aromatics. Sustained flight at temperatures of -50°C requires a freezing point of less than -
48°C. The usual process of simply esterifying a vegetable oil to make a biodiesel will not meet
this specification. Additional refinery capacity to hydrogenate, crack and isomerise the
vegetable source is required. Current permitted maximum blending ratios of these synthesised
biofuels are 50%.
https://bioenergyinternational.com/policy/norway-to-introduce-0-5-sustainable-aviation-fuel-quota-from-2020
32
Meeting a modest 2% of demand would require as much as $10 billion investment in new
refinery capacity. Alt Energy, now World Energy, has just completed a refinery conversion to
produce 600 million litres of jet biofuels per annum.
Only five airports have regular biofuel distribution today (Bergen, Brisbane, Los Angeles, Oslo and
Stockholm). The 15 million litres produced in 2018 comprised less than 0.1% of total aviation fuel
consumption. There have also been criticisms that much biofuel has been produced from
environmentally damaging feedstocks such as palm oil.
Converting rainforests, peat lands, savannas, or grasslands to produce food cropbased
biofuels in Brazil, Southeast Asia, and the United States creates a “biofuel carbon debt”
by releasing 17 to 420 times more CO2 than the annual greenhouse gas (GHG)
reductions that these biofuels would provide by displacing fossil fuels.
Ultimately the limitation of the biofuel scenario is the amount of land area required for
cropping. Energy conversion solar to biomass is in the range of 0.5 to 1 watt/m2.
For
example, to supply our domestic aviation fuel requirements from an energy crop such as
Jatropha or Camelina would utilise up to 70% of New Zealand’s arable land. For a country
where agriculture is the largest tradable sector of the economy, this is clearly not feasible. A
smaller contribution to biofuel production through using waste fats or algae based production
may be possible.
A 2018 study outlines a roadmap for the production of biofuels in New Zealand.
The report
addresses the longer-term problem of decarbonising the more difficult transport sectors
including aviation. The Bioenergy Value Chain Model was used to consider a wide range of
process technologies and feed stocks. The feed stocks would come mainly from new forests and
forest residues using pyrolysis to produce crude bio oil, which with further refining could be
used as a “drop in” substitute for diesel and be blended with fossil based jet fuel.
Low energy conversion of sun to biomass, a yield of log to fuel of 78kg per ton, and restraints
on land use would limit the replacement of fossil fuels to an optimistic 30% of 2015
consumption. However, at scale it is estimated a generic fossil fuel could be produced at
NZ$0.89/L. But to meet the high specification jet fuel the cost increases to NZ$2.21/L
compared to the landed cost of Jet fuel NZ0.65/L (April 2019).
Could biomass wastes be a low cost biofuel feedstock? If land fill costs are taken into account,
wood waste from construction and demolition and municipal solid waste could be assigned a
negative cost. Harvest residues left in forests, and processing co-products from sawmills, or
http://www.worldenergy.net/
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/20/magazine/palm-oil-borneo-climate-catastrophe.html
https://science.sciencemag.org/content/319/5867/1235
There is potential to improve the efficiency of photosynthesis through genetic modification. However, such
techniques are likely to be contentious. https://phys.org/news/2019-01-scientists-photosynthesis-genetically.html
http://www.scionresearch.com/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/63332/Biofuels_TechnicalReport.pdf
33
tallow from meat-processing and waste cooking oils are further examples reported in the table
from the report and by biofuel producers.
Figure 21
Table 5.4: Maximum potential of residuals and
by-products. Amount produced (thousand
oven dry ton/yr, 2015)
Substitution potential (% of total 2015
liquid fuel demand)
Tallow
178
2.2
Municipal solid waste
2358
0.7
Wood waste
229
0.8
Forest residues
1,240
4.5
Total
8.2
Source:
http://www.scionresearch.com/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/63332/Biofuels_TechnicalReport.pdf
Although tallow and vegetable methyl esters are a possible refinery feedstock for jet fuels, the
economics of this limited resource would favour the production of biodiesel.
This has been
the strategy of Z Energy with its biodiesel plant.
A biodiesel grants scheme, which was in force from July 2010, subsidised fatty methyl ester
production at $0.42/L. This subsidy was discontinued in June 2012. The Biofuel Bill 2007 aimed
to create a biofuel sales obligation in New Zealand, under which every fuel supplier’s sales
would have to include at least 0.5% biofuels. The Bill was signed into law in September 2008
and then was repealed in December of the same year after an unfavourable report by the
Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.
With the low blending rates currently used, the ETS trading scheme is ineffective in
incentivising a change to biofuels. Most early production of biofuel in New Zealand will go to
decarbonising road based transport. So biofuel is not the aviation solution we are looking for.
Nxtfuels is a New Zealand company exploring such options https://nxtfuels.com/applications/greenfields/
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s13068-018-1020-4.
https://z.co.nz/keeping-business-on-the-move/fuels/z-biodiesel/info-hub/our-biodiesel-plant/
https://www.pce.parliament.nz/media/1308/pce-biofuels-update2.pdf
34
Emerging Fuel Technologies
There are a number of evolving technologies. Many ultimately rely on electricity so determing
ways of increasing the production of renewable electricity is critical.
Figure 22
Quantafuel, a start-up company, has devised a process for converting unrecyclable plastic to
hydrocarbon fuels.
The process, described in US pat 9199888, comprises cold plasma
pyrolysis of plastic waste at 450°C. The resulting gasses are further processed via the Fischer
Tropsch process to a range of hydrocarbons suitable for jet fuel and low sulphur diesel. The
technology has the potential to extend to wood and municipal waste. The business model is to
quickly deploy small efficient plants to transform waste locally. The first commercial plant, a 60
tonnes per day plant in Skive Denmark, is expected to be in production this year, 2019. The
process is low carbon, and cost competitive when compared with refinery production of jet
fuel. The estimated fuel resource is in excess of 200Mt of waste plastic and increasing.
A similar process is used for converting biomass with supercritical high pressure steam at
temperatures of greater than 350°C and up to 700°C. Gases, mainly hydrogen and methane,
are suitable for conversion into liquid fuels via the FischerTropsch process. A wide variety of
https://quantafuel.com
35
feed stocks may be used, from sewage sludge, to municipal waste and wood. The energy
recovery is greater than either composting or anaerobic digestion to produce methane.
These options offer an opportunity to help solve another environmental problem: the reduction
of waste going to landfills.
Electric Power to liquid fuels (PtL) is another alternative to sustainable fuels. Provided a low
cost supply of low carbon electrical energy is available, this is a more scalable alternative.
Nordic Blue in partnership with Sunfire and Climeworks AG have already begun the engineering
of a PtL facility.
Carbon dioxide is extracted from air and reduced in a power cell by steam electrolysis to
produce carbon monoxide and hydrogen. This gas mixture is transformed at high
pressure and temperature in the presence of a catalyst to liquid fuels by the Fischer
Tropsch process. The plant will have an annual production capacity of 8,000 tonnes and
is expected to be operational in 2020. At a projected price of 2 euro/L this represents
about 4 times the premium of the current jet fuel price of USD 0.5/L. Economy of scale
will reduce this cost. As a proof-of-concept project it will be supported by the
Norwegian and Scandinavian countries, via mandating the increased use of sustainable
fuels over their airspace. Gunnar Holen, CEO of Nordic Blue Crude AS, said in a
statement:
Our goal is to tenfold the capacity as soon as we have enough experience from
operating the first plant in its first stage of operation with 10 million litres. In the long-
term, up to ten similar plants could become reality in Scandinavia. We are proud to
announce that we are now a full member of the Social Stock Exchange in London. This is
an important milestone in financing the plants.
In the year 2017 New Zealand imported 111 kilotonnes and produced 313 kilotonnes of jet fuel.
Using the Nordic Blue data this production would require 8,500 to 9,200 of GWhr of power
which is 20% of current New Zealand annual electricity production. Tiwai point uses 5,000
GWhr at NZ$60/MWhr. The electricity cost to produce New Zealand’s jet fuel requirement:
NZ$1.31/kg or NZ$1.05/L. With operating and capital expenses in addition to the power
needed the cost could be easily double. Using CO2 sources such as refinery off gases or CO2
extracted from natural gas may mitigate these costs.
To offset the premium for biofuels, the EU has a compliance benefit under RED II (Renewable
Energy Directive) regulations of 1.2 to 1. Although there is a target of 14% renewable transport
fuels by 2030, the premium for jet fuel production is too low when compared to the production
costs of biodiesel. California has a complicated system of credits which does offer some
incentive for the production of jet fuel over biodiesel.
https://nordicbluecrude.no
36
The Hydrogen Option Wind Power to Fuel New Zealand?
Is there a power to fuel option based on hydrogen ideally suited to New Zealand?
The proposed goal of the current government is to achieve 100% renewable electricity by 2035.
To cover seasonal variations there will be a requirement to overbuild renewable energy
capacity.
A large percentage of power will be being generated from wind energy sources
with intermittent and fluctuating outputs. There will be an increasing requirement for energy
storage and peak power generation to balance the grid. This problem can best be solved by
storing excess power as synthetic natural gas which can be stored or directly injected into
existing gas networks to be used by existing gas peaking assets or converted to transport fuels.
Globally there are over 50 power to synthetic natural gas projects planned, in progress, or
completed. Germany in particular has a renewable power problem. The technology is being
driven by the significant gas distribution network assets, which Germany is unwilling to
abandon. The technology has been extensively described and reviewed.
Processing Kapuni and Maui natural gas is a point source of carbon dioxide gas which is
extracted and exhausted to the atmosphere. As already discussed, this carbon resource can be
converted into methane by reacting with hydrogen produced by electrolysis of water using
excess renewable power. The co-production of oxygen provides an additional economic carbon
capture offset via the Allam cycle.
https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12243414
https://about.taranaki.info/Taranaki-s-Industries/O-
G.aspxhttps://reader.elsevier.com/reader/sd/pii/S0960148115301610?token=B5BC9EC9323C5ADAC53426D7AB5
BD97327F8397BA3C4D12D432EE6C4B58F91DBF9C7DEC87016F7A411263DD6A7BFCA0A
https://www.forbes.com/sites/christopherhelman/2017/02/21/revolutionary-power-plant-captures-all-its-
carbon-emissions-at-no-extra-cost/#62d196f1402d
37
Figure 23: Kapuni CO2 gas extractors
From a local perspective, from 1986 to its closure in 1999 New Zealand had the only
commercial gas to gasoline plant in the world.
Potentially this facility could be re-
commissioned to produce jet fuel. Taranaki seems particularly well set up to support new
energy ventures.
Nuclear energy to fuel?
Electrification of our light vehicle transport is feasible but progressing too slowly. The
production of liquid hydrocarbon fuels, with the established distribution and heavy transport
infrastructure, cannot be cheaply replaced in a timely manner. We cannot yet harvest
sufficient energy from low energy intensity sources such as biofuels, solar energy and wind
power to decarbonise the land based economy, even before we consider keeping New
Zealanders and our increasingly numerous visitors flying to and from our shores.
If we wish
to keep flying, reduce our carbon footprint and secure a viable low carbon energy future, we
need to consider other ways we can generate the electricity required to create liquid fuels and
to power electric aircraft.
https://www.engineeringnz.org/our-work/heritage/heritage-records/motunui-synthetic-fuels-plant/
https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/112546151/government-to-build-27m-clean-energy-centre-in-taranaki-20m-
research-fund
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1tfRwuAAIUkk-WIhskfBdRSQ6auz2CUmI/view
38
…we can not continue drawing energy from fossil fuels and there is no chance that the
renewables, wind, tide and water power can provide enough energy and in time. If we
had 50 years or more we might make these our main sources. But we do not have 50
years; the Earth is already so disabled by the insidious poison of greenhouse gases that
even if we stop all fossil fuel burning immediately, the consequences of what we have
already done will last for 1,000 years. Every year that we continue burning carbon
makes it worse for our descendants and for civilisation.
The 2004 quote is from James Lovelock. Lovelock was among an early group of scientists who
warned of the dangers of global warming. He is best known for his Gaia theory.
Yet in many
countries, including New Zealand, nuclear energy is rejected.
While clean fusion is still in a theoretical stage, cleaner fission is being promoted.
John
Bucknell gave a presentation at the 2017 TEAC 8 conference promoting the use of a molten salt
nuclear reactor (MSR) as an energy source for the conversion of CO2 extracted from
desalinated water to liquid fuels.
For his conceptual process the calculated costs were
methanol USD 0.32/L and gasoline USD 0.44/L. The projected cost of nuclear power from a MSR
nuclear reactor is estimated at USD30/MWhr. The first practical MSR nuclear reactor will be
the Moltex design projected to come on line in 2027. This reactor design will have a
significantly lower hazard profile and environmental footprint than the current standard
AP1000 water moderated reactors.
http://www.jameslovelock.org/nuclear-power-is-the-only-green-solution/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaia_hypothesis
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusion_power
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1Fi3BnwL94
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stable_salt_reactor
39
Final thoughts
Rather than trying to comfort politicians in their utopias, scientists should instead help
them to get out of the denial of reality
Gérard Bonhomme, Professor emeritus, University of Lorraine Chairman Energy/Environment commission
of the French Physical Society
For all organisms it is the net energy, or the energy available to an organism or a society
after investments to obtain that energy that is important, indeed that may be the most
important factor in determining the long-term survival and wellbeing of humans and
society.
Energy, EROI and quality of life, Jessica G. Lambert N., Charles A.S. Hall https://www.sciencedirect.com ›
science › article › pii
Much of the New Zealand political discussion has centred on measures the farming community
should be taking to reduce methane emissions. There has been less discussion on the role of
our transport fuels for a zero carbon 2050 vision. In particular, in New Zealand there is a dearth
of published research on ways to decarbonise aviation. We urgently need discussion and
debate on this topic.
Voluntary or compulsory offsets are a distraction. In the short to medium term, reducing flying
needs to be the goal if we are to begin to decarbonize aviation. Certainly it would be easy to
remove many of the incentives for flying such as ratepayer subsidies for airports and scrapping
airpoint reward schemes. Domestically a reduction in flying would need to be supported by a
dramatic improvement in low carbon land and sea based travel. There is no easy way of
replacing international flights so reductions in flying seems the only feasible option. But unless
there is some major transformation in thinking, it would likely be a hugely unpopular goal for
much of the population. Some reduction may occur through various pricing mechanisms. But
even these actions are likely to be politically difficult to implement. That leaves the main option
as finding alternative fuels.
New Zealand is in an isolated position in the world and it behooves us to be self-sufficient on
transport fuels. We are currently signaling the decline of fossil fuel reliance within our shores.
This creates the dilemma of rapidly transforming our economy to increase our indigenous
sustainable energy, or suffering a catastrophic decline in our standard of living.
The correlation between Energy and GDP is discussed by Gail Tverberg
https://ourfiniteworld.com/2011/11/15/is-it-really-possible-to-decouple-gdp-growth-from-energy-growth/ and
Nikos Tsafos (Senior Fellow, Energy and National Security Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies
(CSIS)) discusses the difficulty to grow without using more energy in transportation.
https://www.csis.org/analysis/energy-and-growth-exploring-nuanced-relationship
40
If, as seems likely, we will retain most of our present aircraft and transport infrastructure until
2050, will we have enough sustainable energy to produce our requirement for liquid fuels?
David MacKay (Former UK Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department of Energy & Climate
Change) set out to find a global answer with the UK as an exemplar.111 Much of the forensic
numerical analysis with regard to the limits of harvesting wind, solar, tidal and other forms of
sustainable energy are relevant to New Zealand. His conclusions starkly reveal the difficult
choices that must urgently be made in spite of the lower cost penalties of carbon dioxide
emission. His estimate of 1 tonne of carbon dioxide per person per year to save the planet
would make overseas air travel from New Zealand a rare experience for the average New
Zealander. Excluding agriculture, our current carbon dioxide footprint is about 7 tonnes per
person per year.
The current estimate of our global carbon dioxide budget is 800 Gt for a 2°C climate
temperature increase. At 40 Gt/per year we have approximately 2 decades not only to reduce
our dependence on fossil fuels as an energy source for transport, but also to transform our
transport infrastructure. We need to rapidly investigate the best use of our remaining reserves
of carbon-based energy to secure our future energy needs. Profligate expenditure of fossil fuels
on air travel for leisure with trivial carbon offsets does not look to be a responsible option.
Globally the true costs of air travel emissions are not being costed into the price of a ticket.
One of the metrics not often discussed is EROI, the amount of energy returned on the energy
invested. For example it takes 1 barrel of oil to create 15 barrels of fuel. At EROI ratios less than
10, and with its associated demands on land use, we have seen that bio-energy is unlikely to do
the whole job of decarbonising transport and in particular air travel.
Power to liquid fuels, as we have seen from the Nordic Blue example, at best retains 50% of the
electrical energy invested in the production of a liquid fuel. By 2040 fossil fuel usage will be in
decline, but if we wish for a ‘business as usual’ growth scenario for domestic and international
flying, power to liquid fuel seems the only viable option, but only if we invest now in significant
sustainable energy infrastructure. To this end we will require a high energy intensity source of
renewable energy.
Is nuclear power an option? The current modern nuclear power plant has an EROI estimated
between 35 to 40. Using Brinkly C as an example, at US$8000/ KW to build, current nuclear is
unaffordable. Wind turbines have a similar EROI to current nuclear power but the range of
solar energy EROI values is significantly less. The energy intensity of wind is 2.5 watts/m2 and
solar 4 to 20 watts watts/m2., which limits their large scale deployment due to the constraints
of land area. It is also unlikely further major hydro schemes will be acceptable in New Zealand
and there is often local opposition to windfarms. However there are many innovative designs
emerging in nuclear technology based on molten salt. The Moltex SSR stable salt reactor has an
estimated build cost per KW lower than either coal or gas and an EROI at least an order of
magnitude greater than the present technology. The first build will be before 2030 and full
commercialization will follow in the decade after.
41
This design is a radical departure from the present Boiling Water Reactors.
While building
such plants in a volcanic and earthquakeprone country such as New Zealand has added
challenges, they do provide an answer to one major objection to nuclear: these plants can burn
radioactive waste from existing reactors. They operate at ambient pressure with non-volatile
salts as the working fluid. The waste stream is one twentieth of current nuclear reactors and is
dangerously radioactive for only 300 years. The risk of dispersal of volatile radioactive fuel is
virtually eliminated. This technology has a potential to be factory mass produced in a base unit
of 300 MWe and thereafter in increments of 150 MWe modules. A 1000 MWe power station
requires only a tenth of the land area of conventional nuclear at an energy intensity of 10000
w/m2. It looks to be the best energy source for achieving carbon neutral aviation fuels by 2050.
Yet there is no discussion of the advanced Generation IV nuclear technology in any of our “Zero
Carbon by 2050” documents. If we wish to keep flying at ever increasing rates, yet decarbonise
aviation, should this really be our nuclear free moment?
Whatever the remaining risks of new nuclear power, it should not be discounted as an
alternative option to the uncertainty of fossil fuels come 2040. As climate scientist James
Lovelock states, if we are to replace fossil fuels with low carbon alternative energy sources, it
cannot be business as usual. Liquid aviation fuel produced from fossil fuels is an incredible
source of energy. Replacement fuels will not be without their own risks. As economists like to
say ‘there is no such thing as a free lunch’.
https://www.powerengineeringint.com/articles/print/volume-24/issue-9/features/a-reactor-worth-its-salt.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/There_ain%27t_no_such_thing_as_a_free_lunch
... The two largest groups of migrants are from the UK (265,000 people) and China (144,000). Perhaps 1 million New Zealanders live overseas, including one in six Māori [71]. ...
... IATA [44] The lion's share of many aviation pathways focus on sustainable aviation fuels (SAF); see Rae and Callister [71] for a New Zealand-oriented review. The challenges of these pathways are extreme. ...
Technical Report
Full-text available
Prior to Covid, the global aviation industry was undergoing a period of unprecedented growth and was predicted to continue growing rapidly for at least the next three decades. But the emissions growth associated with this forecast traffic growth was incompatible with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change. Therefore, many industry groups, governments, and NGOs have been preparing net zero 2050 pathways for aviation. One sign of this increased activity is the 'International Aviation Climate Ambition' group formed at Glasgow in 2021, whose members, including New Zealand, have committed to preparing 'ambitious and concrete' plans this year to reduce aviation emissions. New Zealand has particularly high aviation emissions, both per capita and as a proportion of all carbon dioxide emissions, and proven ability to increase them rapidly. New Zealand has the experience of an almost complete halt to international aviation during Covid. We survey recent developments in this area with particular reference to New Zealand, finding that aviation pathways with very high proportions of sustainable aviation fuel are unrealistic, even more so when combined with high traffic growth. Therefore, the main other thing that affects emissions-the amount of flying, and the factors that determine it-is examined closely. We conclude that a national action plan should include consideration of the "avoid, shift, improve" framework; emissions pricing and the "polluter pays" principle; regulation of emissions and emissions intensity; the non-CO 2 effects of aviation; the distribution of flying; the availability of substitutes, and the national strategies for those substitutes; coordination with the tourist industry; the rate of growth or degrowth; the role of airports; timely implementation; emphasis on proven technologies; the lifecycle emissions and resource requirements of sustainable aviation fuels; a fair share for aviation emissions with reference to the whole population and economy; and the transition to true sustainability respecting the rights of future generations.
Article
The high carbon emissions arising from academic air travel has become a priority issue for university sustainability programmes. However, efforts to mitigate academic air travel emissions requires the commitment and attention of a range of actors. It is essential to comprehensively identify and understand the factors affecting academics’ established aeromobility as a critical step towards system-wide practice change. This research explores this issue by proposing a practice-based academic flying framework and empirically applying the framework. This research found that cognitive norms are the key to affecting academic air travel decisions. The change of cognitive norms depends on collective action of all stakeholders. The empirical application allows the framework to align with university practices and provide stakeholders with a sufficient understanding of factors affecting academic air travel practices. We conclude with a call for all stakeholders to collaboratively create an environment that supports academics through a period of post-COVID practice transition.
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