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David Tattershall commenting on Christiana Figueres

Comment: Watching our recent interview with Christiana Figueres, David Tattershall (Envisionation Limited) responded with considered concern with respect to her answer to the question on the reduction of emissions from the aviation industry.

Just to recap, here is the transcripted answer with Tattershall's response below:


Nick Breeze: The 2020 report highlights the challenge posed by transport. If you take aviation as an example, you see that we’re still building runways, we’re all flying further for less money. Surely, to hit these goals, we just need to take some individual responsibility and fly less?

Christiana Figueres: “The fact is that you cannot exempt any sector of the economy from these efforts. So you can’t say ‘We’re not going to fly because aviation is too high emitting.’ That is the wrong approach. The approach is: aviation and maritime and land transport, all three of them have to come down in their emissions.

And it’s very interesting that in the last two weeks we have had an announcement from a very small start-up, as well as from Siemens that electrification is moving in the direction of electrification. So Siemens was the last company that just put out last week that they foresee that ten years from now, they will be having airplanes that are fully electric with clean energy and they will have a thousand kilometre range.

So you already have in a very short timespan, you already have flights that can be clean, certainly the short flights and then we have to look at the longer ones. But it is not a question of changing one mobility for another. For the time being if you want to be responsible, yes, definitely go for the mobility with the lowest emissions but that cannot exempt any sector. Every sector has to bring down its emissions… and aviation is coming!

David Tattershall replies:

Overall I have great admiration for Figueres in relationship to her objectives and some of the things she has done but having watched this video I now have deep concerns.

In the middle of the interview Nick asked a very important question about airline emissions. Quite frankly the response Figueres gave alarmed me! Rather than deal with reality she puts a positive spin on that situation with the news that in ten years there could be short-haul electric aircraft; after that she implies that long-distance aircraft will be developed. How much time do we have?

Setting the stage for this she has commented that business will act in self-interest rather than be stimulated to save the planet.

And yet, her answer to the airlines emissions problem is completely devoid of any understanding of the airline industry. The business model of the airline industry has critical aspects that contradict her optimism. For instance what about the fleet turnover rate? What about maximizing air time? What about existing, and in the pipeline, efficiency developments that are yet to deliver returns?

At the top end of the industry the fleet turnover average rate is in the high teens. Aircraft are not sent to the scrapheap when replacements are introduced, they are sold down the food chain and at the bottom of that food chain there are many aircraft over 40 years old. This is one way the low-cost short-haul carriers can make a profit because the invested capital in operational equipment is much lower than at the top end.

Aligned with this reality are the operating characteristics of the major carriers. Their objective is maximum airtime because when equipment is on the ground it is not considered as in earnings mode; that’s assessed as during flying to destinations. Little can be done to improve the cost from point-to-point but a lot can be done to improve the cost between flights. Over the last couple of decades the way flights are scheduled through a sequence has become a major source of increased profitability. UPS knows an awful lot about this and has complex algorithms controlling the entire system.

Short haul carriers, which would fall into her 1,000 km range, normally have the oldest fleets and turn-around time is critical. I find it hard to conceive that these operators will convert on the basis of business self-interest even if the super-capacitor or advanced batteries prove viable.

Developments in weight reduction (particularly carbon fiber bodies), and thus fuel efficiency for long-haul aircraft, will dovetail but the inventory of machinery and equipment to produce engines is considerable and writing it off will not be short-term.

For me that interview is more of the same; loaded with wishful and unsubstantiated thinking. Figueres is not short of staff and has access to immense resources; could she not have asked for an overview of this critical aspect of transitioning? Absent that it is the usual positive spin based on defining at best a future defined on spurious reasoning.

What are we going to do about the airlines because the situation defined in the graphic attached indicates that absent appropriate action the element alone will take us over the edge!

And, what are we going to do about the oceans. Hopefully Nick can ask her next time he sees her.



Film segment:


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Comment: Watching our recent interview with Christiana Figueres, David Tattershall (Envisionation Limited) responded with considered concern with respect to her answer to the question on the reduction of emissions from the aviation industry.

Just to recap, here is the transcripted answer with Tattershall's response below:


The lady who ushered in the Paris Agreement now wants to ramp up the pace and ensure the world reaches peak emissions by 2020, leading to total decarbonisation by 2050. The whole campaign hinges on the a new report that cites 2020 as a critical milestone for stemming the effects of climate change.

Christiana Figueres is persuasive and influential but in light of recent world events that include the destabilisation of the EU as a political block, and the openly anti-climate action administration of President Trump, it is very clear that the world has changed since Paris.

READ THE COMMENT: Does Figueres interview give clues as to why we went backwards from Copenhagen to Paris?


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Peter Wadhams has achieved many accolades and held positions such as Director of the Scott Polar Institute in Cambridge Uk, among a great many others. He has been on more than 50 research trips to the polar regions and, of special interest to those studying the demise of the Arctic ice cap, he has been under the ice on 6 submarine expeditions.