Senior DfT civil servant confirms aviation CO2 issues to now be “given careful consideration” for ANPS review
Date added: May 11, 2019
Tim Crosland, Director of Plan B, wrote on 2nd May to the government’s lawyers, asking for clarity on how Heathrow expansion would be assessed against the UK target of Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, including emissions from aviation. In a response on 8th May from Caroline Low, the senior DfT civil servant working on Heathrow expansion, she confirms that: “…the department will carefully consider this request against the statutory criteria set out” in sections of the 2008 Planning Act. And “As well as giving careful consideration to the Net Zero report and the declaration of environment and climate emergency, mentioned in the request, it may be necessary to consider the Committee on Climate Change’s recommended policy approach for deviation which, the Committee has stated at chapter 6 of the report, will be provided to the department later in 2019 and any relevant decisions taken by the government in the coming months as a result. These decisions are likely to include decisions on relevant policy being developed as part of Aviation 2050: The future of UK aviation, which is currently the subject of consultation. At the end of this consideration, the department will provide advice and a recommendation to the Secretary of State, to enable him to take a decision on whether the statutory criteria for a review of part or all of the ANPS are met, and whether or not it is appropriate to carry out such a review.”
The main text of the letter from Caroline Low (DfT) to Plan B,
I acknowledge receipt of your request to carry out a review of the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) under section 6 of the Planning Act 2008.
I can confirm that the department will carefully consider this request against the statutory criteria set out in section 6 (3) and (4) of the act.
As well as giving careful consideration to the Net Zeroreport and the declaration of environment and climate emergency, mentioned in the request, it may be necessary to consider the Committee on Climate Change’s recommended policy approach for deviation which, the Committee has stated at chapter 6 of the report, will be provided to the department later in 2019 and any relevant decisions taken by the government in the coming months as a result. These decisions are likely to include decisions on relevant policy being developed as part of Aviation 2050: The future of UK aviation, which is currently the subject of consultation.
At the end of this consideration, the department will provide advice and a recommendation to the Secretary of State, to enable him to take a decision on whether the statutory criteria for a review of part or all of the ANPS are met, and whether or not it is appropriate to carry out such a review. I can confirm that I or one of my colleagues will write to you to let you know the decision once it is made.
I trust that this explanation is helpful to you in considering whether it is appropriate, and a sensible use of funds, to proceed with an application for permission to appeal against the judgement of the Divisional Court.
Director, Heathrow Expansion & Aviation and Maritime Analysis
The original letter from Plan B to the government’s lawyers is copied below:
Our ref: Heathrow/1952
2 May 2019
Direct email: firstname.lastname@example.org
…. 2 lawyers…..
General Public Law and Planning Litigation Team B5
One Kemble Street
Sent by email only: email@example.com
Request for a review of the ANPS under section 6 of the Planning Act
Dear X and Y
I write to request that the Secretary of State conduct a review of the ANPS under section 6 of the Planning Act 2008, in light of yesterday’s approval by Parliament of a motion declaring a climate and ecological emergency; and following the publication today of the Climate Change Committee’s report “Net Zero – The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming”1 . [ 1 https://www.theccc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Net-Zero-The-UKs-contribution-to- 2 ]
The ANPS was designated on the assumption that it was premature to speculate on the implications of the Paris Agreement for the UK carbon target for 2050.
That assumption has now been overtaken by events. The Committee’s report, commissioned by the Government in October 2018, recommends that the Government implement a target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 (which implies net zero carbon dioxide emissions even earlier than that).
In his forward, Lord Deben, Chair of the Committee, states:
“We conclude that net-zero is necessary, feasible and cost-effective. Necessary – to respond to the overwhelming evidence of the role of greenhouse gases in driving global climate change, and to meet the UK’s commitments as a signatory of the 2015 Paris Agreement …
I urge the governments of the UK, in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff to consider our advice carefully and legislate for these new targets as swiftly as possible. We must now increase our ambition to tackle climate change. The science demands it; the evidence is before you; we must start at once; there is no time to lose.”
The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for the Environment, said:
“We recognise that it is an emergency … The next generation will face the consequence if we don’t take action.”
It is now clear that the viability of Heathrow expansion must be assessed against the target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, which has been recommended by the Committee, and which is supported by research commissioned and published by the Secretary of State.
An early indication of your client’s position on this matter would assist us in assessing the necessity of an appeal against yesterday’s judgement of the High Court, potentially saving time and cost on all sides.
Climate emergency realisation in UK to cause review of Heathrow expansion – climate change may limit future UK flying
May 11, 2019
The government (DfT) has admitted that concerns over climate change might restrict the growth of flying in the UK. The government’s statutory advisors, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) recently said the UK’s planned increase in aviation would need to be curbed to restrict CO2. Now a senior civil servant, Caroline Low (in charge of Heathrow expansion at the DfT) has told Plan B Earth that means ministers may have to review the UK’s aviation strategy (due to become a white paper later in 2019). The aviation strategy is currently out to consultation, till 20th June. Plan B says the level of climate concern is so high that the decision on Heathrow expansion – the Airports NPS – should be brought back to Parliament. (It was voted for in June 2018, with carbon issues glossed over so MPs were unaware of the extent of the problem). The DfT hopes expanding Heathrow would create economic growth etc. When the government first laid out proposals for increasing aviation, the UK had an overall target of cutting CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050. But the CCC now recommends that Britain should adopt a target of net zero emissions. Growth of aviation needs to be constrained to fit within a Net Zero target. Caroline Low said the DfT will now have to give aviation carbon emissions “careful consideration” and even look at whether the ANPS should be revised.
Britain’s move to “net zero” carbon and the declaration of a climate emergency in parliament will be “given careful consideration” in deciding whether to grant a review of Heathrow airport’s expansion, the government has said.
The new approach falls well short of any commitment to review Heathrow’s expansion, but means the decision on whether to grant campaigners’ request for a review will include the net zero target and the climate emergency among its criteria.
Green campaigners welcomed the pledge, which came in a letter to environmental group Plan B. Tim Crosland, director of Plan B, said: “We’re pleased to see the government is taking seriously our request to review the expansion of Heathrow airport. The government can either take the necessary action to avoid climate breakdown or it can stick to business as usual and expand aviation, but it can’t have it both ways.”
The letter is also one of the first indications of how the net zero target, recommended last week by the committee on climate change, and parliament’s vote to recognise a climate emergency, may be taken into account in future by civil servants giving advice to ministers on key issues such as transport and infrastructure.
Green campaigners will be pressing the government to review existing policies on these issues in the light of the committee’s view that it is “necessary” for the UK to be net zero by 2050, arguing that policy decisions made previously are now invalid. Plan B wrote to the government on 2 May requesting a new review of the airports national policy statement (ANPS), under which the Heathrow expansion will take place, making that argument.
In the letter to Plan B, seen by the Guardian, [main text copied below] Caroline Low, the director of Heathrow expansion and aviation and maritime analysis at the Department for Transport (DfT), wrote: “I can confirm that the department will carefully consider this request [for a review of the airports national policy statement, which includes Heathrow].
“As well as giving careful consideration to the net zero report and the declaration of environment and climate emergency, mentioned in the request, it may be necessary to consider the committee on climate change’s recommended policy approach for aviation … and any relevant decisions taken by the government in the coming months as a result.”
A DfT spokesperson said: “The expansion of Heathrow received overwhelming support from MPs because it would provide a massive economic boost to businesses and communities the length and breadth of Britain, all at no cost to the taxpayer and within our environmental obligations. [So many half truths and misleading impressions in that statement. AW comment]
Last week, a case brought by Plan B and others that ministers must take the Paris climate agreement into account in considering Heathrow expansion was thrown out by the high court.
Officials are also understood to believe that any decisions on the request for a review are some way off because the climate change committee will not produce its policy approach on aviation until later this year, so no decision on how to take its findings into consideration will be made until then. This means no recommendation to the secretary of state is likely until next year.
Crosland responded: “The government can split hairs if they want, but the situation is too serious for that. Parliament approved Heathrow expansion on the basis of very different circumstances to those which now prevail. It’s just common sense the position calls for reconsideration. You can’t declare an emergency and then act like nothing’s changed.”
The net zero report produced by the CCC was hailed as one of the biggest developments in the UK’s approach to climate change in the last decade. The recommendations will require vast changes to all aspects of the British economy, encompassing citizens, consumers, businesses, government and civil society.
MPs passing the vote on a “climate emergency” also marked a historic moment in British politics, as it would, if implemented effectively, require the government to have regard for the climate in policy decisions across the board.
Siân Berry, the co-leader of the Green party, said: “In this age of climate emergency, Heathrow expansion very clearly cannot go ahead. We need the government to acknowledge the emergency situation that previous policy choices have created. All building of new fossil fuel infrastructure has to end. That means banning fracking, stopping new road building and of course ending Heathrow expansion.”