Should society be questioning the ethics or wisdom of dirt cheap, or “free” flights by Ryanair etc?

The low cost of air travel encourages extra demand, which not only increases people’s carbon footprint, but also raises the amount that Brits spend abroad – known as the tourism deficit (the difference between the amount UK residents spend on trips abroad, over what residents abroad spend on trips to the UK). The deficit was £16.9 billion in 2015.  Air travel is so cheap because it is not charged VAT and there is no fuel duty. The only tax is Air Passenger Duty, that is £13 for any return fight to a European country, and free for children. Fearing loss of profit due to Brexit and the lower value of the £ against other currencies, Ryanair is making ever more crazy offers of cut prices. To try to keep passenger numbers up, he hopes to offer “free” flights in due course. The catch would be that Ryanair would want to get a share in retail income (shopping and car parking at airports), so there would be profit per passenger. This dotty system, of charging so little for something that emits so much carbon, and sucks money out of the UK, is something society should take a long, hard look at.  Is it really desirable, looking towards the longer term, that flying is so dirt cheap? And that the aviation sector is not included in either the UK’s carbon targets, nor has a proper global mechanism to deal with rapidly rising CO2 from the sector?
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“Ryanair could introduce free flights in five years’ time”

By FIONA SIMPSON (Standard)
23.11.2016

Michael O’Leary, chief executive of the company, said on Monday that he was looking at plans to cut fares completely in a bid to increase passenger numbers.

He claimed airports should share revenue from retail outlets with companies which attract the biggest footfall.

Ryanair already offers seats for as little as 1p but Mr O’Leary said the company is making a loss after paying £13 air passenger duty for every seat sold in Britain.

Speaking to the Airport Operators Association, he said that Ryanair wanted to abolish fares in five to ten years to boost its passenger numbers to 200 million.

He admitted that huge airports like Heathrow would not be able to share retail profits, but suggested the company could target smaller sites, The Times reported.

He said: “I have this vision that in the next five to ten years that the air fares on Ryanair will be free, in which case the flights will be full and we will be making our money out of sharing the airport revenues.

“I’m doing seat sales this week at £4 and I’m paying the £13 APD; I’m paying you to fly with me. Instead of promotional tickets being £9 or £5, they will be free.”

http://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/ryanair-could-introduce-free-flights-in-five-years-time-a3402376.html

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Ryanair and easyJet have around the same numbers of air passengers in the UK – around 50 – 60 million per year.  It is not easy to find the number of Ryanair passengers from the UK, as it is not a UK airline and figures tend to be for all passengers.  The total number of air passengers at UK airports in 2015 was about 250 million.


Ryanair launches US election flight sale offering 1 million seats for €9.99
According to Ryanair, nobody ‘Trumps’ their fares

By LIZ CONNOR (Standard)
9 November 2016

Low cost airline Ryanair has launched a sale to coincide with the US election result, offering flights for just €9.99.

The company launched the bargain flight bonanza with a series of tongue-in-cheek Tweets, designed to mock both US President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Tweets sent out by the airline with the hashtag #VoteLowFares poked fun at Trump with the message “Down with high fare, down with high walls.”

Another advert for the cut-price flights included the gag “even she wouldn’t delete our email offers” – in reference to Hillary Clinton’s email scandal, which became the subject of an FBI investigation.

The Irish airline later tweeted ‘No one Trumps Ryanair fares!’, in reference to the news that Donald Trump had achieved a shock defeat of rival Clinton to become the next President of the United States.

Included in Ryanair’s flash flight sale are cheap tickets to destinations in Ireland and Spain – including Alicante, Cork and Shannon.

But if you want get involved in the deal, you’ll have to be speedy – as the sale, which is currently available to book on the Ryanair website, ends at midnight tonight.

http://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/travel/ryanair-launches-us-election-flight-sale-offering-1-million-seats-for-999-a3391691.html

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Ryanair profits to be hit by fall in pound.  Budget airline expects full-year profit growth of 7%, against earlier expectations of 12%

By Angela Monaghan (Guardian)
Tuesday 18 October 2016

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Ryanair has said its full-year profits will be lower than expected because of the sharp drop in the value of the pound since the Brexit vote in June.

The budget airline said an 18% fall in sterling since the referendum was the main reason it was downgrading its expectations for full-year profit growth, from 12% to to 7%.

Profits are now expected to be between €1.3bn (£900m) and €1.35bn. The Dublin-based company warned, however, that the outlook for profits would worsen in the event of a further drop in the pound or weakness in ticket prices.

Fares in the second half of the year are expected to fall by 13-15%, more than the 10-12% previously expected.

Michael O’Leary, the chief executive, said lower fares would be partially offset by cost savings, with costs expected to fall by 3% in the full year, more than the 1% given in previous guidance.

“The recent sharp decline in sterling will weaken second-half yields by slightly more than we had originally expected,” he said.

O’Leary is one of several senior business figures to criticise the government in recent weeks for a lack of clarity on its Brexit strategy.

“Whether the UK leaves the EU or stays, I couldn’t care less. The issue for us is whether we stay in the single market,” he said in September.

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/oct/18/ryanair-warns-fall-in-pound-will-hit-profits

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Chairman of CCC writes to BEIS to query why DfT appears to no longer use the 37.5MtCO2 cap for UK aviation

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has been giving the UK government the advice, since 2009 (when government was trying to get a 3rd Heathrow runway) that UK aviation should emit no more CO2 than its level in 2005 (which was 37.5MtCO2) per year by 2050. This has tacitly been accepted by government since then. But the DfT “sensitivities” document put out on 25th October, said that this cap on UK aviation carbon was “unrealistic” and its assessments were only now  looking at the carbon traded  option. That means UK aviation CO2 well above the target.  The Chairman of the CCC, Lord Deben, has now written to Greg Clark, Sec of State at BEIS (now in charge of UK carbon emissions, since DECC was scrapped) to point out that the DfT seems to no longer see the constraint of 37.5MtCO2 as being important, and its forecasts and business assumptions are all now based on higher CO2 emissions by UK aviation. Lord Deben says: “If emissions from aviation are now anticipated to be higher than 2005 levels, then all other sectors would have to prepare for correspondingly higher emissions reductions in 2050.”  Even if UK aviation stuck at 37.5Mt CO2 by 2050, this would mean “an 85% reduction in emissions in all to her sectors”. The CCC does not have confidence that cuts of over 85% could be made. That implies the  UK would miss its legally binding CO2 target.
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Letter: Department for Transport’s assessment of the case for a third runway at Heathrow

22.11.2016

The Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), Lord Deben, has written to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, regarding the Department for Transport’s (DfT) assessment of the case for a third runway at Heathrow airport.

The letter sets out the Committee’s concerns about how the DfT business case has presented the implications for UK greenhouse gas emissions from aviation.

Letter: Department for Transport’s assessment of the case for a third runway at Heathrow

This letter includes these comments:

 

ccc-letter-from-deben-to-beis-clark-22-11-2016

ccc-lord-deben-letter-to-greg-clark-on-aviation-co2

Full letter at

https://www.theccc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/CCC-letter-to-Rt-Hon-Greg-Clark-on-UK-airport-expansion-November-2016.pdf


This is where the DfT states that using the carbon-capped figures is “unrealistic” and so they are only looking at the carbon traded figures (which allow for Heathrow expansion, and aviation emissions above the target of 37.5MtCO2 that they have been recommended, by the CCC (Committee on Climate Change) since 2009.

Page 15 of the DfT document (25.10.2016)

Further Review and Sensitivities Report
Airport Capacity in the South East

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/562160/further-review-and-sensitivities-report-airport-capacity-in-the-south-east.pdf

This states:

“1.12 The AC’s approach to modelling the carbon-capped scenario uses carbon price assumptions that are higher than the central values published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) for appraisal. The carbon-capped scenario is helpful for understanding the varying effects of constraining aviation CO2 emissions on aviation demand and the impact on the case for airport expansion, but was described by the AC as “unrealistic in future policy terms”. ”

 In other words it can’t be done..

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The Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) view:

What answers has the Government found to the environmental hurdles facing a third runway?

Climate Change

25.10.2016

As AEF has consistently pointed out, and as the Committee on Climate Change reminded Government today, there is no plan for delivering the aviation emissions limit required to deliver the Climate Change Act either with or without a new runway.

The last time we had a government supporting runway expansion, it specified that this would be conditional on the sector’s CO2 emissions being on course not to exceed 37.5 Mt by 2050, in line with the CCC’s advice. Today’s announcement included no such commitment, instead making vague references to the global carbon offsetting scheme for aviation agreed this month, and to potential efficiencies arising from better air traffic management – both measures that are (effectively) already taken into account in the CCC’s modelling, and that won’t bring us anywhere near to achieving the minimum level of ambition required under UK law.

So what does the Government have to say about how the CCC’s recommendation will be met? The answer is deeply buried in a technical paper released alongside the announcement which states that the Airports Commission’s carbon-capped scenario “is helpful for understanding the varying effects of constraining aviation CO2 emissions on aviation demand and the impact on the case for airport expansion but was described by the AC as ‘unrealistic in future policy terms’”. In other words it can’t be done.

http://www.aef.org.uk/2016/10/25/what-answers-has-the-government-found-to-the-environmental-hurdles-facing-a-third-runway/

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See earlier:

Analysis by Carbon Brief: Aviation to consume half of UK’s 1.5C carbon budget by 2050

The UK aviation’s greenhouse gas emissions could consume around half the carbon budget available to the UK in 2050, even if the sector’s emissions growth is constrained. An assessment by Carbon Brief shows that even with no new runway, the anticipated demand for air travel – from DfT forecasts – could mean UK aviation (flights taking off from UK airports) could be 47 MtCO2e by 2050. With a new runway, the emissions could be as much as 51 MtCO2e in 2050. The Paris climate agreement means the UK must raise its existing climate ambition. The UK’s current legislated target, to limit global temperature rise to below 2 degrees C, is to cut CO2 emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. ie. from 800 MtCO2 per year to 160 MtCO2 per year. To keep below 1.5 degrees C the reduction in CO2 would be around 91% (86 – 96%) below the 1990 level, ie. 72 MtCO2 per year for the UK. Therefore if UK aviation emitted 37.5 MtCO2 per year by 2050 would be about 52% of the UK’s carbon limit of 72 MtCO2 for a 1.5C global target, or about 23.4% of the UK’s carbon limit of about 160 MtCO2 for a 2C global target. And if instead of sticking to the 37.5 MtCO2 limit (which the DfT now says is “unrealistic”)* UK aviation emitted 51 MtCO2 by 2050 that would be about 71% of the UK’s carbon limit of 72 MtCO2 for a 1.5C global target, or about 32% of the UK’s carbon limit of about 160 MtCO2 by 2050 for a 2C global target.

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Analysis by Carbon Brief: Aviation to consume half of UK’s 1.5C carbon budget by 2050

The UK aviation’s greenhouse gas emissions could consume around half the carbon budget available to the UK in 2050, even if the sector’s emissions growth is constrained. An assessment by Carbon Brief shows that even with no new runway, the anticipated demand for air travel – from DfT forecasts – could mean UK aviation (flights taking off from UK airports) could be 47 MtCO2e by 2050. With a new runway, the emissions could be as much as  51 MtCO2e in 2050.  The Paris climate agreement means the UK must raise its existing climate ambition.  The UK’s current legislated target, to limit global temperature rise to below 2 degrees C, is to cut CO2 emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.  ie. from 800 MtCO2 per year to 160 MtCO2 per year. To keep below 1.5 degrees C the reduction in CO2 would be around 91% (86 – 96%) below the 1990 level, ie. 72 MtCO2 per year for the UK.  Therefore if UK aviation emitted 37.5 MtCO2 per year by 2050 would be about 52% of the UK’s carbon limit of 72 MtCO2 for a 1.5C global target, or about 23.4% of the UK’s carbon limit of about 160 MtCO2 for a 2C global target.  And if instead of sticking to the 37.5 MtCO2 limit (which the DfT now says is “unrealistic”)* UK aviation emitted 51 MtCO2 by 2050  that would be about 71% of the UK’s carbon limit of 72 MtCO2 for a 1.5C global target, or about 32% of the UK’s carbon limit of about 160 MtCO2 by 2050 for a 2C global target.  
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Analysis: Aviation to consume half of UK’s 1.5C carbon budget by 2050

By Simon Evans (Carbon Brief)
24.10.2016

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Aviation’s greenhouse gas emissions could consume around half the carbon budget available to the UK in 2050, even if the sector’s emissions growth is constrained.

The numbers make for awkward reading as the government approves a new runway at Heathrow, which it says is needed to meet ever-rising demand for air travel.

Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement on climate change, due to enter force on 4 November, pledges to limit warming to “well below” 2C and, if possible, no more than 1.5C above pre-industrial temperatures.

In order to meet this aim, countries must make careful use of the very limited remaining carbon budget. That budget could be used up within five years, leaving the world reliant on unproven negative emissions technologies in order to draw CO2 out of the atmosphere.

Paris means the UK must raise its existing climate ambition: it will have to reach net-zero emissions, whereas its current legislated target is to cut emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.  [ie. from 800 MtCO2 per year to 160 MtCO2 per year. AW note]

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC), the government’s official advisers, says it is too early to set a date for reaching net zero. However, the CCC notes that the 1.5C goal of Paris implies UK reductions of “at least 90% below 1990 levels by 2050”.

It gives a range of 86-96% for cutting emissions by 2050, if the UK takes an equal per capita share  and if the world aims for at least a 50% chance that 1.5C will be avoided. Note that other ways to divide the burden of cutting emissions would probably entail more drastic cuts for the UK, while, arguably, a 50% chance of exceeding the 1.5C limit is risky.

Setting aside these questions, the middle of the CCC’s range – a 91% cut – [from around 800 MtCO2 in 1990 link p 21 ] would give the UK a carbon budget of 72 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (MtCO2e) in 2050. This is close to the limit of what the CCC believes to be possible using currently known technologies and options.  [The target for aviation the CCC suggests is 37.5MtCO2 by 2050. AW note ]

It thinks the maximum plausible cuts to UK emissions in 2050 would reach 92% below 1990 levels, or 64MtCO2e. It’s worth adding that this builds in significant use of negative emissions, including biomass with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), as well as afforestation.

Flight forecasts

Where do aviation emissions fit into this? In its most recent forecasts  [DfT 2013] of demand for air travel, the government said that even without a new runway at Heathrow, UK airports would serve 445 million passengers per annum (mppa) in 2050. This is more than twice the 211 mppa served in 2010.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said UK aviation emissions, including international flights departing from UK airports, would reach 47MtCO2e by 2050 without airport expansion. With new runways, passenger numbers could rise to 480mppa, the DfT says.  Carbon Brief estimates this would translate into emissions of 51MtCO2e in 2050.

This figure is more than two-thirds (71%) of the 72MtCO2e mid-range carbon budget for 2050 implied by the CCC, if the UK is to play its part in meeting the ambition of the Paris Agreement.  [Of a 1.5 degree C global warming target]

It is also nearly a third (32%) of the budget for 2C, assuming the UK sticks with its 80% by 2050 target.

[So, UK aviation if up to 51 MtCO2 by 2050 would perhaps emit up to about 70% of the UK’s carbon limit of 72 MtCO2 for a 1.5C global target, or about 32% of the UK’s carbon limit of about 160 MtCO2 by 2050 for a 2C global target.  AW note]

However, the CCC has said that UK aviation emissions should be limited to no more than 2005 levels, if the UK is to meet its 2050 carbon targets as cheaply as possible. This would mean a cap of 37.5MtCO2e for UK-based air travel.

That 37.5MtCO2e cap would be equivalent to more than half (52%) of the allowable 1.5C-compatible carbon budget in 2050.

[[So, UK aviation if up to 37.5 MtCO2 by 2050 would perhaps emit up to about 52% of the UK’s carbon limit of 72 MtCO2 for a 1.5C global target, or about 23.4% of the UK’s carbon limit of about 160 MtCO2 for a 2C global target.  AW note]

UK greenhouse gas emissions including the UK share of international aviation. Historic data runs through to 2014, the latest year for which aviation figures are available. The shaded area shows projected linear progress towards an overall 91% cut in 2050, with aviation capped to 2005 emissions.

Source: Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Carbon Brief analysis. Chart by Carbon Brief using Highcharts.

uk-and-aviation-co2-emissions-to-2050

The CCC says the 37.5MtCO2e cap can be met if plausible increases in aircraft efficiency and use of lower carbon fuels is accompanied by demand growth of no more than 60% above 2005 levels.

Note that this cap includes additional room to grow compared to today’s levels because emissions fell from 37.5MtCO2e in 2005 to 31.9Mt in 2010, partly as a result of the financial crisis. They had reached only 32.9MtCO2e in 2014, still more than 10% below the 2005 cap.

For its part, the Airports Commission led by Sir Howard Davies, said that demand for air travel would grow by closer to 100% to 2050. This would breach the CO2 cap for aviation and would entail the UK buying overseas carbon offsets to balance the books.

(The UK will participate in an international carbon trading scheme [through ICAO] to limit aviation emissions at 2020 levels, agreed by 191 countries in Montreal on 6 October. This will cover between 75-80% of air traffic – nowhere near all of it. The coverage of emissions growth may total between 75-80% eventually, but only 20% of total aircraft CO2 emissions between 2021 and 2035 will be offset. Link )

However, the CCC continues to oppose the use of international offsets, saying that “UK targets should focus on domestic effort”.

In a letter to the CCC, Davies said that UK aviation emissions could be constrained to the 37.5MtCO2 cap, but only with an extremely high carbon price.

Writing in the Telegraph this week, Davies says that climate goals mean it would be a mistake to allow both Heathrow and Gatwick to expand. He writes:

“Allowing two proposals to continue could mean neither is built, as it would be impossible to argue that both runways could be fully used in the next twenty years while meeting our legislated climate change commitments. So the decision could be challenged in the courts.”

It’s worth adding that Davies suggests Birmingham airport might be expanded in future. His comments also relate to the UK’s existing climate targets, rather than the tougher goals likely to result from Paris.

Global problem

The UK is already responsible for an above-average share of international air travel, a position it presumably wishes to retain as it goes out into the world without EU membership.

Aviation emissions are among the most difficult to tackle, along with those from farms and factories. That’s why the new aviation climate deal is based around emissions offsets.

At a global scale, aviation could consume a quarter of the global carbon budget for 1.5C, recent Carbon Brief analysis showed. If the UK wants new runways, it must also take responsibility for the emissions those flights generate.

https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-aviation-to-consume-half-uk-1point5c-carbon-budget-2050

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*

Page 15 of the DfT document (25.10.2016)

Further Review and Sensitivities Report
Airport Capacity in the South East

“1.12 The AC’s approach to modelling the carbon-capped scenario uses carbon price assumptions that are higher than the central values published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) for appraisal. The carbon-capped scenario is helpful for understanding the varying effects of constraining aviation CO2 emissions on aviation demand and the impact on the case for airport expansion, but was described by the AC as “unrealistic in future policy terms”. ”

 In other words it can’t be done..

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Environmental Audit Cttee finds Treasury failing to take long-term environmental costs into account

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has done an investigation into the role of the Treasury in relation to sustainable development and environmental protection. The EAC is calling for the Treasury to “green-check” all its decisions, after its major investigation found that the Treasury puts short term priorities over long term sustainability – potentially increasing costs to the economy in the future. [The Treasury has been a key promoter of a new south east runway, with Treasury staff helping the Airports Commission.] EAC Chair, Mary Creagh, said:  “The Treasury is highly influential and uniquely placed to ensure the whole of Government works to promote sustainability. But we have seen considerable evidence that it fails to do this.The Treasury tends not to take full account of the long term environmental costs and benefits of decisions which would reduce costs for taxpayers and consumers in the long run. On the carbon capture and storage competition and zero carbon homes we saw the Treasury riding roughshod over departments, cancelling long-established environmental programmes at short notice with no consultation, costing businesses and the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds. With a week to go until the next Autumn Statement, we hope our inquiry will be a wake-up call to the Treasury.”
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Sustainability and HM Treasury (PDF 622KB)


Treasury failing to take long-term environmental costs into account, MPs say

The Treasury has been lambasted by MPs for failing to adequately factor in long-term sustainability risks into its decisions, with the carbon capture and storage (CCS) and zero-carbon homes policies specifically cited as detrimental to both the economy and investor confidence.

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) finds the Treasury guilty of changing or cancelling several long-established projects at short notice, with little or no consultation with relevant businesses and industries

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has criticised the Treasury following a major investigation concurred with a recent High Court allegation that its approach puts short-term priorities ahead of long-term sustainability.  [The Treasury is one of the departments driving the push for a new Heathrow runway, with the DfT. AW note]

The EAC is particularly concerned by a perceived lack of environmental leadership considering the Treasury’s prominent role over Government spending, taxation policy and regulation.

The Treasury is accused of failing to encourage departments to work collaboratively on issues such as air quality, decarbonisation, and resource efficiency.

According to the EAC, the Treasury must ensure Spending Reviews provide strong incentives for departmental partnerships on environmental matters, increase decision-making accountability, and incorporate new evidence on long-term sustainability risks and benefits into policy decisions.

EAC Chair Mary Creagh MP said: “The Treasury is highly influential and uniquely placed to ensure the whole of Government works to promote sustainability. But we have seen considerable evidence that it fails to do this. The Treasury tends not to take full account of the long-term environmental costs and benefits of decisions which would reduce costs for taxpayers and consumers in the long run.”

‘Riding roughshod’

The Treasury recently provided evidence at an EAC hearing, where departmental ministers defended the Government’s decision to scrap energy initiatives such as the zero-carbon homes initiative and the CCS competition. Speaking at the time, the department’s Financial Secretary insisted that past decisions were made in the interest of environmental and economic sustainability.

However, the EAC’s latest report finds the Treasury guilty of changing or cancelling several long-established projects at short notice, with little or no consultation with relevant businesses and industries.

The decision to cancel the long-running CCS competition, which the EAC found could cost the UK an additional £30bn to meet its 2050 carbon targets, was described as “devastating” by businesses who were left in “shock” by the way the Treasury handled the situation. The EAC criticises the Treasury for failing to quantify all the costs and benefits of delaying CCS deployment before it cancelled the competition.

The zero-carbon homes policy scrappage also came as a surprise and in some cases angered many in the construction industry, the EAC states, because the Government had worked towards implementing the policy for more than a decade. The decision harms the development of new markets for innovative energy-saving products and risks rising long-term costs to the economy, EAC states.

Creagh continued: “On the CCS competition and zero-carbon homes we saw the Treasury riding roughshod over departments, cancelling long-established environmental programmes at short notice with no consultation, costing businesses and the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds. With a week to go until the next Autumn Statement, we hope our inquiry will be a wake-up call to the Treasury.”

‘Highly damaging’

The Treasury announced last summer it would be scrapping regulations on house building, including a planned increase in on-site energy efficiency standards, in order to streamline development. The Government’s decision was heavily criticised by industry and politicians, who stressed it would likely add to long-term housing costs through a reduction in energy efficiency.

Departmental ministers refuted this claim in September, insisting that contrary to widespread belief, the initiative would not have incentivised energy efficiency. Ministers stressed that the Treasury is approaching the upcoming Autumn Statement from a “position of strength” in terms of energy policy, citing the Government’s annual support of renewables is set to double over the current parliament.

Responding to today’s EAC report, UK-GBC (Green Building Council) campaign and policy director John Alker said: “The Committee is absolutely right to highlight the damaging effects of the ill-conceived deregulation we have seen from the Treasury in recent years.

“The scrapping of Zero Carbon Homes was an example of politically motivated policy-making. It showed not only an irresponsible disregard for the steps we need to take to tackle climate change, but also overlooked the years of investment and preparation made by thousands of companies across the construction supply chain. This volatility in the policy landscape is highly damaging to industry, jobs and investor confidence.”

The decision to scrap the CCS scheme was previously said to have been taken under the narrative of “reducing the costs for businesses” when in fact businesses were in favour of environmental commitments. This view was challenged by the Energy Environment and Agriculture Deputy Director, who recently told the EAC that the costs involved in these schemes could have added “many billions” to consumer bills.

Accusations against the Treasury regarding long-term sustainability commitments recently extended to the courtroom. During evidence last month, the High Court heard that the Treasury had deliberately blocked plans to bring UK air pollution within legal limits as part of an “entire approach driven by cost”, and that Defra’s original plans for a more extensive network of Clean Air Zones in more than a dozen UK cities had been watered down, on cost grounds, to five in addition to London.

George Ogleby

http://www.edie.net/news/11/Treasury-failing-to-take-account-of-long-term-environmental-costs-MPs-say

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From the EAC website

Scope of the inquiry

The Environmental Audit Committee called for written evidence on the role of HM Treasury in relation to sustainable development and environmental protection in December 2015.

It now calls for additional written evidence on HM Treasury’s contribution to meeting waste and recycling targets to help inform its inquiry into sustainability and HM Treasury.

Terms of reference: Sustainability and HM Treasury – further call for evidence


Latest evidence

  • 05 Jul 2016 – Sustainability and HM Treasury – oral evidence | PDF version (346 KB) Opens in a new windowHC 181 | Published 21 Oct 2016Evidence given by Lord Deben, Chair, and Matthew Bell, Chief Executive, Committee on Climate Change; Matthew Knight, Business Development Director, Siemens, and Barbara Vest, Director of Generation, Energy UK (at 10.45am); Estelle Brachlianoff, Senior Executive, Vice-President UK and Ireland, Veolia, Jerry McLaughlin, Director, Economics and Public Affairs, Mineral Products Association, and Dan Cooke, Director of Communications and External Affairs, Viridor and Chairman of Communications Committee, Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (at 11.15am).

One quote from the EAC report on the Treasury

(Page 15)

4 Performance on environmental sustainability

34. The Treasury uses a technical and political framework which favours short-term affordability over long-term benefits. In this chapter we explore this in more detail by looking at the Treasury’s track record in a number of specific policy areas and assessing the extent to which the Treasury’s approach to environmental sustainability is sufficiently joined-up. Meeting carbon budgets

35. The UK has an economy wide target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 (from a 1990 baseline). To get there the Government sets five-yearly carbon budgets. The level of these budgets is recommended by the CCC which establishes the most cost effective pathway towards meeting the UK’s 2050 target.69 Following initial research, the CCC determined that the first sector which needed to decarbonise was the energy sector and other sectors such as buildings, transport and industry soon afterwards.70 The CCC recently reported that the Government was on track to meet the third carbon budget but, unless new policies are put in place, is likely to miss the fourth and fifth carbon budget.71 The gap between the target and the UK’s current emission trajectory is sometimes referred to as the policy gap.

36. The Treasury is in a critical position to ensure carbon budgets are met because of its control over capital spending, taxation policy, regulations and approval of major projects. During spending reviews, in particular, the Treasury has the opportunity to draw together policy relevant information from across different departments and ensure interventions across government are working towards achieving carbon budgets. But the Treasury does not seem to be doing this. A large proportion of respondents highlighted a number of recent policy announcements which could have the opposite effect.

….. and there  is much more …

70 Committee on Climate Change, Building a low-carbon economy – The UK’s contribution to tackling climate change (December 2008)

71 Committee on Climate Change, Meeting Carbon Budgets – 2016 Progress Report to Parliament (June 2016), p11

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmenvaud/181/181.pdf

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The EAC press notice

Treasury must factor in long term impact of policies on environment

17 November 2016 (EAC website)

The Environmental Audit Committee is calling for the Treasury to “green-check” all its decisions after a major investigation into its approach found that it puts short term priorities over long term sustainability – potentially increasing costs to the economy in the future, and harming investor confidence.

“The Treasury is highly influential and uniquely placed to ensure the whole of Government works to promote sustainability. But we have seen considerable evidence that it fails to do this.The Treasury tends not to take full account of the long term environmental costs and benefits of decisions which would reduce costs for taxpayers and consumers in the long run.On the carbon capture and storage competition and zero carbon homes we saw the Treasury riding roughshod over departments, cancelling long-established environmental programmes at short notice with no consultation, costing businesses and the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds. With a week to go until the next Autumn Statement, we hope our inquiry will be a wake-up call to the Treasury.”

Priorities

The Treasury, through its control over government spending, taxation policy and regulation is arguably the most important department for ensuring the UK meets its environmental obligations. However, the Treasury is failing adequately to factor in long-term environmental risks into its decisions and is not doing enough to encourage departments to work together on environmental issues – such as air quality, decarbonisation, energy and resource efficiency.

If the Treasury is going to improve its performance and provide greater leadership on environmental sustainability it must:

  • Ensure Spending Reviews provide strong incentives for collaboration between departments on environmental matters.
  • Incorporate new evidence on long-term environmental risks and benefits into its frameworks for assessing the value for money of government interventions;
  • Increase transparency and accountability by providing publically available justifications for its decisions;
  • Work with other departments whose policies affect the environment to ensure the Government’s new industrial strategies promote sustainability.

Case studies:

Treasury decision to cancel CCS funding without notice

Carbon capture and storage is an essential technology because it has the potential to help decarbonise a range of sectors including power, transport and heavy industry. Before the Treasury cancelled a long running CCS ‘competition’ to award financial support to pilot projects, the Government did not quantify all the costs and benefits of delaying CCS deployment. This meant that the full risks of cancelling the competition were not factored into the decision.

The Treasury’s decision will delay the roll out of CCS in the UK and will increase the cost of deploying it in the future. Without CCS, the inquiry found that it could cost an additional £30 billion to meet the 2050 carbon targets. The way the Treasury communicated its decision to industry left businesses in ‘shock’, and was described as ‘devastating’, potentially undermining the Government’s efforts to deploy CCS in the future.

It is vital the Government produces a new strategy for CCS this year.  Treasury should work with BEIS to ensure the new strategy is published as part of the carbon reduction plan by the end of the year.  Failing to do so will make it more expensive to meet our long-term, legally binding climate change targets.

….. and there is more on other case studies ….

see full statement at

http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/environmental-audit-committee/news-parliament-2015/sustainability-treasury-report-published-16-17/

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Earlier this year, the EAC held an evidence session about the sustainability of the work of the Department for Transport 

Sustainability in the Department for Transport examined with Government officials

21 April 2016

In this one-off evidence session, the Committee questions senior Department for Transport officials about the role that sustainability plays in departmental policy-making, governance, procurement and operations.

Witnesses

Tuesday 26 April, Committee Room 8, Palace of Westminster

At 10.45am

  • Lucy Chadwick – Director-General for International, Security and Environment, Department for Transport
  • Emma Campbell – Head of Environment and International Transport Analysis, Department for Transport
  • Rosalind Wall – Head of Environmental Strategy, Department for Transport

http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/environmental-audit-committee/news-parliament-2015/sustainability-department-for-transport-one-off-evidence-15-16/

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T&E says weak ICAO voluntary CO2 deal is NOT mission accomplished for ICAO, Europe or aviation industry

The deal agreed by ICAO to at least make a start on limiting the growth of global aviation CO2 is very far below the level of ambition needed.  Transport & Environment have commented on just how inadequate it is. They say the agreement only offers to offset, not actually reduce, the CO2 from international flights, starting in 2021. Participation till 2027 is voluntary and its coverage of emissions falls well short of the ‘carbon neutral growth in 2020’ target promised by ICAO and the industry. The European Commission will now examine the agreement and decide what action to recommend in the light of the current suspension of the  ETS coverage of flights into and out of Europe. A major problem is that the offsetting programme agreed so far lacks clear rules on both the quality of offsets that will be recognised and how they are accounted for, so double counting is not ruled out. To be of any use, offsets must be additional, ie. that would not have happened anyway. It is estimated that only about 20% of total aircraft CO2 emissions between 2021 and 2035 will be offset, meaning that the sector’s emissions are very far from being negated. T&E says that large historical emitters like Europe and the US must introduce additional measures to close aviation’s emissions gap, such as strengthening the EU ETS and stripping aviation’s harmful privileges regarding taxation and subsidies.
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Europe weighs up options after weak global deal on aviation CO2

More than 65 countries have signed up to offset, but not reduce, aircraft emissions from international flights, starting in 2021.

However, participation in the scheme until 2027 is voluntary and its coverage of emissions falls well short of the ‘carbon neutral growth in 2020’ target promised by UN aviation body ICAO and industry.

The European Commission will now examine the agreement and decide what action to recommend be taken in light of the current suspension of the emissions trading system’s (ETS) coverage of flights into and out of Europe.

 

The Commission will need to cast a critical eye over the offsetting programme agreed by ICAO, which so far lacks clear rules on both the quality of offsets that will be recognised and how they are accounted for.

‘Double counting’ – when two or more individuals or organisations claim ownership of specific carbon offset projects – is one major problem with such programmes. Governments must also ensure the offsets bring carbon reductions that are additional – i.e. that would not have happened anyway.

EU lawmakers must also consider how aviation will contribute to meeting the bloc’s CO2 reduction targets. As the agreement only requires aircraft operators to offset their emissions above 2020 levels, carbon emissions from aviation can grow without restriction until then.

Questions will also be asked of how the deal helps Europe meet its 2030 CO2 reduction targets. Only about 20% of total aircraft CO2 emissions between 2021 and 2035 will be offset, according to estimates.

Andrew Murphy, T&E aviation policy officer, said: ‘The agreement reached by ICAO in Montreal says airlines can emit increasing amounts of CO2 so long as the carriers pay for offsetting projects in other sectors. That shifts the burden onto other sectors to do more and does zero to shift passengers to less polluting ways of travelling such as rail. The EU’s next move must be to ensure aviation does its share of carbon reductions in Europe at least.’

T&E called on ICAO and the aviation industry to finalise and implement robust criteria for offsets and then develop further measures if the world is to have any hope of limiting global warming to 1.5°C.

It said that large historical emitters like Europe and the US must introduce additional measures to close aviation’s emissions gap, such as strengthening the EU ETS and stripping aviation’s harmful privileges regarding taxation and subsidies.

T&E aviation director Bill Hemmings said: ‘Airline claims that flying will now be green are a myth. Taking a plane is the fastest and cheapest way to fry the planet and this deal won’t reduce demand for jet fuel one drop. Instead offsetting aims to cut emissions in other industries.’

Aviation is currently responsible for an estimated 5% of global warming. Aircraft CO2 alone is projected to quadruple and will potentially account for 22% of all CO2 emitted globally in 2050.

Bill Hemmings concluded: ‘This deal is not mission accomplished for ICAO, Europe or industry. The world needs more than voluntary agreements. Without robust environmental safeguards the offsets won’t cut emissions, leaving us with a deal that amounts to little more than adding the price of a cup of coffee to a ticket.’

https://www.transportenvironment.org/news/europe-weighs-options-after-weak-global-deal-aviation-co2

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See earlier:

ICAO’s aviation offsetting deal is a weak start – now countries must go further to cut CO2

A deal was finally agreed by ICAO on 6th October. It was progress, in that there had never been any sort of agreement on global aviation CO2 emissions before. But it was not a great deal – and far too weak to provide the necessary restriction on the growth of global aviation CO2. It came in the same week that the Paris Agreement crossed its crucial threshold to enter into force, but the ICAO deleted key provisions for the deal to align its ambitions with the Paris aim of limiting global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees with best efforts to not exceed 1.5 degrees C. Tim Johnson, Director of AEF and the lead representative of The International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation (ICSA) – the official environmental civil society observer at the global negotiations, said in relation to the UK: “But while today’s deal is applauded, this international effort falls well short of the effort required to bring UK aviation emissions in line with the Climate Change Act. With a decision on a new runway expected later this month, the UK’s ambition for aviation emissions must match the ambition of the Climate Change Act, and not simply the ICAO global lowest common denominator of carbon neutral growth from 2020. The ICAO scheme could make a contribution towards the ambition of the Climate Change Act, but it does not solve the whole problem.”

Click here to view full story…

Report shows EU’s ‘imperfect’ ETS still outperforms draft UN aviation deal on aviation CO2

When in April 2014 the EU agreed, reluctantly, to “stop the clock” on its inclusion of aviation in the ETS (Emissions Trading System) it was on the condition that this limiting of the scheme would be re-assessed in 2017, depending if ICAO had come up with an effective scheme to restrict aviation CO2 by then. Currently the EU ETS only includes carbon from flights within, (not to and from) the EU. But the deal that ICAO is likely to sign up to next month looks as if it will fail, by being too small in its scope, voluntary not obligatory, and depending on unknown biofuels and technologies in future, no environmental safeguards, as well as unreliable carbon offsets which may not in practice cut CO2 emissions. It will not meet ICAO’s stated goal of “carbon neutral growth” from 2020. Therefore, as the ICAO scheme does not meet the requirements of the EU, in order to suspend its ETS, the EU may find it necessary to revert to its full ETS system, to include flights out of (maybe also into) the EU as well as flights within the EU. The EU needs to ensure it gets agreement through ICAO that it can continue to include aviation in its ETS. The ETS scheme had its faults, but used emissions allowances instead of dubious offsets, was binding instead of voluntary, and include all CO2 emissions. To be fully effective, the cap on aviation carbon in the EU scheme needs to reduce each year. A new report “Aviation ETS – gaining altitude” sets out the details of how the ETS could work in future.

Click here to view full story…

Read more »

Professor Alice Larkin: Expanding Heathrow flies in the face of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change

Professor Larkin, an expert on climate policy, says measures aimed at increasing capacity and supporting further growth in air travel, such as the 3rd Heathrow runway, are at odds with the Paris Agreement. Such developments risk future stranded assets, and are inconsistent with tackling climate change.  In the past we have slightly limited the growth in UK aviation CO2 by having constraints on Heathrow and Gatwick runway capacity. The government now wants to remove that constraint. Professor Larkin says: “Researchers will need to raise their voices to new levels given this week’s decisions. The upcoming call from the Environmental Audit Committee for evidence of the impacts of the 3rd runway is a welcome opportunity on the horizon, but the government have to be willing to sit up and pay attention to the evidence of climate change scientists and prove their commitment to the Paris Agreement.” It is not enough to depend on future improvements in aircraft fuel efficiency, which have only been incremental. There have been no new, groundbreaking technical solutions to decarbonise the aviation sector. An increase in air travel cannot somehow be compatible with the Paris Agreement’s goals.  All this suggests that climate change science is being overlooked by the UK government to an even greater extent than it was before.
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Expanding Heathrow flies in the face of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change

At a cabinet committee on Tuesday, the government approved plans to build a third runway at Heathrow, expanding UK airport capacity. There will be a public consultation on the effects of the expansion before the government makes a final decision as part of a national policy statement on aviation.

Here, Professor Alice Larkin urges the government to pay attention to climate change scientists.

  • So far, we have limited high levels of CO2 growth from the UK’s international flights by maintaining the existing level of airport capacity
  • Improvements in aircraft fuel efficiency have only been incremental
  • The decision, which overlooks climate change science, comes just days before the Paris Agreement comes into force

In the 2000s, our research fed into a heated debate on airport expansion in the UK. Based on some of our work, arguments were made against further airport expansion, on the grounds that this would be at odds with climate change commitments. Just a few years on, with an additional 180 Giga Tonnes of CO2 accumulating in the atmosphere, global climate change policy objectives have been strengthened, and air travel is still dominated by the privileged few.

Yet this week, the UK Government approved a third runway at Heathrow that will expand capacity and support further passenger growth. It would be reasonable then to ask some questions.

Has there been a new, groundbreaking technical solution to decarbonise the aviation sector? Can an increase in air travel somehow sit comfortably alongside the Paris Agreement’s goals? Did we just get the maths wrong the first time around? Sadly, the answer to all of these questions is a resounding ‘no’.

Whilst there have been improvements in aircraft fuel efficiency, these have been incremental. Alternative fuels continue to be researched, but their mainstream global penetration to propel civil aircraft remains decades away – and not just for technical reasons.

The only real saving grace from the climate perspective is that growth in UK-related passenger numbers has been lower than previously forecast. This has been partly due to the global economic downturn and also, in-part, due to a constraint on airport expansion. In other words, we’ve been somewhat successful in limiting high levels of CO2 growth from the UK’s international flights by maintaining the existing level of airport capacity.

All this suggests that climate change science is being overlooked to an even greater extent than it was before, in favour of (poorly evidenced) arguments in support of expanded airport capacity to increase economic growth.

What is particularly shocking about this turn of events, is that this is happening just days before the Paris Agreement comes into force.  The unavoidable reality is that the highly constrained carbon budget that is consistent with the Paris Agreement requires all sectors to urgently reduce CO2 emissions and accelerate away from using fossil fuels. Of course some sectors will achieve this sooner than others, but no sector can be excluded.

Technical and even operational options for decarbonising the aviation sector within a timeframe consistent with the Paris goals remain few and far between. This means that demand-side measures that constrain further growth, and have been constraining growth in the past, must receive much greater attention.

Policy measures aimed at increasing capacity and supporting further growth in air travel, such as the third runway at Heathrow, are at odds with the Paris Agreement. Such developments risk future stranded assets, and are inconsistent with tackling climate change. Researchers will need to raise their voices to new levels given this week’s decisions. The upcoming call from the Environmental Audit Committee for evidence of the impacts of the third runway is a welcome opportunity on the horizon, but the government have to be willing to sit up and pay attention to the evidence of climate change scientists and prove their commitment to the Paris Agreement.

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About Alice Larkin

Alice Larkin is Professor in Climate Change and Energy Policy as part of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, based within the School of Mechanical, Civil and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Manchester.

http://blog.policy.manchester.ac.uk/posts/2016/10/expanding-heathrow-flies-in-the-face-of-the-paris-agreement-on-climate-change/

 

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Gambling our future on airport expansion

Gambling our future on airport expansion

28 Oct 2016

Guest blog: Professor Alice Larkin, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering, University of Manchester.

The Paris Agreement is due to come into force on 4th November 2016, with a new ambitious goal of “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C …”.  

The nuanced language of “well below” accompanying the 2°C goal identifies strengthened ambition, and deserves a high profile.  It defines a more constrained available carbon budget, than previous Accords and Protocols.

So what is the importance of the Paris Agreement’s new goals for airport expansion? Well once a constrained carbon budget is defined, modellers can develop a variety of future scenarios for global energy systems that remain ‘in budget’.

These would include obvious elements such as an increase in renewable and very low carbon energy supply-side options and big changes to the levels and patterns of energy use, storage, and energy efficiency.

However, studies almost universally also include highly optimistic assumptions about a new suite of ‘negative emissions technologies’ (NETs) offering a ‘carbon sink’ to balance carbon sources in the second half of the century.

This balancing is considered necessary from a mathematical perspective because some sectors are assumed to be too difficult to decarbonise in an appropriate timescale – air travel is one such sector. Yet recent attention drawn to a huge reliance on NETs highlights the significant risks posed assuming these interventions can be deployed at the necessary rate and scale.  Gambling our future on airport expansion

Aircraft are extremely difficult to decarbonise, which is why research illustrates that demand-side measures have a key role to play in minimising aviation CO2. If NETs prove to offer only marginal cuts to CO2 in future, the damage will have been done.

Short-term measures to tackle rising CO2 through minimising the demand for fossil fuels now are essential. A moratorium on airport expansion is one such mechanism, yet the opposite decision has just been made in relation to Heathrow expansion.

The consequences of which will have global ramifications in the short-term, enduring well beyond our lifetimes.

http://www.buildingtalk.com/blog-entry/gambling-our-future-on-airport-expansion/

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See also

 

Statements by Professors Kevin Anderson and Alice Larkin, about how the UK should NOT be building a runway

Professor Larkin said:   “The highly constrained carbon budget that is consistent with the Paris Agreement requires all fossil fuel consuming sectors to urgently accelerate towards full decarbonisation – and while some sectors will achieve this sooner than others, no sector can be excluded. Technical and even operational options for decarbonising the aviation sector within a timeframe consistent with the Paris goals are few and far between. As such, demand-side measures that constrain further growth, must receive much greater attention. Equally, policy measures aimed at increasing capacity and supporting further growth in air travel such as new runways, particularly within richer nations, are at odds with the Paris Agreement. Such developments risk future stranded assets, and should be avoided.”

Professor Anderson said:  “The UK Government’s enthusiasm for more airport capacity alongside its clamour for high-carbon shale gas demonstrates a palpable disdain for the Paris Agreement. Both of these decisions will lock the UK into ongoing emissions of carbon dioxide for decades to come, putting short-term convenience and financial gain ahead of long-term and genuinely low-carbon prosperity. Such reckless disregard for the prospects of our own children and the well being of poor and climatically vulnerable communities arises from either a scientifically illiterate Government or one that cares nothing for its legacy. Whichever it may be, these are undesirable characteristics of a government facing the climate change and other strategic challenges of the twenty-first century.”

Click here to view full story…

and

AEF damning assessment of Heathrow recommendation and its environmental impacts

The AEF (Aviation Environment Federation) is the main group in the UK assessing UK aviation policy for its environment impacts, with several decades of expertise. They have had a first look at the government’s Heathrow decision, and are underwhelmed. Some of their comments: On CO2 the DfT says that keeping UK carbon emissions to within the 37.5 MtCO2 cap while adding a Heathrow runway effectively cannot be done. AEF says the DfT now has no commitment to the 37.5 MtCO2 cap, and just includes vague references to the ICAO global carbon offsetting scheme for aviation agreed this month, and to potential efficiencies arising from better air traffic management -though both measures are (effectively) already taken into account in the CCC’s modelling.

AEF said on carbon emissions: 

As AEF has consistently pointed out, and as the Committee on Climate Change reminded Government today, there is no plan for delivering the aviation emissions limit required to deliver the Climate Change Act either with or without a new runway.

The last time we had a government supporting runway expansion, it specified that this would be conditional on the sector’s CO2 emissions being on course not to exceed 37.5 Mt by 2050, in line with the CCC’s advice. Today’s announcement included no such commitment, instead making vague references to the global carbon offsetting scheme for aviation agreed this month, and to potential efficiencies arising from better air traffic management – both measures that are (effectively) already taken into account in the CCC’s modelling, and that won’t bring us anywhere near to achieving the minimum level of ambition required under UK law.

So what does the Government have to say about how the CCC’s recommendation will be met? The answer is deeply buried in a technical paper released alongside the announcement which states that the Airports Commission’s carbon-capped scenario “is helpful for understanding the varying effects of constraining aviation CO2 emissions on aviation demand and the impact on the case for airport expansion but was described by the AC as ‘unrealistic in future policy terms’”. In other words it can’t be done.

Click here to view full story…

 

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Caroline Lucas: “The expansion of Heathrow is unforgivable – we will fight this decision”

Caroline Lucas, a long standing opponent of aviation expansion due to its carbon emissions, has expressed her anger at the government’s decision to back Heathrow. She says: “This is not a win for families who jet off on a holiday once a year – this is to pacify the needs of those privileged individuals who fly regularly.” … “the Government is ignoring the abundant evidence. .. For those of us who care about Britain’s role in combating climate change, and for people living in west London, today’s decision is a disaster.” … “We are living under a Government that says it wants to allow people to “take back control”, yet it is pressing ahead with a decision that will inflict more noise and pollution on a local community that’s already suffering…”  … “average CO2 levels are now more than 400 parts per million. The effects of burning more and more dirty fossil fuels are well known…” …  “Theresa May knows all of this of course and, at times, she appears to really care. Earlier this year she proudly told the House of Commons that the UK is the “second best country in the world for tackling climate change”. That’s why her decision back expansion at Heathrow is so unforgivable. ” … “today’s decision puts a wrecking ball through the UK’s climate change commitments.” … “we need practical proposals [like aa frequent-flyer levy] to keep aviation at levels that are compatible with fighting climate change, and which require no new runways.”
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The expansion of Heathrow is unforgivable – we will fight this decision

This is not a win for families who jet off on a holiday once a year – this is to pacify the needs of those privileged individuals who fly regularly

By Caroline Lucas @CarolineLucas   (Independent – Voices)

25 October 2016

Heathrow expansion protesters gather outside Parliament Reclaim the Power
It’s finally been confirmed: the Government is ignoring the abundant evidence and backing expansion of Europe’s biggest airport. For those of us who care about Britain’s role in combating climate change, and for people living in west London, today’s decision is a disaster.

This will directly affect those living around Heathrow, with increased pollution, noise and daily disruption to their lives – and it will benefit only the wealthier fliers, with just 15 per cent of UK residents accounting for seven out of 10 of all flights taken. This is not a win for families who jet off on a holiday once a year (and most people don’t even do that); this is to pacify the needs of those privileged individuals who fly regularly.

We are living under a Government that says it wants to allow people to “take back control”, yet it is pressing ahead with a decision that will inflict more noise and pollution on a local community that’s already suffering – all for the benefit of aviation lobbyists and the business-class set.

The expansion announcement today comes days after leading scientists said that the world is entering a new “climate change reality”, as average carbon dioxide levels are now more than 400 parts per million. The effects of burning more and more dirty fossil fuels are well known, but worth reiterating. From an increase in devastating flooding in Britain, to wildfires in Indonesia and more hurricanes hitting the Caribbean – climate change affects everyone’s lives, but hits the most vulnerable communities hardest.

Theresa May knows all of this of course and, at times, she appears to really care. Earlier this year she proudly told the House of Commons that the UK is the “second best country in the world for tackling climate change”. That’s why her decision back expansion at Heathrow is so unforgivable. And let’s just be clear about this: today’s decision puts a wrecking ball through the UK’s climate change commitments. This decision comes in the same week that the UK Government is in court for failing to tackle illegal air pollution limits.

Lifting people into in the air requires a lot of energy, and there’s no prospect of that energy coming from low carbon sources anytime soon. That’s why, unlike every other part of the economy, aviation isn’t expected to reduce its emissions. This already generous exemption is now set to be magnified many times over. If we’re serious about climate change, we would need to make even deeper carbon cuts in other parts of the economy (and we’re already failing to do that).

Another solution would be to force Northern airports to limit flights and bring in a substantially higher tax on flying – are the Government going to take those actions? Of course not.

Those of us who want to reduce the impact of flying cannot just wish away increased demand – instead we need practical proposals to keep aviation at levels that are compatible with fighting climate change, and which require no new runways.

One such proposal, a frequent-flyer levy, would reduce demand for airport expansion through a fairer tax on flights that increases depending on the number of flights you take. It’s clear that the small minority of wealthy individuals who fly often are fuelling the demand for new runways. The proposed frequent-flyer levy would be a fair way to manage demand – the crucial missing part of any aviation policy serious about tackling climate change and protecting local communities.

Another alternative would be to redirect investment away from airport expansion and into improving railways and reducing fares – to end the ridiculous situation where flying is often cheaper than taking the train to nearby destinations.

Ministers know very well that airport expansion, at Heathrow or anywhere else for that matter, will leave our climate change commitments in tatters – and we need to make sure they know that climate campaigners and local residents have absolutely no plans to give up this battle.

Caroline Lucas is co-leader of the Green Party
http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/heathrow-expansion-gatwick-green-party-theresa-may-carbon-emissions-wealthy-a7379136.html

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See also

John Sauven: The decision to back a 3rd Heathrow runway is a grotesque, cynical, folly

Writing in the Guardian, the Director of Greenpeace UK – John Sauven – explains why the government approval of a Heathrow runway is so cynical. The reality, which is well known by the government, and the “independent” Airports Commission, is that UK aviation carbon emissions are on target to far exceed the level at which they need to be, under the 2008 Climate Change Act. Adding an extra runway only exacerbates that problem. If the UK was half serious about its global obligations to cut CO2 (which it does not appear to be) the simplest solution would be not to build a new runway – which needlessly raises emissions. But instead, as the job of the Commission was to get a Heathrow runway to appear possible and desirable, they made some obscure assumptions (well hidden in endless supporting documents) which were not intended to be understood. Realising CO2 would be too high, they postulated a sky high price of carbon. That would mean the price of air tickets would rise dramatically, cutting exactly the extra demand the runway had been built to cater for. Otherwise, either the emissions of the regional airports would have to be cut, to let the monster Heathrow continue to expand – or else the UK just abandons any pretence of an aviation carbon target. Both are cynical, demonstrating the absence of any credible aviation carbon policy. It demonstrates that the government is at best half hearted on climate commitments.

Click here to view full story…

AEF damning assessment of Heathrow recommendation and its environmental impacts

The AEF (Aviation Environment Federation) is the main group in the UK assessing UK aviation policy for its environment impacts, with several decades of expertise. They have had a first look at the government’s Heathrow decision, and are underwhelmed. Some of their comments: On CO2 the DfT says that keeping UK carbon emissions to within the 37.5 MtCO2 cap while adding a Heathrow runway effectively cannot be done. AEF says the DfT now has no commitment to the 37.5 MtCO2 cap, and just includes vague references to the ICAO global carbon offsetting scheme for aviation agreed this month, and to potential efficiencies arising from better air traffic management -though both measures are (effectively) already taken into account in the CCC’s modelling. On air pollution, the DfT says “a new runway at Heathrow is deliverable within air quality limits, if necessary mitigation measures are put in place, in line with the ‘National air quality plan’, published in December 2015.” But AEF says Government appears to have little idea what those mitigation measures will be, and the deliverability of the plan has already, therefore, been questioned through the courts. And on noise AEF says the noise impact will depend heavily on the precise location of flight paths, which are unknown.

Click here to view full story…

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Read more »

John Sauven: The decision to back a 3rd Heathrow runway is a grotesque, cynical, folly

Writing in the Guardian, the Director of Greenpeace UK – John Sauven – explains why the government approval of a Heathrow runway is so cynical. The reality, which is well known by the government, and the “independent” Airports Commission, is that UK aviation carbon emissions are on target to far exceed the level at which they need to be, under the 2008 Climate Change Act. Adding an extra runway only exacerbates that problem.  If the UK was half serious about its global obligations to cut CO2 (which it does not appear to be) the simplest solution would be not to build a new runway – which needlessly raises emissions. But instead, as the job of the Commission was to get a Heathrow runway to appear possible and desirable, they made some obscure assumptions (well hidden in endless supporting documents) which were not intended to be understood. Realising CO2 would be too high, they postulated a sky high price of carbon. That would mean the price of air tickets would rise dramatically, cutting exactly the extra demand the runway had been built to cater for.  Otherwise, either the emissions of the regional airports would have to be cut, to let the monster Heathrow continue to expand – or else the UK just abandons any pretence of an aviation carbon target. Both are cynical, demonstrating the absence of any credible aviation carbon policy.  It demonstrates that the government is at best half hearted on climate commitments.
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The decision to back a third runway at Heathrow is a grotesque folly

Business flights are declining, CO 2 levels are climbing, and the cost of expansion is staggering. Only shameless cynicism can explain this outcome
25.10.2016  (The Guardian)

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The government’s decision to back a third runway at Heathrow has been informed by a mishmash of misinformation and missing information. To take just one example, business flights are in decline. They’ve been in decline for years. And yet the debate is conducted as though they were not only increasing, but increasing at a rate that our current infrastructure is unable to cater for, and our economy is suffering as a result. But they’re not, they’re declining.

Here’s another. Heathrow can’t afford to expand with its own money. Surface access costs for Heathrow are only affordable with a huge subsidy from the taxpayer. Heathrow will only pay £1bn for the additional road and rail links required to get the extra passengers to and from Heathrow.Transport for London say it will cost £18bn. Anyone see a small discrepancy?

There may be general, underlying sociological trends which explain why the big issues of our time are decided on the basis of incomplete and misleading information, but with the runway argument there is an additional reason. We privatised the decision.

By turning it into a competition between Heathrow and Gatwick lobbyists, we allowed the debate to be conducted by two parties that both firmly agreed that building a new runway in the south-east should be the nation’s top priority.

They were both happy to point out the relative flaws in their rival’s plans, but are equally content to ignore any flaws which affect both.The media accepted the framing, and so despite extensive coverage, the biggest, most important flaw has been missing from the debate. The BBC has covered Heathrow on all of its flagship news and politics shows – Newsnight, the Daily Politics, the Today Programme – without even touching on the main issue.

It’s easy to miss something that’s invisible, silent, odourless and tasteless. Particularly when you have a strong financial incentive to do so. And the entire aviation industry has a very strong financial incentive to ignore CO2. They’ve been successfully ignoring it for decades, and last month’s UN-affiliated international aviation conference made it abundantly clear that it is content to continue with its current approach.

Unfortunately, there are no imminent technologies that, in the short to medium term, will make aviation a low-carbon industry. The only feasible way to significantly reduce aviation’s impact on the climate is to significantly reduce aviation.

The Climate Change Act requires the UK economy to reduce its emissions by 80% from 1990 levels, by 2050. Aviation is allowed to increase its emissions by 120% from 1990 levels. They are on course to exceed that 120% without any new runways. So how will building a new runway in the south-east reduce the number of flights down to a level consistent with that target? Unsurprisingly, it won’t. In fact, entirely predictably, it will hugely increase flights and emissions.

Or so a naive observer might think. The serious players in this debate have a different answer to that question. The Davies commission, that entirely independent and impartial inquiry into what colour Heathrow’s third runway should be, has said that it will fit within the UK’s carbon budget. So that’s that, issue resolved. Except, it won’t explain how. This reluctance encompasses the majority who don’t understand how Sir Howard Davies came to such a counterintuitive conclusion, and the small minority who understand all too well.

Davies’ “solution” exists as fragments scattered through his 600-page multi-volume report in an as obscure and obfuscatory manner as he could manage. It’s designed, very effectively, not to be understood. It consists primarily of demand-control measures, primarily carbon taxes. Davies is saying (or rather whispering in pig Latin with a paper bag on his head) that we can build a new runway that has the specific purpose of increasing flights so long as we increase the price of those flights so much that demand drops to a level that reduces the number of flights overall. There are two ways to interpret this “solution”.

One is to accept that everyone is on the level. The new runway will be built, flights will increase, the emissions from aviation will soar ever higher above their target level, and then the government will introduce a carbon tax or similar instrument which will be so punitive, adding hundreds of pounds to every ticket, that demand will drop dramatically back to levels not seen for 40 years. The consequence would be a severe scaling back, or perhaps even closure of airports, in poorer regions of Britain, but not, perhaps, in west London. According to this interpretation, the new runway is not an attempt to increase capacity at all, but to move existing capacity south. And this is in some way a good and useful thing that we should spend billions of public money to support.

The other plausible interpretation is that Davies’ plan for hitting aviation’s carbon targets isn’t really serious. So, the plan for demand-control measures was seen as a necessary thing to have for legal purposes, in order to get the runway built, but was always known to be just as daft as it sounds, and that’s why it was effectively hidden from view.

I’m not certain which is more cynical, the idea that the government is willing to spend taxpayers’ money to redistribute mobility from the poor to the rich, or the idea that Davies’ report is designed to be a black box that allows aviation to expand so long as no one looks inside, an invisible solution to an invisible problem.

Unfortunately, the invisible problem is real.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/oct/25/heathrow-third-runway-davies-commission

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See also

Statements by Professors Kevin Anderson and Alice Larkin, about how the UK should NOT be building a runway

 

Statement by Professor Alice Larkin

“The highly constrained carbon budget that is consistent with the Paris Agreement requires all fossil fuel consuming sectors to urgently accelerate towards full decarbonisation – and while some sectors will achieve this sooner than others, no sector can be excluded. Technical and even operational options for decarbonising the aviation sector within a timeframe consistent with the Paris goals are few and far between. As such, demand-side measures that constrain further growth, must receive much greater attention. Equally, policy measures aimed at increasing capacity and supporting further growth in air travel such as new runways, particularly within richer nations, are at odds with the Paris Agreement. Such developments risk future stranded assets, and should be avoided .”

Professor Alice Larkin:  

Professor of Climate Science & Energy Policy, University of Manchester 


Statement by Professor Kevin Anderson

“The UK Government’s enthusiasm for more airport capacity alongside its clamour for high-carbon shale gas demonstrates a palpable disdain for the Paris Agreement. Both of these decisions will lock the UK into ongoing emissions of carbon dioxide for decades to come, putting short-term convenience and financial gain ahead of long-term and genuinely low-carbon prosperity. Such reckless disregard for the prospects of our own children and the well being of poor and climatically vulnerable communities arises from either a scientifically illiterate Government or one that cares nothing for its legacy. Whichever it may be, these are undesirable characteristics of a government facing the climate change and other strategic challenges of the twenty-first century.”

Professor Kevin Anderson: University of Manchester and Uppsala

Kevin Anderson is Professor of Energy and Climate Change in the School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering at the University of Manchester. He is Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and is research active with recent publications in Royal Society journals and Nature. He engages widely across all tiers of government; from reporting on aviation-related emissions to the EU Parliament, advising the Prime Minister’s office on Carbon Trading and having contributed to the development of the UK’s Climate Change Act.

With his colleague Alice Bows, Kevin’s work on carbon budgets has been pivotal in revealing the widening gulf between political rhetoric on climate change and the reality of rapidly escalating emissions. His work makes clear that there is now little chance of maintaining the rise in global temperature at below 2C, despite repeated high-level statements to the contrary. Moreover, Kevin’s research demonstrates how avoiding even a 4C rise demands a radical reframing of both the climate change agenda and the economic characterisation of contemporary society.

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AEF damning assessment of Heathrow recommendation and its environmental impacts

The AEF (Aviation Environment Federation) is the main group in the UK assessing UK aviation policy for its environment impacts, with several decades of expertise. They have had a first look at the government’s Heathrow decision, and are underwhelmed. Some of their comments:  On CO2 the DfT says that keeping UK carbon emissions to within the 37.5 MtCO2 cap while adding a Heathrow runway effectively cannot be done. AEF says the DfT now has no commitment to the 37.5 MtCO2 cap, and just includes vague references to the ICAO global carbon offsetting scheme for aviation agreed this month, and to potential efficiencies arising from better air traffic management -though both measures are (effectively) already taken into account in the CCC’s modelling. On air pollution, the DfT says “a new runway at Heathrow is deliverable within air quality limits, if necessary mitigation measures are put in place, in line with the ‘National air quality plan’, published in December 2015.” But AEF says Government appears to have little idea what those mitigation measures will be, and the deliverability of the plan has already, therefore, been questioned through the courts. And on noise AEF says the noise impact will depend heavily on the precise location of flight paths, which are unknown. 
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What answers has the Government found to the environmental hurdles facing a third runway?

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With the Government now having officially announced its support for a new runway at Heathrow, despite having slashed the Airports Commission’s claim of a £147 billion benefit to the UK by almost 60% (referring instead to a benefit over sixty years of ‘up to £61 billion’), we take a first look at what they have to offer in terms of answers to some key environmental challenges.

Climate Change

As AEF has consistently pointed out, and as the Committee on Climate Change reminded Government today, there is no plan for delivering the aviation emissions limit required to deliver the Climate Change Act either with or without a new runway.

The last time we had a government supporting runway expansion, it specified that this would be conditional on the sector’s CO2 emissions being on course not to exceed 37.5 Mt by 2050, in line with the CCC’s advice. Today’s announcement included no such commitment, instead making vague references to the global carbon offsetting scheme for aviation agreed this month, and to potential efficiencies arising from better air traffic management – both measures that are (effectively) already taken into account in the CCC’s modelling, and that won’t bring us anywhere near to achieving the minimum level of ambition required under UK law.

So what does the Government have to say about how the CCC’s recommendation will be met? The answer is deeply buried in a technical paper released alongside the announcement which states that the Airports Commission’s carbon-capped scenario “is helpful for understanding the varying effects of constraining aviation CO2 emissions on aviation demand and the impact on the case for airport expansion but was described by the AC as ‘unrealistic in future policy terms’”. In other words it can’t be done.

Air pollution

With the Heathrow area consistently breaching legal limits for nitrogen dioxide and the Airports Commission anticipating that expansion at the airport would have an adverse or significantly adverse impact on air quality, this represents a clear legal obstacle that the Government must be ready to take on. Today’s announcement indicates that a ‘re-analysis’ by Government of air pollution levels subsequent to the Airports Commission’s report has shown that “a new runway at Heathrow is deliverable within air quality limits, if necessary mitigation measures are put in place, in line with the ‘National air quality plan’, published in December 2015.”

The problem is that Government appears to have little idea what those mitigation measures will be, and the deliverability of the plan has already, therefore, been questioned through the courts. ClientEarth, which brought the action, said today in a statement “Those plans were so poor that last week we took them [the Government] back to the High Court to force action on air pollution. The government needs to produce an in-depth and credible plan to drastically cut air pollution to meet its legal obligations rather than digging an even deeper hole for itself.”

Noise

With Heathrow’s noise already affecting more people than its five main European rivals combined, the likely noise impact of expansion has always been at the heart of much of the political opposition to a new runway. Today’s announcement includes the statement that “The government will propose that a six-and-a-half hour ban on scheduled night flights will be introduced” but gives no indication of preference for whether this will run from 11:30pm to 6:00am as recommended by the Airports Commission or from 11:00pm to 5:30am as proposed by the airport, with numerous flights potentially scheduled from 5:30 in the morning. Meanwhile the noise impact, including for the hundreds of thousands predicted to be newly affected, will depend heavily on the precise location of flight paths – an issue potentially as contentious as the expansion itself.

The Conservatives’ mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith has already announced his decision to resign in response to the Government announcement, and the Government is now relying on the support of both Parliament and the Lords to get approval for an Airports National Policy Statement supporting expansion (not to be published for consultation until next year). This is – of course – not the end of the debate but in many ways just the beginning.

http://www.aef.org.uk/2016/10/25/what-answers-has-the-government-found-to-the-environmental-hurdles-facing-a-third-runway/


 

Dark day for communities and for the UK’s chance of tackling climate change, as Heathrow announcement shows reckless disregard for environmental targets

PRESS RELEASE  by AEF

The environmental NGO, Aviation Environment Federation [1], which represents communities around the UK’s airports, has strongly criticised the Government’s decision to back a third runway at Heathrow.

Cait Hewitt, AEF Deputy Director, said:

This is a dark day for local communities, and suggests a reckless disregard for the climate change damage that a new runway will bring.

Within weeks of the Paris Agreement on climate change becoming binding, the UK appears to be turning its back on earlier promises to play our part in ensuring a safe and stable climate. Heathrow is already the UK’s biggest single source of emissions [3], and is responsible for more CO2 from international flights than any other airport in the world [4]. As the Government has no meaningful plans for tackling CO2 from aviation despite UK and international climate change commitments, a new runway will see aviation emissions soar.

The decision is also a betrayal of local people who are already exposed to dangerous and illegal levels of air pollution, and to noise at levels known to harm health. Even if the airport introduces a partial night flight ban that may provide some respite for existing communities, hundreds of thousands of people will be overflown for the first time as a result of expansion, at an airport that already impacts more people than its five major European rivals combined.

Today’s decision is not final. This is not the first time that a UK government has announced its support for a new South East runway. On each occasion in the past that that the government has supported expansion, it has not proceeded once the full economic and environmental costs have become clear.

Parliament will now have its say on the Government’s decision. It is vital that MPs look beyond the headline figures from the Airports Commission’s final report, since many of the costs of expansion were hidden in appendices. Factoring in these costs shows that the environmental damage created by a new runway will result in a relatively small economic benefit and could even be negative. Over the summer we sent politicians from all major parties 50 reasons to oppose a new runway. MPs must now see if the Government has answers to these challenges.”

Contact: Name / email

AEF office: 0203 102 1509

Tim Johnson, AEF Director: (tim@aef.org.uk)

Cait Hewitt, AEF Deputy Director: (cait@aef.org.uk)

NOTES

[1] The Aviation Environment Federation is the only national NGO campaigning exclusively on environmental impacts of aviation including noise, air pollution and climate change. We represent community groups around many of the UK airports in our work to secure effective regulation of the aviation industry at national and international levels. www.aef.org.uk

[2] AEF’s 50 reasons are available to download at: http://www.aef.org.uk/uploads/AEF_50-reasons_Final.pdf with full references at: http://www.aef.org.uk/2016/09/08/50-reasons-campaign-references/

[3] Drax emissions from UK Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (verified emissions accounting for biomass); Heathrow emissions projections from Jacobs, Carbon Assessment, November 2014, prepared for the Airports Commission

[4] https://southgateaviation.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/global-domestic-footprint-finalv6.pdf(page 41)

[5] The UN reached agreement earlier this month on a global aviation emissions offsetting scheme, a welcome indication that all countries recognise the challenge of aviation emissions. While the agreement represents a first step towards bringing the sector into line with climate ambition, however, it will be unable to deliver the emissions reductions required by either UK climate legislation or the Paris Agreement.

[6] Click here for supporting information.

http://www.aef.org.uk/2016/10/25/dark-day-for-communities-and-for-the-uks-chance-of-tackling-climate-change-as-heathrow-announcement-shows-reckless-disregard-for-environmental-targets/

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Environment Audit Cttee will be calling Ministers to give evidence on Heathrow runway environmental impacts

The Environment Audit Committee has announced (already) that, after the government’s  announcement that it backs a Heathrow runway, it will be calling Ministers to scrutinise how environmental concerns are being mitigated. The EAC has scrutinised the Airports Commission in the past, on environmental problems of a Heathrow runway.  The EAC wants assurances from the Government that a new runway will comply with key environmental conditions.  Mary Creagh MP, Chair of the Committee, said it would be necessary to look at what the runway means for local residents, on air quality and noise standards and also on carbon emissions. She said: …”we need a clear plan to reduce emissions from aviation to meet our climate change targets. … The Government must ensure that current legal EU air pollution limits are retained after we leave, to protect the health and wellbeing of local people. We wait to hear what the airport’s plans are for covering the costs of local transport. … On noise we welcome Heathrow’s announcement that it will accept a ban on night flights. Ministers must ensure that local communities receive predictable respite from planes flying over their homes.”  The EAC report, published in November 2015, called upon the Government and Heathrow to demonstrate how issues were to be dealt with. They are not persuaded by the replies.
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EAC seeks Government assurances on Heathrow expansion

25 October 2016

From the Environment Audit Committee website

Committee announces it will be calling Ministers to scrutinise how environmental concerns are being mitigated

Reacting to the Government’s announcement of  its approval for Heathrow expansion, the Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee Mary Creagh MP is seeking assurances from the Government that any new airport capacity will comply with key environmental conditions.

Chair’s comments

Mary Creagh MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

“My committee recently looked at what a third runway at Heathrow would mean for local residents and we will be seeking assurances from the Government that the airport’s proposals meet strict carbon emissions, air quality and noise standards.”

“We have seen some international progress on tackling carbon emissions from aviation recently, but we need a clear plan to reduce emissions from aviation to meet our climate change targets.”

“The Government must ensure that current legal EU air pollution limits are retained after we leave, to protect the health and wellbeing of local people. We wait to hear what the airport’s plans are for covering the costs of local transport.”

“On noise we welcome Heathrow’s announcement that it will accept a ban on night flights. Ministers must ensure that local communities receive predictable respite from planes flying over their homes.”

The EAC report, published in November 2015, called upon the Government and Heathrow to demonstrate that Heathrow expansion can be reconciled with our climate change commitments and legal air pollution limits. It called for an improvement in surface transport and a ban on night flight.

Background

The Climate Change Act 2008 requires the Government to set a series of 5 year carbon budgets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050.  The statutory Committee on Climate Change, which advises the Government on meeting these budgets, says its ‘planning assumption’ is that 2050 aviation emissions should to be around 2005 levels (i.e. 37.5 MtCO2).

The UK’s legal air pollution limits are set out in EU Directive 2008/50/EC on ambient air quality, which was transcribed into UK law. The Directive limits values in respect of certain key pollutants – including an annual mean limit value of 40 μg/m3 NO2. Compliance is assessed through measurements carried out by “receptors” next to roads. The deadline for compliance was 2010 but 38 out of 43 areas remain above the limit values, including Greater London.

http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/environmental-audit-committee/news-parliament-2015/heathrow-expansion-chair-announcement-16-17/

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