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Summaries of, and links to, the latest aviation news stories appear below. News is archived into topics

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Latest news stories:

Swedish flygskam (or flight shame) is spreading across Europe – Finland, Germany … Brits yet to catch on….

Fears about climate change have led many to rethink the way they travel and, in Sweden, there is a new word - flygskam (flying shame) - for the shame associated with flying, knowing the carbon emissions it causes. The subject has come higher up the agenda with the vast protests in Central London by Extinction Rebellion, since Monday 15th April.  And there are protests in many other cities and countries. The Swedes are now travelling a bit less by air, and a bit more by rail. But it’s not just the Swedes racked with guilt about their carbon footprints. The Finnish have invented the word "lentohapea", the Dutch say "vliegschaamte" and the Germans "flugscham", all referring to a feeling of shame around flying. Brits are lagging behind ... The Swedish rail company reported 32 million passengers in 2018, a good increase. Many understand that flying has a huge negative climate impact, and there are other words associated with this: “tagskryt” (train bragging) and “smygflyga” (flying in secret). The 16 year old Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg, started the world wide movement of school strikes, to draw attention to climate change, only travels by train to meetings in other countries.

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“Be the change you want to see”: How individuals (not only governments) are vital in cutting global CO2 emissions

What can we do in the face of the climate emergency? Many say we should drive less, fly less, eat less meat. But others argue that personal actions like this are a pointless drop in the ocean when set against the huge systemic changes that are required to prevent devastating global warming.  Research from a PhD researcher into Environmental Leadership (Cardiff University) shows that doing something bold like giving up flying can have a wider knock-on effect - by influencing others and shifting what’s viewed as “normal”.  These effects were increased if a high-profile person had given up flying, such as someone in the public eye.  Far from the small actions by individuals having no impact, they are important. The role of people, in changing their lifestyles, cutting their carbon emissions and environmental footprint, is as big as that of governments or major corporations.  But significant lifestyle changes by individuals need to be encouraged by effective government policy. It has to be both - policies, government action etc  PLUS actions by individuals. Millions of them. Behavioural change has the potential for far greater emission reductions than the political pledges made under the Paris Accord.

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Because the adults of today have ignored the climate crisis, today’s children face lives with tiny carbon footprints

Children born today will have to live their lives with drastically smaller carbon footprints than their grandparents if climate change is to be controlled. Previous and existing generations have emitted nearly all the CO2 to get the world to 1.5C or 2C, so future generations will have to severely and rapidly cut the emissions from flying, meat consumption, heating, hot water and other activities in their lifetimes. An analysis has shown this means the new generation will have lifetime carbon budgets almost 90% lower than someone born before 1950. The figures suggest 734 tonnes CO2 is the lifetime budget for limiting global warming to 1.5C for someone born in 1957; 405 tonnes if born in 1987; 86 tonnes if born in 2017. This dramatically highlights the burden inherited by today’s children, an issue at the heart of the global school strikes for climate. A spokesman for the UK Student Climate Network said: “Those in positions of power – from politicians to business leaders – that have benefited from a much higher lifetime carbon budget [and all those flights] have a duty to act to ensure a liveable planet for current and future generations. Without appropriate action, those in power are sacrificing our tomorrow for their today.”

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“Flight Free” blog – “Why we stopped carbon-offsetting our flying, and then stopped flying”

New campaign "Flight Free" is asking people to sign up and pledge not to fly in 2020 (or ideally not in this year either ....) We need people to choose to cut their flying voluntarily, because government is never going to introduce measures to cut demand for air travel - it would risk displeasing too many voters. The Flight Free website has blogs by people who have pledged not to fly, or have already given up flying. One comments on their past flying: "...going on adventures to the other side of the world was one of our treats. We thought we’d earned it. We felt like responsible tourists, keen to explore local cultures and wildlife. Happy to tip local guides and to buy hand crafted items direct from local artisans ...".  And then "We started carbon offsetting our flying. Planting trees that would absorb our CO2 and pump out oxygen in the process. It was a win, win.  We felt better for a year or two. In effect we had thrown money at the problem but we hadn’t gone through any radical change of behaviour and we were still enjoying the same experiences, from wildlife safaris to snorkelling with turtles". Then they gave up flying: "This is a Climate Emergency and we need to change our behaviour individually and collectively now."

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West Sussex County Council votes to do more on climate – but Gatwick airport intends to instead vastly increase its CO2 emissions

West Sussex County Council has agreed unanimously to back an amended motion pledging action on climate change. South East Climate Alliance campaigners hailed this as a potential ‘tipping point’ for the area. Two of the commitments made were to try to make the C County Council itself carbon neutral, and encourage residents and businesses to do more to help tackle climate change.  Council members were invited to make personal pledges on things like saving water and energy, and making low carbon journeys (air travel not mentioned specifically). Louise Goldsmith, Council Leader, said:  " ... we really do need everyone young, old and not so old and all businesses to come together and do their bit to become more sustainable..."  CAGNE attended the meeting, and Sally Pavey commented that aviation issues were included in the debate - Gatwick airport is in West Sussex, and is probably the largest carbon emitter in the area (about 4.5 million tonnes of CO2 per year). Cllr Liz Kitchen and Cllr Bill Acraman, raised the issue of Gatwick expansion, which would hugely increase the airport's carbon, undoing any good done by local carbon cuts by individuals, businesses or the council.

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Gatwick will get a Brüel & Kjær system to provide better flight and noise info for local people

Gatwick says it will soon improve the technology it uses ,so local residents can get information on the details of planes using the airport. It will be using the EMS Brüel & Kjær system, also used by Heathrow. The website is due to be available in a few months. The system will also allow noise complaints to be submitted via an automated telephone line, which has been a key request from local communities for several years, since this was withdrawn by Gatwick and they had made complaining about noise very difficult. There will be "up to" 23 new noise monitoring terminals in surrounding areas, to monitor noise levels. These can then be presented in real time alongside flight information from the airport radar and other airport systems. Gatwick hopes this will be preferred by local people, and provide them with better information. Also that airlines might "use the data to analyse how they might improve the performance of their flights in terms of track keeping and noise." A Gatwick public affairs person said "... we know that some residents are concerned by the impacts of aircraft noise."... and Gatwick hopes it will " improve our engagement with communities that are negatively impacted by aircraft noise.” 

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SSE takes Communities Secretary James Brokenshire to JR on Stansted expansion, including its CO2 emissions

Campaign group, Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) say they will use latest EU figures showing Ryanair as one of Europe’s biggest polluters in their latest judicial challenge. Currently about 21 million of Ryanair's 130 million passengers in 2018 travelled via Stansted. Ryanair has the highest CO2 emissions (for intra-EU flights) of any European airline. Its flights emitted 9.9 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, up 6.9% on 2017, and up 49% over the past 5 years. SSE say the added argument of  the vast carbon emissions, to only be hugely worsened by expansion to 43 mppa, is another reason why the planning consent by Uttlesford council, for the airport expansion, should be called in for determination by the government. The Communities Secretary James Brokenshire has said his reason for not intervening was that the application does not involve issues of "more than local importance." Carbon emissions are indeed of much more than local significance - it is a global issue. Brian Ross, from SSE said:  “You can’t just allow local authorities to approve an increase in carbon emissions as they like. There needs to be national co-ordination.”

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Ryanair the biggest but not fastest growing EU airline CO2 emitter – whole airline sector emissions rising very fast

The carbon emissions of 8 airlines for intra-European flights grew even faster than Ryanair last year. Low-cost airlines Jet2 (20% up); TAP (>12% up); EasyJet, Finnair, Wizz (up about 11%); Vueling and Norwegian (over 8%) and Lufthansa all increased CO2 emissions faster than Ryanair, though Ryanair has the highest emissions on European routes in 2018. Transport & Environment (T&E) says the top 10 growing polluters show that aviation’s runaway emissions are a huge problem. But governments have left airlines untaxed and under-regulated compared to other transport. Emissions from intra-European flights account for 40% of the aviation CO2  – the remaining 60% comes from flights to destinations outside Europe. Those are entirely unregulated, not being part of the EU ETS. Aviation regulators are consistently underestimating the extent of the emissions growth in their planning forecasts. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) anticipated a 3.3% increase in carbon emissions on flights within Europe last year, but official data shows they grew 4.9% – or 1.1 megatonnes of CO2 more than expected.

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Ryanair’s carbon emissions within Europe make it the EU’s 10th largest emitter

Ryanair has become the first non-coal company to join Europe’s top 10 biggest carbon emitters, according to EU ETS figures. That is for flights within the EU.  Ryanair declared 9.9 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, up 6.9% on 2017 and up 49% over the last 5 years. The only larger emitters of carbon within Europe are power stations. Andrew Murphy, the aviation manager at T&E said: “When it comes to climate, Ryanair is the new coal. This trend will only continue until Europe realises that this undertaxed and under-regulated sector needs to be brought into line, starting with a tax on kerosene and the introduction of mandates that force airlines to switch to zero-emission jet fuel.”  Emissions from airlines, have risen over 25% since 2014, outpacing all other transport sectors. EasyJet was 31st on the list, after an 11% rise in emissions in 2018. Prof Kevin Anderson at the University of Manchester, said: “Ryanair use new and efficient aircraft rammed to the rafters with passengers, illustrating how technology alone cannot reconcile aviation’s rocketing emissions with the Paris climate commitments...we need to drive down the demand for aviation."

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ICAO blocks any critics on Twitter and describes comments on aviation and climate as “fake news”

The UN's International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is dismissing factual critiques and blocking Twitter accounts that raise concerns about the climate change impact of flying, accusing them of “fake news” and “spam”. A number of campaigners and researchers complain they have been barred from following @ICAO on Twitter, including famous and respected climate scientist, Kevin Anderson. ICAO’s combative approach to public engagement has drawn wider criticism, with environmental journalists describing it as “spectacularly ill-judged” and “self-defeating“. On Wednesday, Steve Westlake, a behavioural scientist at Cardiff University, shared a screenshot showing Icao had blocked him. It came after he responded to 3 ICAO tweets by sharing a comment from Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg arguing most airport expansions were incompatible with meeting international climate goals. That analysis is uncontroversial. Aviation is one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions. AEF commented that "Climate leadership should always begin with open and transparent debate about the issues and challenges, so this is worrying." 

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Heathrow finally shortlists 18 areas as possible sites for its 4 “logistics hubs” – out of the original 65 possible areas

Heathrow has - for several years - been dangling the carrot of being one of 4 "logistics hubs" around the UK, for its expansion plans, to over 65 possible sites. It was a way to get local support from MPs, councils, business etc.  It has now made a list of 18 shortlisted sites that "remain in the running to help deliver the infrastructure project". So that leaves 47 sites disappointed and let down.  Heathrow makes out that these are going to bring "jobs and economic opportunities up and down the country years before the additional trade and tourism that will follow from unlocked runway capacity." And it will be "sustainable" due to "transporting assembled components in consolidated loads." The sites shortlisted have "showcased a strong base of local support, their area’s thriving supply chain, convenient connectivity links and the potential to tap into a skilled workforce." So those 18 shortlisted are still kept on tenterhooks, to see if they might get lucky, eventually.  In the autumn, they will have the opportunity to pitch to the airport for their chance to become one of the final 4 construction centres, to be announced early next year, ahead of work [possibly, bearing in mind all the legal and planning hurdles] "starting in 2021". 

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Kings College research: Teenage psychotic experiences more common in areas with high air pollution

A new study (in JAMA Psychiatry) by researchers at Kings College London has found it is likely that teenagers living on polluted roads are about 40% more likely to be psychotic. There seems to be a connection between the air pollution and why adolescents in cities are twice as likely to suffer psychosis as those in rural areas.  It is not proof that the pollution causes psychosis, but it adds to mounting evidence that NOx and particulates can do far-reaching damage to the brain and lungs. They may contribute to the development of dementia and depression, as well as possibly harming the unborn foetus, by entering the placenta.  The recent study used data on 2,232 teenagers in England and Wales who were asked about psychotic experiences, such as whether they heard voices or felt they were being watched. About a third had such experiences. While most will grow out of them, these teenagers are at higher risk of going on to suffer full-blown psychosis. The answers were compared with detailed modelling of pollution levels at the teenagers’ homes. The link remained significant even after adjusted for class, drug use, family history of mental illness etc. Heathrow is a huge source of air pollution, from its planes and associated road traffic. 

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EU labels palm oil in diesel as unsustainable – it causes deforestation

The European Commission today decided that palm oil is not a green fuel and should not be promoted because it causes deforestation. The use of palm oil in diesel, which is driven by the EU’s renewable energy targets, will be gradually reduced as of 2023 and should reach zero in 2030 although exemptions remain. Europe’s federation of green transport NGOs, Transport & Environment (T&E), said the labelling of palm oil as unsustainable is a milestone in the fight to recognise the climate impact of burning food for energy. However, in a bid to placate palm oil producing countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Colombia, the Commission introduced a number of exemptions, so some palm oil could still be promoted as a “green” road fuel. The Commission also failed to classify soy, a major contributor to deforestation worldwide, as unsustainable. The EU is the world's 2nd largest importer of crude palm oil; over half of it (around four million tonnes) is currently used to make ‘green’ fuel.

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New AEF briefing: Why Heathrow can’t solve its carbon problem (and the trouble with offsets)

The Government and Heathrow are trying to pretend that adding a 3rd runway, increasing the number of flights by around 50% (many or most to long-haul destinations) somehow is not a climate change impact problem. Now in an excellent new briefing from the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF), "Why Heathrow can't solve its carbon problem (and the trouble with offsets", they explain how the carbon emissions cannot just be wished away and there are no mechanisms currently proposed to properly deal with them. Heathrow has a "roadmap" on how it aspires to be "carbon neutral". AEF says the roadmap "does little more than recycle existing – inadequate – measures to limit aviation emissions" and their briefing sets out why the plan falls short. AEF says: "...almost all the proposed actions involve Heathrow riding on the coattails of other Government or industry initiatives." ... and "The kind of offsetting that CORSIA will deliver ...isn’t designed to deliver a zero emissions target but instead to reduce emissions, at best, to half of what they might have been. ... the idea that offsetting makes a tonne of CO2 from aviation “neutral” is misleading."

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Flybe’s Newquay link with Heathrow takes off courtesy of taxpayer PSO subsidy (£6.2m over 8 years)

From next weekend people flying between Newquay and Heathrow will get a £5 subsidy each, from UK taxpayers. There will be 4 flights per day both ways. Newquay airport is not particularly near anywhere - other than surfing beaches. The service will be Heathrow’s only subsidised service, run under a public service obligation (PSO).  PSOs are defined under European aviation regulations as “scheduled air services on routes which are vital for the economic development of the region they serve”.   That means for routes where there is not enough demand to even half fill a small regional aircraft and that to attract a commercial operator to fly the route, the government has to provide a financial incentive. The cost to the taxpayer over 4 years for this will be £3.4 million. (For 180,000 pax per year that works out at £5 each. But there were only <93,000 pax in 2013). The pendulum is swinging back to Heathrow, however.Heathrow has set aside a £10 million fund to incentivise domestic airline route development - needed to persuade regional MPs to back the runway.

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Stop Stansted Expansion to start legal challenge to government decision not to call in expansion application

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has confirmed that it will commence legal proceedings to challenge last week's decision [20 March] by the Communities Secretary James Brokenshire not to intervene in the decision by Uttlesford District Council (UDC) to approve the expansion of Stansted to 43 mppa.  Brokenshire said his reason for not intervening was that "the application does not involve issues of more than local importance".  SSE considers this conclusion to be completely wrong. In the next month or two, Stansted is expected to overtake Manchester to become the UK's 3rd busiest airport.  The noise, air pollution, community health and road traffic impacts of Stansted are felt far beyond the borders of Uttlesford, and the 3.7 million equivalent tonnes of carbon dioxide attributable to Stansted flights this year will have significant adverse global impacts. SSE will apply to the High Court for a JR of Brokenshire's decision. SSE solicitors have written to UDC pointing out that it would be inappropriate for UDC to issue any decision in relation to the airport planning application whilst these legal challenges are pending.  SSE already has an outstanding JR application against the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, over his decision of 28 June 2018 to allow the airport planning application to be determined locally by UDC. 

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Heathrow’s Fly Quiet results reach new heights of improbability

Heathrow has this week (22nd March) belatedly published the results from its Fly Quiet & Green programme for Q4 2018.  In this scheme Heathrow assesses 7 different aspects of environmental performance, but it only publishes a single, numeric "Fly Quiet points" score for each airline. That published score is the sum of the Fly Quiet points awarded to the airline for each of the 7 metrics. But that part that is far from transparent, with the 7 numbers per airline not made public. The results put out by Heathrow do not make any sense, and do not appear to properly reflect the actual noise. Rather, they appear to be manipulated to make  noise levels look lower than they really are. This time around instead of giving the airlines an average score of around 750 out of (optimum) 1000, as with previous quarters' results (already grossly inflated), Heathrow has hiked the average score by over 8% to 813 points.  The expected average (mean and median) score should be around 500. But not content with inflating the scores even more than usual, Heathrow has also inexplicably excluded 5 (China Southern, El Al, Korean Air etc) of its 50 busiest airlines from the results - but added others instead.

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Summary of the hearings into the legal challenges against DfT approval of Heathrow 3rd runway

The hearings at the High Court, into the legal challenges against the government's decision to press for a 3rd Heathrow runway, were complicated. They were hard to follow, even with daily transcripts - as there were constant references to text in documents in "bundles" that the public are unable to see. Neil Spurrier, who individually brought one of the legal challenges, and is a solicitor, has done a user-friendly summary of some of the key points that came up. Four of the challenges were largely on environmental grounds (the 5th was a rival runway builder, Heathrow Hub). Neil gives a brief summary of some of the points on noise, air pollution, carbon emissions, and economic benefit including comments on the response by the government's barristers and their attempts to brush aside the criticisms. The judges may make their judgement in about May - there will probably be a few days notice before hand. As well as the summary, there are some notes made during the hearings, to help clarify some points. 

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Heathrow to start procuring contractors for demolition, site clearance, utility diversions etc by end of 2019

Heathrow's expansion programme director Phil Wilbraham says the airport will begin procuring construction partners at the end of this year, [assuming it passes the hurdle of the legal challenges, which ended on 22nd March ....]with construction of the 3rd runway scheduled to begin in 202.  Contractors will be sought for a range of disciplines including demolition, site clearance and utility diversions.  The plan is to start to procure teams at the end of 2019:  "We are going to start in 2021, so we will need contractors on board next year to work with the designers and to ensure that the construction planning is done really well in advance of starting the main construction work. ... Initially we will be starting with demolition, site clearance and utility diversions. Then we will go into a major civil engineering project which will be around things like earthworks. We have got a lot of earth to move around underneath the runway. We will be moving roads like the M25, the A4 and the A304. We are moving some rivers as well.” Heathrow is  “confident” legal challenges would ultimately fail and have no impact on the airport’s construction timetable.

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Grayling’s team at DfT deliberately tried to conceal information about Heathrow 3rd runway noise, which might have risked “further scrutiny”

A totally damning, ‘smoking gun’ memo has been located, showing how DfT staff in November 2017 were keen to avoid information showing how bad Heathrow noise would be - and how many people would be affected - with a 3rd runway. The Times reveals how DfT staff plotted to cover up warnings about the extra aircraft noise, with a 6-page document sent to Chris Grayling (Transport Secretary) recommending blocking a plan to tell millions of households (up to 13 million people) about the extra noise they could face from a 3rd runway. Grayling and the DfT claim publicly that a 3rd runway could be introduced with fewer people affected by plane noise even with 265,000 more annual flights - which, of course, beggars belief of anyone with half a brain. The DfT memo wanted to avoid alerting people to the noise problem, for fear that would cause "disruption" and "public debate" and "further scrutiny" and “unnecessary controversy” before the parliamentary vote on the NPS (in June 2018). The memo included a map that reveals DfT officials knew well how badly vast swathes of London and southern England (and Grayling's own constituency) would be badly affected. Disgraceful DfT behaviour.

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Hampstead and Highgate, with few flights overhead now, due to get bad levels of Heathrow noise

Heathrow wants to expand its operations to fly over areas with little aviation activity at present, including over north west London. The local paper for Hampstead and Highgate says that Hampstead is 500 ft above sea level and, in Heathrow’s first phase of expansion, (it wants an extra 25,000 flights per year in a couple of years from now - if permitted) it may be exposed to flights at 2,500 to 3,500 ft. The noise levels would be over 60 to 65 decibels (dB) - more than the level of background noise in a busy office - from 6am every morning. Highgate may be in the same position. That might work out as a flight overhead every 2.5 minutes between 6am and 7am and one every 10 mins thereafter from 7am to 11.30pm.  If there is then a 3rd runway, there could be a flight every minute, with the noise of most being above 65dB. The negative effects on health, (from noise and air pollution) and noise impacts on the education of children are well known. The paper says: "That Heathrow is pushing ahead with expansion despite these impacts beggars belief." While more studies need to be done on the health risks of aviation noise, it is a serious concern for residents accustomed to zero noise who are then subjected to noise above 65dB at least 40 times a day 

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Government (James Brokenshire) rejects ‘call in’ of Stansted Airport planning application to increase passengers from 35m to 43 mppa

The Government has decided not to ‘call in’ Stansted Airport’s planning application to increase passenger numbers, which was approved by Uttlesford District Council (UDC) last year.  In February 2018, Stansted Airport owners, Manchester Airports Group, submitted a planning application to UDC that sought permission for the airport to increase the annual passenger number from 35 to 43 million per year. UDC granted this planning permission in November 2018, by a narrow vote of the Planning Committee, only won by the Chairman's casting vote. The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire, has now written to say the decision by UDC is correct, saying:  "... the application does not involve issues of more than local importance justifying the secretary of state’s intervention.” That is, of course, wrong as planes using Stansted fly over a wide area. Brian Ross from campaign group Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) said the planning consent still faces a legal challenge from SSE, versus the transport secretary in the High Court, which began last September. The case has been on hold for 4 months, pending the decision, but SSE is now takin legal advice on whether to widen the basis of its legal challenge. 

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Open letter from 90 academics to European governments – carbon offset markets (eg. CORSIA) will not effectively cut carbon

There is an interesting letter from 90 academics calling for governments to withdraw support from new carbon offset markets - with a specific reference to the UN Corsia scheme for aviation emissions. The academics call on European governments that care about climate change to withdraw their support for the creation of a new doomed carbon offset market at the COP25 this December. The proposals for carbon offsets are entirely unable to meet necessary criteria, needed to ensure they actually succeed in "offsetting" carbon. The letter says: "Yet, beyond the well-known issues of excess permits and frauds, it has also been demonstrated that carbon markets have major conceptual flaws that cannot be fixed, such as the inability to provide a reliable price signal or the fact that the climate impact of offset projects is not calculable....It is well documented that carbon markets have failed spectacularly in achieving their environmental objectives and that many carbon offset projects have a devastating social impact. In spite of this evidence, carbon markets remain the main policy tool to address climate change in Europe, based on the misguided hope that they will work “once the price is right”."

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Austrian higher court approves construction of 3rd runway at Vienna Airport, refused on climate & noise grounds in Feb 2017

The Supreme Administrative Court in Austria has approved construction of a 3rd runway at Vienna Airport. The court overturned appeals made by local residents and environmental groups on the basis of noise complaints and environmental impact of the runway. Opponents had successfully argued that noise would be a problem across urban Vienna. Also that it could not be justified on climate change grounds.  But the airport appealed - and has now won.  It says the noise will not be a problem as there will not be landings over the Vienna city area during normal operations, and it aims at "decreasing noise pollution in the area."  There are the usual claims that it will "reduce delays, fuel consumption, and noise by abolishing allotment patterns and queued aircraft during peak hours".  Back in February 2017 a court said the increased greenhouse gas emissions for Austria would cause harm and climate protection is more important than creating other jobs. Also that the ability of the airport to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases by its own measures were not sufficient, and emissions would rise too much. All now forgotten, it seems. Making money trumps climate stability.

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Evidence on air pollution, given to the High Court hearings on a 3rd Heathrow runway, by Neil Spurrier

Neil Spurrier, a solicitor from Teddington, made one of the 5 legal challenges against the Secretary of State for Transport's decision to approve a 3rd Heathrow runway, through the Airports National Policy Statement. The legal hearings from the councils, the Mayor of London, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Plan B Earth and Mr Spurrier took place between the 15th and 19th March. There are transcripts of each day's proceedings here. Neil addressed the issue of air pollution in particular, and the emissions of NO2 and particulates from planes themselves. He made important points, such as that air pollution is known to spread much, much further from an airport than the 2 km that the DfT has tried to use. Also that there is evidence of possible damage to the foetus from particulates found in placentas of people affected by air pollution, and that the government should not be risking the health of future generations. He made the point, on ultrafine particles, that merely because they have not been specifically studied (being part of the wider category of PM 2.5), is no reason for the government to discount them or consider their impact to be negative. The absence of evidence is not enough to avoid the precautionary principle. Read the full transcripts for details.

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Heathrow Airport Holdings will announce the appointment of Ruth Kelly (was Labour Transport Secretary) to its board

Heathrow Airport Holdings will announce the appointment of Ruth Kelly to its board this week.  Ruth Kelly, the former Labour transport secretary, (2007 - 8) is to join the board of Heathrow Airport's parent company as it attempts to clear the remaining hurdles to the construction of its £14bn third runway.  She will become a non-executive director of Heathrow Airport Holdings next month.  She briefly worked for HSBC Holdings after stepping down as an MP in 2010, now sits on the board of the Financial Conduct Authority.  "Her appointment will strengthen Heathrow's political connections at a critical juncture". This "revolving door" is just another to add to the long list:  In September 2015 Vickie Sheriff became head of communications for Heathrow airport, having earlier worked for the Prime Minister, in 2013, with a dual role as official deputy spokesperson for the Prime Minister and head of news at Number 10.   Heathrow’s director of PR, Simon Baugh, left the airport in 2015 to work at the Department for Transport to take the role of head of communications.  Earlier Tom Kelly in 2009, who had worked for Tony Blair  went to BAA as head of comms. There are several other examples.

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An assessment by Carbon Market Watch of credit providers for the aviation offsetting scheme

Carbon Market Watch has produced a report that assesses credit providers for the ICAO CORSIA carbon offsetting scheme - which aims to compensate the growth in CO2 emissions from international aviation above 2020 levels, starting in 2021. Offsets should " offset programs will be screened against the eleven new Program Design Elements," (one of which, for example, is: "Program Governance: Programs should publicly disclose who is responsible for administration of the program and how decisions are made."   Carbon Market Watch conclude that "no program can yet operate in a manner which complies with all the eligibility criteria. Some will need to update and improve certain parts of their protocols or methodologies, but all are hampered by the lack of clarity on international accounting rules to avoid double counting of emission reductions. The present assessment also highlights that the Program Design Elements are not sufficient to exclude credits with no environmental value, and that a rigorous application of the second set of criteria, the Carbon Offset Credit Integrity Assessment Criteria, is necessary and will require analysis of specific methodologies and projects." 

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2019 Spring Statement – how getting passengers to pay for carbon offsets is not the answer

In the Chancellor's Spring Statement, there was a mention of launching a call for evidence on offsetting transport emissions, in the hope of encouraging more travels (not only air passengers) in a vain attempt to "neutralise" their climate impact. Hammond said this would explore how travel providers - including airlines - could potentially be required to "offer genuinely additional carbon offsets so that customers who want zero carbon travel have that option can be confident about additionality". Some airlines already offer offset schemes alongside flight bookings, but take-up is about 1%. So they are not working. The Aviation Environment Federation warned offsets can never be the solution to aviation's carbon problem. "In order to meet the tough goals that states signed up to in the Paris Agreement, all countries will in any case need to reduce emissions close to zero in the coming decades, leaving little scope for any country or sector to sell their emissions reductions to airlines or air passengers by way of offset schemes," it pointed out.  All that offsetting means is that carbon savings genuinely made in other sectors are cancelled out by more carbon emissions from transport (especially aviation). It just negates the carbon savings. That does nothing to cut the emissions from the transport itself, especially aviation.

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Heathrow 3rd runway unlawful, says Friends of the Earth, as DfT failed to consider the need for stringent CO2 targets

Friends of the Earth have accused the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, of acting unlawfully when he agreed to the 3rd Heathrow runway, in the Airports NPS. Their lawyers at the High Court legal challenge hearings the DfT failed to consider the full impacts of climate change and the need for more stringent targets to avoid catastrophic global warming. “Friends of the Earth is concerned that the expansion of Heathrow by adding a 3rd runway will jeopardise the UK’s ability to make the very deep reductions in greenhouse gases that are necessary to prevent global warming from causing catastrophic, irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems."  The Court heard that the government knew when it approved the third runway that the Paris agreement, which UK ministers have signed, was likely to involve more stringent emissions targets than domestic law required under the 2008 UK Climate Change Act. David Wolfe QC, for FoE, said ministers were told by the Committee on Climate Change in January 2018 that as a result it was “essential that actions are taken now to enable these deeper reductions to be achieved”. But Grayling pressed on regardless, ignoring the advice.

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Spring Statement: there is to be a consultation about possible offsets for passengers for their CO2 emissions

The section relevant to aviation, under the heading "Clean growth"  states: "The Budget 2018 set out how the government is accelerating the shift to a clean economy, building on the Industrial Strategy, Clean Growth Strategy, and 25 Year Environment Plan. The Spring Statement builds on this commitment: (several bullet points, of which the one relating to transport is:  "to give people the option to travel ‘zero carbon’, the government will launch a call for evidence on Offsetting Transport Emissions to explore consumer understanding of the emissions from their journeys and their options to offset them. This will also look into whether travel providers should be required to offer carbon offsets to their customers."   Note, this is not only mentioning aviation.  And nothing is settled, till there is the consultation - no date given for that.  [ All this seems to mean is nothing whatsoever to cut demand for air travel. Most offsets are useless, and do not achieve cuts in carbon. (Aviation CO2 emissions are added to the atmosphere, cancelling out whatever savings were achieved by the offset created elsewhere).  AW note].

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At Heathrow legal hearings, Court told Grayling left thousands of people in the dark over the impact of Heathrow flight paths if expansion allowed

Chris Grayling left thousands of people in the dark over increased noise pollution from an expanded Heathrow by under-stating the impact of new flight paths. At the High Court hearings, lawyers for five London councils, the London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Greenpeace claim this amounts to a breach of the law under which the Transport Secretary should have identified all areas that might be affected. The Councils say that instead of an environmental report showing which communities were going to be hit by noise from flights, Mr Grayling only published "indicative flight paths."  They say "The flight paths were drawn in such a way that the numbers of people affected were minimised. This meant the health and environmental costs of the north west runway were understated."  Maps compiled by the councils suggest as many as 1 million more households will be affected by planes at 7,000 ft, or below, with decibel levels of at least 65, (equivalent to a vacuum cleaner in a room). A vast circular area stretching from Didcot in the west, Dartford and Romford in the east, Tring, Harpenden and Welwyn Garden City to the north, and Godalming, Leatherhead, Epsom and Copthorne - and many more places - to the south would be affected. The NPS failed to deal properly with the impact on air quality, climate change, noise and congestion.

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How the UK government misled Parliament on Heathrow expansion and climate change

A new briefing from Friends of the Earth, West London, (FoE-WL) sets out how the government misled Parliament on the CO2 emissions that would be generated if a 3rd Heathrow runway was allowed.  In its National Policy Statement (NPS) presented to Parliament in June 2018  the DfT said expansion could "be delivered within the UK’s carbon obligations ..” FoE-WL says unfortunately, there is no evidence to support that assertion. The advice on CO2 from the UK aviation sector is that it should not be above 37.5MtCO2 in 2050. But the DfT's own figures show this being exceeded. A 3rd runway would increase CO2 emissions by about 3.3MtCO2 per year. This information was not disclosed in the NPS  presented to Parliament. Instead, data was buried in the mass of ‘supporting information’ (as usual). All the government has to offer is slight carbon efficiency gains per plane in future, and some use of biofuels (highly dubious) - and "carbon offsetting". In reality there is no global trading system of any sort on the horizon, let alone one which would offset aviation’s increase with genuine reductions elsewhere. It is unlikely the UN's CORSIA scheme, which the UK government is placing its trust in, will be effective.

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Severe impact of 3rd Heathrow runway on residents laid out in High Court hearing

The Government's approval of a third runway is being challenged at the High Court by a coalition of councils, residents, environmental charities and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.  Representing five London boroughs, Greenpeace and Mr Khan, Nigel Pleming QC said the plans could see the number of passengers using Heathrow rise to around 132 million, a 60% increase.  Mr Pleming said: "The new development, if it goes ahead, will add, in effect, a new airport with the capacity of Gatwick to the north of Heathrow" and that the adverse effects and consequences for local residents of such an expansion are "bound to be severe". The legal challenges (other than the one by Heathrow Hub) say the Government's National Policy Statement (NPS) setting out its support for the project fails to properly deal with the impact on air quality, climate change, noise and congestion.  The claimants argue the NPS is unlawful and should be quashed, which would mean the Government would have to start the process again and put it to another vote in Parliament. Scores of demonstrators gathered outside the court ahead of the hearing, addressed by MPs, Council leaders and campaigners. All are determined that this runways is NOT going to go ahead. The hearings will last for 2 weeks.

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Judicial reviews into government approval of Heathrow 3rd runway plans begins on 11th March

London’s High Court will on Monday 11th March begin a judicial review into the government’s approval of a third runway at Heathrow airport, with local authorities, environmentalists and rival bidders arguing the £14bn scheme should be scrapped. Five legal challenges to the decision are being heard together, including one brought by a consortium of local authorities (Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Richmond, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Windsor & Maidenhead), Greenpeace and London Mayor Sadiq Khan, on the grounds of air quality, climate change, noise pollution and transport access. The negative impacts of Heathrow already affect many councils, and those would get far worse with planned expansion to have 50% more annual flights.  John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said: “Governments are very happy to talk the talk when it comes to protecting the air we breathe and the climate we all share, but unfortunately getting them to walk the walk often takes legal action.” There is also a legal challenge by Heathrow Hub, which wants to build a 3rd runway by extending the current northern runway, rather than adding a runway further north. The hearings are expected to last about two weeks, with the judgment being reserved.

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How Heathrow has been getting away with paying so little tax to the UK government

UK tax rules have allowed airports like Heathrow to pay far less tax than they should. It is estimated that Heathrow's foreign owners have been able to get a tax break of perhaps £120 million per year from the UK government. And the airport’s shareholders (which include the governments of China, Qatar and Singapore - with only 10% by the USS being British - .have paid themselves about £3 billion in dividends in 5 years. Rules on how firms can cut tax bills due to large debt interest payments began in 2017, but the Treasury has given an exemption for infrastructure projects like Heathrow. The think-tank, Taxwatch, said: “In the case of Heathrow, the benefits of the exemption appear to flow overwhelmingly to the owners of the company.” ..."The company was bought using a huge amount of debt. Instead of paying back the debt themselves, the new owners managed to push this liability on to Heathrow, making the company liable for large interest payments... The large debt repayments wiped out the company’s pre-tax profit.”  Revenues at Heathrow have risen to £2.9billion but its owners have paid little corporation tax, due to massive debts. Between 2007 and 2014 the group reported a total pre-tax loss of more than £2 billion, and paid just £15 million in corporation tax. In the past 3 years it declared pre-tax profits of more than £1 billion, leading to  corporation tax payments of £122 million (ie. £70 million in 2018 and £53 million in 2017.

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Heathrow issues €650m bond, to borrow more money, weeks before Brexit deadline

Heathrow Airport has placed a €650m (£558.9m) bond with only weeks to go before the UK is due to leave the European Union.  The 15-year bond was backed by current and new investors, which were mostly European, and reached an order book in excess of €2.8bn (ie. there was demand of that amount). Heathrow said the high demand for the bond "shows investor confidence in Heathrow's expansion plans and resilience ahead of Brexit."  The bond means Heathrow hopes to extend the duration of its debt portfolio - ie. taking more time to pay it all back - for its 3rd runway expansion plans. It said the funds will be used on day-to-day corporate spending. The airport's director of treasury and corporate finance, said:  “The transaction delivers on our strategy of further diversification, longer duration and stronger liquidity."  Heathrow hopes, at the earliest, that the runway might open in 2026 - but it has a large number of hurdles to overcome before them, including the long DCO (Development Consent Order) process, that is the equivalent of a planning application, but for a vast project - with the decision taken out of the hands of the local authority, and made by government instead (a process devised to avoid the sort of long delays they had on Terminal Five). 

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ICAO working on rules to at least ensure its CORSIA carbon credits for aviation are not double-counted

Rules to avoid double-counting of CO2 emissions cuts in offsets to be used by the aviation sector through the (weak, ineffective) ICAO CORSIA scheme, are considered to be a step forward by some campaigners. But proper assurances are needed to meet aviation's climate pledges, so the claims of (sic) "carbon neutral growth" mean something. ICAO negotiators have agreed rules to prevent double-counting of carbon credits used to offset airline emissions.  As air traffic growth outpaces efficiency improvements, airlines will be expected to pay for emissions reductions in other sectors to offset the climate impact. In one of its secretive meetings, ICAO has adopted broad criteria to ensure those carbon offsets are not also counted towards national targets - and they actually represent extra CO2 emissions savings. Campaigners are also calling for an age limit on eligible carbon offsetting projects and transparency around the way the rules are put into practice.  There is a huge pool of dormant projects under the UN’s CDM that could, in theory, meet demand from airlines for carbon offsets. But most of those would continue cutting emissions, even without being used by aviation. So they are not additional. 

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Epsom & Ewell Borough Council sends highly critical response to Heathrow’s expansion plans – inflicting hugely more aircraft noise on them

Epsom & Ewell Borough is an area that is currently overflown by Heathrow planes at about 6,000 and 7,000 feet. Its Council has submitted a robust response to Heathrow's airspace change consultation, furious about the vastly worse noise burden with which the borough is threatened. The proposals would perhaps mean additional flights operating as low as 3,000 feet at a frequency of up to 47 flights per hour for arrivals, and 17 flights per hour for departures.  Even the extra flights, in the short term, through IPA, could result in 25 flights per hour operating as low as 3,000 feet between 6am to 7am and 6 flights per hour at other times. Cllr Eber Kington, Chairman of the Council's Strategy & Resources Committee, said the changes could mean a four to five-fold increase in noise levels in addition to the significant additional impact from the frequency of flights overhead and the impact on air quality. Cllr O'Donovan complained at how bad the consultation was.  Residents are angry that their own MP, Chris Grayling, is pushing for these hugely damaging noise impacts on his own constituents and voters - with inevitable decrease in local quality of life.

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Heathrow in 2018 made 58.8% of total revenue from aeronautical; 24% from retail (which includes 4.24% – £126 million – from car parking)

Heathrow has reported a retail revenue increase of 8.6% to £716 million in the year ended 31 December 2018 compared to a year earlier. Total revenue in the period rose 3% to £2,970 million. Retail is 24.1% of that. It was 22.9% in 2017 and 22% in 2016). Retail revenue per passenger was £8.94 (up 5.8% from £8.45 in 2017, which was up 4.5% on 2016. Heathrow says growth in retail income was due to increased passenger traffic in the period to 80.1 million (up 2.7% from 78 million in 2017, which was up 3.1% on 2016) and Heathrow's new "call to gate initiative - which increases passenger dwell time in the departure lounge."  The amount of income from car parking, which is included in retail, was £126 million in 2018, (up 5% on the £120 million in 2017, which was itself up 5.3% on 2016.)  Car parking made up 17.6% of total retail income in 2018, and 18% in 2017). Car parking income was £114 million in 2016 and £107 million in 2015. Heathrow made £128 million in 2018 from "other retail" which "reflects a significant increase in advertising income from improved utilisation of advertising spaces."That was up 17.4% from £109 in 2017, and £110 million in 2016.  Aeronautical income was  £1,745 million in 2018, 1.7% up from £1,716m in 2016. Aeronautical income was 58.75% of total revenue in 2018, and was 60.53% of total revenue in 2016 when it was £1,699 million.

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Heathrow’s shareholders get £500m as profits rise (including income of £126m from car parking)

IAG, the owner of British Airways, is angry that Heathrow has paid out  £500 million in dividends to its foreign investors while charging its airline customers more. IAG says the dividend payments – now totalling £3.5 billion since 2012 – make Heathrow more costly for airline passengers (so slightly deterring them from flying perhaps). Heathrow said "It is right that our shareholders receive returns in record years and it will ensure we expand whilst keeping airport charges close to 2016 levels." Heathrow's top shareholders include the Qatar Investment Authority, Singapore's GIC and the China Investment Corporation. Its largest single investor is Spain's Ferrovial. The only UK shareholder is the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) with a 10% stake.  Heathrow's figures out last week show revenue growth of 3% to £2.97 billion in 2018 with 80.1 million passengers (up 2.7% from 78 million).  Car parking income was £126 million (up 5% from £120 million in 2017). Retail revenue per passenger was £8.94 (up 5.8% from £8.45 in 2017). Total retail income was £716 million (up 8.6% from £659 million in 2017). Heathrow paid £70 million (2017: £53 million) in corporation tax.

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Council leaders say Grayling’s claim a 50% larger Heathrow, with new flight paths, will mean fewer people affected by plane noise is a giant con

Heathrow's own noise maps in its current "consultation" show vast areas in and around London to be negatively affected by aircraft noise from Heathrow, if it was allowed 25,000 more annual flights or a 3rd runway. Many areas of the capital and the home counties that have not previously suffered jet noise, could be getting up to 47 flights per hour overhead.  Many areas not currently overflown could have planes over them as low as 3,000 feet. Some areas currently somewhat overflown will get more planes going over them, and at lower altitudes. Heathrow deliberately keeps the details vague. In October 2016 Grayling promised parliament that “fewer people will be affected by noise than is the case today” after the third runway was built - even though there would be than 250,000 extra flights a year, equivalent to bolting an additional airport almost the size of Gatwick onto the existing site. Affected councils are challenging the government decision in the courts, starting on 11th March. Ravi Govindia, the Tory leader of Wandsworth council, said the public had been the victims of a “giant con”: “It beggars belief that people will believe Chris Grayling in his assertion that no more people will be affected."  The DfT commented that "We absolutely refute these claims and are confident that fewer people will be affected by noise pollution under the new flight paths planned." (sic)

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Heathrow expansion plan involves large number of low planes over lovely, tranquil (now) Richmond Park

Richmond Park has been known for its rich wildlife and tranquil landscape for hundreds of years, but the proposed expansion of Heathrow would mean hundreds of aircraft flying at low altitude it. Maps of the new flight paths, from Heathrow's consultation, show the extent of proposed air traffic over Richmond Park, with some aircraft flying as low as 300 metres (1,000ft). Current flight paths to Heathrow are not routed directly over the park. The consultation documents indicate that - with a 3rd runway - up to 47 arrivals per hour and between 17 and 47 departures would fly directly over the park (a SSSI and national nature reserve) at below 900 metres. Heathrow’s flights are currently capped at 480,000 a year, but it wants to increase this by 25,000 in 2021 and further to around 720,000 when/if the 3rd runway is built. The noise and pollution from the planes overhead would be disastrous for the sensitive wildlife and the tranquillity. The Park is visited by more than 5.5 million people per year. Thousands of nocturnal animals – including 11 of the UK’s 17 bat species, (all protected by law), as well as little owls and tawny owls – will be threatened. This is just another "price that Heathrow is demanding of residents, so that it can increase its operations" by 50%. It is "simply disproportionate and unacceptable.”

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Study confirms that relying on outdated CDM carbon credits to compensate aviation emissions will do nothing for climate action

The UN's new, very weak, scheme to attempt to do something about global aviation CO2 emissions is starting soon. It is the "Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation" (CORSIA). Countries have been trying to locate cheap, plentiful carbon credits that airlines can use. The process is secretive. One type of carbon credit being considered comes from the CDM, (Clean Development Mechanism) a carbon market established under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to allow rich countries to meet their climate targets at a cheaper cost. This climate tool has generated a lot of controversy around its failure to reduce emissions, as well as negative impacts it has had on local communities and the environment. The problem is that there is a huge supply of "junk" CDM credits, far larger than the amount aviation would need. These junk credits are often from projects to cut CO2 emissions which would happen anyway. If these junk credits are the ones the aviation sector uses, the effect would be an increase in global CO2.  There is also the problem that while all credits are far too cheap to be effective, the junk ones are even cheaper - so not costing airlines enough to in any way be an incentive to limit their CO2 emissions.

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Highways England warned Heathrow (spring 2018) about problems (including driver distraction) with the M25 being in a tunnel under the 3rd runway

Highways England has said that Heathrow’s possible 3rd runway over the M25 may lead to more accidents because of drivers being distracted by aircraft landing on a large bridge above them. The sight of huge passenger planes landing (or even taxiing) could cause motorists to take their eyes off the road. Highways England has told Heathrow to introduce measures to “reduce driver distraction” on the affected section of the M25, which is Britain’s busiest stretch of motorway - 6 lanes in each direction at that point. This could include lengthening the tunnel under the runway or simplifying the road layout. Heathrow was also told to consider the “landing zone of aircraft”, suggesting they should avoid arrivals directly over the road itself. The intention is to lower the M25 by 7 metres, while raising the runway slightly. Highways England is also concerned that there is a high risk of “fatigue damage” to the tunnel caused by aircraft as big as the A380 and Boeing 747, on the runway above it, so it could have a reduced lifespan. They also say the runway must be “raised enough to avoid the M25 having a gradient of more than 3% which would cause lorries to move slowly, leading to congestion. Heathrow was told this in spring 2018. The full details will be published for public consultation in June.

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Heathrow and airlines agree deal to increase load factors, so more passengers (more money towards expansion costs)

Heathrow has done a deal with airlines, to increase numbers and passengers and its profits. The deal will extend the current regulatory settlement to 2021 and includes an incentive for airlines to grow passenger numbers. Airline moves to fill their existing aircraft could result in further reductions to airport charges and will "help unlock affordable growth." (Jargon!)  The aim is to get higher load factors for the planes, as Heathrow's are below IATA averages. Getting more passengers per plane will mean there might be slightly lower costs per head, in landing charges - and more passengers in total. So Heathrow hopes to "share" the costs of its expansion plans between more people ie (jargon) "releasing funds to drive investment and growth." The CAA has "supported the negotiation of the commercial arrangement and is expected to launch a public consultation on the solution in the coming weeks." " If airlines at Heathrow reached global averages for filling aircraft there is an opportunity to reduce passenger charges by 10-20% against what they might otherwise be, in addition to helping Heathrow meet the Government’s affordability target for expansion". The CAA has said Heathrow must keep its landing charges low. This will help it do so. More passengers per plane.

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GMB union (keen on the 3rd runway) calls on Heathrow to force airport contractors to pay living wage (which they do not)

GMB – the union representing many staff at Heathrow (that strongly backs a 3rd runway) – has urged it to force contractors to pay their employees the living wage, after the airport announced the busiest year in its history.  Revenue climbed by 3% last year to £3 billion, and £2.3 billion was raised from private investors across 7 currencies (up from £1 billion in 2017). Adjusted profit before tax was £267 million, up 23% on 2017. The airport also said airport charges fell 1% to £21.78.  Last year, GMB welcomed the airport’s announcement that all contracted staff working at Heathrow will be paid the London Living Wage of £10.55 per hour by 2020.  But contractors have been slow to back the commitment. Over the past 3 years GMB have led the campaign for ensuring all staff at Heathrow, both direct and contracted, are paid the London Living Wage. GMB's regional organiser for aviation and Heathrow, Perry Phillips said Heathrow's profits mean "that success is built on the back of 1000s of workers who keep the airport clean, safe and operational. Yet despite these blockbuster results, many of them don’t earn enough to live on, enough to make sure their rent is paid and their families are fed. That can’t be right.

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Greta Thunberg: EU needs a minimum of 80% CO2 reduction by 2030 (not 40%) and that must include aviation & shipping

The remarkable Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg, says the EU cannot just "wait for us to grow up and become the ones in charge". She told political and business leaders in Brussels that the EU should double its climate change reduction targets to do its fair share in keeping the planet below a dangerous level of global warming. She started doing a solo school strike, in Sweden,  on Fridays outside the parliament, to try to draw attention to the problem of climate change - and how no real action is being taken to combat it. The school strikes have spread around the world, with tens of thousands of students taking part. We need a fall in global carbon emissions soon. The EU intention to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels. Greta told them this is not going to keep global warming below 1.5C. “This target is not sufficient to protect the future for children growing up today. If the EU is to make its fair contribution to stay within the carbon budget for the 2C limit then it needs a minimum of 80% reduction by 2030, and that includes aviation and shipping.” Greta said "When people talk about the climate strikes … they talk about almost anything except for the climate crisis... They don’t want to talk about the climate crisis … they just want to change the subject.”

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Report by Biofuelwatch shows aviation biofuels could not be produced at scale from wastes and residues – palm oil would be used instead

A new report about aviation biofuels, published by the environmental NGO Biofuelwatch, exposes the strict limits to the amount of such fuels which could be sourced from wastes and residues - as well as their adverse indirect impacts. ICAO wants to get large amounts of biofuel for the aviation industry, in an effort to claim the fuel is "low carbon".  In reality, the report confirms, the limits to the amount of suitable wastes and residues would make it impossible for airlines to avoid virgin vegetable oils – especially palm oil – if they were to start using biofuels on a large scale. The report focusses on WorldEnergy’s refinery in  California, until now the only one to regularly produce biofuels for aircraft. So far all of the biofuels made at the Paramount refinery have been made from tallow, which is a residue from slaughter houses. Given the scarcity of tallow, WorldEnergy is now planning to diversify into Used Cooking Oil and a corn oil residue from corn ethanol refineries. There are only limited amounts of these. To scale up their use of biofuels, airlines would resort to palm oil, and this would be disastrous for the climate, for forests, the wildlife they support, and for forest-dependent communities.

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Packed hall attend Teddington Action Group meeting to discuss Heathrow’s Airspace Consultation

Over 300 people attended a meeting organised by the Teddington Action Group (TAG) to discuss Heathrow's Airspace Consultation, and urge residents to respond by 4th March. Among the speakers, Paul McGuinness (Chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition) reminded the audience that these were the first details of how Heathrow plan to break the promises made to communities at the time its 5th Terminal was built – that the airport would accept a cap of 480,000 per year and never apply to build a 3rd runway: "... by any reasonable standards, what Heathrow is demanding communities to endure so it can increase flights by over 50%, is wholly disproportionate". Speakers explained how massive the noise impact would be on Richmond and Twickenham. Stephen Clark said: "Easterly departures will carry more planes along concentrated flight paths, at lower altitude, while arrivals traffic would now fly above them simultaneously". Physicist Dr David Gilbert, explained how the DfT assessment of noise had significantly underestimated its impact, and how Richmond residents living under the proposed Independent Parallel Approaches (IPA) will be subjected to continuous, unbroken days of noise.

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Fungal blooms on the River Crane may be caused by pollution from Heathrow outfall

Local voluntary group, the Friends of the River Crane Environment (FORCE - or Citizen Crane) keep an eye on the river Crane, which flows past Heathrow. They monitor the water quality, oxygen levels and invertebrate numbers. It appears there is a current problem with  blooms of pale grey brown sewage fungus on the river bed found immediately downstream of the Heathrow outfall.  In the past there have been numerous incidents of water pollution caused by the use of glycol to de-ice planes. This then gets in to water balancing reservoir, and hence into the River Crane. Algal blooms are formed, due to the pollution, reducing the water's oxygen and thus harming, or killing, creatures in the river. Heathrow is thought to have recently installed a £17 million water treatment system, and it had been hoped this would end the pollution incidents caused by glycol. However, it does not yet appear to be working as expected. FORCE will continue to monitor the situation closely and will also request a statement from Heathrow.

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A new site for the Colnbrook Lakeside incinerator located – how much is Heathrow going to pay?

A new site has been identified for a replacement facility for the UK's largest residual waste incinerating facility, in Slough. Lakeside "Energy from Waste", which is operated by Grundon Waste Management and Viridor, have announced plans to develop proposals for a replacement facility west of the Iver South Treatment Works, around 600 metres north west of the current location.  The owners of the site have been working with Heathrow to identify the new site. The facilities will need to be moved, as the current site would be demolished to make way for a possible third runway.   Site studies and environmental assessments are being carried out, which will form a part of the planning application. Upon completion, more information will be presented at a public consultation in the spring. This consultation is separate from the current Heathrow Aerospace change consultation, and then the Heathrow Expansion consultation in June. The planning process will be a long one, needing new environmental permits etc.  It is difficult to get planning consent for an incinerator, as people dislike having potentially very harmful emissions (including dioxins) in their local air, from the burning of the vast range of substances in domestic etc waste. It is unknown how much Heathrow will pay for the relocation of the incinerator. 

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ICAO’s environment committee comes up with some standards for new aircraft, years ahead

The meeting of the ICAO "Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP) in Montreal has ended. The committee's purpose is to try to reduce and limit the environmental damage done by the aviation industry (noise, air pollution, carbon emissions).  It has not been very successful to date. This meeting has agreed on an Aircraft Engine Standard: "A new stringency level that would limit the emissions of non-volatile Particulate Matter (nvPM) from aircraft engines was agreed. The ICAO standard is expected to drive technologies to address non-volatile particulate matter, which in the long run will minimise their potential environmental and health impacts." ie. for planes yet to be built, with any impacts decades ahead. At least admitting the problem of PM particles produced by planes.  On noise ICAO said: "The meeting also delivered ...improvements of aircraft noise up to 15.5 dB below Chapter 14 limits for single-aisle aircraft by 2027, NOx emission by 54 per cent relative to the latest ICAO NOx SARPs and fuel efficiency up to 1.3% per annum can be expected for the new aircraft entering into production." Again, for new planes, with no real impact for decades. On CORSIA they said CAEP had agreement (not spelled out) on how to assess life-cycle CO2 emissions reductions for biofuels or other lower carbon fuels.  ie. not a lot.

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Letter from Lord Deben, Chairman of the CCC – to Grayling on “Aviation 2050” the DfT’s aviation strategy green paper

In a letter to Chris Grayling, dated 12th February, Lord Deben provides the Committee on Climate Change's views on the current aviation strategy green paper consultation, Aviation 2050 – The future of UK aviation.  [the aviation green paper]. He says "You will be aware that my Committee has been asked by Ministers to offer advice on the implications of the Paris Agreement for the UK’s statutory framework, including when ‘net-zero’ emissions can be achieved. A stronger UK target would require more effort from all sectors, including aviation. We intend to provide an updated view on the appropriate long-term ambition for aviation emissions within our advice on the UK’s long-term targets. We will publish our report in spring. Following that, we will write to you directly to set out the implications for the Aviation Strategy."  It also says: "The final white paper should further clarify that this will be met on the basis of actual emissions, rather than by relying on international offset credits."  And "Achieving aviation emissions at or below 2005 levels in 2050 will require contributions from all parts of the aviation sector,... It will also require steps to limit growth in demand. In the absence of a true zero-carbon plane, demand cannot continue to grow unfettered over the long-term."  Read the whole letter. 

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Chiswick, Hammersmith, Shepherds Bush, etc residents horrified & stunned by likely impact of Heathrow proposed airspace changes

Residents from Chiswick, Shepherds Bush and Hammersmith were stunned to hear that their area would experience 25,000 extra flights by 2022  - and a further 260,000 by 2026 if a 3rd  Heathrow runway were ever to open. Over 300 residents turned out to a heavily over-subscribed meeting, organised by the No 3rd Runway Coalition, to learn how the plans for airspace change at Heathrow will drastically impact their area.  The meeting also heard from local MPs Ruth Cadbury and Andy Slaughter, Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council Stephen Cowan, as well as local campaign groups Chiswick Against the Third Runway, Bedford Park Society and Hammersmith & Fulham No 3rd Runway.  The airport is currently consulting across west London (and wider) on how future operations at the airport would work with a 3rd runway, with a range of options put forward for consultation. By the end of the meeting there was outrage as people understood the impacts, and the extent of the noise nuisance, that is proposed for the communities of Chiswick, Stamford Brook and Ravenscourt Park. Those changes could start within a few years. It is vital that people who will be newly, and very negatively affected, respond to the consultation, stressing their strong opposition.

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Dutch Sec of State for Finance says an EU airline tax needed to limit low-cost flights

The Dutch Secretary of State for Finance, Menno Snel, has said the EU needs an airline tax to disincentivise consumers from using low-budget airlines for frequent travel. Mr Snel is to make his pitch for an EU-wide tax at a meeting of European finance ministers, as a way to curb aviation CO2 emissions. He said:  “We need to come up with some ideas. It’s not sustainable that we fly for a weekend with some friends all around Europe, when we could do it with the train.” Using the example of a €19 return ticket from Amsterdam to Berlin, he said: “[People] understand it’s not a fair price right now.”  Mr Snel said the tax could complement emissions reduction programs like the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS) and the UN's CORSIA.  He said just having a carbon price does not mean there cannot ALSO be taxes on flights. Aviation is an under-taxed sector, paying no fuel duty and no VAT.  He understands that CORSIA itself is not sufficient to even dent aviation carbon emissions, and more taxes on flights are needed - on a global scale.  Mr Snell will suggest an EU-wide minimum ticket tax, above which individual countries could charge more. EU tax initiatives require unanimity to be adopted.

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Critics attack secrecy at UN’s ICAO CAEP committee, tasked with cutting global airline CO2 emissions

A UN ICAO committee, Committee on Aviation and Environmental Protection (CAEP), with the job of cutting global aircraft carbon emissions (an issue of global concern) is meeting secretly, for discussions dominated by airline industry observers. The committee always meets behind closed doors; the press and other observers are not allowed in (unlike other UN committees).  The committee's agenda and discussion documents are not released to the public or the international press. Anyone who leaks documents being discussed faces “unlimited liability for confidentiality breaches”, according to ICAO rules.  The only non-governmental body not linked to the airline industry allowed into the meeting is the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation (ICSA), made up of a small group of international environmental NGOs. Transparency International says “Agencies which set common global standards for large, international industries have to be transparent in order to prevent capture by corporate interests ... "  A key concern is that the committee wants to certify biofuels, that are definitely NOT environmentally sustainable, as low carbon. And also fossil oil, produced using solar energy - also NOT a low carbon fuel. The committee needs to be open to public scrutiny.

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Plan B Earth’s skeleton argument against the DfT on how the Airports NPS (Grayling …) failed on climate

Plan B Earth is making one of the 5 legal challenges against the government, due to their decision to support the building of a 3rd runway at Heathrow, through the "Airports National Planning Statement" (ANPS). They have filed their skeleton argument, which is the basis of their submissions at the trial. Plan B says: "In essence, it's a simple argument. Chris Grayling considered the Paris Agreement "irrelevant" to his decision. He was wrong."  Part of the skeleton argument states: "(1). At the heart of all three grounds of Plan B’s claim, lies a common concern: the Secretary of State’s failure to assess the ANPS against the Paris Agreement on Climate Change (“the Paris Agreement”) and specifically the Paris Agreement temperature limit (“Paris Temperature Limit”), which, according to the best available science, demarcates the boundary between humanity and an intolerable risk of disaster: disaster for the environment; for the economy; and for international security.  (2.) Initially the Secretary of State purported to have taken the Paris Agreement into account. His own witnesses, however, undermined that claim. Once Plan B drew that to his attention, the Secretary of State modified his position: when he said that he had considered the Paris Agreement, he meant only that he had considered it to be irrelevant."  Read the full skeleton.

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ICAO’s CORSIA low standards on biofuels risk undercutting EU’s new renewables rules

The UN's ICAO is a secretive organisation, that has been woefully ineffective in limiting the CO2 emissions of global aviation. There are considerable concerns that it will try to get bad biofuels certified as low carbon, in order to whitewash the sector's emissions in future. The global deal, CORSIA, making the first tentative steps towards restricting aviation CO2 at all is just starting. There is, elsewhere, growing understanding that biofuels are generally not the way forward, and their real lifecycle carbon emissions are far higher than their proponents make out. ICAO has now agree 2 criteria (out of 12 possible) for aviation biofuels. These are that there should have been no deforestation after 2009; and there should be at least a saving of 10% of green house gas emissions, (including emissions from indirect land-use change or ILUC) compared to fossil jet kerosene. ICAO's environment committee will develop rules for what biofuels can be credited – ie. how much of an emissions reduction each biofuel delivers.  The effect can only be accurately accounted for using models. There is a serious danger they will try and include palm oil. And countries like Saudi Arabia are trying to get "lower carbon" fossil fuels included, if their production can be 10% more carbon efficient.  So aviation will continue to emit vast amounts of carbon for decades....

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European aviation report “in numbers” highlights growing noise and carbon problems which will continue

A report about aviation in the EU has been produced as a joint publication by EuroControl, the European Environment Agency (EEA) and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).  Called the second European Aviation Environmental Report(EAER), it shows the growing impacts of the industry in recent years, saying:  "the contribution of aviation activities to climate change, noise and air quality impacts is increasing, thereby affecting the health and quality of life of European citizens”. Comparing 2005 and 2014 with 2017, on noise,  in 2017 more people were exposed to noise than in 2005. Measured across some of Europe’s busiest 47 airports, the number of people inside the 55dB Lden noise contours rose to 2.58 million in 2017.  The average noise energy per flight decreased by only 1% between 2014 and 2017 compared to a decrease of 14% between 2005 and 2017. On carbon emissions, though aircraft fuel efficiency improved 8% for commercial flights between 2014 and 2017. But the increase in flights meant that compare to 2014, gross CO2 emissions in 2017 rose by 10% to 163Mt CO2.  NOx, which has a net climate warming impact when emitted at altitude, increased by 12% to 839,000 tonnes. So there was a 3% rise in net European aviation CO2 emissions from 2014 to 2017.

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Experts say legal obstacles no barrier to introducing aviation fuel tax for flights in Europe

EU countries can end the decades-long exemption on taxing aviation fuel. Legal experts say it is possible to tax kerosene on flights between EU countries. This could either be done at EU level through a series of bilateral agreements or by agreement between individual countries. Transport & Environment (T&E) has found that the old argument that foreign carriers’ operating within the EU – de facto a small number of flights – can’t be taxed can be overcome by introducing a de minimis threshold below which fuel burn would not be taxed.  At present (and for decades past) airlines, unlike almost all other forms of transport, pay no fuel tax on flights within or from the EU – even though aviation causes 5% of global warming. They also pay no VAT.  Despite the aviation industry’s attempts to hide behind the 1944 Chicago Convention, when the agreement was made on not taxing aviation fuel, that is not what is preventing fuel taxation. In fact it is old bilateral ‘air service agreements’ that European governments signed up to years ago that include mutual fuel tax exemptions for non-EU airlines. It remains too hard to tax fuel for international, non-EU, flights.

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CORSIA and its failings explained – great piece from Carbon Brief

In a long, detailed and very informative article from Carbon Brief, Jocelyn Timperley explains the CORSIA scheme for aircraft carbon emissions, and its failings. While airlines are starting this year to measure and record their carbon emissions for the first time, it is not expected that the scheme will do anything much to limit aviation carbon.  "It can be expected to “modestly reduce” the net climate impact of international aviation up to 2035, according to the (ICCT). This is only if high-quality offsets are used and those offsets are not “double counted”, the think-tank adds....  Unless it is extended beyond 2035, Corsia will cover only 6% of projected CO2 emissions from all international aviation between 2015 and 2050, ICCT data indicates."  That assumes China will partake from the pilot phase. "Base emissions continue to grow under Corsia due to uncovered traffic..... The ICCT argues this means Corsia “does not obviate the need for an ICAO long-term climate goal”. Because of a range of issues, like biofuels, offsets, forestry etc : “It’s not just that Corsia is a weak measure – it’s that it’s an actively bad measure, that risks doing more harm than good.”

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Heathrow court case won’t be live-streamed but there will be transcripts and maybe link into another court

An application to live-stream a legal proceedings at the High Court on the expansion of Heathrow has been refused at a hearing on 5th February. Justice Hickinbottom ruled that the trial by five claimants, versus the Secretary of State for Transport – set to begin on 11 March for two weeks – could not be live-streamed as the law dating from 1925, and 1981, did not allow for proceedings within the court to be recorded. The Judge agreed that the case was of considerable public interest, and being able to watch hearings live would be a benefit to many people. However, the court will seek to provide another large and accessible additional courtroom for members of the public wishing to watch the proceedings who won’t be able to fit in Court 76. Tweeting from both courtrooms is also to be permitted. Additionally, on application, screening of the proceedings in other courts around the country will be considered, an acknowledgment that the case is of wide public interest, allowing those from other parts of the country to avoid considerable costs of attending the hearings in London – a point acknowledged by Justice Hickinbottom. Transcripts of proceedings will also be published, online, although it remains to be decided as to how costs of these scripts will be apportioned.

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Richmond Council reaffirms opposition to more Heathrow flights, as plans show there will be no escape from aircraft noise

Richmond Council voted to reaffirm its stance against Heathrow expansion last night, in a motion criticising the airport's proposal to add an additional 25,000 flights a year, prior to expansion.  Last week the Council condemned Heathrow’s latest consultation which considers several issues, including; 25,000 flights added prior to expansion, noise, runway alternation and night-flying relating to its 2 existing runways, as well as the proposed controversial new 3rd runway. At the full Council meeting, members from all political parties were united in agreeing that the proposals were unacceptable and would prove disastrous for Richmond upon Thames. The impact from the additional flights would be felt across the whole borough, as curving flight paths may impact on areas that haven’t been impacted by aircraft noise before. By contrast, currently most aircraft noise from approaching aircraft is concentrated over the north of the borough including Barnes, Kew and Richmond. A key councillor said this 25,000 is just the tip of the iceberg. An extra runway would mean an additional 260,000 flights a year. That is unacceptable for our health, our sleep and our environment. It will ruin the lives of thousands of people.

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Charity calls for High Court to live-stream Heathrow 3rd runway legal challenge

A High Court challenge to the government’s approval of a Heathrow 3rd runway could be opened up to a mass audience through live-streaming for the first time, if Lord Justice Hickinbottom and Mr Justice Holgate accept a legal argument. Although the Supreme Court has transmitted its hearings since 2009, photography and recording of court proceedings elsewhere are strictly controlled by the Crime and Courts Act 2013, which only permits cases in the court of appeal to be broadcast. Tim Crosland, a barrister who is the director of the anti-climate change charity Plan B, will tell a preliminary hearing on 5 February that live-streaming from the High Court would not involve recording or creating a permanent record and was therefore permissible under the legislation. The legal challenges by environmental groups, local authorities against the DfT is due to be heard in the Royal Courts of Justice in central London over 10 days from 11th March. Only those who attend court would normally be able to hear the arguments. Hearings in the High Court have never previously been broadcast. Crosland said he believed that the more people who listened to the detail of the arguments, the more engaged they would become in environmental concerns. The climate implications of the runway decision are of considerable public interest.

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Driving tired, with under 6 hours of sleep per night, increases vehicle accident risk

In the USA the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that “drowsy driving" is responsible for a lot of vehicle crashes, deaths and injuries.  Evidence from the CDC (Centre for Disease Control) in the USA shows that getting 6 hours of sleep a night or less more than doubles your chances of falling asleep at the wheel.  It seems likely that most accidents to sleepy drivers happen between midnight and 6 am, although late afternoon also has a spike in incidents. Many UK airports are allowed night flights, eg. Gatwick, Stansted, East Midlands etc. This is going to increasingly be a problem for people affected by the noise from Heathrow planes. Already planes taking off, heading away, may be heard routinely till 11pm (often later) on some routes. Each morning planes can be hear arriving from about 4.20am. That does not leave anyone who is sensitive to the noise enough time for healthy sleep. There are many known health risks, of noise disturbance during the times people are sleeping, or trying to. The risk of more vehicle accidents, to those who are woken up an hour or two before they want to wake, is another cost of aircraft noise. The loss of quality of life, and the health costs, need to be part of the calculation of the economics of a 3rd Heathrow runway.

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TAG: Heathrow air pollution does NOT stop 2km from the airport, or just 1,000ft altitude. DfT is wrong

Teddington Action Group (TAG) have been doing research into how likely it is that air pollution will get worse, if Heathrow is allowed a 3rd runway. Their investigations indicate that government has not assessed this properly, and has ignored relevant available information from other airports. TAG say that according to Heathrow, emissions from planes do not contribute notably to emissions once the plane is above 1,000ft. The Airports Commission and DfT and its advisors set a study area of just 2 kilometres from the expanded airport boundary. There is much evidence to indicate that is wrong. Planes emit significant amounts of NO2 and particulates, which find their way down to the ground (and by definition into humans and living creatures as well as vegetation). The DfT deny this but the empirical evidence does not support the DfT. Studies between 2014 and 2016 at Los Angeles, Atlanta and Schiphol, Amsterdam, strongly suggest otherwise. Mobile monitors set up under the inward flight paths show that particulates and NO2 are transmitted by the wind up to some 20 kilometres down wind. See full article for details.

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Heathrow slammed for ‘by-passing Chiswick’ for one of its consultation events

Local MP Ruth Cadbury has joined Chiswick campaigners against Heathrow expansion who say they are angry at the airport's failure to hold a local consultation on changes which will significantly affect W4, particularly north Chiswick. The airport's current round of consultation events (Airspace And Future Operations ) features events in Hammersmith, Ealing and Hounslow Civic Centre, but none in Chiswick.  This is despite the fact that the area faces significant potential disruption by proposed changes to flight paths or changes to respite periods even without a third runway. With a 3rd runway, the area will be intensely overflown by planes arriving to the new north runway, from the east. Campaigners say the level of low flights directly over the North Chiswick area area could reach 47 per hour (almost 1 per minute). It is likely that, with a 3rd runway, an estimated 35,000 residents could be affected. They consider that Heathrow is avoiding holding events in areas where opposition is likely to be strong and forceful, to try and ensure a more positive overall response to the consultation. The Bedford Park Society (BPS) and local group CHATR are planning a public meeting in Chiswick instead.

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Air travel CO2 emissions will have to be curbed; the Frequent Flier levy may be the best solution

An article in the Irish Times points to new research from the ICAO showing how CO2 emissions from aviation might increase 3 -7-fold over the next 30 years has been released.  Amusingly Richard Branson is advocating the elimination of industrial-scale meat production by “eliminating harmful subsidies and putting a price on externalities”. And that without an apparent hint of irony, in the subsidies (no VAT, no fuel duty) given to the aviation sector - which is a major beneficiary of comparable harmful subsidies and a producer of vast externalities of the sort he decries in the meat sector. The Irish Government is committed to spending at least €320 million on new runway at Dublin airport – another giant subsidy to the sector.  There is "No other discrete human activity is more intensely polluting than flying."  Eating less meat, or cutting it out entirely, is indeed a positive action to help reduce humanity's carbon emissions. But that is not a substitute for taking proper action to limit aviation carbon emissions.  The "Frequent Flyer" levy, which would progressively tax air travellers, with higher taxes the more they flew, would be a good way to penalise frequent flyers (who are currently pampered by airlines with upgrades and incentives.)

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Wandsworth Council Leader criticises Heathrow Public Consultation event – just one for the borough, in a difficult location

Wandsworth Council Leader, Ravi Govindia, has urged residents concerned about the impact of a 3rd runway at Heathrow, to attend a Heathrow consultation event that the airport is hosting in the borough this week. They need to make their voice heard. He has criticised Heathrow for having just one such event in Wandsworth, at a location that will be difficult for many residents to access. That is even though the increased aircraft noise would affect hundreds of thousands of Wandsworth residents. The event is being held on 30 January and is open to residents from 2pm to 8pm at the University of Roehampton, SW15 5PH.  Councillor Govindia said residents know that a 3rd runway would have a serious impact on the borough. It would produce an unacceptable rise in noise and air pollution, damaging the environment and posing a risk to people’s health and well-being. The Council believes that the impact from additional flights would be felt most keenly in West Hill, Southfields, Earlsfield and Tooting. Currently most aircraft noise from is concentrated over the north of the borough including Putney, Wandsworth and Battersea. Many people will get intense plane noise for the first time.

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London Assembly report says Heathrow 3rd runway should be scrapped, due to ‘severe effects’ of aircraft noise

A report, by the London Assembly environment committee, calls for Heathrow expansion to be stopped, due to the effects of aircraft noise. The report has renewed calls for the 3rd runway to be stopped. The noise from aircraft negatively affects work, relaxation and sleep, with “severe effects” on health and wellbeing. Caroline Russell, chairman of the committee, said: “The experiences of residents living with the daily nightmare of overhead noise are deeply worrying. This drive towards filling airspace capacity must be checked. For too many people, including children, aircraft noise is a major dominant intrusion into their everyday lives.”  If Heathrow builds the new runway, the number of flights will increase from around 475,000 to 740,000 a year.  It is likely that around 200,000 more people will be badly affected by aircraft noise. Heathrow also plans to increase its flights by 25,000, to around 500,000 per year and change flight paths, including overflying new areas, even before any 3rd runway. Ms Russell added: “...aviation authorities and operators must prioritise the health and well-being of Londoners and give us a break.”

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Alistair Osborne of the Times: Heathrow expansion shows Gove’s air pollution strategy is hot air

In a blog by Alistair Osborne, of the Times, he says on air pollution: "No government minister ever got anywhere without being able to think two contradictory ideas at once. So why should Michael Gove be different? The environment secretary’s just published his Clean Air Strategy, complete with the rallying cry: “We must take strong, urgent action.” And what sort of action has the government he represents got in mind? That’s right: building a £14 billion 3rd runway at Heathrow. Yes, the same one that transport secretary Chris Grayling admits may well cause more pollution. Or, as last year’s Airports National Policy Statement put it: “Increases in emissions of pollutants during the construction or operational phases of the scheme could result in the worsening of local air quality.” Bizarrely, the H-word doesn’t get a mention in Mr Gove’s 109-page document. But maybe he didn’t want to draw attention to one awkward fact: that air quality around the airport is already in breach of EU limits for nitrogen dioxide emissions.  Read the whole article  .....

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Malaysian airlines back Malaysian campaign to boost palm oil production and use

A Malaysian newspaper comments on the Ministry of Primary Industries’ year-long “Love MY Palm Oil” campaign. It aims to fight anti-palm oil campaigns that backers of palm oil growing say are threatening people’s livelihoods.  Now 3 Malaysian airlines have joined the campaign, Malaysia Airlines, Malindo Airways and AirAsia.  The airlines, with Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB), "will extol the virtues of palm oil through their digital info screens, in-flight magazines and entertainment systems, art and product displays." The Primary Industries minister says they are displaying "patriotism" and elevating the image of palm oil.  This followed the European Parliament’s Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) passing a resolution in October 2018 to ban palm oil biofuels in Europe by 2020.  Malaysia and Indonesia are the largest producers of palm oil globally.  Malaysia's Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is due to hold the official launch of the “Love MY Palm Oil” campaign in the first quarter of 2019. [Palm oil as a fuel for aircraft is a disaster, as its life-cycle carbon emissions are high, taking into account the Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) impacts. Not to mention the deforestation and loss of biodiversity. But palm oil would be cheap fuel for airlines, regardless of how environmentally harmful it is ....]

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Report from London Assembly says due to noise, air traffic should NOT increase at Heathrow or London City airport

The London Assembly's Environment Committee has produced a report on aircraft noise, particularly now that Heathrow not only wants a 3rd runway, but has also recently announced plans for 25,000 extra flights a year, bringing new areas of London under its flight paths. The noise is increasing the negative impact for those who have no choice but to live with a debilitating noise invasion. The report found that noise nuisance levels are unacceptable; it calls for a halt on all air traffic growth at Heathrow and London City airports. The report details the impact of altitude, flight paths and out-of-hours flights on the noise suffered by many Londoners. Among its recommendations are that the noise thresholds for disturbance should be lowered, to take account of people needing to open their windows. They say: "Air traffic at Heathrow and London City should not increase and Heathrow’s third runway should not go ahead." It also says that planes should be kept higher, and the impacts of noise from both Heathrow and London City should be considered together, not separately. Night flights should be stoped, and there should be better restrictions on flights in the early morning.

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Solihull councillor expresses ‘real’ concerns about impact of Birmingham Airport expansion

The leader of the Green party group, Cllr Burn,  on Solihull council has said that Birmingham Airport's expansion plans pose a grave risk to the environment. He said he had real concerns about the draft masterplan, which sets out a vision for annual passenger numbers to increase to 18 million by 2033. At a Cabinet meeting he said the Council needed to urge the airport to do far more to reduce and offset "huge" carbon emissions. Cllr Burn said: "It's not popular to say, but we cannot have this growth in air travel and stick to the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, we just can't. The extra emissions here are just way above what we can combat in emissions reduction elsewhere. We have to be honest, it's not sensible or responsible to grow air travel unless it can come with no additional carbon emissions and it just can't - the technology for that is so far off." The Leader of the Council said the council was "robust" in its discussions with the airport, but it gives a lot of people jobs. The council is a shareholder in the airport, and benefits from the council tax the airport pays, which "does help keep our council tax burden down and also allows us to spend money on frontline services".  The expansion planned is 40% increase in passenger numbers and 21% increase in flights (ie. CO2), in 15 years. 

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Gatwick Airport parking could soon be done by robots to maximise numbers of parked cars

You know how airports are so keen on telling everyone they intend to not increase use of private cars, but encourage public transport to and fro? Well, they make a lot of money out of car parking.  And it is just sooooo convenient for the passengers. Now it has been announced that Gatwick has submitted plans to have futuristic robots parking people's cars. There may be a pilot project in Zone B of the South Terminal long stay car park starting by August, fitting 270 cars into the space that now holds 170. The scheme is by French company Stanley Robotics, which has created a robot valet that parks your car more efficiently and securely. It can move the car to an exact position, and as it can park without the need to open the doors, it takes less space. So the car park owner can cram more vehicles into the car park, perhaps about 40% more, and thus provide more passengers to the airport - and make more money. The autonomous robots, known as 'Stan', would carry your car from a garage bay near the terminal, to an outdoor parking space. Where cars can be parked densely, using every available metre of space. The machines have already been trialled at airports in Lyon and Paris. The plans have been submitted to Crawley Borough Council's (CBC) planning department. The company claims the robot is "zero carbon."

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New study by London TravelWatch shows more airline passengers using cars or cabs to get to Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton

A new report has been produced by London Travel Watch. "Way to go: Improving public transport access to London's airports". It gives comprehensive details about the various components of surface access transport, with information on what works well and what does not for each airport, and current state of any improvements.  The report indicates that airline passengers are more likely to travel by car or taxi to catch flights from Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton than they were 7 years ago, in a trend they say is “concerning”. Despite major investment in rail and coach links to the three airports, the proportion of passengers using public transport actually fell slightly between 2012 and 2016. But at Stansted, with accessibility improved by new coach connections, the use of public transport had improved. The proportion using public transport fell from 41% to 39.1% at Heathrow, 44% to 43.6% at Gatwick and 33% to 31.4% at Luton. Failings of public transport and the growth of taxi apps like Uber cited as reasons. Numbers using public transport rose at Stansted from 51% to 54.7% and at London City from 50% to 50.9%. Heathrow continues to encourage car parking, from which it earns huge revenues.

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Bristol Airport wants to introduce a free drop-off zone – but only if allowed to expand to over 10million annual passengers

Bristol Airport wants to bring back a free drop-off zone and create a new waiting area for taxis. The airport has not had a free drop-off zone since it removed its 10-minute 'free' period in May 2011. People now pay £1 for up to 20 minutes. The airport has now announced plans to introduce a free drop-off zone - but only if it gets planning consent from North Somerset Council to expand. People living near the airport complain about cars clogging up local areas, with drivers parking in lay-bys and residential roads to avoid paying to park at the airport. The airport's expansion plans, with hopes of expanding from the current 8 million annual passengers up to 12 million, (its current cap is 10 million) would include a new authorised waiting area for taxis and a free drop-off area for other vehicles. It is not yet known how much time drivers will get for free. The plan is included in the airport’s proposals for the Section 106 Agreement, so is dependent on the plans being approved. The airport hopes to reduce opposition to its plans, by this small gesture towards helping with the local parking issue. And to please future air passengers. 

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Bristol airport hope to expand from 8 to 12 million annual passengers; 73% rise in CO2 emissions

Bristol Airport is hoping to expand. There is a consultation that started on 19th December, and ends on 26th January, on their plans. Details can be found here.  The headline application issue is a 50% growth in passengers - from the current 8.2 million per year, to 12 million by the mid 2020's. Carbon emissions from flights are estimated to rise by 73% from 746 ktCO2 in 2017 to 1,290 ktCO2 with 12 million passengers, an increase of 73%. The increase in passengers will be achieved by de-restricting night flights up to 4,000 per year, expanding car parks, changing road lay outs, and building a multi-storey car park (persuasively capped with some wind turbines). There are further plans to raise passenger numbers to 20 million by 2040. There is a lot of local opposition, focused on issues such as congested roads, 'parking blights' (cars parked in lanes etc), other local environmental impacts, noise pollution - through the night and day. There are some minimal hyper-localised 'Noise Insulation Grants' (up to £5000 for glazing). The airport plans to get more income in from cafes, shops and car parking, to boost profits. Bristol Airport is entirely owned by Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan - it is not British owned at all.

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Good news from Plan B Earth from legal pre-hearing, of the Heathrow runway JRs, at the Court yesterday.

Plan B Earth say the Government has now formally conceded it did not consider Heathrow expansion against the Paris Agreement temperature limit. "We now need to convince the Court that ignoring the boundary between humanity and catastrophe is not a great idea."  In total 1,582 people signed the petition for open justice & live-streaming of the trial (10 days from 11th March). On this, Plan B have got the Court thinking. They've asked for further submissions from Plan B on the issue and, given that this has never happened before in the High Court, they want to talk to other judges about the implications. Judge Holdate indicated we should have a ruling on the issue 2 weeks before the start of the trial. But that's already a major step forward. Not just for this case. But for open justice in the UK.  We need the full hearings into the judicial reviews against the government's approval of a 3rd Heathrow runway, to be live-streamed so people can see what is said. Otherwise only at most 150 people in the court (2 courts to be used) will be able to hear. This case is of huge importance to the UK's carbon targets in coming decades, and the UK's ability to take its responsibilities to the Paris Agreement seriously. (Saying the right thing is not enough - the UK government has to show, by its actions, it is serious about reducing UK CO2. In this case, CO2 from the aviation sector).

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Study identifies heavy metals in high concentrations of potentially harmful airborne nanoparticles around Trudeau airport.

A recent study by scientists at Montreal's McGill university has found unusually high concentrations of potentially harmful airborne aerosols containing nanoparticles around Montreal's Trudeau airport. Some contained chromium and arsenic. The study, published in December 2018 in the prestigious journal "Environmental Pollution" found these observations were statistically higher than corresponding measurements in downtown Montreal and at major highways during rush hour. The airport is thus a hotspot for nanoparticles containing "emerging contaminants" (substances produced by human activities that have, or are suspected to have, adverse ecological and/or human health effects.) The study found trends in levels of nanoparticles during the day showed concentrations that exhibited peaks during times with many flights, also showing correlations with pollutants (CO, NOx, and O3) - confirming the  anthropogenic source of the aerosols. The nanoparticles, especially containing heavy metals, are potentially a matter of public health. The study detected up to 2 million particles per cubic centimetre of air, which is more than the amount found so far at other airports.  More studies need to be carried out, as health is at stake. 

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