Climate Change News

Below are news items on climate change – many with relevance to aviation

Major Italian oil company fined €5 million for adverts greenwashing diesel made from palm oil

Italian oil giant Eni has been fined €5 million over its greenwashing of palm-oil based diesel as ‘green’.  It ran a major marketing campaign to con consumers into mistakenly believing its ‘Eni Diesel+’ had a positive impact on the environment. T&E and an Italian environmental organisation had complained about the adverts.  The ruling and fine deliver a blow to attempts by fossil fuel companies to portray biofuels to politicians as a way to decarbonise transport. In practice, diesel made from any sort of food crop causes deforestation due to indirect land use change (ILUC) impacts. Use of palm oil drives destruction of rainforests and wildlife, and EC data shows biodiesel from palm oil is 3 times worse for the climate than regular diesel when ILUC is accounted for. In March 2019 the EU ruled that the use of palm oil in diesel will be gradually reduced from 2023 and should reach zero in 2030, with some exemptions. But palm oil producing countries like Malaysia and Indonesia are pushing hard for palm oil to be used to produce jet fuel, with the pretence that it is lower carbon than conventional fuel.

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Alistair Osborne in the Times, on how Virgin/ Branson have made fools of the government over Flybe bailout

Alistair Osborne, in the Times, writes about Flybe and the con that has been perpetrated, to get it given government finance. Flybe is 30% owned by Delta and Virgin Atlantic, with 30% owned by Stobart and 40% by New York hedge fund Cyrus Capital. Last February, the trio bought Flybe’s assets for just £2.8 million. Flybe has the contract to operate 4 daily flights from London to Newquay, partly paid for by Public Service Obligation (PSO) by government and Cornwall Council.  This is paid in the belief that the flights are "essential" for "connectivity" but are not commercially viable. (Most passengers in fact are on leisure trips). Those Heathrow slots are very valuable to an airline, and could be used for flights that bring in more profit for the owners. A slot pair at Heathrow can fetch $75 million.  Flybe has got the flights moved from Heathrow to Gatwick. Newquay-Gatwick offers far fewer international connections than Heathrow.  The Heathrow slots will be used for other more profitable Flybe flights, feeding Virgin services. "And now Flybe’s owners have made fools of the rest of the nation by convincing ministers they need some sort of taxpayer bailout."

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Scientists appalled at government’s support for high-carbon airline industry, and Matt Hancock ill-informed comments

A letter from a group of leading scientists, in the Independent, criticises the support of this government for the high-carbon emissions airline industry, and the grossly misleading statements made by Matt Hancock (Sec of State for Health) to justify this bailout. On 15 January, he gave his unqualified support for the airline industry on BBC Radio 5 live. He claimed that dealing with the climate emergency does not require any change in our demand for flying, and (mistakenly) thinks electric planes will be a future solution. He said aviation has been decarbonised, which is categorically wrong. Small improvements in aircraft fuel efficiency are far outstripped by the industry's rate of growth. These positions are at odds with the scientific evidence and the need for deep and immediate reductions in the UK’s emissions. Matt Hancock clearly has no grasp of the huge technical challenges in decarbonising aviation. It is of concern that a Secretary of State can be so misinformed. Flying already constitutes 10% of the UK’s carbon emissions and is predicted to rise by 300% by 2050 unless urgent action is taken.

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Sadiq Khan announces green new deal for London if re-elected in May, and says Heathrow 3rd runway would be “catastrophic”

Sadiq Khan has announced that he would introduce a green new deal for London and make the city carbon-neutral by 2030 if re-elected in May this year.  He also outlined the steps that he would take in the future to combat the climate crisis, and air pollution. He said his plans "will help to address the inequality that exists in our city and create the green jobs and industry that can sustain our communities in the future.” Asked about Heathrow expansion, Sadiq Khan said: “A new runway at Heathrow would be catastrophic… I think that a new runway at Heathrow won’t happen for the foreseeable future because of the legal challenges going ahead.”  The election for Mayor will be on 7th May, and is a two-horse race between Sadiq and the Tory candidate, Shaun Bailey.  Other cities such as Copenhagen and Oslo have made similar commitments to become carbon-neutral.

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Airline offsetting is a distraction from policies that can actually reduce aviation CO2 emissions

Andrew Murphy, aviation expert at T&E, explains why offsetting does not work to remove the carbon flights emit. He gets asked about this a lot. He says:  "It's a reality that people fly more and more regularly ...for some it is unavoidable ...What’s equally unavoidable is the climate impact of those flights ... There is no “green option” for flying ... Offsetting is just paying someone else to reduce your emissions, rather than reduce your own. For example, investing in renewable energy or tree-planting in some other part of the globe. ... Do carbon offsets work? ... Many have called them modern day papal indulgences ... offsetting most certainly will not wipe your carbon slate clean ... they won't work in practice, and they won't work in theory ... [trees planted may not survive, a solar farm might have been built anyway] ... there is the problem of "additionality" ... some offsets are when parties set weak targets for themselves, and sell you any overachievement as an offset. No extra emissions are reduced ... While offsetting by individuals is, at worst, ineffective, Governments implementing offsetting schemes worse (eg. Corsia) - a distraction from effective policies that can actually reduce aviation emissions."  Read the whole blog.

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Flybe saved after ministers agree a government loan + deferral of APD, and review of APD on domestic flights

The immediate future of Flybe was secured on 14th January evening, after ministers agreed a rescue deal with shareholders to keep the loss making regional airline flying.  The package of measures includes a potential loan in the region of £100m and/or a possible short-term deferral of a £106m air passenger duty (APD) bill to the Treasury, to help it sort out its debts. Also a pledge to review APD on domestic flights before the March budget. Flybe’s owners Connect Airways – a consortium led by Virgin Atlantic – were persuaded to commit millions more to cover ongoing losses. The government is still in negotiations to finalise any loan to Flybe.  The deal was condemned by IAG as “a blatant misuse of public funds” and Virgin “wanting the taxpayer to pick up the tab for their mismanagement of the airline”. Moves to cut APD on domestic flights are totally at odds with any serious attempt to cut CO2 emissions from aviation, as most UK domestic trips can be made on (lower CO2) rail routes. Air travel is already subsidised, by paying no VAT or fuel duty. Some routes deemed socially necessary could be subsidised under EU rules – Flybe’s Newquay to London route is already funded from taxpayers.

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Any plans by UK government to remove APD on domestic flights would be unhelpful on CO2 emissions

Responding to the news that Boris Johnson's Tory government is considering dropping all APD on domestic flights (just cutting it for Flybe would not be legal, for competition reasons) groups that understand about the need for cuts in carbon emissions reacted with dismay (to put it politely). Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace, commented: "This is a poorly thought out policy that should be immediately grounded.  The Government cannot claim to be a global leader on tackling the climate emergency one day, then making the most carbon-intensive kind of travel – flying – cheaper the next. Cutting the cost of domestic flights while allowing train fares to rise is the exact opposite of what we need if we’re to cut climate-wrecking emissions from transport. The aviation sector has got away for years with increasing its carbon footprint. The last thing we need is another incentive for them to pollute more.”  Caroline Lucas commented on Twitter: "Addressing #Flybe problems by reducing #APD on all domestic flights is utterly inconsistent with any serious commitment to tackle #ClimateCrisis. Aviation already subsidised - no tax on fuel. Domestic flights need to be reduced, not made cheaper."  Jenny Bates at Friends of the Earth said on Twitter: "APD cut on domestic flights would be "unacceptable & reckless” ⁦we at  @friends_earth ⁩ say-we must cut aviation emissions not encourage them."

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Government considering UK APD cut to save loss-making airline Flybe

Flybe is one of the main airlines that fly domestic routes in the UK - 38% of them. Currently air passengers pay £26 APD on a return domestic flight (and £13 on a return flight to a European airport). Flybe has been struggling for years, as many of its routes are not profitable. It said in October that it recognised, with growing awareness of the higher CO2 emissions from a flight that using the train or coach, (and "flight shame") that some of the domestic routes should be scrapped. Now Flybe cannot pay its APD bill to the government - about £100 million over three years. So the government, which talked up the importance of regional connectivity before the election, is considering removing APD from all domestic flights. That would be entirely the opposite of what is needed, to tackle UK carbon emissions, and those from UK aviation in particular. Aviation is already subsidised by not paying VAT. The loss to the Treasury from cutting domestic APD would have to be made up by  taxation from other sources. It is not as if all domestic flights are vital to the economy. Most are leisure passengers, making trips to visit places or people, friends or family. 

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New calls by CAGNE on Grant Shapps and MPs to curb Gatwick expansion plans

Campaign group, CAGNE, against the expansion of Gatwick, are appealing to newly-elected MPs to help curb the airport’s growth plans. They are also urging local residents, along with the MPs, to protest to the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps.  CAGNE says Gatwick’s expansion proposals will lead to an extra 55,000 flights per year by 2033 - and that there is insufficient infrastructure to cope with the growth. It will also lead to large increases in noise levels and CO2 emissions, which are environmentally unsustainable. Air quality will also deteriorate. CAGNE is calling on transport secretary Grant Shapps to subject Gatwick's expansion proposals to more scrutiny by declaring the proposals a ‘National Significant Infrastructure Project’ (NSIP), which requires it to be subject to a different process than a smaller expansion, of under 10 million more annual passengers. A project that qualifies as an NSIP has to go through the Development Consent Order process.  CAGNE  said in their letter to Shapps that Gatwick's growth plans "are neither compatible with the current climate emergency, nor with achieving the Government‘s net zero carbon target."

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EEA data show EU aviation greenhouse gas emissions rose 129% between 1990 and 2017 – huge future increases expected

Data from the European Environment Agency shows that transport greenhouse gas emissions in 2017 were 27% of the EU total (excluding land uses, land-use change and forestry). Within transport, international aviation was 3.42% of the EU total, and domestic aviation 0.35%. Shipping was 3.61% of the EU total. Road transport was 19.35%. Greenhouse gas emissions from international aviation have more than doubled over the past two decades. The increase was 129% between 1990 and 2017.  Although international aviation and shipping each account for less than 3.5% of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions, they have been the fastest growing sources of emissions that contribute to climate change. Despite small improvements in fuel consumption, greenhouse gas emissions from planes in 2050 are expected to be 7 to 10 times higher (ie. 700% to 1,000% higher) than 1990 levels, while emissions from ships are projected to increase by 50% to 250%. The emissions from aviation is largely driven by traffic growth. The number of air passengers in the EU has tripled since 1993.  The numbers of air passengers in the EU were: 1993 - 360 million; 2008 - 800 million; and 2018 - 1,106 million. 

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