Climate Change News

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

Imperial College report for the CCC says regulations are needed, on marketing and advertising of high-CO2 flights and holidays

A report, by Dr Richard Carmichael of Imperial College, London, was commissioned by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), to look at behaviour change, public engagement and the UK Net-Zero target. It made a number of recommendations, one on advertising of flights. It says:  "Advertising and marketing of holiday destinations and airlines also stimulate demand for flying and help set norms and aspirations about flying. Advertising and packaging for alcohol and tobacco has long been tightly controlled in view of their health risks, and gambling marketing must warn about irresponsible betting. More responsible flying could also be encouraged by new regulations for the marketing and promotion of flights and holiday destinations by requiring that carbon footprints of flights are stated in the advertising material. This could raise awareness and begin to change the norm of unproblematic unlimited flying." Recommendation:  "Encourage more responsible flying by mandating that all marketing of flights show emissions information expressed in terms that are meaningful to consumers (e.g., as proportion of an average household’s annual emissions now and under Net Zero)."

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Polling reveals 64% of Britons are concerned about the climate impact of Heathrow 3rd runway, and only about 25% back it

A poll conducted by YouGov Plc., for Friends of the Earth (FoE), showed that 64% of people, after being told the potential benefits and negatives impacts of the Heathrow 3rd runway plans, were concerned about its climate impact.  The survey also showed that only 1 in 4 people  (25%) support the plans. The online survey's total sample size was 2,017 adults and fieldwork was undertaken between 4th - 6th October 2019.  Numbers were weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).  The 50% planned increase in the number of flights at Heathrow (about 700 more movements than now) would mean almost 50% more carbon emissions, that would all but destroy any chances of the UK meeting its targets for cutting CO2 emissions and fighting climate breakdown.  The poll results come as FoE prepares to take its legal case against Heathrow’s 3rd runway plans to the Court of Appeal on climate grounds. The court will hear an appeal against the High Court’s decision that the government had not breached its sustainable development duties by allowing the expansion of Heathrow. The hearing begins on Thursday 17 October and is expected to last six days.

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Report for the CCC recommends not only a levy on number of flights someone takes, but their length (and seat class)

A report written by Dr Richard Carmichael from Imperial College London, for the Committee on Climate Change, sets out several important recommendations on how to reduce the demand for, and the carbon emissions from, air travel. One recommendation is to impose a frequent flyer levy, that not only takes account of the number of flights a person takes in a year, but the distance travelled (and thus the carbon emitted). This should also include class of ticket bought, as premium classes cause the emission of much more carbon than economy seats. The levy would help discourage long-haul flights: as most flying is for leisure, some shift from long-haul to short-haul destinations would be expected, delivering further emissions reductions. Averaging-out flying habits over a longer period than one year would also be fairer: a 3-4-year period, for example, could mean a traveller could take a long-haul trip without incurring a substantial levy if they took few other flights during the rest of the period. The complexity of administering this levy need not be onerous, though would need a central database storing total miles flown in the accounting period under a passport number.

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Imperial College report for the CCC says Air Miles schemes, which needless encourage frequent flying, should be banned

Air miles schemes should be axed as they encourage jet-setters to take extra flights in a bid to maintain “privileged traveller status”, according to a report by Imperial College, London, commissioned by the government’s climate change advisers, the Committee on Climate Change. Encouraging those who already fly a lot, to fly even more, is completely the wrong way to try to cut the carbon emissions from aviation. The report says: "The greatest beneficiaries of aviation’s generous tax treatment in the UK (it is exempt from fuel duty and zero-rated for VAT) are therefore those who pollute most and could most easily afford to pay more. The norm of unlimited flying being acceptable needs to be challenged and, as a very highly-polluting luxury, it is suitable to taxation."  It also recommends: "Introduce regulation to ban frequent flyer reward schemes that stimulate demand". And: "Raise awareness and encourage more responsible flying by mandating that all marketing of flights show emissions information expressed in terms that are meaningful to consumers."  Also: "Introducing restrictions to ‘all-you-can-fly’ passes and loyalty schemes which offer air miles would remove incentives to excessive or stimulated flying."

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Offsetting by passengers on flights won’t get us to net zero, says AEF in response to government offsetting consultation

The Department for Transport’s held a consultation "Carbon offsetting in transport: a call for evidence" which closed on 26th September.  The consultation outlined a proposal to require all air travel providers and other providers of ticketed travel to give passengers the option to buy a carbon offset for their journey. The Aviation Environment Federation did a response, in which they agree with the CCC's view that "the UK should not plan to meet is climate change obligations using international offset credits." They also agree with the EU’s decision to exclude international offsets from its ETS. There are few good quality carbon offsets available, and very few deliver CO2 reductions beyond what would have happened anyway. In the not-too-distant future, when all countries and sectors are cutting their emissions, there will not be many spare credits available. AEF say: "But a key argument against offsetting is that it risks distracting from the need to rein in aviation demand in order to tackle emissions." People think that having bought a cheap offset for a few ££s means that's all OK, and they can book another flight.  It delays real cuts in aviation emissions, that can only be achieved by the industry not expanding.

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IAG now rattled by growing awareness of carbon emissions from flying, and possibly lower passenger numbers

The airline industry is feeling under threat, from growing awareness across society - and it many other countries - that its carbon emissions are a problem. It fears there will be a drop in passenger numbers, if the concept of "flying shame" catches on, and if more people decide to fly less. So the industry is fighting back, with claims about how it is a "force for good" in the world, and how it is working really, really hard to reduce its emissions. Doing everything it can, other than actually not trying to keep growing. Willie Walsh admits aviation will keep on burning huge amounts of fossil fuel for decades, as there are no real alternatives (other than very tiny amounts of alternative fuels). He admits that the only solution is carbon offsets, as the emissions from aviation rise, and so at best emissions are net, not gross.  Increases in aviation carbon just wipe out the cuts made elsewhere.  The industry like to keep emphasising that the cost of flying must not be raised, putting it out of reach of the poor - but ignores the solution, that a frequent flyer levy could be imposed, giving each person a free flight per year, with escalating tax on subsequent flights. Most flights are taken by people who fly several (or many) times per year.  IAG wants to give the impression of being a leader in carbon responsibility ...while continuing with "business as usual" flying as much as it can.

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Travel industry told, by “Responsible Travel”, that they must encourage their customers to fly less, and only fly if necessary

At the ABTA Travel Convention in Tokyo, Tim Williamson, director of marketing and content at Responsible Travel, told delegates he couldn’t “sugar coat” his message that “we all need to fly less and we need to encourage our customers to fly less”, in order to tackle the challenge of climate change.  He said:  “Given that I’m talking to travel companies, that’s a difficult message, but if we’re going to stop the planet heating above two degrees, I can’t see how you can do it without flying less.”  Also that a reduction in flying was key to lowering emissions created by travel and he warned “we need to act now ...We’ve not done nearly enough in the last ten years on carbon.”  He told the Convention that carbon offsets are also “a very murky world”, and voluntary offsetting is not enough - and that the answer may lie in a carbon tax on aviation. He claimed turning Air Passenger Duty (APD into a kind of emissions fee, combined with raising rates to discourage people from flying unless necessary, could “fund sustainable aviation”. A delegate gave the warning to the audience to “Change before you have to.” 

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Extinction Rebellion protests at London City Airport, to highlight the threat of its higher CO2

As part of the Extinction Rebellion protests in London, as well as in around 60 cities around the world, London City Airport was a target for action.  The intention to disrupt the airport, the plans were announced well beforehand. Many XR people got into the airport, causing disruption in a non-violent manner.  A smartly dressed man, who had bought a flight ticket for an Aer Lingus flight, got onto his plane and then refused to sit down. He "walked down the aisle, delivering a lecture on climate change"; this caused about two hours delay to the flight. Another, a Paralympic cycling medallist James Brown, who is visually impaired, also had a ticket for an Amsterdam flights, but when approaching the plane door, instead climbed onto the roof of the BA plane  About 50 arrests were made at the airport, including those who had blocking the airport entrance or glued themselves to the terminal floor. There were delays to some flights.  The airport was chosen for the action because of the glaring incompatibility of the government's legally-binding commitment to be net carbon neutral by 2050, with expanding the aviation sector. Many of the flights from London City are leisure, (skiing, city breaks, beach holidays, etc) not for business.

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Skeleton arguments by Plan B Earth for their legal appeal against government approval of the Airports NPS

The legal appeals against the decision of the High Court, to reject the legal challenges against the Secretary of State for Transport (SST) decision to designate the Airports National Policy Statement (NPS), starts on 17th October, at the Appeal Court, in the Strand. The ANPS gave approval for a 3rd Heathrow runway.  One of the four parties who are appealing is Plan B Earth, on grounds of the increased carbon emissions that the runway would produce. The Plan B skeleton argument has been publicised, and this says the SST and the court below proceeded on the false assumption that “Government policy relating to … climate change” was confined to a) (The minimum target established by CCA s. 1 as it was then, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050 compared to a 1990 baseline) and that  b) (a commitment to introduce a new UK target in accordance with the Paris Agreement (a commitment which has now been implemented into law, via a change to CCA s.1)  should be disregarded.  Also that neither the SST nor the court below, have advanced any explanation for disregarding the Committee on Climate Change's clear position on this issue. "If the court below had given proper account to these matters, and properly considered the advice of the CCC, it would have been driven to the conclusion that the ANPS was fundamentally flawed and that it should be quashed."

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Islington Council agrees motion on opposition to Heathrow Expansion & the introduction of concentrated flight paths over Islington

Islington Council has agreed a motion, to oppose the expansion of Heathrow, and the introduction of concentrated flight paths over Islington. This was debated by the Council on 26th September. The Council believes:  That expansion of Heathrow is not compatible with the climate emergency recently declared by the UK Parliament and by this Council. And  That noise impacts from additional flights over London would have a negative impact on the health and quality of life of Islington residents.  It therefore resolves to:  Oppose expansion of airport capacity in London if the Government cannot demonstrate that it is accommodated within the emissions budget that the CCC recommends for aviation in 2050, as well as other environmental limits, such as air quality.  Make representations to London City Airport and the CAA calling for a fairer distribution of flight paths in London.  Make representations to the Government urging UK Aviation Noise policy to be brought into line with WHO recommendations.  Register as an ‘Interested Party” in the Development Consent Order Process for the proposed expansion of Heathrow.  Investigate joining the No Third Runway Coalition as a local authority member

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