General News

Below are links to stories of general interest in relation to aviation and airports.

 

Stansted Airport denies plans to expand to 50 million passengers a year

Stansted Airport has denied that it is planning to expand the airport to a throughput of 50 million passengers a year (mppa), well beyond the 43mppa limit applied for in its 2018 planning application, which continues to be under consideration. Local campaign, Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE), says this denial came from Thomas Hill QC, representing Stansted, on 13th November in the High Court in connection with SSE’s legal challenge over the handling of the current 43 mppa application.  However, earlier SSE’s barrister, Paul Stinchcombe QC, had provided the Judge with multiple sources of evidence demonstrating that the airport was planning to expand to 50 mppa and intended to do so in two stages: first, by seeking an 8 mppa uplift in the cap, to 43 mppa; and then later seeking a 7 mppa increase to 50 mppa.  The DfT was aware of all this and knew also that the existing runway was capable of handling 50 mppa. Any airport expansion project, or combination of projects, for an increase of over 10 mppa must, by law, be dealt with at national level by the Secretary of State rather than by the Local Planning Authority – i.e. Uttlesford District Council. The verdict of the court is awaited.

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‘Failure on pretty much every aspect’: Government condemned as UK set to miss key environmental goals

Despite promises to tackle green issues, the UK is failing to make progress on crucial targets such as cutting CO2 emissions. An investigation by Greenpeace and the FT shows that the UK government is set to miss legally binding environment targets in 2020 and had failed on “pretty much every aspect” of protecting wildlife and the environment. Despite promises to prioritise green issues, the UK has made little progress on tackling CO2 emissions, air and water pollution, waste and overfishing, and had now increased tree planting or protected biodiversity. One reason for the failure to meet many targets was budget cuts in DEFRA.  A Greenpeace spokesman said: “As rivers and air become more toxic, emissions and waste piles continue to rise, our oceans emptied of fish and countryside becomes devoid of wildlife, the government must be held to account for its failure to protect people’s health and nature.”  On energy, only 11% of the UK’s energy was produced through renewables in 2018. This figure has grown by around 1% every year since 2014 (meant to be 15%). UK is on track to miss its carbon budget for 2023-27, and 2028-32. UK aviation emissions continue to rise.

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Air pollution nanoparticles (from road vehicles and aircraft) now linked to higher risk of brain cancer

New research has now linked air pollution nanoparticles to brain cancer. The ultra-fine particles (UFPs) are produced by fuel burning, particularly in diesel vehicles, and higher exposures significantly increase people’s chances of getting the cancer. Previous work has shown that nanoparticles can get into the brain and that they can carry carcinogenic chemicals.  Aircraft also produce nanoparticles that spread downwind of airports, and are also emitted into the atmosphere during flight - especially take-off and landing. Higher levels of the air pollution are related to slightly higher rates of brain cancer. The numbers per 100,000 are not huge, but add up when large populations are exposed to road traffic etc. Brain cancers are hard to treat and often fatal. As nanoparticles are so tiny, they can get into almost every organ. Air pollution has also been linked to other effects on the brain, including reductions in intelligence, more dementia and mental health problems in both adults and children. The WHO says air pollution is a “silent public health emergency”. Airport expansion does not help - due to road transport, plus the planes themselves, and airport vehicles.

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Airlines accused of hypocrisy over ‘fuel-tankering’ that hugely increases airline CO2 emissions, to save a few £s

"Fuel tankering" means airlines fill up with a lot of fuel, at an airport where fuel is cheap, and then fly around  carrying a huge extra load, to avoid spending slightly more for fuel at a destination airport. This means a small financial saving, but hugely higher carbon emissions - from carrying extra tonnes of fuel sof hundreds of miles (and the energy needed to lift it to 35,000 ft ...). This is a common practice within the industry, even while they are doing greenwashing about minimal weight savings on flights, to cut energy use.  BBC Panorama found BA's planes generated an extra 18,000 tonnes of CO2 in 2018 through fuel tankering. And cost savings made on a single flight can be as small as just over £10 - though savings can run to hundreds of £s. Researchers have estimated that one in five of all European flights involve some element of fuel tankering. Critics say the widespread use of tankering undermines the industry's (hollow) claims that it is committed to reducing its CO2 emissions. Eurocontrol has calculated that tankering in Europe resulted in 286,000 tonnes of extra fuel being burnt every year, and the emission of an additional 901,000 tonnes of CO2.

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Ten celebrities cause 10,000 times more CO2 emissions from flying than the average person

Professor Stefan Gössling, from Lund University, has written about the immense carbon emissions of a range of high profile celebrities - and the damaging effect this has on the perceptions of society on the desirability of this hyper-mobility, by jet.  He says: "The jet-setting habits of Bill Gates and Paris Hilton mean that they produce an astonishing 10,000 times more carbon emissions from flying than the average person." ...  "This highlights the insane disparity in carbon emissions between the rich and the poor." ... "Recently published figures reveal that 1% of English residents are responsible for nearly 20% of all flights abroad". ... "major clash about the social and moral norms surrounding air travel. For decades, frequent fliers have been seen as living desirable lifestyles. To be a global traveller automatically infers a high social standing." ... "But more and more people are beginning to question what is desirable, justifiable and indeed “normal” to consume. In the case of flying, this has come to be known as “flight shame”." ...  We need to "stem the growing class of very affluent people who contribute very significantly to emissions and encourage everyone else to aspire to such damaging lifestyles."

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Councils tell government to review Heathrow expansion following climate change developments

Local authorities opposed to Heathrow expansion say that changes in Government policy on climate change mean the case for a 3rd runway should be reviewed urgently. The national policy statement (ANPS) which included support for Heathrow expansion was designated in June 2018 - at a time when the UK was committed to an 80% cut in CO2 emissions, from the 1990 level, by 2050. But in June 2019 following the advice of the Climate Change Committee (CCC) the Government amended the commitment to a 100% cut  – with the strengthening based on ‘significant developments in climate change knowledge’.  This same logic needs to be applied to the ANPS. Under planning legislation a national policy statement must be reviewed if there has been a ‘significant change in any circumstances on the basis of which any of the policy set out in the statement was decided.’  And there has been. In September 2019 the CCC told the Government that the planning assumption for aviation should be to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 - and measures should be put in place that ‘limit growth in demand to at most 25% above current levels by 2050.’   The Heathrow case needs urgent review in relation to climate policy, and also noise. The councils say that Heathrow expansion is never going to happen - the obstacles are insurmountable.

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John McDonnell says Labour could scrap Heathrow expansion, as it does not meet key criteria

John McDonnell has suggested that Labour would cancel the expansion of Heathrow if it wins power, and it might even also block other airport projects.  John said climate change would dominate the party’s agenda in government. Labour have said for some time that the current 3rd runway plans “very clearly” do not meet Labour’s key criteria - its 4 tests - on protecting the environment. On climate grounds alone, plans to increase capacity at Manchester, Leeds Bradford, Bristol, Gatwick, Stansted and East Midlands airports would need to be assessed by the same criteria.  He said that ensuring the “survival of our planet” would be Labour’s “number one priority” in government, with climate change becoming a “key” factor in all policy and investment decisions. Labour have the problem that some unions hope airport expansion will provide more jobs, and therefore back it, while knowing there is a carbon problem.  John McDonnell's constituency, Hayes & Harlington, would be the worst affected by a Heathrow runway, in terms of homes destroyed and area covered in airport infrastructure. The 3rd runway fails not only on environmental grounds (carbon, noise, air pollution) but also on economic and social impacts.

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Call for ban on UK private jets by 2025 with their climate impact as much as x10 that of a regular economy seat

Private jets are a total anachronism, in an age of climate emergency and climate crisis.  First Class or business class seats cause far more CO2 to be emitted than economy seats. But private jet CO2 emissions per passenger - usually less than 5 passengers per plane - are an order of magnitude higher than of an average economy class seat. Now research by the Common Wealth thinktank indicates that private jet flights to and from UK airports in a year may contribute as much to the climate crisis as 450,000 cars. It suggests they should be banned as soon as 2025, with possible research into partly electric planes (small private jets are the only ones for which electric flight is feasible).  There were some 128,000 private jet flights between UK and EU airports in 2018 and 14,000 trips were also made to destinations outside Europe.  Industry estimates suggest that about 40% of private jet movements are empty leg journeys, in which aircraft are repositioned for the convenience of the super-rich and corporate customers who use them. Almost half of all private jet traffic in Britain passes through five airports around London, given its status as the home to the most billionaires in Europe. 

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Groups write to Government asking for a moratorium on airport expansion planning applications

Representatives of groups at some of the largest UK airports have written to both the Secretaries of State for Transport, and Housing, Communities and Local Government, to request a halt to airport expansion.  The letter asks them to suspend the determination by all planning authorities of applications to increase the physical capacity of UK airports, or their approved operating caps, until there is a settled UK policy position against which such applications can be judged.  Many UK airports are seeking - or have announced their intention to seek - planning approval to increase their capacity and/or their operating caps. In aggregate it has been estimated that proposals announced by UK airports would increase the country’s airport capacity by over 70% compared to 2017.  There is no settled UK policy on aircraft noise, or  policy on aviation carbon and how the sector will, as the CCC advises,  "limit growth in demand to at most 25% above current levels by 2050”.The letter says: "Until a settled policy with set limits is established for greenhouse gas emissions and noise there should be a moratorium on all airport expansion planning applications."

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One student stands up against flights for unnecessary, high carbon, field trips for university courses

Many universities and academics are trying to find ways in which they can reduce the amount they fly. This is difficult, as universities have been developed to be dependant on international students, international academics and numerous international conferences - to which everyone flies. And then there are also the field trips, for many student degrees. Now, writing in a blog for "FlightFree 2020" a courageous student, studying for an MSc in Environmental Protection and Management at Edinburgh University, has refused to go on a field trip - even though it was a compulsory part of her course - because she did not feel she could justify the huge carbon emissions the flight would create.  Field trips are promoted as a chance to gain real-life, real-world experience, undertake research outside of the academic bubble, and interact with local communities. But as flying is so cheap, the destinations have moved further afield, continents away. Institutions entice potential students by offering study in ever more exotic locations. These trips play a large part in normalising flying as a form of transport.  Fortunately the student's department were understanding, and arranged separate individual study for her in the UK. So that was quite possible.  Food for thought for unis....?

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