Below are links to stories of general interest in relation to aviation and airports.
Aviation Strategy Green Paper: AirportWatch position on aviation carbon emissions
The government consultation on its Aviation Strategy Green Paper ends on 20th June. For those wanting to respond, there is some guidance from AirportWatch on carbon emissions. This says the Aviation Strategy must take into account the likely implications of a shift to higher climate ambition for the UK’s aviation plan than the current Committee on Climate Change guidance, which is only approximately in line with an 80% cut in UK carbon emissions, from their 2005 level, by 2050. Due to the Paris Agreement and the UK aspiration to be carbon neutral by 2050 (the CCC guidance in May) the target of UK aviation being allowed to emit 37.5MtCO2 by 2050 is far too high. Aviation growth as envisaged in the Green Paper cannot in this context be justified. The Government should accept the CCC recommendation that international aviation (and shipping) emissions should be part of Net Zero target, and formally included in the UK carbon budget. Aviation must make a fair contribution to reductions in actual UK CO2 emissions (without offsets), first by capping aviation emissions at their existing level and then reducing them along an established emissions reduction pathway. See further details ...
IATA – aviation CO2 emissions in 2018 approaching 1 billion tonnes
IATA has produced its annual report, with information about how the airline industry had done in the past two years, and how they think it will do in the coming year. Among many other details, it has the growth rates in RPK (Revenue Passenger Kilometres - the number of paying passengers flying a kilometre) for each region. Growth in RPK for 2017 was between about 7 - 10% for most regions; about 5 - 9% for 2018; and expected growth in 2019 is a little lower, about 3 - 6%. The amount of CO2 emitted by the airline sector was 860 million tonnes in 2017; 905 million tonnes in 2018; and expected to be 927 million tonnes in 2019. In fact, the AEF comments that in 2018, global aviation emissions - including an estimate for other airline and military emissions, based on EIA data, takes the total above 1,000 million tonnes of CO2 (ie. a billion). The fuel efficiency has not changed much. It was 23 litres of fuel per 100 atk in 2017; 22.8 in 2019; and it is expected to be 22.4 in 2019. As an investment, IATA says: "Airlines continue to create value for investors, but only just ... This year we forecast the industry to generate a return on invested capital (ROIC) of 7.4%, which is only marginally above the cost of capital." And "consumers will spend 1% of world GDP on air transport in 2019."
Government announces it will be redesigning airspace to cram in yet more flights in already crowded skies
The DfT says UK airspace sectors will be redesigned "to accommodate more capacity and allow more direct flights, rather than following long-established lanes." This is dressed up as being “greener” flying by rationalising the use of airspace. It is just to fit more flights into already very crowded airspace, to allow for more aviation expansion. The hope is that delays will be slightly reduced, and there would be a bit less stacking - so saving a small amount of jet fuel (and cutting the cost to airlines, for which profit margins are already tight, due to the competition to get bums onto plane seats). But the changes will mean more noise for many residents who already get some noise, and also plane noise for many who currently are barely overflown. Over the next few years, a new Airspace Change Organising Group, operating independently within the air-traffic service NATS, will oversee the changes. There will be few places within tens of miles of Gatwick and Heathrow that are not affected by noise.There is almost nowhere people can choose to live, where there will be guaranteed to be NO plane noise. The industry greenwash is that this will "will make flying cleaner, quieter and quicker, as we make our aviation sector one of the greenest in the world."
South East London community group Plane Hell Action South East (PHASE) join the No 3rd Runway Coalition
The South East London community group Plane Hell Action South East (PHASE) have joined the No 3rdRunway Coalition. This follows the recent addition of the London Borough of Southwark to the Coalition’s membership and reflects the increasing concern in communities across London about the impacts of Heathrow expansion. PHASE is campaigning against concentrated flight paths over South East London, an area that would suffer far worse aircraft noise if there was ever a 3rd runway. These flight paths will be concentrated, creating what the CAA has described as noise canyons, over local communities. Research by Greenpeace suggests that as many as 1.6 million people could be left enduring nearly constant noise from aircraft, with a 3rd runway. Bridget Bell, of PHASE said: "...plane noise and emissions affect South East Londoners badly, over 18 miles from Heathrow. City Airport flight paths cross under those to Heathrow. The result for many of us is double overflight; or cross-over flight which arises when planes to one airport stop and planes to the other start, giving the overflown no let-up of any sort.”
Airlines increasingly worried about polluter stigma as “flygskam” -“flight shame” – movement grows
A Swedish-born anti-flying movement is creating a new vocabulary, from “flygskam” which translates as “flight shame” to “tågskryt,” or “train brag.” Many Swedes have stopped flying. There are similar movements in some other European countries. An activist in this movement, Susanna Elfors in Stockholm says membership on her Facebook group Tagsemester, or “Train Holiday,” has reached some 90,000 members - up from around 3,000 around the end of 2017. She said: “Before, it was rather taboo to discuss train travel due to climate concerns. Now it’s possible to talk about this on a lunch break ... and everybody understands.” People who do not fly are no longer seen as so odd. It is not seen as such a peculiar sacrifice. But the “Flygskam” movement is worrying the aviation industry. At the ATA conference in Seoul, the head of IATA said: “Unchallenged, this sentiment will grow and spread.” That would seriously damage profits. It must be stopped (obviously). The sector wants to get the public to believe it is not a major polluter, and it doing everything possible to emit less carbon. Trouble is, there are no magic fuels on the horizon, and though efficiency gains of 1-2% per year can be made, the sector entirely cancels these out by expansion of 4-5% per year.
Colm McCarthy: ‘Why it’s time to stop giving aviation and shipping sectors an easy ride on pollution’
Colm McCarthy, writing in the Irish Independent, says it is time aviation was taxed. There is no VAT and no excise duty on jet kerosene. The EU is "coming around to the view that neither aviation nor marine transport should permanently be treated so favourably" ... "A litre of petrol or diesel costs around €1.40 in most European countries, inclusive of both VAT and excise. This is more than double the pre-tax price - more than half what you pay is either VAT or excise. ... Aviation fuel is only 60 or 70 € cent per litre to the airlines." ... " part of the charge on petrol and diesel is for the upkeep of the road system, largely free at the point of use" so airlines would not need to pay that. "But the leaked report for the EU argues that there should be an excise tax of around 33 € cent per litre on jet kerosene, bringing the price up to about €1 per litre. This would add 10-12% to the price of airline tickets." That would cut demand by about 11%. ...If VAT is also imposed, there would be an even bigger price rise and an even bigger impact on demand, inhibiting aviation growth even further."
Might rationing the amount people fly be the only fair way to restrict use of air travel?
Chief Leader writer at the Observer, Sonia Sodha writes about how she almost cares about climate change, but not enough to give up flying or eating meat etc. A common attitude. She writes, on the measures needed: "It’s naive to think that we can achieve these sorts of lifestyle shifts by imploring people to do more. I already know we’re fast approaching a catastrophic climate tipping point and yet I’m just not very good at forgoing a steak, particularly when I know plenty of others won’t be either." Green taxes, (or sin taxes) tend to "hit the least affluent hardest. It’s people on low incomes who are most sensitive to marginal increases in the cost of their food and flights." ... "I need someone to force me to take my carbon footprint more seriously." ..."Rationing to tackle the climate crisis could be given a modern-day makeover. People could be allocated polluting credits to cover activities such as meat eating and flying that they can sell and buy in an online marketplace. If you’re short of cash, or not that bothered about eating meat or flying abroad, you can ...sell your credits to someone who is, which makes this far more equitable than green taxes." It’s surely an idea whose time has come.
Extinction Rebellion plans to use drones to shut down Heathrow on 18th June and then for up to 10 days
Extinction Rebellion (XR) demands the Government begins to act on its declaration of a Climate and Environment Emergency by cancelling all Heathrow expansion. On June 18th (start of Heathrow's consultation), XR plan to carry out nonviolent direct action to ensure Heathrow has to close the airport to flights. This is to create a “pause” in recognition of the impact of high carbon activities, such as flying, on the natural world. If the Government does not cancel all Heathrow expansion, XR will act to shut the airport down for up to 10 days from July 1st. XR is consulting its members on the proposed action. They say it is not intended to target the public, but holding the Government to their duty to take leadership on the climate and ecological emergency. Adding the planned 3rd runway would make Heathrow the single biggest carbon emitter in the UK; to expand the airport at this critical point in history would be madness. XR understands the action will cause disruption to a great number of holiday makers and other travellers, but believe it is necessary - given the prospect of far greater disruption caused by ecological and societal collapse. XR say by giving early warning of the disruption, travellers have time to make alternative plans.
Contenders for Theresa May’s job – and their (pro) Heathrow runway views
The New Civil Engineer has looked out the positions of the leading contenders to replace Theresa May as Prime Minister. Apart from Boris Johnson, (who conveniently managed to be abroad at the time of the Heathrow NPS vote, in order to avoid publicly voting ...) every one voted for the 3rd runway (the vote was whipped). Every one other than Boris has made positive statements in the past about Heathrow expansion. Eg. Dominic Raab: "I support the expansion of Heathrow in principle, due to the economic benefits a third runway will bring – especially as Britain looks to forge a stronger global trading role" (and a few inaccurate statements on economic benefit, costs etc). Michael Gove said the 3rd runway was crucial to “ensuring the UK maintains its position as a global leader in aviation”. Sajid Javid in July 2016 said: “We should quickly give the green light to a third runway at Heathrow.” And so on. Remember what Boris said: after being elected as an MP in 2015, he told supporters: “I will lie down with you in front of those bulldozers and stop the building, stop the construction of that third runway.”
Val Shawcross, once a fierce critic of Heathrow expansion, now chair of “Heathrow Area Transport Forum” (paid by Heathrow)
Val Shawcross worked as deputy mayor of London for transport, and was vehemently against the expansion of Heathrow, last week took up a job as chair of the "Heathrow Area Transport Forum". The Forum is an (allegedly) "independent" statutory body whose chair’s salary is paid by Heathrow airport. It does not have powers to penalise Heathrow if it misses its targets. Part of Ms Shawcross’s role will be to develop Heathrow’s transport access strategy, and monitoring the airport’s performance against the strategy’s targets. If they miss targets, then in theory the DfT (a huge supporter of Heathrow expansion) and the regulator, the CAA, are meant to "hold it to account." She knows well that “If Heathrow expanded without tackling issues like air quality, public transport growth, active transport . . . it would be a disaster for London.” In January 2018, Ms Shawcross told parliament’s Transport Select Committee that the NPS, “completely fails to show how you could expand Heathrow without worsening air quality, not just locally but with an impact across central London as well”. She says now she will “walk my talk” by challenging the airport from a statutory role. Time will tell ...