General News

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

 

Should short-haul flights be banned? Climate change is a major issue in elections in Europe and Australia.

"Not long ago, Europe’s young urban residents used to brag about their latest adventures on the other side of the planet, in Asia, Australia or the Pacific. These days, you better be quiet about that, or at least make it clear that you feel a bit conflicted about how you got there.  The phenomenon has a name: “flight shame,” or “flygskam,” in Sweden, “flugscham” in German, and “vliegschaamte” in the Netherlands. Amid mass youth protests for more decisive climate action in Europe and around the world, younger people especially have started to examine their own lives — and their roles in driving up emissions."  Earlier this year, European travel agencies first started to notice a drop in flight bookings, a development they quickly named the “Greta impact”.  The debate over whether to abandon air travel or not — which regularly features on top of European news sites — has now also reached global politics. Ahead of European elections next week, this is becoming an issue. The two main contenders for the role of President of the European Commission have both advocated for finding ways to reduce short-haul aviation. They both agree that Europe’s reliable train network would need to be expanded to make up for a reduction (or even ban) on short-haul flights.

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Heathrow airport expansion ‘will expose 1.6 million people to near constant noise’

A third runway at Heathrow will expose 1.6 million people to “near constant” noise, according to an investigative report by Greenpeace.  There could be up to 47 flights passing over London every hour (except during the night period) if expansion goes ahead. By overlaying  flightpath maps published earlier this year with population data, Greenpeace found perhaps 11 million people lived in areas could be exposed to Heathrow noise above 65 decibels (about as loud as being in a busy office). About 1.6 million people live in areas closest to the airport; they are almost certain to experience noise levels at or above 65 decibels. Currently around 492,000 people experience at least 65 decibel Heathrow noise. This is NOT a local problem - it is far wider than that, and opponents cannot be accused of being "nimby".   Greenpeace Director John Sauven said: “This project is not in the interests of people living in the west of London. It is not in the interests of the UK economy. And it most certainly is not in the interests of the global climate. ...The government has all the public support they could possibly want for radical climate action. Cancelling Heathrow is the easiest measure available."

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Netherlands planning to start taxing air travel by around €7 per passenger, from 2021

The Netherlands plans to impose a €7 tax per passenger in 2021 if the EU fails to come up with an aviation fuel tax.  Momentum is building for a crack-down on aviation’s environmental impact. The Netherlands' finance state secretary said its draft flight tax bill could yield €200 million and “help close the price gap between plane tickets and, for example, train tickets”. The proposals - still a draft, to be debated by politicians - are that any air passenger departing from a Dutch airport will be charged a maximum of €7.50. Cargo planes will also be charged, at a rate of €1.92 for less noisy planes and €3.85 for more noisy aircraft. At present, unlike travel by car, bus or train, international flights from the Netherlands are not in any way taxed by the Dutch government. There was a tax till it was scrapped in 2009. There has also been a proposal that the Netherlands and Belgium made earlier this year on imposing aviation taxes via bilateral deals - and the Netherlands may look at implementing others.  If there is EU agreement on another aviation tax, before 2021, then the current Dutch tax proposal will be dropped. On 13th May a report emerged that showed taxing jet fuel would cut EU CO2 emissions and have a limited impact on employment.

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Heathrow vast consultation starting 18th June – aiming to be done less badly than earlier consultations

Heathrow has announced the dates of its forthcoming consultation on the expansion it wants. The consultation will start on 18th June, and end on 13th September (ie. much across the summer holiday period, when responding is more difficult ...). Unlike the consultation that started in January and ended on 4th March, this one is statutory - something Heathrow has to do, by law. It will cover a large range of issues. Perhaps in response to the highly critical comments on its earlier consultations, Heathrow says: "Having listened to feedback from previous consultations, Heathrow will be holding events in more locations than previously and, in addition to an extensive national publicity campaign across newspapers, radio, billboards, digital and – for the first time - Spotify, will be contacting 2.6 million households directly in the vicinity of the airport with a leaflet encouraging participation." Paul McGuinness, Chair, No 3rd Runway Coalition said:  "This consultation is about  the infrastructure Heathrow will build once they've demolished villages in Hillingdon. Not the serious environmental impacts of imposing a further 700 planes a day over the country's most populated region."  Or the devastating impact on air pollution, carbon emissions etc.

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France’s Vinci completes takeover of majority stake – 50.01% – in Gatwick

French construction and transport concession group Vinci sealed a deal to take a majority stake in Gatwick airport. This was first announced in December 2018. Vinci formally completed its £2.9 billion deal to buy a 50.01% stake in Gatwick.  Vinci took advantage of a Brexit-related hit to UK asset prices to buy the stake - its is President Nicolas Notebaert said he did not think that Brexit would change Gatwick's prospects. There are tourists who want to come to the UK, and even more Brits want to fly out on cheap holidays - which is what Gatwick caters for. The acquisition gives Vinci, which already runs 45 airports in 12 countries, access to the world's largest metropolitan aviation market.  It is now the second largest airport operator in the world, behind Spain's Aena but it has overtaken French rival ADP.  Gatwick hopes to expand, by using its emergency runway as a 2nd runway. It said"a consultation response summary and final master plan will be published later in 2019."  Local group, CAGNE, commented that the noise burden from Gatwick flights is already too high, day and night, and should not be allowed to increase.

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T&E found the EU sat on data showing benefits of ending airlines’ tax break on jet fuel

A leaked report for the European Commission shows that taxing aviation kerosene sold in Europe, by duty on all departing flights to all destinations of €0.33/litre, would cut aviation emissions by 11% (16.4 MtCO2). It would have no net impact on jobs or the economy as a whole while raising almost €27 billion in revenues every year.  Unlike road transport, airlines in Europe have never paid any excise duty on the fuel they take on at EU airports. Airlines are not even taxed on domestic flights where taxation barriers were lifted in 2003.  In contrast, jet fuel taken on for domestic aviation has been taxed for many years in countries such as the US, Australia, Japan, Canada and even Saudi Arabia.  European member states have, since 2003, had the power to start taxing kerosene uplifted for flights within Europe by using bilateral agreements., but have failed to do so. Over 20 EU states don’t tax international aviation at all (at least the UK has APD).  Aviation CO2 emissions grew 4.9% within Europe last year – while emissions from all other industries in the ETS fell 3.9%. CO2 from flying in Europe has soared 26.3% in the last five years – far outstripping any other EU emissions source. With realisation about the reality of climate breakdown, this increase cannot be allowed to continue.

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Climate emergency realisation in UK to cause review of Heathrow expansion – climate change may limit future UK flying

The government (DfT) has admitted that concerns over climate change might restrict the growth of flying in the UK.  The government's statutory advisors, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) recently said the UK's planned increase in aviation would need to be curbed to restrict CO2. Now a senior civil servant, Caroline Low (in charge of Heathrow expansion at the DfT) has told Plan B Earth that means ministers may have to review the UK's aviation strategy (due to become a white paper later in 2019). The aviation strategy is currently out to consultation, till 20th June. Plan B says the level of climate concern is so high that the decision on Heathrow expansion - the Airports NPS - should be brought back to Parliament. (It was voted for in June 2018, with carbon issues glossed over so MPs were unaware of the extent of the problem). The DfT hopes expanding Heathrow would create economic growth etc. When the government first laid out proposals for increasing aviation, the UK had an overall target of cutting CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050. But the CCC now recommends that Britain should adopt a target of net zero emissions. Growth of aviation needs to be constrained to fit within a Net Zero target. Caroline Low said the DfT will now have to give aviation carbon emissions "careful consideration" and even look at whether the ANPS should be revised. 

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Senior DfT civil servant confirms aviation CO2 issues to now be “given careful consideration” for ANPS review

Tim Crosland, Director of Plan B, wrote on 2nd May to the government's lawyers, asking for clarity on how Heathrow expansion would be assessed against the UK target of Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, including emissions from aviation. In a response on 8th May from Caroline Low, the senior DfT civil servant working on Heathrow expansion, she confirms that: "...the department will carefully consider this request against the statutory criteria set out" in sections of the 2008 Planning Act. And "As well as giving careful consideration to the Net Zero report and the declaration of environment and climate emergency, mentioned in the request, it may be necessary to consider the Committee on Climate Change's recommended policy approach for deviation which, the Committee has stated at chapter 6 of the report, will be provided to the department later in 2019 and any relevant decisions taken by the government in the coming months as a result. These decisions are likely to include decisions on relevant policy being developed as part of Aviation 2050: The future of UK aviation, which is currently the subject of consultation. At the end of this consideration, the department will provide advice and a recommendation to the Secretary of State, to enable him to take a decision on whether the statutory criteria for a review of part or all of the ANPS are met, and whether or not it is appropriate to carry out such a review."

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London Borough of Southwark joins No 3rd Runway Coalition

The London Borough of Southwark has today become the latest local authority (joining Richmond, Wandsworth, Windsor & Maidenhead, Hillingdon and Hammersmith & Fulham) to join the fight against Heathrow Expansion.  Its residents get a great deal of noise from Heathrow aircraft already, and that would get much worse with a 3rd runway. Cllr Richard Livingstone, Cabinet Member for environment, transport management and air quality for Southwark, said: “We are happy to be joining the No 3rd Runway Coalition, to stand alongside other groups, organisations and individuals, in opposition to a third runway"... Southwark councillors are already concerned about the noise, and also now the carbon emissions.  With the Westminster Parliament now joining the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly, London Assembly and over 500 councils around the UK in declaring a climate emergency, it is clear that the unconstrained growth of carbon intensive infrastructure is no longer politically palatable.  And it is no longer just environmental campaigners who are considering the proposed expansion of Heathrow to be the totemic issue in the battle against climate change, but mainstream politicians too.

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Heathrow Hub appeals High Court judgment that rejected its legal challenge to the ANPS

Heathrow Hub, the independent proposal for expanding Heathrow Airport via an extension to the existing Northern Runway, has started proceedings to appeal the High Court judgement handed down on the 1st May 2019, which refused a judicial review. The DfT, Chris Grayling and Heathrow hoped the ruling would clear the way for Heathrow to get on with its plans. But now 3 of the other 4 claimants are also appealing - the councils, Friends of the Earth, and Plan B. Heathrow Hub is majority owned by Anthony Clake, a senior partner at Marshall Wace, a global hedge fund in London. Heathrow Hub has been advised that it also has grounds for appeal, and has applied for permission to do so. They cite the legal flaws as including:  "The court did not set out the legal test of overriding public interest or acknowledge that the burden of discharging it lay with the secretary of state. Furthermore, it did not allow Heathrow Hub to address the court on this matter resulting in a clear error of law. The role of the court in a judicial review is to review the exercise of discretion by the decision-maker, not to exercise the discretion itself.”

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