General News

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

 

Scottish government has decided not to remove APD – tax-free flying is inconsistent with policies to cut CO2 emissions

The Scottish Government has decided to scrap plans to cut Air Passenger Duty (APD). The tax (just £13 for a return flight to anywhere in Europe) is paid by any passenger leaving from a UK airport.  Aviation pays no VAT on tickets and there is no duty of jet fuel. The Scottish government had wanted to reduce the tax by 50% initially, before eventually abolishing it. This has been threatened since 2016. Cutting APD would have the effect of making air tickets a little cheaper, so increasing the number of flights taken - and therefore the CO2 emissions from Scottish airports. Edinburgh airport said the number of extra passengers at Scottish airports could be one million. Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said reducing air departure tax was "no longer compatible" with Scotland's climate targets, and all sectors have a contribution to make to meeting the challenge of climate change. Cutting the tax would possibly slightly increase the number of visitors flying to Scotland, but the increase in the number of Scottish people flying abroad would be higher. Nicola Sturgeon declared a "climate emergency" in her speech to the SNP conference last month. Cutting the tax would have been entirely inconsistent with that.

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Uttlesford decision on Stansted: New councillors mean an opportunity for a fresh approach

The previous council at  Uttlesford voted through expansion proposals for Stansted Airport, in November 2018, but the Chairman's casting vote. It then came to light jhat at least some of the councillors had either not read, or had not understood, even the most basic information about the application. Now with the council elections in early May, there has been a huge re-shuffling. Local group Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) says this left no doubt as to its dissatisfaction with the incumbent administration.  The Conservatives retained just 4 out of their 24 seats, making this proportionately the largest loss by any ruling party in any District Council in the entire country. The 5 members of the Council's Planning Committee who voted in favour of the Stansted Airport planning application last November are no longer councillors, whereas the 5 who voted against were all re-elected. Voters were unhappy that an unpopular administration had attached greater priority to the commercial interests of Manchester Airports Group than to the wellbeing of local residents. SSE now looks forward to re-establishing a constructive dialogue with the Council.

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IPBES report on global biodiversity loss. Comment on impact of tourism

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has published a report on the serious global loss of biodiversity. IPBES says:  "Long-distance transportation of goods and people, including for tourism, have grown dramatically in the past 20 years with negative consequences for nature overall. The rise in airborne and seaborne transportation of both goods and people, including a threefold increase in travel from developed and developing countries in particular, has increased pollution and significantly raised invasive alien species... Between 2009 and 2013, the carbon footprint from tourism rose 40% to 4.5 gigatons of carbon dioxide and overall 8% of the total greenhouse-gas emissions are from transport and food consumption that are related to tourism. The demand for nature-based tourism, or ecotourism, also has risen, with mixed effects on nature and local communities, including some potential for contributions to local conservation in particular when carried out at smaller scales." 

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Councils that brought legal challenge re. Heathrow say Londoners face added noise and long-term health impacts from Court decision

Councils say the High Court’s failure to quash the government’s Airport National Policy Statement (ANPS) backing Heathrow expansion could bring long-term damage to the health of millions of Londoners. They warn that large areas of London and the Home Counties will be affected by noise from the new north-west runway. The court has refused all the applications for judicial review of the ANPS essentially because it has decided that at this policy stage the decision to support a third runway at Heathrow needs to only meet a low level of judicial scrutiny.  All the damage caused to life and health and the environment by a third runway and its associated traffic (damage causing air pollution, noise pollution and contributing to climate change) will have to be more closely scrutinised at the DCO stage. Objections to a third runway must be heard then and any decision to approve it will be open to challenge through the courts. The councils will continue to explore every avenue possible to protect their residents from the health and environmental consequences of a third runway.  Hillingdon "has set aside sufficient funding to defend our environment and the health and wellbeing of our people for however long it takes to do so.” See the comments of the Council Leaders.

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Comment by Prof Kevin Anderson on the CCC report, in relation to aviation CO2

Kevin commented:  "Although the CCC have not detailed their choice of UK carbon budget, read between the lines and it is clear they see this fair Isle receives a disproportionately large slice of the global carbon pie. Such colonialism is then exacerbated by passing a significant burden for reducing today’s emissions onto our children – and subsequently their children. These future generations will need to invent and deploy planetary-scale technologies to suck 100s of billions of tonnes of ‘our’ emissions out of the atmosphere. This generational transfer of responsibility enables the CCC to maintain a thriving aviation sector and leave unquestioned the huge inequality in who is responsible for most of UK emissions. What’s not to like – business as usual, albeit with a sizeable green twist, and influential high-emitting groups left unencumbered by policies tailored towards their carbon-intensive lifestyles. More disturbing still, clever use of the CCC’s report will see it used to support Heathrow expansion, shale gas developed and even ongoing offshore oil and gas exploration."

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CCC Net Zero Report: Aviation emissions to rise a little bit less fast than now … probably … speculative …

The CCC has produced its report on how the UK should aim for zero-carbon GHG by 2050. There are a lot of mentions of aviation (most copied on this page, for ease of reference). The CCC advice is that aviation emissions must not rise as much as they are on track to do. International aviation emissions must be fully included in carbon targets, not just taken account of, as currently. They must be in the the 6th budget period (2033-37), on which the CCC will advise next year. So people will not be able to keep increasing the amount they fly by quite as much ... But as it is a "hard to treat" sector,  the CCC knows aviation will be emitting more CO2 than any other sector by 2050. The CCC’s "Further Ambition" scenario, setting out a pathway to net zero GHGs, anticipates that the aviation sector will still be emitting 31MtCO2 in 2050 (the current limit is 37.5MtCO2 per year). The CCC sees the use of synthetic fuels perhaps being 10% by 2050. It also hopes equivalent carbon, as produced by aviation, will be removed from the atmosphere through measures such as ‘direct air capture’ or BECCS, to be paid for by the aviation industry. But measures such as tree planting will not be enough. There will be a need to limit increases in air travel demand, but no ideas how to do that.  The CCC will says it "will write to the Government later this year on its approach to aviation, building on the advice in this report."

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CCC report to government: Phase out greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to end UK contribution to global warming

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has produced its report to government, on how the UK should aim to become zero-carbon by 2050. This comes over 10 years after the Climate Change Act was passed, and higher ambition is now needed than the earlier target of an 80% cut on the 1990 level by 2050. The world is on  course for a temperature rise of 3 - 4°C  later this century unless drastic action is taken. Net-zero in the UK would lead the global effort to try to limit the rise to 1.5°C. The CCC hopes its targets can be achieved with known technologies, though it places a lot of faith in capturing carbon - not done on any scale at present. The CCC says the changes should be put into law as soon as possible, ideally before September 2019. There are current policies moving in the right direction, but "these policies must be urgently strengthened and must deliver tangible emissions reductions – current policy is not enough even for existing targets." ..."The Committee’s conclusion that the UK can achieve a net-zero GHG target by 2050 and at acceptable cost is entirely contingent on the introduction without delay of clear, stable and well-designed policies across the emitting sectors of the economy. Government must set the direction and provide the urgency."

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MPs make history by passing Commons motion to declare “environment and climate emergency”

MPs have passed a motion making the UK parliament the first in the world to declare an “environment and climate emergency”. The symbolic move – recognising the urgency needed to combat the climate crisis – follows a wave of protests launched by the Extinction Rebellion strikers in recent weeks. Jeremy Corbyn called for the motion to “set off a wave of action from parliaments and governments around the globe”. He added: “We pledge to work as closely as possible with countries that are serious about ending the climate catastrophe and make clear to US president Donald Trump that he cannot ignore international agreements and action on the climate crisis.”  Theresa May had decided not to whip her MPs against Labour’s motion, and instead encouraged them to be out campaigning ... to avoid voting. [What a government....]  Michael Gove said the government recognises “the situation we face is an emergency”, but stopped short of meeting Labour’s demands to officially declare one. Caroline Lucas said "words are cheap - we need urgent action. So to be clear: you can’t declare a climate emergency AND continue business as usual - fracking, building new runways, industrialised farming etc."

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Judges reject judicial review challenges against DfT’s Heathrow 3rd runway NPS

The judges at the High Court have handed down their judgement, which was to reject all the legal challenges against the DfT and the Secretary of State for Transport, on the government decision to approve a 3rd Heathrow runway, through the Airports NPS (National Policy Statement). The judges chose to make their ruling exclusively on the legality, and "rationality" of the DfT decision, ignoring the facts and details of the Heathrow scheme and the NPS process - or the areas where relevant information was ignored by the DfT.  In the view of the judges, the process had been conducted legally. They threw out challenges on air pollution, surface access, noise and habitats - as well as carbon emissions. The latter being on the grounds that the Paris Agreement, though ratified by the UK government, has not been incorporated into UK law, so the DfT did not have to consider it. The Paris Agreement requires countries to aim for only a global 1.5C rise in temperature, not 2 degrees (as in the current UK Climate Change Act). Read comments by Neil Spurrier, one of those making a legal challenge.  There are now likely to be appeals, perhaps even direct to the Supreme Court. 

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HEATHROW EXPANSION JUDICIAL REVIEW VERDICT Wednesday 1st May at 10 am at the High Court

Judgments on the legal challenges to the Government’s decision to permit Heathrow to apply for the expansion of its airport with a new 3rd Runway, will be announced at the High Court on Wednesday, 1 May, at 10am  The presiding judges, Justices Hickinbottom and Holgate, will be handing down judgments on the judicial review claims made by 5 separate parties that the Government’s Airports National Policy Statement (NPS), as approved by Parliament in June 2018, was unlawful.  Four of the claimants’ cases relate to undue consideration being given to the environment, noise and climate change.  Regardless of the Justices’ pronouncements, it is expected that appeals will be made against the judgments - whether by defendant (the government) or claimants.  Even if the judgments were to find in favour of the Secretary of State for Transport (DfT), and these were to then survive the appeals process, this is unlikely to mark the end of legal battles to expand Heathrow airport. Heathrow’s application for its Development Consent Order - DCO (the detailed planning application, which Heathrow is expected to submit in 2020) – is also certain to attract legal challenges.

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