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Latest news stories:

Heathrow Airport Holdings will announce the appointment of Ruth Kelly (was Labour Transport Secretary) to its board

Heathrow Airport Holdings will announce the appointment of Ruth Kelly to its board this week.  Ruth Kelly, the former Labour transport secretary, (2007 - 8) is to join the board of Heathrow Airport's parent company as it attempts to clear the remaining hurdles to the construction of its £14bn third runway.  She will become a non-executive director of Heathrow Airport Holdings next month.  She briefly worked for HSBC Holdings after stepping down as an MP in 2010, now sits on the board of the Financial Conduct Authority.  "Her appointment will strengthen Heathrow's political connections at a critical juncture". This "revolving door" is just another to add to the long list:  In September 2015 Vickie Sheriff became head of communications for Heathrow airport, having earlier worked for the Prime Minister, in 2013, with a dual role as official deputy spokesperson for the Prime Minister and head of news at Number 10.   Heathrow’s director of PR, Simon Baugh, left the airport in 2015 to work at the Department for Transport to take the role of head of communications.  Earlier Tom Kelly in 2009, who had worked for Tony Blair  went to BAA as head of comms. There are several other examples.

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An assessment by Carbon Market Watch of credit providers for the aviation offsetting scheme

Carbon Market Watch has produced a report that assesses credit providers for the ICAO CORSIA carbon offsetting scheme - which aims to compensate the growth in CO2 emissions from international aviation above 2020 levels, starting in 2021. Offsets should " offset programs will be screened against the eleven new Program Design Elements," (one of which, for example, is: "Program Governance: Programs should publicly disclose who is responsible for administration of the program and how decisions are made."   Carbon Market Watch conclude that "no program can yet operate in a manner which complies with all the eligibility criteria. Some will need to update and improve certain parts of their protocols or methodologies, but all are hampered by the lack of clarity on international accounting rules to avoid double counting of emission reductions. The present assessment also highlights that the Program Design Elements are not sufficient to exclude credits with no environmental value, and that a rigorous application of the second set of criteria, the Carbon Offset Credit Integrity Assessment Criteria, is necessary and will require analysis of specific methodologies and projects." 

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2019 Spring Statement – how getting passengers to pay for carbon offsets is not the answer

In the Chancellor's Spring Statement, there was a mention of launching a call for evidence on offsetting transport emissions, in the hope of encouraging more travels (not only air passengers) in a vain attempt to "neutralise" their climate impact. Hammond said this would explore how travel providers - including airlines - could potentially be required to "offer genuinely additional carbon offsets so that customers who want zero carbon travel have that option can be confident about additionality". Some airlines already offer offset schemes alongside flight bookings, but take-up is about 1%. So they are not working. The Aviation Environment Federation warned offsets can never be the solution to aviation's carbon problem. "In order to meet the tough goals that states signed up to in the Paris Agreement, all countries will in any case need to reduce emissions close to zero in the coming decades, leaving little scope for any country or sector to sell their emissions reductions to airlines or air passengers by way of offset schemes," it pointed out.  All that offsetting means is that carbon savings genuinely made in other sectors are cancelled out by more carbon emissions from transport (especially aviation). It just negates the carbon savings. That does nothing to cut the emissions from the transport itself, especially aviation.

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Heathrow 3rd runway unlawful, says Friends of the Earth, as DfT failed to consider the need for stringent CO2 targets

Friends of the Earth have accused the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, of acting unlawfully when he agreed to the 3rd Heathrow runway, in the Airports NPS. Their lawyers at the High Court legal challenge hearings the DfT failed to consider the full impacts of climate change and the need for more stringent targets to avoid catastrophic global warming. “Friends of the Earth is concerned that the expansion of Heathrow by adding a 3rd runway will jeopardise the UK’s ability to make the very deep reductions in greenhouse gases that are necessary to prevent global warming from causing catastrophic, irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems."  The Court heard that the government knew when it approved the third runway that the Paris agreement, which UK ministers have signed, was likely to involve more stringent emissions targets than domestic law required under the 2008 UK Climate Change Act. David Wolfe QC, for FoE, said ministers were told by the Committee on Climate Change in January 2018 that as a result it was “essential that actions are taken now to enable these deeper reductions to be achieved”. But Grayling pressed on regardless, ignoring the advice.

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Spring Statement: there is to be a consultation about possible offsets for passengers for their CO2 emissions

The section relevant to aviation, under the heading "Clean growth"  states: "The Budget 2018 set out how the government is accelerating the shift to a clean economy, building on the Industrial Strategy, Clean Growth Strategy, and 25 Year Environment Plan. The Spring Statement builds on this commitment: (several bullet points, of which the one relating to transport is:  "to give people the option to travel ‘zero carbon’, the government will launch a call for evidence on Offsetting Transport Emissions to explore consumer understanding of the emissions from their journeys and their options to offset them. This will also look into whether travel providers should be required to offer carbon offsets to their customers."   Note, this is not only mentioning aviation.  And nothing is settled, till there is the consultation - no date given for that.  [ All this seems to mean is nothing whatsoever to cut demand for air travel. Most offsets are useless, and do not achieve cuts in carbon. (Aviation CO2 emissions are added to the atmosphere, cancelling out whatever savings were achieved by the offset created elsewhere).  AW note].

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At Heathrow legal hearings, Court told Grayling left thousands of people in the dark over the impact of Heathrow flight paths if expansion allowed

Chris Grayling left thousands of people in the dark over increased noise pollution from an expanded Heathrow by under-stating the impact of new flight paths. At the High Court hearings, lawyers for five London councils, the London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Greenpeace claim this amounts to a breach of the law under which the Transport Secretary should have identified all areas that might be affected. The Councils say that instead of an environmental report showing which communities were going to be hit by noise from flights, Mr Grayling only published "indicative flight paths."  They say "The flight paths were drawn in such a way that the numbers of people affected were minimised. This meant the health and environmental costs of the north west runway were understated."  Maps compiled by the councils suggest as many as 1 million more households will be affected by planes at 7,000 ft, or below, with decibel levels of at least 65, (equivalent to a vacuum cleaner in a room). A vast circular area stretching from Didcot in the west, Dartford and Romford in the east, Tring, Harpenden and Welwyn Garden City to the north, and Godalming, Leatherhead, Epsom and Copthorne - and many more places - to the south would be affected. The NPS failed to deal properly with the impact on air quality, climate change, noise and congestion.

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How the UK government misled Parliament on Heathrow expansion and climate change

A new briefing from Friends of the Earth, West London, (FoE-WL) sets out how the government misled Parliament on the CO2 emissions that would be generated if a 3rd Heathrow runway was allowed.  In its National Policy Statement (NPS) presented to Parliament in June 2018  the DfT said expansion could "be delivered within the UK’s carbon obligations ..” FoE-WL says unfortunately, there is no evidence to support that assertion. The advice on CO2 from the UK aviation sector is that it should not be above 37.5MtCO2 in 2050. But the DfT's own figures show this being exceeded. A 3rd runway would increase CO2 emissions by about 3.3MtCO2 per year. This information was not disclosed in the NPS  presented to Parliament. Instead, data was buried in the mass of ‘supporting information’ (as usual). All the government has to offer is slight carbon efficiency gains per plane in future, and some use of biofuels (highly dubious) - and "carbon offsetting". In reality there is no global trading system of any sort on the horizon, let alone one which would offset aviation’s increase with genuine reductions elsewhere. It is unlikely the UN's CORSIA scheme, which the UK government is placing its trust in, will be effective.

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Severe impact of 3rd Heathrow runway on residents laid out in High Court hearing

The Government's approval of a third runway is being challenged at the High Court by a coalition of councils, residents, environmental charities and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.  Representing five London boroughs, Greenpeace and Mr Khan, Nigel Pleming QC said the plans could see the number of passengers using Heathrow rise to around 132 million, a 60% increase.  Mr Pleming said: "The new development, if it goes ahead, will add, in effect, a new airport with the capacity of Gatwick to the north of Heathrow" and that the adverse effects and consequences for local residents of such an expansion are "bound to be severe". The legal challenges (other than the one by Heathrow Hub) say the Government's National Policy Statement (NPS) setting out its support for the project fails to properly deal with the impact on air quality, climate change, noise and congestion.  The claimants argue the NPS is unlawful and should be quashed, which would mean the Government would have to start the process again and put it to another vote in Parliament. Scores of demonstrators gathered outside the court ahead of the hearing, addressed by MPs, Council leaders and campaigners. All are determined that this runways is NOT going to go ahead. The hearings will last for 2 weeks.

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Judicial reviews into government approval of Heathrow 3rd runway plans begins on 11th March

London’s High Court will on Monday 11th March begin a judicial review into the government’s approval of a third runway at Heathrow airport, with local authorities, environmentalists and rival bidders arguing the £14bn scheme should be scrapped. Five legal challenges to the decision are being heard together, including one brought by a consortium of local authorities (Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Richmond, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Windsor & Maidenhead), Greenpeace and London Mayor Sadiq Khan, on the grounds of air quality, climate change, noise pollution and transport access. The negative impacts of Heathrow already affect many councils, and those would get far worse with planned expansion to have 50% more annual flights.  John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said: “Governments are very happy to talk the talk when it comes to protecting the air we breathe and the climate we all share, but unfortunately getting them to walk the walk often takes legal action.” There is also a legal challenge by Heathrow Hub, which wants to build a 3rd runway by extending the current northern runway, rather than adding a runway further north. The hearings are expected to last about two weeks, with the judgment being reserved.

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How Heathrow has been getting away with paying so little tax to the UK government

UK tax rules have allowed airports like Heathrow to pay far less tax than they should. It is estimated that Heathrow's foreign owners have been able to get a tax break of perhaps £120 million per year from the UK government. And the airport’s shareholders (which include the governments of China, Qatar and Singapore - with only 10% by the USS being British - .have paid themselves about £3 billion in dividends in 5 years. Rules on how firms can cut tax bills due to large debt interest payments began in 2017, but the Treasury has given an exemption for infrastructure projects like Heathrow. The think-tank, Taxwatch, said: “In the case of Heathrow, the benefits of the exemption appear to flow overwhelmingly to the owners of the company.” ..."The company was bought using a huge amount of debt. Instead of paying back the debt themselves, the new owners managed to push this liability on to Heathrow, making the company liable for large interest payments... The large debt repayments wiped out the company’s pre-tax profit.”  Revenues at Heathrow have risen to £2.9billion but its owners have paid little corporation tax, due to massive debts. Between 2007 and 2014 the group reported a total pre-tax loss of more than £2 billion, and paid just £15 million in corporation tax. In the past 3 years it declared pre-tax profits of more than £1 billion, leading to  corporation tax payments of £122 million (ie. £70 million in 2018 and £53 million in 2017.

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Heathrow issues €650m bond, to borrow more money, weeks before Brexit deadline

Heathrow Airport has placed a €650m (£558.9m) bond with only weeks to go before the UK is due to leave the European Union.  The 15-year bond was backed by current and new investors, which were mostly European, and reached an order book in excess of €2.8bn (ie. there was demand of that amount). Heathrow said the high demand for the bond "shows investor confidence in Heathrow's expansion plans and resilience ahead of Brexit."  The bond means Heathrow hopes to extend the duration of its debt portfolio - ie. taking more time to pay it all back - for its 3rd runway expansion plans. It said the funds will be used on day-to-day corporate spending. The airport's director of treasury and corporate finance, said:  “The transaction delivers on our strategy of further diversification, longer duration and stronger liquidity."  Heathrow hopes, at the earliest, that the runway might open in 2026 - but it has a large number of hurdles to overcome before them, including the long DCO (Development Consent Order) process, that is the equivalent of a planning application, but for a vast project - with the decision taken out of the hands of the local authority, and made by government instead (a process devised to avoid the sort of long delays they had on Terminal Five). 

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ICAO working on rules to at least ensure its CORSIA carbon credits for aviation are not double-counted

Rules to avoid double-counting of CO2 emissions cuts in offsets to be used by the aviation sector through the (weak, ineffective) ICAO CORSIA scheme, are considered to be a step forward by some campaigners. But proper assurances are needed to meet aviation's climate pledges, so the claims of (sic) "carbon neutral growth" mean something. ICAO negotiators have agreed rules to prevent double-counting of carbon credits used to offset airline emissions.  As air traffic growth outpaces efficiency improvements, airlines will be expected to pay for emissions reductions in other sectors to offset the climate impact. In one of its secretive meetings, ICAO has adopted broad criteria to ensure those carbon offsets are not also counted towards national targets - and they actually represent extra CO2 emissions savings. Campaigners are also calling for an age limit on eligible carbon offsetting projects and transparency around the way the rules are put into practice.  There is a huge pool of dormant projects under the UN’s CDM that could, in theory, meet demand from airlines for carbon offsets. But most of those would continue cutting emissions, even without being used by aviation. So they are not additional. 

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Epsom & Ewell Borough Council sends highly critical response to Heathrow’s expansion plans – inflicting hugely more aircraft noise on them

Epsom & Ewell Borough is an area that is currently overflown by Heathrow planes at about 6,000 and 7,000 feet. Its Council has submitted a robust response to Heathrow's airspace change consultation, furious about the vastly worse noise burden with which the borough is threatened. The proposals would perhaps mean additional flights operating as low as 3,000 feet at a frequency of up to 47 flights per hour for arrivals, and 17 flights per hour for departures.  Even the extra flights, in the short term, through IPA, could result in 25 flights per hour operating as low as 3,000 feet between 6am to 7am and 6 flights per hour at other times. Cllr Eber Kington, Chairman of the Council's Strategy & Resources Committee, said the changes could mean a four to five-fold increase in noise levels in addition to the significant additional impact from the frequency of flights overhead and the impact on air quality. Cllr O'Donovan complained at how bad the consultation was.  Residents are angry that their own MP, Chris Grayling, is pushing for these hugely damaging noise impacts on his own constituents and voters - with inevitable decrease in local quality of life.

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Heathrow in 2018 made 58.8% of total revenue from aeronautical; 24% from retail (which includes 4.24% – £126 million – from car parking)

Heathrow has reported a retail revenue increase of 8.6% to £716 million in the year ended 31 December 2018 compared to a year earlier. Total revenue in the period rose 3% to £2,970 million. Retail is 24.1% of that. It was 22.9% in 2017 and 22% in 2016). Retail revenue per passenger was £8.94 (up 5.8% from £8.45 in 2017, which was up 4.5% on 2016. Heathrow says growth in retail income was due to increased passenger traffic in the period to 80.1 million (up 2.7% from 78 million in 2017, which was up 3.1% on 2016) and Heathrow's new "call to gate initiative - which increases passenger dwell time in the departure lounge."  The amount of income from car parking, which is included in retail, was £126 million in 2018, (up 5% on the £120 million in 2017, which was itself up 5.3% on 2016.)  Car parking made up 17.6% of total retail income in 2018, and 18% in 2017). Car parking income was £114 million in 2016 and £107 million in 2015. Heathrow made £128 million in 2018 from "other retail" which "reflects a significant increase in advertising income from improved utilisation of advertising spaces."That was up 17.4% from £109 in 2017, and £110 million in 2016.  Aeronautical income was  £1,745 million in 2018, 1.7% up from £1,716m in 2016. Aeronautical income was 58.75% of total revenue in 2018, and was 60.53% of total revenue in 2016 when it was £1,699 million.

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Heathrow’s shareholders get £500m as profits rise (including income of £126m from car parking)

IAG, the owner of British Airways, is angry that Heathrow has paid out  £500 million in dividends to its foreign investors while charging its airline customers more. IAG says the dividend payments – now totalling £3.5 billion since 2012 – make Heathrow more costly for airline passengers (so slightly deterring them from flying perhaps). Heathrow said "It is right that our shareholders receive returns in record years and it will ensure we expand whilst keeping airport charges close to 2016 levels." Heathrow's top shareholders include the Qatar Investment Authority, Singapore's GIC and the China Investment Corporation. Its largest single investor is Spain's Ferrovial. The only UK shareholder is the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) with a 10% stake.  Heathrow's figures out last week show revenue growth of 3% to £2.97 billion in 2018 with 80.1 million passengers (up 2.7% from 78 million).  Car parking income was £126 million (up 5% from £120 million in 2017). Retail revenue per passenger was £8.94 (up 5.8% from £8.45 in 2017). Total retail income was £716 million (up 8.6% from £659 million in 2017). Heathrow paid £70 million (2017: £53 million) in corporation tax.

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Council leaders say Grayling’s claim a 50% larger Heathrow, with new flight paths, will mean fewer people affected by plane noise is a giant con

Heathrow's own noise maps in its current "consultation" show vast areas in and around London to be negatively affected by aircraft noise from Heathrow, if it was allowed 25,000 more annual flights or a 3rd runway. Many areas of the capital and the home counties that have not previously suffered jet noise, could be getting up to 47 flights per hour overhead.  Many areas not currently overflown could have planes over them as low as 3,000 feet. Some areas currently somewhat overflown will get more planes going over them, and at lower altitudes. Heathrow deliberately keeps the details vague. In October 2016 Grayling promised parliament that “fewer people will be affected by noise than is the case today” after the third runway was built - even though there would be than 250,000 extra flights a year, equivalent to bolting an additional airport almost the size of Gatwick onto the existing site. Affected councils are challenging the government decision in the courts, starting on 11th March. Ravi Govindia, the Tory leader of Wandsworth council, said the public had been the victims of a “giant con”: “It beggars belief that people will believe Chris Grayling in his assertion that no more people will be affected."  The DfT commented that "We absolutely refute these claims and are confident that fewer people will be affected by noise pollution under the new flight paths planned." (sic)

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Heathrow expansion plan involves large number of low planes over lovely, tranquil (now) Richmond Park

Richmond Park has been known for its rich wildlife and tranquil landscape for hundreds of years, but the proposed expansion of Heathrow would mean hundreds of aircraft flying at low altitude it. Maps of the new flight paths, from Heathrow's consultation, show the extent of proposed air traffic over Richmond Park, with some aircraft flying as low as 300 metres (1,000ft). Current flight paths to Heathrow are not routed directly over the park. The consultation documents indicate that - with a 3rd runway - up to 47 arrivals per hour and between 17 and 47 departures would fly directly over the park (a SSSI and national nature reserve) at below 900 metres. Heathrow’s flights are currently capped at 480,000 a year, but it wants to increase this by 25,000 in 2021 and further to around 720,000 when/if the 3rd runway is built. The noise and pollution from the planes overhead would be disastrous for the sensitive wildlife and the tranquillity. The Park is visited by more than 5.5 million people per year. Thousands of nocturnal animals – including 11 of the UK’s 17 bat species, (all protected by law), as well as little owls and tawny owls – will be threatened. This is just another "price that Heathrow is demanding of residents, so that it can increase its operations" by 50%. It is "simply disproportionate and unacceptable.”

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Study confirms that relying on outdated CDM carbon credits to compensate aviation emissions will do nothing for climate action

The UN's new, very weak, scheme to attempt to do something about global aviation CO2 emissions is starting soon. It is the "Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation" (CORSIA). Countries have been trying to locate cheap, plentiful carbon credits that airlines can use. The process is secretive. One type of carbon credit being considered comes from the CDM, (Clean Development Mechanism) a carbon market established under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to allow rich countries to meet their climate targets at a cheaper cost. This climate tool has generated a lot of controversy around its failure to reduce emissions, as well as negative impacts it has had on local communities and the environment. The problem is that there is a huge supply of "junk" CDM credits, far larger than the amount aviation would need. These junk credits are often from projects to cut CO2 emissions which would happen anyway. If these junk credits are the ones the aviation sector uses, the effect would be an increase in global CO2.  There is also the problem that while all credits are far too cheap to be effective, the junk ones are even cheaper - so not costing airlines enough to in any way be an incentive to limit their CO2 emissions.

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Highways England warned Heathrow (spring 2018) about problems (including driver distraction) with the M25 being in a tunnel under the 3rd runway

Highways England has said that Heathrow’s possible 3rd runway over the M25 may lead to more accidents because of drivers being distracted by aircraft landing on a large bridge above them. The sight of huge passenger planes landing (or even taxiing) could cause motorists to take their eyes off the road. Highways England has told Heathrow to introduce measures to “reduce driver distraction” on the affected section of the M25, which is Britain’s busiest stretch of motorway - 6 lanes in each direction at that point. This could include lengthening the tunnel under the runway or simplifying the road layout. Heathrow was also told to consider the “landing zone of aircraft”, suggesting they should avoid arrivals directly over the road itself. The intention is to lower the M25 by 7 metres, while raising the runway slightly. Highways England is also concerned that there is a high risk of “fatigue damage” to the tunnel caused by aircraft as big as the A380 and Boeing 747, on the runway above it, so it could have a reduced lifespan. They also say the runway must be “raised enough to avoid the M25 having a gradient of more than 3% which would cause lorries to move slowly, leading to congestion. Heathrow was told this in spring 2018. The full details will be published for public consultation in June.

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Heathrow and airlines agree deal to increase load factors, so more passengers (more money towards expansion costs)

Heathrow has done a deal with airlines, to increase numbers and passengers and its profits. The deal will extend the current regulatory settlement to 2021 and includes an incentive for airlines to grow passenger numbers. Airline moves to fill their existing aircraft could result in further reductions to airport charges and will "help unlock affordable growth." (Jargon!)  The aim is to get higher load factors for the planes, as Heathrow's are below IATA averages. Getting more passengers per plane will mean there might be slightly lower costs per head, in landing charges - and more passengers in total. So Heathrow hopes to "share" the costs of its expansion plans between more people ie (jargon) "releasing funds to drive investment and growth." The CAA has "supported the negotiation of the commercial arrangement and is expected to launch a public consultation on the solution in the coming weeks." " If airlines at Heathrow reached global averages for filling aircraft there is an opportunity to reduce passenger charges by 10-20% against what they might otherwise be, in addition to helping Heathrow meet the Government’s affordability target for expansion". The CAA has said Heathrow must keep its landing charges low. This will help it do so. More passengers per plane.

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GMB union (keen on the 3rd runway) calls on Heathrow to force airport contractors to pay living wage (which they do not)

GMB – the union representing many staff at Heathrow (that strongly backs a 3rd runway) – has urged it to force contractors to pay their employees the living wage, after the airport announced the busiest year in its history.  Revenue climbed by 3% last year to £3 billion, and £2.3 billion was raised from private investors across 7 currencies (up from £1 billion in 2017). Adjusted profit before tax was £267 million, up 23% on 2017. The airport also said airport charges fell 1% to £21.78.  Last year, GMB welcomed the airport’s announcement that all contracted staff working at Heathrow will be paid the London Living Wage of £10.55 per hour by 2020.  But contractors have been slow to back the commitment. Over the past 3 years GMB have led the campaign for ensuring all staff at Heathrow, both direct and contracted, are paid the London Living Wage. GMB's regional organiser for aviation and Heathrow, Perry Phillips said Heathrow's profits mean "that success is built on the back of 1000s of workers who keep the airport clean, safe and operational. Yet despite these blockbuster results, many of them don’t earn enough to live on, enough to make sure their rent is paid and their families are fed. That can’t be right.

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Greta Thunberg: EU needs a minimum of 80% CO2 reduction by 2030 (not 40%) and that must include aviation & shipping

The remarkable Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg, says the EU cannot just "wait for us to grow up and become the ones in charge". She told political and business leaders in Brussels that the EU should double its climate change reduction targets to do its fair share in keeping the planet below a dangerous level of global warming. She started doing a solo school strike, in Sweden,  on Fridays outside the parliament, to try to draw attention to the problem of climate change - and how no real action is being taken to combat it. The school strikes have spread around the world, with tens of thousands of students taking part. We need a fall in global carbon emissions soon. The EU intention to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels. Greta told them this is not going to keep global warming below 1.5C. “This target is not sufficient to protect the future for children growing up today. If the EU is to make its fair contribution to stay within the carbon budget for the 2C limit then it needs a minimum of 80% reduction by 2030, and that includes aviation and shipping.” Greta said "When people talk about the climate strikes … they talk about almost anything except for the climate crisis... They don’t want to talk about the climate crisis … they just want to change the subject.”

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Report by Biofuelwatch shows aviation biofuels could not be produced at scale from wastes and residues – palm oil would be used instead

A new report about aviation biofuels, published by the environmental NGO Biofuelwatch, exposes the strict limits to the amount of such fuels which could be sourced from wastes and residues - as well as their adverse indirect impacts. ICAO wants to get large amounts of biofuel for the aviation industry, in an effort to claim the fuel is "low carbon".  In reality, the report confirms, the limits to the amount of suitable wastes and residues would make it impossible for airlines to avoid virgin vegetable oils – especially palm oil – if they were to start using biofuels on a large scale. The report focusses on WorldEnergy’s refinery in  California, until now the only one to regularly produce biofuels for aircraft. So far all of the biofuels made at the Paramount refinery have been made from tallow, which is a residue from slaughter houses. Given the scarcity of tallow, WorldEnergy is now planning to diversify into Used Cooking Oil and a corn oil residue from corn ethanol refineries. There are only limited amounts of these. To scale up their use of biofuels, airlines would resort to palm oil, and this would be disastrous for the climate, for forests, the wildlife they support, and for forest-dependent communities.

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Packed hall attend Teddington Action Group meeting to discuss Heathrow’s Airspace Consultation

Over 300 people attended a meeting organised by the Teddington Action Group (TAG) to discuss Heathrow's Airspace Consultation, and urge residents to respond by 4th March. Among the speakers, Paul McGuinness (Chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition) reminded the audience that these were the first details of how Heathrow plan to break the promises made to communities at the time its 5th Terminal was built – that the airport would accept a cap of 480,000 per year and never apply to build a 3rd runway: "... by any reasonable standards, what Heathrow is demanding communities to endure so it can increase flights by over 50%, is wholly disproportionate". Speakers explained how massive the noise impact would be on Richmond and Twickenham. Stephen Clark said: "Easterly departures will carry more planes along concentrated flight paths, at lower altitude, while arrivals traffic would now fly above them simultaneously". Physicist Dr David Gilbert, explained how the DfT assessment of noise had significantly underestimated its impact, and how Richmond residents living under the proposed Independent Parallel Approaches (IPA) will be subjected to continuous, unbroken days of noise.

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Fungal blooms on the River Crane may be caused by pollution from Heathrow outfall

Local voluntary group, the Friends of the River Crane Environment (FORCE - or Citizen Crane) keep an eye on the river Crane, which flows past Heathrow. They monitor the water quality, oxygen levels and invertebrate numbers. It appears there is a current problem with  blooms of pale grey brown sewage fungus on the river bed found immediately downstream of the Heathrow outfall.  In the past there have been numerous incidents of water pollution caused by the use of glycol to de-ice planes. This then gets in to water balancing reservoir, and hence into the River Crane. Algal blooms are formed, due to the pollution, reducing the water's oxygen and thus harming, or killing, creatures in the river. Heathrow is thought to have recently installed a £17 million water treatment system, and it had been hoped this would end the pollution incidents caused by glycol. However, it does not yet appear to be working as expected. FORCE will continue to monitor the situation closely and will also request a statement from Heathrow.

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A new site for the Colnbrook Lakeside incinerator located – how much is Heathrow going to pay?

A new site has been identified for a replacement facility for the UK's largest residual waste incinerating facility, in Slough. Lakeside "Energy from Waste", which is operated by Grundon Waste Management and Viridor, have announced plans to develop proposals for a replacement facility west of the Iver South Treatment Works, around 600 metres north west of the current location.  The owners of the site have been working with Heathrow to identify the new site. The facilities will need to be moved, as the current site would be demolished to make way for a possible third runway.   Site studies and environmental assessments are being carried out, which will form a part of the planning application. Upon completion, more information will be presented at a public consultation in the spring. This consultation is separate from the current Heathrow Aerospace change consultation, and then the Heathrow Expansion consultation in June. The planning process will be a long one, needing new environmental permits etc.  It is difficult to get planning consent for an incinerator, as people dislike having potentially very harmful emissions (including dioxins) in their local air, from the burning of the vast range of substances in domestic etc waste. It is unknown how much Heathrow will pay for the relocation of the incinerator. 

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ICAO’s environment committee comes up with some standards for new aircraft, years ahead

The meeting of the ICAO "Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP) in Montreal has ended. The committee's purpose is to try to reduce and limit the environmental damage done by the aviation industry (noise, air pollution, carbon emissions).  It has not been very successful to date. This meeting has agreed on an Aircraft Engine Standard: "A new stringency level that would limit the emissions of non-volatile Particulate Matter (nvPM) from aircraft engines was agreed. The ICAO standard is expected to drive technologies to address non-volatile particulate matter, which in the long run will minimise their potential environmental and health impacts." ie. for planes yet to be built, with any impacts decades ahead. At least admitting the problem of PM particles produced by planes.  On noise ICAO said: "The meeting also delivered ...improvements of aircraft noise up to 15.5 dB below Chapter 14 limits for single-aisle aircraft by 2027, NOx emission by 54 per cent relative to the latest ICAO NOx SARPs and fuel efficiency up to 1.3% per annum can be expected for the new aircraft entering into production." Again, for new planes, with no real impact for decades. On CORSIA they said CAEP had agreement (not spelled out) on how to assess life-cycle CO2 emissions reductions for biofuels or other lower carbon fuels.  ie. not a lot.

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Letter from Lord Deben, Chairman of the CCC – to Grayling on “Aviation 2050” the DfT’s aviation strategy green paper

In a letter to Chris Grayling, dated 12th February, Lord Deben provides the Committee on Climate Change's views on the current aviation strategy green paper consultation, Aviation 2050 – The future of UK aviation.  [the aviation green paper]. He says "You will be aware that my Committee has been asked by Ministers to offer advice on the implications of the Paris Agreement for the UK’s statutory framework, including when ‘net-zero’ emissions can be achieved. A stronger UK target would require more effort from all sectors, including aviation. We intend to provide an updated view on the appropriate long-term ambition for aviation emissions within our advice on the UK’s long-term targets. We will publish our report in spring. Following that, we will write to you directly to set out the implications for the Aviation Strategy."  It also says: "The final white paper should further clarify that this will be met on the basis of actual emissions, rather than by relying on international offset credits."  And "Achieving aviation emissions at or below 2005 levels in 2050 will require contributions from all parts of the aviation sector,... It will also require steps to limit growth in demand. In the absence of a true zero-carbon plane, demand cannot continue to grow unfettered over the long-term."  Read the whole letter. 

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Chiswick, Hammersmith, Shepherds Bush, etc residents horrified & stunned by likely impact of Heathrow proposed airspace changes

Residents from Chiswick, Shepherds Bush and Hammersmith were stunned to hear that their area would experience 25,000 extra flights by 2022  - and a further 260,000 by 2026 if a 3rd  Heathrow runway were ever to open. Over 300 residents turned out to a heavily over-subscribed meeting, organised by the No 3rd Runway Coalition, to learn how the plans for airspace change at Heathrow will drastically impact their area.  The meeting also heard from local MPs Ruth Cadbury and Andy Slaughter, Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council Stephen Cowan, as well as local campaign groups Chiswick Against the Third Runway, Bedford Park Society and Hammersmith & Fulham No 3rd Runway.  The airport is currently consulting across west London (and wider) on how future operations at the airport would work with a 3rd runway, with a range of options put forward for consultation. By the end of the meeting there was outrage as people understood the impacts, and the extent of the noise nuisance, that is proposed for the communities of Chiswick, Stamford Brook and Ravenscourt Park. Those changes could start within a few years. It is vital that people who will be newly, and very negatively affected, respond to the consultation, stressing their strong opposition.

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Dutch Sec of State for Finance says an EU airline tax needed to limit low-cost flights

The Dutch Secretary of State for Finance, Menno Snel, has said the EU needs an airline tax to disincentivise consumers from using low-budget airlines for frequent travel. Mr Snel is to make his pitch for an EU-wide tax at a meeting of European finance ministers, as a way to curb aviation CO2 emissions. He said:  “We need to come up with some ideas. It’s not sustainable that we fly for a weekend with some friends all around Europe, when we could do it with the train.” Using the example of a €19 return ticket from Amsterdam to Berlin, he said: “[People] understand it’s not a fair price right now.”  Mr Snel said the tax could complement emissions reduction programs like the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS) and the UN's CORSIA.  He said just having a carbon price does not mean there cannot ALSO be taxes on flights. Aviation is an under-taxed sector, paying no fuel duty and no VAT.  He understands that CORSIA itself is not sufficient to even dent aviation carbon emissions, and more taxes on flights are needed - on a global scale.  Mr Snell will suggest an EU-wide minimum ticket tax, above which individual countries could charge more. EU tax initiatives require unanimity to be adopted.

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Critics attack secrecy at UN’s ICAO CAEP committee, tasked with cutting global airline CO2 emissions

A UN ICAO committee, Committee on Aviation and Environmental Protection (CAEP), with the job of cutting global aircraft carbon emissions (an issue of global concern) is meeting secretly, for discussions dominated by airline industry observers. The committee always meets behind closed doors; the press and other observers are not allowed in (unlike other UN committees).  The committee's agenda and discussion documents are not released to the public or the international press. Anyone who leaks documents being discussed faces “unlimited liability for confidentiality breaches”, according to ICAO rules.  The only non-governmental body not linked to the airline industry allowed into the meeting is the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation (ICSA), made up of a small group of international environmental NGOs. Transparency International says “Agencies which set common global standards for large, international industries have to be transparent in order to prevent capture by corporate interests ... "  A key concern is that the committee wants to certify biofuels, that are definitely NOT environmentally sustainable, as low carbon. And also fossil oil, produced using solar energy - also NOT a low carbon fuel. The committee needs to be open to public scrutiny.

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Plan B Earth’s skeleton argument against the DfT on how the Airports NPS (Grayling …) failed on climate

Plan B Earth is making one of the 5 legal challenges against the government, due to their decision to support the building of a 3rd runway at Heathrow, through the "Airports National Planning Statement" (ANPS). They have filed their skeleton argument, which is the basis of their submissions at the trial. Plan B says: "In essence, it's a simple argument. Chris Grayling considered the Paris Agreement "irrelevant" to his decision. He was wrong."  Part of the skeleton argument states: "(1). At the heart of all three grounds of Plan B’s claim, lies a common concern: the Secretary of State’s failure to assess the ANPS against the Paris Agreement on Climate Change (“the Paris Agreement”) and specifically the Paris Agreement temperature limit (“Paris Temperature Limit”), which, according to the best available science, demarcates the boundary between humanity and an intolerable risk of disaster: disaster for the environment; for the economy; and for international security.  (2.) Initially the Secretary of State purported to have taken the Paris Agreement into account. His own witnesses, however, undermined that claim. Once Plan B drew that to his attention, the Secretary of State modified his position: when he said that he had considered the Paris Agreement, he meant only that he had considered it to be irrelevant."  Read the full skeleton.

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ICAO’s CORSIA low standards on biofuels risk undercutting EU’s new renewables rules

The UN's ICAO is a secretive organisation, that has been woefully ineffective in limiting the CO2 emissions of global aviation. There are considerable concerns that it will try to get bad biofuels certified as low carbon, in order to whitewash the sector's emissions in future. The global deal, CORSIA, making the first tentative steps towards restricting aviation CO2 at all is just starting. There is, elsewhere, growing understanding that biofuels are generally not the way forward, and their real lifecycle carbon emissions are far higher than their proponents make out. ICAO has now agree 2 criteria (out of 12 possible) for aviation biofuels. These are that there should have been no deforestation after 2009; and there should be at least a saving of 10% of green house gas emissions, (including emissions from indirect land-use change or ILUC) compared to fossil jet kerosene. ICAO's environment committee will develop rules for what biofuels can be credited – ie. how much of an emissions reduction each biofuel delivers.  The effect can only be accurately accounted for using models. There is a serious danger they will try and include palm oil. And countries like Saudi Arabia are trying to get "lower carbon" fossil fuels included, if their production can be 10% more carbon efficient.  So aviation will continue to emit vast amounts of carbon for decades....

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European aviation report “in numbers” highlights growing noise and carbon problems which will continue

A report about aviation in the EU has been produced as a joint publication by EuroControl, the European Environment Agency (EEA) and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).  Called the second European Aviation Environmental Report(EAER), it shows the growing impacts of the industry in recent years, saying:  "the contribution of aviation activities to climate change, noise and air quality impacts is increasing, thereby affecting the health and quality of life of European citizens”. Comparing 2005 and 2014 with 2017, on noise,  in 2017 more people were exposed to noise than in 2005. Measured across some of Europe’s busiest 47 airports, the number of people inside the 55dB Lden noise contours rose to 2.58 million in 2017.  The average noise energy per flight decreased by only 1% between 2014 and 2017 compared to a decrease of 14% between 2005 and 2017. On carbon emissions, though aircraft fuel efficiency improved 8% for commercial flights between 2014 and 2017. But the increase in flights meant that compare to 2014, gross CO2 emissions in 2017 rose by 10% to 163Mt CO2.  NOx, which has a net climate warming impact when emitted at altitude, increased by 12% to 839,000 tonnes. So there was a 3% rise in net European aviation CO2 emissions from 2014 to 2017.

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Experts say legal obstacles no barrier to introducing aviation fuel tax for flights in Europe

EU countries can end the decades-long exemption on taxing aviation fuel. Legal experts say it is possible to tax kerosene on flights between EU countries. This could either be done at EU level through a series of bilateral agreements or by agreement between individual countries. Transport & Environment (T&E) has found that the old argument that foreign carriers’ operating within the EU – de facto a small number of flights – can’t be taxed can be overcome by introducing a de minimis threshold below which fuel burn would not be taxed.  At present (and for decades past) airlines, unlike almost all other forms of transport, pay no fuel tax on flights within or from the EU – even though aviation causes 5% of global warming. They also pay no VAT.  Despite the aviation industry’s attempts to hide behind the 1944 Chicago Convention, when the agreement was made on not taxing aviation fuel, that is not what is preventing fuel taxation. In fact it is old bilateral ‘air service agreements’ that European governments signed up to years ago that include mutual fuel tax exemptions for non-EU airlines. It remains too hard to tax fuel for international, non-EU, flights.

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CORSIA and its failings explained – great piece from Carbon Brief

In a long, detailed and very informative article from Carbon Brief, Jocelyn Timperley explains the CORSIA scheme for aircraft carbon emissions, and its failings. While airlines are starting this year to measure and record their carbon emissions for the first time, it is not expected that the scheme will do anything much to limit aviation carbon.  "It can be expected to “modestly reduce” the net climate impact of international aviation up to 2035, according to the (ICCT). This is only if high-quality offsets are used and those offsets are not “double counted”, the think-tank adds....  Unless it is extended beyond 2035, Corsia will cover only 6% of projected CO2 emissions from all international aviation between 2015 and 2050, ICCT data indicates."  That assumes China will partake from the pilot phase. "Base emissions continue to grow under Corsia due to uncovered traffic..... The ICCT argues this means Corsia “does not obviate the need for an ICAO long-term climate goal”. Because of a range of issues, like biofuels, offsets, forestry etc : “It’s not just that Corsia is a weak measure – it’s that it’s an actively bad measure, that risks doing more harm than good.”

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Heathrow court case won’t be live-streamed but there will be transcripts and maybe link into another court

An application to live-stream a legal proceedings at the High Court on the expansion of Heathrow has been refused at a hearing on 5th February. Justice Hickinbottom ruled that the trial by five claimants, versus the Secretary of State for Transport – set to begin on 11 March for two weeks – could not be live-streamed as the law dating from 1925, and 1981, did not allow for proceedings within the court to be recorded. The Judge agreed that the case was of considerable public interest, and being able to watch hearings live would be a benefit to many people. However, the court will seek to provide another large and accessible additional courtroom for members of the public wishing to watch the proceedings who won’t be able to fit in Court 76. Tweeting from both courtrooms is also to be permitted. Additionally, on application, screening of the proceedings in other courts around the country will be considered, an acknowledgment that the case is of wide public interest, allowing those from other parts of the country to avoid considerable costs of attending the hearings in London – a point acknowledged by Justice Hickinbottom. Transcripts of proceedings will also be published, online, although it remains to be decided as to how costs of these scripts will be apportioned.

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Richmond Council reaffirms opposition to more Heathrow flights, as plans show there will be no escape from aircraft noise

Richmond Council voted to reaffirm its stance against Heathrow expansion last night, in a motion criticising the airport's proposal to add an additional 25,000 flights a year, prior to expansion.  Last week the Council condemned Heathrow’s latest consultation which considers several issues, including; 25,000 flights added prior to expansion, noise, runway alternation and night-flying relating to its 2 existing runways, as well as the proposed controversial new 3rd runway. At the full Council meeting, members from all political parties were united in agreeing that the proposals were unacceptable and would prove disastrous for Richmond upon Thames. The impact from the additional flights would be felt across the whole borough, as curving flight paths may impact on areas that haven’t been impacted by aircraft noise before. By contrast, currently most aircraft noise from approaching aircraft is concentrated over the north of the borough including Barnes, Kew and Richmond. A key councillor said this 25,000 is just the tip of the iceberg. An extra runway would mean an additional 260,000 flights a year. That is unacceptable for our health, our sleep and our environment. It will ruin the lives of thousands of people.

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Charity calls for High Court to live-stream Heathrow 3rd runway legal challenge

A High Court challenge to the government’s approval of a Heathrow 3rd runway could be opened up to a mass audience through live-streaming for the first time, if Lord Justice Hickinbottom and Mr Justice Holgate accept a legal argument. Although the Supreme Court has transmitted its hearings since 2009, photography and recording of court proceedings elsewhere are strictly controlled by the Crime and Courts Act 2013, which only permits cases in the court of appeal to be broadcast. Tim Crosland, a barrister who is the director of the anti-climate change charity Plan B, will tell a preliminary hearing on 5 February that live-streaming from the High Court would not involve recording or creating a permanent record and was therefore permissible under the legislation. The legal challenges by environmental groups, local authorities against the DfT is due to be heard in the Royal Courts of Justice in central London over 10 days from 11th March. Only those who attend court would normally be able to hear the arguments. Hearings in the High Court have never previously been broadcast. Crosland said he believed that the more people who listened to the detail of the arguments, the more engaged they would become in environmental concerns. The climate implications of the runway decision are of considerable public interest.

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Driving tired, with under 6 hours of sleep per night, increases vehicle accident risk

In the USA the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that “drowsy driving" is responsible for a lot of vehicle crashes, deaths and injuries.  Evidence from the CDC (Centre for Disease Control) in the USA shows that getting 6 hours of sleep a night or less more than doubles your chances of falling asleep at the wheel.  It seems likely that most accidents to sleepy drivers happen between midnight and 6 am, although late afternoon also has a spike in incidents. Many UK airports are allowed night flights, eg. Gatwick, Stansted, East Midlands etc. This is going to increasingly be a problem for people affected by the noise from Heathrow planes. Already planes taking off, heading away, may be heard routinely till 11pm (often later) on some routes. Each morning planes can be hear arriving from about 4.20am. That does not leave anyone who is sensitive to the noise enough time for healthy sleep. There are many known health risks, of noise disturbance during the times people are sleeping, or trying to. The risk of more vehicle accidents, to those who are woken up an hour or two before they want to wake, is another cost of aircraft noise. The loss of quality of life, and the health costs, need to be part of the calculation of the economics of a 3rd Heathrow runway.

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TAG: Heathrow air pollution does NOT stop 2km from the airport, or just 1,000ft altitude. DfT is wrong

Teddington Action Group (TAG) have been doing research into how likely it is that air pollution will get worse, if Heathrow is allowed a 3rd runway. Their investigations indicate that government has not assessed this properly, and has ignored relevant available information from other airports. TAG say that according to Heathrow, emissions from planes do not contribute notably to emissions once the plane is above 1,000ft. The Airports Commission and DfT and its advisors set a study area of just 2 kilometres from the expanded airport boundary. There is much evidence to indicate that is wrong. Planes emit significant amounts of NO2 and particulates, which find their way down to the ground (and by definition into humans and living creatures as well as vegetation). The DfT deny this but the empirical evidence does not support the DfT. Studies between 2014 and 2016 at Los Angeles, Atlanta and Schiphol, Amsterdam, strongly suggest otherwise. Mobile monitors set up under the inward flight paths show that particulates and NO2 are transmitted by the wind up to some 20 kilometres down wind. See full article for details.

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Heathrow slammed for ‘by-passing Chiswick’ for one of its consultation events

Local MP Ruth Cadbury has joined Chiswick campaigners against Heathrow expansion who say they are angry at the airport's failure to hold a local consultation on changes which will significantly affect W4, particularly north Chiswick. The airport's current round of consultation events (Airspace And Future Operations ) features events in Hammersmith, Ealing and Hounslow Civic Centre, but none in Chiswick.  This is despite the fact that the area faces significant potential disruption by proposed changes to flight paths or changes to respite periods even without a third runway. With a 3rd runway, the area will be intensely overflown by planes arriving to the new north runway, from the east. Campaigners say the level of low flights directly over the North Chiswick area area could reach 47 per hour (almost 1 per minute). It is likely that, with a 3rd runway, an estimated 35,000 residents could be affected. They consider that Heathrow is avoiding holding events in areas where opposition is likely to be strong and forceful, to try and ensure a more positive overall response to the consultation. The Bedford Park Society (BPS) and local group CHATR are planning a public meeting in Chiswick instead.

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Air travel CO2 emissions will have to be curbed; the Frequent Flier levy may be the best solution

An article in the Irish Times points to new research from the ICAO showing how CO2 emissions from aviation might increase 3 -7-fold over the next 30 years has been released.  Amusingly Richard Branson is advocating the elimination of industrial-scale meat production by “eliminating harmful subsidies and putting a price on externalities”. And that without an apparent hint of irony, in the subsidies (no VAT, no fuel duty) given to the aviation sector - which is a major beneficiary of comparable harmful subsidies and a producer of vast externalities of the sort he decries in the meat sector. The Irish Government is committed to spending at least €320 million on new runway at Dublin airport – another giant subsidy to the sector.  There is "No other discrete human activity is more intensely polluting than flying."  Eating less meat, or cutting it out entirely, is indeed a positive action to help reduce humanity's carbon emissions. But that is not a substitute for taking proper action to limit aviation carbon emissions.  The "Frequent Flyer" levy, which would progressively tax air travellers, with higher taxes the more they flew, would be a good way to penalise frequent flyers (who are currently pampered by airlines with upgrades and incentives.)

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Wandsworth Council Leader criticises Heathrow Public Consultation event – just one for the borough, in a difficult location

Wandsworth Council Leader, Ravi Govindia, has urged residents concerned about the impact of a 3rd runway at Heathrow, to attend a Heathrow consultation event that the airport is hosting in the borough this week. They need to make their voice heard. He has criticised Heathrow for having just one such event in Wandsworth, at a location that will be difficult for many residents to access. That is even though the increased aircraft noise would affect hundreds of thousands of Wandsworth residents. The event is being held on 30 January and is open to residents from 2pm to 8pm at the University of Roehampton, SW15 5PH.  Councillor Govindia said residents know that a 3rd runway would have a serious impact on the borough. It would produce an unacceptable rise in noise and air pollution, damaging the environment and posing a risk to people’s health and well-being. The Council believes that the impact from additional flights would be felt most keenly in West Hill, Southfields, Earlsfield and Tooting. Currently most aircraft noise from is concentrated over the north of the borough including Putney, Wandsworth and Battersea. Many people will get intense plane noise for the first time.

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London Assembly report says Heathrow 3rd runway should be scrapped, due to ‘severe effects’ of aircraft noise

A report, by the London Assembly environment committee, calls for Heathrow expansion to be stopped, due to the effects of aircraft noise. The report has renewed calls for the 3rd runway to be stopped. The noise from aircraft negatively affects work, relaxation and sleep, with “severe effects” on health and wellbeing. Caroline Russell, chairman of the committee, said: “The experiences of residents living with the daily nightmare of overhead noise are deeply worrying. This drive towards filling airspace capacity must be checked. For too many people, including children, aircraft noise is a major dominant intrusion into their everyday lives.”  If Heathrow builds the new runway, the number of flights will increase from around 475,000 to 740,000 a year.  It is likely that around 200,000 more people will be badly affected by aircraft noise. Heathrow also plans to increase its flights by 25,000, to around 500,000 per year and change flight paths, including overflying new areas, even before any 3rd runway. Ms Russell added: “...aviation authorities and operators must prioritise the health and well-being of Londoners and give us a break.”

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Alistair Osborne of the Times: Heathrow expansion shows Gove’s air pollution strategy is hot air

In a blog by Alistair Osborne, of the Times, he says on air pollution: "No government minister ever got anywhere without being able to think two contradictory ideas at once. So why should Michael Gove be different? The environment secretary’s just published his Clean Air Strategy, complete with the rallying cry: “We must take strong, urgent action.” And what sort of action has the government he represents got in mind? That’s right: building a £14 billion 3rd runway at Heathrow. Yes, the same one that transport secretary Chris Grayling admits may well cause more pollution. Or, as last year’s Airports National Policy Statement put it: “Increases in emissions of pollutants during the construction or operational phases of the scheme could result in the worsening of local air quality.” Bizarrely, the H-word doesn’t get a mention in Mr Gove’s 109-page document. But maybe he didn’t want to draw attention to one awkward fact: that air quality around the airport is already in breach of EU limits for nitrogen dioxide emissions.  Read the whole article  .....

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Malaysian airlines back Malaysian campaign to boost palm oil production and use

A Malaysian newspaper comments on the Ministry of Primary Industries’ year-long “Love MY Palm Oil” campaign. It aims to fight anti-palm oil campaigns that backers of palm oil growing say are threatening people’s livelihoods.  Now 3 Malaysian airlines have joined the campaign, Malaysia Airlines, Malindo Airways and AirAsia.  The airlines, with Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB), "will extol the virtues of palm oil through their digital info screens, in-flight magazines and entertainment systems, art and product displays." The Primary Industries minister says they are displaying "patriotism" and elevating the image of palm oil.  This followed the European Parliament’s Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) passing a resolution in October 2018 to ban palm oil biofuels in Europe by 2020.  Malaysia and Indonesia are the largest producers of palm oil globally.  Malaysia's Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is due to hold the official launch of the “Love MY Palm Oil” campaign in the first quarter of 2019. [Palm oil as a fuel for aircraft is a disaster, as its life-cycle carbon emissions are high, taking into account the Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) impacts. Not to mention the deforestation and loss of biodiversity. But palm oil would be cheap fuel for airlines, regardless of how environmentally harmful it is ....]

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Report from London Assembly says due to noise, air traffic should NOT increase at Heathrow or London City airport

The London Assembly's Environment Committee has produced a report on aircraft noise, particularly now that Heathrow not only wants a 3rd runway, but has also recently announced plans for 25,000 extra flights a year, bringing new areas of London under its flight paths. The noise is increasing the negative impact for those who have no choice but to live with a debilitating noise invasion. The report found that noise nuisance levels are unacceptable; it calls for a halt on all air traffic growth at Heathrow and London City airports. The report details the impact of altitude, flight paths and out-of-hours flights on the noise suffered by many Londoners. Among its recommendations are that the noise thresholds for disturbance should be lowered, to take account of people needing to open their windows. They say: "Air traffic at Heathrow and London City should not increase and Heathrow’s third runway should not go ahead." It also says that planes should be kept higher, and the impacts of noise from both Heathrow and London City should be considered together, not separately. Night flights should be stoped, and there should be better restrictions on flights in the early morning.

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Solihull councillor expresses ‘real’ concerns about impact of Birmingham Airport expansion

The leader of the Green party group, Cllr Burn,  on Solihull council has said that Birmingham Airport's expansion plans pose a grave risk to the environment. He said he had real concerns about the draft masterplan, which sets out a vision for annual passenger numbers to increase to 18 million by 2033. At a Cabinet meeting he said the Council needed to urge the airport to do far more to reduce and offset "huge" carbon emissions. Cllr Burn said: "It's not popular to say, but we cannot have this growth in air travel and stick to the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, we just can't. The extra emissions here are just way above what we can combat in emissions reduction elsewhere. We have to be honest, it's not sensible or responsible to grow air travel unless it can come with no additional carbon emissions and it just can't - the technology for that is so far off." The Leader of the Council said the council was "robust" in its discussions with the airport, but it gives a lot of people jobs. The council is a shareholder in the airport, and benefits from the council tax the airport pays, which "does help keep our council tax burden down and also allows us to spend money on frontline services".  The expansion planned is 40% increase in passenger numbers and 21% increase in flights (ie. CO2), in 15 years. 

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Gatwick Airport parking could soon be done by robots to maximise numbers of parked cars

You know how airports are so keen on telling everyone they intend to not increase use of private cars, but encourage public transport to and fro? Well, they make a lot of money out of car parking.  And it is just sooooo convenient for the passengers. Now it has been announced that Gatwick has submitted plans to have futuristic robots parking people's cars. There may be a pilot project in Zone B of the South Terminal long stay car park starting by August, fitting 270 cars into the space that now holds 170. The scheme is by French company Stanley Robotics, which has created a robot valet that parks your car more efficiently and securely. It can move the car to an exact position, and as it can park without the need to open the doors, it takes less space. So the car park owner can cram more vehicles into the car park, perhaps about 40% more, and thus provide more passengers to the airport - and make more money. The autonomous robots, known as 'Stan', would carry your car from a garage bay near the terminal, to an outdoor parking space. Where cars can be parked densely, using every available metre of space. The machines have already been trialled at airports in Lyon and Paris. The plans have been submitted to Crawley Borough Council's (CBC) planning department. The company claims the robot is "zero carbon."

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New study by London TravelWatch shows more airline passengers using cars or cabs to get to Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton

A new report has been produced by London Travel Watch. "Way to go: Improving public transport access to London's airports". It gives comprehensive details about the various components of surface access transport, with information on what works well and what does not for each airport, and current state of any improvements.  The report indicates that airline passengers are more likely to travel by car or taxi to catch flights from Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton than they were 7 years ago, in a trend they say is “concerning”. Despite major investment in rail and coach links to the three airports, the proportion of passengers using public transport actually fell slightly between 2012 and 2016. But at Stansted, with accessibility improved by new coach connections, the use of public transport had improved. The proportion using public transport fell from 41% to 39.1% at Heathrow, 44% to 43.6% at Gatwick and 33% to 31.4% at Luton. Failings of public transport and the growth of taxi apps like Uber cited as reasons. Numbers using public transport rose at Stansted from 51% to 54.7% and at London City from 50% to 50.9%. Heathrow continues to encourage car parking, from which it earns huge revenues.

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Bristol Airport wants to introduce a free drop-off zone – but only if allowed to expand to over 10million annual passengers

Bristol Airport wants to bring back a free drop-off zone and create a new waiting area for taxis. The airport has not had a free drop-off zone since it removed its 10-minute 'free' period in May 2011. People now pay £1 for up to 20 minutes. The airport has now announced plans to introduce a free drop-off zone - but only if it gets planning consent from North Somerset Council to expand. People living near the airport complain about cars clogging up local areas, with drivers parking in lay-bys and residential roads to avoid paying to park at the airport. The airport's expansion plans, with hopes of expanding from the current 8 million annual passengers up to 12 million, (its current cap is 10 million) would include a new authorised waiting area for taxis and a free drop-off area for other vehicles. It is not yet known how much time drivers will get for free. The plan is included in the airport’s proposals for the Section 106 Agreement, so is dependent on the plans being approved. The airport hopes to reduce opposition to its plans, by this small gesture towards helping with the local parking issue. And to please future air passengers. 

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Bristol airport hope to expand from 8 to 12 million annual passengers; 73% rise in CO2 emissions

Bristol Airport is hoping to expand. There is a consultation that started on 19th December, and ends on 26th January, on their plans. Details can be found here.  The headline application issue is a 50% growth in passengers - from the current 8.2 million per year, to 12 million by the mid 2020's. Carbon emissions from flights are estimated to rise by 73% from 746 ktCO2 in 2017 to 1,290 ktCO2 with 12 million passengers, an increase of 73%. The increase in passengers will be achieved by de-restricting night flights up to 4,000 per year, expanding car parks, changing road lay outs, and building a multi-storey car park (persuasively capped with some wind turbines). There are further plans to raise passenger numbers to 20 million by 2040. There is a lot of local opposition, focused on issues such as congested roads, 'parking blights' (cars parked in lanes etc), other local environmental impacts, noise pollution - through the night and day. There are some minimal hyper-localised 'Noise Insulation Grants' (up to £5000 for glazing). The airport plans to get more income in from cafes, shops and car parking, to boost profits. Bristol Airport is entirely owned by Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan - it is not British owned at all.

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Good news from Plan B Earth from legal pre-hearing, of the Heathrow runway JRs, at the Court yesterday.

Plan B Earth say the Government has now formally conceded it did not consider Heathrow expansion against the Paris Agreement temperature limit. "We now need to convince the Court that ignoring the boundary between humanity and catastrophe is not a great idea."  In total 1,582 people signed the petition for open justice & live-streaming of the trial (10 days from 11th March). On this, Plan B have got the Court thinking. They've asked for further submissions from Plan B on the issue and, given that this has never happened before in the High Court, they want to talk to other judges about the implications. Judge Holdate indicated we should have a ruling on the issue 2 weeks before the start of the trial. But that's already a major step forward. Not just for this case. But for open justice in the UK.  We need the full hearings into the judicial reviews against the government's approval of a 3rd Heathrow runway, to be live-streamed so people can see what is said. Otherwise only at most 150 people in the court (2 courts to be used) will be able to hear. This case is of huge importance to the UK's carbon targets in coming decades, and the UK's ability to take its responsibilities to the Paris Agreement seriously. (Saying the right thing is not enough - the UK government has to show, by its actions, it is serious about reducing UK CO2. In this case, CO2 from the aviation sector).

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Study identifies heavy metals in high concentrations of potentially harmful airborne nanoparticles around Trudeau airport.

A recent study by scientists at Montreal's McGill university has found unusually high concentrations of potentially harmful airborne aerosols containing nanoparticles around Montreal's Trudeau airport. Some contained chromium and arsenic. The study, published in December 2018 in the prestigious journal "Environmental Pollution" found these observations were statistically higher than corresponding measurements in downtown Montreal and at major highways during rush hour. The airport is thus a hotspot for nanoparticles containing "emerging contaminants" (substances produced by human activities that have, or are suspected to have, adverse ecological and/or human health effects.) The study found trends in levels of nanoparticles during the day showed concentrations that exhibited peaks during times with many flights, also showing correlations with pollutants (CO, NOx, and O3) - confirming the  anthropogenic source of the aerosols. The nanoparticles, especially containing heavy metals, are potentially a matter of public health. The study detected up to 2 million particles per cubic centimetre of air, which is more than the amount found so far at other airports.  More studies need to be carried out, as health is at stake. 

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Government tries to deny its climate responsibility to aim for 1.5C temperature rise, in pushing for 3rd Heathrow runway

The pre-trial hearing for the series of legal challenges against the Government’s decision to expand Heathrow takes place at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Tuesday 15th January.  In legal correspondence between the defendant (Government) and one of the claimants, Plan B Earth, the Government argues that “[Plan B] is wrong to assert that “Government policy is to limit warming to the more stringent standard of 1.5˚C and “well below” 2˚C’.  This means that the Government is effectively denying that its own policy is to limit warming to the level that has been agreed internationally is required to avoid climate breakdown. The legal challenge brought by Plan B Earth and Friends of the Earth assert that the Government decision to proceed with Heathrow expansion was unlawful as it failed to appropriately consider climate change. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell described the case as “the iconic battleground against climate change”.  The Committee on Climate Change had previously expressed surprise that neither the commitments in the Climate Change Act 2008 nor the Paris Agreement (2015) were referenced in the Government's Airports National Policy Statement (aka. the plans for a 3rd Heathrow runway).This is a huge inconsistency.

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Pre-trial hearing on 15th January of the 5 legal challenges against ‘unlawful’ Government decision to approve 3rd runway

Campaigners are taking the government to court in a bid to overturn the “unlawful” decision to approve a 3rd Heathrow runway. The pre-trial hearing for Friends of the Earth’s case will take place on Tuesday at the High Court, when the activists will lay out their opposition based on several grounds. There are 5 separate legal challenges being brought by a range of organisations, on  grounds of climate, air quality and harm to the wellbeing of local residents.  It would be virtually impossible for Britain to meet its obligations to cut emissions under the Paris climate agreement if a new Heathrow runway is built [or for that matter, one at Gatwick either]. The Government's advisory body on climate change, the Committee on Climate Change, has warned the expansion also threatens the government’s own legally binding pledge to cut carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. Transport secretary Chris Grayling said, without any justification for his belief, that he was "confident" that technical innovations would cut aviation CO2 emissions enough, so expansion could happen without breaking the targets. Hopes that either biofuels or electric planes would enable aviation to become a low carbon means of transport are unrealistic. 

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Local residents not at all happy about noise plan for Dublin airport

Some residents living under flight paths of Dublin Airport are unhappy that a new plan is not adopting World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines on permitted noise levels for aircraft.  Fingal county council will become the noise regulator for the airport under proposals drawn up by transport minister Shane Ross. Fingal county council submitted a draft 5-year noise action plan for the airport to the Environmental Protection Agency last week. The public made more than 50 submissions in the consultation period, and most queried why new (October 2018) WHO noise guidelines were not adopted. WHO  guidelines say that average noise exposure from aircraft should be limited to 45 decibels during daylight hours and 40 decibels at night. The council’s plan sets no limits for noise and instead focuses on mitigation measures. In the UK the WHO noise guidelines are not followed either - nowhere even approaching them. The number of people exposed to plane noise of 55-60 decibels was over 18,000 in 2016, and that is likely to rise due to more activity at the airport and more housing built near it.  Fingal council said it is awaiting national or EU-led policy guidance on noise levels. Construction of the new 2nd runway, for yet more flights, is due to be completed in early 2021 and commissioning will then take place.

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Danish newspaper to tackle journalists’ air travel, and promote only lower-carbon holidays in its travel section

Major Danish newspaper Politken is reported to be planning to refocus its travel section to destinations easily reachable without flying. The holidays it will write about will be domestic, Nordic, and northern European destinations which are easily reachable by public transport.  Politiken is also to try to stop its journalists taking domestic flights, for news stories within Denmark.  More significant still, it is hoping to put restrictions on the staff's international air travel, so this would be permitted only when absolutely necessary and if such journeys are offset by contributions to "credible climate initiatives".  The paper has also recently launched its own online climate calculator enabling users to work out the average carbon impact of their air and road travel.  In the UK, even newspapers like the Guardian, which do excellent and extensive coverage of climate change topics, also take numerous adverts for flights and holidays by air. They also have a travel section that encourages people to take more holidays, many to destinations only reachable by plane. 

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Richmond Council condemns latest Heathrow consultation – for unacceptable increases in noise and air pollution

Heathrow has a consultation, closing on 4th March, on its future airspace, both for the existing 2 runways and with a possible 3rd runway. Heathrow claim they will take the responses and view of residents etc into account. However, Cllr Gareth Roberts, Leader of Richmond Council, has condemned the latest consultation – claiming 25,000 extra flights would be disastrous for the borough. He, said: “We have always said that Heathrow needs to be better and not bigger. But clearly size is everything to the airport. Heathrow are proposing the biggest changes to its flight path since it opened. People living in Richmond and other areas of West London will find their respite from overhead noise cut under these proposals. Not to mention the additional 25,000 more flights a year – which will no doubt be crammed into the early morning schedules, delivering more misery for our residents. Let’s not forget, these extra flights will still require Planning consent." He said it was a bad case of the government "putting the cart before the horse" in having got a parliamentary vote in favour of the runway (many votes by MPs who very little indeed about it) before details of flight paths and other impacts were known.

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Report by Biofuelwatch shows Neste, planning to make bio-jet-fuel, is using huge amounts of palm oil

A report by Biofuelwatch reveals that the Finnish biofuel and oil company Neste, which expects to become the world’s biggest producer of aviation biofuels in 2019, relies heavily on palm oil, a leading cause of rainforest destruction. It cannot even guarantee that its palm oil is not sourced from illegal plantations inside a national park. Neste is investing €1.4 billion in new biofuel capacity in its Singapore refinery, which the company plans to turn into a hub for aviation biofuel production. It is already one of the world’s biggest producers of biofuels for road transport. In 2017, Neste used almost 700,000 tonnes of crude palm oil - as fuel - as well as an undisclosed amount of crude palm oil, which the company claims to be ‘wastes and residues’, contrary to legislation in several European countries.  The oil palm plantations and mills supplying Neste are mainly in Indonesian and Malaysian provinces with particularly high deforestation rates linked to palm oil. Some is proven to come from an illegal plantation in a national park in Sumatra. Neste’s sustainability standards take no account of indirect land use change (ILUC) which mean the climate impact of palm oil is x3 as bad as the fossil fuels it replaces. Neste continues to try to hide the fact it is using palm oil, and exacerbating deforestation and biodiversity loss.

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New flight routes (NextGen or PBN) may save airlines time, but they damage health of those suffering the extra noise on the ground

More planes are flying directly over densely populated areas, due to airport computer systems that automatically chart the most "efficient" routes - so airlines can save fuel (= money).  A new study by researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health concludes that the benefits of the reduced flight times are outweighed by the health effects on residents below, who suffer from the noise burden. Looking at the increase in noise pollution around New York City’s LaGuardia Airport since routes were changed when NextGen (concentrated, accurate routes, all planes along approximately the same line) was implemented in 2012, the researchers determined that people living in certain Queens neighbourhoods will lose an average of one year of good health over the course of their lifetimes, due to their heightened risk of cardiovascular disease and other ailments linked to stress. They looked at costs and quality-adjusted life years (QALYs).  “Ideally, airports should be built farther away from urban centres,” says lead author Peter Muennig, a professor of health policy and management. “The next-best option is to use flight patterns that send planes over green space, waterways, and industrial areas.”

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Advice from Teddington TAG on Heathrow consultations on future flight paths

During January to March 2019, Heathrow Airport will be conducting a consultation in 2 parts, which people need to be aware of:  1. Airspace changes for the existing two runways to allow an increase in the number of flights. Heathrow want to increase the annual throughput by 25,000 ATMs.  2. Airspace changes for a 3 runway airport.   Later in the year, there will be a second consultation on Heathrow’s “preferred masterplan for Heathrow expansion.  It is VERY IMPORTANT that people respond to the consultation. One thing that we can be pretty sure of is that there will be more, not less, noise; for some people, this may be very significant.  For both 2 runways and 3 runways, Heathrow will be introducing PBN “Performance Based Navigation”, a form of “Satnav” which enables planes to be positioned in the sky much more precisely. This will bring about the further concentration of flight paths - to the detriment of people underneath them.  TAG is very much against the concentration of flight paths as it represents an unfair and extremely unhealthy burden upon those affected.

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Tahir Latif (PCS Union): Trade Unions must demand jobs that protect our planet, not destroy it

The Trade Unions are divided on whether to support a 3rd Heathrow runway. Unfortunately many have been led to believe, by the airport and its backers, that there will be wonderful jobs in future with expansion. And without it the jobs are in danger. The  reality of airport jobs is somewhat different.  In a new blog, Tahir Latif, President of the PCS Aviation Group, and NEC member, discusses the sorts of jobs that Trade Unions should be supporting, if we are to have a habitable planet in future. He comments: "Too often, trade unions are seen as part of the problem, desperate for jobs and therefore willing to support employers who are intent on blindly taking us towards disaster in the name of further profits. ... But that does raise two important questions: (1) does our survival as a species trump the jobs argument and (2) does the jobs argument stand up to scrutiny anyway. ... The impact of climate change can’t be underestimated. ...The IPCC report puts us on notice: we HAVE to change. And if industries like aviation (and oil, coal, gas etc.) cannot continue their unchecked growth, then unions are NOT looking after their members long term interests by clinging to them. When change comes or is forced upon us, workers in those industries will be stranded in obsolete jobs without the skills or any plan for an alternative."

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Decreased take-off performance of aircraft due to climate change

With ever rising global temperatures, (not assisted by the amount of carbon emitted by aircraft, and the non-CO2 impacts of their emissions at hight altitude), planes will probably have more difficulty taking off and climbing - due to the thinner air.  Already planes need a greater length of runway to get airborne at airports at higher altitudes, and in hot climates. Some research estimates how this may become a problem in future. Maybe runways will need to be longer, and planes will not climb as fast (making more noise for those on the ground below, perhaps)

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Heathrow opens new consultation on airspace – including 25,000 more annual flights, by using IPA

Heathrow has opened another consultation - this on is on "Airspace & Future Operations". It ends on 4th March. Not only is Heathrow planning for a 3rd runway, and up to 50% more flights eventually, it is also now trying to get another 25,000 flights (about 5% more). fairly soon. And it wants these extra 25,000 flights whether it gets its 3rd runway, or not. The current flight numbers cap is 480,000 per year, set after the Terminal 5 Inquiry. It is currently using about 475,000 - with the few spaces at unpopular times of the day or week. Heathrow plans to get the extra flights, added at times already very busy, by what it calls IPA - Independent Parallel Approaches, which mean planes can come in on two runways at once, at the same time. Currently if they do this, they have to be staggered, at slightly further distances apart than with IPA. Heathrow admits this will mean different flight paths, and people not currently being overflown, by narrow concentrated flight paths.  Planes on IPA would join the final approach path about 8 nautical miles from the runway. It will be important that the areas to be newly negatively affected are made aware of what is going to hit them. The extra flights would also give Heathrow more income in the short term, to help it pay the immense cost of its 3rd runway plans.

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New Fellow Travellers report on the potential for electric aircraft to mitigate aviation emissions. Spoiler: it’s very limited.

A new report, "Electric Dreams - the carbon mitigation potential of electric aviation in the UK air travel market" (by Jamie Beevor for Fellow Travellers) looks at how much, realistically, electric planes could cut UK aviation CO2 emissions in the foreseeable future. They conclude that though small electric planes might be able to serve domestic and short haul routes, the cut in CO2 would not be large. The report says: "Delivering this level of emissions reduction before 2050 would require regulation and major market intervention to accelerate product development and fleet turnover industry cycles ...Engineering constraints mean larger gains are unlikely in this timeframe, and it is probably not possible for transatlantic-range battery powered craft to be economically viable ...There are no electric aircraft currently in development which could compete with the majority of the current global civil aviation fleet on range or capacity". It concludes: "There is no realistic prospect - and there are no industry plans - for improvements in aircraft technology to bring about large overall reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from passenger flights within a timeframe  that is meaningful to averting catastrophic temperature rises." This is useful in countering aviation industry techno-greenwash.

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How low cost flights killed night trains

There are very few night trains left in Europe. In Europe, the network of slow night trains has largely been dismantled.  Cheap air fares have just about killed them off - and it is hard to see how the trend will be reversed. Night trains are considered a niche market, expensive, nostalgic. Passengers prefer air to rail, which is considered too expensive and too slow. The trend is the same all across Europe, and elsewhere. Even low cost buses are helping to destroy the market for long distance, night, train travel. The trains depend on a railway line whose maintenance has to be paid; the plane, in the sky, is flying on its own - and electricity, which propels trains, is not a cheap fuel. Aviation generally pays no tax for its fuel.  In France, over the past ten years, TGV (high-speed train) traffic has remained sluggish, while the number of air passengers has risen 20%. In Italy, despite the success of TGVs and competition between two operators, the long-distance rail offer has barely developed in twenty years. More than 80% of flights departing from Switzerland serve a European destination and 40% of them travel a distance of less than 800 km, "feasible by train". But with the continuing availability of ultra-cheap air travel, people are unlikely to choose rail.

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Prestwick Airport’s government debt rises to £38.4m

The debt owed by Prestwick Airport to the Scottish government has risen in the past year from £30m to £38.4m. That was while revenue rose through a doubling of income from refuelling aircraft.  Accounts show the holding company made a loss of £7.6m in the year to March, down from £8.6m the previous year. Revenue was up on the year from £13.6m to £18.2m - which includes £3m extra contribution from refuelling, and a rise of £300,000 in cargo earnings, reaching £2.8m. The debt reflects recent years of losses that have built up since Prestwick was saved from closure by a Scottish government takeover.  It has tried to add new routes, by business development activity and incentives through lowered landing fees - but this has resulted in only one additional route to Poland. The strategic report, filed with the accounts on 31 December, says that Brexit uncertainty has contributed to the difficulty of expanding the route network beyond Ryanair's few flights.

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Gatwick airport: majority stake 50.01% sold to French group Vinci; GIP and partners retain 49.99%

New owner says Brexit threat helped Vinci get 50.01% stake in UK’s second-busiest airport for ‘reasonable’ £2.9bn. A consortium led by the US investment fund Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) is selling a majority stake of 50.01% in the airport to Vinci Airports, one of the world’s top airport operators and part of the infrastructure group Vinci. Vinci and GIP will manage Gatwick together.  Gatwick will be the largest in Vinci’s portfolio of 46 airports spread across 12 countries. The French group’s network includes Lyon-Saint-Exupéry airport, Nantes Atlantique and Grenoble Alpes Isère in France; Lisbon and Porto in Portugal, Funchal in Madeira, and Osaka Itami and Kansai International in Japan.  The GIP-led consortium bought Gatwick from the airport operator BAA for £1.5bn in 2009 and spent £1.9bn modernising the airport in subsequent years. The shareholders are selling down their stakes, leaving GIP with 21%, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority with 7.9%, Australia’s sovereign wealth fund with 8.6% and two public pension funds in California and South Korea with 6.4% and 6% respectively.

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Liberal Democrats welcome unanimous vote against Heathrow expansion at Ealing full council meeting

Ealing Council has voted unanimously for the first time against the expansion of Heathrow airport.  They argued that it was necessary for all Ealing Councillors to join forces against the expansion to strengthen the chances of overturning the government’s proposals - which they say will lead to more air and noise pollution including night flights. Meanwhile the MP for Ealing and Southall, Virendra Sharma, is a keen backer of the Heathrow runway, and even apparently (due to lack of proper understanding of the issues, and too ready an acceptance to believe the airport's assurances) believes it has not problem with air pollution. 

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No 3rd Runway Coalition comment on DfT’s Aviation Strategy: IT UNDERMINES GOVERNMENT CREDIBILITY ON ENVIRONMENT

The Aviation Strategy Green Paper published today is seeking to deliver sustainable growth of the aviation sector to 2050. It fails to set out how continued aviation growth is compatible with existing environmental commitments, with the Government appearing content to let action on CO2 to be delivered at an international level This attitude is in stark contrast to the advice from the Committee on Climate Change, which the DfT has ignored, warning recently as June 2018 that that higher levels of aviation emissions in 2050 “must not be planned for” and raised a series of concerns about how one additional runway would be compatible with efforts to reduce emissions, let alone two. They also warned that expansion of Heathrow will require significant operational restrictions on all other UK airports. The paper will also consult on the decision-making process for delivering a further runway in the UK by 2050. The DfT claims that the need for exploring another runway is due to higher growth than was predicted in the 2015 forecasts.  Paul McGuinness, Chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition said: “The Green Paper simply contains no strategy, either for delivering on existing environmental commitments or for addressing the significant negative impacts of airport operations on local communities.”

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DfT consultation starts, on its aviation strategy green paper, for huge growth of UK airports

The Department for Transport will today publish a long-awaited aviation strategy that pledges to deliver “greater capacity at UK airports”. It intends airports other than Heathrow all growing and having more flights  - "if tough environmental and noise restrictions are met" (ignoring CO2, of course). The strategy also outlines plans for the biggest overhaul of Britain’s airspace in more than 50 years to create new flight paths into the biggest airports. There would be a considerable increase to the 600 or so dedicated flight paths in operation now, and will subject households directly beneath the flight paths to unbearable noise levels. The DfT hopes to offer a sop, in terms of being able to alternate flight paths, so people get periods of less noise, in compensation for periods of intense noise.  New flight paths are expected to be designed by the summer of 2020 and introduced in 2024 and 2025 subject to CAA approval (CAA gets its funding from airlines - so not dispassionate).  The strategy, which will go out for public consultation. The Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise (ICCAN) has been created to police the system. NATS says the number of UK flights is expected to grow 700,000 to about 2.9 million by 2030.

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Crawley Council object to Gatwick Master Plan – due to detrimental effect on the local environment

Recently a YouGov poll commissioned by Gatwick airport - unclear what the exact wording was, or who was polled - claimed about three quarters of residents backed the airport's expansion. However, at a Crawley full council meeting, the majority vote was against the proposal. This is what they will put in the council response to the Gatwick Master Plan consultation that is currently going on. The opposition is unsurprising as Crawley council have made their feelings clear in previous years, objecting to the 2nd runway. A year ago Crawley approved the building of a new Boeing hangar, for aircraft maintenance, as they hoped this would bring local jobs.  In the council there is a real concern that the growth proposed would have too detrimental an effect on the environment. Gatwick claim it is making less noise now (a claim that many severely overflown residents would not believe, especially with noise at night) and "30% of its fleet will comprise quieter aircraft by 2022."  Local group CAGNE has asked hat the airport disclose details the safety incidents that have already occurred whilst using the emergency runway when the main runway is closed for maintenance.

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IATA anticipates profitable years ahead for aviation sector – cheap fuel etc

IATA (International Air Transport Association) says carriers are ‘cautiously optimistic’ about 2019 as it predicts the global airline industry will net US$35.5 billion throughout the year. This forecast comes before the final result for 2018 is know, but is expected to be $32.3 billion. Overall airline industry revenues in 2019 are expected to reach $885 billion, which is 7.7% higher than in 2018.  IATA believes demand growth for passenger traffic will be 6% (about 4.59 billion, compared to 4.34 billion this year) and for growth for air cargo will be 3.7%.  Due to lower fuel costs (predicted at $65 per barrel) - due to increased output from the US, the industry expects profits, even if there is slightly slower world economic growth.  In Europe profits may drop fractionally in 2019, with net profit expected at $7.4 billion in 2019 compared to $7.5 billion in 2018, due to "intense competition" between airlines. There were profit reductions in 2018 in Europe due to air traffic control strikes, and not enough air traffic controllers. Average fares are expected to be $324 (at current currency rates, before surcharges and tax), which IATA says is 61% below 1998 levels - when adjusted for inflation. IATA's CEO De Juniac said: “Air travel has never been such a good deal for consumers."  No concerns about the carbon emissions. 

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Swiss environment and transport groups lobby Parliament for more tax on aviation

A range of environmental organisations in Switzerland have joined forces to appeal to their parliament to introduce an air ticket tax. Two climate protection "angels" took this demand for effective climate protection to the Federal Parliament, as the National Council is now dealing with the air ticket tax as part of Swiss CO2 law revision.  Air traffic is already responsible for over 18% of Switzerland's man-made climate impact - and forecasts show it continuing to grow. Unless something concrete is done, aviation will become the biggest driver of Switzerland's climate impact until 2030. Despite the high GHG emissions, international aviation is exempt from kerosene tax, value added tax and CO2 tax. Aviation is now heavily subsidised, resulting in very low fares, further accelerating demand growth. Therefore, it is high time for Switzerland to introduce the flight ticket tax, to reduce the impact on the global climate. Surveys confirm that the level of acceptance of a flight ticket tax is high and a majority supports the revenue from an air ticket tax being invested in climate protection projects in Switzerland. Without cutting its aviation CO2 emissions, Switzerland cannot meet its Paris commitments for 2 or 1.5C temperature rise.

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Study by German NGO, Atmosfair, shows airlines are failing to take up the most fuel efficient planes – so not reducing CO2

Airlines are failing to take up the most efficient planes in sufficient numbers to make a significant dent in their carbon dioxide emissions, a new study by Atmosfair has found. The most efficient new aircraft models, such as the Boeing 787-9 and Airbus A350-900 and A320neo, can achieve substantial CO2 savings over older models, but no airlines have invested sufficiently in the new types to reach the top levels of energy efficiency, according to the 2018 ranking by the German NGO. In it no airlines received an A for efficiency, and only 2 airlines were ranked in efficiency class B.  Atmosfair also found that only 10% of airlines worldwide were succeeding in keeping their greenhouse gas emissions constant (let alone not reducing them) while flight numbers grew. Carbon emissions from airlines grew by about 5% last year, while the number of kilometres flown increased by 6%.  The results show that the efficiency improvements of the vast majority of airlines worldwide is not sufficient to keep within the 2C or 1.5C target of the Paris agreement.  The sector needs new and radical measures to limit their carbon emissions, and CO2-neutral fuels - if they were possible [which is probably unlikely]. British Airways was placed at 74th, with an efficiency rating of D.

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AEF discussion paper on what – on air pollution – needs to be in UK’s forthcoming “Aviation Strategy”

The Aviation Environment Federation have produced a series of discussion papers, on environmental aspects of aviation policy that need to be properly dealt with in the government's forthcoming new "Aviation Strategy"  consultation, and then an Aviation White Paper in 2019. There are papers on noise and carbon emissions, and now one on air pollution. The AEF says the UK needs clarity on how airport expansion can be achieved keeping to air pollution commitments. We need better information on pollution that comes from planes, outside the "landing and take off cycle", which only covers planes up to 3,000 feet altitude. We also need better mapping of where the air pollution is, around airports, showing legal limit values and WHO maximum levels for pollutants. There should be clarity on how air pollutants will increase, if the number of flights at an airport increase, and how this affects the "National Emissions Ceiling Directive" (NECD) limit values.  AEF says a lot more clarity is needed, on whether it is true most of the air pollution around airports comes from road vehicles (associated with the airport or not) and how much is from  planes themselves. There has been no national review of airport air pollution since 2003, for airports other than Heathrow.

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T&E report on how to decarbonise European transport by 2050 – including aviation

Transport & Environment (T&E) have produced a report on how to decarbonise (ie. zero carbon) European transport by 2050. It has many suggestions on aviation. A few quotes from the report:  "By driving out the use of fossil kerosene fuel in aviation through carbon pricing and requiring aircraft to switch to synthetic fuels, and advanced biofuels to a very limited extent, the climate impact of flying can be reduced dramatically. Zero emission electrofuels and very low carbon advanced sustainable biofuels can be produced today and deployed immediately using existing engines and infrastructure." ... "While synfuels can solve aviation's CO2  problem, the non-CO2 problem will require additional measures to be mitigated." ... "In Europe [aviation] emissions have doubled since 1990, and globally they could, without action, double or treble by 2050." ...  "Aviation is at risk of having its emissions locked in due to the growth in passenger numbers and aircraft fleet, consuming the limited carbon budget to remain within the 1.5°C and 2°C targets of the Paris Agreement." ... "By 2030, advanced biofuels are expected to contribute only 3.5% of all transport fuels (including cars, trucks, aviation) and their growth beyond this date is likely to be constrained due to land availability and competing industries." ... "ICAO, with its weak target of net 2020 emissions and reliance on offsetting instead of cutting emissions, is only capable of delivering a global minimum effort. Much more ambitious action" is needed. 

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“Heathrow unveils its plan for carbon neutral growth”: except there is no credible plan … not for a 50% increase in flights

Heathrow has set out a "plan" to (magically) help it to increase the number of flights by up to 50% but do this in a "carbon neutral" way. Needless to say, there is no detail of how it can actually do this.  There is plenty about how it will be investing in "sustainable" fuels. Plenty of blather, without any actual details, about how can achieve an entirely impossible goal. Heathrow says it is looking at action on 4 key areas including: cleaner aircraft technology, [by that it means more fuel efficient, not more clean]; improvements to airspace and ground operations; sustainable aviation fuels [none probably exist, without huge unintended side effects]; and carbon offsetting methods [ie. keeping on emitting, and paying to cancel out the carbon savings made by others elsewhere, postponing the evil moment when they actually reduce aviation CO2 emissions.] There is hype like how they will: "Make Heathrow a leading hub for the development and deployment of sustainable aviation fuels by providing the necessary airport infrastructure, and support for pilot projects" and how they are calling on "ICAO to develop global goals for the uptake of sustainable alternative fuels."  And lots of hope about those peat bogs, which they are hoping will save their bacon ....

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