planesplane-over-roofStopAirportExpansiontshirtBRITAIN HEATHROW AIRPORT EXPANSION

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* * * * main Heathrow news stories * * *


Covid-19: IATA emails reveal airline industry plan for tax breaks, subsidies & voucher refunds

Lobbyists around the world are coordinating a massive effort on behalf of airlines to push governments to remove environmental taxes and set up bailout funds – due to Covid-19.  An email from IATA to its members shows how the airline industry is lobbying for public money to be poured into funds to restart or maintain air travel – and for any planned tax increases to be delayed for up to a year. The email describes “an aggressive global campaign” to ensure that airlines can offer passengers vouchers rather than cash refunds if flights are cancelled. This saves airlines money now, and also means CO2 emissions will increase as passengers re-book at a later date, instead of not travelling. Campaigners are concerned that the aid to airlines may last longer than the Covid crisis, even when things are back to (near) normal, and would allow the airline industry to receive public support without any undertakings to governments to reduce future carbon emissions. Governments can’t afford to be bailing out polluting sectors without strict green conditions. IATA also wants the baseline of carbon emissions for CORSIA to be based only on 2019 emissions, not 2019 and 2020 as intended, due to the pandemic this year.

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Heathrow operating one runway only, alternated weekly, due to Covid-19 and few remaining flights

2.4.2020   Link to Heathrow statement  Starts 6th April.  Unknown how long this will continue.


Karl Turner asks: Where next for the UK’s airport policy?

On 27th February 2020 the Court of Appeal declared the Government’s Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) to be illegal as the Government had not taken into consideration their commitments on climate under the Paris Agreement. So unless Heathrow succeeds in appealing to the Supreme Court, or Shapps amends the ANPS, Heathrow expansion is unlikely to happen. Expansion at Heathrow would have had a negative impact on the regions of the UK.  The forthcoming Aviation White Paper [Aviation Strategy] provides the opportunity for Government to have a rethink about its entire aviation policy, particularly with regard to any future airport expansion. At the very most, UK aviation could expand by 25% on its 2018 level. But the current government projections are for 73% expansion by 2050, with various entirely speculative technologies that do not exist, or would be prohibitively expensive, removing the carbon.  Alternative fuels are not going to happen on any scale. The government must avoid financial measures that boost aviation demand or support failing airline businesses, which cannot be justified in light of the climate crisis. . 

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British Airways suspends all Gatwick flights, and EasyJet grounds all planes

British Airways will suspend all flights to and from Gatwick due to Coronavirus. EasyJet has grounded all its planes, with no idea when this will end.  Shares in IAG, which owns British Airways, have more than halved in value since the beginning of the month. While BA continues to fly from its main hub of Heathrow, it does so on a much reduced timetable as travellers scramble to get flights back home to the UK.  The UK government has pledged £75m to charter special flights to bring home UK nationals from countries where commercial flights are unavailable. The aviation sector has been lobbying the government for a targeted aid package to stop firms going under as a result of the slump in demand. If a passenger’s flight has been cancelled they are entitled to a full refund to the original form of payment within seven days under EU air passengers’ rights rules. But airlines want passengers to have vouchers for future flights instead. Virgin wants government money, though its owner Branson, is immensely rich. Though staff will get 80% of their pay, airlines like Virgin have costs of leasing planes. Airlines have given shareholders large bonuses in the past, rather than keeping funds “for a rainy day”, and crises like the current one.

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AEF asks: how should policymakers react to Covid-19 problems for aviation, and plan for the sector’s future?

The global changes to the aviation sector, caused by Covid-19, have been rapid and radical. It would have been impossible back in January to anticipate how many flights would be grounded, how air travel demand would sink, and how many airlines would be struggling to stay solvent. In a thoughtful piece by the AEF (Aviation Environment Federation), they consider how aviation policy needs to be re-thought, when the virus crisis is over. It is an opportunity to re-think society’s relationship to air travel, in a world that has been woken up to the realities of a global pandemic, and its consequences. Even when the sector hopes, post-virus, to get back to “business as usual” flying, the long-term danger of climate breakdown remains – and the threat worsens. The AEF says it is time to cease aviation exceptionalism, and the special treatment is gets on environmental policies and regulations. This needs to change.  And there should not be measures to cut aviation tax, as demanded by the industry, that increase air travel demand. That is not justifiable. Covid-19 has demonstrated the desire, by millions, to look after and care about the welfare of others. Perhaps this virus wake up call could bring the dawning of a more responsible age.

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DfT consultation on “Decarbonising Transport” – nothing of substance to cut aviation CO2

The DfT has quietly published (no press release or announcement – we are in the Covid-19 crisis) a consultation about Decarbonising Transport.  The end date is around June, but not specified.  Shapps says: “2020 will be the year we set out the policies and plans needed to tackle transport emissions. This document marks the start of this process. It gives a clear view of where we are today and the size of emissions reduction we need.”  And, less encouragingly: “We will lead the development of sustainable biofuels, hybrid and electric aircraft to lessen and remove the impact of aviation on the environment and by 2050…” (he actually believes electric planes will make much difference in a few decades??). It also says “Aviation, at present, is a relatively small contributor to domestic UK GHG emissions. Its proportional contribution is expected to increase significantly as other sectors decarbonise more quickly.” And while saying we are working with ICAO on its CORSIA carbon scheme (unlikely to be effective) the document states: “…we would be minded to include international aviation and shipping emissions in our carbon budgets if there is insufficient progress at an international level.” But overall the intention is to let demand for air travel continue to rise.

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Gatwick Airport will consolidate operations into the South Terminal from 1 April and limit runway opening hours to 2-10pm

Gatwick will close its North Terminal and consolidate operations into the South Terminal from 1 April, for a month, due to the lack of demand for air travel because of COVID-19. The runway to be in use between 1400 and 2200 for scheduled flights, but will be available for emergency landings and diversions only, outside these hours. The situation will be reviewed after a month, by 1st May.  A decision on reopening the North Terminal will be taken when airline traffic eventually increases and Government public health advice – including on social distancing – is relaxed. Gatwick is hoping to make out that it is being “responsible” in closing, to protect the health of its staff and passengers, while it has been quite happy to have as many flights as it can, to and from other countries suffering high levels of Covid-19 infection, up until now.  It is only closing because of the economics, and to “protect its business.”  In addition London City Airport has announced that it was suspending all commercial and private flights until the end of April. It is also possible that Birmingham Airport could serve as a mortuary during the Coronavirus crisis.

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Fresh indication that the government is not intending to support Heathrow expansion

The No 3rd Runway Coalition believe the Government has given its clearest hint yet that it will not support Heathrow expansion. In reply to a question put by Slough MP Tan Dhesi, the aviation minister, Kelly Tolhurst said that “The Court of Appeal has ruled that the designation of the Airports National Policy Statement has no legal effect unless and until this Government carries out a review”. The fresh use of the word “unless” implies consideration has been given to drop the project altogether.  The DfT also state that they are focussed on responding to Covid-19 at the moment, which presents further evidence that Heathrow expansion has slipped down the agenda. The Government also say that they “are carefully considering the Court of Appeal’s judgment and will set out our next steps in due course”. However, it is unclear how long is meant by “due course”. Heathrow is struggling, with few passengers, probably having to close one or more terminals, due to restrictions on air travel for an unknown period of time, due to Covid-19. A recent review of senior staff at Heathrow shows no longer a role for overseeing expansion. Heathrow now also appears not to be pushing for the “early release” of 25,000 extra flights, as this would depend on the NPS, which has now been deemed to be invalid, by the Courts.

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UK government draws up plans to buy airline shares, that would eventually be sold back to private investors, to keep them afloat during Covid-19

The FT has reported that the UK government is preparing plans to buy equity stakes in airlines and other companies hardest hit by the coronavirus crisis, after being warned that the economic packages it has announced so far will not be enough to save them. This is still in discussion. The plans would see the UK taxpayer inject billions of pounds into companies including British Airways in exchange for shares that would eventually be sold back to private investors. The airlines, unlike companies selling essential items, currently have almost zero customers – taking holidays and leisure breaks is no longer desirable, or indeed, permitted.  So the airlines and airport will have almost no income. The government plan for the airlines is “an infusion of capital in exchange for equity.”  That is safer for the government than a loan, that may never be repaid, even when airlines get back to operating nearly normally.  Many airlines already have huge debts. They cannot borrow more commercially. Some airlines wanted state loans and tax relief, but that might not be enough during a sustained shutdown in the global aviation industry. The US might also take equity stakes in their domestic airlines.

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Heathrow expansion frozen, with Coronavirus crisis adding further costs, uncertainties and delay

Heathrow contractors have been told to down tools, with work put ‘on hold’ until there is further clarity on any plan for a 3rd runway.  It is unlikely to make any progress during the Covid-19 recession, when the number of people flying has been cut to just tiny numbers, and the situation likely to last for at least several months.  This comes after the Court of Appeal ruling (27th February) that the Airports NPS is illegal; Heathrow is trying to appeal against this, to the Supreme Court, with a decision on whether to allow the appeal by mid April.  Now the delays to the runway plans, if it ever happens, have increased by perhaps another year – due to the Coronavirus. The date when it might be ready has slipped from 2026, to 2029 (due to the CAA decision) to about 2030 (due to the Appeal Court) to about 2031 (due to Coronavirus)…. so it is looking less and less likely. The airport will lose huge amounts of money, due to the virus, unless government bails it out – and that is widely NOT seen as a sensible use of government funds, when millions of people also need financial help, due to Covid-19.

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Airlines write to ask for government help as passengers no longer travel by air, due to Covid-19

As with so many other sectors and businesses in the UK and elsewhere, the Covid-19 pandemic is causing great difficulties to airports and airlines. Having speeded the spread of the disease round the world, airlines are now seeing a massive reduction in the numbers of people who want to fly. Governments are telling people not to travel. Planes are empty. Airports are empty. Many airlines do not have more than 2 or 3 months of reserves and are asking for government money to bail them out. Airports want help too, as do most other sectors. Whether giving money to airports (eg. Heathrow and Gatwick, owned by rich foreign companies) is a sensible use of scarce public funds, is another matter. Now Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester airports have warned that they may have to close down operations unless there is government intervention to help them weather the virus crisis (that might last for many months more).  The Airport Operators Association (AOA) said other airports are in the same position. IATA has said only about 30 of more than 700 airlines operating commercial flights around the world were likely to survive the next few months without help.

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EU to suspend rules on slot “use it or lose it” avoiding ‘ghost flights’ rule for 4 months – airlines want longer

The European Commission has now said it will suspend for 4 months the rules on using airport slots, that have forced airlines to keep empty ‘ghost flights’ in the air, as a result of coronavirus cancellations.  It is now up to the European Parliament and Council to sign off on the proposal before the rules can be fully suspended – they meet next week.  The suspension will be considered to start on 1st March, lasting until 30 June.  It can also be extended if necessary. But the airlines want this extended to the end of October. So now airlines do not need to fly an empty plane, just to use that slot, without fear of losing lucrative airport slots in 2021. The current law stipulates that carriers have to use at least 80% of their allotted slots, or they are returned to a common pot for the next calendar year. As well as saving the airlines effort and cost, it will avoid unnecessary carbon emissions. The proposal also back dates the rules to 23 January 2020 from China-bound flights, as that was the first date when Beijing started to close air routes. Airlines are losing money, as passengers stay away. BA said it is likely they will lose a number of jobs, “perhaps for a short period, perhaps longer term.”

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Biofuels (including for aviation claiming it is “low carbon”) to drive massive increase in palm and soy demand by 2030

A new report by Rainforest Foundation Norway looks at the impact of global biofuel policies on tropical deforestation. Palm oil and soy, in particular, are biofuel feedstocks that are associated with high deforestation risk. The report analyses biofuel policies in all key markets and assesses. It found the impact on demand for palm oil and soy-based biofuels in the coming decade will be huge, and may rise by over 60 million more tonnes of palm oil by 2030. That is about 90% of current global palm oil production. The demand for soy oil might rise by over 40 million tonnes, about 75% of current production. This would cause an estimated 7 million hectares of deforestation, including up to 3.6 million hectares of peat drainage. There would be tragic loss of biodiversity, including charismatic species like orang utans. The deforestation would cause over 11 billion tonnes of extra CO2 entering the atmosphere, by 2030 (more than China’s annual CO2 emissions). The aviation industry is potentially the largest consumer of high deforestation risk biofuels, followed by Indonesia and Brazil. The world is in a dual ecological crisis of climate change and biodiversity loss.  This use of biofuels is NOT the answer, to either crisis.

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London City Airport backs down on key expansion proposals – like removing the 24 hour weekend flight ban period

London City Airport has dropped its controversial plans to get rid of the 24 hour weekend break from the planes (Sat 12.30pm to Sun 12.30pm), and also to operate more early morning and late evening flights. It told its Consultative Committee on 6th March that it would not be proceeding with these two key proposals it had outlined in its draft Master Plan which it consulted in earlier this year. Campaigners have worked very hard for this, and are delighted. The airport may still want ultimately to seek to lift the current annual cap on flight numbers, the other main proposal outlined in the draft Master Plan, but did not expect to do so any time soon.  London City intends to publish its final Master Plan before the end of the month but has no immediate plans to put in a planning application for more flights. London City’s expansion plans had generated record levels of opposition from local authorities and communities impacted by the airport.  The Mayor of London also came out in opposition. London City also told the Consultative Committee that it is continuing the process of reviewing its controversial flight paths as part of the wider airspace changes across London and the SE over the coming years.

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Flybe collapses, despite huge investment by its owners – it is not getting more UK government cash

UK airline Flybe has collapsed into bankruptcy after months of talks with the government failed to secure a £100m loan.  All flights have been cancelled. It was financially very weak, and the outbreak of Coronavirus hit its demand hard, speeding its demise. About 2,000 staff jobs are at risk.  The government had rejected the idea of a state loan of £100 million to the airline. Flybe had been told there might be a cut in Air Passenger Duty on domestic flights, but that would not happen fast enough to save the failing airline. Flybe was taken over  in 2019 by “Connect Airways”— a consortium of Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Air and hedge fund Cyrus Capital – to prevent it falling into administration. Connect agreed in January to invest £30m into Flybe to continue operations, as part of a government rescue package that included APD cuts. Virgin Atlantic had invested over £135 million in Flybe to try to keep it going; that includes about £25m of the £30m committed in January 2020, alongside a “time to pay” arrangement with the Treasury on air passenger duty of £3.8m.  Flybe’s administration follows last year’s failure of Thomas Cook, which also went bankrupt. Unless other airlines take up the Flybe routes, demand at many UK regional airports (eg. Southampton, Exeter, Newquay) will be hugely reduced.

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Heathrow investors may soon realise “the days of plenty are over”, with returns cut

Heathrow’s planned 3rd runway plans took a very substantial knock on 27th March, when the 3 Appeal Court judges ruled that the Airports National Policy Statement was invalid.  It had not properly taken carbon emissions, and the Paris Agreement, into account. The Government now has to decide what to do about the NPS. The scheme is looking less attractive for its investors. The Sunday Times has written that “Heathrow’s owners, which have siphoned off a stream of dividends over the past decade, are about to learn that the good times are coming to an end.” …”Heathrow was bought for £10.3bn as part of the airports monopoly BAA in 2006 by a consortium led by the Spanish infrastructure giant Ferrovial. After an initial period when lenders restricted dividends, payouts have flowed, while debt has soared. From 2012, the airport has paid out more than £4bn of dividends, including £500m announced last week.”  Currently Heathrow investors earn more, the more Heathrow spends and builds. “But that may be about to change…” The CAA may soon get much tighter on returns to investors, as they are being with NATS.

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Airlines, suffering from fewer passengers due to Coronavirus, want relaxation of 80% slot “use it or lose it” rule

The airlines are feeling the effect of the Coronavirus.  It is largely by air travel that the virus has spread so widely, and so fast, to dozens of countries. But the impact of the virus is to reduce air travel, either by people being prevented from flying, or others choosing not to put themselves at risk. So flights are being cancelled, and airlines are worrying about their profits. Currently in the UK, and Europe and internationally at large enough airports, the slots are allocated – and there is a “use it or lose it” rule. If an airline does not use 80% of its slots, it risks losing them. Slots can be hugely valuable, at an airport like Heathrow. In the UK the slots are administered by ACL (Airport Coordination Limited). Airlines are now asking that the slot use rules should be relaxed, even just temporarily while the world waits to see how widespread the Coronavirus becomes. IATA has said it was contacting aviation regulators worldwide and requesting the usual rules governing the use of takeoff and landing slots be put on hold. That has been allowed occasionally in the past. Airlines often “cheat” on the 80% rule, flying small planes, or “ghost planes” to keep up the figure.

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Heathrow expansion blocked by Court of Appeal ruling NPS illegal, for ignoring impact of carbon on Paris Agreement obligations

The Court of Appeal has ruled that the government’s decision to expand Heathrow was “unlawful”, on climate change grounds. This is one of the most important environmental law cases in this country for over a generation, and ground-breaking for ensuring carbon emissions are properly taken into account. The judgement, which sets a key legal precedent, said the government (Grayling as Sec of State for Transport) had wrongly ignored its international climate change commitments under the Paris Agreement. Such an omission was a fatal flaw to the lawfulness of the National Policy Statement, approving a 3rd Heathrow runway. Grayling had accepted flawed legal advice, implying that there was no need to consider obligations to cut carbon, through the Paris Agreement.  This judgment has vital wider implications for keeping climate change at the heart of all planning decisions. From now on, every infrastructure spending decision in the UK could face legal challenge if it doesn’t comply with the Climate Change Act, which mandates virtually zero emissions by 2050. The government has said it will not appeal to the Supreme Court.

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The Court of Appeal found the government hadn’t considered its commitments to the Paris Climate Agreement when it backed the Heathrow runway      scheme in 2018


Heathrow expansion abandoned by government – which will not appeal court ruling that NPS was illegal

Lord Justice Lindblom

Heathrow expansion is now very unlikely, after the ruling by the Appeal Court that the government’s approval of the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) was unlawful.  Pushed through by Chris Grayling, as Secretary of State for Transport, it failed to take into account the UK’s climate change commitments. Lords Justice Lindblom, Singh and Haddon-Cave ruled the government did not take enough account of its commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change when setting out its support for the proposals in its ANPS.  The government should have given an explanation about how it was taken into account, but it did not. The UN’s Paris Agreement, which came into force in November 2016, commits signatories to take measures to limit global warming to well below 2C. The government saw the ruling last week, and could have appealed to the Supreme Court, but has decided not to do so.  This instruction will have come from Boris Johnson, not only Grant Shapps. Shapps said:  “We will set out our next steps in due course.”  It has become increasingly clear that the Heathrow runway could not pass necessary standards on noise, carbon, cost or air pollution. The legal judgement should be the final nail in its coffin.

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The implications of the Appeal Court decision will go far beyond just Heathrow, perhaps to all high carbon developments

The Appeal Court ruled the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) illegal, because it had not properly taken into account the obligation by the UK to consider its impact on obligations to the Paris Agreement. The ANPS should have – through the Planning Bill 2008 that set out what an NPS should include – contained an “explanation of how the policy takes account of government policy relating to the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change.” It did not. The implications is the precedent set by the judgement on any large infrastructure project that requires an NPS. But it also goes wider. Many commentators have said this will require the UK government, and other governments, to take seriously their obligations to cut carbon emissions, through their Paris commitments. The court has shown that the Paris agreement has real teeth, and suggests that these targets must now be taken into account in all future big infrastructure projects, including plans for new roads (see below), airport expansion and the building of gas-fired power stations. The extent to which this applies to all planning applications, not just the largest (through the NPS/DCO process) will probably be determined in coming months, by the Courts.
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More on the implications:  See also an important article by lawyers at Friends of the Earth, on what the ruling means, for aviation and beyond.   

Ruling against Heathrow expansion – impacts and significance   (28th Feb 2020)

https://policy.friendsoftheearth.uk/print/pdf/node/165


Appeal Court ruling on Heathrow expansion will be on Thursday 27th February – Theresa Villiers says the runway should be cancelled

Theresa Villiers – Secretary of State for Environment until a fortnight ago, when Boris had her moved – has spoken out against the Heathrow runway plan. She said the government should cancel it, as it risks worsening air quality and increasing noise pollution for thousands. Heathrow and its backers had failed to present a “convincing” enough case for the runway to go ahead. The judgement at the Court of Appeal will be handed down on 27th February, on the legal challenges against the government for its incorrect backing of the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS). The DfT had failed to properly consider the impact of Heathrow expansion on the the UK’s ambition to be carbon neutral by 2050, and its Paris Agreement obligations. One of the legal challenges is by Friends of the Earth, who have suggested this legal ruling could be the most important environmental law case in the UK for over a generation.  Boris Johnson is aware that Heathrow cannot meet a range of conditions, on noise, air pollution, cost or carbon.  Adam Afriyie, the Conservative MP for Windsor, said the runway scheme should be scrapped as it was “completely incompatible” with the UK’s legally-binding climate target.

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New Report shows Heathrow expansion to cost the regions £43bn and thousands of jobs over decades

An important new report, Baggage Claim, has been published, by the No 3rd Runway Coalition, on the impact of the runway on the regions. It shows the Government’s own figures indicate that by 2050 the runway would divert 27,000 jobs – as well as GDP – from regions, into London and South East. This is the opposite of what the Government claims to be aiming for, to “level up” areas of the UK.  The report finds that movement of jobs will impact on the national distribution of GDP; around £43 billion (net present value) would move out of the regions and into London and the South East, by 2050. The data is based on Government data secured by a number of FOI requests. Every region of the UK would lose out, with the greatest impact in the North West and West Midlands if expansion goes ahead. By 2050, the North West would lose up to £14bn in GDP growth and 15,000 jobs. Figures are available for each region. The impact would be to blight parts of the regions. The Coalition finds it incredible that the DfT has known about this, and the economic damage to the regions, but said nothing about it; details had to be extracted by FoI.   Report here

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The Court of Appeal judgment on the Heathrow legal challenge will take place on Thursday 27th February

We will be gathering outside the High Court at 9am for a solidarity event. There will be speeches from the parties involved in the legal action, politicians, campaigners and other stakeholders. The main photo opportunity will take place at 9.15am.
Please come along and join us!  Share with as many people as possible that might be interested in coming along.  Facebook page at https://tinyurl.com/ttr4kkd
The judgment will be ‘handed down’ at 10am in Court 71 – one of the larger courts.
For anyone who cannot attend in person, in response to exceptional public interest, the Court will be live-streaming the judgment via this link: https://tinyurl.com/tk2obrt. Thanks to Plan B Earth for their work in making this possible.

Every UK airport has plans to expand – totals WAY above even the CCC advice of only 25% above current level

Every major commercial UK airport has plans to expand, with many hoping to double passenger numbers by 2030.  This is in spite of the fact that the UK has the third-highest CO2-emitting aviation sector in the world, after China and the United States. But Brits love to fly and air travel is predicted to keep on increasing, rapidly – despite the UK in theory aiming for net zero carbon emissions in 30 years. Though the CCC advice is that UK aviation should not increase by more than 25% above current levels by 2050. Climate experts know the sector’s planned growth should not be allowed. Some examples of the anticipated growth, from airport master plans are:  Heathrow – growth from 80 million passengers per year (mppa) in 2018 to 110 mppa in 2030.  Gatwick  – growth from 46.1 mppa in 2018 to 70 mppa in 2030.   Birmingham – growth from 12.4 mppa in 2018 to 18 mppa in 2030.  Manchester – growth from 28.2 mppa in 2018 to 38 mppa in 2030.  Leeds Bradford – growth from 4 mppa in 2018 to 7.1 mppa in 2030.   Bristol – growth from 8.7 mppa in 2018 to 12.5 mppa in 2030.   Doncaster Sheffield – growth from 1.2 mppa in 2018 to 3.5 mppa in 2030.   Southampton – growth from 1.9 mppa in 2018 to 4.5 mppa in 2030.  And so on ….

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In 2019 almost 50% of flights by men, and 33% by women, aged 20-45, were for stag and hen dos abroad

An environmental campaigning organisation, called Hubbub – who say they are helping people with “inspiration and practical actions that are good for you and the environment” has done some research on the flying behaviour associated with hen and stag parties. They found that about half of all flights taken by men aged 20-45 in 2019 were for stag dos, while just over a third of flights taken by women in the same age group were for hen dos. These hen and stag dos have become a booming industry, with people no longer content to remain in the UK, as flights are so cheap. But the Hubbub research showed about 60% of those asked felt that the jaunts were too long, expensive and involved excessive travel.  About 30% felt resentful about the cost, and the time that sometimes had to be taken off annual holiday.  About 60% of those surveyed preferred a UK-based hen or stag, because it was cheaper, easier to get to and a more flexible option. The expense of the foreign hen and stag dos were often considerable, and often higher than a comparable event in the UK. And do places like Prague and Gdansk really want hoards of drunken Brits?  Another reason why millennials often have higher environmental footprints than the baby boomer generation.

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Heathrow Hub asks Boris Johnson and Grant Shapps to order a Section 6 Review of the Heathrow 3rd runway NPS

Heathrow Hub, the rival Heathrow runway scheme that wants to effectively build a third runway, onto the western end of the northern runway, has now called on Boris Johnson and Grant Shapps to implement a “Section 6 review” of Heathrow 3rd runway. They say this is due to spiralling costs and also, bizarrely (as their plan also greatly increases CO2)  “the incompatibility of the 3rd runway with the Government’s net zero carbon emissions by 2050.” Heathrow Hub are very critical of many aspects of Heathrow’s planning for its runway, including failure to provide information. They are particularly critical of the lack of details about Heathrow’s surface access plans. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has now deemed Heathrow to be a Public Authority and has ordered it to comply with its obligations under the EIR – so it has to respond to FoI requests, such as on surface access plans. Heathrow Hub says Heathrow’s latest consultation reveals a scheme that continues to change from the designated ANPS. The Government decision to approve the NPS and “designate” it is being challenged legally, with a judgement by the Court of Appeal expected on 28th February. 

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Major airlines say they’re acting on climate change – research reveals how little they’ve achieved

Research by Griffith University, New Zealand, has shown that the climate claims of most airlines are pretty thin. Several airlines have announced plans to become “carbon neutral”, or trial new aviation fuels. But looking at the world’s 58 largest airlines, when what is being done is compared to the continued growth in emissions, it is nowhere near enough. There have been improvements in the amount of carbon per seat kilometre – the “carbon efficiency.” But that is eclipsed by growth in number of flights and passengers. The study found the improved efficiency (fleet renewal, engine efficiency, weight reductions and flight path optimisation) amounted to a 1% cut in emissions, while the industry aims to cut by 1.5%. That was totally outweighed by annual growth of 5.2% in the carbon emitted by the industry globally. Industry figures show global airlines produced 733 million tonnes of CO₂ emissions in 2014. Falling fares and more people wanting to fly saw airline emissions rise 23% in just five years, 2014 -19.  Higher-income travellers from around the world have had disproportionately large aviation CO2 emissions; they form a total of 16% of global population, but 62% of global aviation CO2. People need to cut the amount they fly …

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Heathrow ruled to be a “public authority” for information-access, so FoI requests can be made on environmental issues

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued a decision, holding that Heathrow is a “public authority” for the purposes of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR). This opens up the potential for anyone to ask HAL for information it holds relating to the environment, through a Freedom of Information (FoI) question. This could be on development applications, emissions, buildings, energy consumption, waste and noise.  The EIR operate alongside the Freedom of Information Act (FOI Act), and oblige public authorities to disclose environmental information upon request (unless an exemption to disclosure applies).  This has arisen because rival builder of Heathrow’s runway etc, Arora, asked Heathrow for information. It was withheld. Arora then appealed to the Information Commissioner. They decided that as Heathrow “carries out functions of public administration” it is indeed a public authority, not just a company.  This is justified “given the importance of the efficient provision of services at Heathrow Airport to the economy and citizens of the UK”.  Heathrow may appeal. Other airports might also be considered as public authorities in future…?

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Has Boris Johnson used approval for HS2 to kill Heathrow Expansion?

In announcing that the government is approving HS2, the Prime Minister spoke of the importance of delivering prosperity to every part of the country. Boris said: “Passengers arriving at Birmingham Airport will be able to get to central London by train in 38 minutes, which compares favourably with the time it takes to get from Heathrow by taxi …. [and is] considerably faster than the Piccadilly line”.  Was this a subtle alert to the negative economic impacts on every part of the country (save the South East) of expanding Heathrow? The DfT has known for a long time that a 3rd Heathrow runway would mean most regional airports would lose significant volumes of flights. Asked about Heathrow, Boris said he sees no “immediate prospect” of bulldozers, or any start to work to expand Heathrow.  If £106 billion of public money will be spent on HS2, (much of that on the London to Birmingham section) this will increase anger about the disparity of spending on the regions and the south-east.  With more fast rail travel between London and Birmingham, air passenger demand from London airports could reduce, removing any logic there was for a larger Heathrow.

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Bristol Airport expansion plans rejected by North Somerset council by 18-7

North Somerset Council’s Planning & Regulatory Committee has gone against the advice of their own planning officers and have refused permission for Bristol Airport to expand. It has been a “David versus Goliath” battle of local campaigners against the airport, (owned by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan). The airport wanted to expand from 10 million to 12 million passengers per year, with large carpark and other building. The opposition to the plans was huge, on ground of carbon emissions, as well as noise and general local damage. There were almost 9,000 objections sent in by members of the public, against 2,400 in favour.  Councillors voted 18-7 against the plans, with one abstention. Councillors were persuaded that paltry economic benefits to the airport and airlines were far outweighed by the environmental harm. There would be large land take for the parking, and the extra carbon emissions would make targets of carbon neutrality for the area unachievable. Because the councillors went against the officers’ recommendations, the decision will return to the same committee to be ratified. If the decision is ratified, the applicant has six months to lodge an appeal, which would be heard at a public inquiry.

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“Absolute Zero” report by UK academics: the only way to hit net zero by 2050 is to stop flying

In probably the best, more sensible (and most radical) comments on the future of aviation to date, Professor Julian Allwood (Cambridge University) and a group of academics from 6 UK universities, say there is no alternative but to cut aviation drastically. It is futile for the industry to hope for electric planes (which just might be a possibility by 2050, but only IF there is spare low-carbon electricity available). It is futile for airlines to pretend they can use low-carbon fuels, (these could only be made IF there is spare low-carbon electricity available). And it is unacceptable to pretend CO2 emitted is going to be captured, removed from the atmosphere, and stored. Not without vast use of energy. Tree planting only goes so far: we must increase the total area of forest in perpetuity to produce a one-off reduction in atmospheric CO2.  The academics suggest closing most UK airports by around 2030, and closing just about all by 2050, to genuinely have no carbon emissions (offsets do not count). Only if there is spare low-carbon electricity available after 2050, could flying re-commence using electric planes or genuinely low carbon fuels. They say: “Bold announcements of “net-zero” targets by sunset industries such as fossil-fuel aviation cause confusion and delay the policies required to phase them out.” 

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ASA rule against Ryanair ad (greenwash) claim to have the lowest airline CO2 emissions

Ryanair has been accused of greenwashing after the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned an ad campaign, that tried to make out  the airline has the lowest CO2 emissions of any major airline in Europe. It has been ordered to withdraw the misleading claims about its “green” credentials. Ryanair is in fact one of the top 10 carbon emitters in the EU, due to the number of flights.  Ryanair probably has lower CO2 per passenger kilometre than many other airlines, as it has newer planes, and crams its planes full. But its rapid growth has meant its CO2 increased by 50% between 2013 and 2019. The ASA pointed out failings in the way Ryanair compared itself to other airlines, to make its carbon claims; it did not include all airlines or seating density; it did not substantiate its claims.  The growth of Ryanair, and of air travel in general, in Europe has been due to the sector paying no jet fuel tax, making flying artificially cheap. The CO2 emissions of all flights departing from EU airports have grown from being 1.4% of total EU emissions in 1990 to 3.7% today.

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Aviation industry body (oxymoron) “Sustainable Aviation” hoping its new greenwash will persuade folk aviation growth is fine ….

The aviation industry is nervous of the growing awareness of the looming climate crisis and the need for personal responsibility for air travel CO2. So they are working to try to persuade the public that aviation is fine, and the the carbon emitted is really not a problem. They have it sorted. This is, of course, just greenwash. They are assuming the public is very stupid, or wilfully wanting to be deluded, to believe there will be no extra CO2 in the atmosphere, with 70% more flights. The aviation industry body calling itself (oxymoron!) “Sustainable Aviation” is trying to say UK aviation will be, quotes, “net carbon zero by 2050”. The industry can certainly make some little changes in engines, flight paths, operations etc, to cut a bit of carbon. That is far outweighed by the growth in passengers and flights. They have crazy hopes for low carbon fuels, which themselves would cause huge environmental problems. The rest is offsets. All that means is carbon reductions being made elsewhere are bought by the aviation sector, and are effectively cancelled out by the growth in air travel.  It is not a solution. Aviation knows it. Greenpeace said: “This whole strategy is a flight of fancy. Carbon offsetting is simply an excuse to carry on with business as usual while shifting the responsibility to cut emissions to someone else, somewhere else, and some other time. It’s greenwash pure and simple and ministers should be wary of lending it any credibility.”

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Ferrovial threatens to pull out of Heathrow if CAA does not let it make large enough returns

Heathrow’s biggest shareholder, Ferrovial, has warned that it could sell its 25% stake if returns are squeezed by the aviation watchdog. This casts doubt about the 3rd runway. Ferrovial says it would not put money into the runway, (costing between £14 and £32 billion) unless the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) grants it “attractive returns”. The CAA ruled in December that Heathrow could not spend more on early construction in order to ensure the runway was built by the end of 2026 as planned. That means that the 3rd runway will now not be completed until 2028 – 2029, at the earliest, and not 2026 as Heathrow and its investors had hoped.  The CAA currently has a consultation, that ends on 5th March, on Economic regulation of Heathrow, on the “regulatory framework and financial issues”.  The CAA effectively decides how much money Heathrow can make through a complex tariff. This is usually updated every 5 years, although this has been extended by 2 years.  A controversial regulatory scheme incentivises the airport’s owners to build, spend more, as then they earn more in returns – the passenger flight charges, now about £20 per passenger.  If Ferrovial decides to pull out, it would invest in schemes elsewhere. 

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Government’s independent noise advisors ICCAN confirm that the impact of aircraft noise has been underestimated

It is highly significant that the government’s independent body looking into the problem of aircraft noise has said the previous study, SoNA, was inadequate. ICCAN declared the DfT’s evidential basis for assessing the noise impact of Heathrow expansion to have been “inappropriate” and did not properly reflect the numbers affected by plane noise, or the impacts. The Chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition said:  “And were expansion to proceed at Heathrow … a scandal would be in the making. When the DfT claimed that merely 97,300 more residents would be exposed to adverse aircraft noise, the Transport Select Committee concluded that the DfT’s methodology was “not of the real world”. Indeed, under a freedom of information request, we then learned that an internal DfT study had implied 2.2 million people would be affected – if the department had only applied the more realistic noise thresholds used elsewhere.”…“We remain startled that a government department, purportedly responsible for protecting communities from aviation noise, should plough on in this reckless – and perhaps deceitful – manner.”

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Leeds Bradford Airport wants to cut night-time period by 90 minutes to just 11.30pm to 6am

Leeds Bradford Airport wants rules that impose a range of night-time flying restrictions to be relaxed, so it can operate more flights. The  current restrictions, since 1993, are that the airport can only operate 4,000 flights a year during the night-time period, which is 11pm to 7am.  Now the airport wants the night-time period reduced from 8 hours to 6.5 hours, so it is from 11.30pm to 6am – an hour and a half less.  The WHO says people should have a quiet period for sleep for 8 hours per night. Most adults need between 7-8 hours of good sleep per night. That is not possible, if the night period is only 6.5 hours. That also does not include planes arriving later than 11.30pm, for delays etc.  The change the airport wants means lots of flights in the “shoulder periods”. ie. between 6am and 7am, and  between 11pm and 11.30pm. This enables airlines to fit in more “rotations” so they can make more return trips to European holiday destination airports, making more money for airlines. The plans will be discussed by Leeds City Council’s on January 30th; the airport may submit a planning application in the coming months.

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Stop Stansted Expansion calls upon Manchester Airports Group to respect Uttlesford DC decision

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has called upon the Manchester Airports Group (MAG) – owners of Stansted airport – to respect the Uttlesford District Council (UDC)’s decision to refuse the airport’s latest expansion proposals – and has urged MAG not to appeal against the decision.​ Welcoming the Council’s decision to refuse permission, SSE Chairman Peter Sanders said: “I would firstly like to express appreciation and gratitude to the Uttlesford councillors on the Planning Committee not only for reaching this decision today but also for the very thorough and professional manner in which they have dealt with this Planning Application.  I believe that I speak not only for Stop Stansted Expansion in this regard but for almost the entire local community.”​  If MAG lodges an appeal against UDC’s refusal to the Secretary of State, the consequence could be a lengthy public inquiry and continued uncertainty for the local community for another year or more.​  If there is an appeal, SSE has pledged itself to support UDC in presenting the case at public inquiry.  This should assist in minimising costs whilst also sharing technical expertise.​

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CPRE report shows UK monitoring of aircraft noise ‘seriously underestimates’ disturbance to people’s quality of life and health

CPRE is calling on the Government to improve the way it monitors aircraft noise after new research shows current maps seriously underestimate the problem.  This comes at a time when there are proposals for airport expansion across the country, and as the Government prepares a new aviation strategy. The research, commissioned by CPRE, was carried out by Aviation Consultants, To70.  It looked at the impact of noise pollution at lower levels than those usually mapped in the UK now. These lower levels, already used for monitoring noise pollution in other European countries, are believed to be a better indicator of the true impact of noise pollution below and near flight paths.  The report uses Gatwick airport as an example, but the findings would apply at any airport.  Currently the standard measure above which plane noise is regarded to “annoy” people if 55dB (a noise average),but this is far too high. A noise contour is produced for this noise level. But the WHO recommends reducing aircraft noise levels to 45 decibels in the day. The noise contour for 45dB is hugely larger than that for 57dB. CPRE says the government should commission independent research into the impact of aviation noise on health. Also that the ICCAN should be given statutory powers on noise.

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Stansted Airport expansion definitively rejected by Uttlesford council

Stansted expansion plans have been rejected by Uttlesford District councillors at a special planning committee meeting.  The decision was made with 10 councillors voting to overturn the previous approval, and two councillors, who were also members of SSE, abstaining. Officers had recommended approval of proposals to increase the airport’s passenger cap from 35 million to 43 million per year.  The expansion had included 2 new taxiways and 9 new hangars, expanding the number of flights it can handle from 227,000 up to 274,000. There are about 28 million passengers now per year.  Originally the council approved the plan, giving it conditional permission, but after the Residents for Uttlesford group took control from the Conservatives in May, the decision was referred back to the committee. The councillors who voted for expansion in 2018 lost their seats last year. Council officers said there were no new material considerations to justify a different decision from the one made in November 2018 when the plans were approved. It was a 7 hour meeting, “in which the chairman had to tell members of the public to stop applauding those opposing the plans.” It is possible MAG, which owns Stansted, may appeal.

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Alistair Osborne in the Times, on how Virgin/ Branson have made fools of the government over Flybe bailout

Alistair Osborne, in the Times, writes about Flybe and the con that has been perpetrated, to get it given government finance. Flybe is 30% owned by Delta and Virgin Atlantic, with 30% owned by Stobart and 40% by New York hedge fund Cyrus Capital. Last February, the trio bought Flybe’s assets for just £2.8 million. Flybe has the contract to operate 4 daily flights from London to Newquay, partly paid for by Public Service Obligation (PSO) by government and Cornwall Council.  This is paid in the belief that the flights are “essential” for “connectivity” but are not commercially viable. (Most passengers in fact are on leisure trips). Those Heathrow slots are very valuable to an airline, and could be used for flights that bring in more profit for the owners. A slot pair at Heathrow can fetch $75 million.  Flybe has got the flights moved from Heathrow to Gatwick. Newquay-Gatwick offers far fewer international connections than Heathrow.  The Heathrow slots will be used for other more profitable Flybe flights, feeding Virgin services. “And now Flybe’s owners have made fools of the rest of the nation by convincing ministers they need some sort of taxpayer bailout.”

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Scientists appalled at government’s support for high-carbon airline industry, and Matt Hancock ill-informed comments

A letter from a group of leading scientists, in the Independent, criticises the support of this government for the high-carbon emissions airline industry, and the grossly misleading statements made by Matt Hancock (Sec of State for Health) to justify this bailout. On 15 January, he gave his unqualified support for the airline industry on BBC Radio 5 live. He claimed that dealing with the climate emergency does not require any change in our demand for flying, and (mistakenly) thinks electric planes will be a future solution. He said aviation has been decarbonised, which is categorically wrong. Small improvements in aircraft fuel efficiency are far outstripped by the industry’s rate of growth. These positions are at odds with the scientific evidence and the need for deep and immediate reductions in the UK’s emissions. Matt Hancock clearly has no grasp of the huge technical challenges in decarbonising aviation. It is of concern that a Secretary of State can be so misinformed. Flying already constitutes 10% of the UK’s carbon emissions and is predicted to rise by 300% by 2050 unless urgent action is taken.

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Government considering UK APD cut to save loss-making airline Flybe – to boost profitability of domestic flights

Flybe is one of the main airlines that fly domestic routes in the UK – 38% of them. Currently air passengers pay £26 APD on a return domestic flight (and £13 on a return flight to a European airport). Flybe has been struggling for years, as many of its routes are not profitable. It said in October that it recognised, with growing awareness of the higher CO2 emissions from a flight that using the train or coach, (and “flight shame”) that some of the domestic routes should be scrapped. Now Flybe cannot pay its APD bill to the government – about £100 million over three years. So the government, which talked up the importance of regional connectivity before the election, is considering removing APD from all domestic flights. That would be entirely the opposite of what is needed, to tackle UK carbon emissions, and those from UK aviation in particular. Aviation is already subsidised by not paying VAT. The loss to the Treasury from cutting domestic APD would have to be made up by  taxation from other sources. It is not as if all domestic flights are vital to the economy. Most are leisure passengers, making trips to visit places or people, friends or family.

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Heathrow timetable – it will not submit its DCO till end of 2020 at earliest; final decision might be early 2022

The earliest the Transport Secretary (currently Grant Shapps) could make a decision on the 3rd runway would be the end of 2021, or perhaps early 2022. The Standard said it might be the end of 2020. That is not possible.  Heathrow hopes to submit its DCO (Development Consent Order) to the Planning Inspectorate at the end of 2020, or it could be delayed into 2021 if they run into problems meeting the requirements of the Airports National Policy Statement.  The Planning Inspectorate will launch an inquiry which takes 9 months and then the Inspector will take 3 months to make a recommendation to the Secretary of State – who then gets to make a decision.  So that would probably be early 2022.  There is no mechanism for the Secretary of State to make a decision before the conclusion of the planning inquiry unless the government enacts a review under section 6 of the Planning Act 2008 if it feels “there has been a significant change in any circumstances on the basis of which any of the policies set out in the statement was decided.”

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Heathrow application to Planning Inspectorate for DCO now delayed from summer 2020 to “towards the end of the year”

Heathrow had originally intended to start its DCO (Development Consent Order) application by the middle of 2020. Now that the CAA has restricted the amount Heathrow can spend on early development costs, the timetable has slipped. Instead of hoping a 3rd runway might be read for use by 2026, that date is now more like 2029.  Heathrow says it plans to hold another consultation from April to June, and then feed responses from that into its DCO, which might be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate towards the end of 2020. That is perhaps a 6 month delay.  Some time after the middle of January, the Appeal Court ruling on the legal challenges, against the government’s approval of the Airports NPS, are expected. The DfT was intending to publish its Aviation Strategy in the first half of 2019. This is now delayed due to changes on carbon emissions, with the UK changing from an 80% cut on 1990 levels by 2050, to a 100% cut (ie. “net zero”) and advice on aviation carbon from the Committee on Climate Change.

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New calls by CAGNE on Grant Shapps and MPs to curb Gatwick expansion plans

Campaign group, CAGNE, against the expansion of Gatwick, are appealing to newly-elected MPs to help curb the airport’s growth plans. They are also urging local residents, along with the MPs, to protest to the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps.  CAGNE says Gatwick’s expansion proposals will lead to an extra 55,000 flights per year by 2033 – and that there is insufficient infrastructure to cope with the growth. It will also lead to large increases in noise levels and CO2 emissions, which are environmentally unsustainable. Air quality will also deteriorate. CAGNE is calling on transport secretary Grant Shapps to subject Gatwick’s expansion proposals to more scrutiny by declaring the proposals a ‘National Significant Infrastructure Project’ (NSIP), which requires it to be subject to a different process than a smaller expansion, of under 10 million more annual passengers. A project that qualifies as an NSIP has to go through the Development Consent Order process.  CAGNE  said in their letter to Shapps that Gatwick’s growth plans “are neither compatible with the current climate emergency, nor with achieving the Government‘s net zero carbon target.”

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New Heathrow consultation in spring highlights inadequacies of earlier consultations and lack of clarity

Heathrow have announced another new consultation, to start perhaps in April. Its purpose is to “finalise its proposals for airport expansion”, following the decision by the CAA in December to cap early spending on the project. This CAA action has had the effect of prolonging the construction period of a 3rd runway by 3 years. The airport says it “will need to undertake refreshed modelling of key aspects of the plan – including public transport to and from the airport” – to evidence that Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) targets can be met” (sic). The No 3rd Runway Coalition says that it is due to the inadequacies of the previous consultation(s) that Heathrow needs this fresh consulting in 2020. Chair of the Coalition, Paul McGuinness said the decision to hold yet another consultation is tantamount to a recognition that they have already failed to meet the consultation standards expressly required of it in the ANPS. Their statutory consultation in 2019 lacked vital environmental and health assessment and was wholly inadequate. The entire reasoning behind the project may well now require review, as due to the delay, the tiny net benefits of the runway have become a large negative figure. Serious reassessment is now needed of the project.

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EEA data show EU aviation greenhouse gas emissions rose 129% between 1990 and 2017 – huge future increases expected

Data from the European Environment Agency shows that transport greenhouse gas emissions in 2017 were 27% of the EU total (excluding land uses, land-use change and forestry). Within transport, international aviation was 3.42% of the EU total, and domestic aviation 0.35%. Shipping was 3.61% of the EU total. Road transport was 19.35%. Greenhouse gas emissions from international aviation have more than doubled over the past two decades. The increase was 129% between 1990 and 2017.  Although international aviation and shipping each account for less than 3.5% of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions, they have been the fastest growing sources of emissions that contribute to climate change. Despite small improvements in fuel consumption, greenhouse gas emissions from planes in 2050 are expected to be 7 to 10 times higher (ie. 700% to 1,000% higher) than 1990 levels, while emissions from ships are projected to increase by 50% to 250%. The emissions from aviation is largely driven by traffic growth. The number of air passengers in the EU has tripled since 1993.  The numbers of air passengers in the EU were: 1993 – 360 million; 2008 – 800 million; and 2018 – 1,106 million. 

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New King’s College study on Heathrow ultrafine particle air pollution shows it spreads far into London

In a new study, researchers from King’s College London have measured ultrafine particles (UFP) in European cities and detected emissions from airports. Many studies have examined and quantified the levels of larger particles (e.g.PM2.5 – <2.5μm or PM10 – <10μm), but very few have studied UFP (< 0.1 μm).  The researchers identified, characterised and quantified the sources UFPs in Barcelona, Helsinki, London, and Zurich between 2007 and 2017. They measured particle and gaseous pollutants at different sites and used a statistical model to identify and quantify the contribution of the different sources of ultrafine particles.  They found that London had the highest concentration of UFP compared to other cities. Traffic emissions contributed the most.   The greatest concentrations of the smallest particles (called nucleation particles) when the wind was blowing from the airport in all cities. This indicates that airports are a major UFP source and that these small particles can travel many kilometres.  So it is confirmed that Heathrow pollution – with very negative health impacts – spreads far into London, many miles away.

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Natural England and the licences it gives airports to kill birds 13km from airport boundary

The law in the UK allows airports to get licences to kill a range of bird species, within an area 13 kilometres from the airport boundary. The licences are issued by Natural England, the body whose description is: “We’re the government’s adviser for the natural environment in England, helping to protect England’s nature and landscapes for people to enjoy and for the services they provide”. A large number of species are listed, by Natural England, including Canada Goose, Greylag Goose, Great Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Mallard, Feral Pigeon, Rook, Starling and Woodpigeon.  Other birds can be killed within 250 metres of the airport boundary, such as Magpie, Carrion Crow, Lapwing and Jackdaw. The killing is meant to be if there is danger to the safety of plane flights. Birds can be trapped, shot, or have their eggs oiled (which kills the chick before it can hatch). According to Natural England, 12,956 birds were culled in 2015-16, with rooks, crows and pigeons making up the largest number.  A FoI request has been submitted to ascertain the number of airports issued with licences recently, the number of birds killed, and the ways in which they were killed.

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Boris Johnson unveils plan to increase number of flights, despite global climate emergency: ‘A total disregard for the planet’

As part of the Queen’s Speech on 20th December, there is to be an “Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill”. This will have the effect of squeezing more flights into same airspace and grow the airline sector.   The details in the Speech documents say the aim of the Bill  is to: “Maintain the UK’s position as a world-leader in aviation, ensuring that regulations keep pace with new technology to support sustainable growth in a sector which directly provides over 230,000 jobs and contributes at least £22 billion to the UK economy every year.”  Its alleged benefits would be:  “Making journeys quicker, quieter and cleaner through the modernisation of our airspace”. [Note greenwashing language].  The Bill will give government powers to “direct an airport or other relevant body to prepare and submit a proposal to the Civil Aviation Authority to modernise their airspace…” And “Modernising the licensing framework for air traffic control”. The government says the aim is to remove obstacles to growth in the number of flights airspace can accommodate. The CAA last year published an Airspace Modernisation Strategy, setting out general principles and methods.

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Heathrow runway completion date now 2029, NOT 2026. That means maximum economic benefit cut from +£3.3bn to a loss of -£13bn to the UK

Heathrow’s timetable for its 3rd runway faces further delay after CAA said it would only approve £1.6 billion of spending before the DCO is approved. Not the £3 billion Heathrow wants.  In a new CAA consultation document released on Thursday, they say this would mean a delay of about a year to the 2026 scheduled opening of Heathrow’s runway, based on Heathrow’s estimates. However, Heathrow said the CAA’s proposal would delay the completion of the runway by up to 3 years. ie. it would not open till 2029 (Heathrow says “between early 2028 and late 2029….).  The delayed opening date means the alleged economic benefit to the UK is far lower than currently estimated. The Transport Select Cttee report in March 2018 on the Airports NPS said the maximum benefit of the runway to the whole of the UK over 60 years would be +£3.3 billion. They said that a delay of two years, from opening in 2026 to 2028 would mean a loss of £16.3 in economic benefit to the UK. That means the runway would now cause a considerable economic loss to the country.  On this basis alone there should be a review of the Airports NPS, and rethink by government on Heathrow.

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Aviation regulator, the CAA, losing patience with Heathrow expansion – approve only £1.6bn before DCO granted

The CAA has rejected Heathrow’s desire to spend nearly £3bn on its new runway despite the plans not having received final approval, in a sign that it is losing confidence in Heathrow’s ability to fund the project on budget.  The CAA has a new consultation on this. The CAA approved just under half Heathrow’s request; £1.6bn (at 2018 prices) before the DCO is granted, saying that “passengers cannot be expected to bear the risk” of Heathrow “spending too much in the early phase of development, should planning permission not be granted”. This is yet another hurdle for Heathrow.  Heathrow now says that instead of opening its new runway in 2026, that has now been put back to 2028/ 2029. That delay makes a large difference to the supposed economic benefit to the UK, which was at best marginal even with a 2026 opening date.  Both Heathrow and the Government claim that the project will be privately financed yet there are concerns about Heathrow’s ability to afford expansion as costs continue to rise and the markets begin to question the viability of the investment. Standard and Poor said there is significant concern about the design, funding and construction costs of a 3rd runway which would make it unviable.

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IATA figures show expect global airline pax growth to 4.58 billion in 2019, with 97 billion gallons of jet fuel burned

IATA produces Fact Sheets, for a range of measures, once per month. Looking at the sheet for June 2019, it compare the figures from 2013 to forecast figures for 2019. The number of scheduled air passengers rose from 3,145,000,000 in 2013 to 4,579,000,000 anticipated in 2019. ie. a rise of 465. The number of tonnes of air cargo rose from 51,700,000 in 2013 to 63.1 tonnes anticipated for 2019. The amount of jet fuel consumed was 74 billion gallons in 2013 and 97 billion gallons anticipated in 2019.  ie. it rose by 31%. The net profit per departing passenger was $3.4 in 2013 and $6.1 anticipated in 2019. Global revenues for the airline industry were $720 billion in 2013, and anticipated to be $865 billion in 2019. [EPA says 1 gallon of jet fuel emits 9.75 kg of CO2.  So burning 97 billion gallons of jet fuel causes the emission of 9.75 x 970,000,000 tonnes of CO2  =  946 million tonnes CO2.  The figure was 674 million tonnes in 2013]

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New research shows no safe limit for PM2.5 which would hugely increase with expansion of airports, (eg. Stansted – or any other large airport)

New research published in the British Medical Journal on 30 November has shown that airborne emissions of fine carbon particles – known as PM2.5 – can have serious health impacts even when the level of concentration is below the World Health Organisation’s guideline limits for air pollution. PM2.5 emanates especially from fuel combustion and transport sources and is one of the major issues associated with airport expansion, not only because of the additional air pollution caused by the increased number of flights but also from the additional road traffic generated by the increase in passenger numbers travelling to and from the airport.  There are links between PM2.5 and respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, as well as Parkinson’s and diabetes, and there are now others. The expansion of Stansted Airport is expected to hugely increase air pollution. Its own figures indicate the expansion to 43 mppa would lead to perhaps an extra 25% – 13.6 tonnes – of PM2.5 into the air that local residents, have to breathe.  That is wholly unacceptable, knowing the severe health impacts upon the local population.

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Large Greenpeace protest, Protestival, in Schiphol airport, about its rising CO2 emissions

Over the weekend, 14 and 15th December, there was a huge protest at Schiphol Amsterdam Airport, called Protestival organised by Greenpeace.  Hundreds of activists gathered at the airport to demand a climate action plan for Schiphol. Protesters waved banners saying “Tax the plane, take the train” and chanted slogans of “climate justice”, while Greenpeace activists told the crowd: “Schiphol is one the biggest airports in Europe and yet they still want to expand it. That’s not normal!”  In its call for people to attend the protest, Greenpeace said on its website: “We’re in the middle of a climate crisis, but the big polluter Schiphol is being allowed to keep growing and polluting even more.” The group had been allowed to protest outside the building only, but they broke that restriction, arguing that citizens’ rights to peaceful protest should not be restricted. Dozens of police from the force that guards Dutch borders began removing the protesters one at a time, dragging or carrying those who resisted, after they refused to leave the airport building.  No flights were disrupted by the demonstration. Schiphol has no real plan to cut the CO2 emissions of planes using the airport.

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Stansted likely to publish revised expansion plans in first half of 2020

Stansted has announced plans to submit a revised expansion proposal during the first half of 2020.  MAG’s new design proposals will replace plans launched in 2016.  The revised proposal is understood to contain plans for a new arrivals building. Under the original proposal, expansion was estimated to have been completed by next year.  A statement by the airport cited “fluctuating travel, social and economic trends” as a reason for the change in plans, and the “political landscape at a national and local level.”   The airport confirmed enabling works are still underway. The arrivals building is one of a number of developments planned at Stansted, including a 3,000 space carpark and baggage system update. Stansted plans to increase its passenger number from 35 million per year, to 43 million. But this is on hold at present, due to a legal challenge by Stop Stansted Expansion. They have evidence that the airport was planning to expand to 50 mppa and intended to do so in two stages: first, by seeking an 8 mppa uplift in the cap, to 43 mppa; and then later seeking a 7 mppa increase to 50 mppa.  A  court judgement is expected early in the new year.

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Who will pay for Heathrow’s 3rd runway? There is no simple answer. Can Heathrow afford it?

Both the airport and Government claim that the project will be privately financed yet there are concerns about Heathrow’s ability to afford expansion as costs continue to rise and the markets begin to question the viability of the investment. Heathrow is already spending over £3 billion on enabling work, before even starting to build. The total cost could be £31 billion, not the alleged £14 billion.  In its latest analysis of Heathrow’s business case, Standard and Poor revealed that there is significant concern about construction costs of a 3rd runway. This raises specific concerns – which could result in a downgrading of Heathrow’s investment grade credit rating which would make the 3rd runway unviable. The airport and its holding company, FGP Topco, are losing money.  A huge sum is needed for the planned development, especially if more passengers are to travel to/from the airport on public transport.  The Conservative Election Manifesto said “no new public money” will be available to support the third runway and that the onus is on Heathrow to demonstrate that the business case is viable. The CAA has decided that Heathrow will be penalised if costs spiral out of control, amid concerns that the project will not be built on budget.

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Boris Johnson casts doubt over Heathrow expansion and HS2 – would “find a way to honour” the bulldozer promise…

In an interview with Nick Ferrari on LBC, Boris Johnson said he would still consider lying down in front of bulldozers, if work started on a Heathrow 3rd runway.  Boris said: “Heathrow is a private sector project which is yet to satisfy its strict legal obligations on air quality and noise pollution.”  NF Question:  If the bulldozers were to appear, would you lie down in front of them?  Boris reply:  “I would have to find some way of honouring that promise.  It might be technically difficult to achieve.”   NF Question:  You will find a technical way to lie down in front of the bulldozers, if the work starts on the 3rd runway?  Boris reply: “Let’s wait and see when the bulldozer arrives. The issue with Heathrow, as you know, is that there is still substantial doubt about the ability of the promoters to meet their obligations on air quality and noise pollution.  But as you know, Parliament has voted very substantially in favour of that project, so that is where we are on Heathrow.

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Huge sums of money have been paid to political parties by donors associated with aviation industry, most to Brexit Party and Conservatives

“DeSmog” has found that British political parties and individual politicians have received more than £9 million worth of donations from the aviation industry, with the vast majority going to the Brexit Party (now) and the Conservatives. The individual politician to get the most was Conservative Liam Fox. DeSmog got the information from the Electoral Commission’s political finance database, using aviation-related terms such as “airport” and “airline” as well as specific aviation company names and directors.  Official records show how airports, airlines and aircraft manufacturers have made hundreds of contributions, either in cash or to cover the cost of politicians’ travel, since the Electoral Commission’s online political finance database listings begin in 2001. Significant amounts came from well-known companies eg.  Airbus and Virgin Atlantic, more than half of the donations come from Christopher Harborne, CEO of AML Global, an aviation fuel supplier. He gave the Brexit Party £5.2 million since July this year, and earlier gave the Conservative Party £279,000. It is “perhaps not entirely coincidental” that politicians have collectively received so many donations given their support for aviation growth across the UK, including at Heathrow. The Brexit party has by far the least election mentions of climate and environment; Conservatives second worst, of the main parties.

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Extinction Rebellion protestors say mass ‘lie-in’ at Heathrow is ‘warning shot’ and vow to get arrested at future protests if 3rd runway goes ahead

Extinction Rebellion have blocked a road outside Heathrow Airport by lying in front of a bulldozer.  Hundreds of protesters descended on the airport en masse, cycling in convoy down the M4 from Hyde Park Corner, with cyclists joining along the route, halting several lanes of traffic. Dozens of environmental activists lay down on the tarmac outside the roundabout where the Emirates plane model is located.  Part of Bath Road, above Tunnel Road roundabout, was closed as the protesters got a full-size pink tractor with a “bulldozer” shovel at the front, adorned with newspaper headlines on air pollution. They lay in front of it, as a reminder to Boris Johnson, that he had said he “would lie down in front of the bulldozers” to block the building of a 3rd Heathrow runway (and has since gone very quiet on the matter…) The protest was part of Extinction Rebellion’s Christmas “12 Days of Crisis” campaign pressuring party leaders to take effective action on climate, in the run up to the election on 12th December. The Metropolitan Police said a Section 14 order was imposed allowing the protest until 3.30pm, after which time activists “run the risk of being arrested and prosecuted.”

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Leeds Citizens’ Jury on climate change recommends NOT expanding Leeds Bradford airport

Leeds recently held a “Climate Change Citizens’ Jury” on climate change, with 21 “jurors”. It was put together by the Leeds Climate Commission, with jurors selected through a process to make it representative of a “mini-public” of Leeds, with varying different views. The Jury was tasked with examining the Leeds’ response to the emergency of climate change and with producing recommendations that will be used to guide the future work of the Commission and a range of organisations across Leeds. The jury started in September, and ran for a total of 30 hours over 9 sessions, ending in early November.  The findings, in the form of recommendations written by the jurors, have been presented at a launch event on 25 November 2019 and will be presented formally to Leeds City Council’s Climate Emergency Advisory Committee in January 2019, which can make formal recommendations to Leeds City Council’s executive board. One of the recommendations was that Leeds Bradford Airport should not be expanded, with a vote for that by 86% of the jury. They said residents should be informed about the impact of expansion on carbon emissions, and flying should be discouraged, for example by higher taxation through the Frequent Flyer tax.

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Communities around Sea-Tac Airport exposed to a unique mix of air pollution associated with aircraft – different mix of ultra-fine particles from aircraft than road vehicles

Seattle-Tacoma Airport, USA, had about 438,000 flights in 2018.  Communities under flight paths and downwind of the airport are exposed to air pollution from the aircraft. Now research from the University of Washington shows that this includes a type of ultra-fine particle pollution, less than 0.1 micron in diameter, distinctly associated with aircraft.  A 2-year study  “MOV-UP“) looked at air pollution within 10 miles of the airport, and collected air samples at numerous locations between 2018 and 2019. The researchers developed a new method to distinguish between ultra-fine particle pollution from jet traffic and pollution from other sources such as road vehicles, in the particle size and mixture of particles emitted. They found that communities under the flight paths near the airport are exposed to higher proportions of smaller-sized, ‘ultra-ultrafine’ pollution particles, between 0.01 to 0.02 microns in diameter,  and over a larger area compared to pollution particles associated with roads. The tiny particles get deep into the lungs, and can penetrate tissues around the body, potentially causing illness, including cancers. Knowing the different signature of ultra-fine particles from aviation will enable local authorities to detect the pollution from aircraft themselves.

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Hertfordshire County Council objects to Luton Airport expansion, due to negative environmental impacts

Proposals to expand Luton Airport have been described as “madness” by a Hertfordshire county councillor.  The council unanimously voted to oppose further expansion of Luton airport at a meeting on 26th November, as they realised the expansion plans to increase to 32 million passengers a year by 2039 (from almost 17m now) would harm the environment. The airport’s proposals – to be decided by Luton Borough Council – include a second terminal north of the runway, an extensive new airfield infrastructure and a third station. There is a huge conflict of interest, as Luton Council both owns the airport, and decides on its planning applications.  At a time of growing realisation of the climate crises the planet faces, and with no realistic ways to reduce the carbon emissions from aviation, the industry should NOT be given permission to expand. The growth plans of airports across the country add up to a massive expansion in the number of flights and passengers, way above what could be compatible even with aiming for net-zero carbon by 2050 (and that is at least 20 years too late). The motion also called for Luton’s plans to be deferred until the new government has set out the Aviation Strategy, for the UK aviation sector, taking into account the advice of the CCC.

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Local campaigners, AXO, encourage local residents to respond to the Southampton airport expansion consultation

There is a planning application consultation by Southampton Airport, that closes on 23rd December. The airport has published plans for a 164-metre runway extension.  The planning application, lodged with Eastleigh Borough Council, is the first phase of its growth set out in its “masterplan” which it charmingly calls (oxymoron) “A Vision For Sustainable Growth.”  The application is likely to be considered by the council on 21st January 2020. Local opposition group, AXO (Airport Expansion Opposition) Southampton is urging people to read the application, and submit their comments. There are serious concerns about road congestion, and increases in air pollution – as well as the inevitable increase in noise. The longer runway would mean larger aircraft could use it. AXO warns that the application should not be decided before the CAA’s Airspace Change consultation process is completed, as this may change significantly the impact on residents under or near the flight path. It also should not be decided until the government has finalised its Aviation Strategy, for all UK aviation, expected in early-mid 2020, when it has taken into account the new legal situation for aviation carbon emissions, with a net-zero target for 2050.

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Heathrow growth – election briefing (one page) from the No 3rd Runway Coalition – check your candidates’ views

The No 3rd Runway Coalition has put together a simple one-page briefing on Heathrow and its proposed new runway, to help people quiz their parliamentary candidates, and check they know the real facts. The Coalition says: “Supporting Heathrow Expansion comes at the expense of the regions and to the UK as a whole.  Here’ s why it should be opposed.” The briefing deals with the Economic costs, the carbon implications, noise, air pollution, transport impacts, and connectivity. Lots of key points, including on economics:  “The Government’ s own economic analysis found that once all negative impacts are monetised, a third runway could bring net NEGATIVE economic benefits to the UK overall in the long term.  There is no explicit job model and no clear job creation analysis included in the Airports National Policy Statement. Many of the few jobs created will be low-skilled and short term.  The costs of the project are now expected to rise to over £31bn, increasing Heathrow’s debt from £11bn (2014) to over £40bn in 2028. This could still increase further.” On noise: “Data from the CAA reveals that 2.2 MILLION people would experience an increase in noise from an expanded Heathrow.”

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Gatwick’s Big Enough Campaign writes to local authorities to ask that all Gatwick expansion plans should be properly scrutinised

The newly formed coalition of community groups, opposing the expansion of Gatwick airport and the noise made by its flights, has written to all the Leaders and CEOs of all Gatwick’s Host and Neighbouring local authorities. The letter proposes actions that Councils could take to ensure that all Gatwick’s proposed growth is properly scrutinised, as is the case at every other major UK airport. In particular it urges Councils to ask the Secretary of State for Transport to direct that Gatwick’s main runway development should be considered a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) requiring development consent (a DCO) using his powers under section 35 of the Planning Act 2008. This would ensure that there was proper scrutiny of all proposed growth, of more flights on the existing runway – as well as more flights by using the current emergency runway as a full runway.  As things stand at present, the approximately 60% increase in flights that Gatwick plans would not require any particular planning scrutiny, while the use of the emergency runway (about 40% of the growth) would.  This is an anomaly. The groups are also keen to discuss the issues with the affected councils.

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Heathrow ordered by CAA to rein in 3rd runway costs – to ensure it is built economically and efficiently

The CAA has inserted a significant new clause into Heathrow’s licence, starting in January 2020, amid concerns that costs on the vast 3rd runway project will spiral out of control. Heathrow will be penalised if it fails to build its £14bn expansion scheme efficiently — the first time such a condition has been imposed on the airport. Airlines, especially British Airways, are nervous that Heathrow will try to get them to pay up-front for construction costs, which would put up the price of air tickets, deterring passengers. The CAA polices the fees the airport charges passengers. It said the new licence clause was needed to “set clear expectations for Heathrow to conduct its business economically and efficiently”. Heathrow says this is disproportionate and could put off investors. IAG boss Willie Walsh has repeatedly complained that Heathrow’s runway scheme is a “gold-plated”, and that there is little incentive for Heathrow to keep costs down. Under a complex incentive system, the more Heathrow spends, the more its owners can earn. Heathrow has already spent £3.3 billion on its plans, which have not even yet passed through legal challenges, let alone the DCO process.

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Greenpeace bring bulldozer to Uxbridge – reminding Boris of his 2015 “lying in front of a bulldozer” comment

On 26th November, Greenpeace brought a big yellow bulldozer to Uxbridge tube station, on the High Street, together with a very comfortable chaise longue, to give the Prime Minister the opportunity to make good on his 2015 promise to ‘lie down in front of those bulldozers and stop the construction of that 3rd runway’. Rival local candidates were invited to do likewise; the LibDem and Labour candidates came to show their opposition to Heathrow’s plans. Boris, of course, did not.  Greenpeace activists delivered leaflets around the constituency, suggesting that they ask all election candidates what they would do about the runway, and vote accordingly.  Boris is thought to be be generally against the runway, but has been notable by his absence of comment on the issue lately.  Greenpeace said: “Since Boris Johnson pledged to lie in front of bulldozers to stop Heathrow’s third runway, a lot has changed. The Amazon is burning, Greenland is melting, Yorkshire has flooded and people have been spotted sunbathing in the UK in February…. we are in a climate emergency”. The 3rd runway is so obviously the sort of development the UK should NOT be building now.

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The Labour, LibDem, Conservative and Green party manifestos – bits on aviation

The election manifestos for the LibDems, Labour, and the Green Party are not available. They all have short sections on aviation. Labour comments (disappointing) include:  “Any expansion of airports must pass our tests on air quality, noise pollution, climate change obligations and countrywide benefits. We will examine fiscal and regulatory options to ensure a response to the climate crisis in a way that is fair to consumers and protects the economy.” LibDem comments include: “Reduce the climate impact of flying by reforming the taxation of international fights to focus on those who fly the most, while reducing costs for those who take one or two international return fights per year, placing a moratorium on the development of new runways (net) in the UK, opposing any expansion of Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted “. The Greens include: “We will lobby against the international rules that prevent action being taken to tax international aviation fuel. … Ban advertising for flights, and introduce a Frequent Flyer Levy to reduce the impact of the 15% of people who take 70% of flights. This Frequent Flyer Levy only applies to people who take more than one (return) flight a year, discouraging excessive lying…  Stop the building of new runways.” Conservatives say nothing of any consequence, avoiding mention of carbon.

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300th Frankfurt Monday demo against aircraft noise – 1,000 people -.  “Only when no one comes, is it over!”

“Deutschland fliegt nicht” means  “Germany does not fly”

Back in October 2011 the Frankfurt airport 3rd runway opened. It was greeted with huge anger, because residents had not been informed how much new noise there would be, and that there would be noise where there previously was none. Huge protests started on Monday evenings (airports are public property in Germany, so protests can happen). These carried on with 250 and often as many as 1,000 people each week. People were devastated by the noise battering they were being subjected to. Now, 8 years later, the protesters have had their 300th protest, again with perhaps almost 1,000 people present. They say they will not give up, until there are no more protesters. “Only when no one comes, is it over.” Their complaints have not been addressed, about noise or particulate air pollution, or the health issues people are suffering – including depression. The airport is continuing to expand, with a new terminal. Its opponents now hope the increasing awareness of carbon emissions from aviation, with campaigns like Fridays for Future, will help put pressure on Frankfurt airport. There is a new campaign against domestic flights. 

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Should consumers be advised on their carbon footprint when they buy an air ticket?

Now that awareness is slowly rising, about the extent and severity of the climate crisis – and the impact of air travel, it is important that people become more responsible about their person carbon footprint.  People need to know how much carbon their flight will emit, and then make a conscious choice whether they want to do that. People are advised to write to the CAA to ask them to do a proper survey on consumer awareness.  Then we need the government to make it compulsory for airlines to include an (accurate) assessment of the carbon emissions, before the booking process is complete.  The suggestion is that the amount of carbon is related and compared to, some household, or daytime activity – such as the day of heating for a standard 3 bedroom house it might equate to. That would make the numbers, in terms of kilos or tonnes of CO2 more concrete and comprehensible.  The CAA has a duty to the consumer but it also has a duty to the environment.  They need to ensure that air passengers can make an informed decision about the amount of carbon they add to the atmosphere by flying.

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“Can we have net zero emissions and still fly?” … probably not …

In a long, interesting article, the Observer looks at the issues of future airline CO2 emissions, and whether it will be possible for more people to keep on taking more flights, into the future – when there is a goal of being “net zero”.  Tim Johnson, Director of the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) says even if the industry could make “sustainable” jet fuel out of rubbish, it is unlikely it would make a real difference. First, these fuels are only used in a 50/50 mix, as chemicals in conventional jet fuel are needed swell the rubber seals on a jet engine making them tight.  There were only 7 million litres of the new fuels used by planes in 2018, which was enough to power the global aviation industry for 10 minutes. And the fuels are twice the price of regular kerosine. The airlines make money through volume, making little profit per passenger – for a huge output of CO2 per passenger. The industry has to keep passenger numbers up and growing to keep profitable. Electric planes are not going to be of use for mass air passenger trips, especially long haul. Carbon offsets of paying for forest in developing countries are not going to be available, once these countries use them for their own offsetting. Cutting the demand for flying will be the only effective way to cut its CO2.

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Scientists say rules on noise pollution, including aircraft noise, should be tightened to protect wildlife

Road traffic, aircraft, ships, factories and oil drilling are all human activities that produce noise, much at frequencies at which many animals communicate. Studies have found noise pollution can affect wildlife, from disrupting their communication to affecting where they live and the efficiency with which they forage for food. For example in bats, they try to locate their prey via acoustic cues, so with noise in the background they can’t really so well and have to fly longer and invest more time and energy to find food. Studies have looked at various aspects of animal behaviour and biology, including changes in hormone levels. Bird communication is affected by noise, making life harder. Some prey species benefit, if the noise makes it harder for predators, but all impacts can affect ecosystems.  A lot more research is needed into the impact of noise on biodiversity, with most studies so far being done on birds. Some birds near airports have been studied, but not specifically those under noisy flight paths. Some birds may become habituated. Some birds may move away if they can. There is little research on these aspects.

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Licence to pollute: the sham of carbon offsetting. It does not remove/negate your carbon

People seem to be waking up to the reality of their carbon emissions. Some people anyway. And some are buying “carbon offsets” to supposedly balance out their carbon emissions -especially those from flights – by investing in projects such as forest planting. But the problem is that most offsetting is near worthless.  It has been riddled with scams and failures. Planting trees is a great idea, but the trees only reabsorb the carbon over decades, not immediately, and only if they are cared for and survive to become fully grown trees. Just planting saplings, that don’t get watered and die in a few years is useless.  Offsetting is often paying some organisation/company to do something to reduce CO2 emissions, so they are a bit lower than they might have been. That does NOT remove the carbon that the flight has emitted. That is now in the atmosphere and will remain there for decades or centuries. Offsetting that removes the amount of carbon your flight has emitted needs to do that permanently.  Trees are great, but when they die in ? 60 -80 years time, that  carbon goes back into the atmosphere. Many offsets are paying for actions that would have been done anyway, as they save the company money. They are not additional savings. Offsetting helps people keep flying, hoping they have salved their conscience with a small donation.  That is unhelpful.

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

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

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

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

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Councils tell government to review Heathrow expansion following climate change developments

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

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

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

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

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

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Heathrow tries to make out that its 3rd runway is vital, as it will lower fares (so increasing yet further the number flying)

Heathrow has accused British Airways of acting against “the consumer and national interest” by attempting to slow down its expansion and “depriving passengers of lower fares.” They would say that, wouldn’t they?  BA’s parent company, IAG, has complained to the CAA about the approximately £3.3bn Heathrow will spend on preparations for the third runway, accusing the airport of covering up costs that will affect airlines.  BA is of course not pure in this; it wants to prevent other airlines at Heathrow, competing with it. It has no qualms about its CO2 emissions rising. Heathrow wants airlines (IAG is the main airline company using Heathrow) to pay towards its 3rd runway plans, before the expansion is complete. IAG is not at all keen on that. Rather pathetically, Heathrow is terrified of being overtaken by any other European airport. Holland-Kaye said: “In two years’ time Charles de Gaulle [in Paris] will overtake Heathrow as the biggest airport in Europe.”  They like to make out that would be a terrible thing for Britain (which it would not be).

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Sadiq Khan attacks London City Airport expansion plans – “unfettered growth is not an option”

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has warned London City Airport that “unfettered growth is not an option” as he criticised its plans for expansion. He said residents must have a break from plane noise, and the airport should take its air pollution and environmental responsibilities more seriously.  The airport, in a densely populated area of east London, is increasingly used for holiday travel – not business – and it wants to increase the current cap of 111,000 flights/year to 137,000 by 2030 and to 151,000 by 2035.  It hopes for 5 million passengers this year, but wants up to 6.5 million per year.  The Mayor said the current plans “would not be in the interest of Londoners”. He said noise from planes was a “fundamental issue” as changes to flight paths three years ago meant some areas were being flown over too often. Also that breaks from flights – overnight, and for 24 hours from lunchtime on Saturday – “must not be eroded” and the airport should use new technology to give residents more relief, not just to maximise profits. He said the airport must consider CO2 emissions from flights in its carbon reduction plans, as its current target of “net zero emissions by 2050 “does not include flights – only airport terminals, vehicles, and other ground operations.

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Global air freight tonnage has been falling for the past year – IATA expect no growth in 2019

Heathrow hopes, if it ever got its 3rd runway (looking increasingly unlikely for a range of reasons …) to get a 50% or so increase in air freight.  Manston hopes to re-open as a freight airport.  But the increase in tonnage of air freight over the past few years has not been large.  In the UK over the past 10 years, CAA data show an increase in tonnage of 11.6% between 2008 and 2018. Global data from IATA, which produces a report on air freight for most months, indicates tonnages have been falling for the past year.  IATA comments from August 2019 state:  “• Industry-wide air freight tonne kilometres fell by 3.9% year-on-year in August – a faster speed of decline compared to the previous month. … the industry continues to face headwinds from weakening global trade and softness in a number of key economic indicators. • The deterioration in air freight has been broad-based across the regions in August .. . [as in the] past nine months, Asia Pacific was the main contributor to the industry decline. • Industry-wide air freight capacity increased by 2% compared to a year ago. With capacity rising against contracting demand, the industry-wide air freight load factor dropped by 2.7% compared to a year ago”. IATA says growth is anticipated to be flat in 2019.

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Environment minister Zac Goldsmith says ‘bonkers’ Heathrow expansion ‘unlikely’ to go ahead, and would not survive a proper review

Zac Goldsmith, the environment minister, said he did not believe the plans for a Heathrow 3rd runway would survive a government-commissioned review – despite the Commons backing it last year. In mid August, the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the project could still be scrapped after questioning whether it “stacks up” financially.  Zac said of the runway plan: “I think it’s a bonkers scheme, and all the arguments that I’ve been using for the last ten years and repeating ad nauseam are true, in my view, and I see nothing to persuade me that they’re wrong… It’s currently out of government hands because it’s been through parliament…. Unfortunately, Parliament voted for it overwhelmingly – I’m still surprised by some of the MPs who voted for it, who nevertheless campaign heavily on things like climate change and air quality, but they did.”  He added that the airport will “struggle to come up with the cash”, so needing the Government to stomp up “really vast sums of money”, which the public would oppose. An “entirely objective” review into the plans would find that it was “a bad project”, and it may not survive the detailed planning and policy processes.

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Sutton Council reconfirmed its determination to fight 3rd Heathrow runway plan, and that it has joined the No 3rd Runway Coalition

Sutton Council has been opposed to a 3rd runway at Heathrow Airport for many years, due to the negative impact on noise, air pollution, the local environment and roads and public transport. Cllr Ruth Dombey, Leader of Sutton Council, said: “We’ve been campaigning against Heathrow expansion for over a decade but given this government’s support of the plans, it is important to reconfirm our clear position against Heathrow expansion. We want our residents to know that we share their concerns, that the expansion is not a done deal and that they can count on the Sutton Liberal Democrats to work tirelessly with the “No 3rd Runway coalition” and others partners to continue this fight. The Conservative government is wrong to press ahead with this highly contentious, damaging policy and we will oppose them all the way.” The Council document said Heathrow plans took “no account of the recent announcements on climate change, in particular the declarations of a climate emergency by boroughs across London and the key issue of achieving carbon neutrality that these declarations raise.”  On 22 July 2019, Sutton council declared a climate emergency.

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At Heathrow legal appeal hearings, lawyers for WWF UK say 3rd runway would violate climate rights of children

The High Court is hearing appeals, against the decision by the government to designate the Airports NPS, despite strong arguments – including those on carbon emissions, why it should be refused. The appeals (also one by “Heathrow Hub”) are due to last 5 days, and are by the Mayor of London, four councils, and Greenpeace; also by Friends of the Earth; and Plan B Earth.  Lawyers are arguing that the rights of children were not taken into account by the government when it approved the third runway. The Court has allowed the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to submit documents arguing the planned expansion violates the rights of children and future generations under the UN convention on the rights of the child. Our children and grandchildren will face the greatest impact of the climate crisis. The High Court ruled in spring that the government’s decision to allow a 3rd runway was lawful. Since then, it has signed into law a commitment for the UK to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The intervention by WWF comes after young people spearheaded the biggest climate change protest in history last month, and follows Greta Thunberg’s challenge to world leaders that their inaction was letting down a generation.

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Outside Court for legal appeals, John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor, says fight against Heathrow 3rd runway on verge of victory

Speaking to the protest gathering outside the High Court, before the start of the legal appeals against Heathrow expansion, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell considered that the campaigns against the runway plans were on the verge of victory; the situation had moved on from when the legal challenges started, as the UK has now both declared a climate emergency and legislated for a net-zero emissions target.  He praised campaigners outside court for their persistent actions over many years, and said: “I think legislatively things have moved and politically, with the current campaigning by Extinction Rebellion, the pressure is on all politicians to recognise this is a project that cannot stand.”  Five legal challenges were brought against the Secretary of State for Transport, in March. Two were entirely on grounds of climate change (Friends of the Earth and Plan B Earth). The court dismissed the challenges on 1st May, and appeals have been allowed for four of them. Opening the appeal, Lord Justice Lindblom said the hearing would raise matters of obvious importance, which would be of interest to a national and international audience. Much hinges on whether the correct UK carbon targets, and commitments under the 2015 Paris agreement were properly taken into account when approving the 3rd runway.

The 5 day Court hearing will be  live streamed on the judiciary’s YouTube channel

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Government response to CCC advice on how the UK will achieve net-zero; woefully poor on cutting aviation CO2

The Government has produced “The Government Response to the Committee on Climate Change’s 2019 Progress Report to Parliament – Reducing UK emissions”.  It is very weak on aviation, stating:  “The Aviation 2050 Green Paper was published in December 2018 and proposed accepting the CCC’s long-standing planning assumption that for an economy-wide target of an 80% emissions reduction, aviation emissions in 2050 should be no higher than those in 2005 (i.e. 37.5 MtCO2e). It also proposed a requirement that airports’ planning applications for capacity growth must demonstrate that their emissions do not impact on our ability to meet carbon reduction targets.” No mention of the UK zero carbon target, ie. 100 % cuts, not the 80%.  It says: “Following the aviation advice we received from the CCC in September 2019, we intend to consult on how we are going to achieve a sustainable growth of the aviation sector and update our position on aviation and climate change.” While the CCC recommended formal inclusion of international aviation and shipping emissions in the Climate Change Act net-zero target, all the DfT says is it is “minded to include these emissions in domestic legislation at a later date, subject to future progress in ICAO.”

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Willie Walsh says Heathrow runway unlikely to go ahead, due to rising environmental concerns

Willie Walsh, boss of BA’s owner IAG believes the £14bn (or is it £32?) 3rd runway at Heathrow is unlikely to go ahead due to a growing backlash over the environment. He said the huge project is likely to fall flat despite finally winning approval from Parliament last year. He said: “I think it is a bigger challenge today than it was a year ago. And I can’t see it getting any easier.  Two years ago I would have said it was probably 60/40 that it would go ahead. I’m probably 60/40 against it going ahead at this stage. I wouldn’t rule it out completely.”  Mr Walsh said that the huge costs involved, coupled with the carbon emissions from an extra 700 plans in the air every day after the new runway opens in 2026, will make it increasingly difficult to pull off. “They are really going to struggle to justify the environmental impact, when the economic argument to expand the airport gets undermined by the cost of the expansion.  I think the next six to 12 months are going to be critical.”

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Solidarity Rally for Appeals on Heathrow Legal Challenges  –  Thursday 17th October – 8.45am

​The No 3rd Runway Coalition are organising a solidarity rally again outside the Court. The details are as follows:

Where? Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, Holborn, London WC2A 2LL

When? Assemble at 0845 for a 0900 photo.

Speeches from 0905 (approx.) until 0930. (Final list of speakers to be confirmed).

Sufficient time should be allowed to queue and enter the court prior to the hearing beginning – this will either be 1000 or 1030 but we won’t know until a couple of days before.

Please bring yourselves, family, friends and colleagues!


Government CO2 net zero commitment challenged in High Court, on Heathrow expansion NPS

A cross-party group of politicians will join claimants, campaigners and residents outside the High Court on the morning of Thursday 17th October as the legal challenge against the proposed expansion of Heathrow continues, with the Government’s new target of net zero emission by 2050 a key element of the judicial review.  The Court of Appeal will be hearing the challenges from Local Authorities, the Mayor of London and Greenpeace as well as Friends of the Earth, Plan B Earth and Heathrow Hub. The challenges are being made against the decision to designate the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS). One ground is the incompatibility of the expansion plans with the UK’s climate change commitments.  The previous challenge was dismissed by the High Court on a technicality as the Government had not incorporated the Paris Agreement into law. The Climate Change Act (2008) has now been amended to incorporate a target of Net Zero by 2050, which places an even more pressing demand upon Government to limit the expansion of carbon intensive infrastructure. The No 3rd Runway Coalition said: “It’s now vital for Government to pause plans for Heathrow expansion, to reassess airport capacity strategy for the whole country.”

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Huge expansion plans by all UK airports mean carbon cap would be greatly exceeded

The UK aviation sector has massive expansion plans, that would take its carbon emissions way above even a lax future cap. UK airports are planning to expand almost three times faster than the government’s climate change advisers, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), say is sustainable. Sky News has done an analysis, which shows the “masterplans” for 21 of the country’s biggest airports show they intend to add 192 million passengers to the 286 million that already use their terminals, over the next 10-20 years.  That’s a growth of 67%. It far exceeds the ceiling of “at most 25%” that the Committee on Climate Change has told the Department of Transport is the limit for sustainable growth if the UK is to meet its commitment for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Heathrow plans for almost 50 million more passengers per year (it had about 80 million in 2018). Gatwick hopes to add 24 million passengers to the 46 million per year it now has. Southampton hopes to expand from 2 million to 5 million passengers by 2037 – an increase of 151%. Doncaster Sheffield airport, wants passenger numbers to grow from 1.2 to 7.2 million. Belfast City airport wants to almost double the number of passengers to four million over the coming years. And so on.

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Polling reveals 64% of Britons are concerned about the climate impact of Heathrow 3rd runway, and only about 25% back it

A poll conducted by YouGov Plc, for Friends of the Earth (FoE), showed that 64% of people, after being told the potential benefits and negatives impacts of the Heathrow 3rd runway plans, were concerned about its climate impact.  The survey also showed that only 1 in 4 people  (25%) support the plans. The online survey’s total sample size was 2,017 adults and fieldwork was undertaken between 4th – 6th October 2019.  Numbers were weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).  The 50% planned increase in the number of flights at Heathrow (about 700 more movements than now) would mean almost 50% more carbon emissions, that would all but destroy any chances of the UK meeting its targets for cutting CO2 emissions and fighting climate breakdown.  The poll results come as FoE prepares to take its legal case against Heathrow’s 3rd runway plans to the Court of Appeal on climate grounds. The court will hear an appeal against the High Court’s decision that the government had not breached its sustainable development duties by allowing the expansion of Heathrow. The hearing begins on Thursday 17 October and is expected to last six days.

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Report for the CCC recommends not only a levy on number of flights someone takes, but their length (and seat class)

A report written by Dr Richard Carmichael from Imperial College London, for the Committee on Climate Change, sets out several important recommendations on how to reduce the demand for, and the carbon emissions from, air travel. One recommendation is to impose a frequent flyer levy, that not only takes account of the number of flights a person takes in a year, but the distance travelled (and thus the carbon emitted). This should also include class of ticket bought, as premium classes cause the emission of much more carbon than economy seats. The levy would help discourage long-haul flights: as most flying is for leisure, some shift from long-haul to short-haul destinations would be expected, delivering further emissions reductions. Averaging-out flying habits over a longer period than one year would also be fairer: a 3-4-year period, for example, could mean a traveller could take a long-haul trip without incurring a substantial levy if they took few other flights during the rest of the period. The complexity of administering this levy need not be onerous, though would need a central database storing total miles flown in the accounting period under a passport number.

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Imperial College report for the CCC says Air Miles schemes, which needless encourage frequent flying, should be banned

Air miles schemes should be axed as they encourage jet-setters to take extra flights in a bid to maintain “privileged traveller status”, according to a report by Imperial College, London, commissioned by the government’s climate change advisers, the Committee on Climate Change. Encouraging those who already fly a lot, to fly even more, is completely the wrong way to try to cut the carbon emissions from aviation. The report says: “The greatest beneficiaries of aviation’s generous tax treatment in the UK (it is exempt from fuel duty and zero-rated for VAT) are therefore those who pollute most and could most easily afford to pay more. The norm of unlimited flying being acceptable needs to be challenged and, as a very highly-polluting luxury, it is suitable to taxation.”  It also recommends: “Introduce regulation to ban frequent flyer reward schemes that stimulate demand”. And: “Raise awareness and encourage more responsible flying by mandating that all marketing of flights show emissions information expressed in terms that are meaningful to consumers.”  Also: “Introducing restrictions to ‘all-you-can-fly’ passes and loyalty schemes which offer air miles would remove incentives to excessive or stimulated flying.”

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Offsetting by passengers on flights won’t get us to net zero, says AEF in response to government offsetting consultation

The Department for Transport’s held a consultation “Carbon offsetting in transport: a call for evidence” which closed on 26th September.  The consultation outlined a proposal to require all air travel providers and other providers of ticketed travel to give passengers the option to buy a carbon offset for their journey. The Aviation Environment Federation did a response, in which they agree with the CCC’s view that “the UK should not plan to meet is climate change obligations using international offset credits.” They also agree with the EU’s decision to exclude international offsets from its ETS. There are few good quality carbon offsets available, and very few deliver CO2 reductions beyond what would have happened anyway. In the not-too-distant future, when all countries and sectors are cutting their emissions, there will not be many spare credits available. AEF say: “But a key argument against offsetting is that it risks distracting from the need to rein in aviation demand in order to tackle emissions.” People think that having bought a cheap offset for a few ££s means that’s all OK, and they can book another flight.  It delays real cuts in aviation emissions, that can only be achieved by the industry not expanding.

See the excellent response in full

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IAG now rattled by growing awareness of carbon emissions from flying, and possibly lower passenger numbers

The airline industry is feeling under threat, from growing awareness across society – and it many other countries – that its carbon emissions are a problem. It fears there will be a drop in passenger numbers, if the concept of “flying shame” catches on, and if more people decide to fly less. So the industry is fighting back, with claims about how it is a “force for good” in the world, and how it is working really, really hard to reduce its emissions. Doing everything it can, other than actually not trying to keep growing. Willie Walsh admits aviation will keep on burning huge amounts of fossil fuel for decades, as there are no real alternatives (other than very tiny amounts of alternative fuels). He admits that the only solution is carbon offsets, as the emissions from aviation rise, and so at best emissions are net, not gross.  Increases in aviation carbon just wipe out the cuts made elsewhere.  The industry like to keep emphasising that the cost of flying must not be raised, putting it out of reach of the poor – but ignores the solution, that a frequent flyer levy could be imposed, giving each person a free flight per year, with escalating tax on subsequent flights. Most flights are taken by people who fly several (or many) times per year.  IAG wants to give the impression of being a leader in carbon responsibility …while continuing with “business as usual” flying as much as it can.

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Skeleton arguments by Plan B Earth for their legal appeal against government approval of the Airports NPS

The legal appeals against the decision of the High Court, to reject the legal challenges against the Secretary of State for Transport (SST) decision to designate the Airports National Policy Statement (NPS), starts on 17th October, at the Appeal Court, in the Strand. The ANPS gave approval for a 3rd Heathrow runway.  One of the four parties who are appealing is Plan B Earth, on grounds of the increased carbon emissions that the runway would produce. The Plan B skeleton argument (14 pages) has been publicised, and this says the SST and the court below proceeded on the false assumption that “Government policy relating to … climate change” was confined to a) (The minimum target established by CCA s. 1 as it was then, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050 compared to a 1990 baseline) and that  b) (a commitment to introduce a new UK target in accordance with the Paris Agreement (a commitment which has now been implemented into law, via a change to CCA s.1)  should be disregarded.  Also that neither the SST nor the court below, have advanced any explanation for disregarding the Committee on Climate Change’s clear position on this issue. “If the court below had given proper account to these matters, and properly considered the advice of the CCC, it would have been driven to the conclusion that the ANPS was fundamentally flawed and that it should be quashed.”

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Islington Council agrees motion on opposition to Heathrow Expansion & the introduction of concentrated flight paths over Islington

Islington Council has agreed a motion, to oppose the expansion of Heathrow, and the introduction of concentrated flight paths over Islington. This was debated by the Council on 26th September. The Council believes:  That expansion of Heathrow is not compatible with the climate emergency recently declared by the UK Parliament and by this Council. And  That noise impacts from additional flights over London would have a negative impact on the health and quality of life of Islington residents.  It therefore resolves to:  Oppose expansion of airport capacity in London if the Government cannot demonstrate that it is accommodated within the emissions budget that the CCC recommends for aviation in 2050, as well as other environmental limits, such as air quality.  Make representations to London City Airport and the CAA calling for a fairer distribution of flight paths in London.  Make representations to the Government urging UK Aviation Noise policy to be brought into line with WHO recommendations.  Register as an ‘Interested Party” in the Development Consent Order Process for the proposed expansion of Heathrow.  Investigate joining the No Third Runway Coalition as a local authority member

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Badly thought-through aviation carbon targets, involving biofuels, risk massive deforestation to grow palmoil and soya

A new report shows that the aviation industry’s attempts to cut its carbon emissions (caused by encouraging more and more people to take more flights….) are likely to lead to a dramatic increase in demand for palm oil and soy for aviation biofuels. They suggest the amount of tropical forest that would be taken for this could be 3.2 million hectares – an area larger than Belgium. The aviation industry hopes to be able to use as much alternative fuel as possible, and hopes this will be classed as lower carbon than conventional kerosene jet fuel. These hopes are unrealistic. To try to prevent climate destabilisation from worsening, the world needs as much forest as possible left standing, intact and health. The last thing we need is forest being cut down, in order to produce fuel for planes – largely for hedonistic leisure travel.  It makes no sense to destroy so much forest, and its biodiversity, for such an inessential reason. The report says the only technology currently operating at a commercial scale to make bio-jet fuel is the ‘HEFA’ (Hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids) process using vegetable oils and animal fats. The cheapest and most readily available feedstocks for HEFA jet fuel are palm oil and soy oil, which are closely linked to tropical deforestation – not to mention competition for land for human food.

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Climate perks: new scheme encouraging employers to give staff extra paid holiday days, to travel overland, not by plane

Travel habits may be starting to change, as climate awareness – and our sense of personal responsibility for it – are growing.  A survey by Trainline indicated about two-thirds of Brits  want to try to try to choose more sustainable options. But people still want to travel a lot, and a constraint is time time travelling overland takes – compared to air travel. A new initiative, the the 10:10 climate action campaign, called Climate Perks, is being launched, to encourage employers to help staff take lower carbon forms of transport for their holidays. That means giving them a few extra paid days holiday, on which to travel.  This can empower staff to act on their values.  In exchange, employers receive Climate Perks accreditation in recognition of their climate leadership. The carbon emissions from travelling by train or coach are far lower than those for the same trip by plane – they might be a quarter or a third of those by plane. Even a [non-gas-guzzler …!] car, with 4 people in it, has far lower CO2 emissions than if those people all flew. And there are benefits of appreciating the distance travelled, and stopping off at places en route, to visit them too. The journey becomes a valuable part of the holiday.

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Increase in numbers trying to cut the amount they fly could reduce plane sales by Airbus and Boeing

The Swedish concept of “flygskam” or “flight shame” appears to be spreading.  A survey by (bank) UBS of more than 6,000 people has revealed that a growing number of travellers in Europe and America have already reduced the number of flights they took over the last year,  because of heightened environmental awareness. Around 25% of flyers in France, Germany and the U.S said they had reduced flights. Only 16% of Brits (16%) said climate change had encouraged them to take one less flight.  It may be that over 25% are now “thinking about it,” when asked if climate worries could affect travel plans – up from 20% in May. Global air travel has been grown by between 4% and 5% a year, so overall numbers are doubling every 15 years. UBS is expecting higher costs of flying, and growing climate concern, could reduce intra-European traffic growth over the next 20 years to 1.5% per year versus the 3% per year currently estimated by Airbus. The number could be 1.3% growth in the US, compared to 2.1%, over the next decade or so. That could have a big impact on aircraft manufacturers, cutting profits.

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Heathrow might get over £1 billion per year from its congestion charge, at £29 or more per day per vehicle

Heathrow could make £1.2 billion a year from a congestion (vehicle access) charge levied on drivers arriving at the airport by car, according to analysis. Heathrow has committed to expanding without any extra cars on the road. The new charging, that might be introduced when (or IF) a 3rd runway opened – which the airport hopes would be in 2026 – could grow by 2040 to yield as much as £3.25 million per day.  The charge, is set to cost £29 a day, based on today’s prices, then rising. As many as 65,000 vehicles would pay the charge each day.  It would eventually be levied on all cars, including those with the lowest emissions, and is designed to act to encourage drivers to choose public transport to get to and from Heathrow. In reality, there would not be enough bus and train capacity to deal with all the extra passengers. The number needing to travel by public transport might be 140 million more than now – a 75% increase.  There is likely to be no way for drivers in the area, not associated with the airport, to avoid being charged.  Heathrow says then money it gets (why does Heathrow get to keep it?) from the charge “will help to improve sustainable transport and keep passenger charges affordable…”

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More direct Eurostar services to be created, including western France and German cities – helping cut flights

At present, travellers to Amsterdam by Eurostar have a direct trip on the way out, but have to change at Brussels on the return, for security, customs and immigration checks. This is now to change. Direct services will start, between Amsterdam and St Pancras on December 15th.  In future these checks will take place at Dutch stations. For London – Amsterdam passengers, security and customs checks take place before boarding at St Pancras, and that will continue. Netherlands Railways (NS) and Eurostar are working to complete facilities such as segregated platforms and waiting facilities, so security and immigration checks can be transferred to Rotterdam Central and Amsterdam Central. Another change, helping more travellers to use rail rather than flying, is that Eurostar plans to merge with another operator, enabling direct train services and an integrated network covering 5 countries. With the new system, a direct rail journey from London to Bordeaux would take about four-and-a-half hours. There would also be direct trains to Cologne, Düsseldorf, Essen, Aachen and Dortmund. Already in summer there are trains to Marseilles.  The number of passengers across the combined network might rise by by two thirds over the next 10 years, from 18.5 million to 30 million.

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Heathrow expansion dealt huge blow by Committee on Climate Change aviation carbon advice

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has advised the Government that aviation will become the biggest source of carbon in the UK by 2050 and that expansion at Heathrow leaves very little room for growth at any other airport. In the letter, CCC Chair Lord Deben states that demand for aviation will need to be reduced and policies implemented to help limit that demand. The CCC state that Government need to reassess its airport capacity strategy to ensure that the increase in air travel demand by 2050 is half what is currently predicted. They suggest that a frequent flyer levy would help to curb the demand for growth or alternatively Government could raise taxes on airlines or restrict airport capacity growth. In a direct blow to aviation industry claims of technological solutions to aviation’s carbon problem, the CCC states that zero-carbon aviation is highly unlikely to be feasible by 2050. It estimates that aviation emissions could be reduced by around just 20% through improvements to fuel efficiency, some use of low carbon fuels, and limiting demand growth. Paul McGuinness, Chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said:  “The Government must now commit to amending the Airports National Policy Statement in light of the climate emergency.”

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Committee on Climate Change advice to the Government on aviation: it must be included in the UK net-zero target

The advice from the Government’s statutory advisors on climate issues, the CCC, to the Government, says it is important that the carbon emissions of international aviation and shipping (IAS) are formally included into the UK net-zero target. This needs to complement international action to reduce aviation carbon.  The CCC letter, from its Chairman Lord Deben, says the aim should be for international aviation to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, and this should be reflected in the Government’s forthcoming Aviation Strategy . “It means reducing actual emissions in the IAS sectors” and the CCC considers this “is likely to require some use of greenhouse gas removals (GGRs) to offset remaining emissions.” The limit of 30 MtCO2 per year, by UK aviation, requires demand growth of no more than 25%  compared to 2018. That would only be possible if there are significant improvements in aircraft efficiency, maybe 10% of low carbon fuels, and some increased flight charges.  But the UK is aiming at net zero by 2050. The CCC says aviation will have to pay to capture some CO2 from the atmosphere, and that only offsets that actually remove CO2 – rather than trying to stop more being emitted, would be acceptable. 

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Committee on Climate Change advice to government on aviation: flying will have to become more expensive

In a letter to Grant Shapps, the Secretary of State for Transport, Lord Deben, Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC – the government’s statutory advisor) warns that flying will have to become more expensive, especially for frequent flyers, to avoid climate chaos and keep the UK within its carbon targets. The letter also warns that going ahead with a Heathrow 3rd runway would all but rule out airport expansion in the rest of the country.  Demand for aviation will have to be reduced, in order that aviation carbon is kept under some degree of control, while the UK has a zero carbon target for 2050. Ways demand could be reduced might be increased APD, new levies on frequent flyers and changes to air taxation relative to rail and road. Aviation is likely to become the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK by 2050. The CCC says the government “should assess its airport capacity strategy in the context of net zero. Specifically, investments will need to be demonstrated to make economic sense in a net-zero world…” In other words, does it make sense to build another Heathrow runway, when future demand for air travel will have to be limited. The CCC’s Chairman, Chris Stark said: “But it’s very important that the government is honest about aviation emissions.”

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Global airlines’ CO2 emissions rising up to 70% faster than predicted by ICAO

Worldwide CO2 emissions from commercial flights are rising up to 70% faster than predicted by the UN, according to analysis by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT).  They found that CO2 emitted by airlines increased by 32% from 2013 to 2018, and was about 918 million tonnes (for passengers + freight) in 2018. This rate of growth is higher even than the projections by ICAO. ICCT says: “The implied annual compound growth rate of emissions, 5.7%, is 70% higher than those used to develop ICAO’s projections that CO2 emissions from international aviation will triple under business as usual by 2050.”  The UK has particularly high aviation CO2 emissions, per capita – being responsible for 4% of global aviation CO2 emissions, behind only the US (24%) and China (13%), and the whole EU (18%). The only plan ICAO has to cut aviation carbon is an “aspirational goal” to make all growth in international flights after 2020 “carbon neutral” by buying carbon offsets from other sectors (effectively cancelling out carbon cuts made elsewhere). Small efficiency gains have been made, of 1 – 2% per year, but are dwarfed by industry growth rates of over 5% per year. Our Grant Shapps is waffling about electric planes …. which will NOT solve the problem.

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Jeremy Corbyn urged to block all airport expansion under radical plan to slash carbon emissions by 2030

Labour could end all airport expansion in the UK under radical plans drawn up by party activists to cut carbon emissions to net zero by 2030. With Corbyn saying climate change one of his top priorities, his supporters hope to push their proposals to a vote at the Labour conference next week, to make them official policy.  There are at least 7 motions to the conference, submitted by local branches, asking for an end to more construction and growth of airports. Environmentally aware Labour members “specifically want to see radical policy on the climate and if you’re talking about net zero by 2030…one of the less radical things, to help decarbonise the economy, will be not building any more airports.”  Separately, Labour for a Green New Deal, a prominent grassroots campaign group, has claimed that “opposition to airport expansion should be as natural to the Labour Party…as support for new green jobs.”  Labour party members are being asked to boycott the many events at the conference sponsored by Heathrow and Gatwick airports (they always sponsor conference stuff, hoping to gain favour…).  The problem for Labour is the unions, Unite in particular, which have members working in the aviation sector..

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Ealing Council demands Heathrow pay up £190 million to offset the impact of a 3rd runway

In its response to the Heathrow consultation, Ealing Council has said it will do everything it can to oppose the expansion of Heathrow Airport – unless it is given £190 million for mitigation measures, investment and new transport links.  Ealing Council said the current plans would create unacceptable levels of noise and pollution for its residents. “The council is demanding a £190 million package [it was £150 million in October 2016] of mitigation and investment for the borough, should expansion go ahead.  This includes getting better insulation for home owners to combat noise and increasing the catchment area covered by the scheme.  The council also wants new investment to improve public transport, so more airport passengers and employees can travel to the airport by greener means, reducing air pollution locally.” Other demands included greater investment in skills and employment – and also a commitment to a total night time flight ban, except in emergencies.  The Council Leader said there has to be a balance  between economic benefits and the very real noise and environmental impacts on local people, and  “Despite some positive engagement, we haven’t really seen much movement on some of the concessions we’ve been seeking.

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Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC) announce a major campaign to challenge Gatwick’s Master Plan

Under the banner Gatwick’s Big Enough community groups around Gatwick have joined forces with GACC (Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign) to call Gatwick to account over their Master Plan growth proposals.  The airport plans to grow to be the size of Heathrow today, with an increase in flights in the next 10 years to 390,000 pa (1,050 or more per day), and passenger numbers to 70 million passengers per year (190,000 or more per day). By contrast the current numbers are around  283,000 flights in 2018, and 46 million passengers.  That growth will bring increased misery to thousands through noise, pollution and impacts on local infrastructure.  They also mean a massive increase in CO2 emissions caused by the additional flights estimated at an increase of almost 1 million tonnes CO2 (circa 37% increase) per annum by 2050. The new campaign group is already challenging Gatwick’s attempts to bypass full scrutiny on its main runway growth plans through use of the Planning Permitted Development processes. It has made a submission to the Planning Inspectorate for Gatwick’s use of its emergency runway to be fully used. It is also planning challenges to plans for a 3rd runway.

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

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

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Aviation now contributes 4.9% of climate change worldwide

Work by the IPCC now estimates that aviation accounted for 4.9% of man-made climate impacts in 2005. This contrasts with the 2% figure that is constantly quoted by aviation lobbyists, and 3% which the same authors quoted two years ago. They have now revised their estimates with 2 important changes: including for the first time estimates of cirrus cloud formation and allowing for aviation growth between 2000 and 2005. The effect of these is to increase aviation’s impacts to 3.5% without cirrus and 4.9% including cirrus. 23.5.2009  More  …


Committee on Climate Change.

4th Carbon Budget UK should commit to a 60% cut in emissions by 2030 as a contribution to global efforts to combat climate change.

Aviation emissions must be no higher in 2050 than in 2005, and to do this, all other sectors must cut by 85% by 2050 to allow aviation to grow by 60%

The Committee on Climate Change today recommended a Carbon Budget for 2023-27 and a target for emissions reductions in 2030 – halfway between now and 2050. The recommended target for 2030, to cut emissions by 60% relative to 1990 levels (46% relative to current levels), would then require a 62% emissions reduction from 2030 to meet the 2050 target in the Climate Change Act. The Carbon Budget says international aviation and shipping should be included, and it is vital that UK aviation emissions in 2050 are no higher than in 2005.  Also that, as technologies to cut aviation emissions are not readily available, other sectors of the economy will need to cut by 85% in 2050 in order to let aviation grow by 60%.  7.12.2010  More ….. . . .