* * * * main Heathrow news stories * * * *
Inspector at Bristol Airport expansion inquiry says views of the public will be properly taken into account
The public inquiry into the possible future expansion of Bristol airport started on 22nd July and is expected to last for 10 weeks. There are concerns, as at many inquiries, that the views of the public will not be taken into account, and not fully considered. Campaigners have warned that ignoring thousands of comments opposing the expansion of Bristol Airport, from residents and others, would damage public trust and threaten the integrity of local democracy. However, planning inspector Phillip Ware said: “We’ve read an enormous amount of written material that’s come in from people for and against. We’ve obviously got a lot of people appearing at the inquiry in person and virtually. It is absolutely not a tick-box exercise. We will be dealing with the public views in our decision whichever way the decision goes.” Green MP Caroline Lucas said: “Local democracy thoroughly considered the airport’s plans and decided against them and despite this the airport has now ignored these voices and called for this appeal. Now not only does that threaten to override local democracy, it also threatens the efforts that local communities and councils are trying to take to address the climate crisis themselves.”
Tom Tugendhat letter to Aviation Minister – on need for proper scrutiny of Gatwick future main runway growth
The expansion that Gatwick might perhaps eventually be allowed, by using its emergency runway as a full runway, would require proper scrutiny through the planning Development Control process (DCO). The airport might be able to handle up to an extra 50,000 annual flights by doing that. However, more expansion and more extra annual flights could be added, by making more use of the single main runway. That might add another 60,000 annual flights (about 16 million annual passengers). But because there would be no physical building work required (no extra runway length or extra terminal) there would be no planning permission needed, and no chance for public scrutiny of the impacts of the gradual expansion. Now Tom Tugendhat (MP for Tonbridge & Malling) has written to Robert Courts, the Aviation Minister, to ask for a meeting to discuss this anomaly. He says the main runway growth would be “more than the aggregate growth at the 5 UK airports that are currently seeking expansion. In each of those cases the proposed growth has been robustly scrutinised and communities have been able to have their say. The government cannot simply ignore the greater impacts at Gatwick because it has different planning position.”
Heathrow losses now £2.9bn and consolidated net debt £15.2 bn
Heathrow has announced that its cumulative losses from the Covid-19 pandemic have hit £2.9 billion. In its results for the first half of 2021, Heathrow’s revenue dropped from £712 million in the first six months of 2020 to £348 million in the first half of 2021, which is 51.1% less than in the first half of 2020, and 76.2% less than the first half of 2019. Its pre-tax loss widened 18% to a little over £1 billion. It had 3.85m passengers, which is 75.1% less than the same period in 2020, and 90.1% less than the first half of 2019. Heathrow (it has a complex structure of numerous companies and levels) had consolidated net debt of £15.2 billion — not much less than the airport’s £16.9 billion regulated asset base (RAB), or the CAA’s proxy for its value. Heathrow had been allowed, by the CAA, to increase its RAB by £300 million, to £16.9 billion. Its chief executive John Holland-Kaye is using the half-year figures to warn about a covenant waiver on its various loans. The group of Heathrow companies has £4.8 billion of liquidity, (ie. ability to borrow) with average cost of debt just 1.64%.
Taxpayers face near £900m bill for Heathrow western rail link, if airport won’t pay
It was announced in September 2020 that the Great Western rail link between Reading and Heathrow would be delayed by up to two years. It was first proposed in 2012. A DCO application to construct the new line is not expected for some time – end of 2022. Heathrow was set to pay for much of the cost, as the link would benefit its passengers. But in April Heathrow withdrew its funding, because of the crisis in its finances due to the pandemic. Other funding from the private sector will be “much smaller” than previously envisaged. So it looks as if taxpayers may have to fund most of a £900m bill. The rail minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, told a parliamentary committee last week that he would recommend that taxpayers pay instead, as part of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s spending review this autumn. Network Rail said that the Department for Transport had asked it to delay beginning the project by a year until the winter of 2022. It said it would not progress until there was a satisfactory financial arrangement, “including an appropriate financial contribution from Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL); this requires endorsement by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) as the relevant regulator.”
SAF competing for fuel feedstocks will have negative impacts on many other sectors
The aviation industry, and its enthusiastic backers like the UK government, are keen to claim the problem of the sector’s vast carbon emissions can be solved, fairly soon, by SAF (“sustainable aviation fuels”). They agree these should not come directly from agricultural crops, competing with human food and animal fodder for land. They will instead come (as well as fuels produced using electricity) from agricultural, forestry and domestic wastes. These would be the feedstocks. But there are significant problems, so far apparently overlooked by governments etc, about competing uses for those feedstocks. There are already markets for used cooking oil, and it can all be used for animal food, or in other industries. Taking crop wastes off the land not only means lower organic matter returned to the soil, reducing its structure and fertility, but also its removal for other uses – such as for animal bedding. There are competing uses for forestry waste, such as the paper and pulp industry. Feedstocks could be used to make diesel for road vehicles, or burned to produce electricity. So if aviation wants these feedstocks, there will be competition and higher prices for other sectors. These problems should not be ignored in the mindlessly optimistic rush for the illusion of “jet zero”.
Chris Stark (CCC) on how aviation needs to cut its emissions, only using CCS – which it must pay for – as a last resort
The Head of the Climate Change Committee (CCC), Chris Stark, has given evidence to the Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) on the aspirations of the aviation sector to get to “net zero” by 2050, and the government’s “jet zero” plan. He said aviation, unlike other transport sectors, was unlikely to meet targets for net zero by 2050. The sector should pay for costly engineered carbon removal technologies (CCS) rather than rely on using the planting of trees to claim they are reducing CO2 emissions. And these offsets and removal technologies should only be used as a last resort, after direct cuts of carbon and emissions by the industry itself. He said carbon removal technologies are not a “free pass” for the industry. Removals are expensive, and the sector should pay for them themselves – which would put up ticket prices. It was regrettable that the DfT’s transport decarbonisation plan had not mentioned the necessity of reducing air travel demand. There is a danger that the tech does not deliver. The plans need to be assessed every 5 years, and though that is a difficult choice for government, demand management may have to be considered in future.
Stansted Airport Watch submits response to CMA consultation on greenwash; examples from Stansted and Ryanair
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which regulates business behaviour, has finally stepped in to try to end ‘greenwashing’ and has asked for evidence. Greenwashing is where businesses make dubious claims in an attempt to boost their environmental credentials, and thus sell more product. The CMA consultation ended on 16th July. Greenwashing is all too common in the aviation industry and Stansted Airport Watch (SAW) submitted detailed evidence to the CMA relating to both Stansted Airport and Ryanair. Some of the examples of dubious claims by the airport are that it claims to be “carbon neutral”, but this conveniently ignores the carbon emissions from the aircraft (hugely higher than emissions by the airport itself). It also relies of “offsetting”, so making payments to some carbon reduction activity elsewhere, while itself continuing to emit. Ryanair has made a number of claims about being “green”, such as claims to be Europe’s “cleanest, greenest airline” but this has been ruled against by the Advertising Standards Authority, for being misleading (February 2020).
Start of Inquiry into refusal by North Somerset Council of Bristol Airport plans to expand by 2mppa
The public inquiry into Bristol Airport’s expansion proposal began on 20th July with the airport hoping to overturn North Somerset Council’s decision to refuse the expansion plans in February 2020. The inquiry is overseen by the Planning Inspectorate, and is scheduled to run until mid-October with three independent inspectors appointed to consider the airport’s appeal. The airport wants to be allowed to have an extra 2 million annual passengers, from 10 million to 12 million. In its recently-published Transport Decarbonisation Plan (TDP), the DfT committed itself to achieving net zero within the aviation sector by 2050. Allowing airport expansion scheme is not going to help with that – quite the reverse. The worry is that, though the various expansion schemes for Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, Bristol, Leeds Bradford and Southampton – taken separately – look relatively small, collectively (and including Heathrow) the increase in carbon would be huge. The recent TDP does not follow the recommendation from its official advisors, the CCC, that any airport expansion should be offset by reducing flights elsewhere.
DfT decides to roll over the night flights regime for 3 more years (not 2) for Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted
The government consulted, in December 2020, on its night flights regime (closed 3rd March 2021). Part of the consultation was whether to “roll over” the current regime for the three designated airports, (Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted) for another 3 years, and it closed on 3rd March 2021. The second part is about wider night flights issues for all issues, and that closes on 3rd September 2021. The DfT has now published its “Decision Document” on the night flights regime and the designated airports. It has decided – despite pleas from numerous groups and individuals for change – not only to roll over the existing scheme, but to set this for THREE years more, rather than the two years originally proposed. The DfT says: “The restrictions will be reassessed in time for a new regime to commence in October 2025…” Airport groups at the designated airports are upset and furious. Night flight noise is probably the most hated, and the most damaging element of aircraft noise. The justifications given for night flights, about their economic necessity, are unconvincing. Sadly, people living with night flight noise from Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted will be stuck with the problem, at least until 2025
Jet Zero consultation – what it says on “sustainable aviation fuels” (spoiler…crazy over-optimism)
The DfT’s consultation on reducing aviation carbon emissions, “Jet Zero” places a lot of faith in finding novel, low carbon fuels, so people can continue to fly as much as they want. These are called “Sustainable Aviation Fuels” (SAF). The consultation says SAF “could play a key role in decarbonising aviation, whilst also representing an industrial leadership opportunity for the UK.” The economic opportunity aspect, and producing jobs, is key for the DfT. They say “Many experts view SAF as the only alternative for long-haul flights up to 2050, which are the flights with the biggest climate impact.” The DfT is hoping SAF could “result in over 70% CO2 emissions saving on a lifecycle basis and could deliver net zero emissions with the addition of greenhouse gas removal technologies.” SAF would either be biogenic, non-biogenic (from wastes) or made using zero-carbon electricity. There are huge problems, glossed over by the consultation. A key problem is that “there is currently no comprehensive global regulatory standard for SAF sustainability. The UK is therefore active at ICAO in negotiating for a full set of sustainability criteria for SAF.” The DfT “will shortly consult on a UK SAF mandate setting out our level of ambition for future SAF uptake.”
Jet Zero consultation – what it says on “Influencing Consumers” – keep flying, depend on techno-optimism
The DfT has launched its consultation, called “Jet Zero” on how the UK might decarbonise flights, by 2050. One really effective way to do that would be to reduce the demand for air travel, which is what the Climate Change Committee (CCC) recommended. The CCC said (24th June) “Lack of ambition for aviation demand management would result in higher emissions of 6.4 MtCO2e/year in 2030 relative to the CCC pathway for aviation emissions.” But the Jet Zero consultation just says “We want to preserve the ability for people to fly whilst supporting consumers to make sustainable travel choices.” And “This Government is committed to tackling the CO2 emissions from flights, whilst preserving the ability for people to fly.” And “we currently believe the sector can achieve Jet Zero without the Government needing to intervene directly to limit aviation growth” and cut aviation CO2 by as much as the CCC says is needed, but by other means – SAF, hydrogen, electric planes etc. It then says it will “seek to address residual carbon emissions through robust, verifiable offsets and additional greenhouse gas removals.” And it acknowledges that these are all “currently at a relatively early stage of development and [their deployment] requires collaboration and commitment across all parts of the sector if it is to succeed.” It also considers carbon information for flights, but only so people can still fly, but choose different airline options.
DfT Decarbonising Transport plan – various consultations to come on aviation carbon
The DfT has produced its transport decarbonisation plan. There is a lot of aspiration for aviation, depending on future increased use of “sustainable aviation fuels”, hydrogen and electric planes – as well as carbon capture and storage. ie. dependence on technologies that do not yet exist on any scale, and which would take years/decades to develop. The aspirations for aviation are for “net zero” (ie. allowing offsets) for the sector by 2050, and net zero for domestic aviation by 2040. [Also plans for zero carbon airports, but they contribute only a tiny amount of total aviation carbon]. So lots of hopes. Nothing specific. And absolutely no mention of the need to reduce demand for air travel, as their climate advisors, the Climate Change Committee, had recommended. The DfT consultation on the Jet Zero strategy – for aviation net zero by 2050 – has now been published, and runs till the 8th September. Also there will be consultations on making domestic aviation net zero; airport carbon; and on a UK sustainable aviation fuels mandate. The DfT is supporting the development of new aircraft technology through the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), and hopes to further develop the UK ETS.
Government is keen to tell people they can continue to fly, with a clear conscience – and the aviation sector can continue with “business as usual” for the time being.
Local Authorities must question if it is justifiable, or a financial asset, to own an airport
There is a glaring logical inconsistency between the declaration of “climate emergencies” by councils, and the backing of local airports. That is particularly the case where the airport owns, or partly owns, the airport. The Local Government Chronicle has written that “councils’ declarations of climate emergency will be mere weasel words unless they lead to painful but necessary decisions being made.” To achieve action on climate, councils need to take urgent and significant action. Helping an airport expand and increase its number of passengers, flights and CO2 emissions should no longer be happening. And while some airports were useful sources of income for councils in pre-Covid years, there is no certainty at all that will continue. Instead airports have been a sink for public money over the past year. Councils should not attempt to confuse the situation, by claims that airports are cutting carbon, becoming carbon neutral etc. That is only for their buildings, conveniently ignoring the carbon from the flights the airport facilitates. Councils need to accept that the restoration of passenger numbers to previous levels is not desirable.
Uttlesford Council applies for judicial review of Stansted airport expansion plans
In May, the Planning Inspectorate (PI) approved plans by Stansted airport to expand its maximum number of annual passengers from 35 to 43 million. This had been opposed by Uttlesford Council, but the decision was challenged by the airport. Now Uttlesford District Council UDC) is trying to get this PI decision reversed, as it goes against the decision by a democratically elected council. UDC submitted its application to the court for a JR one day before its submission deadline, and the UDC leader John Lodge said the decision to apply for Judicial Review was taken after seeking legal advice. Local campaign, Stansted Airport Watch, had asked for a JR, so the decision is taken by the Secretary of State for Transport, not the PI. Since the PI decision, the government enshrined a new “Carbon Budget” into legislation. The Sixth Carbon Budget now aims to cut emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels, and for the first time, the carbon emissions of international aviation will be included in UK totals. That should mean the collective increases in carbon of all the airport expansion plans will have to be considered together, and none of the airports seeking expansion should be considered in isolation.
Teeside Airport bottomless pit for council cash – given another £10 million by TVCA
Teeside Airport is to get an extra £10m from the Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA), hoping to keep it afloat after Covid impacts. TVCA spent more than £40m buying the loss-making airport in 2019 following a previous election pledge by Mr Houchen to take it back from previous owner Peel. TVCA has also provided a further £19.4m to support operational expenditure, along with £15m towards capital expenditure, which has helped pay for a multi-million pound terminal redevelopment, new passenger lounges, bars etc. The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) said in November 2020 that the airport made a £2.6m loss in the previous 12 months. Its advocates say it could be profitable in about 6 years. Teeside Airport Ltd is governed financially by TVCA via another limited company, Goosepool, both being subsidiaries of TVCA, a structure which has been criticised by some for its apparent lack of transparency. Stobart Aviation, which operates Teesside Airport, has a 25% shareholding in Goosepool. Opponents of the handouts to the airport say too much is being spent on the airport and “The time for vanity projects is at an end – it’s time he started to deliver on the real needs of our people.”
Bristol Airport expansion (for 2 mppa more) public inquiry to will start on July 20th, for 10 weeks
The expansion plans would see passenger numbers grow from 10 million to 12 million a year. The public inquiry into the expansion plans is due to start on July 20 and last 10 weeks. The airport appealed against a decision by North Somerset Council last year to reject its expansion plans. Bristol City Council has also opposed the expansion with North Somerset Council saying it will ‘robustly defend’ the appeal. The inquiry will be held in person and online, via Teams, though requests had been made for it to be online only, due to Covid. Campaigners say any expansion of the airport would lead to higher carbon emissions, congested roads and more plane noise. A number of campaign groups including the Bristol Airport Action Network (BAAN) , the Parish Councils Airport Association and Stop Bristol Airport Expansion (SBAE) are all set to give evidence at the inquiry. The Planning Inspectorate team will be led by Philip Ware.
Scottish Climate Assembly – many recommendations to cut aviation carbon emissions
The Scottish Climate Assembly reported its recommendations for action on 23rd June. The Assembly included over 100 ordinary members of society, and met from November 2020 to March 2021, online for 7 weekends. Their recommendations relating to aviation include that Scotland should: “Lead the way in minimising the carbon emissions caused by necessary travel and transport by investing in the exploration and early adoption of alternative fuel sources across all travel modes.” 93% agreed. And “Commit to working to decarbonise all internal flights within Scotland by 2025.” 87% agreed. And “…requiring transport providers to declare the carbon impact of flights and train journeys in a clear and meaningful way at the time of booking.” 94% agreed. And “Reduce the incentives to fly by introducing tax on high carbon aviation fuels and making it mandatory that this cost is passed on to the customer in their ticket price.” And “Discourage air travel by introducing a frequent flyer tax or levy.” 78% agreed. And “Eliminate frequent flyer and air mile bonuses to reduce the number of flights taken for business, encouraging the use of alternatives like video conferencing for meetings.” 92% agreed.
Climate Change Committee progress report to UK Government – aviation carbon policies sadly lacking
The Climate Change Committee has published its 2021 Progress Report to parliament, on the UK’s actions on climate change. It says “The Prime Minister’s Ten-Point Plan was an important statement of ambition, but it has yet to be backed with firm policies.” The report says the government has still not produced its Decarbonisation Strategy, which had been due in 2020. The CCC says government should “Commit to a Net Zero goal and pathway for UK aviation as part of the forthcoming Aviation Decarbonisation Strategy, with UK international aviation reaching Net Zero emissions by 2050 at the latest, and domestic aviation potentially earlier.” It says government should assess its “airport capacity strategy in the context of Net Zero and any lasting impacts on demand from COVID-19, as part of the aviation strategy. There should be no net expansion of UK airport capacity unless the sector is on track to sufficiently outperform its net emissions trajectory and can accommodate the additional demand. A demand management framework will need to be developed (by 2022) and be in place by the mid-2020s to annually assess and, if required, control sector GHG emissions and non-CO2 effects.” Lack of demand management would mean the sector missing its targets. And more …
Airport expansion plans looking less likely due to Covid and climate awareness
UK airports continue to do badly, due to the pandemic and travel restrictions, and it is anticipated that they could lose £2.6bn between April and September, if Covid continues to limit travel. The industry is also, unwillingly, having to consider their role in worsening climate breakdown, and whether it is acceptable for the sector to be expanding. “Many investors and fund managers could question in future whether airports sit well within their portfolios”. Only Gatwick, which is 50.01% per cent owned by Vinci, has made use of the Bank of England’s Covid corporate financing facility, for temporary grants and loans. Most airport owners have pared down their operations, staffing and costs, and cut dividends, to save money. Lenders are appreciating that the airports have huge financial problems, that they cannot solve while Covid continues to limit air travel. But the FT says there will be limits to the goodwill by lenders, as it is no longer certain that airports will remain a safe investment, generating predictable and high income streams – or be acceptable ethically. Now ACI warned of a “severe airport investment crunch” in Europe as it had to take on more than €20 billion of additional debt last year. That makes expansion plans look doubtful.
UK government will not commit to immediate lowering of air pollution levels to WHO limits
The government has refused to commit to an immediate lowering of legal levels of air pollution. The death of Ella Kissi-Debrah, from asthma cause by air pollution, sparked calls for the immediate lowering of legal air pollution levels to bring them in line with those recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO says particulate pollution from fine particulate matter PM2.5 should not exceed an annual mean of 10 μg/m3. For PM10 the limit is 20 µg/m3 annual mean. But the UK currently has higher limits for fine particulate matter: 40 µg/m3 annual mean for PM10 and 25 µg/m3 for PM2.5. The coroner investigating Ella’s death, called for legally binding levels of particulate pollution to be lowered to meet the WHO limits. He said: “The evidence at the inquest was that there is no safe level for particulate matter and that the WHO guidelines should be seen as minimum requirements.” There will be a public consultation on air pollution levels in January 2022, with a view to setting new air pollution targets in October 2022. There are various nice sounding, empty, statements from government about air pollution. Airports are a major source of both NO2 and particulate air pollution, from both planes and surface vehicles – with Heathrow producing the most. It is now known the pollution spreads downwind far from an airport.
Southampton legal challenge against airport decision by Eastleigh Borough Council
The local campaign against the expansion of Southampton airport, AXO, has now decided to make a legal challenge against Eastleigh Borough Council, and their decision to allow extension of the runway. That extension would have the effect of increasing the number of flights using the airport, and allow flights to more distant destinations – increasing the overall carbon emissions. Decisions such as these, resulting in more climate heating, need full scrutiny and that can now only happen by Judicial Review. The opponents of Southampton Airport expansion have instructed a legal team led by Leigh Day and David Wolfe QC to pursue the case, and are launching a public appeal for money to help finance the action. AXO believe strongly that the council’s decision was wrong both in the way it was taken and the arguments to justify it. The airport has greatly overstated the economic benefits of expansion, which will adversely affect the quality of lives of around 46,000 residents, whilst hugely underplaying the environmental impact. Hence they are calling for the decision to undergo independent scrutiny. There is a crowdfunder, to raise £10,000, to help pay the legal costs.
Howard Davies, whose “Airports Commission” decided a Heathrow 3rd runway was needed and justified, now says it no longer is
Back in 2015, Sir Howard Davies chaired the Airports Commission, which had been given the task – by George Osborne – of making the case for a 3rd runway at Heathrow, so the Conservative government could press ahead with it, once they were out of coalition with the LibDems, who opposed it. Sir Howard had financial connections which might be considered to make him biased towards the airport. In July 2015 the Commission produced its report, recommending Heathrow’s 3rd runway, as a way to meet anticipated air travel demand in the south east. Now, with the impact of the Covid pandemic, and Heathrow struggling with 72% fewer passengers in 2020 than in 2019, Sir Howard has admitted that no extra runway is now needed, nor will it be for some time. In 2015 he believed there was an economic case for it, and spending up to £18 billion on the expansion. Now, even with the cheaper planned scheme at about £14 billion, he has said: “I would have to redo the numbers to see if the economics made sense.” The whole Airports National Policy Statement was based on building a 3rd Heathrow runway, on the recommendation of Sir Howard Davies, before deciding on airport policy for the whole of the UK.
Airbus tells the EU hydrogen won’t be widely used in planes before 2050
Airbus has told the EU that most commercial planes will rely on traditional jet engines until at least 2050. They say they plan to develop the world’s first zero-emission commercial aircraft by 2035, but have not publicly said whether the technology will be ready for the replacement for the medium-haul A320, due to be rolled out in the 2030s. That seems unlikely, especially for long or medium haul flights. In its presentation to the EC, Airbus did not give details of its hydrogen technology, and how it could be introduced into small, short haul aircraft. The technology is very much still on the drawing board. Although research remains at an early stage, possible paths to replacement of the A320 are already a major focus of debate as rival Boeing ponders how to get lower carbon emissions from the competing 737 MAX and engine makers focus on evolving gas turbines. Boeing’s Chief Executive has said they will not be flying planes on hydrogen on a significant scale before 2050. A key problem for using hydrogen in future is the infrastructure needed globally to support it, as well as ensuring hydrogen is “green”, ie. made only from genuinely renewably sourced surplus electricity. In the meantime, airlines want to use “sustainable aviation fuel” (SAF), hoping some can be genuinely low carbon.
Airports and airlines expect to make huge losses this summer and want more government financial help
Airports are likely to have a bad summer, with far fewer air passengers than they had hoped for. The Airport Operators Association (AOA) have told the government that they might collectively lose £2.6 billion this summer, between April and September, not the recovery they dreamed of. It could be even worse than summer 2020 for them. In summer 2020 there were, at their highest, about <20% of the level in 2019. It is likely to be lower this year. The AOA says “1.6 million jobs in the UK aviation and tourism industries rely on aviation having a meaningful restart.” And “If the government decides it cannot reopen travel more meaningfully, then they should stand ready to give substantial financial compensation to airports and others in aviation and tourism.... As airports remain open for critical services, support should include operational costs, such as policing, air traffic and CAA regulatory costs, and extending business rate relief in full until the end of the tax year.” Airlines UK are also demanding government help, asking for continuation of furlough, extension of repayment terms for any Covid loans, and a new grant scheme for airlines.
New study shows exposure to plane noise at night causes vascular endothelial dysfunction, hence cardiovascular disease
A new study shows exposure to plane noise at night causes higher circulating levels of stress hormones eg. adrenaline, stiffened blood vessels, and these caused vascular endothelial dysfunction. These increase the chance of atherosclerosis leading to cardiovascular events. The scientists said: “In addition to being associated with an increased incidence of coronary heart disease, noise may serve as an acute trigger of cardiovascular problems. For example, a study published earlier this year established that for nighttime deaths, noise exposure levels two hours preceding death were significantly associated with heart-related mortality.” And “Importantly, comparing participants exposed to 30 versus 60 aircraft noise events per night revealed a dose-dependent worsening of endothelial function. Moreover, previous exposure to 30 aircraft noise events caused 60 events to have larger adverse effects on endothelial function. Thus, rather than any sort of habituation to the noise, there appeared to be a priming effect: prior exposure amplified the negative effect of noise on endothelial function.”
Eastleigh BC confirms its decision to allow Southampton airport 164 metre runway extension
Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC) has confirmed, on 3rd June, its decision to permit Southampton airport’s 164 metre runway extension. The PCU (Planning Casework Unit at the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government) had an informal agreement with Eastleigh to hold off on the decision while the Sec of State, Robert Jenrick, considered the call in request. The PCU said the planning permission would not be issued until the S106 Legal Agreement was completed. On 14 May EBC told the PCU that they had completed the S106 and would grant permission at the end of May unless they heard back to the contrary, from the PCU … which they didn’t. It is now too late for the application to be called in. Extinction Rebellion Southampton said the Secretary of State must be held to account for his failure to act on climate grounds. Work on the runway extension could start later this summer. Campaigners have not confirmed whether they will challenge the final decision.
After years of cheap carbon allowances, price has doubled from around €25 to around €50 in the past 6 months
Airlines flying within Europe have to pay for their carbon emissions, through the Emissions Trading System (ETS). They have to buy carbon allowances, for the carbon emitted. Until 2020, the price of those allowances did not rise beyond about €25. Before that, till around 2018 it was more like €8 per tonne. But there has been a sharp rise in the price in the past 6 months or so, reaching €56 recently and now being around €49. This is not what airlines like, as like other carbon intensive sectors in Europe, they must buy the tradable credits to cover the amount they pollute under parallel emissions systems in both the UK and the EU. The nascent UK carbon trading system, which launched this month, started trading at higher prices, of above £50 a tonne. The higher prices hit the dirt-cheap airlines hardest, with their low ticket prices – Ryanair, easyJet and Wizz Air have been hit particularly hard as almost all their flights are in Europe or the UK, requiring carbon allowance payments. Traders and market participants expect the price of carbon to keep rising as net zero pledges of governments and corporates become more ambitious.
Stansted wins appeal, against refusal by Uttlesford Council, of its plans to increase capacity to 43 million passengers per year
Expansion plans for Stansted Airport have been approved by the Planning Inspectorate (PI) after an appeal. In January 2020 Uttlesford District Council (UDC) rejected proposals to increase Stansted’s passenger cap from 35 million to 43 million a year. However, the councillors voted against the advice of council officers, who had recommended approval of proposals. The council had originally approved the plan, in November 2018 but only by the casting vote of the chairman; many councillors then had not read, or properly understood, all the documents. Then after the Residents for Uttlesford group took control from the Conservatives in May 2019, the decision was referred back to the planning committee – the rejection decision. Stansted already had permission to increase capacity from 28 million to 35 million passengers per year. The airport appealed against the decision, despite Covid and the near collapse of air travel in 2020. A public inquiry was held in January to March 2021 by the Planning Inspectorate. In its decision, the PI said: “there would be a limited degree of harm arising in respect of air quality and carbon emissions” but that was “far outweighed by the benefits of the proposal”. UDC has also been ordered to pay the costs of Stansted’s appeal.
DfT and MHCLG both reject application to have Stansted expansion called in
There was a Planning Inquiry from January to March, into the rejection by Uttlesford council of the application by Stansted airport to increase its annual air passenger cap from 35 million passengers, to 43 mppa. Local campaign, Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) asked the government (two departments) to call in the application, for consideration by government, rather than just by Uttlesford District Council. Now SSE has received letters from both the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, and the Department for Transport, refusing the request for a call in. The MHCLG said “the Secretary of State has carefully considered your request but has decided in this case not to issue a direction for joint determination under s266 of the 1990 Act. The jurisdiction of the case therefore remains with the appointed planning Inspectors, and the Planning Inspectorate will inform you of a decision in due course.” Grant Shapps (DfT) said that “the application is not of sufficient scale or significance to justify a direction. I will therefore not be making a direction in relation to this appeal.” SSE said they were unsurprised, and concerned that this may set a bad precedent for appeals by other airports, where the planned increase in annual passengers is lower than that at Stansted.
Night Flights Consultation (Part 2) deadline extended to 3rd September
The closing date for the second part of the DfT night flight restrictions consultation has now been extended to 3 September 2021 (23:59 hours). It had been 31st May. The deadline for the first part was 3rd March. The extended deadline is in response to a request from HACAN, ACF, AEF, SSE & LADACAN along with other community representatives on the DfT’s Aviation Noise Experts Group. The DfT had been intending to publish the CAA’s Survey of Noise Attitudes 2014 : Aircraft Noise and Sleep report (“SoNA Sleep”) before the Night Flights Consultation deadline. It is likely to contain vital information on the impact of noise annoyance at night. When it became clear that this important report would not be available before the 31 May deadline the groups wrote to the DfT requesting the extension. The SoNA Sleep report is now expected to be published early in the summer. Extending the consultation into early September will allow respondents the time needed to consider and comment in detail in light of this further research. If anyone has already made a submission, that will still be counted and they can make a supplementary submission, taking the SoNA data into account, in due course. As soon as SoNA Night is published the various airport and noise expert groups will be analysing the details and sharing a summary with their members, so they have help in making their submissions.
EU Treasury Ministers support future tax on fossil aviation fuel (after decades)
For decades, there has been no international agreement on the taxing of aviation fuel, and it has been wrongly assumed that taxing it was impossible. But now the EU is considering how the fuel should be taxed, as part of the bloc’s attempts to cut carbon emissions over all its activities. The EU now has the target of a 55% cut in CO2 emissions by 2030, and reach “net zero” by 2050. Aviation must play its part in the reductions. Higher fuel prices would increase ticket prices, thus reducing slightly demand for air travel. In July, the European Commission will put forward an overhaul of its energy taxation directive that sets minimum taxation rates for fossil fuels, but has not been updated for nearly 20 years. There have been difficulties in getting agreement on carbon cuts from the newer EU members, and every country effectively holds a veto on taxation policy. Some countries such as the Netherlands have been pushing for aviation fuel taxation, which says it will introduce a national aviation tax in the absence of an EU-wide agreement. Aviation should also be charged through the EU Emissions Trading System, which currently only adds small costs to intra-European flights.
New NEF report shows the climate impact of regional airport plans has been considerably underestimated
A report by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) says the climate impact of expansion plans at regional airports in England has been dramatically underestimated and would threaten the UK’s legally binding climate commitments. NEF calculated that proposals to expand 4 airports (Bristol, Leeds Bradford, Southampton and Stansted) will lead to an increase in CO2 emissions up to 8 times higher than the airports previously claimed. This means the alleged economic benefits claimed, from more aviation, were overestimated, as they ignore around £13.4bn worth of climate damage the extra flights could cause. Alex Chapman, the author of the report, said the findings raised concerns about the level of scrutiny the airport expansion proposals had received from government. Alex said: “The secretary of state should step in and conduct an independent review of all four of these proposals and their compatibility with the UK’s climate targets.” The airports all use unproven and undeveloped technologies to achieve future fuel-efficiency savings. Most airports only took account of CO2 of outbound flights, not of inbound flights, and ignored the non-CO2 impacts of flights.
Luton scaling back airport expansion plans, delaying 2nd terminal, to save £1 billion
Luton Airport, which is owned by Luton council, is planning to scale back its expansion plans in order to save perhaps £1 billion. In 2019 the airport consulted on plans for a new terminal that would enable the annual number of passengers to be increased from 18 million to 21 million by 2039. There will now be a new consultation, later in 2021 or in 2022, for initially improvement of the existing terminal, and then eventually a second terminal, at some future date. The airport’s finances have been seriously hit by Covid. The Council benefitted greatly from the airport (before Covid), in 2019 receiving a £19.1m, and £15.8m servicing debt. In 2020 the airport had huge public subsidy, and more will follow for 2021. Local campaigners will be looking very carefully at what might emerge from proposals for further passenger growth using the existing terminal. This might be by creative use of “permitted developments” which Luton Borough Council could approve on its own. If such growth could accommodate more than an additional 5 million passengers per year (taking Luton to 23Mppa) it would then become possible for the declared ambition to reach 32Mppa to be achievable without need for a DCO, as below the 10 Mppa threshold.
In open letter to Ministers, campaigners say moratorium on UK airport expansion needed, due to policy vacuum on future aviation CO2 cap
In an open letter to ministers, Grant Shapps and Robert Jenrick, a large number of airport groups (15) say the government’s aviation strategy is needed, now that the sector is included in the UK’s binding climate targets. Currently there are expansion plans at 7 airports in England: Leeds Bradford, Luton, Bristol, Southampton, Heathrow, Stansted and Manston. Gatwick is also expected to submit plans soon, to make more use of its emergency runway. The letter says the UK government must suspend all airport expansion plans until it sets out how they fit with its legally binding climate targets and the advice of its own experts, the Climate Change Committee. The CCC said, in December 2020, that there should be no net expansion of UK airport capacity “unless the sector is on track to sufficiently outperform its net emissions”. Which it is unlikely to be, in the next 20 years. The growth of the industry, that the expansions would permit, could not be accommodated with a stricter overall carbon cap. The campaigners say: “Until the government has consulted on its preferred strategy for net zero aviation, and published its policy, it is impossible to see how local authorities or the government could justify any given airport expansion as conforming to binding carbon budgets and targets.”
Stop Stansted Expansion chairman Peter Sanders reflects on two decades of campaigning against airport expansion
After 17 years of campaigning, 82-year-old Peter Sanders CBE is stepping down as Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) chairman as the organisation begins a new era with a fresh name – Stansted Airport Watch (SAW). SSE was founded in 2002 in response to Government proposals which shocked the local community by setting out options for expanding Stansted with up to 3 additional runway – at the time the low cost airlines were getting going. Stansted could have become twice as big as Heathrow. In its White Paper of 2003 the Government declared its support for an extra runway at Stansted, to be open by 2012 at the latest. After years of campaigning, in 2010, one of the first acts of the newly-formed coalition Government was to withdraw its support for a 2nd Stansted runway. It was, of course, too good to last for very long. The Airports Commission was set up, but in the end it did not even short-list Stansted for a second runway. It did say that if, in the 2040s, another runway was needed, Stansted could be one of the options. The Government accepted these recommendations. Meanwhile, the work for SAW continues, to contain the negative impacts of Stansted Airport.
Amsterdam banning advertising for fossil fuel products (eg. flights) from the subway stations
Adverts for ‘fossil fuel products’, such as air travel and cars that run on fossil fuels, will no longer be seen in the subway stations in Amsterdam. Amsterdam is the first city in the world that wants to keep fossil fuel advertising out of the streets. Never before has a city taken the decision to ban advertising solely on the basis of climate change. The agreement about advertisements in the metro stations is the municipality’s first step towards making advertising in Amsterdam fossil-free. The Dutch campaign, Reclame Fossielvrij (Fossil Free Advertising), which strives for a nationwide ban in the Netherlands on advertising by the fossil fuel industry and advertising for polluting transport, congratulated Amsterdam and calls it an important step. Some other Dutch cities, The Hague, Utrecht and Nijmegen have said they were “open to a ban on fossil fuel advertising.” Motions have also been filed in Canada, England (we have the Badvertising campaign), Sweden and Finland. Fossil Free Advertising strives for a nationwide ‘tobacco-style law’ for the fossil fuel industry, to change public attitudes – as happened with smoking.
Unconvincing airline hype about large future use of so called “sustainable aviation fuels”
Airlines are falling over each other, to say how much “Sustainable Aviation Fuel” (SAF) they plan to use in future, and how this will greatly increase their carbon emissions. Ryanair says it will use 12.5% SAF by 2030; IAG says it will use 10% by 2030; easyJet says they will use SAF in the short term, but “we must avoid all resources being drawn into SAFs, which don’t fully solve the problem.” According to the European Commission, SAF currently accounts for just 0.05% of jet fuel use in the EU, and without further regulation, the share is expected to reach just 2.8% by 2050. There is disagreement between low cost, short haul airlines and those flying longer routes, about whether SAF fuel quotas should apply to all flights, not only short haul. Long-haul air services departing European airports accounted for 48% of CO2 emissions from all operations in 2019, while making up just 6% of flights, according to Eurocontrol data. It is unclear what all this SAF is going to be made from. One of the very few fuels thought to genuinely be low carbon, up to now, has been used cooking oil. But it has been revealed that there is considerable fraud, with virgin palm oil (causing deforestation) being passed off as used.
Study shows carbon offsets, by forest protection, used by major airlines are based on flawed system
An investigation by the Guardian and Greenpeace’s Unearthed has found that the forest protection carbon offsetting market used by major airlines for claims of carbon-neutral flying faces a significant credibility problem, with experts warning the system is not fit for purpose. Air passengers can buy offsets that, allegedly, help prevent the emission of a quantity of carbon, so they can claim their flight was “carbon neutral”. The theory is that money is needed for projects to keep intact areas of forest healthy, and prevent deforestation. That depends on knowing how much forest there was, how much would have been destroyed unless the offset money had been paid, and how much has been saved in good condition. In practice, that is not easy to calculate. The study found there is often considerable over-counting, with schemes saying there would have been far higher rates of deforestation than were likely. And some of the areas that remained forested did so for other reasons – like government policy – not the offset money. If forestry offsets are to be used, it is vital that the methodologies they use to calculate the reduction in emissions – and additionality – are rigorous and accurate.
In 2019 the CO2 emissions of British Airways were almost as high (18.4 MtCO2) as ALL the vans on UK roads
British Airways flights emitted almost as much CO2 in 2019 as all the vans on UK roads, according to data obtained by non-profit group Transport & Environment (T&E). It emits just under a third of all of the cars in the UK. It was the 2nd highest-emitting airline in Europe before Covid, with 18.4 million tonnes (Mt) CO2 released in 2019, just short of the 19.4 Mt CO2 equivalent emitted by the UK’s vans in 2018. It ranks, by CO2 emissions, just behind Lufthansa, which emitted 19.1 MtCO2 in 2019, with Air France in third place at 14.4 MtCO2. The overall climate impact of aviation CO2 is 2 to 3 times that of burning the same fuel at ground level – that is not included in the 18.4 MtCO2 figure. T&E and partners obtained the data using FoI requests to governments, which now haveto gather CO2 statistics from airlines as part of the UN’s international offsetting scheme for aviation, Corsia. The data has not been made public before. In the UK, about 15% of people take 70% of flights. Accordingly, a large part of the emissions by BA will be by people – those richer than average – who fly often.
Climate Change Committee professor says demand for flights will need to be cut, eg. by taxing frequent fliers more
Professor Piers Forster, a climate scientist and a member of the Climate Change Committee, who has taken a keen interest in the problem of aviation carbon emissions, has said that the government is likely to have to bring in a tax on frequent fliers and a ban on airport expansion if it is to meet its new climate targets – a 78% cut of carbon emissions on the 1990 levels – for 2035. This new, stricter, target will “squeeze” the amount of emissions the rest of the economy can emit over the coming decades. Prof Forster said: “By including [international shipping and aviation] within the target it actually reduces the allowable emissions that are there for the rest of the economy. So all the rest of the economy gets squeezed quite significantly.” It will be decades ahead, if ever, that flying could be low carbon. In the interim, Professor Forster said the government will need to bring in measures to reduce the amount of flights taken in and out of the UK. Frequent flyers should be deterred, while in the short term, there may be enough carbon budget for the occasional leisure flight.
CAA rules that Heathrow can only raise £300m out of £2.6bn through higher charges, plus another £500 m
Heathrow’s bid to increase airport charges to recover £2.6 billion lost during the coronavirus pandemic has been rejected by the aviation regulator, the CAA – which said its expenditure had been “disproportionate and not in the interests of consumers”. The CAA is allowing Heathrow to initially raise only an additional £300 million through higher charges, out of the £2.6 billion it asked for. “The CAA has agreed to a limited, early adjustment to HAL’s RAB of £300m and will consider this issue further as part of the next price control (H7)” which starts on 1st January 2022. The CAA has agreed to allow Heathrow to raise charges to recover the £500 million “it incurred efficiently” on its plans for a 3rd runway, between 2017 and 1st March 2020. Heathrow said it faces loses of around £3 billion due to the Covid pandemic. IAG, which owns British Airways, the largest airline at Heathrow, said it is “extremely disappointed” with the CAA decision, which means more expensive tickets for its consumers from 2022. Heathrow wants concessions by the CAA, though its shareholders have earned nearly £4 billion in dividends in recent years.
Good Law project, Dale Vince and George Monbiot start legal proceedings to force Government to suspend & review ANPS
In just months, a Government policy – the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) – that pre-dates the Net Zero commitments in the Climate Change Act. could form the basis for a decision to expand Manston Airport in Kent. Government has refused to say whether a decision on Heathrow expansion will be made under the ANPS but, with an application for a development consent order (DCO) on Manston imminent, the Good Law project hopes it can force its hand – on Manston and on Heathrow. The ANPS is inconsistent with government commitment to tackle the climate crisis. Though the Supreme Court, in December 2020, ruled that the ANPS was legal, it is necessary for the government to suspend and review it. Now the Good Law project, with Dale Vince and George Monbiot, have issued a pre-action protocol letter to the government legal department, asking for the ANPS to be suspended and reviewed. Not only would proper updating of the ANPS prevent expansion of Manston and Heathrow, it would do the same for others in the pipeline – Southampton, Leeds Bradford, Bristol, Stansted and Gatwick. Now government has agreed to include international aviation in carbon budgets, and a 78% cut in UK CO2 emissions by 2035, there is even greater urgency for correct UK aviation policy.
Heathrow’s 3rd runway plans are ‘dead’, say campaigners, as government tightens UK CO2 targets
Plans for a 3rd runway at Heathrow have been struck a massive blow by the government’s new emission targets. The government announced the new climate change target on April 20th, with an aim to cut carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by 78% by 2035 when compared to 1990 levels. For the first time, the Sixth Carbon Budget, covering the period 2033 to 2037, will include international aviation emissions (and also shipping emissions). Previously these had just been “taken account of” in setting the budget. The total emissions cap for the 2033-37 period is set at 965 MtCO2, which is far lower than the cap for the 5th carbon budget. Heathrow vies with Drax power station to be the UK’s largest source of CO2, emitting (in 2019) about 19 – 20 MtCO2 per year. That is around 52 – 55% of total UK aviation emissions (37Mt CO2 in 2019). A 3rd runway, adding another 7 MtCO2 or more per year, would mean that – in order to meet the new legally binding targets – most other UK airports would be required to close. Paul McGuinness, chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said: “Heathrow expansion is dead. It is simply not compatible with the UK government’s commitment to do our part in protecting the climate.”
Government inclusion of aviation into carbon budgets heralds the beginning of the end for fossil-fuelled aviation
The UK is to become the first major economy to extend its legal ‘net zero’ emissions commitment to departing international flights, including international aviation and shipping in the Sixth Carbon Budget. AEF Deputy Director Cait Hewitt said: “This should mark the beginning of the end for fossil-fuelled aviation. After many years of slipping the net when it comes to climate change, and expecting special privileges, airlines will now need to start planning for a very different future. Including international aviation in UK climate law gives a strong message from ministers that all sectors of the UK economy need to be on the same path towards net zero emissions. Now the Government will need to make sure that’s delivered.” The Government is expected to consult next month on what measures it plans to introduce to put aviation onto a path of cutting CO2. Options it will need to consider include the setting of annual emissions targets for airlines; a review of policy on airport expansions; and new financial measures to limit flying demand such as an air miles tax. So far, the aviation industry has primarily focused on carbon offsetting as a way to attempt to negate carbon emissions – and aspirations for low carbon flight … many years into the future.
UK to include international aviation and shipping in carbon budgets, and aim for overall UK 78% CO2 cut by 2050
In December 2020 the Climate Change Committee (CCC) published its guidance for the UK government on its Sixth Carbon Budget, for the period 2033 – 37, and how to reach net-zero by 2050. That included the recommendation on aviation that there should be no net airport expansion, and that international aviation and shipping (IAS) should be fully included in the carbon budgets. Now the government has accepted many of their recommendations, including that the UK should cut carbon emissions by 78% by 2035. This is 15 years earlier than had been the original goal. The CCC recommended that IAS should be properly within carbon budgets; also that the target for aviation, instead of being allowed to emit 37.5MtCO2 per year by 2050, should be reduced to 23MtCO2 by 2050, following the BNZ (balanced net zero) pathway. There is no commitment yet by government to insist on that reduction. It would mean a large amount of UK engineered greenhouse gas removals by 2050 having to be assigned to making the aviation sector net-zero. People would have to pay for the carbon they emit being removed, rather than just “fly-tipped into the atmosphere”, which would make flying more expensive. Ways (taxation?) will be needed to make that fair.
Campaigners call for temporarily moratorium on airport expansion until there is new UK policy on aviation carbon
There is currently no UK government policy on aviation carbon emissions, or airport expansion policy across the country. While the Committee on Climate Change says there should be no NET increase in airport capacity, it is unclear how this is to work. Meanwhile many airports are trying to push through expansion plans, to get them approved by local authorities as soon as possible. In the absence of proper UK policy, local decision are just being made by local councils, with no over-arching big picture logic. The Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) is asking for a temporary moratorium on airport expansion plan decisions. Cait Hewitt of AEF said local airport applications show “the climate impact of airport expansion is not something that can be easily determined at a local level. The government really needs to get its act together in terms of setting out how the aviation sector in the UK is going to play its part in delivering net zero … We would support a moratorium on airport expansions until the government has figured out what its policy is on aviation and net zero.” AEF research showed that if all expansion plans put forward by UK airports were to proceed, it would cause an additional 9 MtCO2 to be emitted each year by 2050.
French lawmakers in the National Assembly approve a ban on domestic flights, where train takes under 2hrs 30mins
In a recent vote, the French National Assembly voted to abolish domestic flights by any airline on routes than can be covered by train in under two-and-a-half hours, as the government seeks to lower carbon emissions – even while the airline industry has been hit by the pandemic. A citizens’ climate forum established by Macron to help form climate policy had called for the scrapping of flights on routes where the train journey is below 4 hours, (or others say 6 hours). The bill goes to the Senate before a third and final vote in the lower house, where Macron’s ruling party and allies dominate. The measure is part of a broader climate bill that aims to cut French carbon emissions by 40% in 2030 from 1990 levels, though activists accuse President Emmanuel Macron of watering down earlier promises in the draft legislation. However, the French government will contribute to a €4 billion ($4.76 billion) recapitalisation of Air France, more than doubling its stake in the airline, to keep it going during the Covid crisis. The Industry Minister said there was no contradiction between the bailout and the climate bill (sic) and despite carbon targets, companies had to be supported. McKinsey analysts forecast that air traffic may not return to 2019 levels before 2024.
YouGov poll shows 45% of business travellers (in 7 European countries) planning to cut future flights
A YouGov poll surveyed business travellers in 7 European countries including the UK, in December 2020 and January 2021. It found overall 45% said they would be flying less often in future – when Covid restrictions end – and 38% said their air travel would be about the same as before. The reduction would be because of videoconferencing. The reduction in the need to take business flights and travel abroad had been seen as positive by 20% of business flyers, and it had not negatively affected their work life or productivity. Business fliers tend to fly far more often than most holidaymakers, with 10% of those in the poll taking more than 10 flights in the year up to the first lockdown in March 2020. Business passengers provide a huge part of legacy airline income, so without them, the price of air tickets would have to rise. Carbon emissions from aviation were growing at 5.7% a year before the pandemic, despite many countries committing to cut all emissions to net zero by 2050 to tackle the climate crisis. Green campaigners argue that the aviation shutdown provides an opportunity to put the sector on a sustainable trajectory. The poll was commissioned by the European Climate Foundation.
Southampton Airport runway extension plans approved by Eastleigh Council
Eastleigh Borough Council has voted (finally at 2.15am!) to agree to allow Southampton Airport to extend its runway by 164 metres. This will lead to larger planes using the airport, and thus flights to more distant destinations, more passengers and higher carbon emissions. 22 councillors voted in favour of the proposals; 13 councillors voted against the plans and 1 abstained. This followed 19 hours of debate. Opponents have fought against the plans not only due to the carbon emissions, but also the extra noise for surrounding areas, and air pollution. The standard justification for these expansions are local economic benefit, and more jobs – even though the net impact is to encourage more local people to fly abroad on holiday, spending their holiday money there. It is likely that the number of people affected by noise would go from 11,450 in 2020 to 46,050 in 2033, if the expansion happens. Officers hoped that increased home noise insulation would help, but that has no impact if windows are open, or when outdoors. There are claims of “1,000 new jobs” – based on experience at other airports, that is very unlikely indeed. The CCC advice is that there should be no net airport expansion; so if one expands, another should contract. Likely?
Climate campaigners call for halt to regional UK airports expansion, to avoid aviation CO2 growth
The Aviation Environment Federation says the UK government must intervene to stop the planned expansion of a number of small airports around the country if it is to meet legally binding environmental targets and avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis. Seven regional airports have devised plans to expand their operations, despite fierce opposition from climate scientists and local people, who argue the proposals are incompatible with UK efforts to address the climate and ecological crisis. The decision on whether to allow a new terminal at Leeds Bradford has been delayed. The AEF says the government must go further and intervene to halt the other schemes which, taken together, would release huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The expansions are against the recommendations fo the government’s climate advisors, the Committee on Climate Change, who say there should be no net airport expansion. ie. if one expands, another has to contract (there are no volunteers). The time is well overdue for government take a proper strategic overview of the climate impact of airport expansion proposals rather than leave it up to individual local authorities. There needs to be proper policy for aviation carbon, which is sadly lacking.
UK government criticised by prominent scientists and lawyers, for ignoring Paris climate goals in infrastructure decisions
Prominent scientists and lawyers (including Jim Hansen, Sir David King and Prof Jeffrey Sachs) have written to the Supreme Court and ministers, to say the UK government’s decision to ignore the Paris climate agreement when deciding on major infrastructure projects undermines its presidency of UN climate talks this year. The Heathrow case is a key example, when a 3rd runway was approved in principle by government (2019) and the Supreme Court finally ruled in December 2020 that the government had not needed to take the Paris climate goals into account. The UK is due to host the Cop26 summit in Glasgow in November, regarded as one of the last chances to put the world on track to meet the Paris goals. It is dangerous for the highest court in the land to set a bad precedent. The letter, signed by over 130 scientists, legal and environmental experts, says that the Supreme Court “set a precedent that major national projects can proceed even where they are inconsistent with maintaining the temperature limit on which our collective survival depends.” And “Indeed, the precedent goes further still. It says that the government is not bound even to consider the goals of an agreement that is near universally agreed.”
Plans for expansion of Leeds Bradford airport put on hold – after government direction – giving time for a decision to “call in”
The government has issued a direction to Leeds City Council, preventing councillors from granting planning permission for Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA) expansion, without special authorisation. This means the expansion of LBA is now on hold. The direction preventing councillors from granting planning permission – set out in section 31 of the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015 – will give further time to Robert Jenrick, the Communities Secretary, (MHCLG) to consider whether to formally “call in” the planning application for a public inquiry. The plans to build a new terminal building on the green belt had been given conditional approval by Leeds City Council in February, despite widespread opposition from local MPs, residents and environmental groups. Campaigners argued the expansion would make a mockery of efforts to tackle the climate crisis and undermine the government’s credibility ahead of a key climate conference later this year. The issue is of more than local importance, and a full public inquiry – chaired by a planning inspector, or lawyer – would mean all the evidence being properly considered. The inquiry would then make its recommendation to Robert Jenrick, to make the final decision.
Treasury consulting on a Frequent Flyer Levy to tax aviation (Treasury not keen on it)
The Treasury has a consultation (ending 15th June) on several aspects of the taxation of aviation. The first section was on domestic APD (Air Passenger Duty); the second part is on changes to the international APD bands and also on a Frequent Flyer Levy (FFL). The Treasury document says: “The Committee on Climate Change and several environmental stakeholders have suggested that the government should introduce a frequent flyer levy, in order to tackle the environmental impacts of flying in an equitable way. … A frequent flyer levy would seek to constrain overall demand for flights, by increasing the amount of tax liability due, according to the number of flights a passenger had previously taken. Unlike APD, the tax would be levied on the individual, rather than the airline.” It stresses the various difficulties in administering the tax (a great deal of data to be collected, people with multiple passports, people who need to fly often…) It makes out that people who fly a lot already pay more APD, ignoring the key point of the FFL that the tax ramps up for each flight, so the 5th or 10th flight in one year costs a great deal more, than the standard APD rate on each. It concludes: “The government is therefore minded to retain APD as the principal tax on the aviation sector and not introduce a frequent flyer levy as a replacement, and welcomes views on this position.”
Southend Airport to pay out £86k due to runway extension noise, under the Land Compensation Act
A court has ordered that Southend Airport should pay a total of £86,500 in compensation to owners of 9 neighbouring homes who say their values were diminished by noise, following the extension of the runway in 2012. In its ruling, the Upper Tribunal’s Lands Chamber ordered that payments ranging from £4,000 to £17,000 be made in respect of the 9 homes, while a claim for a 10th property was dismissed. The claims for compensation are under the Land Compensation Act 1973. There is more noise, as larger planes land and take off from the airport. The longer runway enabling the airport to “attract low-cost commercial airlines operating much larger aircraft than had previously flown from it”. The Tribunal agreed that the extra noise had meant depreciation in the value of most of the lead properties. In 2013, the value of the lead properties ranged from £150,000 to £280,000, and the claimants sought compensation of between £32,200 and £60,100. The Land Compensation Act says it applies to cases where there have been alterations to runways or aprons. ie. something physical has been built (not buildings).
A few frequent flyers ‘dominate air travel’ (so dominating aviation CO2 emissions) – in all richer countries
Research for the climate campaign group, Possible, shows that a small minority of frequent flyers dominate air travel in almost all countries with high aviation CO2 emissions. In the UK, 70% of flights are made by a wealthier 15% of the population, with 57% not flying abroad at all, in any one year. The Possible research suggests the frequent flyer trend is mirrored in other wealthy countries. USA: 12% of people take 66% of flights. France: 2% of people take 50% of flights. Canada: 22% of the population takes 73% of flights. The Netherlands: 8% of people takes 42% of flights. China: 5% of households takes 40% of flights. India: 1% of households takes 45% of flights. Indonesia: 3% of households takes 56% of flights. There are calls for a frequent flyer levy – a tax that increases the more you fly each year. John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace: “Taxing frequent fliers is a good idea – but we also have to do something about air miles, which reward frequent fliers for flying more frequently. This is obscene during a climate crisis – and it should be stopped.” The Treasury take the line that “Frequent flyers already pay more under the current APD (Air Passenger Duty) system” but that misses the point. They pay the same rate of APD on each flight, the first, the fifth or the tenth that year. A tax that ramped up on each successive flight would be a greater deterrent to frequent flying.
Letter to Jenrick from nearly 80 organisations and groups urges Leeds Bradford Airport decision be ‘called in’
Nearly 80 West Yorkshire community groups, environmental organisations and councillors from all parties have urged the decision on Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA) to be ‘called in’. Signatories of the letter to Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, include Bradford councillors, Shipley Constituency Labour Party, Thornton, Allerton and Sandy Lane Branch Labour Party, Keighley and Ilkley Green Party, Bradford Green Party, Clean Air Bradford, Bradford Green New Deal, Baildon and Shipley Friends of the Earth, Extinction Rebellion Bradford, Shipley Town Council and more. The Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA) has asked the Secretary of State to hold a public inquiry because they say “there are significant effects beyond LBA’s immediate locality and there is substantial cross-boundary and national controversy; these issues have not been adequately addressed by Leeds City Council; and airport expansion conflicts with national policies on important matters”. The UK needs a proper national policy on airports, airport expansion, and carbon emissions. The CCC has said there must be no net airport growth, but many airports plan to expand – none plan to contract.
New airline CO2 data: Lufthansa, BA, Air France were Europe’s most polluting airlines pre-Covid
Official data, obtained by Transport & Environment, and Carbon Market Watch, shows 3 of the biggest recipients of airline bailouts – Lufthansa, British Airways and Air France – were the 3 biggest European airline carbon emitters before Covid grounded flights. Those 3 airlines got a third or airline bailout money. It is the first time ever that the total emissions of European airlines have been disclosed, including flights entering and leaving the EU – not only within it. This has exposed airlines which previously emitted most of their CO2 by long-haul flights. Currently only the carbon emitted on intra-EU flights is included in the ETS (Emissions Trading System for the EU). The non-EU flights made up 77% of the emissions by Lufthansa; 86% for British Airways; and 83% for Air France. In 2019 Lufthansa emitted 19.11 MtCO2 (bailout about €6,840 million); BA emitted 18.38 MtCO2 (€2,553 million); Air France emitted 14.39 MtCO2 (€7000 + ? €300 bailout); Ryanair 12.28 MtCO2 (€670 million bailout); EasyJet 4.84 MtCO2 (€2,240 bailout). And many more airlines … Ryanair remains the No 1 emitter on flights within Europe. There is no data for Alitalia, as the government would not send data. The UN’s ineffective and deeply flawed CORSIA scheme is meant to be a disincentive to airlines increasing their carbon emissions, but it will not have any significant impact.
Government First-Tier Tribunal to hear Heathrow appeal against having to disclose environmental information
Heathrow is trying to overturn a ruling in February 2020 that it must disclose environmental information. The Information Commissioner’s decision that Heathrow counts as a public authority and must disclose the information will be subject to an appeal next week. The ruling last year followed a similar one concerning energy producers and suppliers, extending a duty that the water industry has been subject to since 2015. They all resulted from the ambiguity of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004, which states that any organisation that “that carries out functions of public administration”, or has public responsibilities, functions or provides services related to the environment, is subject to the law. Heathrow does not want to have to answer demands for information about planning applications, aircraft noise or environmental impacts of the airport. The appeal comes as the Good Law Project, which is pursuing a legal challenge against government policy approving the third runway, said that it was making “a focussed request for documents and communications between Heathrow Airport and the DfT, for a Development Consent Order, for a 3rd runway.
Treasury consulting on APD distance bands change; perhaps to 3 or 4 (just 2 now)
The Treasury has a current consultation on “Aviation Tax Reform.” Part of it is whether the level of Air Passenger Duty (APD) on domestic flights should be changed. Currently a passenger on a return domestic flight pays £13 x2 = £26, as they leave a UK airport twice. The cost is only £13 for a return flight to a European (under 2,000 miles) destination. They are also consulting about whether there should be more bands for APD for longer journeys. The government is aware that air travellers should pay more, if they fly further and thus cause the emission of more carbon. In 2008 it was decided there would be 4 distance bands with increasing APD costs; under 2,000 miles; 2,000 – 4,000; 4,000 to 6,000; and over 6,000. But in 2014 this was changed to just two bands, under and over 2,000 miles. The consultation asks if the bands should be changed; if they should revert to the 4 levels there were between 2008 and 2014; or if there should be a new system, with three bands. These would be under 2,000 miles; between 2,000 and 5,500 miles; and over 5,500 miles. There were some potential technical difficulties with very large countries – eg. the US or Russia – so only considering the capital city, to categorise the country, can be unfair. Consultation closes 15th June 2021.
Virtual tourism – the expanding new (zero carbon) way to see the world
Pre-pandemic there wasn’t a lot of virtual travel. The technique was often used to market holidays, to show the customer what they would see and do on their trip. But with Covid, there is renewed interest in virtual tourism and virtual travel. Not only can we look at Google maps street-view, and see for ourselves what a place looks like. There are increasing numbers of companies providing, and selling, virtual travel. Due to Covid, people cannot travel physically. Many are frustrated at being so confined and long to see other places. Some have lost jobs and no longer have the money to travel physically. So being able to see cities, amazing scenery, the seaside, cultural sites and so on is really welcome. Virtual tourism has been found to be beneficial for people who, for health reasons, cannot travel; it is a very positive experience in care homes. There are virtual tours, getting ever better and more sophisticated, of museums. There are online painting trips, showing the scenery that can be painted. There are virtual safaris. If people are prepared to pay a little for the virtual experience, it helps the destination. And there are almost no carbon emissions from travel, or negative tourism impacts on the destination. Virtual tourism should have a great future.
How airlines make huge profits by monetising frequent flyer programmes
Frequent Flyer programmes are a really pernicious way for airlines to get people, who already fly a great deal, to fly even more. They are also a nice money-earner for the airlines. Some US airlines are probably dependent on them. Their mileage programmes are often worth many billions of dollars. Airline mileage programmes have 2 main sources of revenue: the airline itself and third parties. One of the key ways the schemes work in by partnerships with banks. However, airlines are generally tight-lipped about just how valuable these partnerships are. There is partly the cost of future travel, and airlines do not want customers to fly with another airline. They also do not really want customers to redeem their points, unless they then earn some more. The airlines make a lot of money selling point to other organisations and companies, including American Express. Airlines love it when you earn a credit card welcome bonus or otherwise earn miles through credit cards. In order to give you those miles, the bank needs to buy more miles from the airline. When it does, the airline receives an influx of cash—which is especially needed right now. Also, the airline is able to record at least some of that mileage sale as an immediate profit. And there is more …
DfT spending £5.5 million on airspace change, to “drive improvements to UK’s ‘motorways in the sky’”
There is much talk, in the DfT and the CAA about “modernising airspace”. The main aim is to make it easier for more aircraft to use UK airspace safely. It means more planes flying along exactly the same route – which the DfT refers to as “motorways in the sky.” The industry would also like to get the amount of noise nuisance from aviation to be as low as is possible with ever more planes. There has never been any satisfactory solution to whether to fly most planes over fewer routes (concentrated routes) or to fly planes on more routes. So the choice is affecting a smaller number of people very severely, or a larger number less badly. There has never been decision on the alternatives. The concept of “respite” is popular with some – so more planes fly a certain route part of the time, giving those under another route some rest from the noise – then switching the two. Now the DfT has announced it is spending £5.5 million will (in the greenwash) “support airports to develop and evaluate design options aimed at making journeys quicker, quieter and cleaner.” It will “deliver for all the UK.” And help the sector to “build back better.” ... The main aim is to fit in more flights, and ensure planes do not stack on their arrival at an airport.
Report for the European Commission shows the CORSIA carbon scheme inadequate – EU ETS more effective in cutting CO2
The aviation industry’s carbon offsetting system (Corsia) risks being ineffective and poorly enforced. A report commissioned by the European Commission (EC) is highly critical of Corsia, which it says may do almost nothing to reduce international aviation emissions. The EC is expected to propose in June how aviation industry emissions should be mitigated, including whether to include international flights in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) – currently only those within the European Economic Area are included. The ETS has its faults, but would be hugely more effective in cutting European aviation carbon. A key problem with Corsia, apart from it being voluntary, is the use of cheap, ineffective carbon credits. Currently the price of Corsia-eligible offsets is under $2.50 per tonne. The ETS price is up to $43. Many of the credits are dubious, with inadequate certification or quality control of offsets. The rationale of just allowing airlines to compensate for their emissions, rather than encourage reductions, is misguided. The report concludes that the most effective way to cut EU aviation carbon would be to use the ETS, not Corsia, and include all international flights. The UK is considering how to do its own ETS, including aviation.
Concerns that in the US airlines got too much Covid taxpayer support, which greatly benefited shareholders
In the US, there were taxpayer-funded bailouts to many airlines, with a total of around $50 billion. It is unlikely that so much money was necessary and taxpayers over-paid. Probably the money helped save some 75,000 jobs, but with the cost of each about $300,000. The money kept the airlines from filing for bankruptcy, and ready to re-start flying. The money was not only, as claimed, to save jobs. In practice airline shareholders have been the biggest beneficiaries. That includes airline executives, many of whom have been paid in stock for years and stood to lose millions of dollars if their holdings were wiped out. Some had, in the past, boosted their companies’ share prices by regularly buying back tens of billions in shares. That meant setting aside less money for a rainy day (eg. a pandemic). Now, the shared of United airlines, traded below $20 in May, are now above $60. The patterns are similar for the other major carriers. “It is fair to say that we socialized the airline industry’s losses and largely privatized the gains.” The airlines managed to persuade government (unjustifiably) that they were more indispensable that other struggling sectors, and they were vital once Covid was under control.
Hydrogen very unlikely to be used in long-haul planes; huge problems even for short-haul
There is a lot of hype around about planes eventually being fuelled by hydrogen. This is dangerous, because it gives the false impression that a solution to aviation CO2 is just around the corner, and no measures need to be taken to reduce demand. There are immense problems of using hydrogen in aircraft. Liquid hydrogen, which is easier to store onboard than gas, has to be kept at -253C or it boils off. The tanks to contain it are not only heavier but x4 the size of conventional fuel storage. This imposes constraints on range and capacity for airlines. It might be necessary to remove 25% of the passengers from a conventional single-aisle aircraft to fit in fuel tanks. If it proves possible, in a decade or more, to use hydrogen, its use would be confined to short-haul, and could not be used on long-haul, which produce the most CO2 (+ non-CO2 impact). Flights of over 1,500km account for roughly 80% of the sector’s carbon emissions, according to the industry’s ATAG. Even for the shorter-range aircraft, hydrogen’s deployment would require huge costs for new infrastructure, transport and storage. Airlines could face increased operational complexities and higher costs from mixed fleets. And burning hydrogen generates water vapour, which adds to aviation’s non-CO2 climate impact.
Stansted Public Inquiry – MAG challenging Uttlesford’s refusal – has ended. Inspectors’ decision by June?
The Stansted Airport Public Inquiry to consider plans for further airport expansion (from 35 to 43 mppa) came to a close on Friday 12 March after 8 weeks of evidence hearings and cross-examinations. QCs for the 3 main parties – Manchester Airports Group (MAG), Uttlesford District Council (UDC) and Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) – presented their closing submissions at the end of last week. It will now be for the Panel of 3 Inspectors to decide whether to approve the airport expansion proposals. A decision is expected in around 3 months (June?). UDC’s Planning Committee had voted 10-0 to refuse permission, though officers had recommended acceptance. SSE says the Inquiry might not have been necessary if UDC had supported SSE’s call, 3 years ago, for the Secretary of State for Transport to deal with the Stansted Airport Planning Application nationally. Instead, UDC insisted on dealing with the application itself, despite its limited resources and expertise in this area. During the inquiry, most of the legal attack by MAG was against the detailed evidence produced by SSE, as UDC did not present much.
People overflown by Heathrow dreading the resumption of increased plane noise, when flight restrictions are eased
While for many people lockdown has been a really difficult and isolating time, for those living under the Heathrow flight paths it’s given them the respite from noise that they have really wanted and needed. One resident in Windsor said: “The worst thing for me is the night flights. I worked in a pressurised full time job and we had done as much insulation as possible. But when you wake up at 4.30am – when the first arrivals start – you start thinking about work and you can’t get back to sleep and it almost drove me round the bend. For your mental health the night flights are an absolute nightmare.” The problem can be worse in summer, in warm weather, when people want the window open – the noise is then far worse, and people get woken up. One resident said, about the prospect of high numbers of planes returning, when restrictions on air travel are lifted: “I am absolutely dreading it, in fact I am thinking about moving away which is a shame because I love this area and I love where I live.” The campaign group No 3rd Runway Coalition ran a noise survey during lockdown which received 3,419 responses. It showed a high number noticed a beneficial impact on their sleep, from fewer planes.
Government advised to halve domestic APD and review distance bands for the tax
Boris Johnson is set to authorise a 50% cut in APD for domestic flights. Senior Whitehall sources say he will announce a review of the tax, which is the only tax on air tickets (on which no tax or VAT is paid). Currently APD is charged at £13 for any adult leaving a UK airport, so that is the cost for any return flight to anywhere in Europe. For domestic flights (for which there is usually a rail alternative) the tax is £26, so it is charged on leaving both airports. The review will also look at the case for increasing the number of international distance bands. Since 2015, there have only been two bands, one covering flights of up to 2,000 miles and the other those in excess of that. The plans to change APD will be put to a consultation, so it is unlikely to be introduced until 2022. The recommendations are part of a wider Union Connectivity Review by Sir Peter Hendy, the chairman of Network Rail, to be published on 10th March, proposing a new “UK Strategic Transport Network” to oversee British transport priorities. Critics say the 50% domestic APD cut — coming just days after fuel duty was frozen for the 10th consecutive year — and rail fare rises, further undermine ministers’ commitment to cutting carbon a target of net-zero carbon by 2050. Doug Parr, chief scientist for Greenpeace UK, said this would “continue our nonsensical trend of the higher the carbon, the lower the tax.”
Changed future for air travel with likely 20 -30% (or more) fall in business passengers
For airlines other than low-cost, business passengers – paying hugely more than those in economy class – have been vital for revenues. Business travel may have generated over 75% of airlines’ revenue on some international flights. Due to the huge rise in Zoom and other internet calls, due to the pandemic, there is very likely to be a fall in business air travel. Nobody knows how large this fall could be – perhaps 30% or more. Without the large income from premium business travellers, ticket prices would rise overall. Economy passengers would have to pay more. That could mean a reduction in the size of airlines. The growth in business travel had been slowing globally, according to the Global Business Travel Association. In the UK, the fourth-biggest economy in terms of business travel expenditure, for example, data from the Office for National Statistics shows that while international air travel for leisure increased 3.4% per year between 2000 and 2019, international business travel grew just 0.2% annually. Companies have been hit by Covid. One survey indicated m any will reduce discretionary spending such as travel even further in 2021.
20 years after Manchester’s 2nd runway, the forecast jobs did not materialise – about 1/3 less than forecast
In 1997 there were lengthy, determined protests – for around 6 months – involving tunnels and tree houses, to stop the building of a 2nd runway at Manchester airport. In the end the bailiffs the protesters (including Swampy) were removed and the runway finally opened on February 5, 2001. This is an account of the protests. The runway was meant to increase the number of passengers at the airport from just below 15 million per year to 30m by 2005. In reality, in 2010 there were 17.7m and only by 2019 there were 29.4m. That was WAY below the forecasts. The runway was meant to create 50,000 jobs in the longer term, to add to around 45,000 – 55,000 jobs associated with the airport in 1997. The government inspector then ruled that even if the passenger and job forecasts were wrong, the impact on the region’s economy ‘would be huge’. In 2019 (just before the pandemic) the airport employed 3,500 workers directly and a further 19,300 indirectly – while the total number of jobs said to be supported by the airport was 45,000. All that comes – in 2019 – to about 68,000 jobs, some 30,000 fewer than had been envisaged prior to Runway 2. This is just another airport in which the predictions of thousands of jobs did not materialise.
Greenpeace France “greenwash” an AirFrance plane at Charles de Gaulle airport
Greenpeace France activists got onto the tarmac at Paris Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport to denounce the government’s greenwashing of aviation. They painted the side of an AirFrance plane green – greenwashing it. They say we need to reduce air travel, in order to be compatible the Paris Agreement targets. This comes a few days before the start of parliamentary debates on the “Climate and Resilience” bill. Greenpeace says airport expansion must be stopped – several French airports have such plans at present. They say now only should flights be replaced by rail journeys if the train time is under 2hours 30 minutes, but when the trip is under 6 hours. Greenpeace is not against novel technologies, but they say these will not be enough to make a sufficient difference, in the necessary timescale. The proposed technical solutions are a risk, as they delay real action. They explain why biofuels, hydrogen planes, or electric planes are not going to cut aviation emissions any time soon, if ever. Synthetic fuels made from surplus renewably generated electricity offer a small potential, but they will be expensive and only produced in small amounts. So air travel needs to be regulated and reduced.
“The climate crisis can’t be solved by ‘net-zero’ carbon accounting tricks” like offsets
We are all being encouraged to put our faith in pledges to become “net zero) by 2050, or some other date. Or “carbon neutral.” But that does not mean zero carbon. It just means every sector of every country in the world needs to be, on average, zero emissions. For some sectors, including air travel and some agricultural emissions, there is no prospect of getting to zero emissions in the near future. Prof Simon Lewis explains why the current “net zero” claims often involve very dubious claims and practices: “the new politics swirling around net zero targets is rapidly becoming a confusing and dangerous mix of pragmatism, self-delusion and weapons-grade greenwash.” What is needed is actual removal of carbon from the air. Not just hoping to stop some future emission. But there is far too little land to plant enough trees to counter today’s emissions, and large-scale hi-tech methods do not yet exist. He says: “Emitting carbon at the same time as building solar capability does not equal zero emissions overall. Offsetting needs to be used to remove CO2 from the atmosphere to counter difficult-to-remove emissions, and not just be an enabler of business-as-nearly-usual.” Read the full, very important, article.
Birmingham airport getting £32.5 million in loans from 4 of the 7 councils that half own it
Seven councils of the West Midlands own a 49% stake in Birmingham airport, a further 48.25% is owned by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and the remaining 2.75% belongs to an employee trust. The councils are putting in a lot of money, as loans, to the airport to keep it going. The total so far is about £32.8 million. The airport is getting £18.5 million from Birmingham City Council, plus £4.9 million from Walsall Council, plus £3.7 million from Solihull Council, plus probably a £5.7 million emergency loan from Coventry City Council. Coventry’s cabinet will discuss a loan up to £5.7m on March 9th before approval at full council on March 16th. Earlier Sandwell and Wolverhampton councils confirmed they will not be offering loans to the airport but Dudley declined comment. Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan will also provide a loan. The Coventry loan “would be made available as and when needed by the airport to ensure it can have the maximum impact on Covid recovery.” A Coventry cabinet member said the airport had “given us a return on income of over £1.6m in the last two years.”
Open letter from 246 University of Leeds academics, to Robert Jenrick, asking him to “call in” the Leeds Bradford decision
246 University of Leeds staff (including 46 professors and associate professors) ,and postgraduate researchers have signed an open letter, asking Robert Jenrick (Sec of State) to ‘call in’ the decision on Leeds Bradford Airport. The government should take responsibility for the decision, which is of national importance because of the increased carbon emissions and their impact on UK carbon commitments. The academics say expanding LBA’s passenger numbers by 75% exceeds the maximum rate of growth that the Climate Change Committee considers compatible with the UK’s legally adopted net-zero target. It would make it much more difficult – and more costly – for the UK to achieve its climate targets and would require reductions in passenger numbers elsewhere in the UK. “In the year that the UK is hosting the COP26 conference, it is vital that we show leadership on climate change and take the necessary actions to secure a safe, zero-carbon future. We therefore urge you [Robert Jenrick] to call in this application so that the issues highlighted are considered in light of national and international climate targets and associated guidance.” The alleged economic benefits of the expansion, or jobs created, would be unlikely to materialise.
Campaigners tell Heathrow to accept reality, and give up on plans for a 3rd runway
Campaigners say Heathrow should accept what is now financial reality and give up on its plans for a 3rd runway. Heathrow made a £2bn loss in 2020, and is asking for more government finance in the form of extending the furlough scheme – and also full relief from business rates. Heathrow’s financial frailty is obvious; it has net debt of £15.2bn as of September 2020. It is now so highly geared with debt, that it has reached a leverage ratio of 97% — higher than any comparable UK infrastructure or utility operation. In June last year the ratings agency, Standards & Poor’s, put Heathrow on “credit watch with negative implications” — a 2nd credit downgrade in just 2 months. Then Heathrow sought waivers on covenants from holders of £1.1 billion of bonds. Any further downgrade would render these bonds junk, making the airport an extremely unattractive asset for investment. Its shareholders have not contributed more cash. John Holland-Kaye has told staff that the publicised “£3.2bn war chest” is merely the liquidity that can be mustered when “we have drawn down all the cash and credit facilities at our disposal”. ie. more future borrowing. With its precarious finances, it is no longer appropriate for Heathrow to be pursuing a 3rd runway.
Heathrow adding a new £8.90 per passenger pandemic tax from April
Heathrow has added a new charge on all outbound flights from April. It will charge £8.90 extra in what the airport is calling a United Kingdom Exceptional Regulatory Charge. It may only last for a year, and Heathrow says the CAA has approved it. Other major UK airports have said they will not be implementing a similar fee. Paul McGuinness, chair of the No Third Runway Coalition, criticised the airport for adding on the extra charge. “Yes, aviation has dipped during the pandemic, but it’s the shambolic financial management of Heathrow – the massive borrowing, the large dividends payments to its foreign owners and the total lack of reserves – that is forcing the airport’s management into trying, by stealth, to raise these passenger tariffs.” A Heathrow spokesperson said: “Heathrow makes absolutely zero profit from these services [sic]. The price is calculated purely to cover the cost of operating and maintaining the infrastructure that supports them.” Airlines say the reason for the increase is the amount it charges them for baggage handling, water, electricity and other services. It is possible the tiny extra charge will make some people choose another airport to fly from (but it is probably too low to do that).
Gatwick made a £465.5m loss in 2020 as passenger numbers collapsed due to Covid
Gatwick Airport made a £465.5m loss in 2020 due to Covid. While the airport remained open all of 2020, passenger numbers fell by 78% as lockdowns and travel restrictions took their toll. All its revenue streams were affected and its loss before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) was £25.1m. The airport cut over 40% of its workforce as a result of the travel slump. The airport’s CEO Stewart Wingate wants the government to provide further financial support by extending the furlough scheme and providing full business rates relief for airports for the current financial year, not just the £8 million on offer. Gatwick said it reduced operating costs by £140m last year and deferred more than £380m from the investment originally planned for 2020 and 2021. In April 2020 it got a £300m loan from a consortium of banks, and it has had £250m under the Bank of England’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility. It has been granted a waiver to address breaches in Financial Covenants at 31 December, 2020. In December it had liquidity of £573m to meet cashflow, investment levels and interest payments for this year.
British Airways owner IAG hit made a record loss of – €7.4bn in 2020 (cf. +€2.6bn profit in 2019)
International Airlines Group, owner of BA, has reported a record annual operating loss of €7.4bn (£6.4 billion) for 2020. Its passenger capacity last year was only a third of 2019 and in the first quarter of this year is running at only a fifth of pre-Covid levels. The loss included exceptional items relating to fuel and currency hedges, early fleet retirement and restructuring costs. The loss compares with a €2.6bn profit in 2019. IAG is trying to cut its cost base and increase the proportion of variable costs to better match market demand. IAG’s passenger revenues fell 75% from €22.4bn to €5.5bn last year but its cargo business had “helped to make long-haul passenger flights viable” during the pandemic. Cargo revenues increased by almost €200m to €1.3bn and IAG also operated more than 4,000 cargo-only flights in 2020. It is not providing guidance on its finances for 2021. Airlines do seem to understand, at last, that for acceptable Covid safety of air travel, people need to be vaccinated or have proper proof they are not able to spread the virus. IAG spent €4.1bn in cash last year – almost €80m a week (£11.4 million per day). IAG’s market value has halved to £9.6bn since the start of the pandemic. When Covid is less of a threat, low-cost carriers may emerge in stronger shape than airlines like BA.
Open letter from NGOs to government: aviation and shipping must be fully included in UK net zero legislation (carbon budgets)
A group of leading environmental NGOs has written an open letter to the government in support of the Climate Change Committee’s recommendation that international aviation and shipping emissions (IAS) should at last be formally included within the UK carbon budgets. IAS are now the only emissions category not so included, resulting in a situation where aviation emissions are insufficiently controlled by policy and the industry is in a privileged position compared to all other businesses. In its 6th Carbon Budget recommendations published in December, the CCC identified reasons why IAS exclusion from the UK carbon budget can no longer be justified. These include their inclusion opening up the possibility of the two sectors achieving lower emissions; the UK’s overall emissions reduction strategy should be integrated across the whole economy; doing this would set a good example to other countries; and there is no longer any justification, in terms of difficulty of calculation, for omitting them from carbon budgets. The CCC said inclusion of IAS will “ensure that the UK takes full responsibility for these emissions and that, where necessary, effort in other sectors can be altered to ensure overall UK emissions are within the necessary limits”.
Heathrow makes £2bn loss in 2020 due to the pandemic – warning on continuing to be a “going concern”
Heathrow lost £2 billion in 2020 because of the fall in passenger numbers due to the Covid pandemic. The numbers are lower than for perhaps 50 years, and the airport is issuing a warning about its future. Its pre-tax loss was £2.01bn for its full-year compared to a £546m profit in 2019. Revenues fell 62% £1.18bn, with passenger were at 22.1 million, 73% less than in 2019. This led the airport to issue a warning, that the “existence of a material uncertainty… could cast significant doubt upon the group and the company’s ability to continue as a going concern”. Nobody knows how much air travel will happen this year. Heathrow desperately wants relief on all its business rates, an extended furlough scheme for its staff, and a revival of VAT-free airport shopping for tourists to the UK. John Holland-Kaye makes his usual statements about how vital Heathrow is to Britain … Since the start of the pandemic, the airport has cut operating costs by nearly £400m, reduced capital expenditure by £700m and raised £2.5bn in funding. And it says it ended 2020 with £3.9bn of liquidity, which it says is enough to last until April 2033 even if there is no recovery in passenger numbers. Which begs the question of why it needs more government support now.
Tourism desperately wants a return to the ‘old normal’ but that would be a disaster
An Australian professor of sustainable tourism has said that it’s time the global industry seriously reconsiders its business model, and overall purpose, in a post-pandemic world. Before COVID-19, international aviation emissions were forecast to potentially triple between 2015 and 2050. Likewise, emissions from the cruise ship industry were also growing. The “mass global tourism is emblematic of this voracious, growth-at-all-costs mentality.” The UN now says it is the time to “rethink how the sector impacts our natural resources and ecosystems”. But the sector is not looking to transform, and its plans to get people travelling again make little mention of environmental impact, in the short or long term. The “aspirational” goal of IATA to improve global fuel efficiency by 2% each year until 2050 is, by its own admission “unlikely to deliver the level of reduction necessary to stabilize and then reduce aviation’s absolute emissions contribution to climate change”. Much could be done to reduce the impact of global tourism, including – as suggested by the UN Sustainable Development Group: a frequent flyer levy; incentives for domestic tourism; restrictions on flight advertising; no more airport expansions in high-income countries; better transport alternatives to aviation.
GALBA has written to Sec of State, Robert Jenrick, asking that the Leeds Bradford airport application is “called in” – it could be the next “Cumbria Coal Mine” Case
On 11 February, Leeds City Council (LCC) provisionally approved a planning application to expand Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA), despite the Council having declared a climate emergency in March 2019. Now anti-airport expansion campaign, the Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA), has written – through their Barrister, Estelle Dehon – to Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State at DCLG, asking him to ‘call in’ the decision on LBA. If he agrees, the airport’s planning application will be dealt with at a public inquiry. GALBA believes that LBA expansion is the aviation equivalent of the Cumbria coal mine case. There are striking similarities: a local authority decision which would result in significantly increased greenhouse gas emissions and which flatly contradicts the latest advice to government from the Committee on Climate Change in the 6th Carbon Budget. One of the key reasons that Leeds councillors felt able to support airport expansion is because their planning officers told them that international aviation emissions are not a matter for local authorities to consider in the planning process. GALBA believes that is legally incorrect and reserves the option of challenging LCC in the courts. The planned expansion raises the type of issues where consideration at national level, by the Secretary of State, is required.”
Airport expansion plans show that local planning decisions on airports must be aligned with national carbon targets
Aviation CO2 accounted for 7% of UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, but this figure will inevitably grow if demand for air travel is allowed to increase. Allowing more demand means it would be even harder to meet UK carbon targets, as there are no realistic ways to reduce aviation emissions, other than by tiny amounts several decades ahead. Better infrastructure planning is needed in the UK, with local decisions aligned towards meeting national climate targets; currently they are not. France has blocked the building of a 4th terminal at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, on grounds of carbon emissions. But UK airport expansion plans contradict its climate commitments, with expansion plans pushing ahead fast – while there is still no coherent UK policy on aviation carbon. Plans for new building at Leeds Bradford, Southampton, Bristol, Luton, Stansted, Gatwick and Heathrow would mean far, far more carbon being emitted by the extra flights and passengers generated than the UK aviation passenger limit – advised by the Committee on Climate Change. Demand needs to be reduced. The government should align its national policy statements, used to guide planning, with its net zero target, to compel local authorities to factor climate change into their infrastructure decisions.
Manston DCO officially quashed – fresh decision from Sec of State only way the freight hub could proceed
Manston airport becoming a freight airport is the first Development Consent Order (DCO) for an airport. The Planning Inspectorate (PI) advised the DfT that plans should be rejected in October 2019. The DfT then wanted more information about the plans, from the airport developers, RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP). In July 2020, Sec of State Grant Shapps, for the DfT decided to ignore the PI’s advice, and allow the DCO. This was then legally challenged by local campaigner, Jenny Dawes, and the challenge was allowed to go ahead, in October 2020. By December the Grant Shapps had agreed that his decision approval letter did not contain enough detail about why approval was given against the advice of the PI – so the DCO was quashed. Now on 15th February a High Court judge has ruled that the DCO is quashed. The Defendant (Secretary of State for Transport) and RSP will pay Jenny Dawes’ “reasonable costs” up to £70,000. Grant Shapps, will now need to issue a renewed decision on the DCO. If there is another DCO similar to the original, the same arguments against it still stand, based on need, breach of procedural requirements, and the Net Zero carbon duty. If he decides against another DCO, then RSP may bring another legal challenge, or give up.
Airport growth plans are for way more passengers than carbon targets could permit
Despite the dire financial state of airports and airlines due to Covid, airports are pressing ahead with huge expansion plans – in the hope these could be approved before the government produces proper policies on UK carbon emissions. Leeds City Council (11th Feb) approved plans for a new airport terminal, to increase the number of passengers. Heathrow, Stansted, Luton, Gatwick, Bristol and Southampton airports all want to expand – increasing the number of passengers. But the advice to the UK government by its official advisers, the CCC (the Committee on Climate Change), is that there should be no more than 365 million passengers per year (mppa) by 2050, up from about 297 mppa in 2019 – a 23% rise – about 68 million. [And that depends on far lower CO2 emissions per passenger/km than now]. But if all the airport expansion plans went ahead, that might mean 532 mppa by 2050, (235 mppa more) which is over x3 the cap needed to meet UK climate pledges. This means if some airports expand, others cannot – or would have to contract. The government must decide by June whether to incorporate this into law, or to explain why it is rejecting the CCC’s advice. Heathrow’s 3rd runway alone could add 55 mppa. The UK has to create a more effective way to allocate the remaining capacity for growth, rather than allow an “expansion frenzy” with decisions made by different bodies.
Leeds City Council approves Leeds Bradford airport plans for new terminal (ie. more passengers, more carbon, more noise)
Leeds City Council has approved (subject to additional conditions still to be negotiated) Leeds Bradford Airport’s plans for a larger terminal to accommodate more passengers. This decision will entrench in the Leeds economy the growth of a carbon intensive industry. There is no certainty that the promised jobs will actually materialise, as the sector increasingly automates work. Objectors including climate scientists, transport experts and residents’ groups, warned such an expansion would help facilitate catastrophic climate change, as well as unbearable levels of noise pollution for those living close by. The application sought to demolish the existing passenger pier to accommodate a new terminal building and forecourt area. This would also include the construction of supporting infrastructure, goods yard and mechanical electrical plant. There are also plans to modify flight time controls, and to reduce the night-time flight period, with a likely increase from 5 to 17 flights between 6am and 7am. A professor of transport planning said there are inadequate contributions to road and rail infrastructure. Local group GALBA says there could still be a legal decision against the proposals.
Birmingham Airport to get £18.5m emergency loan from some of the councils that half own it
Birmingham Airport is to get an £18.5m emergency loan from Birmingham City Council, approved by the cabinet, to help avoid the threat of insolvency. Since the start of the Covid pandemic, the airport has seen passenger numbers fall by 91%. However, some councillors questioned whether the airport would want more money in future, as the pandemic restriction on flying continues. The fear is that if the airport becomes bankrupt, without a loan, even more money would be lost, and the councils could lose their control over it. The 7 councils of the West Midlands county – including Birmingham City Council – own a 49% stake in the airport’s holding company, BAHL; a further 48.25% is owned by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and the remaining 2.75% belongs to an employee trust. Four of the local authorities will contribute to the loan, with the other shareholder, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. The airport is getting public money already, through the government’s Job Retention Scheme.
France drops plans to build 4th terminal at Paris Roissy (Charles de Gaulle) airport on climate concerns
In order to avoid increasing carbon emissions, the French government has decided not to allow plans for a 4th terminal at Charles de Gaulle (Roissy) airport in Paris. It says the project is obsolete. The Minister of Ecological Transition, Barbara Pompili, said: “The government has asked the ADP group [Aéroports de Paris] to abandon its project and to present a new one, more consistent with its objectives of fighting against climate change and environmental protection.” The plan had been for construction to start in 2021. The board of directors of ADP Group should ratify this decision next week. ADP’s chairman and chief executive Augustin de Romanet said ADP had taken note of the government decision and would consider its future plans on how to develop the Charles de Gaulle airport to make it less environmentally damaging. It will consider reducing energy use, more surface access, and perhaps different jet fuels. The French government has a stake of just over 50% in ADP’s share capital. In 2019 Heathrow had 80.8 million passengers, and Roissy had 76.1million. The 4th terminal was intended to cope with 35-40 million passengers. Covid has caused uncertainty about future air travel demand for Paris.
Feb 18th – deadline for comments on application by Luton airport to increase passenger cap from 18m to 19mppa
Luton Airport has submitted a planning application (21/00031/VARCON) to Luton Borough Council to increase the annual cap on passenger throughput by 5.5% from 18m to 19mppa. Also to expand the day and night noise contours by 11.3% and 15.3% respectively until 2028, when they would be reduced somewhat, but still a net growth from today’s levels. Annual plane movements are forecast to grow by no more than 0.8%. The deadline for responses is February 18th. The airport is arguing that more larger planes means that the extra passengers can be accommodated without a huge increase in plane numbers. They also claim the anticipated new planes will be less noisy and emit less carbon … (’twas ever thus…) These wonderful planes or technologies don’t yet exist. The motivation for the increase in the passenger number cap has been rising demand, before the Covid pandemic struck. Future air traffic demand is uncertain. The “elephant in the room” is the conflict of interest of Luton Borough Council being both the planning authority and the owner of the airport. But Hertfordshire County Council is set to formally object to the plans, largely on grounds of noise nuisance.
Open Letter to Leeds City Council – MPs, Councillors, Scientists and Community Groups ask them to oppose Leeds Bradford airport expansion
An open letter has been sent to Leeds City Council (LCC) councillors, written by local opposition group GALBA & supported by 114 various groups, councils, organisations, residents’ associations and climate scientists. They ask the council to decide (on 11th February) against allowing expansion of Leeds Bradford airport, by NOT allowing the building of a new terminal. The work is designed to increase passengers from 4 million a year to 7 million by 2030. The letter says: “Expansion would mean health damaging increases in noise, traffic and air pollution for thousands of people in our local communities. Above all, it would mean a huge increase in greenhouse gas emissions exactly when we need to cut them to prevent the worst effects of the climate crisis. Expansion would be fundamentally wrong. Leeds City Council has declared a Climate Emergency and aims to reach net zero carbon by 2030. Yet from 2030 onwards, aircraft from an expanded airport would pump out more greenhouse gases than the whole of the rest of the city. Allowing LBA to expand would immediately make the Council’s own net zero target impossible.”
Campaigners challenge the DfT on inflated figures for economic benefit, and number of jobs, created by the aviation sector
There are frequently statements by UK government ministers, by the DfT and by the aviation industry, about the level of economic benefit the sector creates for the UK economy – and the number of jobs it produces. Some figures mention direct jobs or benefits, and some more indirect. The figure of “£22 billion benefit to the economy” is often heard, and numbers of jobs that vary from around 130,000 to half a million. Campaigners wrote to the DfT in November, and have written again now, to ask for clarity on the figures, and consistency in what numbers are used. Figures of air transport, and work associated with it, are very different from those of the aerospace sector, making or maintaining aircraft and spacecraft. The economic benefit of air transport itself is far nearer £10 billion per year, than £22 billion. The number of direct jobs is nearer 137,000 than many hundred thousand. By repeating unsubstantiated numbers, the DfT creates an inaccurate picture of the value of air travel to the UK and its importance. The numbers often quoted by the DfT and the aviation sector also omit mention of the tourism deficit, and was (ONS figures) £33.9 billion in 2919. The DfT is also challenged for its continuous support for the sector, overlooking its negative impacts.
Prof Julian Allwood: The only way to hit net zero by 2050 is to stop flying
The UK aviation industry this week pledged to bring its net carbon emissions down to zero by 2050 while growing by 70%, which is probably a lot of hype – to which they cannot yet be held accountable. But Professor Julian Allwood, an engineer from Cambridge University, argues that not only is it impossible and unrealistic for aviation to have zero carbon emissions, the only solution is to have a period with almost no flying at all. He says: “Let’s stop placing impossible hopes on breakthrough technologies, and try to hit emissions targets with today’s technologies.” And “There are 3 ways to deliver net-zero aviation: invent new electric aircraft, change the fuels of existing aircraft or take the emissions out of the atmosphere.” None of which can be done, at the scale necessary, any time before 2050, if at all. Long haul large electric planes will not be feasible for decades, if ever. There will not be enough spare renewably generated electricity to produce “green” hydrogen for planes. And “there are currently no meaningful negative emissions technologies. It requires more energy to recapture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than was generated when it was released.” “Rather than hope new technology will magically rescue us” we need to “commit to halving flights within 10 years, hoping to phase them out entirely by 2050.”
DfT night flights consultation – deadline for first section is 3rd March (second section 31st May)
The DfT has a consultation currently, on night flights. The consultation has two parts. First, by 3 March the DfT seeking views on its proposals to extend the current night flight restrictions, set in 2017, for an additional two years from October 2022, and to ban the noisiest category of aircraft from operating in the night from October 2022 (this is only relevant for the few airports at which these planes are permitted). Then second, by 31st May it is seeking wider views on its national night flight policy and the structure of night flight restrictions beyond 2024. Groups concerned about aircraft noise are very much opposed to the DfT’s proposal to extend current night flight restrictions for an additional 2 years, as it is widely acknowledged that plane noise at night disturbs sleep thousands, and negatively affects their mental and physical health. The government has repeatedly rolled forward night flight limits set many years ago, without any proper re-examination of the issues. There are claims of the economic benefits of night flights, and these need to be re-assessed. With falling business flights, one frequent justification is to increase the number of daily “rotations” by low-cost airlines, keeping their fare prices low. There is advice on how to respond.
Leeds Bradford Airport expansion decision soon – there have been almost 2,000 objections
A final decision is set to be made on the future of the Leeds Bradford airport at a meeting on 11th February, on the proposals for a new £150m terminal that would allow more annual flights and passengers, and thus higher carbon emissions. Over 1,950 objections to the plans have been submitted, and around 1,200 in favour of it, including (predictably) the West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce. Environmental campaigners and climate academics had warned flights in and out of Leeds needed to dramatically reduce in order to help humanity have a fighting chance of averting climate catastrophe in the coming years. Council planning officers have now set out their recommendation in a report to the authority’s City Plans Panel that suggests they approve the blueprints, albeit with 50 conditions on the developers. Several councils have opposed the plans, and Bradford West MP Naz Shah, Bradford East MP Imran Hussain and all 5 Leeds Labour MPs have also raised concerns. Local campaign group The Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA) has been fighting the plans for several years. Airports like to confuse the issue, with how low-energy their airport buildings will be, trying to pretend the flights are nothing to do with them.
UK airlines can keep airport slots this summer without having to use them
UK airlines including British Airways, easyJet and Virgin Atlantic will hang on to lucrative take-off and landing slots without having to use them this summer after the DfT extended waivers to airport slot rules. Airlines have parked their fleets during the pandemic, prompting the suspension of rules forcing airlines to “use or lose” their slots 80% of the time. The suspension of the requirement has been opposed by rival airlines Ryanair and Wizz Air, as they hope to profit from the disruption in the industry. Gatwick is also unhappy, as it hoped to trap airlines there, while they would prefer to go to Heathrow. The body, ACI, controls the slot market and slot allocation. The decision indicates that the DfT and Grant Shapps are expecting another difficult summer for the European airline industry as travel curbs widen. The suspension will be a relief for BA, EasyJet and Virgin as they have been able to trim back their schedules while hanging on to spots at capacity-constrained airports. Airlines may decide there are better opportunities for growth [they always want to grow, regardless of the climate crisis] through gaining slot rights elsewhere in Europe.
Airports can get up to £8 million in business rates relief – Heathrow wants a lot more
The government’s financial Airport Support Scheme has now opened to applications but was swiftly criticised by Heathrow and other airport operators. Under the scheme, airports and baggage handlers can apply for up to £8m in business rates relief. But Heathrow has a business rates bill of around £120m per year, so the £8 million will cover little of it. Indeed it is less than the money it is burning through in two days – which is around £5 million per day. Holland-Kaye said “the Treasury has yet to explain why it has handed out £3 billion of rates relief to retail businesses that didn’t need it while ignoring the worsening crisis facing our industry.” The government announced the scheme back in November when international travel was banned under the second national lockdown, and we now have the 3r lockdown. Most airports are grateful for the help, but want more – as the £8 million was arranged before the current tight Covid travel restrictions. Thousands of retailers have received government help with business rates, including many that have done very well during the pandemic. Some are returning the money; many are not.
Carney’s carbon offset taskforce unclear about environmental integrity and effectiveness of private sector market
As Mark Carney, the UN special envoy for climate action and finance, unveiled plans for a new “taskforce” to scale up the private sector voluntary carbon market, campaigners warn key criteria for carbon offsets, that could be effective and might improve environmental integrity, are missing. The taskforce includes some of the world’s largest carbon emitting companies, including EasyJet, Boeing, BP, Shell, Total, and Tata Steel. There are no green groups among its members. Businesses increasingly realise they are expected to take carbon seriously, and set net-zero targets, as far ahead as possible. And they want the cheapest way possible to do this. Hence the drive for cheap carbon credits, which are often from developing countries, such as tree-planting, ecosystem restoration, energy efficiency or waste management. Demand for carbon credits is anticipated to rise, as companies continue to grow and emit more carbon (instead of genuinely reducing their emissions, themselves). Climate campaigners warn these ineffective carbon credits could give polluters a free pass. They also help to delay real cuts in companies’ carbon emissions, or investment in the necessary technologies. What is needed is real carbon removal.
Hillingdon Council’s new leader, Ian Edwards, pledges to continue fight against Heathrow 3rd runway and HS2
January 21, 2021
Hillingdon Council (15th January) has appointed Councillor Ian Edwards as new leader of the local authority. He replaces London and Hillingdon’s longest serving council leader, Cllr Ray Puddifoot, who announced he was stepping down in October last year after 20 years of service. Sir Ray said: “As I step down tonight I do so in the knowledge that that Hillingdon Council has the administration, resources and first class staff which will see this council and our residents through the current pandemic and beyond.” Cllr Edwards, who also replaced Cllr Puddifoot as Conservative group leader, pledged to continue defending the borough’s environment and residents against a 3rd runway at Heathrow, and mitigate the impact of HS2.
PwC report says airlines need to shrink their fleets and restructure their businesses, post-Covid
PWC report says drastic cuts are needed to airline fleets, and also business restructuring. PWC’s 2021 Aviation Industry Outlook says the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has permanently realigned the finances of airlines and many will go under. It also says investors are ready to pick up bargains in distressed aviation deals. “In order to survive and thrive in the post-Covid world, airlines will have to fundamentally re-think their fleets, their business models and their finances. For most, a return to business as usual is not going to be a viable option.” Airlines will not just be able to pick up where they left off last March, as many markets may have become uneconomic to serve. There are too many aircraft for the likely demand, which will not return for ages to the 2019 level of around 4.5 billion passenger trips. About 30% of the global passenger airliner fleet – over 8,500 aircraft – are inactive. The massive debt of airlines will need “root and branch restructuring” in order to return to profitability. IATA predicts the global airline industry will lose €98bn in 2020 and a further €32bn in 2021. Airlines have had at least €149bn to date in government support.
Airlines and others depend on the “giant loophole” of future (unproven) carbon removal technologies
Governments and businesses worldwide are hoping they will be able to avoid making drastic carbon cuts, and instead somehow remove carbon from the air – avoiding climate breakdown. The UK’s Committee on Climate Change has advised the UK government that carbon dioxide removal (CDR) at scale, will be needed. All climate goals for “net-zero” depend to some extent on this rather dubious future “get out of jail free” technology. Now a paper by Greenpeace shows the extent to which these aspirations to remove CO2 from the atmosphere have become (as was predicted) a huge loophole. Aviation is one of the sectors that most needs to depend on carbon removal, as its plans for continuing growth mean more fuel burned – and more carbon. The IPCC reports that the maximum sustainable CO2 removal in 2050 by new forests is between 500 – 3,600 Mt per year. The maximum for BECCS is 500 – 5,000 MtCO2. Greenpeace says IAG alone anticipates using forests to offset 30 MtCO2/ year by 2050: thus exhausting up to 6% of the available total (if that was 500Mt). For American Airlines, CDR will be used to offset emissions equivalent to about 50% of the present total; for IAG it is over 95%.
Heathrow passengers down 72.7% in 2020 (cf. 2019). ATMs down 57.8%. Cargo down 28.2%
Heathrow has published its figures for 2020, which was a year made completely abnormal, by the Covid pandemic. Heathrow’s number of passengers was 72.7% lower than in 2019, with 22.1 million passengers, compared to 80.9 million in 2019 (ie. 58.8 million fewer). As planes were less full than usual, with lower load factor, the number of flights (ATMs) was down by 57.8% for the year, compared to 2019 .The amount of cargo carried was down by 28.2%, which Heathrow blames partly on the limited number of passenger planes, the holds of which normally contain cargo. The largest reduction in air passengers was to North America (79.5% down). Until Covid, the number of Heathrow passengers rose relentlessly, even though the airport claims it is “full” (it always had extra terminal capacity). In 2009 it had 65.9 million passengers; in 2016 it had 75.7 million; in 2017 it had 78.0 million; in 2018 it had 80.0 million; and in 2019 it had 80.9 million. The number of flights (ATMs) in 2020 was 200,905; in 2018 was 480,339 and the number in 2019 was 479,811 (the figure is capped at 480,000 per year).
Stansted Airport Public Inquiry into expansion plans – started 12th January
After over 3 years of fierce resistance by the local community, the proposed expansion of Stansted Airport will be decided by a Public Inquiry which opens on Tuesday 12th January. The outcome will determine whether Uttlesford, East Herts, and other surrounding districts will continue to consist of largely rural communities or will, in time, become further blighted and urbanised in the same way as large areas around Gatwick and Heathrow airports. Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) considers it entirely irrational, and potentially dangerous, for the Government’s Planning Inspectorate to insist that the Public Inquiry must start at the height of the Covid pandemic. Stansted already has permission for 35 million passengers and its passenger throughput peaked at 28 million in 2018, with passenger numbers in decline since mid-2019, long before the pandemic. It is applying to expand to 43mppa. In 2020, Stansted handled just 7 million passengers and has forecast that it will take years to return to pre-pandemic levels. Plainly, there is no urgency to increase the current planning cap.
Letting Gatwick convert its emergency runway for full use would require capacity restrictions at other airports
Plans to bring Gatwick’s emergency runway into regular use would only be possible with a government intervention to prevent other airport expansions. This is what the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) advice indicates. The deputy director of the Aviation Environment Federation, Cait Hewitt, said: “Allowing Gatwick’s emergency runway to be used routinely as a second runway would only be possible if the government was to intervene to restrict capacity elsewhere in the UK, presumably by removing existing planning permissions – not an easy step to take” – and that the CCC advice makes it clear that “aviation can no longer be let off the hook when it comes to UK climate policy … The CCC’s advice should represent a line in the sand when it comes to airport expansion. … Airport expansion runs directly counter to the net zero agenda. It has to stop.” The Gatwick plans mean the emergency runway could be operating short-haul flights, by the end of the decade. The CCC’s advice to government on the Sixth Carbon Budget, published on 9th December 2020, advises the government that any increase in UK airport capacity would need to be matched by restrictions at other airports to ensure no ‘net increase’.
UK to need any arrivals to have negative Covid test under 72 hours earlier, but 10 day proper quarantine mandatory after arrival
The UK government is saying that, from Thursday 14th January, all international travellers, including Britons abroad, will have to produce evidence of a negative coronavirus test result (test under 72 hours from leaving the country) to enter England and Scotland, under new restrictions. This applies to those arriving by air, or by ferry or the Channel Tunnel. Those who arrive in England and Scotland without a negative test will face £500 on-the-spot fines. The period of 72 hours was chosen rather than the (better) 48 hours, as people abroad may find it difficult to get the test results that fast. The measure does not, of course, prevent people arriving in the UK carrying Covid virus, that either was not detected in the test (some are only 50-60% accurate), but also virus infection that they were incubating at the time of the test. People will be required to isolate themselves for 10 days – “mandatory self isolation” – though there is no means to enforce it, or prevent people going to shops, on public transport etc, on their way home. Children aged under 11 and hauliers will not have to be tested. Some have called for a test on arrival in the UK too, as well as as enhanced monitoring and enforcement of the quarantine. There are fears the South African strain of Covid may not be prevented by some vaccines, and it can enter the UK (some already has) and vaccines are the only way to stop the pandemic.
Petition to government: Ban Night Flights
Aviation Communities Forum started this petition to The Secretary of State for Transport.
Night Flights are a real problem for many people impacted by flight paths to and from airports. They disturb sleep, cause annoyance, stress people out and can lead to real health problems.
Night flights are not essential to the UK economy. [Many are just to allow low cost airlines to fit more “rotations” in per day, to get more people flying, more cheaply – not helping climate change].
This is our chance to tell the DfT to ban night flights for good.
Letter to DfT: The Airports National Policy Statement should now be withdrawn, as it is out of date
The Supreme Court ruled, on December 16th, that the Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) was legal. The ANPS is the policy document necessary to Heathrow to proceed with plans for a 3rd runway. But the Court ruling does NOT give the runway consent. The government did not challenge the earlier ruling, in February, by the Appeal Court. The ANPS was written around 2017-18 and approved in Parliament in June 2018. Since then, life has moved on, and it is very out of date. The economics of the situation have changed; awareness of the climate implications of a runway is hugely greater; the Committee on Climate Change has given its advice on the Sixth Carbon Budget, and that aviation growth has to be constrained; knowledge has increased about the health impacts of air pollution from aircraft; and now Covid has reduced demand for air travel, which may never recover to its 2019 level. Neil Spurrier, from the Teddington Action Group (TAG) has written to the DfT to ask that the ANPS is now withdrawn. He says the ANPS “is now completely out of date and should be withdrawn. I request that this is done pursuant to a review under section 6 of the Planning Act 2008 …” See Neil’s full letter.
Government legal restrictions on flying abroad in Covid lockdown – holidays, leisure trips are NOT allowed
The government guidance on travel abroad, under Covid lockdown in the UK, from 4th January 2021. “You can only travel internationally – or within the UK – where you first have a legally permitted reason to leave home. In addition, you should consider the public health advice in the country you are visiting. If you do need to travel overseas (and are legally permitted to do so, for example, because it is for work), even if you are returning to a place you’ve visited before, you should look at the rules in place at your destination and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) travel advice. UK residents currently abroad do not need to return home immediately. However, you should check with your airline or travel operator on arrangements for returning. Foreign nationals are subject to the ‘Stay at Home’ regulations. You should not travel abroad unless it is permitted. This means you must not go on holiday. If foreign nationals are visiting the UK, you may return home. You should check whether there are any restrictions in place at your destination. You cannot leave your home or the place where you are living for holidays or overnight stays unless you have a reasonable excuse for doing so. This means that holidays in the UK and abroad are not allowed.”
British Airways to get a £2 billion loan, backed by UK Export Finance. It had a £300 million loan earlier
British Airways has been asking for financial help, to get it through the Covid pandemic. Now it has had a new £2 billion funding boost, through a state-backed loan. Its parent company, IAG, has secured commitments for a 5-year loan, underwritten by a syndicate of banks. It is being partially guaranteed by state-backed credit agency UK Export Finance (UKEF) and details are being finalised. The loan has covenants, including perhaps restrictions on dividend payments by the airline to IAG. The money will keep BA going until, it hopes, effective Covid vaccines during 2021 will enable air travel to resume, in high numbers. IAG said it “continues to have strong liquidity with cash and undrawn facilities of €8 billion as at November 30, excluding the UKEF facility.” But it is also looking at other sources of money. BA had previously received £300 million over a year from a Bank of England loan programme for the UK’s biggest companies. It also claimed support from the taxpayer-funded furlough scheme. IAG made a pre-tax loss of £6.2 billion pre-tax loss for the first 9 months of 2020, on revenues down 66% to £6.5 billion. BA is also cutting a quarter of its workforce – so losing 12,000 staff. UK government said in December the UKEF would stop funding fossil fuels ….
Gatwick investors say they will put in the money to develop its emergency runway for routine use
VINCI Airports and infrastructure fund GIP say they have committed to funding the next stage of a scheme to upgrade Gatwick’s ‘standby’ northern runway, for routine use. That would add around 90 extra flights per day. The northern runway is currently short, and is used as an emergency runway. It is too close to the main runway to be used independently, for safety reasons. But it could take short-haul planes in gaps between use of the main runway. Gatwick – struggling with the impact of the Covid pandemic – says it will now develop the development consent order (DCO) application for the project, including environmental surveys. The airport intends to launch a public consultation this summer. Gatwick’s biggest airline customers – BA, easyJet, Norwegian and Virgin Atlantic – have suspended or scaled back flights, or moved some to Heathrow. Gatwick hopes passenger traffic will recover fast, once vaccination against Covid makes it safer to travel, with traffic back to the level in 2019 by 2023. Gatwick claims the runway will not add to carbon emissions (as it does not include the emissions from flights). The CCC has said there should be no net airport expansion in the UK. If an airport expands, another should therefore contract.
Effects on cardiovascular and respiratory systems of short-term exposures to ultrafine particles in air, near an airport, in healthy subjects
There is a growing body of research into the negative health impacts of very tiny particulate air pollution. The nanoparticles of ≤20 nm are produced by vehicle engines, but seem to be produced in considerable amounts by jet engines. A new study in the Netherlands looked at impacts on the respiratory and cardiovascular systems of 21 healthy young (18 – 35), non-smoking volunteers. They were exposed between 2 and 5 times to 5 hour periods of the ambient air near Schiphol airport, while doing intermittent moderate exercise like cycling. Various aspects of their circulation and respiration were measured. The study found the exposures were associated with decreased FVC (forced vital capacity – a measure of lung function) and prolonged QTc intervals (the time it takes the heart to re-polarise for the next beat).The effects were relatively small, but they appeared after single exposures of 5 h in young healthy adults. “As this study cannot make any inferences about long-term health impacts, appropriate studies investigating potential health effects of long-term exposure to airport-related UFP (ultra fine particles), are urgently needed.”
Another study, this one from Switzerland, shows exposure to aircraft noise during sleep can trigger heart attacks
A study carried out by Swiss researchers looked at 24,886 deaths from cardiovascular disease from 2000–2015, in people living near Zurich Airport. They investigated the deaths in relation to night-time aircraft noise exposure. They found that those exposed to 40–50 decibels noise had a significantly higher risk (about 33%) of heart attacks in the few hours after the noise. The risk was higher for noise above 55 decibels – about 44%. For those susceptible, the effect of planes passing overhead can lead to death within 2 hours of the noise. The Zurich study found aircraft noise contributed to about 800 out of 25,000 cardiovascular deaths that occurred between 2000 and 2015 in the vicinity of Zurich airport, which was 3%. The study used a so-called ‘case-crossover’ model to determine whether the subject’s noise exposure around their time of death was unusually high in comparison to sounds levels they experienced at other, randomly-selected times. Previous research for the European Environment Agency estimated that noise exposure road, rail, aircraft, industry) causes 12,000 premature deaths and contributes to 48,000 new cases of ischemic heart disease per year across Europe.
Global air passenger traffic drop by 60% to 1.8 billion in 2020, compared to 4.5 billion in 2019
Global air passenger traffic is expected to be down by 60% in 2020, compared to 2019, at 1.8bn passengers – about the level in 2004. Before the coronavirus outbreak hit the globe, the airline industry grew at a steady pace across all countries. IATA global data showed the number of scheduled airline passengers increasing for the last 15 years, from 1.9bn in 2004 to 4.5bn in 2019. The increase was both due to low cost airlines, and more affluent middle class people in the Asia Pacific region. It is possible, though nobody can predict what will happen with the Covid pandemic, that the number of air passengers might rise to around 2.8bn in 2021, which is still 40% less than pre-COVID 19 estimates for the year. While the number of passengers was down around 60%, the number of flights was down about 43.5% – because planes were emptier. The number of air travellers in the UK was down around 73% this year, and Germany bout 76 % down. Before Covid, the COVID-19, worldwide commercial airlines’ passenger revenues grew each year and jumped from $323bn in 2005 to $612bn in 2019. But IATA expect their revenues to be down for 2020 by 67% to $191 billion. The figure in 2021 might, if Covid is controlled, be half the number in 2019.
The problem of a Heathrow 3rd runway for regional airports – it means they cannot expand.
Letter from No 3rd Runway Coalition Chair, Paul McGuinness
Since the UK Parliament gave the go-ahead for Heathrow expansion in 2018 (by endorsing the Airports National Policy Statement), quite a lot has changed. The UK’s Net Zero Carbon target has famously been incorporated into law. And – just this month – the Westminster Government has announced we shall increase the speed of progress towards that target (by achieving 68% of the reductions in emissions by 2030). Moreover, the Climate Change Committee (the UK Government’s statutory adviser on the implementation of carbon commitments) has stated there is no room in the next “carbon budget” for any expansion in the UK’s net aviation capacity. This consolidated advice from 2019 that, were Heathrow to expand, restrictions would need to be applied to aviation activity across the UK. This could include the reduction of flights and, potentially, closures of regional airports across the UK, with reduced aviation connectivity for people the UK regions. We should be interested to know if any readers would like to see aviation activity reduced at their local airport (or possibly see it forcibly closed) in order to afford Heathrow the opportunity of expanding, in the already prosperous south east of England.
Legal challenges against government – new one by the Good Law Project on aviation and Heathrow
Environmentalists are using the law to force the government to bring infrastructure plans into line with its climate change commitments. There are already legal challenges, on energy and roads. The challenge on road building is by the Transport Action Network, and the energy one is by the Good Law Project. Now the Good Law Project have started new legal action against the government, to the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS). They insist that the ANPS must now be aligned with the Climate Change Act (2008), which is now in force and which demands almost zero emissions by 2050. The ANPS was first written when some believed (wrongly) that airport capacity in south-east England was becoming over-loaded. Good Law says the strategy should be reviewed due to the likely long-term reduction in business travel due to Covid. In addition there can be no justification for expanding Heathrow, with the UK’s climate commitments. Boris has been a long term opponent of a Heathrow 3rd runway, so would perhaps welcome a simple – and wise in terms of carbon – way to prevent it, once and for all. In another legal challenge, Plan B Earth intends to take the Heathrow case to the European Court of Human Rights.
Heathrow expansion would be a direct assault on this government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda
Paul McGuinness, Chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, writing in the Independent, says the judgement by the Supreme Court, that the Airports NPS is legal, will have disappointed many, in particular the local communities who have now lived beneath the black cloud of uncertainty about a 3rd runway for far too long. Many aspects of the ANPS are now seriously out of date – in particular the economic benefits, claimed for the expansion. The ANPS had assumed the runway would be operating by 2028 with a buoyant, growing aviation sector. But Heathrow abandoned plans to open by 2028 and has instead said – for many months – that the runway might not be needed till 2032 or 3035. They consider construction, phased over time, might take 30 years, not the 5 originally intended, and justified it economically on that basis. The economic case needs to be re-assessed. The problem of UK targets on carbon emissions mean the runway is impossible. There is also the “levelling up” agenda, which only came into play after parliament had approved the ANPS. The CCC has just advised for its sixth carbon budget, that there should be no net expansion of airports. A Heathrow 3rd runway would mean yet more aviation activity focused on the south-east, to the detriment of the regions. That is a direct assault on the “levelling up” agenda to which the government says it is committed. The UK needs a proper aviation policy for the whole country, not the ANPS that focused only on Heathrow.
What does the Supreme Court judgement on Heathrow’s runway plans mean for the campaign to stop the 3rd runway?
A briefing note from the No 3rd Runway Coalition on what comes next, after the Supreme Court judgement (16th December) sets out some key issues. The Coalition says the judgement does NOT give Heathrow the green light; it us simply one hurdle cleared. Expansion faces: 1. Legal challenges. Plan B Earth intends to take proceedings to the European Court of Human Rights, on the danger to future generations from climate change. 2. Government can commit to reviewing the ANPS under Section 6 of the Planning Act 2008. This can refer to all or part of the statement. The Act enables the Secretary of State to consider any significant change in any circumstances on the basis of which any policy in the statement was decided. It can be argued that the Net Zero commitments, noise, air pollution, assessment of health impacts, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economics provide legitimate reasons for review. The ANPS could be withdrawn. 3. The DCO process. Though Heathrow can now proceed to submit an application for a Development Consent Order (DCO) to the Planning Inspectorate, this has to consider current climate obligations, including the UK’s net zero by 2050 target. And Heathrow has been seriously damaged financially by Covid. See the full briefing note.
Supreme Court rules that the Airports NPS is legal; climate issues of a Heathrow runway would have to be decided at the DCO stage
The Supreme Court has ruled that the Airports NPS is lawful. In February 2020 the Appeal Court had ruled that it was not, on climate grounds. The ANPS is the national policy framework which governs the construction of a Heathrow 3rd runway. Any future application for development consent to build this runway will be considered against the policy framework in the ANPS. The ANPS does not grant development consent in its own right. The Supreme Court rejected the legal challenges by Friends of the Earth, and Plan B Earth, that the then Secretary of State, Chris Grayling, had not taken climate properly into account, nor the UK’s commitments under the Paris Agreement. These are tricky points of law, and definition of the term “government policy” rather than the reality of climate policy. Heathrow is now able to continue with plans to apply for a Development Consent Order (DCO) which is the planning stage of the runway scheme.The Supreme Court said at the DCO stage, Heathrow would have to show “that the development would be compatible with the up-to-date requirements under the Paris Agreement and the CCA 2008 measures as revised to take account of those requirements” and“The Court further holds that future applications [for the runway] will be assessed against the emissions targets and environmental policies in force at that later date rather than those set out in the ANPS.”
“Heathrow expansion remains very far from certain”: Friends of the Earth reacts as Supreme Court rules on policy allowing third runway
Friends of the Earth UK (FoE) was one of the organisations that took their challenge of the High Court decision on Heathrow expansion, and the Airports NPS (ANPS), to the Court of Appeal. Heathrow took that judgement, that the ANPS was illegal (of no legal effect) to the Supreme Court, which has now ruled that the ANPS is valid and legal. Friends of the Earth say the judgement is “not a ‘green light’ for a 3rd Heathrow runway. It makes clear that full climate considerations remain to be addressed and resolved at the planning stage, where Friends of the Earth will continue the challenge against a 3rd runway. In addition, the Government has been recently warned by its own advisers (the CCC) against net airport expansion.” FoE also say green jobs, low-carbon travel and the health and wellbeing of everyone must be government priority for 2021 and beyond. A 3rd runway is far from certain, with many chances to block it in the planning stages. The UK’s obligations and targets have become much more challenging since the ANPS was designated and are only expected to get tougher, especially in light of the advice last week by the Committee on Climate Change that, in order to meet Net Zero Target, there should be no net increase in airport capacity.
Between about 20 and 35% of future business travel may never return, post Covid
A study by some travel experts looked into the various sorts of business travel, how much of the total they make up, and how likely they are to decline, with the change in behaviour after Covid. They see various categories: 1. Internal corporate purposes, the most likely to decline. They make up around 20% of business air travel, and might fall by 40 – 60%. 2. Commuting by air, about 5% of business travel; might fall by 40 – 60%. 3. Travel for external purposes will fall a bit. 4. Travel aimed at sales and securing clients, makes up 25% of total business travel is probably the most resilient, but might fall by 20%. 5. Travel to conventions and trade shows, comprise around 20% of all corporate travel, and could decline by 10 – 20%. The finding that as much as perhaps 35% of future business travel demand may disappear holds huge implications for legacy airlines, which depend on the segment for a large chunk of their revenues. Low cost airlines will be less affected. The longer the pandemic stretches on, the more firmly ingrained new work habits and technologies will become.
Committee on Climate Change – recommendations to government – lots on aviation carbon changes and policies needed
The Committee on Climate Change has published its guidance for the UK government on its Sixth Carbon Budget, for the period 2033 – 37, and how to reach net-zero by 2050. There is a great deal of detail, many documents, many recommendations – with plenty on aviation. The intention is for UK aviation to be net-zero by 2050, though the CCC note there are not yet proper aviation policies by the UK government to achieve this. International aviation must be included in the Sixth Carbon budget. If the overall aviation CO2 emissions can be reduced enough, it might be possible to have 25% more air passengers in 2050 than in 2018. The amount of low-carbon fuels has been increased from the CCC’s earlier maximum realistic estimates of 5-10%, up to perhaps 25% by 2050, with “just over two-thirds of this coming from biofuels and the remainder from carbon-neutral synthetic jet fuel …” Residual CO2 emissions will need to be removed from the air, and international carbon offsets are not permitted. There is an assumption of 1.4% efficiency improvement per year, or at the most 2.1%. There “should be no net expansion of UK airport capacity unless the sector is on track to sufficiently outperform its net emissions trajectory.” The role of non-CO2 is recognised, but not included in carbon budgets; its heating effect must not increase after 2050. And lots more …
Heathrow hopes to charge cars £5 and increase passenger charge by £1.20 (then pay dividend again in 2022)
It seems Heathrow will lose around £1.5 billion this year, due to Covid and a drop of around 80% in passenger numbers. The airport is hoping to impose a £5 “drop off” charge on any car coming into the airport to deposit or collect passengers, from the end of 2021 (blue badges and emergency vehicles excluded). There is a consultation about this. Heathrow says it will “save jobs in the short term” while allowing the airport to hit its “long-term goals of providing safe, sustainable and affordable transport options”. (!) A much more effective way to boost its income is to increase its passenger charge. The intention is to increase it by £1.20, which could add £2.7bn to the airport’s regulated asset base (RAB), allowing it to increase charges (already, at £21 per head, among the highest in Europe). The airlines are vociferously opposed to this, understandably. Heathrow is leveraged, with its consolidated net debt at £15.2bn in September 2020. But a key reason for all the borrowing is it has paid out £4 billion of dividends to its investors since 2012. There was a £500 payment announced in February 2020, and a £100m payment in April. Heathrow has now said it will not pay dividends for the rest of 2020, or 2021 but hopes to pay out £400 million in 2022.
Covid impact on airport-related jobs shown in new jobless figures – bad in areas too dependent on aviation
The devastating toll the coronavirus pandemic in causing unemployment in areas heavily dependent on airports is growing ever more clear. The number who have lost jobs around Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Luton and Stansted has risen by around 35% since March compared with surrounding areas. The pandemic was rapidly spread around the world by airlines, and they have been heavily impacted by necessary travel bans, in attempt to control the spread of Covid. MPs in affected constituencies want the Government to help aviation businesses and their supply chains. According to the Commons Library figures, the unemployment claimant toll in Hayes and Harlington, next door to Heathrow, climbed from 2,725 in March to 7,750 in October – a 184% surge. In London as a whole, the rise was 156%. In Crawley, West Sussex, next to Gatwick, it went from 2,030 to 5,655 – a 179% increase. It rose by 140% in the wider South East region. And there are similar figures for areas near Manchester, Stansted and Luton airports. The industry says it will have difficulty recruiting staff again, if and when demand returns. Only time will tell if the industry will be considerably smaller in the years to come, and many staff will transfer into “greener” jobs that cause lower carbon emissions.
Proposed planning policy changes could impact high carbon developments like Heathrow expansion (and Cumbria coal mine)
Several members of the House of Lords have said that National Planning Policy Statements (NPS) across industries should be updated to consider the UK’s commitments under the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement. Labour peer Lord Whitty said that “the whole of the NPS needs to be revised in light of the commitment to net zero” and added that this should apply to “all sectors”. If the NPSs are revised, that could have major implications for construction projects going forward, such as airport expansion (Heathrow and Gatwick want new runways). The legal case that went to the Supreme Court on 7th October was about the Airports NPS and whether it adequately took into account the Paris Agreement. The decision by the court might be given by January 2021. The legal challenges by Plan B and Friends of the Earth said that carbon reduction targets in the agreement “needed to be taken into account”. Another project which could be affected is the Woodhouse coal mine in Cumbria, for which Cumbria County Council approved the planning application in October, despite objections of its likelihood of making the UK’s climate goals less achievable. The final decision still rests with communities secretary Robert Jenrick. The issue of climate needs to be addressed in an adequate and consistent way in every NPS.
Committee on Climate Change advises UK government to commit to reducing emissions by 68% cf. 1990 by 2030 (64% including IAS)
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC), the UK government’s official advisers on climate matters, will give its formal advice on the the UK’s Sixth Carbon Budget on 9th December 2020. Meanwhile the CCC’s Chairman, Lord Deben, has written to the Sec of State at BEIS, Alok Sharma, in response to his request for advice on the UK’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), under the Paris Agreement. The CCC is advising that the UK should commit to reducing territorial emissions by at least 68% from 1990 to 2030. It is equivalent to a 64% reduction including international aviation and shipping (IAS) emissions, the basis of the CCC recommended Sixth Carbon Budget. This would place the UK among the leading countries in climate ambition. This is necessary, to give world leadership, as the UK hosts the COP26 talks in November 2021. However, the CCC say the 68% cut excludes emissions from IAS. There should be “additional actions to reduce the UK’s contribution to IAS emissions.” The CCC says of IAS: “these emissions …must be addressed if the temperature goal of the Paris Agreement is to be met. The UK’s NDC should include clear commitments to act on emissions from international aviation and shipping, including both long-term and interim targets.”
Open letter to key European politicians, from environmental groups, asking for urgent action to cut aviation’s climate impact
More than 30 NGOs sent a letter to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Parliament President David Sassoli and European Council President Charles Michel, urging them to take action now to prevent climate-damaging emissions from aviation in the wake of recent analysis for the European Commission, which concludes that air traffic has three times the climate impact in relation to its CO2 emissions alone. The letter was co-ordinated by Stay Grounded and Greenpeace EU. It asks that: Measures must be implemented to reduce intra-EU and international flights. Short haul flights must be banned where there is a cleaner alternative and construction and expansion of airports must cease. All subsidies to airlines and airports must stop, including the tax exemptions on tickets and fuel. Non-CO2 impacts have to be fully accounted for by the EU and member states. Under the precautionary principle, the amount of CO2 emitted by aircraft must be tripled in GHG reporting systems, including in national emissions inventories. And solutions to mitigate non-CO2 impacts such as contrail avoidance must be pursued without delay. See the full letter.
DfT publishes night flights consultation – no concessions to airport groups for another 4 years…?
Historically, the DfT has set the night flight regime – for the “designated” airports, Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted – for periods of 5 years. The last regime was in 2017, for the period from October 2017 to October 2022. The DfT says: “The aim of the regime was to maintain the status quo and ensure that communities do not experience any overall increase in the noise created by night flights.” It has allowed a high level of night flights, with no reductions on earlier numbers, despite significant community opposition. Seventeen airport groups wrote to the Aviation Minister on 10th November, asking that night flights should be limited in future, with a proper night period in which no flights are permitted (other than genuine emergencies). The aim was to make their point before the DfT consultation (by which time the DfT has decided what it intends to do …). The government has now published its new night flights consultation, for the period 2022 to 2024. The DfT intends there to be no change to the current regime (no concessions to suffering from being overflown at night) other than phasing out the noisiest planes, which airlines are getting rid of anyway, due to Covid. DfT says: “… we are also seeking early views and evidence on policy options for the government’s future night flight policy at the designated airports beyond 2024, and nationally.”
Manston airport development DCO approval ‘to be quashed’ by government – with decision for refusal, by Planning Inspectorate, to be re-examined later
A hearing in February set for the legal challenge over the government’s decision to give permission for the development of Manston airport into an air freight hub will now not take place. The Secretary of State for Transport has said they will not contest the case. The substantive hearing – which involves the lodging of evidence from the defendant, and interested party (RiverOak Strategic Partners Ltd) – was to assess whether the Government followed correct procedure in reaching the decision to approve the DCO for the landowners, even though this overturned the recommendation of the Planning Inspectorate (PI). Now the DfT has acknowledged that the decision approval letter issued from the Minister of State did not contain enough detail about why approval was given against the advice of the PI. This means the DCO approval for Manston airport will be quashed. It the development of Manston airport is to happen, it will require a new decision to be issued, after a re-examination of the Planning Inspectorate evidence. RiverOak Strategic Partners Ltd, will not be defending their claim. The Treasury Solicitor will now draft an order disposing of the case. The order will have to be approved by all parties and submitted to the Court to be sealed – this final step may take several weeks.
EASA report: aviation’s climate impact about x3 greater than previously thought
Aviation’s climate footprint could be 3 times bigger than its current estimate, according to a new study by the EU’s aviation regulator EASA, which has been sent to the European Commission. It examined the climate impact of aviation emissions other than CO2, which include nitrogen oxides, soot particles, oxidised sulphur and water vapour. The report found that after including the non-CO2 impacts “are currently warming the climate at approximately three times the rate of that associated with aviation CO2 emissions alone.” This is likely to put airlines under more pressure to clean up the industry. Aviation is responsible for about 2.5% of global CO2 emissions, but that does not reflect aviation’s true climate impact. The non-CO2 impacts have been ignored for far too long, and must be properly assessed and included in plans to limit global heating and climate breakdown. Jo Dardenne, aviation manager at green group Transport & Environment, said measures like putting a tax on jet fuel could be introduced rapidly. “The European Commission was first tasked with addressing the non-CO2 emissions of flying in 2008. It shouldn’t waste any more time in implementing the solutions that are available today.”
Boris Johnson’s hope for a zero carbon transatlantic flight dismissed as a gimmick – at best a one-off
Boris Johnson’s “jet zero” goal of a commercial transatlantic flight producing no carbon emissions by 2025 is a “gimmick”, according to experts, who say technology alone cannot solve the impact of global aviation on the climate crisis. Such a flight could only be a one-off and would encourage the view that other measures such as taxing jet fuel and frequent fliers were not needed to tackle aviation’s carbon problem. The aviation industry says more fuel efficient planes and buying millions of tonnes of carbon offsets can compensate for big future increases in passenger numbers and carbon emissions. Instead independent experts say new taxes to deter flying are vital, to reduce demand. There may be a very small contribution from alternative fuels, made using surplus renewable energy (not competing with land needed for agriculture or causing deforestation) in future decades, but that is speculative. Long-haul electric or hydrogen planes are unlikely before the middle of the century, if ever, by which time emissions should already have been cut to zero. Tim Johnsons, from AEF, said as well as taxes, regulation was needed, and the inclusion of international aviation emissions in countries’ national carbon plans submitted to the UN. Currently they are exempt.
UK cross-party group to lobby for Covid funds in areas that depend on airports
Cllr Steve Curran, the Labour leader of Hounslow council and Henry Smith, the Conservative MP for Crawley, have written an Opinion piece in the Guardian about the sorry state of their areas – with Heathrow and Gatwick areas badly hit by the collapse in demand for air travel. They say they “have the awful distinction of heading the national league tables for furloughed and unemployed workers. ...There’s little prospect of aviation returning to anything like its previous levels, not even with the advent of a vaccine, not in the short term. The damage may well prove to be permanent … In Hounslow…and Crawley … 40% of our workforces were being supported by the state at the end of the summer. This number is likely to worsen. It is similar for parts of Birmingham, Essex, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Teesside, Newcastle and Glasgow and the other districts where concentrations of airport workers live.” They say it is not only the air crews and pilots but all the support workers. There will be an Aviation Communities Summit on Tuesday 24 November – to assess the economic and social harm, and to ask the government to establish an aviation communities fund to meet the immediate and longer-term needs.
Even with so few flights, due to Covid, global aviation in 2020 still exceeding its CO2 target for 2050
In 2019, emissions from the global civil aviation sector were more than 900 million tonnes of CO2. In 2016 the figure was around 814 million tonnes, and around 650 million tonnes in 2005. IATA has a target that the sector’s carbon emissions will be half their level in 2005, by 2050 ie 325 million tonnes. And that is to happen, while the industry aims for compound annual growth of 3%. This year, due to Covid, global demand for air travel has been down hugely, with airports like Heathrow having as much as 80% fewer flights than a year ago. But IATA has admitted that even with that immense reduction in flights this year, the sector will still have emitted more than 325 million tonnes of CO2. This highlights the scale of the challenge for the industry, to “square the circle” of trying to keep growing, but emitting less carbon. This issue is to be discussed at IATA’s virtual AGM on 24 November. The industry body ATAG is anticipating that demand for air travel, and hence carbon emissions by 2050, might be 16% lower than pre-Covid forecasts, as there has been behaviour change and social change, caused by the pandemic.
To save money, Heathrow to put its staff onto furlough for a month each, between 1st December and 31st March 2021
Heathrow is now to furlough its entire senior management team apart from its chief executive, John Holland-Kaye. It will also pave the way for more permanent job losses, as it is very unlikely that the 2019 level of demand for air travel will return for years, if ever. Sky News reports that it has seen emails sent by Heathrow executives which detail plans for a new voluntary redundancy scheme and a requirement for staff to be placed on furlough for at least four weeks between 1st December and 31st March. Sky says: “Sources said the furlough requirement would apply to every Heathrow employee other than John Holland-Kaye.” Not only senior management. The airport is estimated to have lost £1.5bn since the start of the Covid pandemic. It is losing about £5m every day while it remains open, with so few passengers or flights. The number of passengers was down 82% in October, compared to a year earlier. There have been talks with the trade unions, about job cuts, big pay cuts, worse pension terms and worse employment terms for many of the 5,700 people who work for the airport. There will be a 4 day strike in December, and unions say Heathrow “will grind to a halt”.
Airport groups write to the Prime Minister to say the taxpayer should not have to pay for the decarbonisation of aviation
A number of airport community groups have written to the Prime Minister, in response to a letter that he has been sent by the lobbying body, “Sustainable Aviation. The UK aviation industry leaders are asking the Government to co-finance the sector’s decarbonisation. The community groups are pleased the industry is starting to realise that it must address its climate change effects and other adverse environmental impacts. Instead of yet more aspirational words, the industry should now start taking decisive and long-overdue action. Regrettably, however, its willingness to do so appears to be conditional on the taxpayer bearing the cost of the transition it needs to make. That should not happen: there is no economic or social case for public investment in aviation’s decarbonisation. Most flights are for leisure purposes; a high proportion are by frequent flyers; in any one year, about half the UK population does not get into a plane. The sector already receives an effective subsidy, by not paying VAT or fuel duty. Government’s role should be to regulate the industry’s emissions and other adverse environmental and health impacts properly, by setting and enforcing challenging targets and defined timescales. Aviation’s decarbonisation should be paid for by the industry, not by the taxpayer.
Aviation points, mainly on future “Sustainable Aviation Fuels” from Boris’ 10-point plan for a “Green Industrial Revolution”
The Government has produced a new 10-point plan, “for a Green Industrial Revolution – Building back better, supporting green jobs, and accelerating our path to net zero.” Much is aimed at creating new jobs in new sectors. There is little about aviation, and nothing of much substance, except hopes for “sustainable aviation fuels” (SAF) for future use. It says government will put £15m into FlyZero – a 12-month study, delivered through the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), into the strategic, technical and commercial issues in designing and developing zero-emission aircraft that could enter service in 2030. Also a £15m competition to support Sustainable Aviation Fuels production. They will establish a Sustainable Aviation Fuels clearing house to enable the UK to certify new fuels, driving innovation in this space. There will be a consultation in 2021 on a Sustainable Aviation Fuel mandate to blend “greener” fuels into kerosene, which will create a market-led demand for these alternative fuels. The mandate would start in 2025. Government will invest in R&D for the infrastructure upgrades required at UK airports to move to battery and hydrogen aircraft. And there will be a consultation on an Aviation Decarbonisation Strategy in 2021.
New study shows that 1% of people cause half of global aviation emissions
Just 1% of the world’s population caused 50% of aviation’s carbon emissions. (2018)
About 70% of UK flights are taken by 15% of the people. UK Data (2014)
1% of English frequent flyers took nearly 20% of all flights abroad. (2018)
The 10% most frequent flyers in England took over 50% of all international flights. (2018)
48% of the UK population did not fly at all. (2018)
A study by Linnaeus University in Sweden found that frequent-flyers who represent just 1% of the world’s population caused 50% of aviation’s carbon emissions in 2018. They also said that only 11% of the world’s population took a flight in 2018; of those only 4% flew abroad rather than within their own country. The carbon emissions of US air passengers are bigger than those of the next 10 countries combined, including the UK, Japan, Germany and Australia. The lead author of the study, Stefan Gössling, said: “If you want to resolve climate change and we need to redesign [aviation], then we should start at the top, where a few ‘super emitters’ contribute massively to global warming.” Aviation in 2019 emitted around 1 billion tonnes of CO2 and benefited from a $100bn (£75bn) subsidy by not paying for the climate damage they cause, with most not paying fuel duty, or VAT in Europe. In a typical year, like 2018, 48% of people in the UK did not fly at all; the figure was 53% in the US; and 65% in Germany.
Other data shows in the UK that about 70% of flights are taken by 15% of the people. Also just 1% of English residents are responsible for nearly 20% of all flights abroad; and the 10% most frequent flyers in England took more than 50% of all international flights in 2018.
Leeds Bradford Airport expansion could COST region £3.1bn over 26 years, claims think tank, the New Economics Foundation
The think-tank, the New Economics Foundation (NEF), has worked out that the proposed expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport could cost the region up to £3.1billion in lost economic activity by 2050. The plans would enable the airport to handle 7 million annual passengers, up from around 4 million in 2019. Most passengers will be on low cost leisure flights. The claims by the airport ignore the huge loss to the UK because people who fly abroad on holiday do not spend that money in the UK. The airport also claims (as all airports always do) that the expansion will create many new jobs. In fact, the aviation sector becomes increasingly automated, with fewer and fewer jobs per 1,000 passengers – and this has accelerated through the Covid-19 crisis. NEF says: “The predicted business benefits are overstated, because businesses are making less and less use of air travel, especially in the fallout from coronavirus.” Also that: “With the leisure and hospitality industries on their knees, this expansion would damage the local recovery from the Covid pandemic.”
Local campaign groups oppose Luton Airport expansion plans and flight path changes, due to noise
Two campaign groups dedicated to reducing noise from Luton Airport have hit out at its latest plans for expansion. LADACAN (Luton And District Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise) and STAQS (St Albans Quieter Skies) have rejected the airport’s plans as “both unjustified and unmerited” in a series of responses to the consultation (ends 5th Feb 2021). LADACAN said: “Airport growth going forward has to be more responsibly managed than in the past. The industry is innately carbon-inefficient at present due to outdated airspace design, which forces planes into holding stacks and causes Luton departures to be held low sometimes for 15-20 miles. This is very wasteful of fuel and causes far more widespread noise than necessary.” They also say the latest aircraft introduced into the Luton fleet, the Airbus A321-neo was meant to be a bit less noisy than the A321, but it is not. STAQS said claims of a 2dB noise benefit from the A321-neo in the Airport’s noise reduction strategy are ‘wishful thinking’. “Luton Council needs to send Luton Airport a really clear signal that noise conditions are there for a purpose, which might focus some effort on growth balanced by mitigation, as the government requires.”
Suspension of airport “80/20” slot usage rule to last till end of March 2021 – Gatwick not happy
Gatwick airport wants the UK and European regulators to reinstate rules that force airlines to use 80% of their lucrative take-off and landing rights, or lose them, before summer 2021. Wingate wants airlines to give back slots they cannot use, so other airlines such as Wizz Air can come to Gatwick, driving down air fares and getting more bums on airline seats (helping Gatwick survive). The European regulations insisting 80% of landing slots are used were suspended for 6 months, from March, due to the decimation in air travel demand caused by Covid. This was done so airlines would not fly empty planes, just to say the slot has been used. The restriction has been extended for another 6 months, to 27th March 2021, as air travel demand will remain very low. There is discussion within the industry if this should continue into next summer, and even industry lobby body, Airlines UK, is in favour of not wasting fuel and generating CO2, with flights by empty planes. Gatwick’s Stewart Wingate wants the UK to do its own thing on the “80/20” slot rule, after it leaves the EU. Several airlines have said they will leave Gatwick, some going instead to Heathrow.
Covid tests for returning air passengers will be needed for years, even with Covid vaccine
Airline passengers will need to take Covid-19 tests before flying long after a vaccine for the viral infection is introduced. This has been admitted by the CEO of Heathrow Airport, John Holland-Kaye. The time required for a global vaccine roll-out means testing must go hand-in-hand with inoculation if there is to be much international travel in the next few years. “Even with the UK getting early access to a vaccine it’ll take a year and a half to vaccinate the entire country,” Holland-Kaye told Bloomberg TV. “It’s going to take much longer before even the fastest vaccine can really have a massive impact around the world.” Though there is now optimism that the first vaccine might come in to use in the next few months, it’s not clear how air-transport regulators will respond and how quickly people will be allowed to fly (or want to). People would still need to be tested before their arrival, on arrival, and perhaps 5 and 7 days after arrival – with quarantine before given a final clear test. It will depend how other countries are dealing with immunisation and infection reduction. And young people are not going to get the vaccine quickly.
European Investment Bank (EIB) may ban cash for airport expansion or conventionally‐fuelled aircraft
The European Investment Bank (EIB) could withdraw support for new airports, according to a draft climate roadmap seen by EURACTIV. However, the bank is set to keep funding motorways, as well as approving investments under the old rules until 2022. According to the EIB’s leadership and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the bank should become “the EU’s climate bank” and a new strategy seeks to align the lender’s investment planning with the Paris Agreement by the end of 2020. It aims to stop lending to fossil fuel companies, and instead lend to renewable energy and other low-carbon projects. Half of the bank’s lending will be for climate projects by 2025 but the other 50% will need to be “Paris-proofed”. On 11 November, its directors will consider adopting the new climate plan. An EIB draft says “support will be withdrawn from airport capacity expansion and conventionally‐fuelled aircraft”; this is something that has been requested by civil society groups. They might instead invest in improving the efficiency and environmental footprints of existing airports. Over the last 3 years, €4 billion was invested in airports.
Groups write to Aviation Minister, asking for new limits on night flights – including need for an 8-hour night period
A long list of organisations and groups have signed a letter to the Transport Minister, Robert Courts, asking for action to limit night flights. It is understood that the government intends to publish a consultation and call for evidence on night flights later this year. The groups hope the DfT will take their views into consideration, and not (as in 2017) decide policy on night flights BEFORE consulting. They say that all night flights, other than for emergency and humanitarian purposes, should be banned at all UK airports. The period defined as night should be an eight hour period. If any night flights are to be permitted, their number and impacts should be regulated far more robustly than they are now, at all airports. In the past, the government has argued that the economic benefits of allowing planes to fly at night outweigh the health and quality of life costs of those negatively affected. This can no longer withstand scrutiny, as many flights are just to perpetuate a low-cost carrier business model that generates unsustainable levels of leisure flights. The demand for business flights is increasingly replaced by internet communications, and most air freight does not need to arrive the next day.
IATA says airlines unable to cut costs enough to save jobs – even if pay is reduced
IATA says the airline industry cannot cut costs sufficiently to prevent severe “cash burn” to avoid bankruptcies and preserve jobs in 2021. IATA wants governments to provide money for airlines, to keep them going and avoid redundancies. At a time of increasing Covid in many countries, including Europe, IATA is (rather bizarrely, but for self interest of the airlines) asking for relaxed measures on Covid. They want more people flying, with less comprehensive quarantine for passengers, which risks increasing infections. IATA says the airline industry’s revenues will be down about 66% this year, compared to 2019, and down perhaps 46% in 2021, compared to 2019. IATA says without additional government financial relief, the median airline has 8.5 months of cash remaining at current burn rates. The airlines are not able to cut fixed costs in line with reduced income. Around 50% of airlines’ costs are fixed or semi-fixed, at least in the short-term. The cost per passenger flown, or per available plane seat, have risen – as planes are not full.” It considers cutting labour costs by about 50%, and even then airlines would be making a loss.
Nine years late and x3 over budget due to problems, Berlin’s Brandenburg Airport finally opens (during a pandemic)
Berlin’s ‘laughing stock’ airport to finally opens, nine years late and three times over budget (nearly €6 billion) – after years of problems. Its timing, during the Covid pandemic, is bad. The opening of Berlin-Brandenburg Willy Brandt Airport (BER) as it is known, was meant to be a moment of triumph for Berlin, as a gleaming new interconnected hub that suited its status as the capital of Europe’s biggest economy. Critics say it now has the look and feel of a costly white elephant, a throwback to a bygone era of mass tourism and global mobility that Covid-19 has ended. With all its design and structural problems, BER had become a “laughing stock”, of which many German engineers were ashamed. There will be no opening party, as the airport will have few passengers. BER has four times more space than the tiny Tegel city airport it replaces. BER was meant to start making a profit from 2025 and pay off its outstanding €3.5bn in loans over 10 years. But now it needs additional financing of over €300m this year, with some €50m-€60m raised from internal cost-cutting measures and €260m from the airport’s shareholders — the German federal government and the authorities in Berlin and Brandenburg.
After decades, Heathrow no longer Europe’s busiest airport; now it’s Paris Charles de Gaulle
Heathrow has lost its place as Europe’s busiest airport for the first time after being overtaken by Paris’s Charles de Gaulle. In the 9 months to September, Heathrow had about 18.976 million passengers; Charles de Gaulle had 19.27m; Amsterdam’s Schiphol had 17.6m and Frankfurt had 16.16m, according to Heathrow. Heathrow said it lost £1.5 billion in the first 9 months of 2020. While Heathrow has for decades boasted about being the busiest airport in Europe, it is now trying to put pressure on the government, to relax Covid testing and quarantine restrictions, to allow Heathrow to make money again. Heathrow wants people to be able to avoid 14 days quarantine, on arrival in the UK – at a time when Covid is rising again, rapidly, across Europe and elsewhere. Heathrow makes out that increasing its number of air passengers is for the good of the UK; it often conflates what is good for Heathrow (and some jobs locally) with what is good for the UK. Heathrow’s revenue in the third quarter of the year fell 72% compared with 2019, to £239m. Now, with Covid returning for a second wave, Heathrow anticipates 22.6m passengers in 2020 and 37.1m in 2021, compared to 81m in 2019.
ACI estimates that 193 out of Europe’s 740 commercial airports in UK and Europe could go bust due to Covid collapse in air travel
Airports Council International Europe (ACI Europe) has said that due to the decline in demand for air travel caused by Covid, some 193 airports across Europe and the UK face insolvency in the coming months if air passenger traffic does not increase by the year end. The most vulnerable are small regional airports. There are claims for the number of jobs that could be lost, and the amount of GDP (for many European countries, aviation brings in money and tourists – while for the UK it takes both out). The airports and airlines want more government finance, to keep them going. ACI estimates that there were around 1.29 billion fewer air passengers, using European airports in the first 9 months of this year. It does not appear likely that winter tourism will provide much airline demand, with Covid restrictions in so many countries. Many airlines have slashed their capacity plans for the reminder of the year and into 2021. The larger airports have been cutting costs to the bone and resorted to the financial markets to shore up balance sheets. Airports are burning through cash to remain open. The increase in debt – an additional €16 billion for the top 20 European airports – is equivalent to nearly 60% of their revenues in a normal year.
AEF’s excellent “Airports Expansions Guide” updated – useful summaries of all UK airport expansion plans
Airports with formal applications to expand:
Leeds Bradford Airport
Airports planning for significant growth in future:
London City Airport
The Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) has produced a very useful webpage of information, to show – at a glance – which English airports are planning to expand, which have already submitted applications, and what stage they have reached so far. Surprisingly, with the dramatic fall in the demand for flights due to Covid, airports still seem to be hoping to – not only get back to 2019 levels of flying – but expand further. AEF lists those with formal applications to expand: Bristol, Heathrow, Leeds Bradford, Manston, Southampton and Stansted. The airports also planning for significant growth in future are: Gatwick, London City and Luton airports. All these expansion plans would cause increased noise problems for people living under or near flight paths in future, and other negative local impacts. But all would add significantly to the UK’s aviation carbon emissions. The judgement by the Supreme Court on the Airports NPS (especially affecting Heathrow) is expected, perhaps by January 2021, which will give clarity on whether UK aviation could expand, if the country is to meet obligations to cut carbon emissions.
Manston airport judicial review: permission granted for legal challenge
A judge has granted permission for a legal challenge against the government’s decision to reopen Manston airport. The crowdfunder set up to help pay for a judicial review has now reached more than £80,000. Now the application for the review has been granted, the Secretary of State’s decision in July to approve a development consent order to open Manston as a freight cargo air hub will be challenged in court. The legal battle was launched by Jenny Dawes, the chair of Ramsgate Coastal Community Team. Solicitors Kate Harrison and Susan Ring of Harrison Grant are acting for her, and instructing barristers Richard Wald QC and Gethin Thomas. The reasons for opposing the reopening of the airport for freight are partly due to the noise, as the arrival flight path is directly over Ramsgate, near the airport. There are also strong arguments on air pollution and the UK’s climate targets. The advice of the Planning Inspectorate was to refuse permission for DCO. Jenny said: “According to the government’s own experts, re-opening the airport will damage the local economy and impact negatively on the UK’s carbon budget and our commitments to the Paris climate agreement.”
Local campaign GACC sets out the actions needed for Gatwick to “build back better”
The local campaign group, GACC (Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign) has set out the steps that need to be taken to ensure Gatwick does “build back better.” Gatwick’s operations and the flights it facilitates need to become compatible with climate change imperatives and the airport must reduce its noise and other environmental impacts, in contrast to what has been happening at the airport during the past decade. At a meeting of the airport’s statutory consultative committee, GATCOM, on 15th October, GACC laid out a series of national and local measures needed to build Gatwick back better. GACC’s full statement The measures include setting legally enforceable zero carbon targets for aviation; ensuring aviation pays a higher, fairer, contribution towards public finances through more equitable taxes, focused particularly on frequent flyers; phasing out of public subsidies that distort the industry’s economics; putting in place effective noise regulation; and ending night flights, that negatively impact people’s health and welfare. There also needs to be diversification around Gatwick, so the area is no longer so economically dependent on one sector. Gatwick should not be allowed to even to return to its 2019 size, let alone expand.
Pressure in Norway and Netherlands for a minimum air ticket price – Austria may get a €40 minimum
The Norwegian Pilots’ Association believes it may be sensible to set a minimum price for airline tickets in Norway. This has been prompted by the low-cost airline Wizz Air setting up of new domestic routes within Norway. In Austria, a minimum price of EUR €40 has been set for a plane ticket, as ultra-cheap tickets undermine both climate policy and liveable wage standards. When airlines lower the price of a flight to about the price of a cup of coffee and a bun, “something is not as it should be.” The very cheap flight prices by Wizz Air are to beat competition from SAS and Norwegian, with tickets as cheap as Norwegian Kroner NOK 199 [about £16.40] per ticket from November 5. Currently within Europe airlines can determine their ticket prices. In June in the Netherlands, it was proposed that there should be a minimum air ticket price of €34 for plane tickets. The concern in the Dutch House of Representatives was that there would be a major competitive battle at Schiphol due to Covid, for the preservation of air rights. So airlines would try to fill their planes, to keep their routes, by lowering the prices hugely. A minimum ticket price may get support in Holland from parties on the left.
UK had a tourism deficit of £33.9 billion in 2019, with 88% of that (ie. about £30.04 billion) due to air travel
The current clampdown on international air travel has helped the UK Balance of Payments, by reducing the country’s trade deficit by an estimated nearly £3 billion per month. This is from the “tourism deficit”, which is the amount by which the amount spent by British people travelling and spending abroad, exceeds the amount spent by visitors to the UK. Figures released on 22nd May by the government’s Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that the UK posted a record trade deficit of £33.9 billion on international tourism in 2019. This is more than £2 billion above the 2018 figure which was itself a record tourism trade deficit. The ONS data shows 88.2% of the tourism deficit was due to air travel. UK residents made 93.1 million visits abroad in 2019, spending a total of £62.3 billion overseas. By contrast, overseas residents made 40.9 million visits to the UK, spending £28.4 billion. The net result was a £33.9 billion deficit in the UK Balance of Payments. Just 9.0 million of the 93.1 million overseas visits (9.7%) by UK residents in 2019 were for business purposes. The lack of money leaving the UK comes at the expense of countries such as Spain, Greece and Italy losing billions of €s in revenue from UK tourists.
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 …