planesplane-over-roofStopAirportExpansiontshirtBRITAIN HEATHROW AIRPORT EXPANSION

    


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High Court hearing granted on the Bristol Airport expansion ruling

Bristol Airport Action Network (BAAN) campaigners have been given permission to go to the High Court to appeal against the expansion of Bristol Airport.  The date is still to be set.  A judge has decided that BAAN raised arguable grounds following the Planning Inspectorate’s (PI) decision to permit expansion of annual capacity, from 10 to 12 million passengers.  The airport will continue to fight for their expansion. Government planning inspectors granted permission for the expansion plans, on appeal in February, after the plans were rejected by North Somerset Council in 2020 on environmental grounds.  These include far higher carbon emissions, more noise, more air pollution and more road traffic. BAAN has raised more than £20,000, through crowd funding, to pay for legal costs to support its appeal.  Stephen Clarke, from BAAN, said: “The idea that airports can just continue to expand without limit, in the middle of a climate and ecological crisis, is so obviously wrong. We are delighted that the judge agrees we have arguable grounds that the inspector’s decision has errors in law and we look forward to the full hearing.”  If the court rules in favour of BAAN, then the PI will have to reconsider its decision.

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For 20 years the aviation industry has missed every one of their sustainability targets [except one] – that will probably continue

A report commissioned by the climate charity Possible assessed every target set by the airline industry since 2000 and found that nearly all had been missed, revised or quietly ignored. This undermines a UK government plan to leave airlines to reduce their emissions through self-regulation. There are a range of targets that cover various measure of carbon efficiency. The levels of ambition underpinning the targets were generally insufficient, even if met, to reduce the absolute climate impact of aviation in the context of ongoing anticipated growth in demand.  Business behaviour does not appear to be driven by environmental targets. The target setting often appears to function principally as a tactic for giving an impression to the public and policymakers, of progress and action being taken to address aviation’s environmental impacts in order to prevent any policy barriers to ongoing growth in the industry. The research found unclear definitions, opaque monitoring and inconsistent reporting made many targets difficult to assess, with many also suddenly changed, replaced or dropped. Even if met, they were insufficiently strong to reduce aviation’s climate impact.

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EU urged to cut emissions from aviation faster – and address the aromatics problem

Ciarán Cuffe, a Green MEP who is shadow rapporteur for the ReFuelEU Aviation file in the European Parliament’s transport committee, has called for the EU’s “clean” aviation fuels law to be amended to include non-CO2 effects. This includes the release of soot and harmful gases, including sulphur and nitrogen oxide, as well as water vapour, from jet engines. The EU’s proposed green aviation law overlooks the true climate cost of flying, with the non-CO2 effects of air travel producing 2-4 times the impact of CO2 emissions. He says it is not credible to delay by another decade and rely solely on voluntary industry efforts. This hasn’t worked up until now, and it won’t work in the future.  Some of the non-CO2 impacts are due to aromatics in the fuel (compounds like propyl benzene, tetralin and p-xylene). So there are demands to reduce the amount of these, and sulphur content, in jet fuel. However these aromatics are important in current jet engine design, as they help swell seals and improve flow.  If the industry goes for more novel fuels in future, these do not contain aromatics. So either aromatics will have to be added to the fuels, to protect the engines – or engines will have to be adapted.

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How middlemen carbon brokers take a cut from money meant to help offset CO2 emissions

Many airlines like to encourage their passengers to buy carbon offsets, so they can hope the impact of the carbon their flight puts into the atmosphere is somehow reduced. There are many arguments against the uses of offsets, and reasons why they are ineffective – what is needed is preventing the CO2 being emitted today, not hopes of it being removed in several years. But now joint research by Greenpeace’s Unearthed, and others, has found that much of the money that is paid for a carbon offset – in the hope it will go to some project that is attempting to reduce carbon – in practice is ending up in the hands of brokers and middlemen. The carbon offset market is booming, with many new schemes – and money to be made by those working in finance, who themselves do nothing to reduce carbon emissions.  There is a serious lack of regulation and transparency in the carbon markets, and that needs to change.  The research found cases where brokers bought carbon credits from forestry projects in poorer countries, and sold them on to consumers and companies, including airlines and oil firms, at much higher prices – making a huge profit.

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Government needs ‘coherent position’ and policy on aviation carbon emissions’ before giving CAA more responsibility on environmental issues

The Transport Committee has told the government that it must review the powers granted to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to facilitate the introduction of more environmental constraints. In its new report, “UK aviation: reform for take-off” the Transport Committee says: “The Government must review how the Civil Aviation Authority’s powers can be reformed to enable the regulator to enforce environmental mandates that the Government may introduce for the aviation sector.” The problem is that the government does not have much policy on the environmental impacts, especially carbon emissions and noise, for aviation.  The AEF says that, as an arm of the central government, the CAA is hamstrung by whichever regulations are put in place ­– or not – by Downing Street. If there are no standards or policies from government, there is little for the CAA to regulate. This is the case for noise, since the government closed down the ICCAN and handed its responsibilities to the DfT. We need the Government to actually introduce some meaningful environmental standards for aviation before the CAA can be brought in to enforce them.

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Heathrow fears drop in air travel demand this winter after summer travel ‘bubble’

In July 2021, Heathrow had £2.9 billion of losses due to the Covid pandemic. By the end of March 2022, the losses were £4 billion. The total consolidated net debt of Heathrow Finance plc was £15.4 billion in January 2022  and £15.576 in March 2022. Heathrow is hoping for a huge increase in its passenger number this year, compared to last year – though it will still be below the number in 2019. Its 2022 passenger forecast has risen from 45.5 million to 52.8 million, but that is still just 65% of the 2019 pre-pandemic level.  But Heathrow is till expecting to remain in the red in 2022. There is a current bubble of air travel demand, as people want to go abroad after being in the UK during the pandemic. But it seems likely that with the high price of oil, the considerable cost of living increase, lower GDP growth, continuing Covid around the world, and uncertainties with the Ukraine war, demand for flights will fall after the summer.  Heathrow is anticipating a “winter freeze” in demand. It is possible there will be another Covid variant of concern later this year, that could see the return of UK travel restrictions, deterring people from flying.

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World’s biggest carbon removal machine ‘freezes over’ in Iceland – illustrating the myth of future CCS

Annual global emissions of CO2 are around 36 billion metric tonnes from the burning of fossil fuels. Taking into account emissions from land use change, it is well over 40 billion. To prevent further climate change, very little more greenhouse gases should be added to the atmosphere, beyond what the natural carbon sinks (oceans, forests, vegetation, soils etc) can remove annually. So that means humanity should be removing many billions of tonnes of CO2, into permanent storage, each year. That is in addition to increasing the amount stored temporarily in trees and vegetation. So far the only machines doing carbon capture and storage (CCS) can only remove tiny quantities of CO2. Now the Orca machine in Iceland has had problems due to unusually cold weather … When working well, it might remove 4,000 tonnes per year (at huge cost). There would thus need to be 1 million such machines to remove 4 billion tonnes per year.  That really is not going to happen. Though there are many dozen CCS machines already working, most send the CO2 into oil reserves, for “enhanced oil recovery” (surely not the spirit of removing the CO2 in the first place – but profitable). Otherwise, who will pay to store the CO2, if it cannot be sold, for a profit?

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Alex Chapman: Five ways the government’s irresponsible plans for aviation are putting us all at risk

In an excellent analysis, Alex Chapman (from the New Economics Foundation, NEF) looks at the reality of the UK government’s hopes of reducing aviation carbon emissions, while letting the sector continue to grow for decades.  The DfT will allow an increase in the UK’s air capacity by 70%, or 200 million passengers above 2018 levels, by 2050. There is no way this can be done, without increasing CO2 emissions, as there are no proven technologies for low carbon flight available at scale, and quickly. The DfT’s plans are irresponsible and dangerous, and represent the epitome of the ​‘burn now and cross our fingers something will save us later’ philosophy which has led our climate to the brink.  A key problem is how the UK government ignores the highly significant non-CO2 impacts of aviation. Electric flight, or hydrogen powered flight, will not be available on any scale for decades (if ever) so the sector is depending on “sustainable aviation fuels” (SAF) and doing dodgy carbon life-cycle accounting for them. It also ignores the various environmental impacts, other than just carbon, created by using plant material in SAF. Then all that is left is hoping against hope that offsets might work (no) or that carbon can be captured from the air and stored. That will not happen on the scale needed.

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Dutch watchdog rules KLM’s ‘Carbon Zero’ advert is misleading

The Dutch advertising watchdog (like the UK’s ASA) ruled that a KLM promotion telling customers they could fly carbon-emission free is misleading.  The ad’s tag line, “Be a hero, fly CO2 zero,” is an absolute claim, the Dutch Advertising Code Committee said in their verdict and the company had the burden of proving the statement – it could not. While the ruling is limited to only one airline it touches on broader pressure on airlines to lower their carbon footprint and ‘flight-shaming’ campaigns to get people to stopping flying. Commercially viable alternatives like electric and hydrogen powered jetliners are decades away – so all airlines can do at present is “offsetting” carbon emissions (that is not an effective measure). Offsets such as tree planting and forest protection are no proper compensation for carbon emitted, by a journey or other burning of fossil fuels. There is no real chance of genuinely low carbon aviation fuel being available in significant amounts, without causing various other environmental problems.  KLM has two weeks to decide whether it wants to appeal.

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Unwise to depend on future carbon removal, while continuing to emit CO2

Schemes to suck up carbon emissions and permanently remove it from the atmosphere will be essential, as humanity is unable and unwilling to cut its carbon emissions. The techniques to be used to remove carbon are CCS (carbon capture and storage), Beccs (bioenergy with carbon capture and storage – with huge potential negative impact on land use and biodiversity) and Daccs (Direct Air Capture with Carbon Capture Storage). But they will have the effect of allowing the continuation of “business as usual” and preventing the drastic carbon reductions that are needed, now and the the near future. There is not going to be the capacity, let alone the ability or willingness to pay for it, to permanently store the billions of CO2 necessary. Yet sectors like aviation are depending on these unlikely, unproven technologies, in order to continue to emit carbon for years, with almost no reduction in emissions.  Regrettably the inclusion of future carbon removal technologies in the IPCC’s models is encouraging policymakers to treat carbon removal technology as a fait accompli and delay essential emissions reductions policies.

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Luton airport’s bid to set aside noise limits is called in by Secretary of State

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has called-in Luton Borough Council’s December decision to set aside the noise and growth limits imposed on Luton Airport until 2028.  In its decision letter, the DLUHC cites concerns over climate change, policies for enhancing the natural environment, and the local development plan which was to be set aside to allow more airport growth.  Campaigners have welcomed the decision as enabling the national Planning Inspectorate to review what many feel is a conflicted situation in which the Council derives significant revenue from the Airport but is also responsible for planning decisions which affect its environmental impacts on the whole local area.  Andrew Lambourne, from anti-noise group LADACAN which led the calls for a call-in, said: “People living all around Luton Airport had to put up with far more noise, pollution and traffic congestion than they should have done between 2017 and 2019, and they deserve justice.”

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There were an average of 500 “ghost flight” international departures from UK between October and December 2021

In February, Alex Sobel MP obtained information from the DfT and CAA, to a parliamentary question, on “ghost flights.”  There had been almost 15,000 “ghost flights” that took off from the 32 UK airports between March 2020 and September 2021. That only includes international departures, not the arrivals or any domestic flights.  There were an average of 760 ghost flights a month over the period. Now more recent data shows that, despite more air travel and fewer Covid restrictions, almost 500 “ghost flights” a month departed from the UK airports between October and December 2021. A ghost flight is one with fewer than 10% of passenger load capacity.  The government relaxed the “use it or lose it” slot use rule during the pandemic, so airlines no longer had to use 80% of their slots. It was then increased to 50% use and from 27th March 2022 it reverted to 70% use. Though some low capacity flights can be explained, the vast majority cannot be justified, in terms of carbon emissions. The government needs to review its policy on ghost flights, especially the aviation industry claims it is aiming to be “net zero” for carbon.

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UK government paying £685 million for “sustainable aviation fuel” development over 3 years

The aviation industry, and pro-aviation governments, are doing all they can to convince themselves and the world in general that it will be possible – at some not-too-far-ahead date – to fly huge, heavy planes thousands of miles, but with no additional carbon entering the atmosphere. The trick most are banking on is “sustainable aviation fuels” (SAF). These fuels are going to have to be impressive, in being combusted in a jet engine, with no net carbon produced … The aviation sector is keen not to have to pay the fuel research costs itself. So it wants financial assistance from governments (ie. taxpayer money). The UK Sec of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, is an aviation enthusiast (he has his own plane), and is enthusiastic about funding being given to companies trying to make flying “green.”  In October 2021 the UK government announced it would provide £180 million to support the development of SAF plants.  In December we were told of £15 million being given to 8 companies. But now it is announced that £685 million is being given for a “sustainable aviation” programme over 3 years. The government wants to see perhaps 10% of SAF being used by planes by 2030 – even 50% by 2050 – the current figure is well below 1%.

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Environmental Audit Committee puts the vital, hard questions to BEIS Minister, on future dreams of carbon storage

The UK government, the Committee on Climate Change, and industries such as aviation are hoping (against hope) that carbon can continue to be emitted, in amounts only a bit lower than now, and wonderful technologies in future will take carbon out of the atmosphere, and save us all.  Now the Commons Environmental Audit Committee – which has a vital role in trying to hold government to account on environmental issues – has written to the BEIS minister, Kwasi Kwarteng, setting out a list of issues with future “Negative Emissions Technologies” (NETs) and engineered greenhouse gas removals. Some of the key issues are whether misguided hopes of the efficacy of these will just allow industries to continue with “business-as-usual” emissions, rather than making the steep, rapid cuts needed. They ask how government will measure and monitor the NETs; how they will assess their effectiveness; how much harm would be done to global biodiversity by growing vast areas of crops, in order to burn them (and capture the CO2). They ask if the carbon storage will be permanent, or if the government will allow captured carbon to be used by industry, especially for enhanced oil and gas recovery. And much more.

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Government new consultation on the development of the UK Emissions Trading Scheme

The government has opened a technical consultation (aimed at companies, experts – not individuals) on Developing the UK Emissions Trading Scheme.  It runs till 17th June.  It is asking for stakeholder views on proposals to develop the UK ETS  – which operates across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It includes the aviation sector.  On aviation it sets out the scope of the review into UK ETS aviation policy, including the future of aviation free allocation, considering responses to the 2019 consultation on carbon pricing, and future use of allegedly “Sustainable Aviation Fuels” (SAFs) and how that could be incentivised under the UK ETS  with “options for expanding the coverage of the scheme within the aviation sector.” There is a new paper, produced for the DfT and BEIS by Frontier Economics, on the impact of carbon pricing etc on UK aviation causing “carbon leakage” to Europe. ie. people choosing to fly from European airports to long haul destinations, rather than from UK airports. The report does not consider this will be a problem.  The issue of airlines being given free allocations of carbon permits, based on past usage, will have to be addressed.  Main document.

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DfT launches new technical consultation on its “jet zero” (ie. huge future SAF use) plans

The UK government currently does not have an aviation policy, and is aware that this will first require policy decisions on aviation carbon emissions.  It hopes that air travel demand will not need to be reduced (the most effective way to control the level of emissions) but instead hopes for “jet zero” flying, largely using novel fuels. These are called SAF (sustainable aviation fuels) and the hope is that they emit less carbon, over their lifecycle, than conventional jet fuel. Now the government has opened a consultation which it calls “Further consultation on the updated evidence and analysis to inform the different pathways to achieve net zero aviation – or jet zero – by 2050.” It lasts until 25th April. There was an initial consultation on “jet zero” in July 2021. This consultation is technical (so not easy for most people to respond to). The consultation is unrealistically hoping there might be 50% of SAF use by 2050, with 27% of flights being “net zero” by 2050. It also assumes a continuous 2% increase in efficiency each year, and a 70% increase in air passengers (cf. 2018) when the earlier estimate was a 60% increase.  

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Covid may have a long term effect of reducing long-haul flight demand (leisure and business)

It seems that, while demand for short haul flights may be returning, people are not booking long-haul trips – either leisure or business – in the numbers they used to pre-Covid. The pattern of long-haul holiday demand may take years to return, if it ever does. Though many Covid restrictions are now reducing, there are many uncertainties, and travel is more hassle to more distant places. The price of jet fuel has risen, and also the unanticipated crisis of the Ukraine invasion. There were still around 1,400 wide-bodied, long haul planes (about 30% of the total) in storage in aircraft hangers at the start of December 2021 – but few short haul.  Although long haul make up just 6% of the flights leaving European airports, they produce more than half of Europe’s aviation CO2 emissions, according to Eurocontrol. Many businesses have switched most of their international contact to videoconferencing, rather than face to face meetings. In March 2022, T&E (Transport & Environment) is planning to launch a corporate travel campaign to reduce – even a 15% cut is significant.  But will the change in flying habits last for long?

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Bristol Airport expansion decision to be taken to High Court by local campaigners, BAAN

On 2nd February the Planning Inspectorate allowed the appeal by Bristol airport against refusal by North Somerset Council, for the airport’s expansion plans – that would allow it to increase its capacity from 10 million to 12 million passengers per year. Now the campaign group, Bristol Airport Action Network (BAAN), is taking the battle to the High Court. They have raised more than £20,000 to appeal the Planning Inspectorate’s decision. BAAN believes the expansion will be damaging for local people and the environment, citing a rise in road traffic, increased noise and air pollution and an “inevitable rise in carbon emissions”. The Planning Inspectorate said at the time it recognised the “major disappointment” campaigners would have, but the considered economic benefits would outweigh the harm to green belt land. But North Somerset Council will not pursue a legal challenge to the ruling, fearing they would lose and there would be an unacceptable cost to ratepayers.  A legal challenge through the High Court can only be successful if the inspectors can be shown to have erred in law, and currently the UK has “no policy which seeks to limit airport expansion” nationally, or on aviation carbon. 

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Heathrow traffic struggles at 50% of pre-pandemic levels as fuel costs and the outbreak of the Ukraine war add to its problems

Low levels of overseas business travel and tourists coming to Britain have kept Heathrow’s passenger numbers at just over half of pre-pandemic volumes. Only 2.9 million people went through Heathrow in February, compared to 5.4 million in February 2019 – the month before the World Health Organisation declared the Covid-19 outbreak to be a pandemic. This was despite the US lifting a 20-month international travel ban on non-US residents and citizens flying to the country, which lead to a surge in travel between the UK and the US. But traveller numbers on Middle Eastern and EU routes rose by over 600%, while the cargo tonnage rose to within 7% of its pre-pandemic levels. Flight bookings continue to be significantly reduced by the continuing strict testing and quarantine rules in multiple countries. Business travel is significantly lower, as companies have cut back expenditure on flights and largely turned to videoconferencing meetings and hybrid working practices.  The cost of jet fuel has risen sharply, due to the war in Ukraine. There is also concern about new Covid variants, and some American travellers worry about the behaviour of Russia in Ukraine.

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The cancelling of expansion plans by Leeds Bradford may make other airports less confident about theirs

Leeds Bradford Airport has withdrawn its plans to build a new terminal. That expansion would have allowed a higher number of flights and passenger, as well as carbon emissions. The airport was not keen on having to defend a planning inquiry. Now it is likely that the confidence of other UK airports in their expansion plans may have been reduced.  The Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) emphasised the potential impact of the decision, saying: “There are mounting uncertainties for airports both about when passenger demand will return and about the conclusions that decision-makers will reach about the measures necessary to deliver net zero aviation. This is an important victory for local campaigners. While the airport claims it can still grow using its existing permissions, the reality – as the airport itself previously argued – is that it will struggle to launch new routes without the change it was seeking to its operating hours.”   New Economic Foundation senior researcher Alex Chapman said that to prevent “climate breakdown”, society needs to “start making different choices and the era of corporate greenwash needs to end”.

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Leeds Bradford Airport has scrapped plans to build a huge new terminal – there will not be a public inquiry

Leeds Bradford Airport has scrapped plans to build a new £150m terminal, saying they had withdrawn proposals because of “excessive delays” and the decision to hold a public inquiry into the development.” That may be because they realise there are very strong reasons, especially on climate, why the terminal should not be built, and they realises there is a likelihood they might lose, wasting money.  The expansion plans were first announced in 2020, with a planning application approved by the council in March 2021, despite objections by campaigners and local MPs. There was going to be a public inquiry. The overall impact of the new terminal would have been more planes, more passengers, more carbon emissions. The airport says it will now turn its attention to extending the existing terminal, plans for which were approved by Leeds City Council in 2019.  Local opponents, GALBA (Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport) are delighted; they have fought a remarkable, dogged and now successful campaign against the expansion for several years. They said it was a “victory for climate and communities”.  The higher aviation CO2 emissions would have made it “impossible” for Leeds city to meet its carbon target.

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Gatwick hopes for a better 2022 – it lost £370.6 million in 2021 and £465.5 million in 2020

Gatwick lost just over £1m per day on average – £370.6 million –  during 2021. In 2020 it lost about  £1.275m per day – about £465.5 million. It had about 10.2 million passengers in 2020, and about 6.3 million  in 2021 (mainly in the summer months), compared to 46.6 million in 2019.  EasyJet has taken up more Gatwick take-off and landing slots.  Cost savings were achieved by moving all airlines and travellers to the smaller North Terminal during months with the tightest Covid travel restrictions. The airport will reopen its South Terminal on March 27 as airlines ramp up their schedules with more passengers. British Airways is restarting its short-haul programme with 18 aircraft on 35 routes. Wizz Air and Vueling are setting up smaller bases. The biggest airline at Gatwick, easyJet, will provide even more capacity than before the coronavirus pandemic, with 79 aircraft covering 120 routes. The airport’s CEO Stewart Wingate, hoped 2022 would see a big rise in passengers “providing bureaucracy is reduced.”

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UK airport expansion plans mean higher aviation emissions – making a mockery of “net zero” targets

The carbon emissions from UK aviation according to the Climate Change Committee (CCC), were 39.3 MtCO2 in 2018. They were a little higher in 2019, making up 8% of total UK emissions. The CCC advised the government that for its Sixth Carbon Budget (2033 – 37) the carbon emissions of the UK should fall by 63% from their 2019 level. And “net zero” by 2050.  The CCC has advised the government that there should be “no net airport expansion”. But the government has ignored this advice, and recently government inspectors have allowed expansion plans at Stansted and Bristol.  Southampton and Leeds Bradford airports are trying to get expansion approval. So instead of making every effort to cut UK aviation emissions, things are going in the opposite direction. Stansted Airport Watch says that, taken together, the airport expansion proposals that have been approved in the past year, and those in the pipeline, will increase UK airport capacity to over 500 million passengers per annum. This compares to 296.7 million passengers in 2019, before Covid, and 292 million in 2018.  [link]  “With so much extra airport capacity in the pipeline, there will be no prospect of aviation achieving the Government’s objective of net zero emissions by 2050.”

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Ending “ghost flights” would be one of the simplest ways to cut UK aviation CO2 – government not keen to help

The UK government has produced a (predictably bland, uninformative, unhelpful) response to the petition asking for an end to the slot use rules that encourage airlines to fly “ghost flights.” ie. empty planes or those with under 10% full.  During the worst periods of Covid, the 80:20 slot use rule was removed.  Now the rule is 70% use. That still has the effect of making airlines fly more planes than necessary, with a low load factor, just to hang onto the slot.  Data has now revealed that 15,000 ghost flights flew from UK airports between March 2020 and September 2021. Shockingly, in 2019, aviation accounted for 8% of all UK emissions, and it shows no sign of slowing soon. The global industry may be slowly improving its efficiency, by about 2% a year, but passenger growth still surges ahead. There is an urgent need to cut the CO2 from air travel, and that can only mean fewer flights. There are no amazing tech solutions that will reduce aviation emissions to any significant extent, for decades (if ever). The really “low hanging fruit” of cutting aviation emissions is not encouraging unnecessary flights that are almost empty. Ghost flights need to be ended. Fast. 

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Reply to a Parliamentary Question shows during 18 months of Covid, around 15,000 “ghost flights” flew from UK airports

It has been difficult to obtain the data, from airlines, of the number of flights they operate that have no passengers, or are under 10% capacity. These are termed ghost flights, and are a terrible unnecessary source of carbon emissions. Now MP Alex Sobel has asked a parliamentary question, replied to by Robert Courts (Aviation Minister), giving some recent date for the UK. The responses, through the DfT and CAA, was that almost 15,000 “ghost flights” took off from the 32 UK airports between March 2020 and September 2021.  Heathrow was top, with 4,910 ghost flights in that 18 month period.  Manchester and Gatwick were the next highest.  [Link to the data ] There were an average of 760 ghost flights a month over the period, although the data covered only international departure and not domestic flights. During the pandemic the slot use rules that had required 80% of slots to be used were completely suspended. Airlines did not have to operate flights to retain the slots, but nonetheless flew about 14,470 ghost flights. This was partly as demand for flying was so low, planes flew with just a handful of passengers.

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Holland-Kaye quits civil service recruitment panel for new DfT aviation lead, after backlash from airlines

Recently it was learned that John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow airport, had been included in the 6-person panel to select the next incumbent of the role of most senior DfT aviation official. There had been outcry, fury and condemnation from the airlines, due to the fear of bias and the threat to impartiality if Holland-Kaye was involved.  Now he has stepped down from the panel, following a backlash from airlines. Nigel Wicking, chief executive of the Heathrow Airline Operating Committee, a body that represents the carriers serving the airport, said: “We note and support the Civil Service values of ‘impartiality, objectivity, integrity and honesty’ and would question how the panel can be impartial when it contains the chief executive of Heathrow Airport, the regulated monopoly that the new director general will oversee … Whether any bias is real or just perceived, it will cast shade on any future Government decisions involving Heathrow.”

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Swapping plane travel for low-carbon travel and staycations would create many more jobs – says new report

There is a real interest in how to provide good jobs, in lower carbon sectors, for people who currently work in high-carbon industries, such as aviation. This “just transition” is something society needs to achieve, quite fast. A new report by the organisation, Possible, and thinktank Autonomy, has crunched the numbers and found that there could be many more jobs, in local tourism and associated activities, such as rail and ferries, than in the aviation sector.  Possible says job losses in the aviation sector would be far outweighed by those created elsewhere. The number of flights and passengers will have to reduce, in order to keep the CO2 emissions from aviation low enough, as there are no realistic low-carbon alternatives at scale for many decades, if ever.  In the scenario which reduced aviation demand by half, around 139,000 jobs were lost and 422,000 jobs were created, generating a net increase in employment of around 283,000. In the scenario which reduced aviation by two thirds, 187,000 jobs were lost and 521,000 created, providing a net increase in jobs of around 337,000.  This would help with the transition to a low-carbon economy.

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MAG warns the 10 councils that own it that they may not get any dividends till 2027

The Manchester Airports Group (MAG) owns Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports.  MAG is owned by Greater Manchester’s 10 councils, which used to make  huge profits from their airports, before Covid. Several other UK airports, such as Birmingham, are owned by councils.  Since the start of the pandemic, many airports have had to be given loans by the councils that own them.  Now the MAG councils have been warned they might not receive any dividend from their ownership of MAG airports, until 2027. Several councils have become dependent on the airport money – which is a problem, if they aim to cut carbon emissions, but need as much (high carbon) flying as possible, to pay their bills and provide council services.  MAG last paid dividends in 2019, sharing £110m amongst its shareholders. Manchester City Council owns 35.5% of MAG; 9 authorities, the Metropolitan Boroughs of Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan, together with Salford City Council, collectively own 29%. Australian investment fund Industry Funds Management owns 35.5%.

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Campaigners label Heathrow’s new “Sustainability” strategy as “patently underwhelming” in its ambitions, or plans for action

Heathrow has announced its updated environmental “sustainability” strategy, called “Heathrow 2.0: Connecting People and Planet”.  It wants to do a bit to encourage wildlife near the airport (not birds of course, as they get killed or deterred for safety …) and get airlines to use allegedly “sustainable aviation fuel” (SAF).  Lots of hope …. The “elephant in the room” of their rising carbon emissions from flights, is not properly addressed. Local campaign, the No 3rd Runway Coalition, consider the strategy to be  “patently underwhelming” and the “goals to reduce emissions are pifflingly small…”  Heathrow has unrealistic hopes of “decarbonising” flights, and also “improving the area around the airport for those who live and work in it’.  Heathrow wants to cut “at least 45% of on the ground emissions” which make up about 5% of the total. The increased use of SAF, which is only available in tiny amounts, would need government assistance, says Heathrow. Stop Heathrow Expansion says the plan ‘does not deliver for communities around the airport’ and does not offer any real commitments to end ‘highly disruptive night flights’ , instead of better restrictions on flights between 11pm and 7am.

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DfT post of Director General for Aviation advertised – panel of 6 to select, includes John Holland-Kaye

The role of Director General for Aviation, Maritime and Security at the DfT is currently being advertised, at a salary of about £130,000. Applications can be submitted until 28th February. The previous incumbent was Gareth Davis, who was replaced by an interim director, Dr Rannia Leontaridi, in January 2022. There will be a panel of 6 people to select the new director; 5 of the 6 are civil servants. But the 6th person is John Holland-Kaye, the CEO of Heathrow airport. Details of the panel, how John Holland-Kaye could be on it, and the proper process of selecting the applicant for one of the most influential roles in aviation in the UK, are still unclear.  It is hoped that this will be clarified soon.  Airlines are very unhappy about John’s choice to be on the panel, and the possibility of undue influence.

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Ultrafine particles from aircraft engines can spread miles downwind of airports and can endanger lives

There is growing evidence that suggests tiny particles – ultrafine – of air pollution can affect the heart, lungs, blood pressure and risk foetal growth. These tiny particles, as well as larger ones, are emitted from vehicle engines and from plane engines. The tinier the particle, the further it can get into the lung, and thus into the blood circulation – and hence the widespread effects. Now research by Dr Gary Fuller (Imperial College) at Gatwick has shown that the number of ultrafine particles 500 metres downwind of the airport was greater than those at the kerb of London’s busiest roads. They mostly came from aircraft during takeoff and landing, but traffic, car parks and a large catering facility used to cook airline food all added to the problem. Ultrafine particles can travel a long way downwind of an airport, eg. miles from the airport in Los Angeles, and also miles into London from Heathrow. Although known to be a health hazard, ultrafine particles are not included in the environmental assessments for planning applications, putting us at risk of increased air pollution for decades to come.

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Leeds Bradford airport public inquiry to start 13th September – GALBA crowdfunding for £100,000 for the fight

On 19th January 2022, Michael Gove (Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) granted GALBA’s request to hold a public inquiry into Leeds Bradford airport’s  expansion plans.  It will start on 13th September 2022.  GALBA has gone into full-on preparation mode for fundraising. They hope to raise £100,000 through a crowdfunder, to pay for legal advice and experts to give evidence to the public inquiry.  The planning inspectors will make a recommendation to the Secretary of State whether or not to allow the airport to expand. GALBA has described the public inquiry into LBA’s expansion plans as a ‘real life David vs Goliath battle’.  Chris Foren, chair of GALBA, said: “The airport is owned by an Australian based multinational corporation which can literally spend millions on lawyers if it wants to. GALBA is just a group of concerned citizens – no one is paid, everyone involved does it because they care deeply about our communities and our climate. So it will be a real life David vs Goliath battle at the inquiry. … the future of our planet depends on struggles like this – people power really can make a difference! If we all work together, we can build a better future for our children and grandchildren.”

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Luton Airport consultation about expansion plans, to increase to 32 million annual passengers

Luton airport has started another public consultation (ends 4th April) on further expansion plans.  It now wants to increase its annual number of passengers (from 18.2 million in 2019) to 32 million (mppa). The proposals by the airport owner Luton Rising [the new name the company that owns Luton airport has started using] involve expanding the existing terminal, building a 2nd terminal and making “best use” [ie. more use] of the existing runway.  At the start of December 2021, Luton council, which conveniently owns the airport, gave it permission to increase from 18 to 19 mppa. If approved, the Phase 1 would be  expansion of Terminal 1 and associated facilities to increase capacity to approximately 21.5 mppa.  Phase 2 would involve construction of new Terminal 2 and associated facilities to increase airport capacity to 27 mppa.  Then a later further phase would be more expansion of Terminal 2, to increase to 32 mppa. Opponents of the airport’s growth say the latest consultation is “a huge waste of public money”.  The level of aircraft noise in 2019 was severe, and residents are horrified of it becoming even worse – as well as the local congestion etc. It makes no sense to encourage aviation expansion, when the UK must cut its carbon emissions, fast.

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Bristol local campaigners feel betrayed by Bristol Airport approval by the Planning Inspectorate

Despite huge opposition to the plans to expand Bristol airport, from a cap of 10 million annual passengers to 12 million, the plan was approved by the Planning Inspectorate on 2nd February, after an appeal by the airport to refusal by North Somerset Council. Residents and campaigners say that this decision flies in the face of the evidence that was presented to the inquiry by climate experts and local residents. It means about 20,000 more annual flights.  It also makes a mockery of the planning decision taken locally by North Somerset Council and the expressed opinions of the local MPs and surrounding councils. The voices of some 8,900 people who objected in writing to the proposals and the many thousands more who marched in solidarity against the plans has also been ignored in what is a terrible blow to local democracy and accountability.  The expansion would result in hugely more CO2 (at a time of climate crisis), more noise, more car journeys and road congestion. Stephen Clarke from Bristol Airport Action Network (BAAN) said: ” It means that the airport and the planning inspectorate have totally ignored the climate crisis we are currently in.”

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Bristol Airport expansion allowed by Planning Inspectorate, on appeal – called “devastating” by opponents

The 36-day public inquiry into Bristol Airport’s proposal to expand from 10 to 12 mppa, and add thousands more car parking spaces, took place in September and October 2021. Now the Planning Inspectorate have announced their decision to allow the appeal by the airport against refusal by North Somerset Council. This has been condemned as devastating by opponents and extremely disappointing by local councillors. North Somerset Council leader Don Davies said the decision “flies in the face of local democracy”.  His authority had given sound planning grounds for refusing permission in February 2020, and warned that the detrimental effect of the airport expansion of the airport locally – as well as the wider climate impacts – outweighed the narrower benefits,  which would be almost entirely the commercial interests of the owners, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan..  The plan to expand the airport was opposed by thousands of residents, as well as Bristol City Council, Bath and North East Somerset Council and the West of England Combined Authority. Don Davies said the council is seeing if there are any grounds for challenging the PI ruling.

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“Airlines must show progress on sustainability to avoid becoming next tobacco industry”

Airlines have an immense problem in trying to convince enough people that they are genuinely trying to reduce their sector’s climate impact. Though they are doing a few small things to cut the carbon, those measures are dwarfed by the intention of the sector to keep growing. There is more overall climate impact of more flights, even if each one is a tiny % lower carbon.  The sector wants to be seen to be genuinely being “green” (terrible word that has been so abused as to now mean virtually nothing – in the same way as “sustainable”). But they have the problem of many of the measures they may have taken, to be a bit more fuel efficient, have higher load factors, lighter planes, newer planes) have already been taken – not for climate reasons, but for increased profitability. They are not additional measures, aimed at cutting climate impact.  And airlines also try to out-do competitors in terms of claiming their flights and fleets are better than those of a competitor. So it is “dog eat dog” and that makes it easier for the public to understand that much of the hype is greenwash. Airlines, after 2 Covid years, fear arguments against more flying like: “Do you want to go through all that again?” and “Was it so bad when you couldn’t fly as many times a year?”

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NEF analysis indicates the CO2 from Gatwick expansion could cost taxpayers £8.5 billion up to 2050

New analysis from the New Economics Foundation has calculated the costs to society of the carbon emissions that airport expansion plans would cause. The “carbon value” used to be a bit over £70 per tonne, but in September 2021 this was increased to £124 per tonne, and it will keep rising.  So the figures airports have put forward, for the positive economic impact of their expansion are now entirely out of date.  Almost the only carbon costs the aviation industry pays is for carbon through the UK ETS, which only covers flights within the EU.  Not flights anywhere else in the world.  The Gatwick cost of emissions from departing flights is calculated by NEF to be £9.196 billion, rather than £4.502 billion at the lower, out of date, price – for the period between 2025 – 2050. They put the forecast price paid for traded emissions at £634m. So the proportion of climate cost paid would only be 6.9% which implied cost to wider society and taxpayer at £8.562 billion.  That is the cost to society of the climate impact of the higher carbon emissions caused by more Gatwick flights.

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Heathrow’s financial problems deepen, especially if it has 15% less passengers in 2022 than forecast

Heathrow has been allowed, by its regulator the CAA, to increase its passenger charge from £19.36 to £30.19 this year until the summer. After that the CAA will probably rule on charges for the next 5 years.  Heathrow wanted a larger increase, to £43 per passenger, and based some of its profit forecasts on that – and is peeved with the CAA for limiting its charges. Heathrow has net debts of £15.4 billion.  It says that if its number of passengers in 2022 is more than 15% below its forecast of 45.5 million, it will have financial problems – though “no covenant breaches are forecast in 2022” but that is possible. Its forecast aeronautical revenue for 2022 has been revised down to £2.19 billion, and its underlying earnings down to £1.04 billion.  If Heathrow has to breach its covenant terms with its lenders, it becomes a less attractive (aka lucrative) investment, and its credit rating  eg. by Standard & Poor’s and Fitch.  The airlines using Heathrow are, predictably, deeply opposed to yet higher Heathrow charges.

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Realistic cost of carbon emissions likely to make airport expansion plans unviable

The government’s new higher, more realistic, carbon values – putting a cost on carbon emissions from aviation – are likely to make many airport expansion schemes non-viable. The carbon value was increased in September, in an attempt to move towards “net zero” by 2050. The anticipated economic benefits will be drastically cut, if carbon emissions (and their negative impact on society and the planet) are costed properly. The planning law is currently inadequate and ambiguous, but campaigners hope planning authorities will take greater account of the impact of emissions on the economic case of proposed projects. The New Economics Foundation has found that the economic cases for 6 of the 7 major airport expansion proposals — including Heathrow and Gatwick — use either the old carbon value, or none at all.  As yet, planning law in England does not explicitly require carbon values to be used. But the relevant planning authority can demand they are included in applications.  If the anticipated outcome of Bristol’s appeal gave a “clear line” on carbon values, it is very likely to inform other airport expansion decisions.

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Public to foot £62bn bill for climate damage from airport expansions – which the aviation sector should pay for

Analysis by Alex Chapman, working for the New Economics Foundation (NEF) has found that in allowing airports around the country to expand, the government is letting the aviation industry off the hook for £62bn of damage to the climate. The amount of carbon that airports, and mainly aircraft, emit has a negative impact on the global climate – and thus to society.  Governments can put a figure on this cost, for each tonne of emitted carbon. In September 2021 the government increased the carbon value figure from around £70 per tonne to £245 per tonne (central value) for 2021 rising to £378 per tonne by 2050. The new NEF analysis found the aviation industry will only pay for 16% of the emissions clean-up costs of the 8 airport expansions currently moving through UK planning processes (Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, Bristol, Southampton, Leeds Bradford and Manston). The higher, more realistic, price for carbon makes these expansion schemes uneconomic, if the carbon is properly paid for.  The government does not have a comprehensive mechanism for recouping these costs from the aviation industry.

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Liverpool Airport expansion plans to be reviewed, as contrary to council climate aims – and Oglet shore reprieved

Liverpool Airport had been hoping to expand by extending its runway by 314 metres, to attract direct transatlantic flights, to try to more than double its passenger numbers. This has been fiercely opposed, especially as it would take land to the south of the airport, where there is the Oglet shore – a natural section of coast, valued by walkers and important for wildlife, including some Red List species. Now Liverpool City councillors have agreed to review policies relating to any future extensions. Councillors from all parties expressed concerns over the proposals to extend the runway.  At a full council meeting, they also agreed to consider – after investigating the evidence – selling the council’s 10% stake in the airport, as it incompatible its efforts to fight climate change.  The airport put forward the plans before the council declared a climate emergency, in 2018.  Campaigners fighting to save the Oglet shore are delighted, as the airport masterplan ear marked it to be covered in concrete for new hangers, maintenance services, cargo facilities and warehouses. 

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DfT reinstates 70% slot use rule from end of March – with some flexibility for future Covid impacts

The Department for Transport has announced that airlines will have to hand back airport take-off and landing slots if they were not used 70% of the time from March 27th, for the summer period, (end of October) up from the current threshold of 50%. Before Covid, airlines had to use 80% of their slots, or risk losing them. This limit was removed entirely for the first part of the pandemic, but reverted to 50% use. Airlines have warned they will be forced to run empty or half-empty and polluting “ghost flights”  in order to meet the 70% limit, even if there is not enough demand for flights. This makes no sense, in terms of trying to reduce carbon emissions from the sector. However, the DfT has said there will be more flexibility, so airlines will be allowed to miss the 70% limit if there are real Covid travel restrictions in future, limiting travel.  Airports like Gatwick are keen to have a high slot use requirement, so airlines that cannot meet the quota have to relinquish slots to others – thus new airlines can start up routes. But for the airlines, high slot use requirements mean losing money – and higher CO2 emissions. They are against the re-imposition of high slot use requirements.

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Stansted had lowest number of passengers for 23 years in 2021

Stansted Airport handled just 7.1 million passengers in 2021, which is just 25% of the number in 2019.  The 2021 number is the lowest since 1998, reflecting the dramatic reduction in air travel caused by Covid.  In 2020 it handled 7.54 million passengers (73% lower than the 28.12 million in 2019).  Stansted Airport Watch says both outbound and inbound tourism declined, due to Covid.  But this decline in outward-bound tourism has had the effect of increasing the amount spent in the UK – not taken abroad on leisure trips. There was a favourable impact on the balance of payments of £26 billion in 2020, and a similar figure is expected in 2021.  As well as online purchases, people swapped home improvements and furnishings, as well as staycations, for trips abroad. This helps explain why UK GDP is now even higher than before the pandemic, and employment levels are also at a record high.  It is also reported that VAT receipts are well ahead of expectations.  This may be because there is no VAT on air travel but spending on home improvements, furnishings and staycations are all subject to VAT. While leisure demand will largely return, it is likely business air travel will never recover to 2019 levels. 

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Motion to Liverpool City Council says its funding of the airport is not consistent with its climate aims

In a motion to the Labour-led Liverpool City Council, Green member Anna Key said supporting Liverpool John Lennon Airport (LJLA) was not in line with the authority’s climate emergency declaration in 2019.  For the Liverpool council to keep funding the city’s airport is “incompatible” with its effort to fight climate change, and become “carbon neutral” by 2030.  The motion will go before a full council meeting on 26 January.  Liverpool City Council has a 10% stake in the airport.  Anna also called for opposition to LJLA’s “potential future expansion” plans. The plans for expansion would mean an increased number of flights, as well as destruction of valuable green space adjacent to the airport. There would also be more passenger and freight road traffic, causing air pollution and carbon emissions.  Anna Kay said the council should stop supporting the airport financially. Her motion also calls on the council to get planners to undertake an urgent evidence-based review of all policies relating to green space, environment and green belt. There is a 38 Degrees petition to two councils, to protect the Oglet shore area from airport development.

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Leeds Bradford Airport development plans at last to go to public inquiry – date unknown

Leeds Bradford airport Leeds Bradford submitted plans for new terminal building & more passengers (4m to 7m a year) in May 2020. There has been intense opposition to the plan, led by local opposition group, GALBA.  In March 2021 the terminal plan was approved by Leeds City Council, but in April 2021 the government issued a direction to the Council, preventing councillors from granting the planning permission without special authorisation. There have been numerous requests for the application to be called in. Now it has been announced by the DLUHC – headed by Michael Gove – that the application will indeed go to a public inquiry – though the date is not yet decided.  It is a triumph for the persistent pressure by opponents, managing to achieve this significant delay. The inquiry means the arguments against the expansion will be properly and fully heard.  Some of the matters that Mr Gove “particularly wishes to be informed about” included the extent to which the proposed development is consistent with government policies for “protecting green belt land” and “meeting the challenge of climate change, flooding and coastal change”. Airport expansion can only increase carbon emissions.

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UK government sued by ClientEarth and Friends of the Earth over ‘pie-in-the-sky’ net-zero climate strategy

ClientEarth and Friends of the Earth say the UK government’s “net zero climate strategy” (published in October 2021) fails to include policies needed to ensure the necessary emissions cuts.  Court papers filed on 12th January by the two organisations also say the failure to meet legal carbon budgets would contravene the Human Rights Act by impacting on young people’s right to life and family life.  The strategy pushes the risks and duty to take action onto young people and future generations, who stand to be hit far harder than people today by the climate crisis.  Instead of realistic, effective means of cutting the carbon emissions, the strategy relies on speculative technologies such as zero-carbon aviation fuels and extracting CO2 directly from the air and burying it.  Both CE and FoE argue that the Climate Change Act requires ministers to set out policies to meet carbon budgets “as soon as reasonably practicable” after they have been set. There are no practical plans to cut aviation demand, or to effectively reduce the emissions from aviation, for decades. After the submission of the government’s defence, the high court will decide whether to grant full hearings of the cases.

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Heathrow will not return to “normal” (ie. 2019 levels) of passengers for several years (if ever)

Due to restrictions to try to avoid Omicron spreading, or more being introduced into the UK (it initially probably arrived due to air travel, from Africa) many people who had booked flights over Christmas cancelled.  Heathrow said about 600,000 passengers due to use the airport had cancelled. This continued a bad year for the airport.  It had only about 19.4 million passengers in 2021 compared to around 80 million in 2019 – ie. 24% of the 2019 number.   It had a bit over 22 million in 2020 (so 2021 was 12.3% below 2020). CEO John Holland-Kaye did not expect a return to the level of passengers in 2019 for many years, perhaps by 2026. Even that is very uncertain.

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Natural England renews licences for airports to kill birds up to 13km away

Natural England has renewed its guidance allowing airports/aerodromes to kill a range of birds, up to 13km (called the safeguarding zone) from the airport, if they are deemed a “danger” to aircraft safety. The licences permit, in relation to the species listed below, “killing or taking birds, taking or destroying their eggs, and taking, damaging or destroying their nests while that nest is in use or being built.”  Anyone wishing to use this licence must first apply to Natural England to be registered. Natural England are meant to keep records of all the killing and measures taken against birds. The species included in the licences are varieties of geese, crows, gulls and ducks. Also pigeons, woodpigeons, starlings, parakeets, magpies, jackdaws, rooks and lapwings (a Red list endangered bird).  Means of killing allowed include shooting with a firearm/ ammunition combination (including a semiautomatic weapon*) appropriate for the species concerned; pricking of eggs;  oiling of eggs using paraffin oil; d. destruction of eggs and nests; cage trap; a pen or corral used as a trap; falconry.  Airports and their surroundings are NOT safe places for birds.

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Covid caused a 71% drop in international flights for UK in 2021 – in future the aviation sector may be smaller

The Covid pandemic triggered a 71% drop in international flights in and out of the UK in 2021, says a new report m by aviation analytics firm Cirium.  About 406,060 international flights operated from the UK in 2021 compared with 1,399,170 in 2019 before travel was restricted. UK domestic flights also fell by nearly 60%. Ryanair remained the largest airline in the UK, with over 100,000 UK flights.  easyJet had over 82,000 flights.  The busiest international route was between Heathrow and New York’s JFK.  80% of routes were to European destinations. The director on Newquay airport expects that “the ‘old normal’ is not going to return” for airlines and airports, and it will be at least 4 years before the industry recovers to its 2019 size, if it ever does.  The pandemic has made people far less care-free about air travel.  He expects there will be much less business travel now that companies have become used to Zoom and Teams.  Discretionary trips abroad such as stag parties might go to UK cities instead. And people will prefer package trips, protected by cancellation insurance, over independent travel.

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Aviation sector is hoping, unrealistically, that future “carbon capture & storage” will solve its CO2 problems

There is a presumption in all future climate scenarios, aiming to get to “net zero” by 2050 (or whenever) that “negative carbon technologies” will have to be used. It will be essential to try to remove some of the CO2 from the global atmosphere.  Obviously, a more effective way to keep global CO2 to a lower figure would be to stop emitting it, over the next decade or two decades. But governments and businesses, including the aviation sector, are not keen on doing that; it would be bad for business.  Even the most optimistic forecasts for the amount of carbon that could be captured by DACCS (Direct Air Carbon Capture and Storage) would only be a tiny % of annual emissions, let alone the millions of tonnes emitted in the past. The technology is expensive and uses a great deal of energy. So far, the only carbon capture that has been profitable has been pumping the captured CO2 into depleting oil and gas fields, in order to get out more oil and gas (totally negating the purpose of capturing the CO2 in the first place). Aviation will want people to believe in the future magical abilities of this tech – people need to be very sceptical indeed.  Beware dangerous greenwash.

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CAA allows Heathrow to increase passenger charge from £22 to £31.19 from January – to be reviewed again

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has allowed Heathrow to charge its airline customers more in the period from 1 January 2022, as an interim measure, for six months. Heathrow’s current price control expires on 31 December 2021 and the final decision and licence modifications for a new 5-year control period (H7) will not be made and take effect until the summer of 2022. At present the airport can charge up to £22 per passenger, and it wanted to increase that to £43 in January 2022.   The CAA now says Heathrow can charge £30.19 per passenger.  The CAA says: “Once we have set the final price control for the H7 period, any difference between it and the holding price cap will be trued up or down.” The rise to £31.19 is an increase of 37%, (depending how it is measured) compared to the current inflation rate of 5.1%.  Shareholders have received more than £4bn in dividends since 2012.  Airlines are deeply opposed. 

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British Airways launches its Gatwick short haul cheap flights subsidiary, BA Euroflyer – from March 2022

British Airways is to have a new short-haul subsidiary at Gatwick, starting in March 2022. Tickets for the subsidiary, known as BA Euroflyer, have gone on sale, with 35 destinations initially.  It will have three planes initially, in creasing to 18 by May 2022.  The aim of BA Euroflyer is to try to remain competitive with Gatwick’s dominant low-cost airlines.  In March flights will go to Amsterdam, Larnaca, Paphos, Seville, Tenerife, and Verona – all just holiday destinations, with flights starting under £50.  Then other holiday destinations will be added.  According to the airline, from a passenger’s perception, there should be no difference when flying on mainline British Airways or BA Euroflyer.  Just what the planet does not need; instead of reducing the demand for air travel, making unnecessary flights even cheaper. 

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Southampton Airport runway extension decision set for judicial review

The residents group, GOESA Ltd, that has been challenging plans to extend the runway at Southampton Airport, have won the right to take the matter to judicial review (JR). The judicial review will take place in the New Year, submitting evidence to the High Court, but the date is not yet known. GOESA Ltd is crowdfunding to raise the money for the legal costs. The plans to extend the runway by 164m (538ft) were approved by Eastleigh Borough Council in April. Initially campaigners against the plans had their request for a JR refused by the High Court, but that has now been overturned. Rowan Smith, the group’s solicitor, said: “They will now have another opportunity to convince the court that permission for an expanded Southampton Airport was unlawfully granted and should be reversed.” The airport claims all sorts of economic benefits from the runway extension.  The leader of Eastleigh Borough Council hopes the legal processes can happen quickly, so the airport can proceed quickly with its plans, which he claims are good for the regional economy….

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Preposterous claim by Leeds Bradford airport to become “net zero” by 2030 (ignoring the planes)

Airports are very fond of making grandiose claims about their efforts to cut their carbon emissions, from their buildings and ground operations, and reduce their environmental footprint.  That is all very welcome.  But it is merely disingenuous and frankly misleading as the claims to be “net zero” or “carbon neutral” ignore the emissions from the flights, that happen because of the airport. Generally the emissions from the airport itself are around 5% – that sort of figure – of the total emissions generated by the overall activities of the airport and its flights.  Now Leeds Bradford – trying to increase number of flights – is making claims about how it will be “net zero” (excluding flights) by 2030. The term “net zero” does not mean a lot. Emissions can only be “net” if offsets are bought – there are few offsets that are effective in genuinely reducing carbon, over decades.  Carbon capture and storage would reduce carbon, but it is many decades away, on any significant scale. As most passengers using the airport are people who live relatively near the airport, going on leisure trips, the airport is keen that they reduce the carbon impact of their trips to and from the airport. The airport CEO wants the passengers to travel in electric cars …

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Shell and its plans to produce “sustainable” jet fuels, using plant oils and animal fats

Shell is an enthusiastic proponent of so-called “Sustainable Aviation Fuels” (SAF). They claim that “SAF can be made from renewable sources such as used cooking oil, municipal waste and woody biomass. It is … has the potential to reduce lifecycle emissions by up to 80%, compared with conventional aviation fuel.” But Biofuelwatch and others are seriously concerned about the use of plant oils, including palm oil, that Shell considers acceptable. Used cooking oil could be seen as a genuinely lower carbon fuel, but there are limited amounts of it. There have been frauds involving companies making money by claiming virgin oils are “used.”  Biofuelwatch says Shell has signed a contract to buy 2.5 billion litres of aviation biofuels over a 5 year period from a refinery sourcing soya and animal fats, currently under construction in Paraguay. Cattle ranching – the source of the animal fat – is the main cause of the destruction of the Chaco forest. Shell plans to produce biofuel in Singapore, where there is pressure from Malaysia and Indonesia to use palm oil, directly or indirectly linked to habitat loss and deforestation. With immense world demand for palm oil, for human food, this cannot be justified.

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Government £15 million funding for 8 companies, hoping to make low carbon jet fuels

The DfT has announced the spending of £15 million for 8 companies that hope to make the (dreamed of) low carbon jet fuels that the industry so desperately wants. None of the funding is, as far as can be ascertained, going into development of plant or animal lipids. Many of the contenders intend to use domestic, commercial or woody waste, to convert this using gasification and the (energy intensive) Fischer-Tropsch process, into fuel.  One wants to use sewage. Another wants to use industrial flue gases. Another wants to use direct air capture CO2, combined with hydrogen from electrolysis.  There are grandiose claims about how much fuel will be made, how low its lifetime carbon emissions will be. In reality, it is unlikely that using forestry waste (not tree trunks) will produce much.  Domestic waste is a very variable material, that has proved difficult to reliably turn into fuel in any quantity (and it needs people to throw away enough food, plastic, paper and card). Many require large amounts of electricity that is genuinely produced from renewables, competing with other uses. And producing fuel is generally a less efficient use of electricity than using it directly for heating or movement. So a lot of pie in the sky. Watch how these develop in the next few years …

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Climate Change committee stresses need to reduce demand for air travel

The Climate Change Committee (CCC), in its report following up the outcome of the COP26 talks, says that rolling out the Net Zero Strategy must lead to emissions falling in all sectors (i.e. going beyond recent progress dominated by the power sector). They say there is a gap on behaviour change (e.g. shifting diets away from meat and dairy and limiting aviation demand growth). That needs to be changed, in order to get emissions reductions.  Reductions in aviation are especially important for the UK, as we have very high per person aviation emissions. The Committee has repeatedly stressed that an element of demand reduction for air travel is needed. The Government has repeatedly ignored that, knowing that anything restricting or make flying more expensive, is a vote-loser.  The COP26 Glasgow Pact said there should be no “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies. The CCC has said that the absence of VAT or fuel duty on air travel are post-tax subsidies.

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Luton Council approves plans for Luton to increase from 18 to 19 million passenger per year

In February, Luton airport submitted a planning application to Luton Borough Council (its owner) to increase the annual cap on passenger throughput from 18m to 19 mppa. Also to expand the day and night noise contours by 11.3% and 15.3% respectively until 2028. Now Luton Borough Council has approved the plan to increase to 19 million – and the plans to change the noise contours, to the huge disappointment of many local groups already negatively affected by aircraft noise. The Council said this application did not affect the airport’s long term proposals to increase capacity to 32 million per year, which would be determined by government, through a DCO, not the council. The airport is owned by a company that has changed its name to Luton Rising – and that is owned by Luton Council.  How well the airport will do in future years is unknown, with the impact of Covid, targets for aviation to become “carbon neutral” and growing awareness of the climate impact of air travel.  Luton’s passenger numbers dropped almost 70% between 2019 and 2020 due to Covid. 

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Climate Change Committee says there needs to be a reinvigorated UK effort on climate change

The Climate Change Committee says how far Glasgow can be considered a success can only be assessed by the actions that follow over the coming year and beyond. There is now a path to expected global warming of under 2°C, but only if all the ambition in new mid-century Net Zero targets is delivered, alongside national 2030 emissions targets. Current climate policies around the world do not come close to achieving these aims. For the UK it says “The Glasgow Climate Pact makes notable reference to ‘phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies’. The UK has a duty to act on this in common with other countries. The CCC recommends that the Treasury initiates a review of the role of the tax system in delivering Net Zero, including the role of tax in achieving a higher and more consistent carbon price across the economy. Low carbon prices are effectively a subsidy. No fossil fuel subsidies should be classed as ‘efficient’.”   The CCC did not mention it, but the absence of any fuel tax on jet fuel, and no VAT on air travel, and effectively a subsidy to air travel. The CCC has repeatedly said that air travel should not be expanded unless there is effective progress on cutting aviation carbon emissions.  Demand for air travel must be reduced.

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Aviation’s climate pledges contradicted by huge growth forecasts

The aviation industry is aiming for “carbon neutrality by 2050” while continuing to expand. While it hopes to make small reductions in carbon per passenger kilometre travelled, by efficiency gains and novel energy sources, most of the “carbon neutrality” would have to be from offsets, or carbon storage.  There are currently no viable means of propelling commercial airlines large distances, without causing the emission of a lot of carbon. That situation is unlikely to change for at least another 40 years. In the meantime, it is imperative that global carbon emissions reduce fast, year by year, from now onwards.  Not from 2050.  Transport & Environment says relying on ICAO and its CORSIA (ineffective) scheme to achieve net-zero in the long-term will be just another distraction from real measures to clean up flying in the near term. Relying on rapid deployment of yet-to-be-deployed Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) and zero-emissions technology is harmful, as large-scale deployment is many years away. Assuming solutions are just around the corner would unjustifiably, and damagingly, allow high levels of air travel to continue.  Flying less is the most effective way to reduce aviation emissions.

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Gatwick expansion consultation ends 1st December – its plans would have ‘few benefits’ and many negative impacts

November 26, 2021

The Gatwick consultation on its plans to use its northern, standby, runway as a full runway, ends on 1st December.  It is important that anyone who has strong views on the issue submits a response, even if a very brief one. The impact of the expansion would be to hugely increase noise, carbon emissions, local road and rail congestion, air pollution, light pollution and more. The airport is trying to talk up its plans, with extravagant and improbable claims of the number of jobs that might be created locally, and the positive economic impact.  Local campaign group, GACC, has prepared extensive comments to the consultation, to help people respond. Also a short, quick version that people can use – or ideally adapt into their own words – to express their concerns. GACC says Gatwick’s plans “would have few benefits but serious climate change consequences and devastating impacts on local communities and people under flight paths.”  Any increase in jobs would be by displacement from other regions and would be inconsistent with the government’s ‘levelling up’ plans. And its case for growth simply doesn’t stack up and the consequences are unthinkable.

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Luton airport continuing to be a financial drain (maybe £550 million+) to owners Luton Council

In the last few days, the company (owned by Luton Borough Council) that owns Luton Airport, has changed its name from London Luton Airport Ltd, to “Luton Rising”. That will be its trading name. The company that operates the airport is London Luton Airport Operations.  London Luton Airport Operations has obtained agreement from Luton Rising that it can retain £45 million over three years.  This will support the airport’s recovery from the pandemic.  The money would have been paid by the operator to Luton Rising (ie. the council) if it had not been for the impact of Covid reducing passengers and flights. Luton council usually, pre-Covid, made a good profit from the airport, but that has now been reversed. The Council in 2019 receiving a £19.1m, and £15.8m servicing debt.  In September 2020 there was a £60m loan by Luton Borough Council to its airport company and it was expected that another £23 million would be paid. Then in June 2021 Luton Council loaned a further £119m to the airport. Now this is another £45 million, over three years. The airport is not looking like a great investment for the council …

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Airlines will not be able to avoid higher costs if they use novel (lower carbon) fuels

The CEO of Delta, which is probably the world second biggest airline, has said that tackling climate change will make flying more expensive. [And so it should].  Ed Bastian claims that after spending $30m (£22.4m) a year on carbon-offsetting the airline has been “carbon neutral” since March 2020. It has also pledged to spend $1bn over the next decade to cancel out all the emissions it creates.  It gives no details of how it is doing this, and it is well known that most carbon offsets do not work, and the carbon is NOT “cancelled out.” The most effective way to cut the greenhouse gases produced by aviation is to have fewer flights and fewer passengers.  But the airlines all intend to grow, perhaps by 3% per year if they can.  Their only hope of reducing their emissions a little, while they expand, is novel aviation fuels (referred to as sustainable aviation fuel) – SAF.  These will be difficult to produce, and probably impossible to produce in the amounts the aviation industry want. The cost of these fuels is high, which will mean more expensive flying.  Delta wants to use 10% sustainable aviation fuel by the end of 2030. Ryanair wants 12.5% SAF by 2030; IAG wants 10% by 2030. The EU says SAF currently accounts for just 0.05% of jet fuel use in the EU.

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Virgin says it might return to Gatwick, especially for US routes

When the Covid pandemic began to hit air travel, the slot rules – which require an airline to use 80% of its slots at an airport – were suspended. That suspension has continued ever since, to avoid planes flying empty, just to keep a (valuable) slot. Gatwick is keen to have the slot rules suspension ended, so it can bring in more flights by Wizz, instead of slots being blocked by British Airways and IAG.  Virgin decided to leave Gatwick in May 2020, as it could not make any money, but it kept its slots.  Norwegian is all but defunct as an international airline, but held 10% of Gatwick’s slots before Covid. Those have been sold or leased back to easyjet.  British Airways pre-pandemic was the second largest operator at Gatwick, with 17% of slots. It might, or might not, come back to Gatwick, after saying spring 2020 that it would leave.  IAG could sub-let slots to its low cost airline, Vueling. Now Virgin is saying it might come back to Gatwick, as it is excited about the prospect of flights to the US returning, now Covid restrictions are eased. Things will change, if the slot waiver is ended, and both Virgin and British Airways would generally prefer to be at Heathrow, where they can make more money.

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Ammonia suggested as a possible future “low carbon” jet fuel – but problematic

A British company is hoping to use ammonia, in order to create “low carbon” flight in future decades.  The hope is to produce ammonia (NH3) using the very energy intensive Haber Bosch process, which is how fertiliser is produced.  Unless it used genuinely low carbon electricity for the process, a lot of carbon would be produced. The aspiration is that liquid ammonia could be stored in tanks on aircraft, and then – using the heat from the engines – “cracked” to produce hydrogen, which would fuel the plane. However NOx gases is produced in the process, and N2O is a highly potent greenhouse gas. Engines would need to have a second process, to turn the NOx into just water and nitrogen gas. The company wanting to do this hopes existing planes could be modified, though this would mean installing the cracker/heat exchanger unit next to each engine pod on an aircraft wing, and changes to fuel tanks. It is likely that an airliner with these modifications would only be able to fly short trips, of under 2,000km.  Ammonia fuel would cost a great deal more than fossil kerosene – and it is a toxic and corrosive substance, that can damage many metals.

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New research indicates that about 90% of UK domestic flights are taken by 2% of the population

Data from the DfT’s National Travel Survey 2019 and data from the Civil Aviation Authority’s 2018 passenger survey show that about 90% of domestic flights in the UK were taken by just 2% of English flyers in 2019.  The data was obtained by the environmental group, Possible.  They also found that the typical domestic flier earns twice the national average salary.  In an average year, 90% of the UK population do not take any domestic flights at all.  Leo Murray, director of innovation at Possible, speaking of the cut in domestic Air Passenger Duty, from April 2023, said: “This new analysis shows that this tax cut makes even less sense than first feared. Effectively all of the benefits will go to reward the tiny number of wealthy households responsible for almost all of the environmental damage from domestic flights, incentivising them to fly even more often, mostly on routes that could easily be travelled by train.”  Many people support a ban on domestic flights, on routes where the train journey is easy and less than 4 to 6 hours.  In any one year (pre Covid) about 50% of the UK population do not fly at all, and about 15% of the population take 70% of all flights.  1% of English residents take 20% of all overseas flights.

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Stay Grounded network say new aviation climate declaration fails to reduce sector’s future emissions

An aviation climate declaration launched at COP26 on 10th November has failed to place any firm limits on future airport expansion, or growth in aviation demand.  As part of the new “International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition” (IACAC), member states that signed up have committed to working together, they say, to reduce aviation CO2 emissions in line with the aim to limit the global average temperature increase to 1.5°C.  But sustainable transport network Stay Grounded said the declaration will not substantially contribute to aligning the aviation sector with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C limit. The proposed techno-fixes (electric aircraft, hydrogen, biofuels or e-fuels) will not cut emissions, if the sector expands. As well as preventing the construction of more airport infrastructure, and measures to encourage behaviour change, there need to be taxes on jet fuel and bans on short-haul flights. Mira Kapfinger, of Stay Grounded said: “Far-off targets for 2050 are not worth the paper they are written on  … Relying on CORSIA to reduce flight emissions is like waiting for flying pigs. It simply does not work…. the commitments in the declaration are neither new nor ambitious”.

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The alternative (hoax) “International Aviation Carbon Ambition Coalition” website – what the real one should say !

Persons unknown have taken the opportunity of the launch by the government at COP26, of a new grouping called the International Aviation Carbon Ambition Coalition”, to provide a (sadly, spoof….) website for the organisation.  The website, IACAC, has the sorts of commitments the real organisation should – and does not – propose or commit to.     The hoax commitments are, in summary:

1. Halve air traffic emissions departing from signatory countries by 2030, from 2005 levels.
2. Include emissions from flight departures (both domestic and international) within signatory country’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). 
3. Introduce a minimum jet fuel tax of €0.33 per litre. 
4. Not use carbon offsetting as an emissions reduction measure.  and
5. Ban crop-based aviation biofuel. This involves the commitment to strengthen CORSIA’s sustainability criteria for Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).   

These are the sorts of changes that ICAO and global organisations responsible for the aviation industry and its climate impact, should be starting work on.

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UK-led COP aviation declaration – “International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition” (IACAC) – too weak to clean up flying

The “International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition” (IACAC) has been launched by the UK government at the COP26 climate change summit. Its declaration is too weak to reduce flying’s climate impact. It relies too much on ICAO’s CORSIA scheme to try to limit some aviation emissions. The number of global air passengers and cargo is expected to increase significantly over the next few decades, but the CORSIA scheme will be ineffective, and airlines are resistant to measures that would reduce demand for flights. At least now the UK has included international aviation in its national carbon target, which means cuts (or net reductions) will have to be made – but most countries have not even done that. The text of the IACAC merely contains non-committal statements such as “supporting”, “taking steps”, “working together”, “ensuring”, “advancing”, “promoting” and “convening.” One commitment is: “Promoting the development and deployment, through international and national measures, of sustainable aviation fuels that reduce lifecycle emissions …avoiding competition with food production for land use and water supply.”

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HACAN calls for end to aviation greenwash and false “solutions”

Ahead of Transport Day (10th November) at COP26, community group HACAN were joined by a cross-party group of MPs and Peers outside Parliament to call for an end of greenwash from the aviation industry.  Hacan said that instead of shifting responsibility to the international mechanism CORSIA, that heavily relies on greenwashed false ‘solutions’ such as offsets and so-called alternative fuels, Governments must take responsibility for aviation emissions in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). In a climate emergency the only thing we can do right now to cut emissions from flying is to fly less.  Even with some of the techno-fixes the aviation sector hopes for, by 2050 it is likely to be adding about 12% of the 205 Giga-tonnes remaining global CO2 budget. The sector must not be allowed to continue growing, based on greenwashing claims about low-carbon fuels in future, which are highly unlikely to materialise on any large scale. Parliamentarians attending were Rupa Huq, Baroness Jones, Baroness Kramer, John McDonnell, Sarah Olney, David Simmonds, Andy Slaughter and Munira Wilson.

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Stay grounded protests against aviation growth and greenwash, across many countries, on 6th November, during COP26

There were numerous protests, timed to be during the Glasgow COP talks, on Saturday 6th November. The aim was to highlight the need to reduce the demand for flying, and the number of flights being taken, globally. Also to point out the deceptive, misleading “greenwash” being peddled by the aviation industry, and enthusiastically taken up by governments, especially the UK government.  The industry is placing its hopes in novel techno-fixes (electric planes, hydrogen, new fuels made from wastes or from supposedly excess renewably generated electricity, in future). None of those can be scaled up to anything even faintly the scale of demand, especially as the industry is planning continued rapid growth, for several more decades. The greenwash is dangerous, as it gives people a false, unjustifiable, sense that they can fly “without guilt” as the sector has brilliant solutions to carbon emissions, just around the corner. The greenwash is intended to permit more “business as usual” flying, with no reduction.  Details here of many of the protests, organised through the Stay Grounded network.

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Aviation’s present-day contribution to human-induced global warming is 4% and is likely to increase over the next 30 years

It is possible that, though the global heating impact of aviation so far has been about 4%, this could make up about one-sixth (about 16%) of the remaining temperature budget required to limit global warming to 1.5˚C by 2050.  A recently published article, by a number of well recognised academics, suggests that emissions produced by the aviation industry must be reduced each year if the sector’s emissions are not to increase warming further. The authors show that the only way to ‘freeze’ the temperature increase from the sector is to cut its CO2 emissions by about 2.5% per year.  The industry plans extensive growth over coming decades, but the academics say “there is little chance for the aviation industry to meet any climate target if it aims for a return to normal.” There are hopes the low carbon fuels could be found, and also that the non-CO2 impacts of burning jet fuel at high altitude could be cut, by using different fuels, emitting less water.

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COP26: airport campaigners to protest at 10 UK airports, against aviation expansion and greenwash

To remind everyone, during the COP26 talks in Glasgow, that aviation is a huge climate problem, aviation campaigners are planning to protest at Bristol, Doncaster-Sheffield, Gatwick, Glasgow, Leeds-Bradford, London-City, Luton, Liverpool, Manchester and Southampton airports from 11am on Saturday 6th.  The action has been organised by Stay Grounded (a global network of more than 160 member organisations promoting alternatives to aviation to address climate change) – as part of the COP26 Coalition Global Action Days.  Stay Grounded and the many UK protests, are calling for the halt of airport expansion.  The Climate Change Committee (CCC), the UK government’s advisors, have recommended that there should be no further airport expansion, unless some airport capacity closes – but government has ignored this.  Stay Grounded is also asking for an end to the “greenwashing” of aviation, and false hopes being placed in uncertain techno-fixes such as “sustainable” aviation fuel (SAF).  The CCC has warned that SAF and other small technology changes will not be able to reduce aviation CO2 enough.

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Climate Change Committee advises government to act to reduce demand for flying

The UK government’s independent advisors on climate, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), produced their assessment of the UK Net Zero Strategy, which was published on 19th October. On aviation the CCC say the government is not doing enough to reduce demand for flights. They have also not shown how to achieve their ambition of cutting the demand for road travel, or meat eating.  The CCC warns a “techno-centric” approach to cutting emissions adopted by the prime minister has a high risk of failure. Boris Johnson has regularly promised that climate change can be tackled without what he calls “hairshirtery”. Nick Eyre, Professor of Energy and Climate Policy at Oxford University said: “The PM’s headline about not changing the way we use energy is not just helpful – it’s unrealistic. We won’t reach climate goals unless there’s a combination of technology and behaviour change.”  The CCC warns that the Treasury still lacks policies to cut emissions. They point out that the government hopes for 10% of SAF used by planes by 2030, while the CCC consider it might be 2% (at best). They hope demand for flights will reduce, if not by government policy, by increased public awareness of the severity of global heating.

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Death knell for Heathrow’s 3rd runway as Ferrovial cuts off funding – and CAA blocks high passenger charge rise

Heathrow has been told by its regulator, the CAA, that it cannot raise its passenger charges for airlines by as much as it wanted. At present the airport can charge up to £22 per passenger, and it wanted to increase that to £43 in January 2022. But the CAA has said it will be capped at £24.50 to £34.40 for five years.  – with an interim figure of £30 set for 2022.  The CAA also reconfirmed its decision earlier this year on Heathrow’s regulated asset base, (RAB)  which determines how much money the airport can recover from its customers through charges. This will now rise by £300m, rather than the £2.3bn requested by Heathrow, which wanted to recoup its pandemic losses from consumers, but the CAA had refused. A final decision will be made in January.  So Heathrow’s finances are not looking healthy, and now their main shareholder, Ferrovial, has said it will not invest further in the airport, and is not happy about getting low returns.  The withdrawal of support by Ferrovial could be the final straw for 3rd runway plans. Heathrow passenger numbers now are about 45% of the 2019 level, and the airport does not expect numbers to return to those levels until 2026.

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Rishi Sunak halves domestic APD and introduces a band of over 5,500 miles (costing just £5 more)

Air Passenger Duty is the only tax paid on air travel, as it pays neither fuel tax nor VAT. The rate has been £13 for a return economy flight to anywhere in Europe, since April 2012. The price is £82 for trips of over 2,000 miles. Until April 2015 there were four distance bands for APD.  Adults on domestic flights paid £13 for each part of the return trip, ie. £26 return.  Now the Chancellor has halved the rate of domestic APD, from April 2023, so it would just be £13 for a return trip. The claim is that this helps connectivity within the UK, being useful for those in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Flights within the UK are usually cheaper than rail tickets, and cutting APD sends completely the wrong signal, in making flights even cheaper – when what would help cut CO2 would be to reduce the cost of rail travel.  Riski Sunak has introduced a new distance band for APD, so instead of just the two bands – of under, or over, 2,000 miles – a new band is added – of over 5.500 miles. This is from April 2023. But the increased APD level will just be £91. The rate for trips of over 2,000 miles will be £84 from April 2022, and if it rises by £2 per year, which is usually does, would be £86 by April 2023. So the higher rate will be just £5 more. Not much of a disincentive, or help to reduce CO2.  Treasury expects £35 million less per year from APD after 2023.

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Government puts up, then almost instantly withdraws, document showing need for behaviour change to cut carbon emissions

Published with the government’s decarbonisation, net zero, strategy on 20th October, was a document called “Net Zero: principles for successful behaviour change initiatives”. It was produced for BEIS, by the Behavioural Insights Team (aka the Nudge unit).  It contained many suggestions for ways the public’s behaviour could be “nudged” to help lower carbon emissions. But the document was only on the BEIS website for an hour or two, before being withdrawn. Luckily one sharp-eyed and quick-witted aviation campaigner spotted it and saved a copy.  The document suggests ways in which behaviour could be changed – while the government, and Boris himself, claims behaviour change will not be needed, and we will all be able to fly, guilt free, in future.  BEIS says it does not wish to suggest behaviour change. The behaviour change paper said, of business aviation, that there needs to be a change in social norms, to international in-person meetings no longer seen as a sign of importance or pride, but “being  an immoral indulgence or embarrassment.” It also says government should lead by example, in not backing airport expansion for financially supporting the airline industry with little demands for decarbonisation in return.

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Independent assessors for Manston expansion plans say there is no need for the extra air freight capacity

The Development Consent Order (DCO) for the re-opening and development of Manston as a freight airport was rejected by the High Court in February 2021. This was after Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, in July 2020 had decided to ignore the advice of the Planning Inspectorate (PI) in October 2019, that the DCO should be rejected.  Grant Shapps said it should go ahead, but the court said there had not been enough detail for reasons to go against the advice of the PI.  Grant Shapps then had to “re-determine” the DCO application, and people could submit reasons to the PI for why the airport proposal should be refused. A team was set up as “independent assessor” to investigate the justification for the airport’s expansion, and report back to Mr Shapps.  The team’s report has now been published.  It concludes that “the levels of freight that the Proposed Development could expect to handle are modest and could be catered for at existing airports … Manston appears to offer no obvious advantages to outweigh the strong competition that such airports offer. ...the Applicant has failed to demonstrate sufficient need for the Proposed Development”. Further submissions are welcomed until 19th November.

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Lord Deben – head of Climate Change Cttee – UK must drop plans for airport expansion

Lord Deben, the Chair of the Climate Change Committee, has told the Airport Operators Association that the UK must drop plans for airport expansion if it is to meet carbon reduction targets.  Lord Deben said “There is not any space for airport expansion … The idea we are going to have a whole lot of airports expanding – we are just not in that world.” Currently there are up to 10 UK airports planning physical expansion, including Heathrow and Gatwick.  Lord Deben said “The government has to make it easier and simpler to be good and hard and expensive to be bad. At the moment it is often more expensive and more complicated to be good….This is not about fiddling about around the edges … We’ve allowed climate change to get out of hand.”  Meanwhile a document produced by the government’s “nudge” unit (the Behavioural Insights Team), about necessary UK behaviour changes, was removed from the BEIS website.  It contained a few suggestions about reducing demand for air travel, including encouraging more domestic holidays and more rail travel to Europe – acknowledging that stopping British people wanting foreign holidays, by air, would be very, very hard.

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Campaigners tell the Treasury that aviation taxation must be reformed

In a joint letter to the Chancellor, AEF, T&E, Tax Justice, Green Alliance, Bellona and Greenpeace have called on the UK Government to reform UK tax in order to better reflect the environmental costs of aviation. The letter has been sent in advance of the Autumn Budget and Spending Review plans which expected to be announced soon. Since 1990, UK’s aviation’s emissions have increased by 125%, and were rising steeply till the pandemic. Now that the government has decided to include international aviation and shipping in future carbon budgets, immediate taxation reforms are needed. The letter suggests a jet fuel tax, of at least the level proposed by the European Union, of €0.38/ litre. There also needs to be VAT on all air tickets, at a rate of 20%. To properly account for the climate warming effect of air travel, which is likely to be up to 3 times as much as that of the CO2 alone, there needs to be an additional charge. That would be world-leading.  It the aviation sector was taxed in a more realistic manner than now, it would incentivise progress on decarbonisation initiatives. The government is not prepared to restrict air travel demand, but higher ticket prices, due to higher tax, would have this effect

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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.

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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.

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Aviation now contributes 4.9% of climate change worldwide

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