planesplane-over-roofStopAirportExpansiontshirtBRITAIN HEATHROW AIRPORT EXPANSION

    


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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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Government considering counting aviation biofuel as generating zero CO2 emissions, in the UK ETS

The UK Government has proposed an amendment to the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (UK ETS) legislation to allow aviation biofuel (one type of sustainable aviation fuel or SAF) to be treated as having zero emissions as long as it meets the sustainability criteria in the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RFTO).  The UK ETS will only cover domestic flights, and those from UK airports to European countries – not long haul.  Airlines are permitted a number of free ‘allocations’ in the ETS per year. Once these allocations are used, airlines must buy unused allocations from other operators or sectors.  The Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) says counting aviation biofuel as having zero emissions would mean that no allocations would need to be surrendered for that fuel. It is highly misleading to claim that biofuels provide 100% CO2 savings, in life cycle analysis. Currently fuels with a 50% emissions saving or more can benefit from the RTFO policy. The way the carbon saving is calculated can be complicated, and include different factors.  When burnt, SAFs emit at least as much CO2 as kerosene, and as such, should only be considered to offer a ‘net’, and not ‘actual’ emissions reduction. AEF comments: “The aviation sector has a history of being given favourable treatment in policy. This has to stop if the sector is to achieve net zero.”

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UN chief, António Guterres, urges airlines and shipping firms to do more to cut GHG emissions

António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, says current efforts to cut carbon emissions, from international aviation and shipping, are more consistent with global heating ‘way above 3C’ – not 1.5C.  He was speaking at the Global Sustainable Transport Conference, and said airlines and shipping companies – and others – have failed to cut their greenhouse gas emissions, and must step up with fresh commitments on the climate crisis as COP26 approaches. Otherwise the world faces catastrophic global heating. Guterres said: “Adopting a new set of more ambitious and credible targets that are truly consistent with the goals of the Paris agreement must be an urgent priority for both [ICAO and IMO] in the months and years ahead.”  ICAO has been ineffective. He wants carbon emissions per passenger to be cut by 65% by 2050. But Leo Murray, from Possible commented renewable energy would be better used by other sectors, than making allegedly “sustainable” jet fuel (SAF) – as the process is “incredibly inefficient”.  Leo said that the priority should be reducing flying rather than shifting planes to SAFs.

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Greenpeace calls for end to carbon offsets – they just allow large polluters to continue as normal

Greenpeace International has said that carbon offsets are allowing the world’s biggest polluters to forge ahead with business plans that are threatening global climate goals. The offsets do not have the effect of lowering global emissions, either now or in future. The practice of buying carbon offsets means polluting companies – such as airlines – can buy carbon credits from projects that reduce or avoid the release of CO2 elsewhere. Examples would be mass tree plantings or solar farms.  Instead of making every effort to emit less CO2 themselves, the companies hope equivalent amounts of carbon are being removed from the atmosphere, by others. This cancels out the reduction in CO2 emissions achieved by the provider of the carbon credit. Few carbon credits are reliable, and can guarantee carbon is not emitted, or is removed from the atmosphere.  One of the most popular is planting trees. When a tiny sapling is planted, if will (if all goes well and it does not die from neglect, or the impacts of worsening climate change) only become large enough to sequester much carbon in several decades. Eventually the tree will die, returning the carbon to the atmosphere. The only real offset would be permanent, for-ever, underground storage of carbon.

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Bristol Airport awaits decision on expansion as inquiry draws to a close

The 36-day public inquiry into Bristol Airport’s proposal to expand from 10 to 12 mppa has ended, with a decision by the planning inspectors expected early next year. The inquiry is into the appeal by the airport of the rejection in February 2020, by North Somerset Council, of the growth plans; councillors refused the planning permission by 18 votes to seven. The authority’s barrister, Reuben Taylor, said allowing millions more passengers a year to fly from Bristol airport would affect thousands more local people with significant impacts, as well as a negative effect on climate change and the green belt.  Mr Taylor said the scheme was unacceptable and unlawful and urged the inspectors to make it clear to airport operators that they do not have a licence to expand. He said the airport “is a company that puts the pursuit of profit before the wellbeing of the people its operations affect.”  As well as being refused by North Somerset Council, the expansion has been opposed by Bristol City Council, Bath and North East Somerset Council, the West of England Combined Authority and numerous parish councils. There will be a decision letter eventually, after which there is no further right of appeal – other than a judicial review into the process.

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Campaign for Better Transport urges a ban on UK domestic flights (where the train takes under 5 hours) and subsidised rail travel

The Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) says domestic flights should be banned on routes where the train journey would take under 5 hours (or to islands). They also want long-distance domestic train fares subsidised, in order to reduce the carbon emissions from travel within the UK. There should NOT be any cut in the rate of Air Passenger Duty for domestic fights, as the aviation industry is lobbying for. The CBT says there should also be mandatory emissions labels on tickets and a frequent flyer levy for those taking more than three international flights per year. There can be no justification, in terms of carbon emissions, for flights – for example – between Manchester and London, London and Edinburgh or Birmingham and Glasgow. Sadly at present, rail fares are often FAR higher than plane fares. In a staged “race” from central London to central Glasgow, the person taking the train arrived two minutes later (5 hours 17 minutes, and 19 minutes), and the train journey emitted less than one-sixth of the carbon emissions of the flight – 20kg compared with 137kg. But it cost twice as much at £109 v £52.

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Local Councils asked to reject Newcastle Airport’s request for a £5.1 million loan of taxpayers’ money

Local group, Aircraft Noise Action Group (ANAG), at Newcastle say the 7 North East Councils, which own 51% of the Airport, are being asked to prop up (by £5.1 million of taxpayers’ money) for an at-risk business which mostly enables people to take holidays and visit friends and relatives. Newcastle Airport has suffered huge financial losses as a result of Covid with revenues falling by £46 million according to its 2020 Annual Report. The airport is struggling financially – so it is asking for loan facilities to support its continued functioning. As well as the councils, the airport is asking the 49% private shareholder, AMP Capital, for a similar sum £4.9 million. Newcastle Airport claims to be a key driver of business in the North East. In practice, it is primarily a holiday and leisure facility with a small proportion of business specific travellers. Most travellers are British, taking their holiday spending money out of the country. ANAG says people need holidays, but a loan for this purpose is not an investment in the economic future of the north east. They also think it is environmentally short sighted and irresponsible and that the loan request should be rejected.

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Bid to block expansion of Stansted, to 43mppa, hits the final buffers

Uttlesford District Council (UDC) had applied to the High Court to judicially review the decision by the planning inspectorate, to allow expansion of Stansted, citing noise and environmental concerns.  A High Court judge has now dismissed UDC’s challenge as “unarguable”, and awarded yet more costs against the authority.  UDC has decided not to challenge this decision.  UDC’s Planning Committee originally refused Stansted permission to boost capacity from 35mppa to 43mppa, in January 2020. (Earlier, in November 2018, UDC had approved the plan, when the council was under Conservative leadership).  Government inspectors then overturned the UDC decision in May 2021, after a process which cost Uttlesford taxpayers something approaching £2 million.  The Council had fought hard to prevent the increase in Stansted flights, largely due to the increased noise problem, as well as the higher carbon emissions. Local campaign, Stansted Airport Watch, says this latest rejection marks the end of the road for moves to block the expansion. However, with the Covid pandemic and growing awareness of climate breakdown, Stansted may never actually reach 43mppa anyway. 

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Departing ICCAN tell Aviation Minister that the aircraft noise issue should be dealt with by an independent body, with “clout”

The DfT decided, at the start of September, that the Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise (ICCAN) would be closed down at the end of September. This happened even though there is no replacement for them, to give an independent voice on aircraft noise issues. The Commissioners have written to the Aviation Minster, Robert Courts. In their letter they say, on the breakdown of trust by overflown communities, the government and the aviation industry: “That breakdown was simplistically interpreted as an issue between airports and communities, although our work has revealed that there was also a disconnect between Government policy, regulation, industry and community ambitions.” And “We hope you will look objectively at who is best to carry ICCAN’s work forward and we offer our views in good faith. However, for the vast majority of our work it is hard not to conclude that only a body independent of Government and aviation regulation, empowered with sufficient clout by the Government, can deliver a coherent programme for change in how aviation noise is managed.”

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Aviation demand in Scotland needs to fall by one third by 2030 to hit climate aims

The SNP Transport Minister Graeme Dey has demanded “radical behavioural change” in Scots’ transport choices – amid a warning that journeys by both plane and car will need to be permanently cut to end the country’s contribution to the climate crisis.  An independent report, by consultancy Element Energy, says transformational change in individual and business behaviour, alongside shifting travel choices will be needed as well as advances in technology.  A reduction of 33% in the number flight kilometres travelled is needed, between the number in 2019 and 2030.  Transport is Scotland’s biggest contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, but there is little progress in making cuts.  The SNP government has pledged to cut GHG emissions by 75% by 2030 and to become carbon “net zero” by 2045 (5 years ahead of the UK). The SNP Government has been told to rip up its contract with Heathrow which supports it building a 3rd runway, in light of the findings.

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Extinction Rebellion blocks entrances to Farnborough, protesting about the high CO2 from private jets

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Extinction Rebellion Farnborough activists blocked three entrances to Farnborough, which is a private airport in Hampshire.  They are protesting at the very high carbon emissions produced by private jet flights – which could be x20 per person as high carbon as a trip on a commercial plane. Farnborough airport is the largest for private jets in the UK, with no commercial flights and few military. The flights are largely used by the very rich, celebrities and business leaders. Some of the protesters locked themselves to a stretch limousine, with a driver being locked onto the steering wheel, and to fuel barrels and a 3-metre steel tripod.  At one point they moved flags blocking a road, in order to allow a car leave the airport to take someone to hospital. The airport continued to operate during the protest.  Farnborough boasts of “offering a 5 star service with no compromises.” It operated over 32,500 flights in 2019, with 27% at weekends.  There was a reduction in flights in 2020 (Covid) but a far  smaller reduction than for commercial airlines. People who could afford to preferred to continue to travel, but on private jets. These jets tend to carry, on average, about 2.3 passengers. The airport hopes to expand to 50,000 flights per year. 

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Report finds Heathrow is world’s 2nd most polluting airport (after Dubai)

London’s 6 airports make it the most polluting city by aviation emissions, according to a new interactive tool and accompanying report. The tool allows users to explore emissions data for the world’s airports. It shows Heathrow is the 2nd highest-emitting airport in the world, (after Dubai) and accounts for two thirds of the aviation carbon from the London area.  It is (2019) the single biggest polluter in the UK.  The authors of the report, by Transport & Environment, ODI and the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), said they hoped its findings would support challenges to airport expansion and force a “focus on the infrastructure that enables air travel and leads to more CO2 emissions in future decades”.  The report shows that 86 of the 100 most polluting airports are located in the Global North – and that about 1% of the global population responsible for over 50% of all aviation-related CO2 emissions. But the climate impact of air travel is not only from the fuel burned, but also the non-CO2 warming impacts, including the insulating effect of contrails.  The report says the global aviation sector was responsible for 2.5% of global CO2 emissions in 2018, with total emissions increasing by 5% annually in the 5 years before that.

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BA plan for new low cost “BA Lite” at Gatwick, for short-haul flights, abandoned

At the end of August British Airways announced that it hoped to start a new low-cost airline, called “BA Lite” to operate from Gatwick, and compete with Ryanair, EasyJet and Wizz. BA would therefore move short-haul flights back to Gatwick, after deciding to move them to Heathrow because of the pandemic.  BA had consultations with trades unions – telling them that change was essential if it was to return to Gatwick.  But the contracts for staff were less generous than before. Now the plan to create “BA Lite” has been scrapped, as agreement could not be reached with the pilots’ union, BALPA.  The union says the benefits and protections its members would have under the new company are not good enough.  So BA has shelved the plan and will now cut the short haul routes it already flies from Gatwick. The news may come as a blow for Gatwick as it looks to grow passengers numbers and bring its emergency runway into regular use to increase its capacity.  The loss of BA and its routes means Gatwick has even less need for its costly, climate-wrecking, expansion plans to bring its standby runway into full use, by 2029.

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Heathrow hopes to be allowed to increase long-haul passenger charge from £38.33 to £67.86 in 2022

The Telegraph has obtained details of plans by Heathrow to increase its charges for long-haul passenger next year, by about £30 per person, up from about £38. Heathrow has massive debts, bad before Covid and far worse now.  It has one of the biggest debt piles in British corporate history.  Heathrow says it is not expecting more than a quarter of the number of passengers in 2022, compared to the number (81 million) in 2019 – so it has to increases prices.  It has had to ask lenders for waivers on banking conditions, to avoid defaulting on its loans.  Heathrow will have to get agreement from the CAA for an increase in costs, under its regulatory framework. The CAA is likely to decide on this in the next month, and it may not be favourable to Heathrow.  The airlines are predictably angry. However, in order to reduce aviation carbon emissions, some demand reduction is needed – such as higher prices – though the government will not consider that.  Heathrow is also planning a new levy on air cargo, to make more money.  It is also planning to introduce a new lower noise level, to encourage less noisy planes.

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UK government minister claims people must keep flying to help cut aviation CO2

A government minister has angered scientists and environmentalists by claiming people need to keep flying in order to help cut carbon emissions. Junior transport minister Rachel Maclean said the aviation sector needed to have “confidence in its future” and that the government had no plans to try and reduce demand for flights. She said lower carbon planes and fuels would not be invented if they were rendered unprofitable by people abandoning air travel.  So we have to have lots of people flying, causing the emission of more CO2, in order for the industry to pay for future changes to cut emissions.  (Wonderful logic).  She said flying was one of the things that “make life worth living” and that the government would not place restrictions on it, for business or leisure … and “We believe that we can reach zero in aviation [by 2050], without having a demand management policy.” Dr Doug Parr, chief scientist for Greenpeace UK, said: “According to the minister… it’s like advocating donuts as the confidence boost you need to make yourself go to the gym … the Committee on Climate Change, and the Airports Commission, insisted that demand constraint was essential for aviation to meet our carbon targets.”

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Airport groups write to Aviation Minister, voicing concerns about ICCAN being wound up

The DfT has decided to close down the ICCAN (the Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise) at the end of September. Now a large number of community groups at airports, for people negatively affected by aircraft noise, have written to the Aviation Minister, Robert Courts. They say they “were surprised and disappointed by your announcement that ICCAN will be wound up later this month and its functions transferred to the CAA next year. We were particularly surprised you saw no need to discuss this significant change with communities impacted by aircraft noise.” ICCAN was supposed to “give communities a greater stake in processes which propose to make noise changes, and ensure such processes better and more transparently balance the needs of all parties” and “be instrumental in ensuring that the needs of local communities are properly taken into account when considering the noise impacts of any airport expansion.” There are therefore serious concerns of overflown communities, in the absence of ICCAN. The letter suggests 4 key actions and changes that will need to accompany any transfer of roles to the CAA if it is to command the confidence of adversely impacted communities.

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Hope is not a Strategy – Aviation cannot be allowed to keep adding to the climate crisis

With just two months to go before the UK Government hosts the vitally important COP26 International Climate Change Summit in Glasgow, Stansted Airport Watch (‘SAW’), and a host of other environmental campaign groups from all across the UK, are pressing the Government for immediate action to tackle aviation’s growing impact on climate change. UK aviation was responsible for 38 million tonnes of CO2 emissions in 2019 and the Government is content to allow this to continue to increase until 2030 and still to be more than 30 million tonnes in 2040 – by letting airports expand. In response to the DfT consultation, on its “Jet Zero by 2050” strategy, SAW has submitted a highly critical evidence paper challenging the DfT’s ‘business as usual’ strategy and its total reliance on technological solutions emerging from beyond the horizon over the next 20-30 years (new biofuels, novel fuels, electric and hydrogen fuelled planes, and carbon storage technologies). The key message from SAW is that “Hope is not a Strategy”. SAW has also submitted evidence to the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee Inquiry into the apparent contradiction between the Government’s expansionist aviation policy and its declared commitment to tackling climate change.

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Gatwick public consultation begins on plans to convert standby runway to full use as 2nd runway

The Argus: A graphic explaining how the northern runway at Gatwick Airport would work

Gatwick airport has started a public consultation on its plans to bring its standby runway, just north of the main runway, into routine use for departing aircraft – alongside the main runway.  It means having to reposition the centre line of the standby runway, moving it 12 metres north. That then just meets international runway safety standards.  The consultation ends on 1st December 2021. Due to the size of the proposal, increasing the annual number of passengers by over 10 million, it is classed as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project. Therefore Gatwick will next have to  apply for a Development Consent Order (DCO) to build and operate the altered runway. This consultation is not the DCO application itself.  Gatwick hopes to get consent to start the first stages of the runway process by 2023, starting actual building work in 2024, with the runway finished by 2029. The work is expected currently to cost £500 million – there are extravagant claims about numbers of new jobs and local economic benefit.  This growth is in addition to more growth by increased use of the main runway, but that does not need a DCO application. Gatwick’s annual CO2 emissions could rise by a million tonnes.

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Gatwick’s Big Enough – a 2nd runway at Gatwick would be ‘disaster for the climate’

Protesters, organised through the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC), gathered near the airport, chanting ‘Gatwick is big enough’, to express their opposition to the airport’s plans to convert its standby runway into a runway for routine flights. Campaigners, residents and councillors held a peaceful demonstration next to a noise monitor in Charlwood, to coincide with the midnight launch of Gatwick’s public consultation into its proposed expansion. Operating as a 2-runway airport would see Gatwick increase its annual passenger capacity from 62 million to 75m by 2038  – making it almost as large as Heathrow today. GACC chairman, Peter Barclay said the expansion of the airport would have negative impacts for people over a wide area – in terms of noise and air pollution, more night noise and sleep deprivation, and impacts on local infrastructure.  All that affects people’s quality of life. While humanity urgently needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, if we are to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change, it makes no sense d to allow Gatwick to expand, adding another 1 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.

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BEIS sets new much higher prices for the valuation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in policy appraisal

The government (BEIS) sets the price it uses for the valuation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in policy appraisal. This has been updated in September following a cross-government review during 2020 and 2021. Greenhouse gas emissions values (“carbon values”) are used across government for valuing impacts on emissions resulting from policy interventions. They represent a monetary value that society places on one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent (£/tCO2e). They differ from carbon prices, which represent the observed price of carbon in a relevant market (such as the UK Emissions Trading Scheme). To reach net zero in 2050 and meet UK 5-yearly carbon budgets, there needs to be a realistic value on GHG, in order to reduce emissions. The price has now been set, for 2021, at £245 per tonne (central value) rising to £378 per tonne by 2050. Even that may be too low. The prices now are around £70. This will have significant implications for the forecast economic costs/benefits of future infrastructure, such as airport expansion projects. The claimed economic benefits will be lower, with the realistic carbon prices, than the current low levels.  Airport expansion plans will need to be reassessed. 

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Gatwick in talks with lenders, after losing another £245 million in the first half of 2021

Gatwick says it made a loss of £245m in the first half of 2021, as passenger numbers collapsed to 569,000. It expects to have 9 million passengers by December, but that is lower than the 10 million in 2020.  In 2019 it had 46.5 million. The airport is now in talks with its lenders to ease the terms of its loans, due to the losses.  It lost £465.5 million in 2020.  Due to its weak finances and continuing low demand for air travel, Gatwick has asked its lenders to agree to short-term waivers on its loans to avoid it defaulting. This was also done last year, and the same thing happened at Heathrow. Virgin Atlantic, one of Gatwick’s longest-standing airline customers, has ceased its operations at Gatwick for now, while British Airways has moved all of its short-haul flights to Heathrow, due to the low level of demand. However, BA said it will continue with at least long-haul operations from Gatwick. The airport said it had  779m of liquidity at the end of June, which it hopes would last it for the next 12 months, with no more staff being made redundant.  It has cancelled or deferred more than £570m of capital spending that had been planned for 2020, 2021 and 2022.

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Government will not review the Airports National Policy Statement, on any of the challenge grounds

The Government had the option of reviewing the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) after the legal challenges, which took place during 2019 and 2020. One key issue of the challenges was the impact on the UK’s climate targets of allowing Heathrow to increase its carbon emissions by up to 50%. Now the DfT has decided it will not review the ANPS, so it continues to be the underlying policy through which Heathrow could expand. The airport still has to go through the Development Consent Order (DCO) process, to get approval for a 3rd runway.  Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary of State, says that even though the UK now has a target of 78% cuts in CO2 emissions by 2035 and international aviation should be included in that target (compared to 1990 levels) and “considers that it is not possible to conclude properly that any of the policy set out in the ANPS would have been materially different had these circumstances been anticipated at the time of designation [June 2018].” The overall impact of Heathrow expansion, combined with expansion of other airports, will be considered by the Planning Inspectorate at the DCO stage.  It appears an opportunity to reduce UK aviation CO2 emissions has been missed, and government will do as little as possible on the issue.

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After two and a half years, Government closes down the ICCAN

The Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise (ICCAN) was finally set up by the government in March 2019, with the aim of looking into how the extra noise from airport expansion would affect those overflown, and the impacts of changes to flight paths.  Its aim was not to reduce the amount of aircraft noise suffered, but to find out more about it, consult etc.  Its creation had been a recommendation of the Airports Commission in June 2015, to make Heathrow expansion seem less unpalatable. Now Robert Courts, the Parliamentary Under Secretary for Transport, has announced that it is to be wound up at the end of September. Back in June 2015 ICCAN had said it would take them two years to: “Review existing enforcement mechanisms and consider whether enforcement powers are necessary”.  It had been stated in 2019 that “ICCAN will be reviewed in two years’ time and a decision will be made about its future direction as an organisation, including whether to give it increased powers. In the meantime, ICCAN’s role is threefold: to listen, to evaluate and to advise.”  The government now says its role will mainly be taken on by the CAA, and part by the DfT. That will not bring reassurance to those suffering from aircraft noise problems.

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Unless hydrogen is “green” hydrogen, or all CO2 produced is genuinely stored for ever, it is not a low carbon fuel

The DfT is pushing the idea of planes fuelled partly by hydrogen, as part of its “Jet Zero” strategy – hoping to find ways in which people can continue to fly, without huge carbon emissions that make reaching the UK target of net zero impossible. However, the Government’s “Jet Zero Council” said, at the end of June, that government was launching “the first round of £3 million Zero Emission Flight Infrastructure (ZEFI) competition, supporting development of infrastructure required to aid electric and hydrogen aircraft such as charge points for planes.” Hydrogen can be produced in various ways, most using a fossil fuel and producing CO2 in the process. The hydrogen could only be a “low carbon” fuel if all this CO2 is captured and stored, for ever – not just reused (which is what usually happens at present.) Now a study by academics at Cornell and Stanford universities in the US, warned that blue hydrogen (produced by ‘steam reforming’, needing carbon capture and storage for the CO2 created) could be up to 20% worse for the climate than fossil gas owing to the emissions that escape during its production, multiplied by the amount of gas required to make the equivalent amount of energy from hydrogen.

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Airbus and Boeing will not be fuelling planes with hydrogen for perhaps 15 – 20 years

Airbus has said that most airliners will rely on traditional jet engines until at least 2050,  burning conventional fossil jet fuel.  Airbus says it plans to develop the world’s first “zero-emission” commercial aircraft by 2035, but not whether the technology will be ready for the replacement for the medium-haul A320, due to be produced in the 2030s. It is working on several concepts for a novel plane.  Until there is ample “green” hydrogen (no CO2 emitted in its production) any plane burning “blue” (or other types) hydrogen is not zero carbon. Airbus said that it if can produce planes that burn hydrogen, they will be regional and shorter-range aircraft – from 2035. It will be harder for long haul aircraft.  The technology of using hydrogen to fuel planes is still on the drawing board. The aviation industry is wanting public money from governments, to develop hydrogen or electric planes, or low carbon liquid fuels. If the industry had to pay all the costs themselves, the price of flights would go up, and thus demand would go down.  Not a profitable prospect for airlines. Boeing has also said that it will not be using hydrogen as fuel on a significant scale before 2050.

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Gatwick in talks with lenders, after losing another £245 million in the first half of 2021

Gatwick says it made a loss of £245m in the first half of 2021, as passenger numbers collapsed to 569,000. It lost £465.5 million in 2020.  It expects to have 9 million passengers by December, but that is lower than the 10 million in 2020.  In 2019 it had 46.5 million. The airport is now in talks with its lenders to ease the terms of its loans, due to the losses.   Due to its weak finances and continuing low demand for air travel, Gatwick has asked its lenders to agree to short-term waivers on its loans to avoid it defaulting. This was also done last year, and the same thing happened at Heathrow. Virgin Atlantic, one of Gatwick’s longest-standing airline customers, has ceased its operations at Gatwick for now, while British Airways has moved all of its short-haul flights to Heathrow, due to the low level of demand. However, BA said it will continue with at least long-haul operations from Gatwick. The airport said it had  779m of liquidity at the end of June, which it hopes would last it for the next 12 months, with no more staff being made redundant.  It has cancelled or deferred more than £570m of capital spending that had been planned for 2020, 2021 and 2022.

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Inspector at Bristol Airport expansion inquiry says views of the public will be properly taken into account

The public inquiry into the possible future expansion of Bristol airport started on 22nd July and is expected to last for 10 weeks. There are concerns, as at many inquiries, that the views of the public will not be taken into account, and not fully considered. Campaigners have warned that ignoring thousands of comments opposing the expansion of Bristol Airport, from residents and others, would damage public trust and threaten the integrity of local democracy.  However, planning inspector Phillip Ware said: “We’ve read an enormous amount of written material that’s come in from people for and against. We’ve obviously got a lot of people appearing at the inquiry in person and virtually.  It is absolutely not a tick-box exercise.  We will be dealing with the public views in our decision whichever way the decision goes.”  Green MP Caroline Lucas said: “Local democracy thoroughly considered the airport’s plans and decided against them and despite this the airport has now ignored these voices and called for this appeal. Now not only does that threaten to override local democracy, it also threatens the efforts that local communities and councils are trying to take to address the climate crisis themselves.”

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Tom Tugendhat letter to Aviation Minister – on need for proper scrutiny of Gatwick future main runway growth

The expansion that Gatwick might perhaps eventually be allowed, by using its emergency runway as a full runway, would require proper scrutiny through the planning Development Control process (DCO). The airport might be able to handle up to an extra 50,000 annual flights by doing that.  However, more expansion and more extra annual flights could be added, by making more use of the single main runway.  That might add another 60,000 annual flights (about 16 million annual passengers).  But because there would be no physical building work required (no extra runway length or extra terminal) there would be no planning permission needed, and no chance for public scrutiny of the impacts of the gradual expansion. Now Tom Tugendhat (MP for Tonbridge & Malling) has written to Robert Courts, the Aviation Minister, to ask for a meeting to discuss this anomaly. He says the main runway growth would be “more than the aggregate growth at the 5 UK airports that are currently seeking expansion.  In each of those cases the proposed growth has been robustly scrutinised and communities have been able to have their say. The government cannot simply ignore the greater impacts at Gatwick because it has different planning position.”

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Heathrow losses now £2.9bn and consolidated net debt £15.2 bn

Heathrow has announced that its cumulative losses from the Covid-19 pandemic have hit £2.9 billion. In its results for the first half of 2021, Heathrow’s revenue dropped from £712 million in the first six months of 2020 to £348 million in the first half of 2021, which is 51.1% less than in the first half of 2020, and 76.2% less than the first half of 2019. Its pre-tax loss widened 18% to a little over £1 billion.  It had 3.85m passengers, which is 75.1% less than the same period in 2020, and 90.1% less than the first half of 2019.  Heathrow (it has a complex structure of numerous companies and levels) had  consolidated net debt of £15.2 billion — not much less than the airport’s £16.9 billion regulated asset base (RAB), or the CAA’s proxy for its value.  Heathrow had been allowed, by the CAA, to increase its RAB by £300 million, to £16.9 billion.  Its chief executive John Holland-Kaye is using the half-year figures to warn about a covenant waiver on its various loans.  The group of Heathrow companies has £4.8 billion of liquidity, (ie. ability to borrow) with average cost of debt just 1.64%.

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Taxpayers face near £900m bill for Heathrow western rail link, if airport won’t pay

It was announced in September 2020 that the Great Western rail link between Reading and Heathrow would be delayed by up to two years. It was first proposed in 2012. A DCO application to construct the new line is not expected for some time – end of 2022. Heathrow was set to pay for much of the cost, as the link would benefit its passengers. But in April Heathrow withdrew its funding, because of the crisis in its finances due to the pandemic.  Other funding from the private sector will be “much smaller” than previously envisaged.  So it looks as if taxpayers may have to fund most of a £900m bill. The rail minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, told a parliamentary committee last week that he would recommend that taxpayers pay instead, as part of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s spending review this autumn.  Network Rail said that the Department for Transport had asked it to delay beginning the project by a year until the winter of 2022.  It said it would not progress until there was a satisfactory financial arrangement, “including an appropriate financial contribution from Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL); this requires endorsement by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) as the relevant regulator.”

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SAF competing for fuel feedstocks will have negative impacts on many other sectors

The aviation industry, and its enthusiastic backers like the UK government, are keen to claim the problem of the sector’s vast carbon emissions can be solved, fairly soon, by SAF (“sustainable aviation fuels”). They agree these should not come directly from agricultural crops, competing with human food and animal fodder for land. They will instead come (as well as fuels produced using electricity) from agricultural, forestry and domestic wastes. These would be the feedstocks.  But there are significant problems, so far apparently overlooked by governments etc, about competing uses for those feedstocks. There are already markets for used cooking oil, and it can all be used for animal food, or in other industries. Taking crop wastes off the land not only means lower organic matter returned to the soil, reducing its structure and fertility, but also its removal for other uses – such as for animal bedding. There are competing uses for forestry waste, such as the paper and pulp industry.  Feedstocks could be used to make diesel for road vehicles, or burned to produce electricity. So if aviation wants these feedstocks, there will be competition and higher prices for other sectors. These problems should not be ignored in the mindlessly optimistic rush for the illusion of “jet zero”.

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Chris Stark (CCC) on how aviation needs to cut its emissions, only using CCS – which it must pay for – as a last resort

The Head of the Climate Change Committee (CCC), Chris Stark, has given evidence to the Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) on the aspirations of the aviation sector to get to “net zero” by 2050, and the government’s “jet zero” plan. He said aviation, unlike other transport sectors, was unlikely to meet targets for net zero by 2050.  The sector should pay for costly engineered carbon removal technologies (CCS) rather than rely on using the planting of trees to claim they are reducing CO2 emissions.  And these offsets and removal technologies should only be used as a last resort, after direct cuts of carbon and emissions by the industry itself. He said carbon removal technologies are not a “free pass” for the industry. Removals are expensive, and the sector should pay for them themselves – which would put up ticket prices. It was regrettable that the DfT’s transport decarbonisation plan had not mentioned the necessity of reducing air travel demand. There is a danger that the tech does not deliver. The plans need to be assessed every 5 years, and though that is a difficult choice for government, demand management may have to be considered in future.

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Stansted Airport Watch submits response to CMA consultation on greenwash; examples from Stansted and Ryanair

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which regulates business behaviour, has finally stepped in to try to end ‘greenwashing’ and has asked for evidence. Greenwashing is where businesses make dubious claims in an attempt to boost their environmental credentials, and thus sell more product.  The CMA consultation ended on 16th July. Greenwashing is all too common in the aviation industry and Stansted Airport Watch (SAW) submitted detailed evidence to the CMA relating to both Stansted Airport and Ryanair. Some of the examples of dubious claims by the airport are that it claims to be “carbon neutral”, but this conveniently ignores the carbon emissions from the aircraft (hugely higher than emissions by the airport itself). It also relies of “offsetting”, so making payments to some carbon reduction activity elsewhere, while itself continuing to emit. Ryanair has made a number of claims about being “green”, such as claims to be Europe’s “cleanest, greenest airline” but this has been ruled against by the Advertising Standards Authority, for being misleading (February 2020).

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Start of Inquiry into refusal by North Somerset Council of Bristol Airport plans to expand by 2mppa

The public inquiry into Bristol Airport’s expansion proposal began on 20th July with the airport hoping to overturn North Somerset Council’s decision to refuse the expansion plans in February 2020. The inquiry is overseen by the Planning Inspectorate, and is scheduled to run until mid-October with three independent inspectors appointed to consider the airport’s appeal. The airport wants to be allowed to have an extra 2 million annual passengers, from 10 million to 12 million. In its recently-published Transport Decarbonisation Plan (TDP), the DfT committed itself to achieving net zero within the aviation sector by 2050. Allowing airport expansion scheme is not going to help with that – quite the reverse. The worry is that, though the various expansion schemes for Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, Bristol, Leeds Bradford and Southampton – taken separately – look relatively small, collectively (and including Heathrow) the increase in carbon would be huge. The recent TDP does not follow the recommendation from its official advisors, the CCC, that any airport expansion should be offset by reducing flights elsewhere.

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DfT decides to roll over the night flights regime for 3 more years (not 2) for Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted

The government consulted, in December 2020, on its night flights regime (closed 3rd March 2021). Part of the consultation was whether to “roll over” the current regime for the three designated airports, (Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted) for another 3 years, and it closed on 3rd March 2021. The second part is about wider night flights issues for all issues, and that closes on 3rd September 2021. The DfT has now published its “Decision Document” on the night flights regime and the designated airports. It has decided – despite pleas from numerous groups and individuals for change – not only to roll over the existing scheme, but to set this for THREE years more, rather than the two years originally proposed. The DfT says: “The restrictions will be reassessed in time for a new regime to commence in October 2025…” Airport groups at the designated airports are upset and furious. Night flight noise is probably the most hated, and the most damaging element of aircraft noise. The justifications given for night flights, about their economic necessity, are unconvincing. Sadly, people living with night flight noise from Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted will be stuck with the problem, at least until 2025

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Jet Zero consultation – what it says on “sustainable aviation fuels” (spoiler…crazy over-optimism)

The DfT’s consultation on reducing aviation carbon emissions, “Jet Zero” places a lot of faith in finding novel, low carbon fuels, so people can continue to fly as much as they want. These are called “Sustainable Aviation Fuels” (SAF). The consultation says SAF “could play a key role in decarbonising aviation, whilst also representing an industrial leadership opportunity for the UK.” The economic opportunity aspect, and producing jobs, is key for the DfT.  They say “Many experts view SAF as the only alternative for long-haul flights up to 2050, which are the flights with the biggest climate impact.” The DfT is hoping SAF could “result in over 70% CO2 emissions saving on a lifecycle basis and could deliver net zero emissions with the addition of greenhouse gas removal technologies.” SAF would either be biogenic, non-biogenic (from wastes) or made using zero-carbon electricity.  There are huge problems, glossed over by the consultation. A key problem is that “there is currently no comprehensive global regulatory standard for SAF sustainability. The UK is therefore active at ICAO in negotiating for a full set of sustainability criteria for SAF.” The DfT “will shortly consult on a UK SAF mandate setting out our level of ambition for future SAF uptake.”

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Jet Zero consultation – what it says on “Influencing Consumers” – keep flying, depend on techno-optimism

The DfT has launched its consultation, called “Jet Zero” on how the UK might decarbonise flights, by 2050. One really effective way to do that would be to reduce the demand for air travel, which is what the Climate Change Committee  (CCC) recommended. The CCC said (24th June) “Lack of ambition for aviation demand management would result in higher emissions of 6.4 MtCO2e/year in 2030 relative to the CCC pathway for aviation emissions.” But the Jet Zero consultation just says “We want to preserve the ability for people to fly whilst supporting consumers to make sustainable travel choices.” And “This Government is committed to tackling the CO2 emissions from flights, whilst preserving the ability for people to fly.” And “we currently believe the sector can achieve Jet Zero without the Government needing to intervene directly to limit aviation growth” and cut aviation CO2 by as much as the CCC says is needed, but by other means – SAF, hydrogen, electric planes etc. It then says it will “seek to address residual carbon emissions through robust, verifiable offsets and additional greenhouse gas removals.” And it acknowledges that these are all “currently at a relatively early stage of development and [their deployment] requires collaboration and commitment across all parts of the sector if it is to succeed.” It also considers carbon information for flights, but only so people can still fly, but choose different airline options.

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DfT Decarbonising Transport plan – various consultations to come on aviation carbon

The DfT has produced its transport decarbonisation plan. There is a lot of aspiration for aviation, depending on future increased use of “sustainable aviation fuels”, hydrogen and electric planes – as well as carbon capture and storage. ie. dependence on technologies that do not yet exist on any scale, and which would take years/decades to develop. The aspirations for aviation are for “net zero” (ie. allowing offsets) for the sector by 2050, and net zero for domestic aviation by 2040. [Also plans for zero carbon airports, but they contribute only a tiny amount of total aviation carbon].  So lots of hopes. Nothing specific.  And absolutely no mention of the need to reduce demand for air travel, as their climate advisors, the Climate Change Committee, had recommended. The DfT consultation on the Jet Zero strategy – for aviation net zero by 2050 – has now been published, and runs till the 8th September. Also there will be consultations on making domestic aviation net zero; airport carbon; and on a UK sustainable aviation fuels mandate.  The DfT is supporting the development of new aircraft technology through the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), and hopes to further develop the UK ETS.

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Government is keen to tell people they can continue to fly, with a clear conscience – and the aviation sector can continue with “business as usual” for the time being.

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Local Authorities must question if it is justifiable, or a financial asset, to own an airport

There is a glaring logical inconsistency between the declaration of “climate emergencies” by councils, and the backing of local airports. That is particularly the case where the airport owns, or partly owns, the airport.  The Local Government Chronicle has written that “councils’ declarations of climate emergency will be mere weasel words unless they lead to painful but necessary decisions being made.” To achieve action on climate, councils need to take urgent and significant action. Helping an airport expand and increase its number of passengers, flights and CO2 emissions should no longer be happening. And while some airports were useful sources of income for councils in pre-Covid years, there is no certainty at all that will continue. Instead airports have been a sink for public money over the past year. Councils should not attempt to confuse the situation, by claims that airports are cutting carbon, becoming carbon neutral etc. That is only for their buildings, conveniently ignoring the carbon from the flights the airport facilitates. Councils need to accept that the restoration of passenger numbers to previous levels is not desirable.

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Uttlesford Council applies for judicial review of Stansted airport expansion plans

In May, the Planning Inspectorate (PI) approved plans by Stansted airport to expand its maximum number of annual passengers from 35 to 43 million. This had been opposed by Uttlesford Council, but the decision was challenged by the airport.  Now Uttlesford District Council  UDC) is trying to get this PI decision reversed, as it goes against the decision by a democratically elected council.  UDC submitted its application to the court for a JR one day before its submission deadline, and the UDC leader John Lodge said the decision to apply for Judicial Review was taken after seeking legal advice. Local campaign, Stansted Airport Watch, had asked for a JR, so the decision is taken by the Secretary of State for Transport, not the PI. Since the PI decision, the government enshrined a new “Carbon Budget” into legislation. The Sixth Carbon Budget now aims to cut emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels, and for the first time, the carbon emissions of international aviation will be included in UK totals. That should mean the collective increases in carbon of all the airport expansion plans will have to be considered together, and none of the airports seeking expansion should be considered in isolation.

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Teeside Airport bottomless pit for council cash – given another £10 million by TVCA

Teeside Airport is to get an extra £10m from the Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA), hoping to keep it afloat after Covid impacts. TVCA spent more than £40m buying the loss-making airport in 2019 following a previous election pledge by Mr Houchen to take it back from previous owner Peel. TVCA has also provided a further £19.4m to support operational expenditure, along with £15m towards capital expenditure, which has helped pay for a multi-million pound terminal redevelopment, new passenger lounges, bars etc. The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) said in November 2020 that the airport made a £2.6m loss in the previous 12 months. Its advocates say it could be profitable in about 6 years. Teeside Airport Ltd is governed financially by TVCA via another limited company, Goosepool, both being subsidiaries of TVCA, a structure which has been criticised by some for its apparent lack of transparency. Stobart Aviation, which operates Teesside Airport, has a 25% shareholding in Goosepool. Opponents of the handouts to the airport say too much is being spent on the airport and “The time for vanity projects is at an end – it’s time he started to deliver on the real needs of our people.” 

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Bristol Airport expansion (for 2 mppa more) public inquiry to will start on July 20th, for 10 weeks

The expansion plans would see passenger numbers grow from 10 million to 12 million a year.  The public inquiry into the expansion plans is due to start on July 20 and last 10 weeks. The airport appealed against a decision by North Somerset Council last year to reject its expansion plans. Bristol City Council has also opposed the expansion with North Somerset Council saying it will ‘robustly defend’ the appeal. The inquiry will be held in person and online, via Teams, though requests had been made for it to be online only, due to Covid. Campaigners say any expansion of the airport would lead to higher carbon emissions, congested roads and more plane noise. A number of campaign groups including the Bristol Airport Action Network (BAAN) , the Parish Councils Airport Association and Stop Bristol Airport Expansion (SBAE) are all set to give evidence at the inquiry. The Planning Inspectorate team will be led by Philip Ware.

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Scottish Climate Assembly – many recommendations to cut aviation carbon emissions

The Scottish Climate Assembly reported its recommendations for action on 23rd June. The Assembly included over 100 ordinary members of society, and met from November 2020 to March 2021, online for 7 weekends. Their recommendations relating to aviation include that Scotland should:  “Lead the way in minimising the carbon emissions caused by necessary travel and transport by investing in the exploration and early adoption of alternative fuel sources across all travel modes.” 93% agreed. And “Commit to working to decarbonise all internal flights within Scotland by 2025.” 87% agreed.  And “…requiring transport providers to declare the carbon impact of flights and train journeys in a clear and meaningful way at the time of booking.” 94% agreed.  And “Reduce the incentives to fly by introducing tax on high carbon aviation fuels and making it mandatory that this cost is passed on to the customer in their ticket price.”  And “Discourage air travel by introducing a frequent flyer tax or levy.” 78% agreed.  And “Eliminate frequent flyer and air mile bonuses to reduce the number of flights taken for business, encouraging the use of alternatives like video conferencing for meetings.” 92% agreed.

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Climate Change Committee progress report to UK Government – aviation carbon policies sadly lacking

The Climate Change Committee has published its 2021 Progress Report to parliament, on the UK’s actions on climate change.  It says “The Prime Minister’s Ten-Point Plan was an important statement of ambition, but it has yet to be backed with firm policies.” The report says the government has still not produced its Decarbonisation Strategy, which had been due in 2020. The CCC says government should “Commit to a Net Zero goal and pathway for UK aviation as part of the forthcoming Aviation Decarbonisation Strategy, with UK international aviation reaching Net Zero emissions by 2050 at the latest, and domestic aviation potentially earlier.”  It says government should assess its “airport capacity strategy in the context of Net Zero and any lasting impacts on demand from COVID-19, as part of the aviation strategy. There should be no net expansion of UK airport capacity unless the sector is on track to sufficiently outperform its net emissions trajectory and can accommodate the additional demand. A demand management framework will need to be developed (by 2022) and be in place by the mid-2020s to annually assess and, if required, control sector GHG emissions and non-CO2 effects.” Lack of demand management would mean the sector missing its targets. And more …

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Airport expansion plans looking less likely due to Covid and climate awareness

UK airports continue to do badly, due to the pandemic and travel restrictions, and it is anticipated that they could lose £2.6bn between April and September, if Covid continues to limit travel. The industry is also, unwillingly, having to consider their role in worsening climate breakdown, and whether it is acceptable for the sector to be expanding. “Many investors and fund managers could question in future whether airports sit well within their portfolios”.  Only Gatwick, which is 50.01% per cent owned by Vinci, has made use of the Bank of England’s Covid corporate financing facility, for temporary grants and loans.  Most airport owners have pared down their operations, staffing and costs, and cut dividends, to save money.  Lenders are appreciating that the airports have huge financial problems, that they cannot solve while Covid continues to limit air travel.  But the FT says there will be limits to the goodwill by lenders, as it is no longer certain that airports will remain a safe investment, generating predictable and high income streams – or be acceptable ethically. Now ACI warned of a “severe airport investment crunch” in Europe as it had to take on more than €20 billion of additional debt last year. That makes expansion plans look doubtful.

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UK government will not commit to immediate lowering of air pollution levels to WHO limits

The government has refused to commit to an immediate lowering of legal levels of air pollution.  The death of Ella Kissi-Debrah, from asthma cause by air pollution, sparked calls for the immediate lowering of legal air pollution levels to bring them in line with those recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO says particulate pollution from fine particulate matter PM2.5 should not exceed an annual mean of 10 μg/m3. For PM10 the limit is 20 µg/m3 annual mean. But the UK currently has higher limits for fine particulate matter: 40 µg/m3 annual mean for PM10 and 25 µg/m3 for PM2.5. The coroner investigating Ella’s death, called for legally binding levels of particulate pollution to be lowered to meet the WHO limits. He said: “The evidence at the inquest was that there is no safe level for particulate matter and that the WHO guidelines should be seen as minimum requirements.” There will be a public consultation on air pollution levels in January 2022, with a view to setting new air pollution targets in October 2022.  There are  various nice sounding, empty, statements from government about air pollution. Airports are a major source of both NO2 and particulate air pollution, from both planes and surface vehicles – with Heathrow producing the most. It is now known the pollution spreads downwind far from an airport.

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Southampton legal challenge against airport decision by Eastleigh Borough Council

The local campaign against the expansion of Southampton airport, AXO, has now decided to make a legal challenge against Eastleigh Borough Council, and their decision to allow extension of the runway.  That extension would have the effect of increasing the number of flights using the airport, and allow flights to more distant destinations – increasing the overall carbon emissions.  Decisions such as these, resulting in more climate heating, need full scrutiny and that can now only happen by Judicial Review. The opponents of Southampton Airport expansion have instructed a legal team led by Leigh Day and David Wolfe QC to pursue the case, and are launching a public appeal for money to help finance the action.  AXO believe strongly that the council’s decision was wrong both in the way it was taken and the arguments to justify it. The airport has greatly overstated the economic benefits of expansion, which will adversely affect the quality of lives of around 46,000 residents, whilst hugely underplaying the environmental impact. Hence they are calling for the decision to undergo independent scrutiny. There is a crowdfunder, to raise £10,000, to help pay the legal costs.

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Howard Davies, whose “Airports Commission” decided a Heathrow 3rd runway was needed and justified, now says it no longer is

Back in 2015, Sir Howard Davies chaired the Airports Commission, which had been given the task – by George Osborne – of making the case for a 3rd runway at Heathrow, so the Conservative government could press ahead with it, once they were out of coalition with the LibDems, who opposed it.  Sir Howard had financial connections which might be considered to make him biased towards the airport. In July 2015 the Commission produced its report, recommending Heathrow’s 3rd runway, as a way to meet anticipated air travel demand in the south east. Now, with the impact of the Covid pandemic, and Heathrow struggling with 72% fewer passengers in 2020 than in 2019, Sir Howard has admitted that no extra runway is now needed, nor will it be for some time. In 2015 he believed there was an economic case for it, and spending up to £18 billion on the expansion. Now, even with the cheaper planned scheme at about £14 billion, he has said: “I would have to redo the numbers to see if the economics made sense.”  The whole Airports National Policy Statement was based on building a 3rd Heathrow runway, on the recommendation of Sir Howard Davies, before deciding on airport policy for the whole of the UK.

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Airbus tells the EU hydrogen won’t be widely used in planes before 2050

Airbus has told the EU that most commercial planes will rely on traditional jet engines until at least 2050. They say they plan to develop the world’s first zero-emission commercial aircraft by 2035, but have not publicly said whether the technology will be ready for the replacement for the medium-haul A320, due to be rolled out in the 2030s. That seems unlikely, especially for long or medium haul flights.  In its presentation to the EC, Airbus did not give details of its hydrogen technology, and how it could be introduced into small, short haul aircraft.  The technology is very much still on the drawing board. Although research remains at an early stage, possible paths to replacement of the A320 are already a major focus of debate as rival Boeing ponders how to get lower carbon emissions from the competing 737 MAX and engine makers focus on evolving gas turbines. Boeing’s Chief Executive has said they will not be flying planes on hydrogen on a significant scale before 2050.  A key problem for using hydrogen in future is the infrastructure needed globally to support it, as well as ensuring hydrogen is “green”, ie. made only from genuinely renewably sourced surplus electricity. In the meantime, airlines want to use “sustainable aviation fuel” (SAF), hoping some can be genuinely low carbon. 

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Airports and airlines expect to make huge losses this summer and want more government financial help

Airports are likely to have a bad summer, with far fewer air passengers than they had hoped for. The Airport Operators Association (AOA) have told the government that they might collectively lose £2.6 billion this summer, between April and September, not the recovery they dreamed of. It could be even worse than summer 2020 for them.  In summer 2020 there were, at their highest, about <20% of the level in 2019. It is likely to be lower this year. The AOA says “1.6 million jobs in the UK aviation and tourism industries rely on aviation having a meaningful restart.”  And “If the government decides it cannot reopen travel more meaningfully, then they should stand ready to give substantial financial compensation to airports and others in aviation and tourism.... As airports remain open for critical services, support should include operational costs, such as policing, air traffic and CAA regulatory costs, and extending business rate relief in full until the end of the tax year.”  Airlines UK are also demanding government help, asking for continuation of furlough, extension of repayment terms for any Covid loans, and a new grant scheme for airlines.

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New study shows exposure to plane noise at night causes vascular endothelial dysfunction, hence cardiovascular disease

A new study shows exposure to plane noise at night causes higher circulating levels of stress hormones eg. adrenaline, stiffened blood vessels, and these caused vascular endothelial dysfunction. These increase the chance of atherosclerosis leading to cardiovascular events. The scientists said: “In addition to being associated with an increased incidence of coronary heart disease, noise may serve as an acute trigger of cardiovascular problems. For example, a study published earlier this year established that for nighttime deaths, noise exposure levels two hours preceding death were significantly associated with heart-related mortality.” And “Importantly, comparing participants exposed to 30 versus 60 aircraft noise events per night revealed a dose-dependent worsening of endothelial function. Moreover, previous exposure to 30 aircraft noise events caused 60 events to have larger adverse effects on endothelial function. Thus, rather than any sort of habituation to the noise, there appeared to be a priming effect: prior exposure amplified the negative effect of noise on endothelial function.”

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Eastleigh BC confirms its decision to allow Southampton airport 164 metre runway extension

Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC) has confirmed, on 3rd June, its decision to permit Southampton airport’s 164 metre runway extension. The PCU (Planning Casework Unit at the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government) had an informal agreement with Eastleigh to hold off on the decision while the Sec of State, Robert Jenrick, considered the call in request. The PCU said the planning permission would not be issued until the S106 Legal Agreement was completed. On 14 May EBC told the PCU that they had completed the S106 and would grant permission at the end of May unless they heard back to the contrary, from the PCU … which they didn’t. It is now too late for the application to be called in. Extinction Rebellion Southampton said the Secretary of State must be held to account for his failure to act on climate grounds.  Work on the runway extension could start later this summer. Campaigners have not confirmed whether they will challenge the final decision.

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After years of cheap carbon allowances, price has doubled from around €25 to around €50 in the past 6 months

Airlines flying within Europe have to pay for their carbon emissions, through the Emissions Trading System (ETS). They have to buy carbon allowances, for the carbon emitted. Until 2020, the price of those allowances did not rise beyond about €25. Before that, till around 2018 it was more like €8 per tonne. But there has been a sharp rise in the price in the past 6 months or so, reaching €56 recently and now being around €49.  This is not what airlines like, as like other carbon intensive sectors in Europe, they must buy the tradable credits to cover the amount they pollute under parallel emissions systems in both the UK and the EU. The nascent UK carbon trading system, which launched this month, started trading at higher prices, of above £50 a tonne.  The higher prices hit the dirt-cheap airlines hardest, with their low ticket prices – Ryanair, easyJet and Wizz Air have been hit particularly hard as almost all their flights are in Europe or the UK, requiring carbon allowance payments.  Traders and market participants expect the price of carbon to keep rising as net zero pledges of governments and corporates become more ambitious. 

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Stansted wins appeal, against refusal by Uttlesford Council, of its plans to increase capacity to 43 million passengers per year

Expansion plans for Stansted Airport have been approved by the Planning Inspectorate (PI) after an appeal.  In January 2020 Uttlesford District Council (UDC) rejected proposals to increase Stansted’s passenger cap from 35 million to 43 million a year. However, the councillors voted against the advice of council officers, who had recommended approval of proposals. The council had originally approved the plan, in November 2018 but only by the casting vote of the chairman; many councillors then had not read, or properly understood, all the documents. Then after the Residents for Uttlesford group took control from the Conservatives in May 2019, the decision was referred back to the planning committee – the rejection decision. Stansted already had permission to increase capacity from 28 million to 35 million passengers per year.  The airport appealed against the decision, despite Covid and the near collapse of air travel in 2020.  A public inquiry was held in January to March 2021 by the Planning Inspectorate.  In its decision, the PI said:  “there would be a limited degree of harm arising in respect of air quality and carbon emissions” but that was “far outweighed by the benefits of the proposal”. UDC has also been ordered to pay the costs of Stansted’s appeal.

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DfT and MHCLG both reject application to have Stansted expansion called in

There was a Planning Inquiry from January to March, into the rejection by Uttlesford council of the application by Stansted airport to increase its annual air passenger cap from 35 million passengers, to 43 mppa. Local campaign, Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) asked the government (two departments) to call in the application, for consideration by government, rather than just by Uttlesford District Council. Now SSE has received letters from both the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, and the Department for Transport, refusing the request for a call in. The MHCLG said “the Secretary of State has carefully considered your request but has decided in this case not to issue a direction for joint determination under s266 of the 1990 Act. The jurisdiction of the case therefore remains with the appointed planning Inspectors, and the Planning Inspectorate will inform you of a decision in due course.” Grant Shapps (DfT) said that “the application is not of sufficient scale or significance to justify a direction. I will therefore not be making a direction in relation to this appeal.” SSE said they were unsurprised, and concerned that this may set a bad precedent for appeals by other airports, where the planned increase in  annual passengers is lower than that at Stansted.

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Night Flights Consultation (Part 2) deadline extended to 3rd September

The closing date for the second part of the DfT night flight restrictions consultation has now been extended to 3 September 2021 (23:59 hours). It had been 31st May. The deadline for the first part was 3rd March.  The extended deadline is in response to a request from HACAN, ACF, AEF, SSE & LADACAN along with other community representatives on the DfT’s Aviation Noise Experts Group.  The DfT had been intending to publish the CAA’s Survey of Noise Attitudes 2014 : Aircraft Noise and Sleep report (“SoNA Sleep”) before the Night Flights Consultation deadline. It is likely to contain vital information on the impact of noise annoyance at night.  When it became clear that this important report would not be available before the 31 May deadline the groups wrote to the DfT requesting the extension. The SoNA Sleep report is now expected to be published early in the summer.  Extending the consultation into early September will allow respondents the time needed to consider and comment in detail in light of this further research. If anyone has already made a submission, that will still be counted and they can make a supplementary submission, taking the SoNA data into account, in due course. As soon as SoNA Night is published the various airport and noise expert groups will be analysing the details and sharing a summary with their members, so they have help in making their submissions.

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EU Treasury Ministers support future tax on fossil aviation fuel (after decades)

For decades, there has been no international agreement on the taxing of aviation fuel, and it has been wrongly assumed that taxing it was impossible. But now the EU is considering how the fuel should be taxed, as part of the bloc’s attempts to cut carbon emissions over all its activities.  The EU now has the target of a 55% cut in CO2 emissions by 2030, and reach “net zero” by 2050.  Aviation must play its part in the reductions.  Higher fuel prices would increase ticket prices, thus reducing slightly demand for air travel.  In July, the European Commission will put forward an overhaul of its energy taxation directive that sets minimum taxation rates for fossil fuels, but has not been updated for nearly 20 years. There have been difficulties in getting agreement on carbon cuts from the newer EU members, and every country effectively holds a veto on taxation policy.  Some countries such as the Netherlands have been pushing for aviation fuel taxation, which says it will introduce a national aviation tax in the absence of an EU-wide agreement.  Aviation should also be charged through the EU Emissions Trading System, which currently only adds small costs to intra-European flights.

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New NEF report shows the climate impact of regional airport plans has been considerably underestimated

A report by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) says the climate impact of expansion plans at regional airports in England has been dramatically underestimated and would threaten the UK’s legally binding climate commitments.  NEF calculated that proposals to expand 4 airports (Bristol, Leeds Bradford, Southampton and Stansted) will lead to an increase in CO2 emissions up to 8 times higher than the airports previously claimed. This means the alleged economic benefits claimed, from more aviation, were overestimated, as they ignore around £13.4bn worth of climate damage the extra flights could cause. Alex Chapman, the author of the report, said the findings raised concerns about the level of scrutiny the airport expansion proposals had received from government. Alex said: “The secretary of state should step in and conduct an independent review of all four of these proposals and their compatibility with the UK’s climate targets.”  The airports all use unproven and undeveloped technologies to achieve future fuel-efficiency savings. Most airports only took account of CO2 of outbound flights, not of inbound flights, and ignored the non-CO2 impacts of flights.

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Luton scaling back airport expansion plans, delaying 2nd terminal, to save £1 billion

Luton Airport, which is owned by Luton council, is planning to scale back its expansion plans in order to save perhaps £1 billion.  In 2019 the airport consulted on plans for a new terminal that would enable the annual number of passengers to be increased from 18 million to 21 million by 2039. There will now be a new consultation, later in 2021 or in 2022, for initially improvement of the existing terminal, and then eventually a second terminal, at some future date. The airport’s finances have been seriously hit by Covid. The Council benefitted greatly from the airport (before Covid), in 2019 receiving a £19.1m, and £15.8m servicing debt. In 2020 the airport had huge public subsidy, and more will follow for 2021. Local campaigners will be looking very carefully at what might emerge from proposals for further passenger growth using the existing terminal. This might be by creative use of “permitted developments” which Luton Borough Council could approve on its own. If such growth could accommodate more than an additional 5 million passengers per year (taking Luton to 23Mppa) it would then become possible for the declared ambition to reach 32Mppa to be achievable without need for a DCO, as below the 10 Mppa threshold.

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In open letter to Ministers, campaigners say moratorium on UK airport expansion needed, due to policy vacuum on future aviation CO2 cap

In an open letter to ministers, Grant Shapps and Robert Jenrick, a large number of airport groups (15) say the government’s aviation strategy is needed, now that the sector is included in the UK’s binding climate targets. Currently there are expansion plans at 7 airports in England: Leeds Bradford, Luton, Bristol, Southampton, Heathrow, Stansted and Manston. Gatwick is also expected to submit plans soon, to make more use of its emergency runway.  The letter says the UK government must suspend all airport expansion plans until it sets out how they fit with its legally binding climate targets and the advice of its own experts, the Climate Change Committee.  The CCC said, in December 2020, that there should be no net expansion of UK airport capacity “unless the sector is on track to sufficiently outperform its net emissions”.  Which it is unlikely to be, in the next 20 years.  The growth of the industry, that the expansions would permit, could not be accommodated with a stricter overall carbon cap. The campaigners say: “Until the government has consulted on its preferred strategy for net zero aviation, and published its policy, it is impossible to see how local authorities or the government could justify any given airport expansion as conforming to binding carbon budgets and targets.”

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Stop Stansted Expansion chairman Peter Sanders reflects on two decades of campaigning against airport expansion

After 17 years of campaigning, 82-year-old Peter Sanders CBE is stepping down as Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) chairman as the organisation begins a new era with a fresh name – Stansted Airport Watch (SAW). SSE was founded in 2002 in response to Government proposals which shocked the local community by setting out options for expanding Stansted with up to 3 additional runway – at the time the low cost airlines were getting going. Stansted could have become twice as big as HeathrowIn its White Paper of 2003 the Government declared its support for an extra runway at Stansted, to be open by 2012 at the latest. After years of campaigning, in 2010, one of the first acts of the newly-formed coalition Government was to withdraw its support for a 2nd Stansted runway. It was, of course, too good to last for very long. The Airports Commission was set up, but in the end it did not even short-list Stansted for a second runway. It did say that if, in the 2040s, another runway was needed, Stansted could be one of the options. The Government accepted these recommendations. Meanwhile, the work for SAW continues, to contain the negative impacts of Stansted Airport.

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Amsterdam banning advertising for fossil fuel products (eg. flights) from the subway stations

Adverts for ‘fossil fuel products’, such as air travel and cars that run on fossil fuels, will no longer be seen in the subway stations in Amsterdam.  Amsterdam is the first city in the world that wants to keep fossil fuel advertising out of the streets. Never before has a city taken the decision to ban advertising solely on the basis of climate change. The agreement about advertisements in the metro stations is the municipality’s first step towards making advertising in Amsterdam fossil-free. The Dutch campaign, Reclame Fossielvrij (Fossil Free Advertising), which strives for a nationwide ban in the Netherlands on advertising by the fossil fuel industry and advertising for polluting transport, congratulated Amsterdam and calls it an important step. Some other Dutch cities, The Hague, Utrecht and Nijmegen have said they were “open to a ban on fossil fuel advertising.”  Motions have also been filed in Canada, England (we have the Badvertising campaign), Sweden and Finland.  Fossil Free Advertising strives for a nationwide ‘tobacco-style law’ for the fossil fuel industry, to change public attitudes – as happened with smoking.

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Unconvincing airline hype about large future use of so called “sustainable aviation fuels”

Airlines are falling over each other, to say how much “Sustainable Aviation Fuel” (SAF) they plan to use in future, and how this will greatly increase their carbon emissions. Ryanair says it will use 12.5% SAF by 2030; IAG says it will use 10% by 2030; easyJet says they will use SAF in the short term, but “we must avoid all resources being drawn into SAFs, which don’t fully solve the problem.”  According to the European Commission, SAF currently accounts for just 0.05% of jet fuel use in the EU, and without further regulation, the share is expected to reach just 2.8% by 2050. There is disagreement between low cost, short haul airlines and those flying longer routes, about whether SAF fuel quotas should apply to all flights, not only short haul. Long-haul air services departing European airports accounted for 48% of CO2 emissions from all operations in 2019, while making up just 6% of flights, according to Eurocontrol data.  It is unclear what all this SAF is going to be made from. One of the very few fuels thought to genuinely be low carbon, up to now, has been used cooking oil. But it has been revealed that there is considerable fraud, with virgin palm oil (causing deforestation) being passed off as used.

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Study shows carbon offsets, by forest protection, used by major airlines are based on flawed system

An investigation by the Guardian and Greenpeace’s Unearthed has found that the forest protection carbon offsetting market used by major airlines for claims of carbon-neutral flying faces a significant credibility problem, with experts warning the system is not fit for purpose.  Air passengers can buy offsets that, allegedly, help prevent the emission of a quantity of carbon, so they can claim their flight was “carbon neutral”.  The theory is that money is needed for projects to keep intact areas of forest healthy, and prevent deforestation. That depends on knowing how much forest there was, how much would have been destroyed unless the offset money had been paid, and how much has been saved in good condition. In practice, that is not easy to calculate. The study found there is often considerable over-counting, with schemes saying there would have been far higher rates of deforestation than were likely. And some of the areas that remained forested did so for other reasons – like government policy – not the offset money. If forestry offsets are to be used, it is vital that the methodologies they use to calculate the reduction in emissions – and additionality – are rigorous and accurate.

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In 2019 the CO2 emissions of British Airways were almost as high (18.4 MtCO2) as ALL the vans on UK roads

British Airways flights emitted almost as much CO2 in 2019 as all the vans on UK roads, according to data obtained by non-profit group Transport & Environment (T&E). It emits just under a third of all of the cars in the UK.  It was the 2nd highest-emitting airline in Europe before Covid, with 18.4 million tonnes (Mt) CO2 released in 2019, just short of the 19.4 Mt CO2 equivalent emitted by the UK’s vans in 2018.  It ranks, by CO2 emissions, just behind Lufthansa, which emitted 19.1 MtCO2 in 2019, with Air France in third place at 14.4 MtCO2.  The overall climate impact of aviation CO2 is 2 to 3 times that of burning the same fuel at ground level – that is not included in the 18.4 MtCO2 figure. T&E and partners obtained the data using FoI requests to governments, which now haveto gather CO2 statistics from airlines as part of the UN’s international offsetting scheme for aviation, Corsia. The data has not been made public before. In the UK, about 15% of people take 70% of flights. Accordingly, a large part of the emissions by BA will be by people – those richer than average – who fly often.

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Climate Change Committee professor says demand for flights will need to be cut, eg. by taxing frequent fliers more

Professor Piers Forster, a climate scientist and a member of the Climate Change Committee, who has taken a keen interest in the problem of aviation carbon emissions, has said that the government is likely to have to bring in a tax on frequent fliers and a ban on airport expansion if it is to meet its new climate targets – a 78% cut of carbon emissions on the 1990 levels – for 2035. This new, stricter, target will “squeeze” the amount of emissions the rest of the economy can emit over the coming decades. Prof Forster said: “By including [international shipping and aviation] within the target it actually reduces the allowable emissions that are there for the rest of the economy. So all the rest of the economy gets squeezed quite significantly.”  It will be decades ahead, if ever, that flying could be low carbon. In the interim, Professor Forster said the government will need to bring in measures to reduce the amount of flights taken in and out of the UK. Frequent flyers should be deterred, while in the short term, there may be enough carbon budget for the occasional leisure flight.

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CAA rules that Heathrow can only raise £300m out of £2.6bn through higher charges, plus another £500 m

Heathrow’s bid to increase airport charges to recover £2.6 billion lost during the coronavirus pandemic has been rejected by the aviation regulator, the CAA – which said its expenditure had been “disproportionate and not in the interests of consumers”. The CAA is allowing Heathrow to initially raise only an additional £300 million through higher charges, out of the £2.6 billion it asked for. “The CAA has agreed to a limited, early adjustment to HAL’s RAB of £300m and will consider this issue further as part of the next price control (H7)” which starts on 1st January 2022. The CAA has agreed to allow Heathrow to raise charges to recover the £500 million “it incurred efficiently” on its plans for a 3rd runway, between 2017 and 1st March 2020. Heathrow said it faces loses of around £3 billion due to the Covid pandemic.  IAG, which owns British Airways, the largest airline at Heathrow, said it is “extremely disappointed” with the CAA decision, which means more expensive tickets for its consumers from 2022. Heathrow wants concessions by the CAA, though its shareholders have earned nearly £4 billion in dividends in recent years. 

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Good Law project, Dale Vince and George Monbiot start legal proceedings to force Government to suspend & review ANPS

In just months, a Government policy – the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) – that pre-dates the Net Zero commitments in the Climate Change Act. could form the basis for a decision to expand Manston Airport in Kent.  Government has refused to say whether a decision on Heathrow expansion will be made under the ANPS but, with an application for a development consent order (DCO) on Manston imminent, the Good Law project hopes it can force its hand – on Manston and on Heathrow. The ANPS is inconsistent with government commitment to tackle the climate crisis. Though the Supreme Court, in December 2020, ruled that the ANPS was legal, it is necessary for the government to suspend and review it. Now the Good Law project, with Dale Vince and George Monbiot, have issued a pre-action protocol letter to the government legal department, asking for the ANPS to be suspended and reviewed. Not only would proper updating of the ANPS prevent expansion of Manston and Heathrow, it would do the same for others in the pipeline – Southampton, Leeds Bradford, Bristol, Stansted and Gatwick. Now government has agreed to include international aviation in carbon budgets, and a 78% cut in UK CO2 emissions by 2035, there is even greater urgency for correct UK aviation policy.

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Heathrow’s 3rd runway plans are ‘dead’, say campaigners, as government tightens UK CO2 targets

Plans for a 3rd runway at Heathrow have been struck a massive blow by the government’s new emission targets.  The government announced the new climate change target on April 20th, with an aim to cut carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by 78% by 2035 when compared to 1990 levels. For the first time, the Sixth Carbon Budget, covering the period 2033 to 2037, will include international aviation emissions (and also shipping emissions). Previously these had just been “taken account of” in setting the budget. The total emissions cap for the 2033-37 period is set at 965 MtCO2, which is far lower than the cap for the 5th carbon budget.  Heathrow vies with Drax power station to be the UK’s largest source of CO2, emitting (in 2019) about 19 – 20 MtCO2 per year. That is around 52 – 55% of total UK aviation emissions (37Mt CO2 in 2019). A 3rd runway, adding another 7 MtCO2 or more per year, would mean that – in order to meet the new legally binding targets – most other UK airports would be required to close. Paul McGuinness, chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said: “Heathrow expansion is dead. It is simply not compatible with the UK government’s commitment to do our part in protecting the climate.”

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Government inclusion of aviation into carbon budgets heralds the beginning of the end for fossil-fuelled aviation

The UK is to become the first major economy to extend its legal ‘net zero’ emissions commitment to departing international flights, including international aviation and shipping in the Sixth Carbon Budget.  AEF Deputy Director Cait Hewitt said: “This should mark the beginning of the end for fossil-fuelled aviation. After many years of slipping the net when it comes to climate change, and expecting special privileges, airlines will now need to start planning for a very different future.  Including international aviation in UK climate law gives a strong message from ministers that all sectors of the UK economy need to be on the same path towards net zero emissions. Now the Government will need to make sure that’s delivered.”  The Government is expected to consult next month on what measures it plans to introduce to put aviation onto a path of cutting CO2. Options it will need to consider include the setting of annual emissions targets for airlines; a review of policy on airport expansions; and new financial measures to limit flying demand such as an air miles tax. So far, the aviation industry has primarily focused on carbon offsetting as a way to attempt to negate carbon emissions – and aspirations for low carbon flight … many years into the future.

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UK to include international aviation and shipping in carbon budgets, and aim for overall UK 78% CO2 cut by 2050

In December 2020 the Climate Change Committee (CCC) published its guidance for the UK government on its Sixth Carbon Budget, for the period 2033 – 37, and how to reach net-zero by 2050.  That included the recommendation on aviation that there should be no net airport expansion, and that international aviation and shipping (IAS) should be fully included in the carbon budgets.  Now the government has accepted many of their recommendations, including that the UK should cut carbon emissions by 78% by 2035. This is 15 years earlier than had been the original goal.  The CCC recommended  that IAS should be properly within carbon budgets; also that the target for aviation, instead of being allowed to emit 37.5MtCO2 per year by 2050, should be reduced to 23MtCO2 by 2050, following the BNZ (balanced net zero) pathway. There is no commitment yet by government to insist on that reduction.  It would mean a large amount of UK engineered greenhouse gas removals by 2050 having to be assigned to making the aviation sector net-zero.  People would have to pay for the carbon they emit being removed, rather than just “fly-tipped into the atmosphere”, which would make flying more expensive. Ways (taxation?) will be needed to make that fair.

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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  …