planesplane-over-roofStopAirportExpansiontshirtBRITAIN HEATHROW AIRPORT EXPANSION

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Open letter from 246 University of Leeds academics, to Robert Jenrick, asking him to “call in” the Leeds Bradford decision

246 University of Leeds staff (including 46 professors and associate professors) ,and postgraduate researchers have signed an open letter, asking Robert Jenrick (Sec of State) to ‘call in’ the decision on Leeds Bradford Airport. The government should take responsibility for the decision, which is of national importance because of the increased carbon emissions and their impact on UK carbon commitments. The academics say expanding LBA’s passenger numbers by 75% exceeds the maximum rate of growth that the Climate Change Committee considers compatible with the UK’s legally adopted net-zero target. It would make it much more difficult – and more costly – for the UK to achieve its climate targets and would require reductions in passenger numbers elsewhere in the UK. “In the year that the UK is hosting the COP26 conference, it is vital that we show leadership on climate change and take the necessary actions to secure a safe, zero-carbon future. We therefore urge you [Robert Jenrick] to call in this application so that the issues highlighted are considered in light of national and international climate targets and associated guidance.” The alleged economic benefits of the expansion, or jobs created, would be unlikely to materialise.

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Campaigners tell Heathrow to accept reality, and give up on plans for a 3rd runway

Campaigners say Heathrow should accept what is now financial reality and give up on its plans for a 3rd runway. Heathrow made a £2bn loss in 2020, and is asking for more government finance in the form of extending the furlough scheme – and also full relief from business rates. Heathrow’s financial frailty is obvious; it has net debt of £15.2bn as of September 2020. It is now so highly geared with debt, that it has reached a leverage ratio of 97% — higher than any comparable UK infrastructure or utility operation.  In June last year the ratings agency, Standards & Poor’s, put Heathrow on “credit watch with negative implications” — a 2nd credit downgrade in just 2 months. Then Heathrow sought waivers on covenants from holders of £1.1 billion of bonds. Any further downgrade would render these bonds junk, making the airport an extremely unattractive asset for investment. Its shareholders have not contributed more cash. John Holland-Kaye has told staff that the publicised “£3.2bn war chest” is merely the liquidity that can be mustered when “we have drawn down all the cash and credit facilities at our disposal”.  ie. more future borrowing. With its precarious finances, it is no longer appropriate for Heathrow to be pursuing a 3rd runway.

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Heathrow adding a new £8.90 per passenger pandemic tax from April

Heathrow has added a new charge on all outbound flights from April.  It will charge £8.90 extra in what the airport is calling a United Kingdom Exceptional Regulatory Charge. It may only last for a year, and Heathrow says the CAA has approved it.  Other major UK airports have said they will not be implementing a similar fee. Paul McGuinness, chair of the No Third Runway Coalition, criticised the airport for adding on the extra charge. “Yes, aviation has dipped during the pandemic, but it’s the shambolic financial management of Heathrow – the massive borrowing, the large dividends payments to its foreign owners and the total lack of reserves – that is forcing the airport’s management into trying, by stealth, to raise these passenger tariffs.”  A Heathrow spokesperson said: “Heathrow makes absolutely zero profit from these services [sic]. The price is calculated purely to cover the cost of operating and maintaining the infrastructure that supports them.” Airlines say the reason for the increase is the amount it charges them for baggage handling, water, electricity and other services. It is possible the tiny extra charge will make some people choose another airport to fly from (but it is probably too low to do that).

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Gatwick made a £465.5m loss in 2020 as passenger numbers collapsed due to Covid

Gatwick Airport made a £465.5m loss in 2020 due to Covid.  While the airport remained open all of 2020, passenger numbers fell by 78% as lockdowns and travel restrictions took their toll.  All its revenue streams were affected and its loss before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) was £25.1m.  The airport cut over 40% of its workforce as a result of the travel slump.  The airport’s CEO Stewart Wingate wants the government to provide further financial support by extending the furlough scheme and providing full business rates relief for airports for the current financial year, not just the £8 million on offer.  Gatwick said it reduced operating costs by £140m last year and deferred more than £380m from the investment originally planned for 2020 and 2021.  In April 2020 it got a £300m loan from a consortium of banks, and it has had £250m under the Bank of England’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility.  It has been granted a waiver to address breaches in Financial Covenants at 31 December, 2020. In December it had liquidity of £573m to meet cashflow, investment levels and interest payments for this year.

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British Airways owner IAG hit made a record loss of – €7.4bn in 2020 (cf. +€2.6bn profit in 2019)

International Airlines Group, owner of BA, has reported a record annual operating loss of €7.4bn  (£6.4 billion) for 2020.  Its passenger capacity last year was only a third of 2019 and in the first quarter of this year is running at only a fifth of pre-Covid levels.  The loss included exceptional items relating to fuel and currency hedges, early fleet retirement and restructuring costs. The loss compares with a €2.6bn profit in 2019.  IAG is trying to cut its cost base and increase the proportion of variable costs to better match market demand.  IAG’s passenger revenues fell 75% from €22.4bn to €5.5bn last year but its cargo business had “helped to make long-haul passenger flights viable” during the pandemic. Cargo revenues increased by almost €200m to €1.3bn and IAG also operated more than 4,000 cargo-only flights in 2020. It is not providing guidance on its finances for 2021. Airlines do seem to understand, at last, that for acceptable Covid safety of air travel, people need to be vaccinated or have proper proof they are not able to spread the virus.  IAG spent  €4.1bn in cash last year – almost €80m a week (£11.4 million per day). IAG’s market value has halved to £9.6bn since the start of the pandemic.  When Covid is less of a threat,  low-cost carriers may emerge in stronger shape than airlines like BA.

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Open letter from NGOs to government: aviation and shipping must be fully included in UK net zero legislation (carbon budgets)

A group of leading environmental NGOs has written an open letter to the government in support of the Climate Change Committee’s recommendation that international aviation and shipping emissions (IAS) should at last be formally included within the UK carbon budgets.  IAS are now the only emissions category not so included, resulting in a situation where aviation emissions are insufficiently controlled by policy and the industry is in a privileged position compared to all other businesses. In its 6th Carbon Budget recommendations published in December, the CCC identified reasons why IAS exclusion from the UK carbon budget can no longer be justified. These include their inclusion opening up the possibility of the two sectors achieving lower emissions; the UK’s overall emissions reduction strategy should be integrated across the whole economy; doing this would set a good example to other countries; and there is no longer any justification, in terms of difficulty of calculation, for omitting them from carbon budgets. The CCC said inclusion of IAS will “ensure that the UK takes full responsibility for these emissions and that, where necessary, effort in other sectors can be altered to ensure overall UK emissions are within the necessary limits”. 

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Heathrow makes £2bn loss in 2020 due to the pandemic – warning on continuing to be a “going concern”

Heathrow lost £2 billion in 2020 because of the fall in passenger numbers due to the Covid pandemic. The numbers are lower than for perhaps 50 years, and the airport is issuing a warning about its future.  Its pre-tax loss was £2.01bn for its full-year compared to a £546m profit in 2019.  Revenues fell 62% £1.18bn, with passenger were at 22.1 million, 73% less than in 2019.  This led the airport to issue a warning, that the “existence of a material uncertainty… could cast significant doubt upon the group and the company’s ability to continue as a going concern”. Nobody knows how much air travel will happen this year.  Heathrow desperately wants relief on all its business rates, an extended furlough scheme for its staff, and a revival of VAT-free airport shopping for tourists to the UK. John Holland-Kaye makes his usual statements about how vital Heathrow is to Britain … Since the start of the pandemic, the airport has cut operating costs by nearly £400m, reduced capital expenditure by £700m and raised £2.5bn in funding. And it says it ended 2020 with £3.9bn of liquidity, which it says is enough to last until April 2033 even if there is no recovery in passenger numbers. Which begs the question of why it needs more government support now.

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Tourism desperately wants a return to the ‘old normal’ but that would be a disaster

An Australian professor of sustainable tourism has said that it’s time the global industry seriously reconsiders its business model, and overall purpose, in a post-pandemic world. Before COVID-19, international aviation emissions were forecast to potentially triple between 2015 and 2050. Likewise, emissions from the cruise ship industry were also growing.  The “mass global tourism is emblematic of this voracious, growth-at-all-costs mentality.”  The UN now says it is the time to “rethink how the sector impacts our natural resources and ecosystems”. But the sector is not looking to transform, and its plans to get people travelling again make little mention of environmental impact, in the short or long term.  The “aspirational” goal of IATA to improve global fuel efficiency by 2% each year until 2050 is, by its own admission “unlikely to deliver the level of reduction necessary to stabilize and then reduce aviation’s absolute emissions contribution to climate change”. Much could be done to reduce the impact of global tourism, including – as suggested by the UN Sustainable Development Group:  a frequent flyer levy; incentives for domestic tourism; restrictions on flight advertising; no more airport expansions in high-income countries; better transport alternatives to aviation.

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GALBA has written to Sec of State, Robert Jenrick, asking that the Leeds Bradford airport application is “called in”  – it could be the next “Cumbria Coal Mine” Case

On 11 February, Leeds City Council (LCC) provisionally approved a planning application to expand Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA), despite the Council having declared a climate emergency in March 2019. Now anti-airport expansion campaign, the Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA), has written – through their Barrister, Estelle Dehon – to Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State at DCLG, asking him to ‘call in’ the decision on LBA.  If he agrees, the airport’s planning application will be dealt with at a public inquiry. GALBA believes that LBA expansion is the aviation equivalent of the Cumbria coal mine case. There are striking similarities: a local authority decision which would result in significantly increased greenhouse gas emissions and which flatly contradicts the latest advice to government from the Committee on Climate Change in the 6th Carbon Budget. One of the key reasons that Leeds councillors felt able to support airport expansion is because their planning officers told them that international aviation emissions are not a matter for local authorities to consider in the planning process. GALBA believes that is legally incorrect and reserves the option of challenging LCC in the courts. The planned expansion raises the type of issues where consideration at national level, by the Secretary of State, is required.”

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Airport expansion plans show that local planning decisions on airports must be aligned with national carbon targets

Aviation CO2 accounted for 7% of UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, but this figure will inevitably grow if demand for air travel is allowed to increase. Allowing more demand means it would be even harder to meet UK carbon targets, as there are no realistic ways to reduce aviation emissions, other than by tiny amounts several decades ahead. Better infrastructure planning is needed in the UK, with local decisions aligned towards meeting national climate targets; currently they are not.  France has blocked the building of a 4th terminal at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, on grounds of carbon emissions. But UK airport expansion plans contradict its climate commitments, with expansion plans pushing ahead fast – while there is still no coherent UK policy on aviation carbon.  Plans for new building at Leeds Bradford, Southampton, Bristol, Luton, Stansted, Gatwick and Heathrow would mean far, far more carbon being emitted by the extra flights and passengers generated than the UK aviation passenger limit – advised by the Committee on Climate Change.  Demand needs to be reduced.  The government should align its national policy statements, used to guide planning, with its net zero target, to compel local authorities to factor climate change into their infrastructure decisions.

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Manston DCO officially quashed – fresh decision from Sec of State only way the freight hub could proceed

Manston airport becoming a freight airport is the first Development Consent Order (DCO) for an airport. The Planning Inspectorate (PI) advised the DfT that plans should be rejected in October 2019. The DfT then wanted more information about the plans, from the airport developers, RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP).  In July 2020, Sec of State Grant Shapps, for the DfT decided to ignore the PI’s advice, and allow the DCO. This was then legally challenged by local campaigner, Jenny Dawes, and the challenge was allowed to go ahead, in October 2020. By December the Grant Shapps had agreed that his decision approval letter did not contain enough detail about why approval was given against the advice of the PI – so the DCO was quashed. Now on 15th February a High Court judge has ruled that the DCO is quashed.  The Defendant (Secretary of State for Transport) and RSP will pay Jenny Dawes’ “reasonable costs” up to £70,000. Grant Shapps, will now need to issue a renewed decision on the DCO.  If there is another DCO similar to the original, the same arguments against it still stand, based on need, breach of procedural requirements, and the Net Zero carbon duty.  If he decides against another DCO, then RSP may bring another legal challenge, or give up.

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Airport growth plans are for way more passengers than carbon targets could permit

Despite the dire financial state of airports and airlines due to Covid, airports are pressing ahead with huge expansion plans – in the hope these could be approved before the government produces proper policies on UK carbon emissions. Leeds City Council (11th Feb) approved plans for a new airport terminal, to increase the number of passengers. Heathrow, Stansted, Luton, Gatwick, Bristol and Southampton airports all want to expand – increasing the number of passengers. But the advice to the UK government by its official advisers, the CCC (the Committee on Climate Change), is that there should be no more than 365 million passengers per year (mppa) by 2050, up from about 297 mppa in 2019 – a 23% rise – about 68 million. [And that depends on far lower CO2 emissions per passenger/km than now].  But if all the airport expansion plans went ahead, that might mean 532 mppa by 2050, (235 mppa more) which is over x3 the cap needed to meet UK climate pledges. This means if some airports expand, others cannot – or would have to contract. The government must decide by June whether to incorporate this into law, or to explain why it is rejecting the CCC’s advice. Heathrow’s 3rd runway alone could add 55 mppa.  The UK has to create a more effective way to allocate the remaining capacity for growth, rather than allow an “expansion frenzy” with decisions made by different bodies. 

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Leeds City Council approves Leeds Bradford airport plans for new terminal (ie. more passengers, more carbon, more noise)

Leeds City Council has approved (subject to additional conditions still to be negotiated) Leeds Bradford Airport’s plans for a larger terminal to accommodate more passengers. This decision will entrench in the Leeds economy the growth of a carbon intensive industry. There is no certainty that the promised jobs will actually materialise, as the sector increasingly automates work. Objectors including climate scientists, transport experts and residents’ groups, warned such an expansion would help facilitate catastrophic climate change, as well as unbearable levels of noise pollution for those living close by. The application sought to demolish the existing passenger pier to accommodate a new terminal building and forecourt area. This would also include the construction of supporting infrastructure, goods yard and mechanical electrical plant. There are also plans to modify flight time controls, and to reduce the night-time flight period, with a likely increase from 5 to 17 flights between 6am and 7am.  A professor of transport planning said there are inadequate contributions to road and rail infrastructure. Local group GALBA says there could still be a legal decision against the  proposals.

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Birmingham Airport to get £18.5m emergency loan from some of the councils that half own it

Birmingham Airport is to get an £18.5m emergency loan from Birmingham City Council, approved by the cabinet, to help avoid the threat of insolvency.  Since the start of the Covid pandemic, the airport has seen passenger numbers fall by 91%. However, some councillors questioned whether the airport would want more money in future, as the pandemic restriction on flying continues.  The fear is that if the airport becomes bankrupt, without a loan, even more money would be lost, and the councils could lose their control over it. The 7 councils of the West Midlands county – including Birmingham City Council – own a 49% stake in the airport’s holding company, BAHL; a further 48.25% is owned by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and the remaining 2.75% belongs to an employee trust.  Four of the local authorities will contribute to the loan, with the other shareholder, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan.  The airport is getting public money already, through the government’s Job Retention Scheme.

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France drops plans to build 4th terminal at Paris Roissy (Charles de Gaulle) airport on climate concerns

In order to avoid increasing carbon emissions, the French government has decided not to allow plans for a 4th terminal at Charles de Gaulle (Roissy) airport in Paris.  It says the project is obsolete.  The Minister of Ecological Transition, Barbara Pompili, said:  “The government has asked the ADP group [Aéroports de Paris] to abandon its project and to present a new one, more consistent with its objectives of fighting against climate change and environmental protection.”  The plan had been for construction to start in 2021. The board of directors of ADP Group should ratify this decision next week. ADP’s chairman and chief executive Augustin de Romanet said ADP had taken note of the government decision and would consider its future plans on how to develop the Charles de Gaulle airport to make it less environmentally damaging. It will consider reducing energy use, more surface access, and perhaps different jet fuels.  The French government has a stake of just over 50% in ADP’s share capital. In 2019 Heathrow had 80.8 million passengers, and Roissy had 76.1million. The 4th terminal was intended to cope with 35-40 million passengers. Covid has caused uncertainty about future air travel demand for Paris.

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Feb 18th – deadline for comments on application by Luton airport to increase passenger cap from 18m to 19mppa

Luton Airport has submitted a planning application (21/00031/VARCON) to Luton Borough Council to increase the annual cap on passenger throughput by 5.5% from 18m to 19mppa. Also to expand the day and night noise contours by 11.3% and 15.3% respectively until 2028, when they would be reduced somewhat, but still a net growth from today’s levels. Annual plane movements are forecast to grow by no more than 0.8%. The deadline for responses is February 18th. The airport is arguing that more larger planes means that the extra passengers can be accommodated without a huge increase in plane numbers. They also claim the anticipated new planes will be less noisy and emit less carbon … (’twas ever thus…) These wonderful planes or technologies don’t yet exist. The motivation for the increase in the passenger number cap has been rising demand, before the Covid pandemic struck. Future air traffic demand is uncertain.  The “elephant in the room” is  the conflict of interest of Luton Borough Council being both the planning authority and the owner of the airport.  But Hertfordshire County Council is set to formally object to the plans, largely on grounds of noise nuisance.

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Open Letter to Leeds City Council – MPs, Councillors, Scientists and Community Groups ask them to oppose Leeds Bradford airport expansion

An open letter has been sent to Leeds City Council (LCC) councillors, written by local opposition group GALBA & supported by 114 various groups, councils, organisations, residents’ associations and climate scientists. They ask the council to decide (on 11th February) against allowing expansion of Leeds Bradford airport, by NOT allowing the building of a new terminal. The work is designed to increase passengers from 4 million a year to 7 million by 2030. The letter says:  “Expansion would mean health damaging increases in noise, traffic and air pollution for thousands of people in our local communities. Above all, it would mean a huge increase in greenhouse gas emissions exactly when we need to cut them to prevent the worst effects of the climate crisis. Expansion would be fundamentally wrong. Leeds City Council has declared a Climate Emergency and aims to reach net zero carbon by 2030. Yet from 2030 onwards, aircraft from an expanded airport would pump out more greenhouse gases than the whole of the rest of the city. Allowing LBA to expand would immediately make the Council’s own net zero target impossible.”

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Campaigners challenge the DfT on inflated figures for economic benefit, and number of jobs, created by the aviation sector

There are frequently statements by UK government ministers, by the DfT and by the aviation industry, about the level of economic benefit the sector creates for the UK economy – and the number of jobs it produces. Some figures mention direct jobs or benefits, and some more indirect.  The figure of “£22 billion benefit to the economy” is often heard, and numbers of jobs that vary from around 130,000 to half a million. Campaigners wrote to the DfT in November, and have written again now, to ask for clarity on the figures, and consistency in what numbers are used. Figures of air transport, and work associated with it, are very different from those of the aerospace sector, making or maintaining aircraft and spacecraft.  The economic benefit of air transport itself is far nearer £10 billion per year, than £22 billion. The number of direct jobs is nearer 137,000 than many hundred thousand.  By repeating unsubstantiated numbers, the DfT creates an inaccurate picture of the value of air travel to the UK and its importance. The numbers often quoted by the DfT and the aviation sector also omit mention of the tourism deficit, and was (ONS figures) £33.9 billion in 2919. The DfT is also challenged for its continuous support for the sector, overlooking its negative impacts. 

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Prof Julian Allwood: The only way to hit net zero by 2050 is to stop flying

The UK aviation industry this week pledged to bring its net carbon emissions down to zero by 2050 while growing by 70%, which is probably a lot of hype – to which they cannot yet be held accountable.  But Professor Julian Allwood, an engineer from Cambridge University, argues that not only is it impossible and unrealistic for aviation to have zero carbon emissions, the only solution is to have a period with almost no flying at all.  He says: “Let’s stop placing impossible hopes on breakthrough technologies, and try to hit emissions targets with today’s technologies.” And “There are 3 ways to deliver net-zero aviation: invent new electric aircraft, change the fuels of existing aircraft or take the emissions out of the atmosphere.” None of which can be done, at the scale necessary, any time before 2050, if at all. Long haul large electric planes will not be feasible for decades, if ever. There will not be enough spare renewably generated electricity to produce “green” hydrogen for planes. And  “there are currently no meaningful negative emissions technologies. It requires more energy to recapture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than was generated when it was released.”  “Rather than hope new technology will magically rescue us” we need to “commit to halving flights within 10 years, hoping to phase them out entirely by 2050.”

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DfT night flights consultation – deadline for first section is 3rd March (second section 31st May)

The DfT has a consultation currently, on night flights.  The consultation has two parts. First, by 3 March the DfT seeking views on its proposals to extend the current night flight restrictions, set in 2017, for an additional two years from October 2022, and to ban the noisiest category of aircraft from operating in the night from October 2022 (this is only relevant for the few airports at which these planes are permitted). Then second, by 31st May it is seeking wider views on its national night flight policy and the structure of night flight restrictions beyond 2024.  Groups concerned about aircraft noise are very much opposed to the DfT’s proposal to extend current night flight restrictions for an additional 2 years, as it is widely acknowledged that plane noise at night disturbs sleep thousands, and negatively affects their mental and physical health.  The government has repeatedly rolled forward night flight limits set many years ago, without any proper re-examination of the issues. There are claims of the economic benefits of night flights, and these need to be re-assessed. With falling business flights, one frequent justification is to increase the number of daily “rotations” by low-cost airlines, keeping their fare prices low. There is advice on how to respond.

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Leeds Bradford Airport expansion decision soon – there have been almost 2,000 objections

A final decision is set to be made on the future of the Leeds Bradford airport at a meeting on 11th February, on the proposals for a new £150m terminal that would allow more annual flights and passengers, and thus higher carbon emissions. Over 1,950 objections to the plans have been submitted, and around 1,200 in favour of it, including (predictably) the West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce.  Environmental campaigners and climate academics had warned flights in and out of Leeds needed to dramatically reduce in order to help humanity have a fighting chance of averting climate catastrophe in the coming years. Council planning officers have now set out their recommendation in a report to the authority’s City Plans Panel that suggests they approve the blueprints, albeit with 50 conditions on the developers.  Several councils have opposed the plans, and Bradford West MP Naz Shah, Bradford East MP Imran Hussain and all 5 Leeds Labour MPs have also raised concerns.  Local campaign group The Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA) has been fighting the plans for several years.  Airports like to confuse the issue, with how low-energy their airport buildings will be, trying to pretend the flights are nothing to do with them.

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UK airlines can keep airport slots this summer without having to use them

UK airlines including British Airways, easyJet and Virgin Atlantic will hang on to lucrative take-off and landing slots without having to use them this summer after the DfT extended waivers to airport slot rules. Airlines have parked their fleets during the pandemic, prompting the suspension of rules forcing airlines to “use or lose” their slots 80% of the time. The suspension of the requirement has been opposed by rival airlines Ryanair and Wizz Air, as they hope to profit from the disruption in the industry. Gatwick is also unhappy, as it hoped to trap airlines there, while they would prefer to go to Heathrow.  The body, ACI, controls the slot market and slot allocation. The decision indicates that the DfT and Grant Shapps are expecting another difficult summer for the European airline industry as travel curbs widen.  The suspension will be a relief for BA, EasyJet and Virgin as they have been able to trim back their schedules while hanging on to spots at capacity-constrained airports. Airlines may decide there are better opportunities for growth [they always want to grow, regardless of the climate crisis] through gaining slot rights elsewhere in Europe.

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Airports can get up to £8 million in business rates relief – Heathrow wants a lot more

The government’s financial Airport Support Scheme has now opened to applications but was swiftly criticised by Heathrow and other airport operators. Under the scheme, airports and baggage handlers can apply for up to £8m in business rates relief. But Heathrow has a business rates bill of around £120m per year, so the £8 million will cover little of it. Indeed it is less than the money it is burning through in two days – which is around £5 million per day.  Holland-Kaye said “the Treasury has yet to explain why it has handed out £3 billion of rates relief to retail businesses that didn’t need it while ignoring the worsening crisis facing our industry.” The government announced the scheme back in November when international travel was banned under the second national lockdown, and we now have the 3r lockdown.  Most airports are grateful for the help, but want more – as the £8 million was arranged before the current tight Covid travel restrictions. Thousands of retailers have received government help with business rates, including many that have done very well during the pandemic. Some are returning the money; many are not.

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Carney’s carbon offset taskforce unclear about environmental integrity and effectiveness of private sector market

As Mark Carney, the UN special envoy for climate action and finance, unveiled plans for a new “taskforce” to scale up the private sector voluntary carbon market, campaigners warn key criteria for carbon offsets, that could be effective and might improve environmental integrity, are missing.  The taskforce includes some of the world’s largest carbon emitting companies, including EasyJet, Boeing, BP, Shell, Total, and Tata Steel. There are no green groups among its members.  Businesses increasingly realise they are expected to take carbon seriously, and set net-zero targets, as far ahead as possible. And they want the cheapest way possible to do this. Hence the drive for cheap carbon credits, which are often from developing countries, such as tree-planting, ecosystem restoration, energy efficiency or waste management. Demand for carbon credits is anticipated to rise, as companies continue to grow and emit more carbon (instead of genuinely reducing their emissions, themselves).  Climate campaigners warn these ineffective carbon credits could give polluters a free pass. They also help to delay real cuts in companies’ carbon emissions, or investment in the necessary technologies. What is needed is real carbon removal.

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Hillingdon Council’s new leader, Ian Edwards, pledges to continue fight against Heathrow 3rd runway and HS2

January 21, 2021

Hillingdon Council (15th January) has appointed Councillor Ian Edwards as new leader of the local authority.  He replaces London and Hillingdon’s longest serving council leader, Cllr Ray Puddifoot, who announced he was stepping down in October last year after 20 years of service.  Sir Ray said:  “As I step down tonight I do so in the knowledge that that Hillingdon Council has the administration, resources and first class staff which will see this council and our residents through the current pandemic and beyond.”  Cllr Edwards, who also replaced Cllr Puddifoot as Conservative group leader, pledged to continue defending the borough’s environment and residents against a 3rd runway at Heathrow, and mitigate the impact of HS2.

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PwC report says airlines need to shrink their fleets and restructure their businesses, post-Covid

PWC report says drastic cuts are needed to airline fleets, and also business restructuring.  PWC’s 2021 Aviation Industry Outlook says the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has permanently realigned the finances of airlines and many will go under.  It also says investors are ready to pick up bargains in distressed aviation deals.  “In order to survive and thrive in the post-Covid world, airlines will have to fundamentally re-think their fleets, their business models and their finances. For most, a return to business as usual is not going to be a viable option.” Airlines will not just be able to pick up where they left off last March, as many markets may have become uneconomic to serve. There are too many aircraft for the likely demand, which will not return for ages to the 2019 level of around 4.5 billion passenger trips.  About 30% of the global passenger airliner fleet – over 8,500 aircraft – are inactive. The massive debt of airlines will need “root and branch restructuring” in order to return to profitability.  IATA predicts the global airline industry will lose €98bn in 2020 and a further €32bn in 2021. Airlines have had at least €149bn to date in government support.

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Airlines and others depend on the “giant loophole” of future (unproven) carbon removal technologies

Governments and businesses worldwide are hoping they will be able to avoid making drastic carbon cuts, and instead somehow remove carbon from the air – avoiding climate breakdown. The UK’s Committee on Climate Change has advised the UK government that carbon dioxide removal (CDR) at scale, will be needed. All climate goals for “net-zero” depend to some extent on this rather dubious future “get out of jail free” technology. Now a paper by Greenpeace shows the extent to which these aspirations to remove CO2 from the atmosphere have become (as was predicted) a huge loophole.  Aviation is one of the sectors that most needs to depend on carbon removal, as its plans for continuing growth mean more fuel burned – and more carbon. The IPCC reports that the maximum sustainable CO2 removal in 2050 by new forests is between 500 – 3,600 Mt per year. The maximum for BECCS is 500 – 5,000 MtCO2.  Greenpeace says IAG alone anticipates using forests to offset 30 MtCO2/ year by 2050: thus exhausting up to 6% of the available total (if that was 500Mt). For American Airlines, CDR will be used to offset emissions equivalent to about 50% of the present total; for IAG it is over 95%.

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Heathrow passengers down 72.7% in 2020 (cf. 2019). ATMs down 57.8%. Cargo down 28.2%

Heathrow has published its figures for 2020, which was a year made completely abnormal, by the Covid pandemic.  Heathrow’s number of passengers was 72.7% lower than in 2019, with 22.1 million passengers, compared to 80.9 million in 2019 (ie. 58.8 million fewer).  As planes were less full than usual, with lower load factor, the number of flights (ATMs) was down by 57.8% for the year, compared to 2019 .The amount of cargo carried was down by 28.2%, which Heathrow blames partly on the limited number of passenger planes, the holds of which normally contain cargo.  The largest reduction in air passengers was to North America (79.5% down).  Until Covid, the number of Heathrow passengers rose relentlessly, even though the airport claims it is “full” (it always had extra terminal capacity).  In 2009 it had 65.9 million passengers;  in 2016 it had 75.7 million; in 2017 it had 78.0 million; in 2018 it had 80.0 million; and in 2019 it had 80.9 million.  The number of flights  (ATMs) in 2020 was 200,905; in 2018 was 480,339 and the number in 2019 was 479,811 (the figure is capped at 480,000 per year).

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Stansted Airport Public Inquiry into expansion plans – started 12th January

After over 3 years of fierce resistance by the local community, the proposed expansion of Stansted Airport will be decided by a Public Inquiry which opens on Tuesday 12th January.   The outcome will determine whether Uttlesford, East Herts, and other surrounding districts will continue to consist of largely rural communities or will, in time, become further blighted and urbanised in the same way as large areas around Gatwick and Heathrow airports.  Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) considers it entirely irrational, and potentially dangerous, for the Government’s Planning Inspectorate to insist that the Public Inquiry must start at the height of the Covid pandemic.  Stansted already has permission for 35 million passengers and its passenger throughput peaked at 28 million in 2018, with passenger numbers in decline since mid-2019, long before the pandemic. It is applying to expand to 43mppa.  In 2020, Stansted handled just 7 million passengers and has forecast that it will take years to return to pre-pandemic levels. Plainly, there is no urgency to increase the current planning cap.

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Letting Gatwick convert its emergency runway for full use would require capacity restrictions at other airports

Plans to bring Gatwick’s emergency runway into regular use would only be possible with a government intervention to prevent other airport expansions. This is what the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) advice indicates. The deputy director of the Aviation Environment Federation, Cait Hewitt, said: “Allowing Gatwick’s emergency runway to be used routinely as a second runway would only be possible if the government was to intervene to restrict capacity elsewhere in the UK, presumably by removing existing planning permissions – not an easy step to take”  – and that the CCC advice makes it clear that “aviation can no longer be let off the hook when it comes to UK climate policy … The CCC’s advice should represent a line in the sand when it comes to airport expansion. … Airport expansion runs directly counter to the net zero agenda. It has to stop.”  The Gatwick plans mean the emergency runway could be operating short-haul flights, by the end of the decade.  The CCC’s advice to government on the Sixth Carbon Budget, published on 9th December 2020, advises the government that any increase in UK airport capacity would need to be matched by restrictions at other airports to ensure no ‘net increase’.

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UK to need any arrivals to have negative Covid test under 72 hours earlier, but 10 day proper quarantine mandatory after arrival

The UK government is saying that, from Thursday 14th January, all international travellers, including Britons abroad, will have to produce evidence of a negative coronavirus test result (test under 72 hours from leaving the country) to enter England and Scotland, under new restrictions. This applies to those arriving by air, or by ferry or the Channel Tunnel. Those who arrive in England and Scotland without a negative test will face £500 on-the-spot fines. The period of 72 hours was chosen rather than the (better) 48 hours, as people abroad may find it difficult to get the test results that fast. The measure does not, of course, prevent people arriving in the UK carrying Covid virus, that either was not detected in the test (some are only 50-60% accurate), but also virus infection that they were incubating at the time of the test.  People will be required to isolate themselves for 10 days – “mandatory self isolation” – though there is no means to enforce it, or prevent people going to shops, on public transport etc, on their way home. Children aged under 11 and hauliers will not have to be tested.  Some have called for a test on arrival in the UK too, as well as as enhanced monitoring and enforcement of the quarantine. There are fears the South African strain of Covid may not be prevented by some vaccines, and it can enter the UK (some already has) and vaccines are the only way to stop the pandemic.

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Petition to government:  Ban Night Flights

 … Sign the petition … 

Aviation Communities Forum started this petition to The Secretary of State for Transport.

Night Flights are a real problem for many people impacted by flight paths to and from airports. They disturb sleep, cause annoyance, stress people out and can lead to real health problems.

Night flights are not essential to the UK economy.  [Many are just to allow low cost airlines to fit more “rotations” in per day, to get more people flying, more cheaply – not helping climate change].

From January to 21st March 2021, the UK Government is consulting on the future of night flights.  There is more information about the consultation here.

This is our chance to tell the DfT to ban night flights for good.

Sign the petition 


Letter to DfT: The Airports National Policy Statement should now be withdrawn, as it is out of date

The Supreme Court ruled, on December 16th, that the Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) was legal. The ANPS is the policy document necessary to Heathrow to proceed with plans for a 3rd runway. But the Court ruling does NOT give the runway consent. The government did not challenge the earlier ruling, in February, by the Appeal Court. The ANPS was written around 2017-18 and approved in Parliament in June 2018. Since then, life has moved on, and it is very out of date. The economics of the situation have changed; awareness of the climate implications of a runway is hugely greater; the Committee on Climate Change has given its advice on the Sixth Carbon Budget, and that aviation growth has to be constrained; knowledge has increased about the health impacts of air pollution from aircraft; and now Covid has reduced demand for air travel, which may never recover to its 2019 level.  Neil Spurrier, from the Teddington Action Group (TAG) has written to the DfT to ask that the ANPS is now withdrawn. He says the ANPS “is now completely out of date and should be withdrawn. I request that this is done pursuant to a review under section 6 of the Planning Act 2008 …”   See Neil’s full letter.

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Government legal restrictions on flying abroad in Covid lockdown – holidays, leisure trips are NOT allowed

The government guidance on travel abroad, under Covid lockdown in the UK, from 4th January 2021. “You can only travel internationally – or within the UK – where you first have a legally permitted reason to leave home. In addition, you should consider the public health advice in the country you are visiting. If you do need to travel overseas (and are legally permitted to do so, for example, because it is for work), even if you are returning to a place you’ve visited before, you should look at the rules in place at your destination and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) travel advice. UK residents currently abroad do not need to return home immediately. However, you should check with your airline or travel operator on arrangements for returning.  Foreign nationals are subject to the ‘Stay at Home’ regulations. You should not travel abroad unless it is permitted. This means you must not go on holiday.  If foreign nationals are visiting the UK, you may return home. You should check whether there are any restrictions in place at your destination. You cannot leave your home or the place where you are living for holidays or overnight stays unless you have a reasonable excuse for doing so. This means that holidays in the UK and abroad are not allowed.”

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British Airways to get a £2 billion loan, backed by UK Export Finance. It had a £300 million loan earlier

British Airways has been asking for financial help, to get it through the Covid pandemic. Now it has had a new £2 billion funding boost, through a state-backed loan. Its parent company, IAG, has secured commitments for a 5-year loan, underwritten by a syndicate of banks. It is being partially guaranteed by state-backed credit agency UK Export Finance (UKEF) and details are being finalised. The loan has covenants, including perhaps restrictions on dividend payments by the airline to IAG. The money will keep BA going until, it hopes, effective Covid vaccines during 2021 will enable air travel to resume, in high numbers. IAG said it “continues to have strong liquidity with cash and undrawn facilities of €8 billion as at November 30, excluding the UKEF facility.” But it is also looking at other sources of money.  BA had previously received £300 million over a year from a Bank of England loan programme for the UK’s biggest companies. It also claimed support from the taxpayer-funded furlough scheme.  IAG made a pre-tax loss of £6.2 billion pre-tax loss for the first 9 months of 2020, on revenues down 66% to £6.5 billion. BA is also cutting a quarter of its workforce – so losing 12,000 staff.  UK government said in December the UKEF would stop funding fossil fuels ….

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Gatwick investors say they will put in the money to develop its emergency runway for routine use

VINCI Airports and infrastructure fund GIP say they have committed to funding the next stage of a scheme to upgrade Gatwick’s ‘standby’ northern runway, for routine use. That would add around 90 extra flights per day. The northern runway is currently short, and is used as an emergency runway.  It is too close to the main runway to be used independently, for safety reasons.  But it could take short-haul planes in gaps between use of the main runway.  Gatwick – struggling with the impact of the Covid pandemic – says it will now develop the development consent order (DCO) application for the project, including environmental surveys. The airport intends to launch a public consultation this summer.  Gatwick’s biggest airline customers – BA, easyJet, Norwegian and Virgin Atlantic – have suspended or scaled back flights, or moved some to Heathrow.  Gatwick hopes passenger traffic will recover fast, once vaccination against Covid makes it safer to travel, with traffic back to the level in 2019 by 2023.  Gatwick claims the runway will not add to carbon emissions (as it does not include the emissions from flights). The CCC has said there should be no net airport expansion in the UK. If an airport expands, another should therefore contract.

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Effects on cardiovascular and respiratory systems of short-term exposures to ultrafine particles in air, near an airport, in healthy subjects

There is a growing body of research into the negative health impacts of very tiny particulate air pollution. The nanoparticles of ≤20 nm are produced by vehicle engines, but seem to be produced in considerable amounts by jet engines. A new study in the Netherlands looked at impacts on the respiratory and cardiovascular systems of 21 healthy young (18 – 35), non-smoking volunteers. They were exposed between 2 and 5 times to 5 hour periods of the ambient air near Schiphol airport, while doing intermittent moderate exercise like cycling. Various aspects of their circulation and respiration were measured. The study found the exposures were associated with decreased FVC (forced vital capacity – a measure of lung function) and prolonged QTc intervals (the time it takes the heart to re-polarise for the next beat).The effects were relatively small, but they appeared after single exposures of 5 h in young healthy adults. “As this study cannot make any inferences about long-term health impacts, appropriate studies investigating potential health effects of long-term exposure to airport-related UFP (ultra fine particles), are urgently needed.”

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Another study, this one from Switzerland, shows exposure to aircraft noise during sleep can trigger heart attacks

A study carried out by Swiss researchers looked at 24,886 deaths from cardiovascular disease from 2000–2015, in people living near Zurich Airport. They investigated the deaths in relation to night-time aircraft noise exposure. They found that those exposed to 40–50 decibels noise had a significantly higher risk (about 33%) of heart attacks in the few hours after the noise.  The risk was higher for noise above 55 decibels – about 44%.  For those susceptible, the effect of planes passing overhead can lead to death within 2 hours of the noise.  The Zurich study found aircraft noise contributed to about 800 out of 25,000 cardiovascular deaths that occurred between 2000 and 2015 in the vicinity of Zurich airport, which was 3%.  The study used a so-called ‘case-crossover’ model to determine whether the subject’s noise exposure around their time of death was unusually high in comparison to sounds levels they experienced at other, randomly-selected times. Previous research for the European Environment Agency estimated that noise exposure road, rail, aircraft, industry) causes 12,000 premature deaths and contributes to 48,000 new cases of ischemic heart disease per year across Europe. 

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Global air passenger traffic drop by 60% to 1.8 billion in 2020, compared to 4.5 billion in 2019

Global air passenger traffic is expected to be down by 60% in 2020, compared to 2019, at 1.8bn passengers – about the level in 2004.  Before the coronavirus outbreak hit the globe, the airline industry grew at a steady pace across all countries. IATA global data showed the number of scheduled airline passengers increasing for the last 15 years, from 1.9bn in 2004 to 4.5bn in 2019. The increase was both due to low cost airlines, and more affluent middle class people in the Asia Pacific region. It is possible, though nobody can predict what will happen with the Covid pandemic, that the number of air passengers might rise to around  2.8bn in 2021, which is still 40% less than pre-COVID 19 estimates for the year.  While the number of passengers was down around 60%, the number of flights was down about 43.5% – because planes were emptier. The number of air travellers in the UK was down around 73% this year, and Germany bout 76 % down.  Before Covid, the COVID-19, worldwide commercial airlines’ passenger revenues grew each year and jumped from $323bn in 2005 to $612bn in 2019.  But IATA expect their revenues to be down for 2020 by 67% to $191 billion. The figure in 2021 might, if Covid is controlled, be half the number in 2019.

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The problem of a Heathrow 3rd runway for regional airports – it means they cannot expand.

Letter from No 3rd Runway Coalition Chair, Paul McGuinness

Since the UK Parliament gave the go-ahead for Heathrow expansion in 2018 (by endorsing the Airports National Policy Statement), quite a lot has changed. The UK’s Net Zero Carbon target has famously been incorporated into law. And – just this month – the Westminster Government has announced we shall increase the speed of progress towards that target (by achieving 68% of the reductions in emissions by 2030). Moreover, the Climate Change Committee (the UK Government’s statutory adviser on the implementation of carbon commitments) has stated there is no room in the next “carbon budget” for any expansion in the UK’s net aviation capacity. This consolidated advice from 2019 that, were Heathrow to expand, restrictions would need to be applied to aviation activity across the UK. This could include the reduction of flights and, potentially, closures of regional airports across the UK, with reduced aviation connectivity for people the UK regions.  We should be interested to know if any readers would like to see aviation activity reduced at their local airport (or possibly see it forcibly closed) in order to afford Heathrow the opportunity of expanding, in the already prosperous south east of England.

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Legal challenges against government – new one by the Good Law Project on aviation and Heathrow

Environmentalists are using the law to force the government to bring infrastructure plans into line with its climate change commitments. There are already legal challenges, on energy and roads. The challenge on road building is by the Transport Action Network, and the energy one is by the Good Law Project.  Now the Good Law Project have started new legal action against the government, to the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS). They insist that the ANPS must now be aligned with the Climate Change Act (2008), which is now in force and which demands almost zero emissions by 2050. The ANPS was first written when some believed (wrongly) that airport capacity in south-east England was becoming over-loaded.  Good Law says the strategy should be reviewed due to the likely long-term reduction in business travel due to Covid.  In addition there can be no justification for expanding Heathrow, with the UK’s climate commitments. Boris has been a long term opponent of a Heathrow 3rd runway, so would perhaps welcome a simple – and wise in terms of carbon – way to prevent it, once and for all.  In another legal challenge, Plan B Earth intends to take the Heathrow case to the European Court of Human Rights. 

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Heathrow expansion would be a direct assault on this government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda

Paul McGuinness, Chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, writing in the Independent, says the judgement by the Supreme Court, that the Airports NPS is legal, will have disappointed many, in particular the local communities who have now lived beneath the black cloud of uncertainty about a 3rd runway for far too long. Many aspects of the ANPS are now seriously out of date – in particular the economic benefits, claimed for the expansion. The ANPS had assumed the runway would be operating by 2028 with a buoyant, growing aviation sector. But Heathrow abandoned plans to open by 2028 and has instead said – for many months – that the runway might not be needed till 2032 or 3035. They consider construction, phased over time, might take 30 years, not the 5 originally intended, and justified it economically on that basis. The economic case needs to be re-assessed. The problem of UK targets on carbon emissions mean the runway is impossible. There is also the “levelling up” agenda, which only came into play after parliament had approved the ANPS. The CCC has just advised for its sixth carbon budget, that there should be no net expansion of airports. A Heathrow 3rd runway would mean yet more aviation activity focused on the south-east, to the detriment of the regions. That is a direct assault on the “levelling up” agenda to which the government says it is committed. The UK needs a proper aviation policy for the whole country, not the ANPS that focused only on Heathrow.

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What does the Supreme Court judgement on Heathrow’s runway plans mean for the campaign to stop the 3rd runway?

A briefing note from the No 3rd Runway Coalition on what comes next, after the Supreme Court judgement (16th December) sets out some key issues. The Coalition says the judgement does NOT give Heathrow the green light; it us simply one hurdle cleared. Expansion faces:  1. Legal challenges. Plan B Earth intends to take proceedings to the European Court of Human Rights, on the danger to future generations from climate change.   2. Government can commit to reviewing the ANPS under Section 6 of the Planning Act 2008. This can refer to all or part of the statement.  The Act enables the Secretary of State to consider any significant change in any circumstances on the basis of which any policy in the statement was decided.  It can be argued that the Net Zero commitments, noise, air pollution, assessment of health impacts, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economics provide legitimate reasons for review.  The ANPS could be withdrawn.  3. The DCO process.  Though Heathrow can now proceed to submit an application for a Development Consent Order (DCO) to the Planning Inspectorate, this has to consider current climate obligations, including the UK’s net zero by 2050 target. And Heathrow has been seriously damaged financially by Covid. See the full briefing note.

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Supreme Court rules that the Airports NPS is legal; climate issues of a Heathrow runway would have to be decided at the DCO stage

The Supreme Court has ruled that the Airports NPS is lawful. In February 2020 the Appeal Court had ruled that it was not, on climate grounds. The ANPS is the national policy framework which governs the construction of a Heathrow 3rd runway.  Any future application for development consent to build this runway will be considered against the policy framework in the ANPS. The ANPS does not grant development consent in its own right. The Supreme Court rejected the legal challenges by Friends of the Earth, and Plan B Earth, that the then Secretary of State, Chris Grayling, had not taken climate properly into account, nor the UK’s commitments under the Paris Agreement. These are tricky points of law, and definition of the term “government policy” rather than the reality of climate policy.  Heathrow is now able to continue with plans to apply for a Development Consent Order (DCO) which is the planning stage of the runway scheme.The Supreme Court said at the DCO stage, Heathrow would have to show “that the development would be compatible with the up-to-date requirements under the Paris Agreement and the CCA 2008 measures as revised to take account of those requirements” and“The Court further holds that future applications [for the runway] will be assessed against the emissions targets and environmental policies in force at that later date rather than those set out in the ANPS.”

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“Heathrow expansion remains very far from certain”: Friends of the Earth reacts as Supreme Court rules on policy allowing third runway

Friends of the Earth UK (FoE) was one of the organisations that took their challenge of the High Court decision on Heathrow expansion, and the Airports NPS (ANPS), to the Court of Appeal.  Heathrow took that judgement, that the ANPS was illegal (of no legal effect) to the Supreme Court, which has now ruled that the ANPS is valid and legal.  Friends of the Earth say the judgement is “not a ‘green light’ for a 3rd Heathrow runway. It makes clear that full climate considerations remain to be addressed and resolved at the planning stage, where Friends of the Earth will continue the challenge against a 3rd runway.  In addition, the Government has been recently warned by its own advisers (the CCC) against net airport expansion.” FoE also say green jobs, low-carbon travel and the health and wellbeing of everyone must be government priority for 2021 and beyond.  A 3rd runway is far from certain, with many chances to block it in the planning stages. The UK’s obligations and targets have become much more challenging since the ANPS was designated and are only expected to get tougher, especially in light of the advice last week by the Committee on Climate Change that, in order to meet Net Zero Target, there should be no net increase in airport capacity.

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Between about 20 and 35% of future business travel may never return, post Covid

A study by some travel experts looked into the various sorts of business travel, how much of the total they make up, and how likely they are to decline, with the change in behaviour after Covid. They see various categories:  1. Internal corporate purposes, the most likely to decline. They make up around 20% of business air travel, and might fall by 40 – 60%.  2.  Commuting by air, about 5% of business travel; might fall by 40 – 60%.   3. Travel for external purposes will fall a bit.  4. Travel aimed at sales and securing clients, makes up 25% of total business travel is probably the most resilient, but might fall by 20%.  5. Travel to conventions and trade shows, comprise around 20% of all corporate travel, and could decline by 10 – 20%.  The finding that as much as perhaps 35% of future business travel demand may disappear holds huge implications for legacy airlines, which depend on the segment for a large chunk of their revenues.  Low cost airlines will be less affected. The longer the pandemic stretches on, the more firmly ingrained new work habits and technologies will become.

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Committee on Climate Change – recommendations to government – lots on aviation carbon changes and policies needed

The Committee on Climate Change has published its guidance for the UK government on its Sixth Carbon Budget, for the period 2033 – 37, and how to reach net-zero by 2050.  There is a great deal of detail, many documents, many recommendations – with plenty on aviation. The intention is for UK aviation to be net-zero by 2050, though the CCC note there are not yet proper aviation policies by the UK government to achieve this. International aviation must be included in the Sixth Carbon budget. If the overall aviation CO2 emissions can be reduced enough, it might be possible to have 25% more air passengers in 2050 than in 2018. The amount of low-carbon fuels has been increased from the CCC’s earlier maximum realistic estimates of 5-10%, up to perhaps 25% by 2050, with “just over two-thirds of this coming from biofuels and the remainder from carbon-neutral synthetic jet fuel …” Residual CO2 emissions will need to be removed from the air, and international carbon offsets are not permitted. There is an assumption of 1.4% efficiency improvement per year, or at the most 2.1%. There “should be no net expansion of UK airport capacity unless the sector is on track to sufficiently outperform its net emissions trajectory.”  The role of non-CO2 is recognised, but not included in carbon budgets; its heating effect must not increase after 2050.  And lots more …

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Heathrow hopes to charge cars £5 and increase passenger charge by £1.20 (then pay dividend again in 2022)

It seems Heathrow will lose around £1.5 billion this year, due to Covid and a drop of around 80% in passenger numbers.  The airport is hoping to impose a £5 “drop off” charge on any car coming into the airport to deposit or collect passengers, from the end of 2021 (blue badges and emergency vehicles excluded). There is a consultation about this.  Heathrow says it will “save jobs in the short term” while allowing the airport to hit its “long-term goals of providing safe, sustainable and affordable transport options”. (!) A much more effective way to boost its income is to increase its passenger charge. The intention is to increase it by £1.20, which could add £2.7bn to the airport’s regulated asset base (RAB), allowing it to increase charges (already, at £21 per head, among the highest in Europe). The airlines are vociferously opposed to this, understandably.  Heathrow is leveraged, with its consolidated net debt at £15.2bn in September 2020. But a key reason for all the borrowing is it has paid out £4 billion of dividends to its investors since 2012. There was a £500 payment announced in February 2020, and a £100m payment in April. Heathrow has now said it will not pay dividends for the rest of 2020, or 2021 but hopes to pay out £400 million in 2022.

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Covid impact on airport-related jobs shown in new jobless figures – bad in areas too dependent on aviation

The devastating toll the coronavirus pandemic in causing unemployment in areas heavily dependent on airports is growing ever more clear.  The number who have lost jobs around Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Luton and Stansted has risen by around 35% since March compared with surrounding areas. The pandemic was rapidly spread around the world by airlines, and they have been heavily impacted by necessary travel bans, in attempt to control the spread of Covid.  MPs in affected constituencies want the Government to help aviation businesses and their supply chains. According to the Commons Library figures, the unemployment claimant toll in Hayes and Harlington, next door to Heathrow, climbed from 2,725 in March to 7,750 in October – a 184% surge. In London as a whole, the rise was 156%.  In Crawley, West Sussex, next to Gatwick, it went from 2,030 to 5,655 – a 179% increase.  It rose by 140% in the wider South East region. And there are similar figures for areas near Manchester, Stansted and Luton airports. The industry says it will have difficulty recruiting staff again, if and when demand returns. Only time will tell if the industry will be considerably smaller in the years to come, and many staff will transfer into “greener” jobs that cause lower carbon emissions.

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Proposed planning policy changes could impact high carbon developments like Heathrow expansion (and Cumbria coal mine)

Several members of the House of Lords have said that National Planning Policy Statements (NPS) across industries should be updated to consider the UK’s commitments under the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement.  Labour peer Lord Whitty said that “the whole of the NPS needs to be revised in light of the commitment to net zero” and added that this should apply to “all sectors”.  If the NPSs are revised, that could have major implications for construction projects going forward, such as airport expansion (Heathrow and Gatwick want new runways).  The legal case that went to the Supreme Court on 7th October was about the Airports NPS and whether it adequately took into account the Paris Agreement. The decision by the court might be given by January 2021. The legal challenges by Plan B and Friends of the Earth said that carbon reduction targets in the agreement “needed to be taken into account”. Another project which could be affected is the Woodhouse coal mine in Cumbria, for which Cumbria County Council approved the planning application in October, despite objections of its likelihood of making the UK’s climate goals less achievable. The final decision still rests with communities secretary Robert Jenrick. The issue of climate needs to be addressed in an adequate  and consistent way in every NPS.

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Committee on Climate Change advises UK government to commit to reducing emissions by 68% cf. 1990 by 2030 (64% including IAS)

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC), the UK government’s official advisers on climate matters, will give its formal advice on the the UK’s Sixth Carbon Budget on 9th December 2020. Meanwhile the CCC’s Chairman, Lord Deben, has written to the Sec of State at BEIS, Alok Sharma, in response to his request for advice on the UK’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), under the Paris Agreement.  The CCC is advising that the UK should commit to reducing territorial emissions by at least 68% from 1990 to 2030.  It is equivalent to a 64% reduction including international aviation and shipping (IAS) emissions, the basis of the CCC recommended Sixth Carbon Budget.  This would place the UK among the leading countries in climate ambition. This is necessary, to give world leadership, as the UK hosts the COP26 talks in November 2021. However, the CCC say the 68% cut excludes emissions from IAS. There should be “additional actions to reduce the UK’s contribution to IAS emissions.” The CCC says of IAS: “these emissions …must be addressed if the temperature goal of the Paris Agreement is to be met. The UK’s NDC should include clear commitments to act on emissions from international aviation and shipping, including both long-term and interim targets.”

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Open letter to key European politicians, from environmental groups, asking for urgent action to cut aviation’s climate impact

More than 30 NGOs sent a letter to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Parliament President David Sassoli and European Council President Charles Michel, urging them to take action now to prevent climate-damaging emissions from aviation in the wake of recent analysis for the European Commission, which concludes that air traffic has three times the climate impact in relation to its CO2 emissions alone. The letter was co-ordinated by Stay Grounded and Greenpeace EU.  It asks that:  Measures must be implemented to reduce intra-EU and international flights. Short haul flights must be banned where there is a cleaner alternative and construction and expansion of airports must cease. All subsidies to airlines and airports must stop, including the tax exemptions on tickets and fuel.  Non-CO2 impacts have to be fully accounted for by the EU and member states. Under the precautionary principle, the amount of CO2 emitted by aircraft must be tripled in GHG reporting systems, including in national emissions inventories. And solutions to mitigate non-CO2 impacts such as contrail avoidance must be pursued without delay. See the full letter.

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DfT publishes night flights consultation – no concessions to airport groups for another 4 years…?

Historically, the DfT has set the night flight regime – for the “designated” airports, Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted – for periods of 5 years. The last regime was in 2017, for the period from October 2017 to October 2022. The DfT says: “The aim of the regime was to maintain the status quo and ensure that communities do not experience any overall increase in the noise created by night flights.” It has allowed a high level of night flights, with no reductions on earlier numbers, despite significant community opposition.  Seventeen airport groups wrote to the Aviation Minister on 10th November, asking that night flights should be limited in future, with a proper night period in which no flights are permitted (other than genuine emergencies). The aim was to make their point before the DfT consultation (by which time the DfT has decided what it intends to do …). The government has now published its new night flights consultation, for the period 2022 to 2024. The DfT intends there to be no change to the current regime (no concessions to suffering from being overflown at night) other than phasing out the noisiest planes, which airlines are getting rid of anyway, due to Covid. DfT says: “… we are also seeking early views and evidence on policy options for the government’s future night flight policy at the designated airports beyond 2024, and nationally.”

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Manston airport development DCO approval ‘to be quashed’ by government – with decision for refusal, by Planning Inspectorate, to be re-examined later

A hearing in February set for the legal challenge over the government’s decision to give permission for the development of Manston airport into an air freight hub will now not take place. The Secretary of State for Transport has said they will not contest the case.  The substantive hearing – which involves the lodging of  evidence from the defendant, and interested party (RiverOak Strategic Partners Ltd) – was to assess whether the Government followed correct procedure in reaching the decision to approve the DCO for the landowners, even though this overturned the recommendation of the Planning Inspectorate (PI). Now the DfT has acknowledged that the decision approval letter issued from the Minister of State did not contain enough detail about why approval was given against the advice of the PI.  This means the DCO approval for Manston airport will be quashed. It the development of Manston airport is to happen, it will require a new decision to be issued, after a re-examination of the Planning Inspectorate evidence. RiverOak Strategic Partners Ltd, will not be defending their claim. The Treasury Solicitor will now draft an order disposing of the case.  The order will have to be approved by all parties and submitted to the Court to be sealed – this final step may take several weeks.

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EASA report: aviation’s climate impact about x3 greater than previously thought

Aviation’s climate footprint could be 3 times bigger than its current estimate, according to a new study by the EU’s aviation regulator EASA, which has been sent to the European Commission. It examined the climate impact of aviation emissions other than CO2, which include nitrogen oxides, soot particles, oxidised sulphur and water vapour. The report found that after including the non-CO2 impacts “are currently warming the climate at approximately three times the rate of that associated with aviation CO2 emissions alone.”  This is likely to put airlines under more pressure to clean up the industry. Aviation is responsible for about 2.5% of global CO2 emissions, but that does not reflect aviation’s true climate impact. The non-CO2 impacts have been ignored for far too long, and must be properly assessed and included in plans to limit global heating and climate breakdown. Jo Dardenne, aviation manager at green group Transport & Environment, said measures like putting a tax on jet fuel could be introduced rapidly.  “The European Commission was first tasked with addressing the non-CO2 emissions of flying in 2008. It shouldn’t waste any more time in implementing the solutions that are available today.” 

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Boris Johnson’s hope for a zero carbon transatlantic flight dismissed as a gimmick – at best a one-off

Boris Johnson’s “jet zero” goal of a commercial transatlantic flight producing no carbon emissions by 2025 is a “gimmick”, according to experts, who say technology alone cannot solve the impact of global aviation on the climate crisis. Such a flight could only be a one-off and would encourage the view that other measures such as taxing jet fuel and frequent fliers were not needed to tackle aviation’s carbon problem.  The aviation industry says more fuel efficient planes and buying millions of tonnes of carbon offsets can compensate for big future increases in passenger numbers and carbon emissions. Instead independent experts say new taxes to deter flying are vital, to reduce demand. There may be a very small contribution from alternative fuels, made using surplus renewable energy (not competing with land needed for agriculture or causing deforestation) in future decades, but that is speculative. Long-haul electric or hydrogen planes are unlikely before the middle of the century, if ever, by which time emissions should already have been cut to zero. Tim Johnsons, from AEF, said as well as taxes, regulation was needed, and the inclusion of international aviation emissions in countries’ national carbon plans submitted to the UN. Currently they are exempt.

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UK cross-party group to lobby for Covid funds in areas that depend on airports

Cllr Steve Curran, the Labour leader of Hounslow council and Henry Smith, the Conservative MP for Crawley, have written an Opinion piece in the Guardian about the sorry state of their areas – with Heathrow and Gatwick areas badly hit by the collapse in demand for air travel.  They say they “have the awful distinction of heading the national league tables for furloughed and unemployed workers. ...There’s little prospect of aviation returning to anything like its previous levels, not even with the advent of a vaccine, not in the short term. The damage may well prove to be permanent … In Hounslow…and Crawley … 40% of our workforces were being supported by the state at the end of the summer. This number is likely to worsen. It is similar for parts of Birmingham, Essex, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Teesside, Newcastle and Glasgow and the other districts where concentrations of airport workers live.” They say it is not only the air crews and pilots but all the support workers. There will be an Aviation Communities Summit on Tuesday 24 November – to assess the economic and social harm, and to ask the government to establish an aviation communities fund to meet the immediate and longer-term needs.

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Even with so few flights, due to Covid, global aviation in 2020 still exceeding its CO2 target for 2050

In 2019, emissions from the global civil aviation sector were more than 900 million tonnes of CO2. In 2016 the figure was around 814 million tonnes, and around 650 million tonnes in 2005. IATA has a target that the sector’s carbon emissions will be half their level in 2005, by 2050 ie 325 million tonnes.  And that is to happen, while the industry aims for compound annual growth of 3%.  This year, due to Covid, global demand for air travel has been down hugely, with airports like Heathrow having as much as 80% fewer flights than a year ago.  But IATA has admitted that even with that immense reduction in flights this year, the sector will still have emitted more than 325 million tonnes of CO2.  This highlights the scale of the challenge for the industry, to “square the circle” of trying to keep growing, but emitting less carbon.  This issue is to be discussed at IATA’s virtual AGM on 24 November. The industry body ATAG is anticipating that demand for air travel, and hence carbon emissions by 2050, might be 16% lower than pre-Covid forecasts, as there has been behaviour change and social change, caused by the pandemic. 

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To save money, Heathrow to put its staff onto furlough for a month each, between 1st December and 31st March 2021

Heathrow is now to furlough its entire senior management team apart from its chief executive, John Holland-Kaye. It will also pave the way for more permanent job losses, as it is very unlikely that the 2019 level of demand for air travel will return for years, if ever.  Sky News reports that it has seen emails sent by Heathrow executives which detail plans for a new voluntary redundancy scheme and a requirement for staff to be placed on furlough for at least four weeks between 1st December and 31st March. Sky says: “Sources said the furlough requirement would apply to every Heathrow employee other than John Holland-Kaye.”  Not only senior management. The airport is estimated to have lost £1.5bn since the start of the Covid pandemic. It is losing about £5m every day while it remains open, with so few passengers or flights. The number of passengers was down 82% in October, compared to a year earlier. There have been talks with the trade unions, about job cuts, big pay cuts, worse pension terms and worse employment terms for many of the 5,700 people who work for the airport. There will be a 4 day strike in December, and unions say Heathrow “will grind to a halt”.

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Airport groups write to the Prime Minister to say the taxpayer should not have to pay for the decarbonisation of aviation

A number of airport community groups have written to the Prime Minister, in response to a letter that he has been sent by the lobbying body, “Sustainable Aviation.  The UK aviation industry leaders are asking the Government to co-finance the sector’s decarbonisation.  The community groups are pleased the industry is starting to realise that it must address its climate change effects and other adverse environmental impacts. Instead of yet more aspirational words, the industry should now start taking decisive and long-overdue action. Regrettably, however, its willingness to do so appears to be conditional on the taxpayer bearing the cost of the transition it needs to make. That should not happen: there is no economic or social case for public investment in aviation’s decarbonisation. Most flights are for leisure purposes; a high proportion are by frequent flyers; in any one year, about half the UK population does not get into a plane. The sector already receives an effective subsidy, by not paying VAT or fuel duty. Government’s role should be to regulate the industry’s emissions and other adverse environmental and health impacts properly, by setting and enforcing challenging targets and defined timescales. Aviation’s decarbonisation should be paid for by the industry, not by the taxpayer.

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Aviation points, mainly on future “Sustainable Aviation Fuels” from Boris’ 10-point plan for a “Green Industrial Revolution”

The Government has produced a new 10-point plan, “for a Green Industrial Revolution – Building back better, supporting green jobs, and accelerating our path to net zero.” Much is aimed at creating new jobs in new sectors.  There is little about aviation, and nothing of much substance, except hopes for “sustainable aviation fuels” (SAF) for future use.  It says government will put £15m into FlyZero – a 12-month study, delivered through the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), into the strategic, technical and commercial issues in designing and developing zero-emission aircraft that could enter service in 2030. Also a £15m competition to support Sustainable Aviation Fuels production. They will establish a Sustainable Aviation Fuels clearing house to enable the UK to certify new fuels, driving innovation in this space. There will be a consultation in 2021 on a Sustainable Aviation Fuel mandate to blend “greener” fuels into kerosene, which will create a market-led demand for these alternative fuels.  The mandate would start in 2025. Government will invest in R&D for the infrastructure upgrades required at UK airports to move to battery and hydrogen aircraft. And there will be a consultation on an Aviation Decarbonisation Strategy in 2021.

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New study shows that 1% of people cause half of global aviation emissions

Just 1% of the world’s population caused 50% of aviation’s carbon emissions.   (2018)

About 70% of UK flights are taken by 15% of the people.    UK Data (2014)

1% of English frequent flyers took nearly 20% of all flights abroad.   (2018)

The 10% most frequent flyers in England took over 50% of all international flights.  (2018)

48% of the UK population did not fly at all.   (2018) 

A study by Linnaeus University in Sweden found that frequent-flyers who represent just 1% of the world’s population caused 50% of aviation’s carbon emissions in 2018. They also said that only 11% of the world’s population took a flight in 2018; of those only 4% flew abroad rather than within their own country. The carbon emissions of US air passengers are bigger than those of the next 10 countries combined, including the UK, Japan, Germany and Australia. The lead author of the study, Stefan Gössling, said: “If you want to resolve climate change and we need to redesign [aviation], then we should start at the top, where a few ‘super emitters’ contribute massively to global warming.”  Aviation in 2019 emitted around 1 billion tonnes of CO2 and benefited from a $100bn (£75bn) subsidy by not paying for the climate damage they cause, with most not paying fuel duty, or VAT in Europe. In a typical year, like 2018, 48% of people in the UK did not fly at all; the figure was 53% in the US; and 65% in Germany.

Other data shows in the UK that about 70% of flights are taken by 15% of the people. Also just 1% of English residents are responsible for nearly 20% of all flights abroad; and the 10% most frequent flyers in England took more than 50% of all international flights in 2018.

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Leeds Bradford Airport expansion could COST region £3.1bn over 26 years, claims think tank, the New Economics Foundation

The think-tank, the New Economics Foundation (NEF), has worked out that the proposed expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport could cost the region up to £3.1billion in lost economic activity by 2050. The plans would enable the airport to handle 7 million annual passengers, up from around 4 million in 2019. Most passengers will be on low cost leisure flights.  The claims by the airport ignore the huge loss to the UK because people who fly abroad on holiday do not spend that money in the UK.  The airport also claims (as all airports always do) that the expansion will create many new jobs. In fact, the aviation sector becomes increasingly automated, with fewer and fewer jobs per 1,000 passengers – and this has accelerated through the Covid-19 crisis.  NEF says: “The predicted business benefits are overstated, because businesses are making less and less use of air travel, especially in the fallout from coronavirus.”  Also that: “With the leisure and hospitality industries on their knees, this expansion would damage the local recovery from the Covid pandemic.”

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Local campaign groups oppose Luton Airport expansion plans and flight path changes, due to noise

Two campaign groups dedicated to reducing noise from Luton Airport have hit out at its latest plans for expansion. LADACAN (Luton And District Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise) and STAQS (St Albans Quieter Skies) have rejected the airport’s plans as “both unjustified and unmerited” in a series of responses to the consultation (ends 5th Feb 2021). LADACAN said: “Airport growth going forward has to be more responsibly managed than in the past. The industry is innately carbon-inefficient at present due to outdated airspace design, which forces planes into holding stacks and causes Luton departures to be held low sometimes for 15-20 miles. This is very wasteful of fuel and causes far more widespread noise than necessary.” They also say the latest aircraft introduced into the Luton fleet, the Airbus A321-neo was meant to be a bit less noisy than the A321, but it is not.  STAQS said claims of a 2dB noise benefit from the A321-neo in the Airport’s noise reduction strategy are ‘wishful thinking’.  “Luton Council needs to send Luton Airport a really clear signal that noise conditions are there for a purpose, which might focus some effort on growth balanced by mitigation, as the government requires.”

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Suspension of airport “80/20” slot usage rule to last till end of March 2021 – Gatwick not happy

Gatwick airport wants the UK and European regulators to reinstate rules that force airlines to use 80% of their lucrative take-off and landing rights, or lose them, before summer 2021. Wingate wants airlines to give back slots they cannot use, so other airlines such as Wizz Air can come to Gatwick, driving down air fares and getting more bums on airline seats (helping Gatwick survive). The European regulations insisting 80% of landing slots are used were suspended for 6 months, from March, due to the decimation in air travel demand caused by Covid. This was done so airlines would not fly empty planes, just to say the slot has been used. The restriction has been extended for another 6 months, to 27th March 2021, as air travel demand will remain very low. There is discussion within the industry if this should continue into next summer, and even industry lobby body, Airlines UK, is in favour of not wasting fuel and generating CO2, with flights by empty planes. Gatwick’s Stewart Wingate wants the UK to do its own thing on the “80/20” slot rule, after it leaves the EU. Several airlines have said they will leave Gatwick, some going instead to Heathrow.

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Covid tests for returning air passengers will be needed for years, even with Covid vaccine

Airline passengers will need to take Covid-19 tests before flying long after a vaccine for the viral infection is introduced. This has been admitted by the CEO of Heathrow Airport, John Holland-Kaye. The time required for a global vaccine roll-out means testing must go hand-in-hand with inoculation if there is to be much international travel in the next few years. “Even with the UK getting early access to a vaccine it’ll take a year and a half to vaccinate the entire country,” Holland-Kaye told Bloomberg TV. “It’s going to take much longer before even the fastest vaccine can really have a massive impact around the world.”  Though there is now optimism that the first vaccine might come in to use in the next few months,  it’s not clear how air-transport regulators will respond and how quickly people will be allowed to fly (or want to). People would still need to be tested before their arrival, on arrival, and perhaps 5 and 7 days after arrival – with quarantine before given a final clear test.  It will depend how other countries are dealing with immunisation and infection reduction. And young people are not going to get the vaccine quickly.

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European Investment Bank (EIB) may ban cash for airport expansion or conventionally‐fuelled aircraft

The European Investment Bank (EIB) could withdraw support for new airports, according to a draft climate roadmap seen by EURACTIV.  However, the bank is set to keep funding motorways, as well as approving investments under the old rules until 2022. According to the EIB’s leadership and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the bank should become “the EU’s climate bank” and a new strategy seeks to align the lender’s investment planning with the Paris Agreement by the end of 2020. It aims to stop lending to fossil fuel companies, and instead lend to renewable energy and other low-carbon projects. Half of the bank’s lending will be for climate projects by 2025 but the other 50% will need to be “Paris-proofed”.  On 11 November, its directors will consider adopting the new climate plan.  An EIB draft says “support will be withdrawn from airport capacity expansion and conventionally‐fuelled aircraft”; this is something that has been requested by civil society groups. They might instead invest in improving the efficiency and environmental footprints of existing airports. Over the last 3 years, €4 billion was invested in airports.

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Groups write to Aviation Minister, asking for new limits on night flights – including need for an 8-hour night period

A long list of organisations and groups have signed a letter to the Transport Minister, Robert Courts, asking for action to limit night flights.  It is understood that the government intends to publish a consultation and call for evidence on night flights later this year.  The groups hope the DfT will take their views into consideration, and not (as in 2017) decide policy on night flights BEFORE consulting.  They say that all night flights, other than for emergency and humanitarian purposes, should be banned at all UK airports. The period defined as night should be an eight hour period. If any night flights are to be permitted, their number and impacts should be regulated far more robustly than they are now, at all airports. In the past, the government has argued that the economic benefits of allowing planes to fly at night outweigh the health and quality of life costs of those negatively affected. This can no longer withstand scrutiny, as many flights are just to perpetuate a low-cost carrier business model that generates unsustainable levels of leisure flights. The demand for business flights is increasingly replaced by internet communications, and most air freight does not need to arrive the next day.

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IATA says airlines unable to cut costs enough to save jobs – even if pay is reduced

IATA says the airline industry cannot cut costs sufficiently to prevent severe “cash burn” to avoid bankruptcies and preserve jobs in 2021. IATA wants governments to provide money for airlines, to keep them going and avoid redundancies.  At a time of increasing Covid in many countries, including Europe, IATA is (rather bizarrely, but for self interest of the airlines) asking for relaxed measures on Covid. They want more people flying, with less comprehensive quarantine for passengers, which risks increasing infections. IATA says the airline industry’s revenues will be down about 66% this year, compared to 2019, and down perhaps 46% in 2021, compared to 2019.  IATA says without additional government financial relief, the median airline has 8.5 months of cash remaining at current burn rates. The airlines are not able to cut fixed costs in line with reduced income. Around 50% of airlines’ costs are fixed or semi-fixed, at least in the short-term. The cost per passenger flown, or per available plane seat, have risen – as planes are not full.”  It considers cutting labour costs by about 50%, and even then airlines would be making a loss.

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Nine years late and x3 over budget due to problems, Berlin’s Brandenburg Airport finally opens (during a pandemic)

Berlin’s ‘laughing stock’ airport to finally opens, nine years late and three times over budget (nearly €6 billion) – after years of problems. Its timing, during the Covid pandemic, is bad. The opening of Berlin-Brandenburg Willy Brandt Airport (BER) as it is known, was meant to be a moment of triumph for Berlin, as a gleaming new interconnected hub that suited its status as the capital of Europe’s biggest economy.  Critics say it now has the look and feel of a costly white elephant, a throwback to a bygone era of mass tourism and global mobility that Covid-19 has ended.  With all its design and structural problems, BER had become a “laughing stock”, of which many German engineers were ashamed. There will be no opening party, as the airport will have few passengers.  BER has four times more space than the tiny Tegel city airport it replaces. BER was meant to start making a profit from 2025 and pay off its outstanding €3.5bn in loans over 10 years.  But now it needs additional financing of over €300m this year, with some €50m-€60m raised from internal cost-cutting measures and €260m from the airport’s shareholders — the German federal government and the authorities in Berlin and Brandenburg.

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After decades, Heathrow no longer Europe’s busiest airport; now it’s Paris Charles de Gaulle

Heathrow has lost its place as Europe’s busiest airport for the first time after being overtaken by Paris’s Charles de Gaulle. In the 9 months to September, Heathrow had about 18.976 million passengers; Charles de Gaulle had 19.27m; Amsterdam’s Schiphol had 17.6m and Frankfurt had 16.16m, according to Heathrow.  Heathrow said it lost £1.5 billion in the first 9 months of 2020.  While Heathrow has for decades boasted about being the busiest airport in Europe, it is now trying to put pressure on the government, to relax Covid testing and quarantine restrictions, to allow Heathrow to make money again.  Heathrow wants people to be able to avoid 14 days quarantine, on arrival in the UK – at a time when Covid is rising again, rapidly, across Europe and elsewhere.  Heathrow makes out that increasing its number of air passengers is for the good of the UK; it often conflates what is good for Heathrow (and some jobs locally) with what is good for the UK. Heathrow’s revenue in the third quarter of the year fell 72% compared with 2019, to £239m. Now, with Covid returning for a second wave, Heathrow anticipates 22.6m passengers in 2020 and 37.1m in 2021, compared to 81m  in 2019.

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ACI estimates that 193 out of Europe’s 740 commercial airports in UK and Europe could go bust due to Covid collapse in air travel

Airports Council International Europe (ACI Europe) has said that due to the decline in demand for air travel caused by Covid, some 193 airports across Europe and the UK face insolvency in the coming months if air passenger traffic does not increase by the year end. The most vulnerable are small regional airports.  There are claims for the number of jobs that could be lost, and the amount of GDP (for many European countries, aviation brings in money and tourists – while for the UK it takes both out). The airports and airlines want more government finance, to keep them going. ACI estimates that there were around 1.29 billion fewer air passengers, using European airports in the first 9 months of this year.  It does not appear likely that winter tourism will provide much airline demand, with Covid restrictions in so many countries. Many airlines have slashed their capacity plans for the reminder of the year and into 2021. The larger airports have been cutting costs to the bone and resorted to the financial markets to shore up balance sheets. Airports are burning through cash to remain open.  The increase in debt – an additional €16 billion for the top 20 European airports – is equivalent to nearly 60% of their revenues in a normal year. 

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AEF’s excellent “Airports Expansions Guide” updated – useful summaries of all UK airport expansion plans

Airports with formal applications to expand:

Bristol Airport
Heathrow Airport
Leeds Bradford Airport
Manston Airport
Southampton Airport
Stansted Airport

Airports planning for significant growth in future:

Gatwick Airport
London City Airport
Luton Airport

The Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) has produced a very useful webpage of information, to show – at a glance – which English airports are planning to expand, which have already submitted applications, and what stage they have reached so far.  Surprisingly, with the dramatic fall in the demand for flights due to Covid, airports still seem to be hoping to – not only get back to 2019 levels of flying – but expand further.  AEF lists those with formal applications to expand: Bristol, Heathrow, Leeds Bradford, Manston, Southampton and Stansted.  The airports also planning for significant growth in future are: Gatwick, London City and Luton airports. All these expansion plans would cause increased noise problems for people living under or near flight paths in future, and other negative local impacts. But all would add significantly to the UK’s aviation carbon emissions.  The judgement by the Supreme Court on the Airports NPS (especially affecting Heathrow) is expected, perhaps by January 2021, which will give clarity on whether UK aviation could expand, if the country is to meet obligations to cut carbon emissions.

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Manston airport judicial review: permission granted for legal challenge

A judge has granted permission for a legal challenge against the government’s decision to reopen Manston airport. The crowdfunder set up to help pay for a judicial review has now reached more than £80,000. Now the application for the review has been granted, the Secretary of State’s decision in July to approve a development consent order to open Manston as a freight cargo air hub will be challenged in court. The legal battle was launched by Jenny Dawes, the chair of Ramsgate Coastal Community Team. Solicitors Kate Harrison and Susan Ring of Harrison Grant are acting for her, and instructing barristers Richard Wald QC and Gethin Thomas. The reasons for opposing the reopening of the airport for freight are partly due to the noise, as the arrival flight path is directly over Ramsgate, near the airport. There are also strong arguments on air pollution and the UK’s climate targets. The advice of the Planning Inspectorate was to refuse permission for DCO. Jenny said:  “According to the government’s own experts, re-opening the airport will damage the local economy and impact negatively on the UK’s carbon budget and our commitments to the Paris climate agreement.”

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Local campaign GACC sets out the actions needed for Gatwick to “build back better”

The local campaign group, GACC (Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign) has set out the steps that need to be taken to ensure Gatwick does “build back better.”  Gatwick’s operations and the flights it facilitates need to become compatible with climate change imperatives and  the airport must reduce its noise and other environmental impacts, in contrast to what has been happening at the airport during the past decade. At a meeting of the airport’s statutory consultative committee, GATCOM, on 15th October, GACC laid out a series of national and local measures needed to build Gatwick back better. GACC’s full statement  The measures include setting legally enforceable zero carbon targets for aviation; ensuring aviation pays a higher, fairer, contribution towards public finances through more equitable taxes, focused particularly on frequent flyers; phasing out of public subsidies that distort the industry’s economics; putting in place effective noise regulation; and ending night flights, that negatively impact people’s health and welfare. There also needs to be diversification around Gatwick, so the area is no longer so economically dependent on one sector. Gatwick should not be allowed to even to return to its 2019 size, let alone expand.

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Pressure in Norway and Netherlands for a minimum air ticket price – Austria may get a €40 minimum

The Norwegian Pilots’ Association believes it may be sensible to set a minimum price for airline tickets in Norway.  This has been prompted by the low-cost airline Wizz Air setting up of new domestic routes within Norway.  In Austria, a minimum price of EUR €40 has been set for a plane ticket, as ultra-cheap tickets undermine both climate policy and liveable wage standards.  When airlines lower the price of a flight to about the price of a cup of coffee and a bun, “something is not as it should be.”  The very cheap flight prices by Wizz Air are to beat competition from SAS and Norwegian, with tickets as cheap as  Norwegian Kroner NOK 199 [about £16.40] per ticket from November 5. Currently within Europe airlines can determine their ticket prices.  In June in the Netherlands, it was proposed that there should be a minimum air ticket price of €34 for plane tickets. The concern in the Dutch House of Representatives was that there would be a major competitive battle at Schiphol due to Covid, for the preservation of air rights. So airlines would try to fill their planes, to keep their routes, by lowering the prices hugely.  A minimum ticket price may get support in Holland from parties on the left.

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UK Government undecided on how to price carbon after leaving the EU ETS

Until the end of December 2020, the carbon emissions from key sectors of the UK economy come under the European Emissions Trading System (ETS).  From January 2021, a new system has to be put in place. The options are either for the UK to have its own ETS, or alternatively to tax carbon. The Treasury is keen on the economy-wide carbon tax. The BEIS is keen on a new ETS. There might also be a hybrid scheme. A decision is expected by early December, but this lack of charity is very late for business etc that need to plan now for what they will be doing in 2021. Some companies would end up paying less with an ETS than with a carbon tax, if the price of carbon allowances is too low.  The current EU ETS carbon price is about £24 per tonne, but the UK ETS price could be around £15.  Within the EU ETS, only flights within the EU are included – not flights outside Europe, so the scope is very limited. It is important that aviation pays tax on its carbon, and it is also important that the system is in place from January 2021, not a year or two later. The Aviation Environment Federation says: “In the event that the UK does not develop its own emissions trading system, there is a risk that UK aviation will not be subject to any carbon pricing from 1 January 2020. This would be a backward step, and send the wrong message…”  

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Green Party calls for end of adverts for “high carbon” goods & services – eg. SUVs and long-haul flights

At their party conference, members of the Green Party of England & Wales backed an ambitious climate motion to ban advertising for high carbon goods and services,  eg. SUVs and long haul flights. This brings it into official Party policy.  They want advertising rules to be brought into the 21st century.  “This will spark a long overdue conversation about the role of advertising in our lives” says Green Party peer Natalie Bennett.  There are already many restrictions on advertising on products which are socially and physically harmful, such as tobacco which was banned from being advertised and promoted in the UK since 2003. There is good evidence that this tobacco advert ban was effective, awareness about smoking rose, and levels of smoking fell. In August 2020, the ‘Badvertising’ campaign called for adverts for SUVs to be banned, noting that such vehicles make up more than 40% of new cars now sold in the UK, while fully electric vehicles count for less than 2%. We need to stop adverts for products that trash the planet, needlessly encouraging the sale of more of them. 

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‘SNP must review policy and reject Heathrow expansion’, former minister says – need SNP conference debate on it

The SNP has been asked to change its policy, to now oppose the expansion of Heathrow Airport, due to carbon emissions.  Marco Biagi was communities minister until he stood down from the Scottish Parliament in 2016. He wants the SNP to adopt “a presumption against any major airport expansion” at next month’s SNP Conference, which is to be held virtually on 28th to 30th November.  After intense lobbying from Heathrow, and suggestions of more routes and more jobs for Scotland if there was a 3rd runway, since 2016 the Scottish Government has officially backed the runway plans. But the SNP finally abstained in the Commons from voting for the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) in June 2018. Mr Biagi said the SNP’s support for the 3rd runway had never been debated at a SNP conference.  Aviation CO2 emissions are rising, and this is against Scottish policies on climate. He said: “Across Europe there is a growing realisation of the need for alternatives to ever-expanding air travel, especially on short-haul routes like those between Scotland and London. On this issue, do we want to follow the climate-wrecking Conservatives or be part of the European mainstream?”

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CAA likely to prevent Heathrow increasing its airport charges to cover Covid losses of £1.7bn

Heathrow wanted to increase charges to compensate for the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. But its regulators, the CAA, have rejected its request to increase airport charges by £1.7bn to Covid losses. The CAA said Heathrow’s demands were not “proportionate”. Heathrow operates under a regulatory mechanism that allows it to increase airport charges based on the costs it incurs, but this has to be agreed by the CAA.  Separately, Heathrow is waiting on a final decision from the CAA on whether it can recharge airlines £500m for costs it has built up, prematurely, in (unwise)preparation for the building of a 3rd runway – even before all legal and planning hurdles were overcome. Heathrow said revenue losses in 2020 and 2021 would be more than £2.2bn – ie. the £1.7billion + the £500 million.  The CAA now has a consultation (ends 5th Nov) on Heathrow’s request for RAB adjustment.  IAG, said “Heathrow is a wealthy, privately owned company which should seek funds from its shareholders as many other businesses in our industry have done to weather this pandemic. We look forward to participating in the CAA’s consultation process.”

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Heathrow Airport expansion: Supreme Court Appeal hearing on the ANPS. Briefing by Friends of the Earth

The hearing at the Supreme Court of the appeal by Heathrow against the judgement of the Appeal Court, in February took place on 7th and 8th October.  The case is whether the Airports NPS (ANPS) is illegal, because it did not properly consider carbon emissions and the UK’s commitments under the Paris Agreement. Friends of the Earth have explained their arguments, against those of Heathrow. (It is complicated legal stuff …) There is no onward appeal from the Supreme Court.  If any one of the grounds that won in the Court of Appeal remains, and the Supreme Court agrees that the Order made by the Appeal Court should still stand, then the ANPS will remain of no legal effect [ie. not valid or legal] until reviewed. [So the runway cannot go ahead]. The Secretary of State (SoS) for Transport must then consider if the government wish to leave it at that, or review the ANPS policy framework, to amend it. If the SoS does that, s/he will probably need to make changes that materially alter what the ANPS says. Such changes will need to be approved by Parliament following consultation, before the new ANPS can come into force. And if the FoE Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) challenge wins, there would need to be a new SEA and a new public consultation.

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Weds 7th and Thurs 8th October – Supreme Court Heathrow hearing

BREXIT: The UK Supreme Court Becomes an Exemplar of Adjudication

Supreme Court hearing of the appeal by Heathrow against the ruling by the Appeal Court in February, that the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) was illegal, because it did not take the UK’s commitments under the Paris Agreement properly into account.

Case details from the Supreme Court:  https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/uksc-2020-0042.html

The Appellant is Heathrow Airport Ltd.
The Respondents are  (1) Friends of the Earth Ltd, (2) Plan B Earth

The hearing will take place online, not in person. It can be followed online at https://supremecourt.uk/live/court-01.html

Tune in from 10.30am on Wednesday 7th to hear Heathrow’s case and from 3.30pm to hear the response by Friends of the Earth.  Plan B Earth will respond on Thursday.

The ruling is not anticipated for several months.

Plan B Earth info document (2 pages) about the Supreme Court hearing is here  

The Plan B Earth case for the hearing is set out here


France proposes much higher air ticket taxes, of €30 for <2,000km and €60 for longer (€180 and €400 for business class)

The French government is considering introducing much more tax on flying.  Air travel pays no fuel duty and also pays no VAT in the EU. Currently the UK has some of the highest flight taxes, of just £13 for a short haul flight, and £80 on long haul (rising to £82 from April 2021). This tax is to compensate for the lack of income to the Treasury for the absence of fuel duty or VAT. Now France is considering (it is not agreed) taxing economy flights of under 2,000km, €30 and €180 for business class.  The tax is only for a departure, not for an arrival.  For flights of over 2,000 km the tax would be €60 for economy class, and €400 for business class.  And €2,400 for private jet flights. Earlier this year, France introduced a tiny “air passenger solidarity tax,” which starts at €1.50 for a short haul economy ticket, and at the most is €18 for a long haul business class ticket. That level of tax is not enough to have any effect on achieving any environmental offset, or deterring flying. The higher levels of tax just might … France’s Ministry of Ecological Transition is having a final meeting about the suggested changes on Saturday, and a bill is expected to be introduced in parliament by the end of October.

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IATA now expects full-year 2020 traffic to be down 66% compared to 2019; previous estimate was for a 63% fall

IATA downgraded its traffic forecast for 2020 to reflect a weaker-than-expected recovery, with little demand for air travel. They now expect full-year 2020 traffic to be down 66% compared to 2019. The previous estimate was for a 63% declineIn August demand, expressed as revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) down 75.3% compared to August 2019. It had been down 79.5% in July.  The falls were less for domestic air passengers than international August capacity overall (available seat kilometres or ASKs) was down 63.8% compared to a year ago, and load factor was down -27.2% to an all-time low for August of 58.5%. (ie. planes are much less full).  The fall in international passengers in August was down -88.3% compared to August 2019, and it had been – 91.8% in July.  The load factor fell 37.0% to 48.7%. In June, IATA was relatively confident of a recovery in air passenger demand by late summer. Due to Covid restrictions by most countries, it did not happen. In June IATA  expected airlines to lose $84.3 billion in 2020 for a net profit margin of -20.1%. They expected revenues to fall 50% to $419 billion from $838 billion in 2019. And for 2021, losses were expected to be cut to $15.8 billion with revenues rising to $598 billion. Now it is worse than that.

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APD to rise on long-haul only (>2,000 miles) from £80 to £82 from April 2021 – no change in short haul £13 APD

Air Passenger Duty (APD) –  the UK duty on flights – is set to increase for flights of over 2,000 miles, in April 2021.  The APD will rise from £80 now to £82, for a return flight – APD is only charged on departures.  For premium class air tickets of over 2,000 miles, the APD will rise by £4 from £176 to £180.  There will be no increase in APD for flights under 2,000 miles, which means any flight in Europe, which will continue to pay just £13 for a return trip (£26 premium class).  The rate for long-haul private jet etc rises from £528 to £541. (The distance is measured from London to the capital city of the destination country.)  This tiny APD rise is not doing to deter anyone flying.  The increase come  despite calls from the aviation industry to freeze or even scrap APD due to the problems the sector has because of the Covid pandemic.  There have been many calls for APD on domestic return flights to be scrapped, (as the APD is £26, not the £13 for a European flight) but there is no mention of those in the government announcement.  Perhaps the government appreciates that airlines take money out of the UK, and passengers to foreign leisure trips, o a far greater extent than they bring money in.

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Reading to Heathrow train line delayed by two years – at least

The Great Western rail link between Reading to Heathrow will be delayed by up to two years. A DCO application to construct the new line was expected this year but has now been delayed until winter 2021/2022 – at the earliest.  A spokesman for Network Rail said the Reading to Heathrow line has been delayed due to the court of appeal’s ruling against plans to expand Heathrow and the impact of Covid-19 on the aviation industry. The Supreme Court will hear Heathrow’s appeal against the Appeal Court decision, on 7th and 8th October. If Heathrow was to win the case (a massive IF) then the rail link – to speed passengers getting to the airport – a new tunnel would be created connecting Reading to Heathrow in around 20-30 minutes, with passengers from Reading currently having to use the 50-minute Rail Air bus or go into London to get to the airport.  Reading Station and Heathrow Airport both already have terminus platforms built for the line in anticipation of the scheme. The Department for Transport (DfT) is looking to fund the project with help from Heathrow Airport on the basis of expansion, apparently. (Though Heathrow is struggling financially to survive now …)

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Airbus – in dire financial problems – talks of plans for hydrogen fuelled future planes

Airbus has been publicising its hopes to have hydrogen-fuelled passenger planes in service within 20 years.  Apart from the technical problems of how to store liquid or compressed hydrogen on a plane, and how to transport it etc, there is the massive problem of the energy it would take to generate the vast amount of hydrogen that would be needed. Currently there is “blue” hydrogen, which is generated from fossil fuels, and the production of which emits carbon (unless and until there is CCS to store that CO2 underground) or “green” hydrogen, which would be produced using low carbon electricity, from wind farms etc. Currently there is almost no “green” hydrogen. There are claims that burning hydrogen at high altitude would not cause the emission of soot particles, so contrails might form less than conventional jet kerosene. It would certainly produce water vapour. The necessary atmospheric research studies probably have not been done, at scale. Hydrogen, like electric planes and wonderful zero carbon fuels, are the magical hopes of the sector – that their climate problem can be (improbably) solved. Meanwhile Airbus’ CEO announced it is in danger of collapse, due to Covid, and it needs to cut 15,000 jobs, or more than 11% of the group’s workforce.

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CAA review finds Heathrow ‘wasted’ money and was “inefficient” as costs of 2 tunnel refurb projects costs spiral

The CAA’s economic performance review concludes that Heathrow has “wasted” money on two ongoing tunnel refurbishment schemes and acted inefficiently.  The cost overrun of both schemes combined is estimated at £212.4M, although the CAA suggests that those costs could be inflated further by the time work is completed.  Costs on the cargo tunnel job between Terminal 4 and the Central Terminal Area have soared by £152M, from its approved £44.9M budget to the current final cost of £197M, the report reveals.  The cost of upgrading the main vehicular tunnel to Terminals 1, 2 & 3 has risen by £60.3M from an approved budget of £86M to £146.3M. On the cargo tunnel, the CAA states that “there is clear evidence that the actions of HAL may have directly contributed to wasted spending or lost benefits”. The delays have lead to a loss of benefits to consumers. Heathrow could have been more efficient in managing its work contractors. The CAA will now assess whether to remove costs associated with the tunnel refurbishments from HAL’s Regulated Asset Base (RAB) – which effectively means HAL would have to pay for cost overruns, rather than charging airlines.

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Dodgy economics behind plans to expand our airports – they won’t tackle unemployment, or bring more money to the UK

A useful article from the New Economics Foundation looks at the reality of claims about the economic benefits of expanding airports. Traditionally airports have said they are vital for business travel; the reality is that a small proportion of air passengers are on any sort of business trip, and that is especially the case at regional airports. Most air passengers are British people flying on leisure trips abroad (to spend their money there).  Regional airports claim that they merely take passengers who would otherwise have flown from the larger airports, such as Heathrow and Gatwick. The reality is more people take cheap leisure flights from a convenient local airport.  There is always a lot of hype about the number of jobs that airport expansion will create, but in fact the sector has been automating as much as it can, and the number of jobs  – the “job intensity” – is lower than it was in 2007, while the number of passengers has risen significantly. Airports have also reduced squeezed the working conditions of some airport workers, to gain “efficiencies.” NEF says: “Despite what airport executives say, expanding our airports won’t tackle unemployment or bring more money to the UK.”

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Plan B Earth case for Supreme Court appeal by Heathrow, against Appeal Court ruling that ANPS was illegal, due to Paris Agreement

On 7th and 8th October, there will be a Supreme Court hearing of the appeal, by Heathrow airport, against the ruling by the Appeal Court in February 2020 that the Government’s Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) was illegal. Heathrow cannot proceed with plans for a 3rd runway, without a legal ANPS.  The government itself decided not to challenge the Appeal Court decision – it is only Heathrow.  Friends of the Earth and Plan B Earth are defending the case. The decision of the Appeal Court was due to the failure of the ANPS to properly take into account the UK’s commitment to the Paris Agreement (aiming to keep global climate warming to 1.5C) and thus its duty to keep carbon emissions from rising. Plan  B Earth has published its response, challenging the Heathrow claim that the Paris Agreement is “not” government policy.  It is a 29 page document, but the conclusion is copied here. It states that: “At the time of the designation of the ANPS in June 2018, the Secretary of State (SST) [Chris Grayling] knew, or ought to have known, that the Government had: a) rejected the 2˚C temperature limit as creating intolerable risks, in the UK and beyond  b) committed instead to the Paris Agreement and the Paris Temperature Limit, and that it had  c) committed to introducing a new net zero target in accordance with the Paris Agreement.  These matters were fundamental to Government policy relating to climate change and it was irrational for the SST to treat them as irrelevant.

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Academic study suggests post-Covid re-think of size of airline sector, its costs and impacts

In a new paper, published in Science Direct, Professor Stefan Gossling looks at the future of the airline industry, especially after the set-back it has had from Covid. He says it is important to “think the unthinkable”, and not only what is possible for aviation, but what is desirable for society … most stakeholders in industry and policymakers would agree that it is desirable for aviation to become more resilient financially and more sustainable climatically … COVID-19 has forced many airlines to reduce their fleets, retire old aircraft, or stop serving long-haul destinations  … As a result, air transport capacity is diminished. Further reductions in capacity may be achieved by reducing subsidies ... A scenario for a resilient aviation system should have a starting point in the question of how much air transport is needed …where risks are accounted for, and where their cost is part of the price paid for air travel. In a situation of reduced supply, there should be an opportunity for airlines to increase profitability … Many questions need to be asked, such as those addressing volume growth, the sector’s reliance on State aid, its unresolved environmental impacts, and hence the basic assumptions on which aviation operates.

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Heathrow urged by 5 councils to end 3rd runway ‘fantasy’ – instead focus on cutting CO2 and noise

Councils have called on Heathrow to abandon once and for all its bid for a third runway and concentrate instead on working with the aviation industry to achieve zero carbon emissions and reduce noise impacts for overflown communities. Heathrow is due to challenge February’s Court of Appeal ruling against the expansion plan in October  (7th and 8th) at the Supreme Court. The 5 councils, (Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Richmond upon Thames, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Windsor and Maidenhead) say there is no logic in the airport persisting with its runway fantasy. Cllr Gareth Roberts, Leader of Richmond Council, said: “COVID-19 has changed everything. This is a unique period when we are all rethinking traditional assumptions about how we work, travel and grow our economies. As local councils we want the industry to get back on its feet. But this won’t work without a fundamental rethink about the place of aviation in our society – and indeed where future capacity is most needed. Even Heathrow’s chief executive has admitted that a new runway would not be needed for years due to the pandemic. Yet still the airport and its shareholders press on with the process and the prize of a planning permission for a runway that will never be built.”

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Tax-free sales by airports, ports etc for overseas visitors to end by 1st Jan 2021, with lower duty-free import allowances

The UK government is set to end tax-free sales at airports, ports and Eurostar stations from 1 January 2021. As the Brexit transition period comes to an end, the UK government cited “concerns over how the benefit is passed on to passengers and in some instances, the relief is not consistent with international tax principles.” The VAT retail export scheme, which currently enables EU visitors to claim refunds on goods purchased in the UK, will also be withdrawn from the same date. The airports are unhappy about this, as it will cut their income, and some jobs would be lost.  The Treasury said: “Overseas visitors  – including in the EU – will still be able to buy items VAT-free in store and have them sent direct to their overseas addresses, while the costly system of claiming VAT refunds on items they take home in their luggage will be ended.” It described the scheme as “a costly relief, which does not benefit the whole of Britain equally”, adding that the current use is mostly centred in London. Visitors arriving from EU and non-EU countries will be allowed 42 litres of beer, 18 litres of still wine and 9 litres of sparkling wine duty free from 1.1.2021 (much lower than currently).

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Heathrow area risks fate of 1980s mining towns, says airport boss – area too dependent on the airport

Perhaps even more than other airports like Gatwick and Luton, a large part of the economy around Heathrow has become over-dependent on the airport. Now the CEO of Heathrow, John Holland-Kaye has said boroughs like Hounslow risk becoming like “a mining town in the 1980s” with the collapse in air traffic putting tens of thousands of jobs at risk. Many more people work in businesses associated with Heathrow, than directly for the airport itself.  In August, Heathrow had around 1.4 million passengers, which is less than 20% of its “normal” amount.  People are not flying for leisure, due to the risk of Covid itself, or the need to quarantine. There are few business trips, as they are being replaced by Zoom etc.  Many in the aviation sector do not think levels of flying will return to their 2019 levels for 2-3 years, or more – if ever.  Heathrow had losses of £1.1bn in the first half of 2020. Recently Heathrow issued formal section 188 notices, allowing it to potentially fire and rehire some 4,700 employees, after months of negotiations with unions representing its directly employed ground staff failed to produce an agreement. Section 188 means the airport can bypass negotiations after a 45-day period has elapsed. There might overall be 25,000 Heathrow-related job losses.

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Climate Assembly report: members aware future aviation CO2 has to be limited

The Climate Assembly was set up by the UK government in 2019. It consisted of 108 citizens, selected to be representative of the population and its views. They met over 6 weekends, with expert guidance and information, to discuss how the UK could get to net zero carbon by 2050. One of the many issues discussed was air travel. Overall there was wide support among the Assembly for limiting the growth of the sector, to some extent.  The anticipated growth of about 65% (from 2018 to 2050) was seen as too much. Many believed there would be advances in technology that would allow for increased numbers of passengers, but keeping to 30 MtCO2 aviation emissions by 2050 (the CCC’s scenario). There was support for increasing the price of flying for frequent fliers, and those who flew long distances.  Assembly members wanted to see the airline industry invest in greenhouse gas removals, and in lower carbon technologies (which would make flying more expensive). Members wanted more engagement with the UK population, to understand the necessary changes. They wanted more parity between the cost of rail and flying, where flying is now often hugely cheaper. The committees behind the report have asked Prime Minister Boris Johnson to respond before the end of the year.

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BA hits out over £500m bill for Heathrow failed 3rd runway plans that it wants to pass on to airlines

A row has erupted between Heathrow and British Airways, its largest airline, over the plans to get airlines to pay the £500m bill relating to the airport’s third runway expenses so far. A regulatory consultation by the CAA recommends allowing Heathrow to charge carriers for expansion costs incurred until February this year. These are called “Category B” (£500m)  and early “Category C” costs, associated with getting planning consent.  CAA regulations allow Heathrow to increase charges in line with costs incurred.  Willie Walsh, the outgoing boss of IAG, that owns BA, has repeatedly clashed with Heathrow over the framework, which he has said encourages the airport to “spend recklessly.”  IAG has never wanted to pay for Heathrow’s costs in developing the runway (partly as the extra capacity at Heathrow would increase competition with BA by other airlines). CAA director Richard Stephenson said it was reviewing responses to the ­consultation (held in summer 2019) and had yet to make a ­decision.  Heathrow has pressed ahead, spending a great deal on its runway plans, even before legal obstacles had been cleared. The restriction of early spending by the CAA meant a delay in the runway timetable of 2-3 years.

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Council’s £60m loan to Luton Airport company set for approval ‘in private’

Luton Council owns the airport.  A £60m loan by Luton Borough Council to its airport company is set for approval, in private, by the executive later this month. The first of two emergency loans – together totalling £83m – has gained the support of Luton Council’s scrutiny finance review group, at the second attempt. The second loan worth £23m to London Luton Airport Limited (LLAL) is scheduled for the 2021/22 financial year, after the council’s emergency budget in July.  The Labour controlled council were forced by the Liberal Democrats to discuss the loan report in public. But officers asked for the council to take legal advice and defer the issue. It seems that 5 five Labour councillors recommended the council’s executive approve the £60m loan deal, with the 3 Liberal Democrats in opposition.  The executive will formally decide upon the loan at its meeting on Monday, September 14th. The Liberal Democrats said the almost £400m in loans are secured against the assets of the company. “But, the council already owns all of LLAL’s assets by virtue of its 100% ownership of the company. It follows that for all practical and accounting purposes the £400m loans are unsecured.”

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New study indicates non-CO2 impacts of aviation are twice as large as the CO2 alone

A new study trying to elucidate the various non-CO2 impacts of aviation has been published. There is very complicated science about the positive radiative forcing (ie. extra impact on increasing global temperature) of the water vapour, NOx and other gases, and particles emitted from jet engines at altitude. This study concludes that the non-CO2 impacts of “aviation emissions are currently warming the climate at approximately three times the rate of that associated with aviation CO2 emissions alone.” They have looked in detail at the various effects and interactions. There are numerous non-CO2 impacts, some of which cause more radiation to be reflected back out to space, and some cause heat to be trapped, warming the earth. These effects include the contrails, ice cloud changes, sulphate and soot particles from jet engines, water vapour from jet engines, NOx emissions and production of ozone. The effects of contrails and extra cloud formation are perhaps easier to study, and more research is needed on the impacts of soot and sulphate particles.  The confirmation of the large contribution to warming, from the non-CO2 impacts of aviation is important.  The climate impact of aviation, including non-CO2 effects, has to be fully taken into account in how the sector fits into the UK’s climate targets, and reaching “net zero”.  Currently the DfT ignores non-CO2 impacts, though the CCC has recommended that they should be included.

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Heathrow has lost £1 billion since start of March, is cutting staff pay, and could cut 1,200 jobs

Heathrow says that it has lost £1 billion since the start of March, due to the Covid pandemic. There could be 1,200 Heathrow jobs lost.  The airport served a formal notice to staff yesterday, triggering a 45-day consultation period over compulsory job losses. The airport and unions have failed to agree to a deal over the future of its frontline workforce after months of talks. Heathrow is proposing salary cuts of between 15-20% for some affected staff, with a phased reduction in salaries over 2 years. A voluntary redundancy scheme has been offered. The airport claims there might be few compulsorily redundancies, but only if the unions agree a deal. About 4,700 frontline staff are affected, including engineers, security and airside operations. Heathrow has already lost 450 out of 1,000 head-office managerial staff.  The airport had indicated previously that as many as a quarter of staff could be made redundant, so up to 1,200 jobs may go. Heathrow said its proposals “guarantee a job” for anyone who wants to remain with the business. The Unite union is not happy with the airport’s offers.  Gatwick is losing about 600 jobs, a quarter of its workforce.

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Draft Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill calls for international aviation to be fully included in the UK’s Net Zero target

The proposed Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill (CEE bill) which is to be tabled as a private member’s bill by Caroline Lucas MP on 2nd September, would see international aviation, shipping, and consumption included properly within the UK’s 2050 net zero target. These are necessary in closing the gaps in the UK’s Climate Change Act (CCA), where they have been excluded in the past. The CEE bill has support from the minority parties and Labour, as well as scientists, business figures and Extinction Rebellion. Currently when the UK claims its carbon emissions have fallen, the drop is largely from switching electricity generation from coal to gas, and the arrival of more renewables. Over recent decades, carbon emissions embodied in imports have grown, as have carbon emissions from international aviation and shipping. But those are not considered under the CCA. The CEE Bill proposes legislation to address the biodiversity crisis, by placing a stronger legal requirement for the government to protect and restore forests, soils, and ecosystems so then can provider a natural means of absorbing CO2. Despite Covid, bold government action is needed in the UK, now, especially before the postponed COP26 meeting in November 2021 in Glasgow.

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Letter to Kelly Tolhurst (Aviation Minister) from airport groups, about the need for aviation noise policies

Many airport campaigns have written to Aviation Minister, Kelly Tolhurst, asking her to provide details of the government’s intentions about policies on aircraft noise. The organisations remind her of some of their key points. They want government to “put in place policies, processes and institutions which can together achieve outcomes that all parties accept are fair and balanced, a goal that the policies of the past two decades have failed to achieve”. The aviation industry needs to be sufficiently incentivised to reduce noise, and it is not good enough to merely “limit, and where possible, reduce total adverse effects on health and quality of life from aviation noise”. Those are just meaningless in terms of cutting the plane noise experienced by people overflown. The groups fear that proposals for the Aviation 2050 document are in fact even weaker than the extant 2013 Aviation Policy Framework which says “the industry must continue to reduce and mitigate noise as airport capacity grows” . The campaigners want noise impacts to be “as low as reasonably practical”, and any increase in noise in future, from more flights, to be balanced by reductions in noise and other environmental impacts – with compensation for those negatively affected. See the full letter.

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Gatwick could lose 600 jobs, and it could take 4-5 years for passengers to return to 2019 levels

Gawick plans to cut a quarter of its workforce due to the impact of coronavirus. So about 600 jobs could be lost following an 80% reduction in the 2019 number of passengers in August. It only has the North Terminal working.  CEO Stewart Wingate said the cuts were a result of the “devastating impacts” coronavirus had on the airline and travel industries.  In March, Gatwick announced 200 jobs would be lost, and it later took out a £300m bank loan. With the collapse in passenger numbers, the company said it was looking to further reduce costs. About 75% of staff are currently on the government’s furlough scheme, which is due to end in October. The DfT says: “If people need financial support quickly they may be able to claim Universal Credit and new style Jobseekers Allowance.”  Many staff belong to the union, Unite, which will fight to minimise redundancies.  The airport has said it will take “four to five years” for passenger numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels. Its revenue fell by 61% in the half year, January to June, compared to 2019. While Covid remains a very real issue, and levels are slowly rising in many countries, air passengers have no certainty about from which countries they would need to quarantine themselves for 14 days, on their return.

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Challenge to Manston airport DCO – barristers from 39 Essex Chambers, and Harrison Grant solicitors

Paul Stinchcombe QC, Richard Wald QC and Gethin Thomas are instructed by Kate Harrison and Susan Ring of Harrison Grant LLP in a judicial review of the Secretary of State for Transport’s decision to approve the re-opening of Manston Airport, as a dedicated freight airport. In so deciding, the Secretary of State overturned the recommendation of the Examining Authority [the Planning Inspectorate] to refuse development consent. They act on behalf of Jenny Dawes, a local resident who participated in the examination. Manston Airport has been disused since it was formally closed in 2014. The claim, issued on 19th August, contends that the Secretary of State’s analysis of the need for the development was flawed, and that moreover, the Secretary of State failed to discharge his duty to ensure that the net UK carbon account for the year 2050 is at least 100% lower than the 1990 baseline (“Net Zero”), under section 1 of the Climate Change Act 2008.

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Heathrow “to slash staff pay by up to a third” becoming a “low cost employer”after collapse in air travel

Heathrow staff are being asked to accept pay cuts of up to 37% and will lose their final salary pension scheme. It will also end paid breaks and allowances, worsen redundancy terms, and refuse to honour a pay rise. The airport wants to slash pay and conditions for its 7,000 workers in a bid to become a low-cost employer, according to union chiefs – an allegation denied by management. Air travel demand is currently low, (88% lower in July 2020 than in July 2019) and not expected to rise much in the short term. The aviation sector cannot afford to pay so many staff, when it has little income. Heathrow said it has been forced to take action now to protect jobs. But the union Unite (which has always been an enthusiastic backer of Heathrow and its expansion plans) has told its members that the airport is acting out of “greed, not need” and said it was using the pandemic as a smokescreen to cut pay and conditions. It added that Heathrow paid £100m in dividends in April. Unite says John Holland-Kaye told unions that he wanted to make the business a “low-cost employer” during a meeting on July 30th. Many staff working around Heathrow are not directly employed by the airport, but associated businesses. There could be over 20,000 job losses in these companies.

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London City Airport to put terminal expansion plan on ice, due to Covid recession

London City Airport has put its plan to quadruple the size of its terminal on ice, as the Covid  pandemic has decimated demand for air travel.  City Airport is shelving £170 million of expansion work, which will mean loss of jobs. But it plans to continue with around £330 million of improvements this year, including eight new aircraft stands and a new parallel taxiway that will allow more arrivals and departures. The airport had been intending to finish the work on the terminal by 2023, and it could then cater for 6.5 million annual passengers. By contrast, in 2019 it had 5.1 million passengers. The airport said the recovery in air travel demand had been slower than expected, and its recovery (if it ever returns to 2019 levels) will take more years than thought earlier. The airport is owned by a consortium of investors including AIMCo, OMERS, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and Wren House Infrastructure Management.

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Dismay that Bristol Airport will appeal against Council refusal of its plans to expand for more passengers

Members of XR Bristol Airport Action Network (BAAN) are very disappointed that Bristol Airport is seeking to appeal against the decision ratified in March which rejected their application to increase passenger numbers per annum to 12 million by 2026. The decision made by the North Somerset Council’s Planning and Strategic Committee amplified the views of the local community who clearly did not want this expansion.  Some 8,931 written objections were submitted to the Council’s planning website as opposed to 2,431 statements supporting the development. The Planning Committee rejected the original plan for expansion on the grounds that key environmental issues had not been properly resolved while insisting the economic benefits would not outweigh the environmental harm.  Tarisha-Finnegan-Clarke, Coordinator of XR BAAN:  “At a time when the Coronavirus has forced airports to drastically reduce the number of flights the aviation industry should be focusing on survival.  Instead, the unfailing arrogance of Bristol Airport’s management sees them pursuing their fantasy aspiration to expand passenger numbers.  An appeal at this time is simply unappealing to so many people.”

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Concerns about proposed flight paths in and out of Manston when (if) it reopens for air freight

Development consent was finally granted in July, by the government, for a freight air cargo hub at Manston. The Thanet site is owned by RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) which now has to complete the various stages of the Civil Aviation Authority CAP 1616 process for airspace change. RiverOak is currently on ‘stage 2’, known as the develop and access gateway.  But CARMA, the Campaign Against the Reopening of Manston Airport, has questioned the lack of transparency of the process so far.  They have drawn particular focus on the planned flight paths, claiming 30 towns and villages will be impacted. There are illustrations of some proposed flight paths, arrivals and departures, in the RSP documents. These show many areas of east Kent being overflown, for the first time.  CARMA is very concerned that these routes have been drawn up, without information for, or consultation with, the public.  Relevant community representatives have not been being properly informed. At the best of times, the CAA flight path alteration process is difficult for laypeople to understand, with “CAP1616 process” and “design options” and “airspace design principles” and “technical and operational interdependencies” among other bits of jargon, which are not written in “plain English.”

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T&E: Why Europe should focus on its own airline carbon market and forget the UN scheme

Transport & Environment argues why Europe should not depend on the inadequate, ineffective CORSIA scheme, for its aviation CO2 emissions. CORSIA does not include an actual emissions reduction target. It is at odds with the Paris agreement’s goals. The quality of the offsets is not good enough; there are so many of them that the price is far too low to make airlines reduce emissions.  An EU system could do better.  T&E says: “The aviation geeks of this world will know the argument [that international aviation can only be controlled by ICAO] by heart now: “aviation is an international mode of transport, so it requires international solutions”. But does it, really? A majority of the aviation industry is eager to privilege international solutions when they want to escape their environmental responsibilities, but are very happy to promote national solutions when it comes to getting [Covid] bailout money. This needs to stop. Aviation can’t have it both ways: it’s unfair for the sector to get support in bad times and refuse to contribute to European and national environmental efforts in good times. Especially when the industry isn’t effectively dealing with aviation’s climate problem by itself”.

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Liverpool Airport receives £34m loan from combined authority due to Covid-19 impact

Liverpool John Lennon Airport (JLA) is to get a loan of £34m from the city region combined authority to help give it stability during the Covid crisis. The funding was approved at a meeting of the combined authority on Friday, with the airport described as a “vital strategic infrastructure asset for the city region”. The Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram said: “International connectivity is essential for the local economy and the roles of international gateways such as ports, airports and cruise terminals as economic hubs and drivers for local economies and tourism need to be maximised.”  ie. good to have people flying abroad for their holidays… The airport says it indirectly supports around 6,000 local jobs, providing £250m per annum in economic impact, (not counting the contribution to the UK’s tourism deficit…)  The 10 Greater Manchester local authorities are also lending £250 million to the Manchester Airports Group (MAG) to help then with the Covid pandemic.  This is from money borrowed at a low interest rate from government.

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Letter to Chancellor saying there is no economic or social case for government funding of aviation decarbonisation projects

A group of aviation campaigns have sent a joint letter to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak. This comes in response to a letter sent by Sir Graham Brady and other MP signatories, asking the Treasury to invest in aviation decarbonisation. The campaigners’ letter says: “… there is no economic or social case for the government to invest taxpayers’ money in projects that might reduce aviation’s emissions. Doing so would perpetuate the current moral hazard in which the industry pollutes with impunity but expects others to bear the consequences and clean up after it.”  Data from the ONS shows air transport, and services incidental to it, account for less than 0.7% of GDP and only 0.4% of jobs. “The industry’s increasingly meaningless assertions, such as the one in Sir Graham’s letter that aviation “supports” 4.5% of GDP, should be treated with the scepticism they deserve”. The industry overwhelmingly provides leisure, not trade, services. Over 80% of UK passengers travel for leisure purposes.  “Using taxpayers’ funds to further support [aviation]… should be inconceivable in the current economic context.” What is needed is “effective regulation that obliges the industry to decarbonise” and urgent government reform of regulation of the industry’s environmental impacts. See the full letter.

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Covid: Dutch airline KLM to shed up to 5,000 jobs – AND other airline job loss numbers

KLM is cutting up to 5,000 jobs, despite a €3.4 billion bailout from the Dutch government, due to the Covid pandemic. KLM is part of the Air France KLM group. The job cuts over coming months would involve around 1,500 compulsory layoffs from KLM’s current workforce of 33,000. The jobs lost would be up to 300 flight crew, 300 cabin crew, 500 ground staff and around 400 jobs at KLM subsidiaries and in the Air France-KLM group positions. Then there would also be 2,000 voluntary redundancies announced earlier this year, and further cuts would be made through non-renewal of 1,500 temporary contracts. Some 4,500 to 5,000 positions in the KLM Group will cease to exist. 

Many other airlines are laying off staff. The numbers are approximately: 

British Airways (up to 12,000 jobs.  EasyJet (around 4,500 jobs). 

Virgin Atlantic (3,000 jobs).  Ryanair (about 3,000 jobs). 

Air France (maybe up to 7,500 jobs).  Tui (8,000 jobs).  

Lufthansa (22,000 jobs).  KLM (up to 5,000 jobs).

Scandinavia Airlines (5,000 jobs).  Other IAG job losses?

Boeing (? 16,000 jobs).  Airbus (15,000 jobs).  Swissport (4,556 jobs). 

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SSE RENEWS CALL FOR STANSTED AIRPORT TO ACCEPT PLANNING REFUSAL

STOP STANSTED EXPANSION 

PRESS RELEASE – 29th JULY 2020 

In an email sent on 28th July, Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) congratulated Steve Griffiths on his appointment as Managing Director of Stansted Airport, but urged him to listen to the local community and to reconsider the Airport’s proposed appeal against the unanimous rejection of its planning application by Uttlesford District Council.

In the email SSE’s Chairman, Peter Sanders, said an appeal would be costly and time-consuming for all parties at a time when they are hard pressed by other important issues.

https://stopstanstedexpansion.com/press-releases/sse-renews-call-for-airport-to-accept-planning-refusal/


AEF argues why government should NOT cut APD; it is needed as part of a greener recovery for the sector

The airlines take every opportunity to lobby to have APD (Air Passenger Duty) reduced, in an attempt to get more people to fly.  “Airlines UK” representing BA, easyJet and Ryanair etc have again called on the UK government to suspend the tax. In fact, APD is only £13 for a return flight anywhere in Europe, so not enough to deter passengers. The AEF (Aviation Environment Federation) argues the case against any cuts in APD. They say there is no need to cut the tax, as air fares are likely to be low anyway, while airlines struggle to recover from the Covid hit; oil prices are also low. Air travel is substantially under-taxed, and there can be no justification for reducing its cost further, increasing demand and thus CO2 emissions. Air travel demand should not be encouraged, while there are no meaningful policies to tackle the sector’s environmental impacts – noise and air pollution, as well as CO2.  Airlines have benefited substantially from public funds, through furloughing staff; they should not be allowed to pay even less tax, while all sectors must make a fair contribution towards rebuilding public finances. And foreign holidays should not be incentivised at a time when the UK’s domestic tourism and hospitality sectors need to rebuild.  Read the whole briefing.

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Carbon Action Tracker assessment of international aviation sector – Critically Insufficient

The organisation, Climate Action Tracker (CAT) has assessed the international aviation sector, to see what commitments it has made to cutting carbon.The aim is to establish whether a sector is on target to agreed Paris Agreement commitments, hoping to keep global temperature increase to below 2C (or 1.5C ideally). They conclude that international aviation is in the lowest of their 5 categories, of “Critically Insufficient”. If all countries and sectors did as little to cut emissions, and took the same approach, we would be on track for warming of over 4C.  CAT explain the many reasons why the ICAO’s CORSIA scheme, with its low ambition and only partial coverage of the sector, is insufficient. It is now impossible to predict future air travel demand, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, even if demand returns in the next three years, airlines will be under no obligation to offset their carbon, as emissions will probably be lower than in the year decided as the baseline, 2019. “Pre-COVID projections suggested that international aviation emissions would amount to 750 Mt in 2030 under an optimistic technology improvements scenario, or to 880 Mt under a low technology improvement scenario.”

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Night train routes are emerging, or re-emerging, across Europe – as people want to avoid flying

For a lower-carbon way to travel further afield in Europe, the night trains were a wonderful alternative. Travelling relatively slowly, they cause the emission of far less carbon than flights. But the advent of budget airlines and dirt cheap fares meant that over the past 20 years, most night train services were closed down. Now there seems to be a resurgence of interest, with new routes being announced. The Swedish government said it would provide funds for two new routes to connect the cities of Stockholm and Malmö with Hamburg and Brussels. France has announced an overnight service between Paris and Nice. Austrian train operator ÖBB bought 42 sleeper cars from Deutsche Bahn in 2016 and has resumed half of the night-time routes connecting Hamburg, Berlin, Munich and Düsseldorf to Austria, Switzerland and Italy.  There is a route between Sylt in northern Germany and Salzburg in Austria.  There is renewed enthusiasm among some of the public, as people reflect more deeply on how they travel – partly due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but also increased concern about climate breakdown. The recovery of the night train may not be all smooth running, however, as the economics of night services remain difficult.

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APPG on Heathrow Expansion and Regional Connectivity launches inquiry into Building Aviation Back Better

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Heathrow Expansion and Regional Connectivity has  launched an inquiry into how the aviation industry can build back in a post Covid-19 world.  The APPG is keen to receive  evidence from a range of organisations on how to build a more sustainable aviation policy that supports both workers and the environment. People have till 14th September to respond. The sector is unlikely to recover to levels of flying in 2019 till perhaps 2023. This presents an opportunity to reset the UK’s aviation strategy and initiate a green recovery. This should set aviation on a fairer and more sustainable course, while providing any support necessary for workers to shift to green jobs. Aviation policy which must strike an equitable balance between the benefits aviation brings and its adverse environmental, economic and health costs. The issues on which the APPG is seeking comment include the Aviation White Paper, taxation, regional balance, bailouts, the UK policy framework for decarbonisation, and community impacts, such as noise, night flights and air pollution.

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Net Zero APPG says there needs to be a Carbon Takeback Obligation on sectors like airlines, to permanently remove CO2

A Net Zero All Party Parliamentary Group (NZ APPG) has been set up, to assess the progress being made by the UK towards its climate target.  The group has set out a 10 point action plan, to get the government to scale up its efforts to “drive the UK towards net zero and ensure a green Covid recovery.”  There is an immense need for a “green recovery package to accelerate economic growth, create jobs and reduce emissions.” This has to focus on green-job creation, prioritise energy efficiency, decarbonise heat, and energy storage.  The right investment, and the right regulatory conditions are needed.  The NZ APPG want the Chancellor to develop a clear and systematic Net Zero Roadmap, complete with interim targets and robust implementation, review and governance arrangements. On aviation, they say UK should “Establish a ‘Carbon Takeback Obligation’ for fossil fuel extractors and importers, and airlines, requiring them to permanently store an increasing percentage of the CO2 generated by the products they sell, rising to 100% (net zero emissions) by 2050.”

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Leeds Bradford Airport: Scientists object to expansion plans which will increase CO2 emissions (locking in climate change, unfair to future generations)

A group of five climate scientists have objected to Leeds Bradford airport’s expansion plans as they make it “impossible” for Leeds to meet its greenhouse gas emissions target.  The airport wants to build a new terminal, but this would mean more flights and more passengers, and so more carbon emissions. The scientists said the expanded airport’s greenhouse gas emissions would be higher than the emissions allowed for the whole of Leeds in 10 years’ time. The airport could cause the emission of 1,227 kilotonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2030, compared to 1,020 kilotonnes allowed for the whole of Leeds in 2030. One of those objecting is Prof Julia Steinberger, a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which advises the United Nations. The IPCC has warned that restricting global warming to 1.5˚C above pre-industrial levels will require “rapid and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”. The scientists say expansion would just represent “business as usual” and lock in higher CO2 emissions.  If similar developments were replicated around the world, it would lock us into catastrophic climate change, which highlights that the proposed development is not only highly harmful but also unfair.”

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Business air travel likely to remain at lower levels, for years – big impact on airline finances

The airline industry has largely been funded by business air travel, and those paying for premium seats, or very high air fares, bought at the last minute. Cheaper air tickets to get “bums on seats” would not themselves enable airlines to make profits; the expensive seats are what enable those cheap tickets to be offered. Now the demand for flights has collapsed due to Covid, and the decline in business flying is intense. Many companies do not see their level of business flying returning. Some think there may be a return in perhaps two years, though it may never happen. Will visiting clients/customers be as vital in future, to make deals or impress?  Business travel in the US makes up 60% to 70% of industry sales, according to estimates by the trade group Airlines for America. The standard and acceptability of internet communications, video-conferencing, and Zoom have shown many organisations that they do not need much air travel. Companies do not want to risk staff getting abroad and being stranded.  Business passengers travelling to big cities like London have created hotel, catering, conference, taxi etc demand, but that is all likely to reduce in future. Even if/when Covid is beaten, the impacts on business flying are likely to be long-term.

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£200 million from government for research into lower carbon planes

The UK government has unveiled £400m in private and public sector funding for technologies and research aimed at cutting aviation CO2 emissions. BEIS has announced that projects aiming to develop high performance engines, new wing designs and ultra-lightweight cabin seats – all intended to cut fuel consumption – will be getting funding from the Government’s Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) programme of £200 million.  Business Secretary Alok Sharma said the £200 million would be matched by £200m from industry. There may also be money from universities, including Nottingham and Birmingham, for this research. The ambition is “zero carbon aviation” as  part of the Government’s FlyZero initiative. Britain would like to become a world leader etc in lower carbon aviation technologies. There is a The Net Zero All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) of MPs that is working on the necessary transition to “net zero” by 2050.  The UK needs to be seen to be leading on this, before hosting COP26 in November 2021 (postponed from Nov 2020). The APPG has a 10 point action plan that says fossil fuel extractors and importers, as well as airlines, should be required to permanently store an increasing percentage of CO2 generated by the products they sell, rising to 100% by 2050, via a proposed “carbon takeback obligation.”

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ICCAN produces review and 6 recommendations about aviation noise metrics and their measurement

The issue of plane noise has been of great concern to hundreds of thousands of people, for ages. ICCAN was set up in 2019 to look into the problem, seeing if there might be ways to manage it better, and for people to be considered more  – and their noise concerns taken seriously. One key problem is how noise is measured, and therefore how overflown communities can get factual data on the noise they are experiencing. This is complicated. Acoustics is not a simple science, and especially difficult to explain in plain English to laypeople. The noise an area suffers depends on the number of planes overhead, their height, their type, what they are doing at the time, the frequency of the flights overhead, the time of day (or night) and the background level of noise an area already experiences. Traditionally aircraft noise is averaged over a period of time. That provides numbers that can be compared to other places and other times. But it makes no sense to those being affected. But nobody hears an average of plane noise. They hear a number of separate noisy events. Now ICCAN has produced a review of aircraft noise metric and their measurement, and their recommendations, for how improvements should be made.

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BA is retiring its whole fleet of 747s (lots used to use Heathrow) due to the Covid fall in air travel

British Airways has said it will retire, with immediate effect, all of its Boeing 747s as air travel demand has fallen so much due to Covid – and it may never recover to be how it was before. BA has 31 jumbo jets, which make up about 10% of the BA fleet.  It had planned on retiring the planes in 2024 but has brought forward the date.  There are about 500 747s still in service, of which 30 are still flying passengers. More than 300 fly cargo. The rest are in storage. The four-engined 747s are not fuel efficient, so cost a lot to run – and emit a lot of carbon. They are very noisy, causing noise nuisance to millions living under fight paths near airports. Even before Covid, Air France, Delta and United had already retired their 747 fleets. With expected lower air travel for years, even if a vaccine is found fairly soon, airlines need to save money, and 747s are more expensive to run than 2-engined planes. It will also be difficult to fill them up. They depend on the hub model of airports, and are less suited to the more popular point to point sort of air travel.  With the end of 747s and A380s, much of the rationale for Heathrow expansion ends. Unfortunately, it is due to the 747s in the 1970s making air travel cheaper, that brought in the era of cheap, readily available air travel – with its environmental costs.

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ICCAN progress report, after a year’s work looking at aviation noise – it should be a priority post-Covid

What seems a long time ago, in 2015, the Airports Commission recommended that an independent body should be set up to deal with aircraft noise problems. So in 2019 ICCAN (the Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise) was finally set up.  It was hoped that this body would be able to help people who are subjected to aircraft noise, and who have no sensible means to get the level of noise nuisance reduced. In reality, ICCAN says its aim is “to improve trust and public confidence in the management of noise in the UK through the delivery of a comprehensive work programme.” And: “It is not, and never has been, our role to have a view on the future expansion of the aviation industry, but as part of making the UK a world leader in managing aviation noise ….” It has no powers. It has now produced its Progress Report, one year from starting work. Its main aim has been contacting many “stakeholders”, finding information, getting well informed. Now its lead commissioner, Rob Light, says the Covid pandemic “should be seen as a chance to rebuild and regrow aviation in a more sustainable way” and noise should be a key priority.

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Around 250 job losses likely at Bristol airport, due to collapse in its air travel demand

Nearly 250 jobs could be lost at Bristol Airport because demand for air travel has plummeted. The unions are saying these redundancies would leave a ‘huge economic hole’ in the region.  Bristol Airport has begun consultation with Unite over making 76 directly employed staff redundant. Swissport has also announced 167 job losses. A smaller number of redundancies at other firms are also expected to be announced soon. There are the usual claims about the alleged economic benefit the airport brings, and the number of jobs it supports. These conveniently ignore the fact that most flights are taken by local people flying abroad for their leisure, spending their money abroad – not in local businesses or local leisure/ holiday destinations.  To try to save jobs, the unions want delay, in the hope that air travel demand picks up.  The AOA – lobby groups for the industry – said this week up to 20,000 jobs at Britain’s airports are at risk as a result of the collapse of air travel due to the Covid pandemic.  Bristol is yet another area has has become too dependent on the airport for jobs, and this vulnerability has now been shown up. Aviation is no longer a sector with guaranteed security and growth for a local economy.

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Heathrow to close southern runway for several weeks, then use it for daytime only, till October

Heathrow has announced, with no warning, that it will be only using the northern runway from 13th July to 2nd August. It is doing extensive repairs (probably in fact resurfacing) on the southern runway, that means it cannot be opened even part of the day.  So people living under the approach path to the northern runway, or under the departure flight paths, will not get the respite period they are used to.  Normally flights are switched at 3pm each day. The disruption is planned to last until early October. After 2nd August, there will be flights on both runways, but the southern runway will be closed from 7pm to 7am. Therefore those under flight paths for the northern runway will get all the noise. Campaigners fear that the use of “mixed mode” (ie. landings and take-offs using the same runway) could become the “new norm” if Heathrow seek to use this method of operating permanently, post-pandemic, as a way of increasing the current flight cap of 480,000, to an estimated 565,000 flights per year. Mixed mode would allow that increase in flights without building a 3rd runway, which Heathrow probably can no longer afford.

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Natural England says Leeds Bradford Airport expansion should not be approved – necessary details have not been provided

The government’s environment adviser, Natural England, says Leeds City Council should not approve controversial plans for the Leeds Bradford Airport expansion, unless further evidence on the potential impacts is provided.  Natural England states the airport’s planning application lacks detail and “there is currently not enough information to rule out the likelihood of significant effects” on the environment. It has asked the airport to provide additional information, so the council can asses the impact the new £150 million terminal would have on air quality, local wildlife and protected landscapes.  Natural England therefore advises Leeds City Council that it should not grant planning permission at this stage. The airport wants to increase passengers numbers from 4 million to 7 million a year. Climate scientists, environmentalists, The Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA) and four Leeds MPs are also calling on the council to reject the new plans. GALBA, said the airport has not bothered to assess the damage that their expansion plans would do to wildlife and nature.

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MAG to appeal council’s refusal of Stansted expansion proposals – SSE says this is “CALLOUS, CYNICAL AND POINTLESS”

The Manchester Airports Group (MAG) has decided to appeal against the refusal by Uttlesford District Council of the expansion plans of Stansted airport. Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) Chairman, Peter Sanders, said this was “callous, cynical and pointless” and prolongs uncertainty. MAG has been seeking an increase in the permitted number of flights using Stansted, up from the present limit of 35 mppa to 43mppa.  Stansted’s actual throughput in 2019 was 28 mppa and will be very significantly lower in 2020 due to the impact of Covid-19.  Uttlesford District Council (UDC) first received MAG’s expansion proposals for Stansted in June 2017 and spent more than two and a half years considering the issues prior to 24 January 2020 when its (cross-party) Planning Committee voted by 10 votes to zero to refuse the application. MAG itself had said it wanted the application to be determined locally rather than nationally, and that UDC was the “competent and appropriate authority” to deal with its application. But now it is appealing, for the decision to go to a Public Inquiry, that would be costly for UDC at a time when finances are struggling.

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Government grants Manston DCO to allow the airport to re-open, against Planning Inspectorate recommendation

Manston has been closed as an airport since May 2014. It is the first airport to have to take its plans through the DCO (Development Consent Order) process, dependant on the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS). It always failed as an airport in the past, largely due to its location. In October 2019, the Planning Inspector recommended to the Secretary of State for Transport that Manston should not be re-opened. The decision was then for transport minister Andrew Stephenson, “with the secretary of state, Grant Shapps, recused to avoid any conflict of interest.”  He has now given approval to the DCO for the airport to re-open, for cargo and even passengers – overruling the Planning Inspectorate (PINS). The airport claims it could open by 2023, handling up to 10,000 cargo flights a year as well as passenger services, with construction starting as early as 2021. There is huge opposition to the plans, due to noise and air pollution. The approach path from the east is directly over Ramsgate, about 2 miles from the airport. PINS had said opening Manston would have “a material impact on the ability of government to meet its carbon reduction targets”. The ANPS is currently not valid, awaiting a Supreme Court hearing on 7th and 8th October.

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Prof Whitelegg: How the aviation sector should be reformed following the Covid-19 crisis

Prof John Whitelegg says the Covid pandemic provides a key opportunity for major reforms to the aviation sector.  The sector is not likely to reduce its carbon emissions to the extent necessary, even for the net zero target for 2050. The Committee on Climate Change has said there will need to be measures to limit demand for air travel, and it “cannot continue to grow unfettered over the long-term.” They say “we still expect the sector to emit more than any other in 2050.”  Aviation continues to receive an effective subsidy, due to the absence of VAT and fuel duty that amounts to about £11 billion per year (compared to about £3.8 billion taken in APD). There are well known negative health impacts caused the plane noise, with some of the best researched being cardiovascular.  We need to change the dominant expectation that air travel with continue to grow.  There has to be realisation that air passengers must pay the costs of the environmental damage they cause. Some necessary changes would be charging VAT; taxing frequent fliers; adopting WHO noise standards for health; full internalisation of external costs; fiscal instruments to shift all passenger journeys under 500kms in length from air to rail. And more.

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International aviation and shipping likely to be added to UK carbon budgets – but not in time for the 6th budget?

Even excluding international aviation and shipping (IAS) the CO2 from transport makes up about of the UK’s total emissions. But so far these emissions have been excluded from the UK’s 5-year carbon budgets. This has been a glaring deficiency of the budgets, even if the aviation and shipping emissions were to some extent “taken account of”. There has been pressure for years, and repeated advice from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) – the government’s official advisers on climate – to include these sectors fully, starting now.  It appears that, at last, this will eventually happen and they will follow the CCC’s guidance.  But not before 2023.  This emerged from the first meeting of the Department for Transport’s net zero board, which included some environmental campaigners. The government recently said aviation makes up 8% of the UK’s climate impact.  UK carbon budgets are set 12 years ahead of time to provide sufficient long-term guidance to investors. The 5th carbon budget (covering 2028 – 2032) has already been set, without the inclusion of IAS. The 6th carbon budget will be set in 2021. The CCC will publish its advice to government on the 6th budget, for 2033 – 2037 in December 2020.  But 2023 is too late for this ... so the 7th carbon budget?

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Study shows the unequal distribution of household carbon footprints in Europe – and air travel component

A study carried out by Leeds University and Trondheim University (Norway) looked at the distribution of household carbon footprints in European counties. It investigated the link between higher household income, and their carbon emissions. This included the contribution from air travel. The authors say they found significant inequality in the distribution of high carbon footprints (CFs). The top 10% of the EU population with the highest CFs contribute more carbon compared to the 50% of the EU population with the lowest CFs.  Only 5% of the EU households (eg in Romania) live within a CF target of 2.5 tCO2eq/capita per year, while the top 1% of EU households have CFs of 55 tCO2eq/capita.  The most significant contribution to CO2 is from air and land transport, making up 41% and 21% respectively of the CF for the top 1% of EU households.The households with the highest CFs are by and large the households with the highest levels of income and  expenditure. The high CO2 emissions by the more affluent present challenges for environmental and social objectives. The authors say: “Exploring the prerequisites for living well within carbon limits is a key focus of our time.”

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Electric flying not feasible for larger planes or longer distances

There has been a lot of mention in recent years about the possibility of planes being powered by electricity. That has the potential to cut the CO2 emissions of aircraft. However, the aspiration of electric planes is likely to be a dangerous diversion from taking measures now to cut the CO2 from the sector, if it has the effect of creating the false hope of breakthroughs. The reality is that flying needs a very energy-dense fuel, such as kerosene. Currently there are some tiny planes, able to carry under 10 passengers, that may be able to make short flights, of under 1,000 km, in the next few years. That is entirely different from a passenger plane carrying 200 passengers many thousand miles.  Power is particularly needed on take-off, and while climbing. Liquid jet fuel is burned during the flight, so the planes lands lighter than when it took off. The battery is the same weight throughout, putting more stress on the plane while landing. The engines would have to use propellers, and not be jets – and there are limits on how fast propellers can turn. There are real constraints, caused by physics, in the ability of electricity to power larger aircraft.

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Airlines granted huge CO2 emissions reprieve by UN compromise, even further weakening the CORSIA scheme

The UN’s aviation emissions offsetting scheme, CORSIA, will not take 2020 into account as the baseline when calculating how much airlines have to pay to neutralise their CO2 emissions. Normally, without the atypical year due to the Covid pandemic, the emissions baseline (reference point) would have been taken as 2019 and 2020. Now only 2019 emissions will be used.  Had 2020’s far lower CO2 emissions been included, that would have created a much more taxing challenge for airlines, and would have meant them having to buy many more carbon credits, costing them much more money.  Environmental groups have derided the decision to ignore 2020’s emissions as “making a mockery” of climate policy. The change will mean that the 3-year pilot scheme will be useless, as CO2 emissions from aviation are unlikely to climb back to the level in 2019. There will be no CO2 requiring offsets, being below the now raised threshold. According to Carbon Market Watch, “while CORSIA will officially start in 2021, airlines will not have to do anything until several years later.” Anyway, carbon credits are now ludicrously cheap.

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Why Boris’s zero-emission long-haul British aircraft is just pie in the sky

The prime minister’s call for Jet Zero on Tuesday may owe more to his fondness for a punchy slogan than any realistic view of how UK aviation might develop in the next 30 years. His wish for the UK to build long-haul zero- emissions plane may never be achieved.  It is just not credible. Short-range electric flight is, for the very smallest planes, already a reality.  Multiple firms, including UK start-ups, are working on zero-emission eVtols – electric vertical take-off and landing craft, or flying taxis – for domestic inter-city travel, carrying just a handful of passengers. Battery weight and range means that manufacturers currently view larger electric planes as feasible only for short-haul flights – and even then the focus is largely on hybrid-electric, with jet fuel needed for take-off.  The big UK contribution to this vision, a Rolls-Royce-Airbus collaboration called the E-Fan X, was dropped in April. Meanwhile, work continues at Cranfield university and elsewhere, trying to convince sceptics that hydrogen could eventually be a viable fuel for passenger jets, produced using surplus (??) renewably-generated electricity. Or combined to produce an “electro-fuel” – but that still emits CO2 when burned in a plane engine.

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Public enjoying peace and tranquillity from absence of Heathrow flights

Almost 3,500 people took part in a survey organised by the No 3rd Runway Coalition on aircraft noise during Covid lockdown. The aim was to see what impact the absence (or near absence) of aircraft noise had on people who are usually overflown. 80% of respondents found the experience of fewer flights to be positive.  49% noticed the reduction in flights all day long. 52% said there had been an impact on their sleep. The most common themes in responses were the beneficial effect of fewer flights on mental and physical health, through a reduction in noise, and (from postcodes close to roads providing access to the airport) an appreciable improvement of air quality. Health impacts mentioned included improved sleeping patterns, greater use of gardens, and greater enjoyment of green spaces. The survey also included responses from around airports other than Heathrow (Gatwick, Stansted, Birmingham, Aberdeen, Leeds Bradford). Paul McGuinness, Chair of the Coalition, said: “With powerful clarity this survey presents a picture of just what will be lost, in quality of life terms, when flights resume at Heathrow.”  The absence of flights has been a unique opportunity to appreciate how great the impact of the noise normally is, with Heathrow working at full capacity.

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EasyJet plans to close bases at Stansted, Newcastle and Southend – and cut staff by as much as 4,500

EasyJet says it has begun consultations on plans to close its bases at Stansted, Southend and Newcastle airports, though it will keep routes using those airports. It will no longer keep planes there, or base crew there. EasyJet may also be cutting its number of employees by up to a third, about 4,500 out of 15,000 overall.  About 1,300 cabin crew could lose their jobs, and also 727 pilots (which is about a third of the total). The Unite union said “There is no need for this announcement at this time, especially since Easyjet has taken a multi-million pound government loan which it ought to be putting to use defending UK jobs.” But there is little demand for flying at present, and no certainty about Covid in the coming months. Easyjet currently has 11 bases in the UK, with 163 aircraft, serving 546 routes. There are 7 aircraft based at Stansted, with 335 crew. At Southend, there are 4 aircraft and 183 crew; and at Newcastle there are 3 planes and 157 crew. The job cut proposals are not limited to the bases that may close. EasyJet does not expect 2019 levels of demand to be reached again until 2023.

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Dutch government KLM €3.4 billion rescue plan, with some conditions

The Dutch government has said the national airline, KLM, is set for a €3.4 billion bailout package, if it meets certain targets, but this still requires regulatory approval from Brussels, in case it conflicts with EU state-aid rules. KLM was promised between €2-4 billion at the end of April, when both the Dutch and French governments pledged financial support to the Air France-KLM group. France’s €7 billion bailout was quickly approved by the EC’s competition regulators. The €3.4 billion package would be made up of €2.4 billion in state-guaranteed bank loans and a €1 billion direct loan. The loan would be provided in tranches and last up until 2025, with each payment only made after the government has judged that conditions are being adequately fulfilled.  Senior staff who earn more than three times the average salary will have a 20% pay cut. Until the state’s investment is repaid in full, no dividends will be paid out to shareholders and management will not get bonuses. Cost-cutting measures worth 15% will have to be made. The number of night flights from Schiphol will be cut, but details are not yet decided.  KLM will also have to halve CO2 per passenger-kilometre by 2030, BUT there is no cap on KLM’s total CO2 emissions. 

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Committee on Climate Change progress report to government – much more needed to cut aviation CO2 (now 8% of UK carbon)

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has published their progress report, for 2020, on the UK government’s efforts on reducing CO2 emissions. It has a lot to say on aviation – far more than in its 2019 progress report. They say that iInternational aviation and shipping (IAS) should be formally included in UK climate targets, in the carbon budgets,  when the Sixth Carbon Budget is set, and net-zero plans should be developed. This has been a key demand, from environmental experts. At present aviation emissions are just taken account of. The CCC say that aviation accounts of 8% of the UK’s CO2 emissions (a briefing note in Feb 2020 for Parliament said it was 7% in 2019). The CCC also say that the UK’s airport capacity strategy should be reviewed in light of the country’s net-zero target. Due to the dramatic impact of Covid on the aviation sector, the CCC say a household & business survey is needed, of long-term travel expectations due to the pandemic. They add that action is also needed on non-CO₂ warming effects from aviation, which probably account for double the climate impact of the CO2 alone, emitted at altitude. They say ICAO’s CORSIA scheme should be strengthened.

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Heathrow air pollution down dramatically during Covid lockdown

With very low numbers of planes using Heathrow (97% down) over the past 3 months, due to the Covid lockdown, this has been an excellent opportunity to get data on air pollution – comparing days with, and without, the planes.  Using data from Air Quality England, local group Stop Heathrow Expansion have found that five air quality monitors around Heathrow which breached the maximum legal limit in March – May 2019 have shown an average 41% improvement in the same period in 2020.  Our current air quality laws state that nitrogen dioxide concentrations must not average more than 40 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3), per year. This level is often exceeded at a range of locations around Heathrow. Readings from a site on the Northern Perimeter Road showed a 50% improvement in air quality. Another site outside Cherry Lane Primary School had a 46% reduction in NO2 emissions, from 44.1µg/m3 in March – May 2019 to a safer 23.9 µg/m3 in the same period in 2020. As well as fewer planes, there were fewer road vehicles. Air pollution figures from inside the airport boundary were substantially lower, showing the source is planes, not only road vehicles, as Heathrow likes to claim.

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Unite furious about Heathrow drastic cuts in workers’ pay and conditions, and threat of sackings

Unite, the principal union for aviation workers, has accused Heathrow of using the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to permanently cut the pay and conditions of its workforce, a move Unite has described as being about ‘greed, not need’.  The airport is proposing to cut workers’ terms and conditions including: Pay cuts of up to 37%; the closure of the final salary pension scheme; removal of paid breaks and all allowances; weakening the redundancy agreement, and not paying workers for the first 3 days of sickness.  Unite says all the cuts would be permanent, and if Unite does not agree to them, Heathrow will sack its entire workforce and rehire them on poorer terms and conditions. Unite represents around 4,500 workers who are directly employed at the airport.  Heathrow will not compromise with Unite. In the meantime, Heathrow paid its shareholders a dividend of £100 million this year. And John Holland-Kaye claims it has a £3.2 billion “war chest” and that it could survive till the end of 2020, even with almost no flights. So it is particularly galling that it is needing to reduce its wage bill by so much. Many of the workers have kept working, during Covid, to help the airport stay open. Unite will fight using whatever industrial, political and legal channels are necessary.

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Blog: Broke Heathrow should not receive any taxpayer cash

The issue of whether Heathrow could ever pay for a 3rd runway is one that has become even more pressing, now the airport has been hit very hard by Covid-19. Its finances have been shaky for a long time. In an excellent analysis, by Chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, Paul McGuinness, sets out the facts. Heathrow has claimed that it “can survive with no passengers for the next 12 months, so our’s is a very good position to be in”. But in fact Heathrow admitted to its staff (email of 6 April) that the publicised “£3.2 billion war chest” is merely the liquidity that can be mustered when “we have drawn down all the cash and credit facilities at our disposal”. So, yet more borrowing to be repaid in the future — presumably by passengers.  Looking into Heathrow finances, it is clear that it has sold assets and borrowed against those that remain, in order to finance enormous dividend payments to shareholders (92% of which do not pay UK tax), while avoiding corporate taxes.  It has an eye watering level of debt. By the end of 2019, its borrowing against its assets was £15.449 billion, so it had reached a leverage ratio of 97% — higher than any comparable UK infrastructure or utility operation.  Read the whole blog for details.

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Luton airport delays expansion plans, due to Covid and stated intention to be “greener”

In 2019 Luton airport put out plans to expand, from 18 million passenger per year, (mppa) up to 32 million. This expansion, being over 10 mppa, needs to go through the Development Consent Order (DCO) route, rather than a normal planning application.  The airport is owned by Luton Borough Council which is also the local authority that should regulate it.  Now with a massive decline in air travel demand, due to Covid, Luton airport has decided to delay the process, and not submit its DCO this summer, as originally intended, but in 2021. It claims it wants to be more “green” with less environmental impact, etc etc (tricky with so many more passengers and flights, and thus more noise, more CO2,  more air pollution and more congested surface transport). Local opposition groups are pleased about the delay, as is Hertfordshire County Council, which is against the plans due to the adverse noise impact. Luton is too dependant on the airport, and so has suffered from the loss of jobs, and income from the airport, due to the pandemic. It would be wiser to delay until there is clarity on the government policy on aviation carbon, in its ambition of aiming for zero carbon by 2050.

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GACC (Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign) asks Gatwick to build back better – less noise, no night flights

Flights using Gatwick will slowly restart from 15th June, so noise, air pollution and CO2 emissions are set to increase again. Local campaigners, GACC are asking Gatwick to embed noise and other environmental improvements into their recovery plans. During Covid lockdown, Gatwick was only open for a period each afternoon and evening with no night flights. People normally adversely affected by plane noise have benefited hugely from the welcome break from plane intrusion.  GACC wants a continuing ban on night flights, especially as air traffic will not return to pre-Covid levels for an unknown time.  The Covid pandemic is a unique opportunity for the airport to re-establish a pattern of working that is less environmentally damaging, in terms of noise and carbon. GACC is asking that as well as a night ban, airlines should prioritise flying their least noisy aircraft in their fleets. – and provide incentives that encourage airlines permanently to retire older, noisier and more polluting aircraft, Also to use air traffic control to disperse noise, minimise arrival noise impact, and achieve higher, quicker, departures.

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Wandsworth Council, and the other councils, to challenge latest efforts by Heathrow to revive plans for 3rd runway

Wandsworth Council is poised to support fresh legal efforts to cement its recent victory over plans to expand Heathrow Airport.  The airport’s owners and the construction company involved are trying and rescue the plans with an appeal to the Supreme Court. So Wandsworth has indicated it wishes to join other councils and environmental groups in guaranteeing the Supreme Court judges hear both sides of the argument. The council is seeking permission to intervene as “an interested party” due to the importance it attaches to the outcome – and the negative impact a 3rd runway would have on tens of thousands of Wandsworth residents. Being represented at the hearing would mean the council and its allies can ensure that the strong arguments against Heathrow expansion are fully aired. The government has not sought to overturn the Appeal Court ruling.  The councils that brought the case – Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Richmond upon Thames, Hammersmith & Fulham and Windsor & Maidenhead, together with the Mayor of London and Greenpeace – are working together on the Supreme Court case.

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IATA anticipate airlines globally losing $84 billion in 2020, $16 billion in 2021. Airline CO2 down 37% from 2019 level in 2020

The massive reduction globally in air travel demand, due to the coronavirus, will mean the airline sector will probably lose about $84bn (£66 billion) this year.  [In February, it was anticipating a loss of $29 billion]. IATA says airline revenues would drop to $419bn in 2020, down 50% from 2019.  IATA said it expects airlines to lose $230 million on average each day in 2020, with half as many air passengers as in 2019 – returning to the level in 2006.  IATA has to be bullish about the prospects for 2021, saying they anticipate the loss globally to be $15.8 billion, as revenues start to increase and passenger numbers return to 2014 levels. If there is a second wave of Covid globally, that will not happen. Airlines have been given billions in aid, to tide them over the pandemic crisis. IATA expects RPKs (Revenue Passenger Kilometres) to fall from 8.68 trillion in 2019, to 3.93 trillion in 2020 (and perhaps 6.10 trillion in 2021. They expect the load factor to fall from  82.5% in 2019, to 62.7% in 2020, maybe partly due to social distancing on planes, as well as low demand. They anticipate carbon emissions of global airlines to be 574 million tonnes CO2 in 2020, a 37% fall from the 914 million tonnes in 2019. And perhaps rising back to 748 million tonnes by 2021.

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Austrian government to introduce higher taxes on flights, with a minimum flight price of €40

The Austrian government, headed by Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, announced a rescue package of €600 million for Austrian Airlines on 8th June. But there are also 3 new measures, designed to make aviation less environmentally damaging. These include the immediate introduction of the reform of the air ticket tax. Instead of the previous €3.50 for short-haul flights, €7.50 for medium-haul flights and €17.50 for long-haul flights, it is now a standard of €12 euros. So that is more for shorter flights, but less for long-haul trips. In addition, there will be an increased tax of €30 for flights of under 350 kilometres, with the objective of deterring people from flying short distances – and encouraging train use instead.  In addition, the law on airport fees will be amended, so the tax will be based on carbon emissions and noise.  There is to be a minimum price for any air ticket, that will be €40. Austria is the first country to introduce this.  Austrian politicians describe the environmental harm done by aviation as environmental and social “dumping”, which is making profits at the expense of the climate and employees.

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Building Back Better for Aviation: joint NGO briefing on changes needed by the aviation sector

In a joint briefing with Greenpeace UK and other environmental NGOs, the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) has set out the steps necessary for government to create the aviation industry as it recovers from the Covid pandemic. This is a unique opportunity for the sect or to change, in ways that reduce its negative environmental impact. The briefing suggests the sector needs to be fully accounted for, in the economy-wide drive to achieve net zero emissions. It should be equitably taxed to help fund the green recovery and to reduce demand for flying; and it should use technology to mitigate remaining emissions (if possible).  There needs to be a commitment now to legislate for formal inclusion of aviation carbon emissions in carbon budgets, at least from the 6th carbon budget onwards. Though most flights are taken by relatively-affluent (or affluent) people, the tax on flying is too low. The rate of APD paid by 78% of air travellers (£13) has increased only £3 since 1997, and, adjusting for inflation, has fallen in real terms. APD only raises £3.8billion for the Treasury each year, and the amount the sector  contributes could be increased substantially, if there was VAT charged, and fuel duty.

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Four airlines have so far benefited from £1.8 billion of Bank of England lending, for Covid crisis (with no CO2 conditions)

British Airways (£300m), EasyJet £600m), Wizz Air (£300m) and Ryanair (£600) have taken £1.8bn from the government’s rescue finance lending. Money has come from the Bank of England’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility. This is despite ministers’ assurances on a green recovery from the coronavirus crisis. Other high carbon sectors have also benefited. The 4 airlines alone have taken £1.8bn in lending from the scheme so far. Aircraft engine-maker Rolls-Royce has taken a £300m bailout. Campaigners say the government must attach new conditions to the support it is giving, which could top £67bn in total to, to all sector companies – rising from the e so far borrowed more than £16bn borrowed so far.  Society needs to decide if assistance should be given to high carbon industries, at a time when carbon emissions need to be drastically cut, quickly.  Greenpeace said: “Airlines have been given exactly what the chancellor, the prime minister, economists and the public said they should not be given – billions in cheap and easy loans to keep them polluting, without any commitments to reduce their emissions or even keep their workers on the payroll.”

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UK airports face £ multi-million business rates bills – money that should be paid to councils

Heathrow and Gatwick airports are facing £ multi-million business rates bills, despite the pandemic having grounded aircraft and dramatically cut their incomes.  The airports are among thousands of UK companies set to appeal against their rates bills. Heathrow apparently owes £113.2m for the current tax year, the highest of any site in England and Wales, according to an annual review of business ratepayers by Altus Group, a real estate adviser. Gatwick has the next biggest bill at £29.2m.   Business rates, which are paid to local councils, are calculated on the basis of rateable values — effectively an estimate of a property’s rental value at a given date. Rateable values are set according to rents on April 1 2015.  They are not based on how well, or how badly, a company is doing.  Heathrow bleated that the rates were based on “a world in which people flew”. The airports argue that rates relief will help them protect jobs.  Some sectors  – retail, hospitality or leisure – have been given rates holidays.  The money from the rates is a key part of the income of councils, and if not paid, then the funding and spending of councils is at risk.

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Airlines are lobbying government to allow flights, with no quarantine, from 45 countries (“air bridges”)

The UK is due to start imposing 14-day self quarantine on any passenger arriving in the UK, by air or ferry or train, from the 8th June. This is considered by many to be far too late, but the government claims this is a sensible time to impose it.  But the airlines believe quarantine would mean nobody would want to travel to the UK, certainly not for a holiday. And they feel few Brits will want to go abroad, if they have to lock themselves away for 2 weeks. So the airlines are lobbying for no less than 45 COUNTRIES to be excluded, so people could enter the UK from those countries with no quarantine. The choice of countries appears to be those that Brits most like to travel to, with odd additions and omissions. The hope is that these countries will allow Brits to holiday there, and encourage their citizens to come here.  The idea is that the “air bridges” would be between countries with low Covid transmission. The problem is that the UK rate of transmission is currently not low. There are serious concerns that allowing so many people to enter the UK would increase Covid transmission. There is also the risk of the “Dublin dodge” by which people in countries not on the air bridge list can still enter the UK, quarantine-free.

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Open letter to ICAO – the CORSIA scheme should not be weakened, just because of Covid

Thirteen organisations concerned with aviation carbon emissions and carbon trading, have written to ICAO to ask that they stick to the intentions for how the CORSIA scheme is set up, and do not weaken it. The stated purpose of CORSIA is to help the international aviation sector achieve “carbon-neutral growth from 2020”. It is due to use as a baseline the aviation CO2 emissions from 2019 and 2020. However, with the Covid pandemic, airline carbon emissions will be much lower than anticipated this year. If ICAO used 2019 and 2020, the amount of carbon the sector could emit, and the cost of emitting it, would be far lower than anticipated. So IATA wants to change the rules, so the carbon baseline only considers 2019, not including 2020, which would result in significantly lower offsetting requirements for airlines compared to the current CORSIA design. In fact, under most recovery scenarios, the change sought by IATA would eliminate all offsetting requirements for the duration of the CORSIA pilot phase and potentially several years thereafter. The rules need to be adhered to.

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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  …


Committee on Climate Change.

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

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

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