Government publishes its Aviation Policy Framework; disappointingly weak and vague on noise, climate change, air pollution …

The government has published its Aviation Policy Framework, which takes the place of the Air Transport White Paper of 2003. There is not much to celebrate in it.  It remains curiously uncritical of the alleged economic benefits of air travel to the UK.  It is lamentably weak on climate change, weak on noise, weak on air pollution and more of a discussion document than a policy document.  Friends of the Earth commented that it “could have been written by the aviation industry – it encourages more flying, while only requiring ‘cost-effective’ action to tackle climate change.”  WWF commented that  the Framework represents a ‘charter for growth’ which overstates the need for new capacity, underestimates the potential for alternatives and downplays aviation’s growing climate impact. The Framework sets out only general aspirations for aviation to make a “significant contribution to tackling” its CO2 emissions challenge, without indicating any national policy measures that might achieve this aim.  On noise the Framework acknowledges some of the shortcomings of the current system for monitoring community annoyance from aircraft noise and the 57Leq threshold choice, yet makes no specific proposals for revising it or recognising that annoyance is caused at lower noise levels. The Framework provides scant and inadequate policy guidance on environmental impacts of aviation for the Airports Commission, which needs this information to inform its decisions this year on airport capacity. 




 The document (86 pages) is at  Aviation Policy Framework                          and links to related DfT documents below


Comment on the new Aviation Policy Framework from Friends of the Earth UK:


Government aviation guidance slammed

22 March 2013 (FoE)

Commenting on the publication today (22 March 2013) of the Government’s aviation policy framework, Friends of the Earth’s Head of Campaigns Andrew Pendleton, said:

“This document could have been written by the aviation industry – it encourages more flying, while only requiring ‘cost-effective’ action to tackle climate change.

“It’s nonsense for ministers to say aviation has to grow when it causes so many environmental problems.

“The industry only thrives because of the multi-billion pound tax breaks it receives from the Government, while taxpayers and the planet are forced to pick up the bill.

“Yet again the Government have shown their true colours – and they’re certainly not green.”



1. Aviation policy framework:–2
2. Friends of the Earth says the new Aviation Policy Framework is weak, vague and barely different from the Aviation White Paper produced a decade ago.

On climate change the policy:

– States that national action to curb emissions will only be taken if it can be proved to be ‘cost effective.’ (page 41).

– Relies on international agreements which have so far proved ineffective in curbing aviation’s growing emissions of climate changing gases.

– Dodges setting a national target to control aviation’s emissions (page 47)

– Relies on more unfulfilled promises by the aviation industry itself that technical advances in engine and aircraft design will reduce emissions when these remain and very long and vague prospects (page 48)

On air pollution, the policy:

– Says the Government is ‘committed to achieving full compliance with European air quality standards’ (page 64) and yet the UK has failed to meet the timescale to comply with those standards and, as a result, air quality in London and many areas across the UK routinely breaches health standards risking the UK being fined.



Comment on the new Aviation Policy Framework, from the AEF (Aviation Environment Federation):

New Government aviation policy no longer advocates new runways, but leaves big gaps over how noise and climate change impacts should be tackled

22nd Mar 2013

The Government has today published its aviation framework document, setting out its vision for the long-term development of the sector in the UK, including the environmental framework in which future questions about airport capacity and new runways should be assessed.

The Framework replaces the 2003 Air Transport White Paper, against which AEF campaigned for many years. While the previous policy had supported the building of new runways at Heathrow, Stansted, and either Glasgow or Edinburgh, the new policy gives no explicit support to any proposals for new airport capacity.

Having begun the process of policy review with a commitment to give greater weight to the challenge of climate change”, however, the Framework sets out only general aspirations for the sector to make a significant contribution to tackling this challenge, without indicating any national policy measures that might achieve this aim.  Instead, hopes are pinned on international talks and the assumption that if these fail, the EU will enforce appropriate regional measures. There is no expectation international talks will succeed.

On noise, the new policy acknowledges some of the shortcomings of the current metric system for monitoring community annoyance, yet makes no specific proposals for revising it.  Relevant evidence presented in the draft framework on how noise sensitivity has increased over time has been removed, with no reference made to the previous acknowledgment that: “International research carried out in recent years by the World Health Organization, European Environment Agency (EEA) and others seems to reinforce the finding that the level of aircraft noise exposure at which a certain level of annoyance occurs has decreased in the last 20-30 years.” (Draft Aviation Policy Framework D.5)

Meanwhile, numerous unsubstantiated references are made to claimed economic benefits from aviation. Emphasis is placed on aviation’s ability to contribute to future economic growth, despite the ongoing lack of any convincing evidence indicating that an increase in aviation capacity will generate growth in trade.

The policy published today provides, we consider, the bare bones of the environmental impacts that should guide the Airports Commission – the independent body currently assessing UK airport capacity, and due to report to Government in 2015.

But there remains a need to align airports policy with the implications of the UK Climate Change Act, and with public expectations on noise. We will be calling on the Airports Commission to clarify what specific environmental conditions it recommends should be applied.

AEF continues to support inclusion of aviation in the UK’s carbon budgets, a reduction in the official noise threshold at which significant community annoyance occurs (currently 57 dB Leq), and improvements to the way in which public safety and air pollution are addressed.





This is the comment on the Aviation Policy Framework document from WWF


WWF: Government wants to ‘wish away’ aviation emissions


Commenting on the Government’s aviation policy framework, published today [1], WWF-UK said that it was ‘unconvinced’ that the framework would deliver its claim to ‘respect the environment.’

The group said that instead, the framework represents a ‘charter for growth’ which overstates the need for new capacity, underestimates the potential for alternatives such as rail and videoconferencing to replace flying and downplays the growing climate impact of aviation.

WWF-UK said that it also relied on a weak EU ETS (emissions trading system), which is temporarily suspended, and non-existent global deal through ICAO (the International Civil Aviation Organization) to ‘deal with’ the problem of reducing aviation emissions rather than taking strong actions at a national level.

Jean Leston, transport policy lead for WWF-UK said: “The aviation industry is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions, yet this new framework seems to think you can ‘wish away’ the climate change impact of aviation and expect someone else to clean up the mess, at a global or EU level.

“This framework has also failed to produce a robust solution for dealing with aviation emissions at home, yet again passing the buck on the inclusion of international aviation and shipping emissions in UK climate targets and future carbon budgets. It’s clear that the Government wants aviation expansion at any price. The Government has cooked up policy-based evidence rather than evidence-based policy.”


1. DfT: UK economy and environment at heart of government’s vision for aviation (22 March 2013):


The document (86 pages) is at  Aviation Policy Framework

Aviation Policy Framework:

Press Notice:

Written Statement:

Summary of responses to draft Aviation Policy Framework:






See also

Comments on the Government’s new Aviation Policy Framework from GACC, SSE, HACAN and others (they are not impressed)

Date added: March 25, 2013

Comments from NGOs and airport groups to publication of the government’s new Aviation Policy Framework document on Friday have not been complimentary. GACC at Gatwick said it was “turgid, vapid and verbose” and is so wordy because “it contains a paean of praise for the the aviation industry which reads as if written by a PR agency, and most of which could be applied equally to any other industry.” Also GACC is disappointed that “several measures to make life better for local residents have been dropped.” SSE at Stansted said “the new framework is noticeably lacking in any meaningful measures to control noise, air pollution or climate change, adding to condemnation by airport community campaign groups and national environmental organisations across the UK. Top of the list of failures is the framework’s adherence to discredited methods for measuring aircraft noise disturbance – not least in rural areas with low background noise”. There are more comments from HACAN, WWF, FoE and AEF.

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Below are a few comments from the section on Climate:


“Our objective is to ensure that the aviation sector makes a significant and cost-effective contribution towards reducing global emissions.”

” …essential if we are to achieve progress on reducing its climate change impacts while minimising the risk of putting UK businesses at a competitive disadvantage.”

“We are committed to making progress through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the agency of the United Nations which regulates international civil aviation, on a global emissions deal and more stringent technology standards”.

“We also continue to work with our European Union (EU) partners to ensure the success of the inclusion of aviation in the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS). ”