Dubbed Heathrow 2.0, the new strategy pulls together a host of initiatives, including plans to step up R&D investment in low carbon aviation technologies, reduce the environmental impact of its operations, and enhance air quality around the airport.
Specifically, the airport announced it has invested an initial £500,000 in a new R&D incubator tasked with identifying ways to minimise noise and carbon emissions from flights.
“Heathrow will consult leading experts to identify participants from the aviation industry, academia and business,” the company said. “By the end of the year, more funding sources will also be identified so that the incubator opens its doors in 2019.”
In a further bid to encourage airlines to switch to more efficient modern fleets, the strategy includes proposals for a ‘Fly Quiet and Clean’ league table, which will publicly rank airlines according to their noise and emissions.
Heathrow also pledged to become the latest high profile firm to switch to 100 per cent renewable power, vowing to only source electricity from renewable sources from the end of the this year as part of a wider emission reduction plan designed to ensure the planned new runway is “carbon neutral”.
In addition, the plan includes proposals to establish an “airside ultra-low emission zone” by 2025, designed to reduce air pollution in the area, and sets a new target to ensure half of passengers travel using public or sustainable transport.
Unveiling the new plan at the British Chamber of Commerce conference, Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said the strategy represented “a step-change for our business, and accelerates the shift in our industry towards a sustainable future for aviation”.
“By focusing on the long-term, and through working together, we can deliver a world-leading economy – innovative, competitive, successful and sustainable,” he said. “And we can create a future where our business, our people, our communities, our country and our world, can all thrive.”
The plan comes as airports and airlines face mounting pressure to develop lower carbon aviation technologies, following an international agreement last year that aims to cap emissions from the sector from 2020 and introduce a new offset scheme during the 2020s that should effectively impose a carbon price on aviation emissions.
However, many environmental groups have argued the new international deal is not ambitious enough and Heathrow is continuing to face significant opposition over its plans to build a third runway, with campaigners voicing scepticism the project is compatible with the UK’s carbon budgets.
Last week the Environmental Audit Committee of MPs accused the government of not doing enough to demonstrate how Heathrow expansion is in line with emissions obligations and accused ministers of preparing to “water down the limits on aviation emissions recommended by its own climate change advisers”.
However, the airport has consistently argued that improvements in technology will allow it to expand the airport while complying with the UK’s Climate Change Act and air quality rules.
The huge growth in flights from Heathrow’s planned new runway could be carbon neutral, according to an ambition revealed by the airport.
The 260,000 extra flights a year anticipated from the third runway would make the airport the UK’s largest source of carbon emissions. But Heathrow’s new sustainability plan suggests other ways to offset the leap in emissions, including by restoring British peat bogs.
The new plan, called Heathrow 2.0, sets a wide range of targets to tackle carbon emissions, illegal levels of local air pollution, and noise. The airport will use 100% renewable electricity from April and aim to get 35,000 more people a day using public transport rather than arriving in cars by 2030 and double that by 2040.
The third runway, now backed by the government, is highly controversial, with critics arguing it could dash hopes of meeting the UK’s climate change targets and solving local air pollution problems. About 95% of Heathrow’s carbon emissions come from aircraft, but aviation is one of the toughest sectors in which to cut carbon, as the electric batteries than can power cars are too heavy for planes.
John Holland-Kaye, the chief executive of Heathrow, said: “We are not doing this to convince somebody that we are anything we aren’t. We are setting out what we are going to do and people can judge us by our actions. We are going to play our part in the challenge of climate change.”
The plan sets out firm short-term targets, including removing the last 5% of flights made by the most polluting aircraft by 2020 and cutting the number of late-running flights arriving in the middle of the night – currently about one a day – by half this year.
The aspiration to make growth from the new runway carbon-neutral relies significantly on the global aviation deal agreed in October to offset most new emissions after 2020. The most novel aspect of Heathrow’s new plan to explore the restoration of peatlands in the UK to offset carbon, which would be “a very British solution”, said Holland-Kaye.
Peatlands cover 12% of the UK but 80% are in poor condition. “The opportunity is absolutely massive,” said the environmentalist Tony Juniper, who was a paid consultant on Heathrow’s new plan. “The vast majority of peatlands are degraded and it is releasing billions of tonnes of carbon over decades.” He said restoration would also benefit flood prevention and wildlife.
Holland-Kaye said it was vital to also set out longer term plans even if it was unclear as yet how to achieve them: “There are some really challenging aspirations around carbon, and even if we don’t get all the way there, every tonne of carbon we are able to prevent going into the atmosphere is a tonne less that our children have to deal with.”
Andrew Pendleton of Friends of the Earth said: “We have to say, that if you look at this coldly, it makes Heathrow one of the most progressive airports in the world. But there is a jumbo-jet sized elephant in the room – a new runway that would see 260,000 extra flights a year, and that comes at a significant environmental price.”
“It is deeply irresponsible of the government to sign off on this expansion on the assumption that something will come along” to solve the challenges, he said. A cross-party committee of MPs recently accused the government of “magical thinking” over the future solutions to Heathrow’s environmental challenges.
Tim Johnson of the Aviation Environment Federation said: “The plan aspires to a cleaner and quieter future but its detail is largely concerned with short-term, incremental improvements that are not up to the challenges that would come with runway expansion. There is nothing in this report to suggest that we are any closer to finding effective solutions.”
“If you have a plan and you really focus on it, you can make a significant change in people’s behaviour,” he said. “The great thing about the VW scandal is that the government is now taking [air pollution] seriously, because they are the ones who can have the most influence. Once the will of government gets behind these things, big things can happen relatively quickly.”
The new runway would open by 2025 at the earliest, and Holland-Kaye said the new HS2 train line and possible new rail links to the west and south could be a “gamechanger”.
Heathrow is planning to increase the number of short-haul flights within the UK, and will discount their landing fees this year. Critics say such flights should be replaced by rail travel but Holland-Kaye said they were important in helping all regions of the UK to grow. “Unless we have an economy which pays for a shift to being low-carbon, we are not going to make that shift,” he said.
The Heathrow plan is “bold and brave”, according to Juniper: “The difference here is the extent to which they have really embraced the challenge rather than trying to avoid taking responsibility.” Asked if fast-growing aviation can ever be sustainable, he said: “It is going to have to be” because stopping more people flying “is not going to happen”.
Prince’s green guru is paid to help Heathrow
By Ben Webster, Environment Editor (The Times)
March 2 2017
The Prince of Wales’s green adviser has been accused of hypocrisy over being paid to help Heathrow to justify building a third runway after spending years opposing it.
Tony Juniper, 56, who co-authored the recent Ladybird book on climate change with the prince, advised Heathrow on a “sustainability strategy”, which seeks to justify the airport’s expansion.
Mr Juniper campaigned against the expansion of Heathrow when he was director of Friends of the Earth, which he left in 2008 shortly before becoming special adviser to the prince on environment projects.
He supported activists who blockaded airports in protest over the impact of flights on climate change. He also accused Gordon Brown of hypocrisy when he was prime minister for supporting action on climate change while backing a third runway at Heathrow.
Mr Juniper began advising Heathrow 18 months ago via Robertsbridge, the sustainability consultancy that he co-founded with Charles Secrett, also a former director of Friends of the Earth, and Peter Ainsworth, a former Conservative MP.
Mr Juniper’s key idea to help to justify the third runway’s 260,000 extra flights a year is “carbon offsetting”, which allows emissions to rise if an equivalent amount is prevented elsewhere.
Heathrow is holding talks with conservation groups about paying to protect a British peat bog which, it is claimed, might otherwise dry out and release vast amounts of carbon.
Jeff Gazzard, co-ordinator of the GreenSkies Alliance, which opposes airport expansion, said: “Tony Juniper has given his name to world-class greenwash. It’s massively inconsistent and he must have known he was going to get labelled a hypocrite.
“He has turned himself from a figure of admiration to the Neville Chamberlain of corporate social responsibility.”
John Stewart, chairman of the Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise, which campaigns against the third runway, said: “This appears very inconsistent with the previous very public stance Tony Juniper took in opposing a third runway.”
Mr Juniper said that he believed the third runway could be built sustainably but denied that this contradicted his previous stance.
He said he had adopted a “parallel and equally credible position . . . that if society is going to say we are going to accommodate growth rather than to try and block it then the best possible thing you can do is to try to ensure it is as sustainable as possible”.
He added: “I’m agnostic on a third runway at Heathrow but I would say we have a growing demand for aviation and we need to be able to deal with that through a number of different approaches.”
Heathrow’s strategy pledges to make the new runway “carbon neutral”. Matt Gorman, Heathrow’s director of sustainability, said that carbon neutral expansion was an “aspiration” rather than a commitment. He declined to say how much Heathrow would be investing in the peat bog project but said it would be a “meaningful contribution”. He declined to say how much Mr Juniper and Robertsbridge had been paid.
Tony Juniper made his name in the environmental movement by travelling to Brazil in 1990 and discovering the last surviving wild Spix’s macaws.
That same year he joined Friends of the Earth (FoE) and worked his way up to be director.
He successfully campaigned for the Climate Change Act 2008, which committed the UK to the world’s toughest emission reduction targets.
After leaving FoE in 2008, he became special adviser to the Prince of Wales, first on his Rainforests Project and then his International Sustainability Unit.
He was the Green Party candidate in Cambridge at the 2010 general election.