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

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

By Sinead Corr – sinead.corr@iliffemedia.co.uk (Bishops’ Stortford Independent)

30 April 2021

After two decades of campaigning, 82-year-old Peter Sanders is stepping down as Stop Stansted Expansion chairman as the organisation begins a new era with a fresh name – Stansted Airport Watch.

He took the helm in 2004, two years after helping to found SSE, and has been a resident of the area for 40 years: firstly in Stansted, then Widdington and now Saffron Walden.

Born in the East End of London in 1938, Peter earned a place at the University of Oxford, where he took a degree in classics followed by a doctorate in African history.

He began his career in 1961, joining the Diplomatic Service, where he served in Lesotho and Basutoland, overseeing pre-independence elections in the mid-1960s. On his return to the UK, he joined the Race Relations Board, subsequently the Commission for Racial Equality, and was its chief executive for many years and was awarded the CBE.

After retiring in 1993, Peter went on to write several books on African history, as well as two local history books: The Simple Annals: The History of an Essex and East End Family and On the Beaten Track: A History of Stansted Mountfitchet.

He became treasurer of the United Nations Association in the UK, a post he held until 2003. His wife died a number of years ago. His favourite pastime is his much-loved allotment in Stansted…

Peter Sanders has lived in the area for 40 years: firstly in Stansted, then Widdington and now Saffron Walden.  Peter helped to found SSE in 2002 and became its chairman two years later

 

He said: 

In May, I shall be standing down as chairman of SSE (Stop Stansted Expansion) having held that post for 17 years. At the same time, if all goes according to plan, the baton will pass from SSE to Stansted Airport Watch (SAW).

SSE was founded in 2002 in response to Government proposals which shocked the local community by setting out options for expanding Stansted with up to three additional runways.

Up to that point the Government had adhered to the unequivocal declaration made in 1985 that there was no case for the provision of even one additional runway at Stansted.

Suddenly, in response to the growth of low-cost airlines, it had brushed aside that declaration and was prepared to consider allowing Stansted to become twice as big as Heathrow.

This was widely regarded as a gross breach of faith – many people had bought houses locally on the strength of the Government’s assurance. It was also regarded as a dire threat to a wide area of unspoilt countryside.

A previous planning inspector had described the prospect of a second Stansted runway as an invading monster. SSE submitted a comprehensive, well-argued response to the Government’s proposals, Stansted: The Case against Irresponsible Growth, and in a referendum organised by Uttlesford District Council, 89% had voted against a second runway. But it was all to no avail.

In its White Paper of 2003 the Government declared its support for an extra runway at Stansted, to be open by 2012 at the latest.

BAA, the then owner of Stansted Airport, set about preparing for construction of the second runway. This included the purchase of some 270 local homes, and in 2008 BAA submitted its planning application for the new runway.

Throughout these proceedings, any arguments about the growing impact of aviation on climate change were dismissed. They were the concern of central government, it was said, not a local planning inquiry. But outside the legislative framework, these same arguments were gaining more momentum.

SSE had been working with politicians from all parties behind the scenes for many years in Whitehall, Westminster and at party conferences, and had secured verbal assurances that a change of Government would result in a change of policy and the withdrawal of support for a second Stansted runway.

These assurances were honoured when, in 2010, one of the first acts of the newly-formed coalition Government was to withdraw its support for a second Stansted runway. BAA then had no choice but to abandon its planning application and SSE duly celebrated.

It was, of course, too good to last for very long.

Confronted by the powerful aviation industry lobby, the Government set up the Airports Commission to examine whether or not any more runways were needed in the South East and, if so, where they should be.

In a detailed submission to the Airports Commission, Manchester Airports Group (MAG), which had purchased Stansted from BAA in 2013, revived plans to make Stansted a four-runway airport, twice as big as Heathrow and bigger than any other airport in Europe.

SSE spared no effort in preparing its evidence to counter MAG’s proposals and our efforts were spectacularly rewarded when the Airports Commission did not even short-list Stansted for a second runway.

The commission eventually concluded that one new runway was needed in the South East and that it should be at Heathrow. If, at a later date, in the 2040s, another runway was needed, Stansted could be one of the options. The Government accepted these recommendations.

So what have we achieved?

Although Stansted has expanded considerably over the years, it continues to be a single-runway airport. It is currently limited by planning conditions to 35 million passengers per annum and MAG wants this increased to 43 million. This was the issue at stake in the recent public inquiry and we now await the decision of the planning inspectors.

But regardless of the outcome, the impact of Covid-19 is such that it will take many years for Stansted to return even to its pre-pandemic (2019) throughput of 28 million passengers. In the past 12 months Stansted has handled just three million passengers.

When I became chairman of SSE in 2004, many, perhaps most, people considered that a second Stansted runway was inevitable. The Government had identified this as its first priority for increasing London’s airport capacity.

SSE cannot claim all the credit for the Government’s change of mind, obviously, but our campaigning has been well-informed, professional and intensive, from the opening mass meeting in the former Mountfitchet High School through fund-raising events, sales of calendars, donations and the planting of the SSE wood in Broxted, exactly where the second runway was due to be constructed.

In spite of the disparity in financial resources we have been more than a match for BAA and MAG.

I take this opportunity once again to thank our superb team of local experts, active campaigners and thousands of supporters.

Over the years we have been encouraged by the support of parish, town and district councillors, our local MPs and also our patron, Terry Waite.

In our early years there were those who told us that, confronted by the big guns of BAA and the Government, we did not stand a chance, that we were wasting our time and effort. Some even claimed that the second runway had already been constructed and was concealed under a thick covering of turf! We can claim to have proved them all wrong.

Looking to the future, there may not be any immediate threat of a second runway, but we must remain on our guard and there is much to do to contain the negative impacts of Stansted Airport.

It has been a privilege and a pleasure to lead SSE over this period, and I shall continue to take a close interest when the baton passes from SSE to Stansted Airport Watch (SAW), assuming our members approve this change at the forthcoming AGM.

See original article, with lots of photos, at

https://www.bishopsstortfordindependent.co.uk/news/sse-chairman-we-have-been-more-than-a-match-for-baa-and-mag-9196801/

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See earlier:

Stop Stansted Expansion to be renamed Stansted Airport Watch

Stop Stansted Expansion has announced its intention to bring an end to almost 19 years of campaigning under the SSE banner, to be replaced by Stansted Airport Watch (SAW). The proposed rebranding of SSE forms part of a number of changes to be recommended for approval at the AGM. SSE Chairman, Peter Sanders, explained the rationale for the changes, as it being very unlikely Stansted will be expanding capacity for many years to come.  Due to Covid, the current planning cap of 35 million passengers per annum is not expected to be reached within the next decade and it is questionable whether permission to grow to 43mppa – i.e. the issue at stake at the Public Inquiry – will ever be needed.  And so it makes sense to change the name, as much of the group’s work has been on issues of noise, flight paths, aviation policy, taxation, carbon emissions, compensation – generally trying to reduce the harm done by the airpot – not only expansion. Peter Sanders will himself be standing down as Chairman of SSE at this year’s AGM, having been a founder member of SSE in 2002 and its Chairman since 2004. He will probably be replaced by Brian Ross, who has long been Deputy Chairman.

Click here to view full story…

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Stansted Airport Public Inquiry into expansion plans – started 12th January 2021

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.

Click here to view full story…

 

Read more »

Stop Stansted Expansion to be renamed Stansted Airport Watch

Stop Stansted Expansion has announced its intention to bring an end to almost 19 years of campaigning under the SSE banner, to be replaced by Stansted Airport Watch (SAW). The proposed rebranding of SSE forms part of a number of changes to be recommended for approval at the AGM. SSE Chairman, Peter Sanders, explained the rationale for the changes, as it being very unlikely Stansted will be expanding capacity for many years to come.  Due to Covid, the current planning cap of 35 million passengers per annum is not expected to be reached within the next decade and it is questionable whether permission to grow to 43mppa – i.e. the issue at stake at the Public Inquiry – will ever be needed.  And so it makes sense to change the name, as much of the group’s work has been on issues of noise, flight paths, aviation policy, taxation, carbon emissions, compensation – generally trying to reduce the harm done by the airpot – not only expansion. Peter Sanders will himself be standing down as Chairman of SSE at this year’s AGM, having been a founder member of SSE in 2002 and its Chairman since 2004. He will probably be replaced by Brian Ross, who has long been Deputy Chairman.
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Stop Stansted Expansion to be succeeded by Stansted Airport Watch

16.4.2021

From Stop Stansted Expansion – now called Stansted Airport Watch

Stop Stansted Expansion has announced its intention to bring an end to almost 19 years of campaigning under the SSE banner, to be replaced by Stansted Airport Watch (SAW). The proposed rebranding of SSE forms part of a number of changes to be recommended for approval at the annual general meeting (AGM) of SSE’s parent organisation next month. [Notes 1 and 2]

SSE Chairman, Peter Sanders, explained the rationale for the changes as follows:

“Regardless of the outcome of the recent Public Inquiry, it is very unlikely that Stansted will apply for any further increase in its capacity for many years to come.  As a result of Covid-19, the current planning cap of 35 million passengers per annum is not expected to be reached within the next decade and it is questionable whether permission to grow to 43mppa – i.e. the issue at stake at the Public Inquiry – will ever be needed.”

In the 12 months to 31 March, Stansted handled just 3 million passengers compared to 28 million in 2019, before air travel was decimated by the pandemic.

In addition to the expected long-term impact of Covid-19 on air travel, there is growing recognition that the UK will not be able to meet its statutory target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 unless aviation emissions are brought under much tighter control. This almost certainly means that aviation growth, at Stansted and elsewhere, will need to be constrained.

Peter Sanders continued: “In the current circumstances it’s questionable whether ‘Stop Stansted Expansion’ continues to be an appropriate name for our campaign.  It’s also important to note that, over the years, SSE has done far more than just dealing with the threat of expansion, for example, campaigning on night flights, on changes to flight paths, on aviation policy and taxation, on climate change, on the phasing out of noisier aircraft, on homeowner mitigation and compensation, and far more besides.”

All of that work will continue to be necessary, and the view of the SSE committee is that this is the right time to re-focus the campaign on the task ahead.  Rather than having to oppose expansion proposals, the need will be to ensure that the airport’s authorised operations cause as little harm as possible and, wherever possible, are managed so as to reduce harm.

A further reason for the new organisation is to help bring about a changing of the guard within SSE.  Most of the current members of the SSE committee have been in place since the campaign group was established in 2002.  If there were to be another threat of airport expansion in, say, ten years’ time, the current team would not be the best people to handle that challenge. The current hiatus, caused by Covid-19, provides an opportunity to start passing the baton to the next generation, allowing new blood to learn and gain experience of dealing with the key issues.

Peter Sanders concluded: “SSE has notched up some considerable successes since it was established in 2002 but now is exactly the right time to refocus and rejuvenate the campaign for the longer term.  I have no doubt that Stansted Airport Watch – SAW – will be every bit as effective as SSE and, as its name implies, will be ever-vigilant in seeking to minimise the negative impacts of the airport upon the local community and the environment.”

Peter Sanders will himself be standing down as Chairman of SSE at this year’s AGM, having been a founder member of SSE in 2002 and its Chairman since 2004. [Note 3.]

ENDS    

NOTES

  1. SSE was formed in 2002 as a working group of the North West Essex and East Herts Preservation Association (NWEEHPA) and that continues to be the position today.  It is intended to change the name of NWEEHPA to Stansted Airport Watch.  SSE would not actually be disbanded but would instead become dormant unless and until needed again.
  2. The proposed changes are subject to approval at the NWEEHPA AGM on 26 May at the Silver Jubilee Hall, Takeley, starting at 8pm.  All SSE members are entitled to attend and vote.
  3. SSE’s Deputy Chairman, Brian Ross, has indicated his willingness to stand as Chairman of Stansted Airport Watch (SAW) for the coming year.  If he is elected, this would help to provide continuity during the transition.

 

FURTHER INFORMATION AND COMMENT

  • Peter Sanders, SSE Chairman, T 01799 520411; petersanders77@talktalk.net
  • Brian Ross, Deputy Chairman: 01279 814961; (M) 07850 937143 brian.ross@lineone.net
  • SSE Campaign Office:  01279 870558; info@stopstanstedexpansion.com
  • https://stopstanstedexpansion.com/

 


See earlier:

15.3.2021

SSE press release

The Stansted Airport Public Inquiry comes to an end – now we must wait

The Stansted Airport Public Inquiry to consider plans for further airport expansion came to a close on Friday 12 March after eight weeks of evidence hearings and cross-examinations.  QCs for the three main parties – Manchester Airports Group (MAG), Uttlesford District Council (UDC) and Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) – presented their closing submissions at the end of last week.  It will now be for the Panel of three Inspectors to decide whether to approve the airport expansion proposals.  A decision is expected in around three months.

On the very first day, UDC’s barrister, instructed by UDC’s officers, declared that MAG’s proposals were acceptable, subject only to certain conditions which, in SSE’s view, were so timid as to render them almost meaningless. It was an extraordinary start to UDC’s defence of the decision made by its Planning Committee in January 2020, by a margin of 10 votes to nil, to refuse permission for the Stansted Airport expansion proposals. There was no attempt whatsoever by UDC to mount a robust defence of the decision of its own Planning Committee.

MAG has made it clear that, if it wins its case, it will seek an award of costs against UDC but not against SSE. Costs at a Public Inquiry can only be awarded in the event of “unreasonable behaviour” and MAG claims that UDC behaved unreasonably in defending the appeal.

This Inquiry might not have been necessary if UDC had supported SSE’s call, three years ago, for the Secretary of State for Transport to deal with the Stansted Airport Planning Application nationally.  Instead, UDC insisted on dealing with the application itself, despite its limited resources and expertise in this area.

UDC submitted evidence to the Inquiry on just 4 topics and for each topic it concluded that MAG’s proposals were acceptable subject to conditions.  By contrast, SSE’s team of specialists, supported by external expert consultants and two of the country’s top planning barristers, presented comprehensive evidence to the Inquiry on 11 separate topics. The result was that MAG directed most of its firepower at trying to counter the SSE evidence, rather than UDC’s evidence, such as it was.

SSE chairman, Peter Sanders commented “I am immensely proud of SSE’s Inquiry team.  We all realise, of course, that this is a David and Goliath battle, but it is important to remember that it was David who won that battle, and he did so by giving it his best shot. That is exactly what SSE has done on this occasion.  We must now wait to see whether the powerful evidence that we have submitted will be enough to win the day.”

NOTES

  • MAG seeks permission for Stansted to be allowed to handle 43 million passengers per annum (mppa). Stansted currently has permission for 35mppa and in 2019 handled 28mppa. Over the past 12 months, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Stansted has handled only 3 million passengers.
  • A full record of the Public Inquiry, including (until April 12) a video record of all the hearings, can be found at https://programmeofficers.co.uk/ssairport/ and a selection of the most relevant Inquiry documents is also available at https://stopstanstedexpansion.com/library/information-centre/

FURTHER INFORMATION AND COMMENT


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

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

In letter to ministers, groups say aviation strategy needed after sector included in binding climate targets

There are expansions planned at seven airports in England: Leeds Bradford, Luton, Bristol, Southampton, Heathrow, Stansted and Manston. Gatwick is also expected to imminently submit plans.

By Matthew Taylor (The Guardian)
Mon 10 May 2021

The UK government must suspend all airport expansion plans until it sets out how they fit with its legally binding climate targets and the advice of its own experts, campaigners have warned.

In a letter to ministers, groups opposing planned expansions at eight airports around the country say the government’s recent decision to include aviation in its binding climate targets mean the expansion plans must be halted.

“Until the government has consulted on its preferred strategy for net zero aviation, and published its policy, it is impossible to see how local authorities or the government could justify any given airport expansion as conforming to binding carbon budgets and targets,” states the letter to Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, and Robert Jenrick, the communities and local government secretary.

There are expansions planned at seven airports in England: Leeds Bradford, Luton, Bristol, Southampton, Heathrow, Stansted and Manston – all of which are at various stages in the process. Campaigners are also expecting Gatwick to imminently submit plans to increase capacity.

In December, the government’s own advisers on the climate change committee said there should be no net expansion of UK airport capacity “unless the sector is on track to sufficiently outperform its net emissions”.

Ministers have the power to “call in” decisions made at a local level – a process that would allow the national and international climate ramifications of granting permission for the airport to be considered.

Campaigners say it is essential the proposals are halted until the government sets out a comprehensive aviation strategy – expected in the next couple of months.

“Existing policy does not take account of the government’s increased climate ambition for aviation,” the letter states. “Until the government has consulted on its preferred strategy for net zero aviation, and published its policy, it is impossible to see how local authorities or the government could justify any given airport expansion as conforming to binding carbon budgets and targets.”

A government spokesperson said planning decisions should be made at a local level wherever possible, adding: “The power to call in is used very selectively and when requests to call in an application are made ministers will consider the case individually, in line with our published policy.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/may/10/campaigners-say-uk-airport-expansion-plans-must-be-suspended-amid-new-climate-goals


The letter:

From

Aviation Environment Federation (AEF),
40 Bermondsey Street London,
SE1 3UD
http://aef.org.uk info
@aef.org.uk
0203 859 9371

 

To

The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP
Secretary of State for Transport
Department for Transport
33 Horseferry Road London,
SW1P 4DR

and

The Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP
Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 Marsham Street London,
SW1P 4DF

 

7 May 2021

 

Dear Secretaries of State,

REQUEST FOR A MORATORIUM ON AIRPORT EXPANSION (OPEN LETTER)

In December 2019 AEF and some of the community group signatories to this letter wrote to ask you to intervene to suspend the determination of all applications to increase the physical capacity of UK airports, or their approved operating caps, until noise and climate policies were in place, against which such applications could be judged. You responded by indicating that the Government’s policies supported additional airport expansion in the South East, and airports making best use of existing capacity.

Since then, however, there has been a strengthening of the Government’s ambition to address aviation’s climate change impacts, including the significant decision to include international aviation and shipping emissions in the UK’s carbon budgets and net zero legislation.

We are still awaiting publication of the Government’s net zero aviation policy. However, the Climate Change Committee has made clear that adequate airport capacity already exists to meet the future levels of demand it deems to be compatible with a balanced pathway to achieving net zero by 2050, and advises therefore that there should be no net increase in airport capacity unless the industry over-delivers emissions reductions. The inescapable logic is that any approved expansion at one airport will necessarily impact upon the existing capacity that can be permitted to be used at others around the country.

The pandemic has damaged the business capability of some airports and airlines, reducing their ability to invest, particularly in the innovation required to deliver net zero. However, it appears not to have affected airports’ appetite to pursue permission to expand. All of these expansion plans have the potential to increase greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore run contrary to the recommendations of the CCC.

We believe that there are compelling reasons for you to reconsider the introduction of a moratorium on airport expansion.

Existing policy does not take account of the Government’s increased climate ambition for aviation. Until the Government has consulted on its preferred strategy for net zero aviation, and published its policy, it is impossible to see how local authorities or the Government could justify any given airport expansion as conforming to binding carbon budgets and targets. Assessment needs to be made of the cumulative impacts of these expansions which we estimate, based on an extrapolation of DfT’s own forecasts, could add almost 9MtCO2 by 2050 if allowed to proceed.

While the planning process requires applicants to take such cumulative impacts into account, it is difficult for local authorities accurately to account for proposals that are at different stages of the planning approval process, and to assess the implications in any meaningful way.

Allowing some decisions to be determined locally at this time prejudges the outcome of the Government’s consultation on net zero aviation. We welcome the notice issued to Leeds City Council to postpone sending out a final decision letter while consideration is given to a call-in, and we hope that similar action will be taken in respect of Eastleigh Borough Council’s decision to approve the runway extension at Southampton Airport.

We welcome the Government’s readiness to challenge the aviation industry to accelerate its efforts to decarbonise through initiatives like the Jet Zero Council and inclusion in the Climate Change Act. But an uncoordinated and unplanned approach to airport expansion before appropriate policy is in place puts achievement of net zero in jeopardy. We suggest that until the Government has framed a net zero plan for the sector, including a national strategy for airport capacity which acknowledges and plans for the new carbon constraints, it would only be responsible to impose a blanket moratorium on all airport expansion planning.

Yours sincerely,

Tim Johnson, Director, Aviation Environment Federation
Charles Lloyd, Aviation Communities Forum
Stephen Clarke, Bristol Airport Action Network (BAAN)
John Adams, Stop Bristol Airport Expansion (SBAEx) campaign
Hilary Burn, Chair, Parish Councils Airport Association (Bristol)
Sally Pavey, Chair, Communities Against Gatwick’s Noise and Emissions (CAGNE)
Peter Barclay, Chairman, Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign
Paul Beckford, Coordinator, Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise (HACAN)
Paul McGuinness, Chair, No Third Runway Coalition
Chris Foren, Chair, Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport
Andrew Lambourne, Luton And District Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise
Rachael Webb, People Against Airport Intrusive Noise (Luton)
Anne Marie Nixey, No Night Flights (Manston)
Jenny Dawes, campaigner against reopening Manston
Mark Bayliss, AXO Southampton
Brian Ross, Deputy Chair, Stop Stansted Expansion

 

Cc: Robert Courts MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Transport


See also:

Two campaign groups join call to suspend expansion of Gatwick Airport

Two campaign groups have joined the call for a suspension on the expansion of Gatwick Airport as well as other airports across the country.

https://www.wscountytimes.co.uk/news/environment/two-campaign-groups-join-call-to-suspend-expansion-of-gatwick-airport-3231379

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Environment lawyer, Tim Crosland of Plan B Earth fined £5k for contempt of court in Heathrow case

Environmental lawyer Tim Crosland (of Plan B Earth) was fined £5,000 for criminal contempt of court after deliberately making public the Supreme Court ruling related to Heathrow airport before the result was officially announced, in December 2020. The judges could have jailed him for two years. The Supreme Court had ruled that a planned 3rd runway at Heathrow would be legal, as the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) was legal, and had dealt adequately with the issue of climate change. Tim and others had argued that the increased CO2 emissions it would cause are incompatible with the UK’s obligations to fight the climate crisis. The judges said there was “no such thing as a justifiable contempt of court” and the fine was needed to protect the integrity of the judiciary. In court on Monday, Tim said “The attorney general prosecutes me for highlighting the government’s dishonesty and climate hypocrisy in the year of [UN climate summit] Cop26. It’s the classic case of retribution against the whistleblower by those attempting to conceal their own guilt.” Acceptance that climate must be a key factor in government planning policies is important – not only for aviation, by other sectors such as road building and other large carbon infrastructure.

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Environment lawyer fined £5k for contempt in Heathrow case

Tim Crosland had claimed he had no choice but to protest against ‘deep immorality’ of backing third runway

 

By Environment editor  @dpcarrington  (The Guardian)

Environmental lawyer Tim Crosland has been fined £5,000 for criminal contempt of court after deliberately making public a supreme court ruling related to Heathrow airport before the result was officially announced. The judges could have jailed him for two years.

The supreme court had ruled that a planned third runway at Heathrow was legal. The runway is highly controversial, with opponents arguing that the increased carbon dioxide emissions it would cause are incompatible with the UK’s obligations to fight the climate crisis.

In Monday’s contempt hearing, Crosland argued his deliberate breach was a reasonable measure to prevent harm from climate change, but the judges said there was “no such thing as a justifiable contempt of court”. Before the hearing, Crosland had said: “If fighting for my children’s lives makes me a criminal, then so be it.”

Crosland, from campaign group Plan B, was one of the parties that brought the legal case against Heathrow’s owners and was therefore given the supreme court’s ruling early. But he made it public on Twitter the day before it was due to be released.

The supreme court ruling overturned an earlier judgment by the court of appeal that the government’s approval of the runway was illegal because ministers had failed to take into account the UK’s commitments under the 2015 Paris climate accord, which requires keeping the global temperature rise as close to 1.5C (a 2.7F rise) as possible.

In court on Monday, Crosland accused the government of a cover-up of the consequences of a third runway and said the former transport secretary Chris Grayling “knew Heathrow expansion was inconsistent with” the terms of the Paris agreement.

“The attorney general prosecutes me for highlighting the government’s dishonesty and climate hypocrisy in the year of [UN climate summit] Cop26,” he said. “It’s the classic case of retribution against the whistleblower by those attempting to conceal their own guilt.”

The contempt case was brought by the attorney general, Michael Ellis, and was heard at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. “We are satisfied to the criminal standard that Mr Crosland has committed a criminal contempt of court,” said Lord Lloyd-Jones.

The judges said Crosland has remained unrepentant and that his gesture had been futile because the judgment was made available within 24 hours. They said the fine, which is unlimited in contempt cases, was needed to protect the integrity of the judiciary.

In April, six Extinction Rebellion protesters were cleared of causing criminal damage to Shell’s London headquarters, despite the judge directing jurors that they had no defence in law.

The court of appeal’s Heathrow decision in February 2020 was seen as historic by environmental campaigners, as it was the first significant ruling in the world to be based on the Paris climate agreement. Related cases were subsequently brought against plans to build more roads and gas-fired power plants in the UK.

After the supreme court overturned the court of appeal’s decision on Heathrow, scores of scientists, lawyers and campaigners, including former government chief scientific adviser Sir David King and climate scientist Prof James Hansen wrote a letter of protest to the president of the supreme court.

“We urge you to consider the grave implications of this judgment,” they wrote. “The highest UK court has set a precedent that major national projects can proceed, even where they are inconsistent with maintaining the temperature limit on which our collective survival depends. It substantially reduces humanity’s prospects of maintaining that limit and hence, averting disaster.”

The Climate Change Committee, the government’s official advisers, said in December there should be no airport expansion unless emissions from flights could be reduced to compensate. The coronavirus pandemic has severely affected aviation and some observers have suggested demand for flights will not return to a level that requires a third runway at Heathrow.

PA Media contributed to this report.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/may/10/environment-lawyer-guilty-of-contempt-heathrow-tim-crosland

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See earlier:

 

Tim Crosland (Plan B Earth) broke Supreme Court judgement embargo as “an act of civil disobedience” that will be treated as a “contempt of court”

The Appeal Court ruled in February that the ANPS was illegal, as it had not taken proper account of the Paris Agreement and the climate targets for the UK.  The case was partly on complicated legal points about to what extent Paris-related obligations were part of UK law.  The two parties taking the challenge to the Supreme Court are Friends of the Earth UK and Plan B Earth.  A day before the court date, Tim Crosland – representing Plan B Earth – decided (on being given a pre-copy of the judgement) in ‘an act of civil disobedience,’ to publicise the decision, though not the details of the judgement. This will be held as contempt of court. Several papers published news of this, but then withdrew comments, for fear of also being held in contempt of court. Tim Crosland believes that the Secretary of State for Transport (Chris Grayling at the time in 2018) should have acted in line with trying to avoid a 1.5C rise in global temperature, not just a 2C rise, and this decision by the Supreme Court puts the well-being and lives of millions of people – especially young people – at risk, from climate related impacts. 

https://www.airportwatch.org.uk/2020/12/tim-crosland-plan-b-earth-broke-supreme-court-judgement-embargo-as-an-act-of-civil-disobedience-that-will-be-treated-as-a-contempt-of-court/

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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.”

Click here to view full story…

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Airlines put up cost of flights as soon as destinations are on the UK’s list of no-quarantine countries

Holiday bookings have risen suddenly, now government has said there will be some countries in which people can have quarantine-free holidays. The cost of some airline tickets has already surged, with travel to Portugal’s resorts on May 17, from when the restrictions ease, more than doubling in price in the last two days. Last night, Ryanair was charging £152 for a flight from Stansted to Lisbon, compared with £15 the day before restrictions lift.  The airlines say there is pent-up demand for holidays, which justifies the higher cost. Newspapers report that in the minutes after the announcement, the cost of flights from Heathrow to Lisbon rose by 25% – from £264 up to £332.  A flight from Stansted to Lisbon increased in price for May 19th from £128 to £262.  This is worth remembering next time the airlines complain of the iniquity of government charging £13 Air Passenger Duty (APD), for a return flight to Europe. Airlines often talk of how this puts tourists off, and is unfair etc etc.  Note how quick they are to charge even “hard working families” a great deal more, (far more than the tiny APD) even for one annual holiday, as soon as they get the chance. 

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Flight prices soar before travel green list is revealed

Holiday bookings surged today as Londoners took a punt on destinations they believe will be on the long-awaited “green list” of countries.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is expected to publish the list of nations, from which travellers returning to England will not have to quarantine, in a Downing Street briefing at 5pm.

These are likely to include Portugal, Iceland and Malta, and possibly also Israel and Gibraltar — with the easing of rules beginning in 10 days.

But travel agents reported a rush of people booking breaks to these holiday hotspots in anticipation of the announcement. The cost of some airline tickets has already surged, with travel to Portugal’s resorts on May 17, from when the restrictions ease, more than doubling in price in the last two days. Last night, Ryanair was charging £152 for a flight from Stansted to Lisbon, compared with £15 the day before restrictions lift.

The “traffic light” system for England will place extra restrictions on trips to “amber” and “red” countries. At present, overseas leisure travel is banned.

Spain, France, Italy and Greece are expected to be on the amber list but could switch to green at a “checkpoint” review on June 28. Assessments will be based on a range of factors, including the proportion of a country’s population that has been vaccinated, rates of infection, emerging new variants, and the country’s access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing.

People arriving from a green location will not need to quarantine on their return and will have to take one PCR test within two days of arriving. Those returning from an amber country must self-isolate for at least five days and take two tests. The red list requires an 11-night stay in a quarantine hotel at a cost of £1,750.

There will also be a “green watch list”, to give travellers advance notice of countries about to move to amber or red.

Luis Gallego, chief executive of IAG, urged the Government to “be a bit ambitious in getting global travel back on track”. He wants people who have been vaccinated or tested to be allowed to fly “without restrictions” between the UK and the US. The airline said it will launch a new advertising campaign featuring staff who are “preparing to return to work after a very difficult year”.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have not set dates for the restart of foreign holidays.

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/flight-prices-soar-before-travel-green-list-revealed-b933785.html

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See  also  the Guardian 


The Independent:

After two flights from London Heathrow to Faro in Portugal sold out at economy fares reaching £530, British Airways has added another departure on the first day that international leisure travel is allowed in England.

https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/british-airways-easyjet-flights-b1843846.html?r=20654

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The Daily Mail says:

 in the minutes after the announcement, flights to Lisbon soared by 25 per cent.

Holidaymakers could have paid £264 at 12pm yesterday for a return ticket from London Heathrow to Lisbon, travelling on May 17 and May 24. But following Mr Shapps’ announcement prices skyrocketed by £68 – with holidaymakers forced to fork out £332 for the same flights.

Those planning getaways to Faro on the Algarve from May 17 will pay inflated prices, as airlines tend to increase  the cost of tickets in line with demand.

A British Airways flight from Heathrow to the popular holiday hotspot costs £448 on May 17 compared with £237 two days earlier.

Another flight from Stansted to Lisbon costs £262 on May 19, more than double the price of £128 on May 14.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9554861/Price-flights-Portugal-soars-20-holiday-green-list-revealed.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490

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See earlier:

Airlines etc lobbying again – ahead of Chancellor Philip Hammond’s autumn statement on 23rd November.

Briefing from AEF (Aviation Environment Federation) on why  APD needs to be kept, and the rationale for it.

http://www.aef.org.uk/uploads/The-case-for-APD.pdf

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Articles about airlines lobbying for cuts in APD:

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/passenger-tax-airlines-brexit-no-deal-tourism-sajid-javid-a9087731.html

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https://www.conservativehome.com/platform/2018/10/graham-brady-air-passenger-duty-remains-a-tax-on-trade-so-let-it-be-cut-in-the-budget.html 

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https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/politics/2898699/airline-bosses-urge-chancellor-philip-hammond-to-deliver-a-post-brexit-boost-by-cutting-air-passenger-duty-in-his-first-budget/

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https://www.irishnews.com/business/2018/05/08/news/apd-tax-on-tourists-sees-a-million-passengers-abandon-northern-ireland-airports-1323743/

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https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/ryanair-glasgow-airport-base-closing-air-tax-passengers-apd-edinburgh-a8230636.html

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

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

3 MEI 2021

(Verbied Fossiele Reclame – Dutch website) 

First step to keep all fossil fuel advertising out of Amsterdam’s streets

As of today, advertisements for ‘fossil fuel products’, such as air travel and cars that run on fossil fuels, will no longer be seen in the subway stations in Amsterdam. Alderman Marieke van Doorninck (Sustainability) and Radjen van Wilsem, CEO of CS Digital Media, will sign an agreement at 12.45 hours at Amsterdam Central Station. Amsterdam is the first city in the world that wants to keep fossil fuel advertising out of the streets.

Never before has a city taken the decision to ban advertising solely on the basis of climate change. The agreement about advertisements in the metro stations is the municipality’s first step towards making advertising in Amsterdam fossil-free. The capital is still investigating how to ban advertising and marketing (festivals) of fossil fuel companies such as Shell and Exxon.

“The need to combat climate change should also be reflected in the street,” said Alderman Marieke van Doorninck in the 7:45 am news this morning on NPO Radio 1. “Also in advertising. That is why we want to ban fossil advertising in Amsterdam. The subway stations are now taking the 1st step. We also enter into discussions with other operators. But to arrange this properly, a national ban is needed. ”

Important step

Reclame Fossielvrij (Fossil Free Advertising), which strives for a nationwide ban in the Netherlands on advertising by the fossil fuel industry and advertising for polluting transport, congratulates Amsterdam and calls it an important step. Coordinator Femke Sleegers: “The decision to ban fossil fuel advertising from the subway stations comes at a crucial moment in the fight against climate change. We don’t have any time to lose towards the Paris climate goals. Advertisements that portray fossil fuels as normal and aggravate climate disruption have no place in a city or country that has complied to Paris.”

International movement

Amsterdam’s motion to ban fossil advertising had national and international spin off. In answers to written questions the city boards of The Hague, Utrecht and Nijmegen stated that they were open to a ban on fossil fuel advertising, although the latter two cities believe that such a ban must be regulated with a national ban. Motions have also been filed abroad in Canada, England, Sweden and Finland. The New York City government takes a different approach and tries to enforce a court ban on misleading advertising from Shell, BP, Exxon and the American Petroleum Institute.

Letter by 51 organisations

The wish to ban fossil fuel advertising was put forward in a motion that passed in the Amsterdam city council last December. The motion followed after Reclame Fossielvrij and 51 organizations from Amsterdam sent a letter that called on the city to ban advertising that doesn’t fit in with its sustainability policy. Previously public transport company GVB had decided to sharpen its advertising policy in order to keep greenwashing advertisements out of its buses, trams, metros and ferries, after a call for this by Extinction Rebellion Amsterdam.

Tobacco-style law for fossil fuel industry

Fossil Free Advertising strives for a nationwide ‘tobacco-style law’ for the fossil fuel industry. The advertising ban for the tobacco industry was an indispensable step in the fight against smoking. It changed social norms and removed temptation. The same approach is needed for the fossil fuel industry, argues the campaign group.

https://verbiedfossielereclame.nl/first-step-amsterdam-is-banning-advertising-for-fossil-fuel-products-from-the-subway-stations/

First step: Amsterdam is banning advertising for fossil fuel products from the subway stations

See earlier:

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. 

https://www.airportwatch.org.uk/2020/10/green-party-calls-for-end-of-advertising-for-high-carbon-goods-and-services/

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The Badvertising campaign:

Badvertising

Fossil fuel companies, car companies and airlines spend billions each year advertising their high carbon products – despite growing public concerns over air pollution and climate breakdown.

https://www.badverts.org/

Petition at  https://e-activist.com/page/66459/petition/1

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Airlines must reduce CO2 emissions – instead of using ineffective, unreliable offsets

Airlines are hoping they can look “green” and let customers believe the carbon created by their flights can be cancelled out, by the magic of carbon offsetting. But increasingly it is understood that carbon offsets, that just pay to try to avoid carbon being emitted elsewhere, do not work.  The carbon emitted by the flight is still in the atmosphere.  The aviation sector has been trying to use carbon offsets from the forestry sector, to claim their emissions are cancelled out, but new evidence shows just how unreliable these forest offsets are. The way they are calculated is very unclear and unreliable.  Instead of hoping to negate CO2 by offsets, the first priority for any organisation has to be that they address their own carbon footprint directly. So for airlines, that means reducing emissions from their operations and fossil fuel use, and for passengers to think carefully about their flying habits …. Avoided emissions credits are not going to get us to net zero in the long run.” Cait Hewitt, deputy director of the AEF said we shouldn’t kid ourselves that avoided emission credits from forestry somehow delivers carbon neutral flying. They don’t. It just risks creating the impression that airlines are taking real action on this issue, when they are not. It just stops people confronting difficult truths about the climate crisis.
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Airlines must reduce emissions instead of offsetting, say experts

Campaigners warn offset system is flawed and can produce credits with no climate benefit

By Patrick Greenfield  @pgreenfielduk  (The Guardian)
Wed 5 May 2021

Airlines should focus on reducing emissions from flights instead of using carbon offsets for climate commitments, experts and environmental campaigners have warned.

British Airways and easyJet are among several leading carriers that use carbon offsets to back up claims of “carbon-neutral flying” and net zero pledges by buying credits on behalf of passengers or offering customers that opportunity to buy them when booking tickets.

On Tuesday,an investigation by the Guardian and Unearthed, Greenpeace’s  investigative arm into the forest protection carbon offsetting market used by airlines found it had a significant credibility problem, with experts warning the system is flawed and can produce credits with no climate benefit.

Environmental campaigners said the airline industry must focus on reducing emissions from aviation and the use of offsets distracts from rising emissions from flights. In response to the investigation, several leading airlines said the use of offsets was an intermediary measure while new technologies were developed.

Stephen Smith, executive director of the Oxford Net Zero Initiative, said there had been progress on developing standards of what counts as a high quality climate target, including Race to Zero and Science Based Targets (SBTi), but cautioned the area was still a “wild west”.

“I think there can be a role for offsetting,” Smith said. “But I think the first priority for any organisation has to be that they address their own carbon footprint directly. So for airlines, that means reducing emissions from their operations and fossil fuel use, and for passengers to think carefully about their flying habits.

“Avoided emissions credits are not going to get us to net zero in the long run.”

Under schemes like the SBTi, companies follow a step-by-step process to make a climate commitment that is in line with the goals of the Paris agreement, ensuring their operations help limit global warning well below 2 degrees.

Companies that follow the initiative must track and disclose their progress every year and are not allowed to use offsets to contribute to their goals. Carbon credits are only considered an option for organisations that want to make additional reductions.

In response to the findings of the investigation, airlines said they trusted the quality of Redd+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries) credits they used for climate commitments, which were often sourced through a third party.

British Airways said it was committed to net zero emissions by 2050 and offsetting remained a key part of its near-term plan while alternatives to fossil fuels were developed. It added: “In the medium to longer term we’re investing in the development of sustainable aviation fuel and looking at how we can help accelerate the growth of new technologies such as zero emissions hydrogen-powered aircraft and carbon capture technology.”

EasyJet, which offsets fuel emissions on behalf of all customers for “carbon-neutral flying”, said it was an interim measure while zero-emission technology was developed and the airline was confident the projects it supported were in effect preventing forest loss. They are also applying a number of techniques in order to reduce current carbon emissions, such as single-engine taxi, using advanced weather information to optimise routing, and reducing the use of aircraft flaps on approach to landing. “Alongside this we’re already supporting the development of radical new technologies to achieve zero-emission flying in the future which we are committed to transitioning to as soon as they are available and viable.”

Cait Hewitt, deputy director of the UK NGO Aviation Environment Federation, said offsetting using avoided emission credits, such as those from forestry protection, cannot be the solution because emissions in the atmosphere still increase.

“Even if you did correctly manage to invest in a project and therefore avoid some carbon, that doesn’t solve the problem of the emissions from your flight,” Hewitt explained. “I think a lot of these projects probably do really good things. But we shouldn’t kid ourselves that this somehow delivers carbon neutral flying. That’s that’s just not the case.

“Almost all other sectors are now getting on to the path of cutting emissions and aviation has a real problem. One of the dangers with offsetting is that it risks creating the impression that airlines are taking real action on this issue.”

Leo Murray, an environmental campaigner that co-founded Plane Stupid and now runs the NGO Possible, said carbon offsetting was an alternative to reducing emissions from air travel and was stopping people from confronting difficult truths about the climate crisis.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/may/05/reducing-emissions-should-be-airlines-first-priority-not-buying-carbon-offsets


 

See earlier:

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

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

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

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

30 Apr 2021

by Mark Caswell (Business Traveller)

Ryanair has launched a new sustainable aviation research centre in partnership with Trinity College Dublin, along with a goal to power 12.5 per cent of its flights with sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) by 2030.

The initiative will see Ryanair donate €1.5 million which will be used “to seed a multi-disciplinary research team to engage in best-in-class research around Sustainable Aviation Fuels, Zero Carbon Aircraft Propulsion Systems and Noise Mapping”.

Ryanair said that the research, which will start this summer, “will inform the policies of both EU and international governments on making aviation environmentally and economically sustainable, as well as harness future investments by the aviation industry towards sustainability”.

The group said that the project, along with investment in its new Boeing B737 Max 200 “Gamechanger” aircraft (of which the carrier has 210 order), will help it significantly reduce its CO2 and noise footprint over the next decade.

The initiative will accelerate research in three core areas of sustainable aviation fuels, zero carbon aircraft propulsion systems, and noise mapping for low-noise aircraft fleets.

Ryanair recently joined the Fuelling Flight Initiative, which is intended to provide recommendations on the sustainability aspects of the EU’s policy design to support Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF).

Earlier this month British Airways’ parent company IAG announced a commitment to operate 10 per cent of its flights with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) by 2030.

https://www.businesstraveller.com/business-travel/2021/04/30/ryanair-to-power-12-5-per-cent-of-flights-with-sustainable-aviation-fuels-by-2030/

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IAG to operate 10 per cent of flights with sustainable aviation fuel by 2030

23 Apr 2021

by Mark Caswell (Business Traveller)

International Airlines Group has announced a commitment to operate 10 per cent of its flights with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) by 2030.

The owner of Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia and Vueling says it will purchase one million tonnes of sustainable jet fuel per year, enabling it to cut its annual emissions by two million tonnes by 2030.

The group says that this equates to removing one million cars from Europe’s roads each year.

In addition IAG says it will extend its 2050 net zero commitment to its supply chain, stating that it will work with suppliers “to enable them to commit to achieving net zero emissions by 2050 for the products and services they provide to IAG”.

The group plans to invest US$400 million in the development of sustainable aviation fuel in the next 20 years, partnering with SAF developers Lanzajet and Velocys.

Commenting on the news Luis Gallego, IAG’s chief executive, said:

“For more than a decade, IAG has led the airline industry’s actions to reduce its carbon footprint. It’s clearly challenging to transition to a low carbon business model but, despite the current pandemic, we remain resolute in our climate commitments.

“Government support is critical to meet this target by attracting investment to construct sustainable aviation fuel plants that will deliver enough supply for the airline industry, creating highly valued green jobs and economic growth at global scale”.

Velocys also provided Business Traveller with the following comment:

“Velocys welcomes our project partner IAG’s commitment to power 10 per cent of its flights with SAF by 2030. Our planned Altalto waste-to-jet-fuel plant will be the UK’s first SAF facility and could be fuelling transatlantic flights in just five years’ time with no need to modify aircraft or engines at all.

“The fuel, based on technology supplied by Velocys, can offer negative-carbon-emissions fuels with the integration of carbon capture technologies.

“We are proud to be collaborating with an organisation who recognise the essential role SAF will play in significantly decarbonising the aviation sector by 2030 and achieving net zero emissions by 2050.”

This week the results of a new study carried out on behalf CE Delft on behalf of Transport and Environment Europe’s showed that surging demand for used cooking oil for biofuels could fuel deforestation.

https://www.businesstraveller.com/business-travel/2021/04/23/iag-to-operate-10-per-cent-of-flights-with-sustainable-aviation-fuel-by-2030/

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Doubts cast over some sources of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF)

22 Apr 2021 by Tom Otley (Business Traveller)

Doubts have been cast over the sources of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) just as airlines look to increase the amount used for their flights.

SAF is seen as an interim answer to the problem of carbon emissions from flying. It is a ‘drop-in’ fuel, meaning it can be used without adapting conventional jet engines, and although it is up to three times more expensive than kerosene, customers are being persuaded to pay more to encourage increased production and bring prices down.

Air France and KLM launch Sustainable Aviation Fuel option for corporate customers

Governments are also being lobbied to support the SAF industry.

There are doubts, however, including a new study which shows that despite the European Union promoting used cooking oil as a waste product which will reduce the lifetime emissions of the fuel used to power transport, over half of it comes from abroad. As demand could double by 2030, it leaves the EU increasingly reliant on imports, despite EU auditors raising concerns over inadequate systems to stop virgin oils like palm, which drive deforestation, being passed off as used.

NGO Transport & Environment (T&E), which commissioned the study, is calling on the EU to limit the amount of used cooking oil in transport and improve monitoring to avoid fuelling deforestation.

The NGO says that China supplies over a third (34 per cent) of Europe’s used cooking oil imports while almost a fifth (19 per cent) comes from major palm oil producers Malaysia and Indonesia combined. Within a decade the volume Europe needs could double to 6 million tonnes as EU countries strive to meet targets for renewable fuels in transport, the study finds. This in turn could trigger palm oil being used to replace cooking oil in exporting countries while also incentivising fraud (mixing virgin oil).

Cristina Mestre, biofuels manager at T&E, said: “Europe’s thirst for used cooking oil to power its transport sector is outstripping the amount leftover from the continent’s deep fryers. This leaves us reliant on a waste product being shipped from the other side of the world. Countries that would use used cooking oil for animal feed and other products may end up exporting theirs while using cheap oil, like palm, at home. The EU needs to limit the use of used cooking oil to avoid doing more harm than good.”

It would be possible for Europe to increase local sources of genuine used cooking oil, says T&E, but at present there are the limits both of the capacity of local authorities to collect it and how much used cooking oil Europeans and EU industries can produce.

As used cooking oil is counted double towards national renewables targets under the EU Renewable Energy Directive, ironically it is often traded at a higher price than virgin oil. This increases the risk that virgin oils could be fraudulently mixed with imported used cooking oil.

The EU Court of Auditors has said that voluntary schemes cannot guarantee that all the UCO imported into Europe is actually ‘used’.

New fraud investigation casts doubt over used cooking oil origins

Cristina Mestre concluded: “The current EU system for biofuels does not provide certainty that used cooking oil is actually used. The EU should strengthen its verification and monitoring requirements along the supply chain and do regular checks to make sure it is really a waste product and therefore sustainable.”

The NGO says that palm oil production is one of the key drivers of deforestation in Southeast Asia and increasingly in South America. The EU’s Renewable Energy Directive will be reviewed in June, including the rules that govern renewable fuels in transport.

https://www.businesstraveller.com/business-travel/2021/04/22/doubts-cast-over-sources-of-sustainable-aviation-fuel-saf/


easyJet to fly hydrogen planes in the 2030s, SAF is the interim step

SAFs continue to be the key technology for long-haul aviation to reduce its impact on the environment

2 April 2021 (H2Bulletin)

Decarbonisation seems to have reset the technological developments in aviation, making the future more complex and challenging. The smaller aircraft industry has now increased its bets on hydrogen fuel cell technology and electrification, though long hauled aircraft will likely tilt towards sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), albeit at slow speed.

A significant advantage of using SAF is that aircraft engines do not need to be redesigned to use them, while SAF can also be blended with conventional fuels. According to the European Commission, SAF currently accounts for just 0.05% of jet fuel use in the EU, and without further regulation, the share is expected to reach just 2.8% by 2050.

Europe’s airlines are united to support the 2050 net-zero target; now, the question of whether to extend the green fuel blending obligation to long-haul flights is revealing some cracks in their unity. Airlines are already divided over the inclusion of long haul, whereas Eurocontrol estimates that just 6% of flights, those over 4000 km in length, create half of the aviation’s CO2 emissions.

In early March 2021, a group of organisations which included Ryanair and easyJet sent a letter to Vice-President of the European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean calling to cover long-haul emissions by the EU’s Sustainable Aviation Fuels mandate. The European Commission will soon release the ReFuelEU Aviation regulation to support green flights, but low-cost airlines worry that large polluters (long flights) will be exempt from the requirement.

Johan Lundgren, CEO of easyJet, said, “SAFs are only an interim step for shorthaul carriers. Our ultimate solution is zero-emission propulsion which is why it is crucial that there are aviation-specific incentives for zero-emissions technologies like electric and hydrogen and why we must avoid all resources being drawn into SAFs, which don’t fully solve the problem.”

At the end of 2019, easyJet signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Airbus for research into infrastructure requirements for electric, hybrid-electric and hydrogen aircraft. In September 2020, Airbus unveiled three different hydrogen-powered concept planes; turbofan, turboprop and blended wing body. “We are optimistic that we will be regularly flying our customers on electric, hydrogen or hybrid planes by the mid to late-2030s,” easyJet told H2 bulletin.

https://www.h2bulletin.com/easyjet-is-to-fly-hydrogen-planes-in-the-2030s-saf-is-the-interim-step/

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See earlier:

Call for UK government support for sustainable aviation fuels

2 Jun 2020

by Tom Otley (Business Traveller)

The Sustainable Aviation coalition has today written to the UK Government’s Transport Secretary calling for UK aviation to be at the heart of the Government’s economic recovery strategy.

The coalition which is formed of UK airlines, airports, aerospace manufacturers and air navigation service providers, says that capitalizing on the UK’s world leading position on sustainable aviation fuel technology will allow the country to rapidly bounce back from Covid-19.

Europe’s first municipal waste-to-jet fuel facility – Altalto Immingham – was granted planning permission in North East Lincolnshire recently.

The coalition wants the UK Government to work with industry to work on similar projects, as well as:

Develop aircraft and engine technology R&D capabilities, ensuring the UK is among the first in the world to develop hybrid and electric aircraft;
Accelerate UK airspace modernisation, to make use of new aircraft performance capability and reduce emissions and noise; and
Progress robust carbon offset measures and carbon removal technologies.

The commitment would, according to the coalition, require an investment of £500 million as part of the UK Government’s recovery plan. Adam Morton, Chair of Sustainable Aviation, said:

“In February this year, UK aviation committed to net zero emissions by 2050 and laid out a plan to achieve this through investing in cleaner aircraft and engine technology, smarter flight operations, sustainable aviation fuels and high-quality carbon offsets and removals.

“Three months on, these actions all remain essential to delivering sector wide decarbonisation, particularly given the role UK aviation can play as an engine for rebuilding the economy. But to capitalise on these opportunities we need urgent action from Government, particularly to support the commercialisation of sustainable aviation fuel technology in the UK.”

https://www.businesstraveller.com/business-travel/2020/06/02/call-for-uk-government-support-for-the-sustainable-aviation-fuels-sector/

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There may be even fewer airport jobs in future – if robots take on much of the work

We are often given estimates of large numbers of new, good quality, jobs that will be produced if an airport expands. Those very rarely materialise, as the sector works hard to mechanise and automate as much as possible, to reduce numbers of staff. There are growing numbers of robots at airports, carrying out a range of jobs. A survey by Air Transport IT Insights recently found that almost half of global airlines and 32% of airports are currently looking for partners to further develop their robotic involvement in the next 3 years. The latest developments see robots staffing airport check-in desks, carrying out security protocols, cleaning and delivering food (ordered through a contactless system) to passengers while they wait in lounges for their flights.  There has been more cleaning needed, due to Covid – and people are increasingly happy to avoid physical contact or interaction with staff. However, the robot technologies are not yet properly developed and there will be a lot of issues on safety, reliability etc before they become very widespread.
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The robots taking over the world’s airports

By Frankie Youd (Airport Technology)
04 May 2021

PHL Food & Shops, the concessions programme at Philadelphia International Airport, is piloting a contactless ordering system featuring robotic food delivery. It will join other robots that are already carrying out various roles at airports. From safety and security to cleaning and deliveries, we round up the interesting ways that airports are using robots worldwide.

A survey carried out by Air Transport IT Insights recently found that almost half of global airlines and 32% of airports are currently looking for partners to further develop their robotic involvement in the next three years. The latest developments see robots staffing airport check-in desks, carrying out security protocols, cleaning and even delivering food to passengers.

The airport security segment currently has the highest number of robots according to the Airport robots market – growth, trends, Covid-19 impact, and forecasts 2021-2026 report by Mordor Intelligence. The next most common use of airport robotics is for cleaning, which has seen a rise in demand due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

PHL Food and Shops have introduced a new member to their team Philadelphia International Airport, Gita. Standing 26 inches tall and able to carry up to 18kg for four hours – which is the equivalent of 20 miles of walking – on one single charge, Gita navigates busy, pedestrian-filled locations with human-like etiquette. Gita has been tasked with delivering food orders to airport passengers while they wait in lounges for their flights.

PHL already had a contactless ordering system in place that allowed customers to order food. Now the company has partnered with app developer AtYourGate and Gita’s developer Piaggio Fast Forward to have Gita complete the process with automated delivery.

Customers at the airport can confirm food delivery from any of the 19 restaurants and retailers currently part of the scheme via an app or the PHL website. Once prepared, onsite delivery specialist Claire Maddocks collects the order and escorts Gita the robot who carries the to the customer.

MarketPlace PHL marketing and customer service manager Megan O’Connell explains that the robot not only helps carry large orders but also provides a contactless experience for customers. This offers the added advantage of reducing the possibility of Covid-19 transmission.

O’Connell explained. “There are some questions about what the point of the robot is because it does have to have a person with it. I explain to people that the point is not only does this robot help Maddocks carry the food, but the biggest part of it is also that it gives the customer a choice of whether they want to have contact or not with her.” O’Connell said. “If they don’t want to have contact with her, she can walk up with the robot, open the lid and [then] she can retreat back, the person can take their food out of the robot without ever having to interact with her.”

PHL hopes the option of using Gita will increase customer confidence post-pandemic and will increase the consensus surrounding public safety and confidence in coming back to the airport.

O’Connell expanded. “I hope that everything we’re doing across the board and the aviation industry is starting to make people feel safe and have confidence in coming back to the airport. With initiatives like this, we truly are doing everything we can to make them feel comfortable. We can’t wait to have everybody come back when they feel like it’s the right time.”

The robots carrying out health and security checks

Robots are also being used to ensure passenger safety by carrying out health checks, cleaning protocols and security measures.

A security robot in the form of a scooter has taken residence at Hamad International Airport in Qatar. With built-in cameras that can measure pulse rate, carry out face recognition, and sensors to detect fake credit cards and currencies, this security scooter robot is heavily equipped to ensure security measures are always upheld.

The robot can even sense a passenger’s mood with an algorithm that enables it to detect a high body temperature, heart rate and stress levels to detect if a passenger is nervous or agitated.

Cleaning robots are also having their day. Heathrow Airport has been using cleaning robots around the airport terminals and lounges that disinfect areas using UV light. UV light has been shown to efficiently kill harmful viruses and bacteria to provide a safe, secure environment for passengers.

Heathrow Airport process improvement director Mark Burgess heads up the ‘Fly Safe Programme’ at the airport. He explained: “The UV robots disinfect surfaces using UV-C light. Depending on the exposure time, a UV robot can kill up to 99.9% of pathogens by disinfecting all surfaces which could harbour bacteria and viruses. The UV-C light used by the robots is highly efficient and can disinfect 18,000 sqm within a two and a half-hour time period.”

Heathrow wants the cleaning robots to offer a high level of assurance and confidence in hygiene for customers and staff.

“The UV robots have proven to be an incredibly useful tool within our enhanced cleaning programme, helping to ensure we disinfect the terminals on a regular basis.”
“The UV robots have proven to be an incredibly useful tool within our enhanced cleaning programme, helping to ensure we disinfect the terminals on a regular basis,” Burgess said. “We believe the UV robots currently complement our existing cleaning method and they are an additional measure within our process which help to keep Heathrow Covid-secure. Their speed and ability to sanitise ultimately enables our cleaning technicians to carry out our intensive cleaning programme with greater efficiency and ease than previously.”

Looking into the robotic future

With technology developing at a rapid rate, an increasingly robotic future seems assured for airports.

However, their use raises some important questions and security hurdles. Could the robot accidentally hurt passengers? Will it malfunction? Will it correctly carry out the duties autonomously? Is passenger data secure, not least when it comes to judgement calls on health and mood?

The use of robotic technology in airports is likely to increase but gradually, with certain models having to be accompanied by a staff member before turning completely autonomous.

“I do think that there are going to be a lot of considerations in the future for implementing robotic strategies where necessary.”
O’Connell explained: “The challenge with the airport is it’s a condensed space. I do think that there are going to be a lot of considerations in the future for implementing robotic strategies where necessary and where it makes sense. It’s going to take a lot of work because there are just so many moving pieces to making sure it’s safe. I think there’s a place for it and I think more people will start to adopt it but it’s going to be slow.”

As technology continues to progress and develop, paired with a growing interest in the robotics market by the aviation sector, we can expect to see more robotic assistance at our airports in the years to come. With robots offering many benefits such as faster check-ins, increased security and a personalised experience for customers, robotic-led terminals could be the future of aviation.

https://www.airport-technology.com/features/the-robots-taking-over-the-worlds-airports/

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See earlier:

 

BA introducing biometric boarding gates at Heathrow, further reducing numbers of airport jobs

Airports always promise huge numbers of jobs if they expand. The reality is that airports and airlines are cutting jobs as fast as they can, and having everything mechanised. It is cheaper not to have many employees. Now British Airways (BA) is introducing automated biometric technology to create self-service boarding gates at Heathrow. Passengers passing through the security channel will have a digital scan of their face recorded. When they arrive at the gate and scan their own boarding pass, their face is matched with the previously recorded data. If the two digital images match, the passenger is allowed to board.  The system was trialled in June 2016, and is now being rolled out, with 3 of these gates (for domestic flights only) at Terminal 5. BA plans to open 3 more of these self-boarding gates every week until mid-June.  It will finally be extended to international flights.  BA has also opened self-service bag drops at both Heathrow and Gatwick – doing away with more jobs.  Back in 1999 when Heathrow got consent for its 5th Terminal, the airport said there would be 16,000 more jobs by 2016.  When probed, Heathrow is unable to even give a number for the jobs at T5, let along prove there has been much of a rise in employment. All they will say is that in July 2013, 76,600 were directly employed on the Heathrow site. 

https://www.airportwatch.org.uk/2017/04/ba-introducing-biometric-boarding-gates-at-heathrow-further-reducing-numbers-of-airport-jobs/

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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.” 

https://www.airportwatch.org.uk/2020/09/dodgy-economics-behind-plans-to-expand-our-airports-they-wont-tackle-unemployment-or-bring-more-money-to-the-uk/

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See much earlier: 2009

 

Study by AEF shows airport expansion will destroy UK jobs

11.3.2009   (AEF press release)

          Link to Booklet (23 pages)
          “Airport Jobs: false hopes, cruel hoax”A new study of the employment provided by airports and airlines from the economist
Brendon Sewill concludes that the Government should stop giving people false hopes
about the number of jobs which would be created by the expansion of airports (1). The study, “Airport Jobs: false hopes, cruel hoax“, published today by the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF), shows Government claims that airport expansion will help create thousands
of new jobs to help the country through the recession to be based on unreliable
statistics. In fact, it finds that if the expansion results in more UK tourists
going abroad then the forecast growth in air travel is likely to lead to a net
loss of jobs in this country.

Sewill shows that the old rule of thumb that 1 million extra passengers using
an airport is likely to create 1,000 extra jobs is no longer valid.   The efficiency
of low-cost airlines means that far fewer jobs are created by airport expansion
than in the past. The move towards low-cost airports, where modern technology
replaces manual jobs, will accelerate that trend.

The study reveals that, between 1998 and 2004, when the number of passengers
using UK airports rose by 30%, the number of people employed directly at airports
went up by only 3%. Research by York Aviation, a consultancy close to the aviation
industry, found that despite a predicted increase of 110% in passenger numbers
at the country’s airports between 2004 and 2030 jobs would increase by only 21%.

Sewill argues that the York Aviation research takes no account of the number
of jobs that will be lost to the UK if the number of Britons holidaying abroad
continues to rise. Last year the UK’s aviation tourism deficit – the difference
between what British air passengers spend abroad and visitors by air spend in
the UK – was about £17 billion. That deficit is at present costing the country
around 900,000 jobs.

The Sewill study concludes that, because most of the predicted expansion is to
cater for UK citizens going abroad, the Government’s plans to double the amount
of air travel is likely to lead to a further net loss of 860,000 jobs by 2030.

Brendon Sewill said: “The Government, aided by the aviation industry, is perpetrating
a hoax that airport expansion is vital to the economy and will help us though
the recession. Councillors and planning officers are being misled by exaggerated
claims that the expansion of their local airports will create lots of extra jobs.
For example, ten years ago Manchester Airport claimed that its second runway would
create 50,000 extra jobs whereas in practice employment at the airport has increased
by only 4,000. The Government should admit that – when spending abroad is taken
into account – its airport expansion plans could actually produce a serious net
loss of jobs”.

http://www.aef.org.uk)

 

(1). The report and executive summary are at:

          “Airport Jobs: false hopes, cruel hoax”   

https://www.airportwatch.org.uk/2009/03/new-study-by-aef-shows-airport-expansion-will-destroy-uk-jobs/
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Study shows carbon offsets, by forest protection, used by major airlines are based on flawed system

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

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Carbon offsets used by major airlines based on flawed system, warn experts

Guardian investigation finds carbon credits generated by forest protection schemes are based on flawed system

By @pgreenfielduk

Tue 4 May 2021

Also by Greenpeace’s Unearthed
https://unearthed.greenpeace.org/2021/05/04/carbon-offsetting-british-airways-easyjet-verra/

The forest protection carbon offsetting market used by major airlines for claims of carbon-neutral flying faces a significant credibility problem, with experts warning the system is not fit for purpose, an investigation has found.

Money from carbon offsets can provide vital financial support for projects seeking to protect and restore some of the most beautiful threatened ecosystems around the world. Given that nature-based solutions can make a significant contribution to the climate mitigation needed to stabilise global heating, a functioning finance channel will be important for climate change progress, and particularly for developing countries.

But a joint investigation into the offsetting schemes used by some of the world’s largest airlines carried out by the Guardian and Unearthed, Greenpeace’s investigative arm, found that although many forest projects were doing valuable conservation work, the credits that they generated by preventing environmental destruction appear to be based on a flawed and much-criticised system, even though these credits were being used to back up claims of “carbon-neutral flying” and net-zero commitments.

We looked at 10 forest protection schemes that airlines were using before the pandemic which had been accredited by Verra, a US nonprofit which administers the world’s leading carbon credit standard, VCS (Verified Carbon Standard). Projects estimate the emissions they have prevented by predicting how much deforestation and land clearing would have occurred without them. The reductions are then sold on as credits. We found their predictions were often inconsistent with previous levels of deforestation in the area and in some cases, the threat to the trees may have been overstated.

Beyond that, there are concerns about the inherent problem of looking into the future and predicting which trees would and would not have been felled, and of proving additionality – that the project itself made a difference to the outcome – which have dogged the offset system from its outset. Although there has been work to address this fundamental issue, we found that concerns remained.

The findings have been fiercely criticised by Verra, who maintain the methods they endorse have contributed to the fight against climate change and deforestation, and transformed local economies for the better.

Thales West, a scientist and former project auditor, led a study on schemes in the Brazilian Amazon that found that projects had routinely overstated their emissions reductions. He said that the methodologies “are not robust enough” which means “there is room for projects to generate credits that have no impact on the climate whatsoever”.

Arild Angelsen, a professor of economics at Norwegian University of Life Sciences and a specialist in Redd+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation), said that although Verra methodologies for claiming credits were a serious attempt to measure emission reductions from reducing deforestation, they were not currently robust enough.

Britaldo Soares-Filho, a deforestation modelling expert and professor at the institute of geosciences at the Federal University of Minas Gerais told the Guardian that under the current system, calculating genuine emission reductions relied on being able to accurately predict the future. “Models are not crystal balls. Models are a sign to help devise policy and evaluate policy choices.”

Land use software that he designed, Dinamica EGO, is frequently used by projects to predict where deforestation would have taken place. Soares-Filho said, in his experience, projects have a tendency to inflate threats to the forest and current modelling approaches result in “phantom carbon credits”.

Alexandra Morel, an ecosystem scientist at the University of Dundee who was involved in setting up one of the 10 projects in question, believes it was difficult to judge if the emission reductions claimed by projects were real.

“It’s impossible to prove a counterfactual,” she said. “Rather than just valuing what forests are actually there, which are actively providing a carbon sink or store right now, we have to surmise which forests would still be here versus which ones are the bonus forests that were spared from the theoretical axe.”

Margaret Kim, the CEO of Gold Standard, another organisation that certifies carbon offsets, told the Guardian and Unearthed that her organisation did not certify Redd+ projects because she believed the way it was set up did not work. “A project can actually cherrypick proxy areas. So a reference region can be set up to be most convenient to a project to maximise its baseline deforestation rate.”

Verra, which certifies the projects studied by this investigation, pointed out that many of the benefits provided by these projects were difficult to measure. “Verra channels finance, technology, and knowhow to forest-dependent rural communities who otherwise lack resources. These projects tackle deforestation in increasingly novel and creative ways.”

All over the world, agricultural land, like the palm oil plantations , is eating into original forest.
 

They create jobs by creating wardens to look out for illegal logging; they support local farmers wanting to move to more sustainable practices; they improve access to water and education. “In a nutshell, projects are working to transform local economies so that they no longer have to depend on cutting down the forest.” Some of the projects pointed out that they were dealing with aggressive cattle ranchers and loggers, corrupt government officials, coca plantations and local drug cartels, and extreme poverty, as well as climate change.

But Verra also believes strongly in its Redd+ programme, and argued that the analysis by our investigation was “profoundly flawed”. It pointed out that since our initial contact with it, it had begun the process of amending its standard with a comprehensive set of updates that it believes represents “our commitment to making sure the accounting for emission reductions from forest preservation efforts is as accurate as possible, consistently incorporates the latest scientific best practice, and supports government-led efforts to stop deforestation”.

Crystal Davis, the director of Global Forest Watch at the World Resources Institute, strongly defended the usefulness of conservation finance mechanisms and pointed out that “tropical forests cannot afford to lose Redd+ as a mechanism for conservation financing at scale”.

She did not think the analysis by McKenzie Intelligence Services (MIS), a London-based company that specialises in geospatial imagery analysis and intelligence, showed projects were inflating their projections, but agreed “that post-facto assessment of the integrity of baselines is really hard to do.

“That’s a big problem. I don’t think Redd+ will ever realise its full potential as a conservation financing mechanism if we can’t create more public-facing transparency and accountability in the system.” She added that she was encouraged to see major efforts under way to achieve this.

It’s well over a decade since the world’s governments came up with a plan to slow and even stop deforestation as part of international action on the climate crisis. The plan was simple: developing countries would, basically, be paid not to cut down trees. The idea, signed off in 2007, was called Redd+.

It was hoped that the emissions reductions would feed into a cap-and-trade system for the climate, a market-based method that had proved successful a couple of decades earlier at dealing with acid rain (and then the ozone layer) by setting limits on how much sulphur dioxide every company could emit. If you needed to emit more than your limit, you bought credits from a company that had managed to emit less. The benefits of emitting less and the cost of emitting more rapidly drove down emissions. The plan was to do the same thing for greenhouse gases on a global scale.

But 13 years later, intense disagreement over the global carbon market that would underpin Redd+ and other climate mitigation systems has meant it is the only part of the Paris agreement rulebook that governments are yet to agree. In the absence of a robust, internationally agreed system, small-scale unregulated forest protection projects have sprung up around the world, often known as “voluntary Redd+”.

There is no official certification system, but the most commonly used is Verra. Companies such as airlines, ice cream companies, banks – anyone who emits carbon and wants to offset their own emissions – give the NGOs money to carry on protecting the forest.

So far the market for carbon offsets has been small, at about $300m (£215m) in 2019. But during the last couple of years, a huge wave of corporate net zero strategies and carbon neutrality claims have changed the need for stringent carbon accounting for Redd+ credits. The former Bank of England governor Mark Carney is leading a taskforce to transform carbon offsetting into a multibillion-pound annual market. The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has announced his intention to make London a global trading hub for voluntary offsets.

If these projects are to play the role outlined for them in the decarbonisation of the developed world, by providing offsets for major companies and helping to contribute to the net-zero journey, then it is vital that the methodologies they use in order to calculate the reduction in emissions are rigorous and accurate.

Currently, Verra has a number of requirements for projects that it will agree to certify and there are several methodologies that can be used. Generally, each Redd+ project must measure deforestation and land use changes in a reference region, a much larger area that is judged representative of the scheme that often includes the project. They must also document environmental threats from nearby areas, their conservation activities, the ecological makeup of the area, and the likely effect of the Redd+ project on the communities that live in and around it, in many cases by projecting historical trends into the future.

The number of carbon credits generated by a project depends on the difference between its prediction of deforestation and what actually happens. Verra says its methodologies are conservative by design to ensure counterfactual predictions are realistic. The claims are then checked by an approved third party auditor to see if they have followed the methodology correctly.

The Guardian and Unearthed looked at 10 projects, which supply credits to six major airlines, including British Airways and easyJet, to assess, as best we could with the help of experts and commissioned satellite analysis, exactly how realistic their predictions were. Although this is not a comprehensive analysis of voluntary Redd+ projects, these projects make up 10 of the 79 that Verra oversees, so an analysis will give some helpful insight into the functioning of the larger sector. We looked at the tools they had used for their predictions, and at the outcomes to date.

The investigation found an inconsistent use of predictive methods and tools. Two of the projects had used Dinamica EGO to estimate where deforestation would take place given threats to the environment. Soares-Filho cautioned against its use for Redd+ projects, and said the modelling approach of calculating forward-looking baselines resulted in “phantom credits” because the software was not designed to accurately predict the future.

Two had modelled deforestation and land use change using a tool that allows them to assume a massive rise in the rate of deforestation compared with the historical rate.

One project had used a simple single variable model, which predicted a large increase in deforestation in the absence of the project. Another two had built their own models – one claiming the entire rainforest would be gone without them, another claiming that about a quarter would go. Another adopted a baseline from the national government. One said it would prevent large amounts of deforestation with sustainable nut farming, another with a mixture of planned logging and forestry protection.

We looked at the previous deforestation rates in and around the projects, and compared them with the predicted rates. Here, we found that where we were able to compare, the projects had generally predicted deforestation rates that seemed inconsistent with previous rates.

One project forecast an annual rate that was triple that in the worst year before it started. One in a remote, inaccessible part of the jungle was basing its predictions on the rate of deforestation either side of a major road. Another was looking after an area which had been converted into a national park and where there had been no illegal deforestation for years. Despite this, it predicted a huge increase in deforestation if the project was not there.

One had very low rates of deforestation before the project started but forecast high annual rates without it, while another had adopted a generally conservative approach. It was impossible to assess the forecasts of five projects because of technical limitations and methodologies they had used.

Four schemes had made deforestation predictions about their project area and a surrounding reference region that we could easily examine. We asked MIS to assess tree cover loss in the reference areas of all four projects, excluding the project areas (for a number of reasons it was not appropriate or possible to examine all 10). If tree cover is lower in that area it could indicate that the original predictions were inaccurate and deforestation baselines were inflated.

However, as Verra, GFW and some of the projects pointed out to us, it could also indicate that the projects had been much more successful than originally expected, and that the work to reduce deforestation within the projects had spilled over into the surrounding area, reducing deforestation across the region.

The MIS analysis did, indeed, find that deforestation in the reference regions was far lower than predicted; in two projects the actual rate of deforestation, according to the MIS figures, was around a third of the predicted rate. In another it was half, while in a third it was just one-fifth. But the difficulty in assessing the meaning of this information highlights a fundamental problem with the accounting system.

We spoke with all the projects about their challenges and benefits of their work. “[We are dealing with] aggressive cattle ranchers and loggers, corrupt government officials, coca plantations and local drug cartels, extreme poverty, tropical storms, forest fires, perverse land use policies, and now climate change,” one project told us.

Several said they were protecting precious ecosystems with rare wildlife, and their activities helped support their survival. “We rely on the voluntary carbon market to pay forest communities for the environmental services they provide for the global community, which include protecting the forest, reducing carbon emissions,” another said. “We use the best science available, and comply with agreed and third-party verified protocols to produce carbon credits that vouch for the environmental services that are being delivered.”

The carbon credits were a vital source of finance for almost all the projects. One said they had filled the gap after western donor funding dried up. Another said the money from credits helped support communities that otherwise would not have an outside source of income. Some Redd+ projects were for-profit schemes and said criticisms of the system were ideological.

Unfortunately, no comprehensive scientific assessment has yet been published on how forest-based carbon offsetting projects affect deforestation. This year, researchers at the University of Cambridge are expected to publish a first-of-its-kind study assessing how well Redd+ projects stop and slow deforestation.

…. and the article continues

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/may/04/carbon-offsets-used-by-major-airlines-based-on-flawed-system-warn-experts

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See earlier:

European Commission under fire for including ‘carbon sinks’ (eg. forest) into EU climate goal of 55% cut on 1990 level by 2030

The EU has a current target of cutting carbon emissions by 40% on the 1990 level by 2030. But with the European Green Deal, it has been proposed that target should be increased to 55%. Some European countries do not want this – while climate experts say even greater carbon cuts are needed.  The European 55% target would include use of “carbon sinks” in the figures, so there is an assumed amount of carbon being absorbed by forests etc, meaning net carbon emissions would appear to be lower than they really are. This might be a difference of 2% or else perhaps 5%.  Some environmental campaign groups said this use of carbon sinks was “an accounting trick” and “Relying on forests to reach climate targets sends the wrong signal that it’s OK to keep polluting because the land will absorb it.” In Europe, forests are currently a net carbon sink because they take in more carbon dioxide than they emit.  But their capacity to absorb CO2 “has been shrinking” over the years, and if left unchecked, could further decline – due to cutting down trees and forest, and damage to them from fires, pests, more demand for biomass, and impacts of climate change. Mature forests have to be kept healthy, and just planting new saplings is not enough. 

https://www.airportwatch.org.uk/2020/09/european-commission-under-fire-for-including-carbon-sinks-eg-forest-into-eu-climate-goal-of-55-cut-on-1990-level-by-2030/

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REDD forest CO2 offsets used by Virgin shown to be ineffective – much of the forest has been cut down

Virgin Atlantic tries to make out that it is a “green” and responsible airline. It has given its passengers the chance to buy “carbon offsets” to pay for the carbon emitted because they flew. But it has emerged that the forest project, in Cambodia, that Virgin got its passengers to obtain carbon credits from is wholly inadequate. While the hope is that buying an “offset” means carbon is taken out of the atmosphere somewhere, the reality is that forest offsets do not work reliably. The scheme used by Virgin, they said in good faith, only seems to monitor forest project to ensure they meet the necessary criteria, every 5 years. The scheme Virgin used was checked in 2013, and seemingly the right boxes were ticked. Subsequently much of the forest was cleared by the Cambodian military. It no longer exists. So any carbon “offsets” bought by passengers are worthless. Carbon has NOT been taken out of the air – there is cleared land instead. This demonstrates that forest offsets should not be used. They would only work if forest is kept complete and healthy for decades. That cannot be guaranteed. Virgin has now admitted the scheme has not worked and has pulled out of it. Worryingly, this sort of cheap forest “offset” is exactly what ICAO hopes to use, in its CORSIA scheme, to give the impression that growing aviation CO2 is being mopped up elsewhere. 

https://www.airportwatch.org.uk/2018/01/redd-forest-co2-offsets-used-by-virgin-shown-to-be-ineffective-much-of-the-forest-has-been-cut-down/

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