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Summaries of, and links to, the latest aviation news stories appear below. News is archived into topics

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Latest news stories:

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

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

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High Court refuses application for JR of government programme to build more roads

Campaigners have lost a legal challenge to the government’s £27bn roadbuilding programme after the high court judge, Mr Justice Holgate, dismissed their application for a judicial review. Lawyers for Transport Action Network (TAN) argued that the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, had drawn up the roads investment strategy for England, known as RIS2, without taking into account the UK’s climate commitments or assessing the additional carbon emissions and climate impact of another 4,000 miles of road. Bizarrely, the judge considered the road building plans were not irrational, in bad faith or manifestly absurd. He accepted the assurances of the DfT that the road building policy was consistent with the UK's net zero target for 2050. And that a lot was being done to decarbonise road transport, but he added:  “Whether they are enough is not a matter for the court.” The campaigners, TAN, are appealing against the judgement.  The case could be an important precedent, relevant to aviation.  Prof Jillian Anable of Leeds University’s institute for transport studies said the DfT's road building plans, and disregard for the the climate implications, "can only be interpreted as either blatant dishonesty or failure to understand the science.”

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The future of Eurostar: How can we save our green link to Europe?

The Eurostar is one of the best ways that people in Britain can get to Europe, (as well as the ferry) avoiding flying.  But it has really struggled during the pandemic. Eurostar had to refinance twice;  March 2021 it borrowed £400 million and received a cash injection of £170 million from its owners; and again in May 2021 another £250 million. The company had to reduce from 20 trains to Paris per day to 1 train a day for most of lockdown. Since getting the new finance deal in place in May it increased to 3 trains per day and hoped to have a good summer to try and recoup some of its losses. It is uncertain if it will increase to more than three trains per day, and talks are taking place between the company and the recognised trade unions regarding what happens when furlough ends on 30 September.  It does not look good, in the run up to the COP26 talks in November, for the UK not to be helping this lower form of transport to and from Europe. The 3 rails unions, TSSA, RMT and Aslef are adamant that Eurostar must be given necessary assistance. Zoom meeting open to the public on 4th August.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gatwick campaigners dismayed by government’s failure to limit night flights

The Department for Transport has published its decision document on the first part of its recent consultation on night flights at Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted.  The Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC) is dismayed that although numerous responses to the consultation showed strong and wide opposition to night flights at Gatwick and elsewhere, the Government has decided to extend current night flight numbers and noise limits for a further three years. DfT’s decision is a kick in the teeth for all those negatively affected by the noise and disturbance caused by aircraft flying at night. It entirely ignores the views of local communities, and groups representing them - and the negative effects on health caused by sleep disturbance. GACC had called on the government to ban all commercial night flights at all UK airports for a full 8-hour period each night. GACC also argued that any flights allowed should be far more strictly regulated. Unfortunately the government has not taken the opportunity, to make positive changes after the Covid hiatus. GACC says: "Instead the DfT continues to neglect its regulatory responsibilities and to see its role as serving the interests of the industry, not overflown communities.”

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Environmental Audit Cttee (EAC) call for evidence on “net zero aviation” and shipping

The (really excellent) Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has started a call for evidence for its inquiry on how to achieve "net zero" aviation and shipping.  It closes on 3 September and "Respondents need not answer all the questions and evidence need not be limited to these questions." Aviation now makes up (2019) 7% of UK carbon emissions, and shipping 3%. The Government’s recently published "Transport Decarbonisation Strategy" has pledged that new technology will allow domestic flights to be emissions-free by 2040, and international aviation to be zero carbon by 2050. The EAC asks a lot of vital questions about this, such as that the industry's plans need rely on carbon removal, the technologies for which are not yet developed at scale.  They point out that reducing demand for air travel represents the most cost-effective method available for maintaining current emission levels (though the government is unwilling to introduce measures to restrict air travel demand. The EAC is asking for comment on future production/availability of low carbon fuels, and the most equitable way to reduce aircraft passenger numbers (e.g. taxation, frequent flyer levies, restrictions on airport capacity etc).

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

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

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No 3rd Runway Coalition: “Heathrow expansion stopping UK from jet zero dreams”

The government hopes all international flights from the UK can be made "net zero" for carbon emissions by 2050. Its new consultation, called "Jet Zero" sets out what the DfT is hoping for, with the remarkable reduction in carbon emissions largely being brought about by "sustainable aviation fuels." The DfT is not keen on doing anything that would deliberately restrict air travel demand. Campaigners at Heathrow, the No 3rd Runway Coalition, point out that it would be hard enough to get anywhere near net zero for aviation emissions, even without airport expansion plans being allowed. And it would be completely impossible, if a 3rd Heathrow runway was allowed, adding perhaps up to another 9 million more tons of CO2 per year to be emitted. Paul McGuinness, Chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said: “It has long been clear that Heathrow’s 3rd runway is incompatible with the UK climate targets and would take up the vast majority of aviation’s residual emissions in 2050."

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Stay Grounded considers “EU 55” proposals to cut aviation CO2 too slow, too many loopholes

The EU Commission has published its Fit for 55 climate package, which includes some changes for aviation. The Stay Grounded network of 170 aviation campaigns organisations welcomes the plan to end the tax exemption for jet fuel, but condemns its slow introduction, the problematic exemption for cargo flights and the limitation to intra-EU flights. It also criticises the unambitious changes in the EU ETS and the adoption of CORSIA for extra-EU flights. A key problem is that flights to non-EU destinations would not be included in the kerosene tax. Member states can and should decide to tax cargo-only and extra-EU flights, but the sector has lobbied hard against any higher charges. The new EU proposal is to introduce a “tighter cap” on the number of free allowances European airlines get for flights within the EU, through the EU ETS. But leaving flights to destinations outside the EU to the CORSIA scheme is unhelpful, as the scheme is too weak to have any effect. The EU consider that sustainable aviation fuels should account for at least 5% of aviation fuels by 2030 and 63% by 2050, and of that synthetic fuels should contribute to at least 28% of the aviation fuel mix by 2050. Stay Grounded says this is ridiculous, as is placing too much reliance on "sustainable" jet fuels in future, with their likely environmental impacts and demand for electricity.

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

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

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

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

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Decarbonising Transport plan – various consultations to come on aviation carbon

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

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DfT transport decarbonisation plan … nice-sounding targets for aviation CO2 .. . details on achieving those still awaited

The Government has put out a statement from Grant Shapps and a page on its website about its transport decarbonisation plan. But the plan itself is not yet available, just the introductory text and (wildly optimistic, bullish comments  from Shapps) in order to get the headlines in the media this morning.  On aviation, the plan hopes to decarbonise all UK domestic aviation by 2040. It hopes all UK airport operations will be zero carbon by 2040. It hopes all UK aviation will be zero carbon by 2050. But there is no detail on how these miracles are to be achieved.  Unless there is serious intention to reduce the total numbers of air passengers and flights, it will not be possible to genuinely make flying zero carbon. So far any ambitions by government for this have been either by remarkable, novel fuels (which either have environmental impacts, or require huge amounts of non-emitting electricity which is unlikely to be available), or hydrogen (likewise requiring electricity) or electric planes. The industry itself acknowledges that neither hydrogen nor electric planes are going to enable even the current level of flying, for many decades, if ever.  Government is keen to tell people they can continue to fly, with a clear conscience - and the aviation sector can continue with "business as usual" for the time being.

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New NEF report on the Frequent Flyer Levy: “WHY DEMAND FOR AVIATION MUST BE CAPPED”

The Climate Change Committee has advised the UK government that aviation CO2 emissions should not rise more than 25% above their level in 2018 by 2050. However, with anticipated levels of demand, it is likely the CO2 will increase far more than that. So demand for air travel needs to be reduced. A new report by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) reiterates the suggestion that a Frequent Flyer Levy (FFL) should be used. This would mean people pay increasing amounts of tax on each successive leisure flight they take during a year. This rising price, depending on how often people fly, is intended to overcome the problem of flying being out of the price range for many people, leaving the rich to continue flying a lot.  It would be more fair if everyone, regardless of wealth/income could have one flight per year relatively cheaply. Currently Air Passenger Duty (APD) is £13 for a short haul flight, or £78 for a long haul flight.  To keep UK aviation demand to the level in 2018, by 2050, people could have one flight with no tax, but £350 in tax by the 5th flight. But to keep demand 66% lower than in 2018 by 2050, there would need to be £80 tax on the first flight, and £800 on the 5th flight.

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

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

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

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

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Uttlesford Council applies for judicial review of Stansted airport expansion plans

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

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

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

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EC draft shows EU to propose aviation fuel tax in efforts to cut European CO2 emissions

The European Commission has drafted plans to set an EU-wide minimum tax rate for aviation fuels, as it seeks to meet more ambitious targets to fight climate change. The EC is drafting an overhaul of EU energy taxation, as part of a package of measures it will propose on July 14, to meet a target to reduce EU greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030, from 1990 levels. The draft proposes taxing aviation fuel, as its continuing exemption "is not coherent with the present climate challenges and policies."  From 2023, the minimum tax rate for aviation fuel would start at zero and increase gradually over a 10-year period, until the full rate is imposed. The draft proposal did not specify what the final rate would be. A recent survey suggests that Europeans support the taxation of aviation fuel.  Even factoring in the impact of the pandemic, aviation emissions are expected to grow between 220-290% by 2050 compared to 2015 levels, which would be disastrous for the climate. Airlines favour carbon offsetting schemes, rather than fuel tax; but these allow them to continue polluting even though offsets have been repeatedly found to be largely ineffective.

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Heathrow at risk of defaulting on its £15bn debt as UK-US flights not returning soon

Heathrow has now made a loss of at least £3 billion, due to the pandemic.  It is now at risk of defaulting on its huge £15bn debt, after talks stalled over the return of flights between Britain and America.  Heathrow had been depending on lucrative trans-Atlantic flights resuming by the start of July.  At the end of June, Heathrow warned its bondholders that if its profits are £66m or more lower than expected by December 2021, then it will breach the strict rules governing its complex portfolio of loans.  It does not look likely that flights to the US will return to anything approaching 2019 levels for a long time.   Up to 2019, North America was Heathrow’s single biggest market making up almost 19m of its 81m passengers in 2019. Heathrow is believed to have the support of its lenders despite the prospect of a potential breach of its banking covenants, the rules that govern loans. Shareholders, which include Spain’s Ferrovial and the state of Qatar, injected £600m into the business when it faced the prospect of a similar breach last year.

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Southend airport owners, Esken, to get £20 million loan from CGI, to keep it going

Southend Airport is to get a £20 million cash injection (over 3 years) to boost its recovery from the Covid pandemic. Airport owner, Esken, has agreed a loan with US private equity firm Carlyle Global Infrastructure (CGI) – which will lend £120 million to Esken, which can be converted into a 30% stake in the airport. They hope it will help the airport survive, and attract low cost airlines for holiday flights. Only 147,000 passengers flew through the airport in the financial year end February 28 – compared to 2.1 million the year before. Of these 147,000 passengers, 68,000 flew in March 2020 before travel restrictions took hold – so only about 78,000 used the airport since March 2020.

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UK government issues list of number of free carbon permits for airlines in the UK ETS

The government has announced that Britain has published a list of the number of free UK carbon permits each aircraft operator will receive from 2021-2025 under the country's domestic emissions trading system (ETS). The UK has initiated its own system, after Brexit. Only domestic flights and flights within the EU are covered - not all international flights, as was the case with the EU ETS.  The number declines slightly betweeN 2021 and 2025. Aircraft operators can apply for free allocation based on their historical aviation activity.  Free permits for the 2021 scheme year will be allocated to operator holding accounts in the UK ETS registry in the coming weeks. Operators had to apply by 31st March. This is organised through BEIS. The website says:  "Aircraft operators have to submit 2010 and/or 2014 verified tonne-kilometre (tkm) data to their regulator. This data should cover all full-scope flights and must contain tkm data associated with UK ETS aviation activity. Free allocation will be distributed in proportion with UK ETS aviation activity emissions rather than full-scope flight emissions."  The government says the free allocation is "to reduce the risk of carbon leakage for businesses."

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Scottish Climate Assembly – many recommendations to cut aviation carbon emissions

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

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Legality of £27bn roads building programme in question due to climate targets

The legality of the government’s second Road Investment Strategy (RIS2) is to be determined by the High Court.  Campaigners from Transport Action Network (TAN) say transport secretary Grant Shapps broke the law when approving the £27.4bn road strategy, by failing to consider its effects on the environment.  The RIS2 is for road upgrades between 2020 and […]

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

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

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European airports want to be able to charge airlines more, due to Covid financial losses

European airports association, ACI Europe, says airports face financial problems that will curtail efforts to decarbonise for a decade - unless governments and regulators help them financially.  ACI Europe director general, Olivier Jankovec, called for changes to airport charges and a review of EU rules on state aid. Airports want to be able to charge airlines more. He said Europe’s airports took on over €20 billion in additional debt last year which is now financing them. He thought “Recovery this summer will be cash-intensive and revenue-weak.”  Analysis for ACI Europe by consultancy firm AlixPartners suggests airport revenues will be below their capital spending requirements for 10 years to 2032, leaving airports no choice but “to slash” investment plans.  ACI complains that airlines have had financial support, but airports have not. And they claim efforts to reduce carbon emissions will be slowed down [though having fewer flights and passengers would help anyway ...]

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CE Delft study shows alleged economic benefits of London City airport greatly exaggerated

In December 2020, London City Airport published its Master Plan, after various consultations. This claims: "Taking all benefits into consideration, the proposed growth could add £586 million [annual benefit in 2035]  to the UK economy. Adding this impact to the £1.5bn impact that LCY is currently expected to reach under CADP, the airport could reach a £2bn annual contribution to the UK economy by 2035." This was based on figures produced by a report for the airport by Ove Arup in April 2019.  All that was in the heady days before the impact of Covid on air travel ... A report by the consultancy, CE Delft, looked carefully at the figures of supposed future economic impact, and found name exaggerations and errors. CE Delft consider that the £586 million in economic impact in 2035 is an overestimate. Our study suggests the economic impact is likely to be smaller than £ 353 million + PM (plus or minus things that is impossible to calculate). This disparity in estimates is partly as local impacts are not additional at the national level, according to the UK’s transport analysis guidance WebTAG. Also that trade impacts should not be taken into account, according to WebTAG.

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

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

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British Airways might abandon Gatwick, for Heathrow, if 80% slot use rules are reinstated

British Airways has revived plans to abandon Gatwick and concentrate operations at Heathrow, according to industry sources. This is due to fears by BA's owner, IAG, that it could lose lucrative take-off and landing slots at Heathrow.  BA first considered leaving Gatwick more than a year ago in anticipation that demand for air travel will remain depressed for a number of years. The landing slots at Heathrow are very much sought-after and expensive, each costing tens of millions of pounds. Usually airlines have to make use of 80% of their slots, or risk losing them.  This was suspended due to Covid, and this waiver was initially due to end in late March. Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, then extended it, with no given end date. If the waiver is finally ended, then British Airways would want to be sure of keeping its lucrative Heathrow slots, by moving more of its activities there, from Gatwick - where the slots are less valuable.

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Treasury Aviation Taxation consultation – some responses

The Treasury recently held a consultation on aviation tax reform. It closed on 15th June. The consultation proposed reducing or removing Air Passenger Duty (APD) on domestic flights. It is currently £26 on a return domestic flight, £13 for each part departing from a UK airport (it is only £13 for a return flight to Europe). It also asked about changing the APD on longer flights. Currently any flight to a destination over 2,000 miles away pays £82 APD. The consultation has options for making more long haul bands.  The Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) has responded in detail, as have Hacan, Stansted Airport Watch (SAW) and the Aviation Communities Forum (ACF). AEF said it "expresses opposition to any reduction in taxes for an already under-taxed industry. For an industry which pays no fuel duty or VAT on tickets, APD is already too low to ensure that airlines make a fair contribution to public finances. Government should be looking at tax increases, not decreases, we argue, particularly given that flights are disproportionately taken by people on higher incomes." There are arguments both ways, but most environmental organisations think there should be more long-distance bands, with higher rates for longer distances.

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easyJet criticised for launching 12 new UK routes, some easily linked by train

EasyJet has launched 12 new domestic UK flying routes on Thursday, to take advantage of the bans on foreign travel.  Anything to make some money and get people flying, despite needlessly increasing carbon emissions. Some of the routes could easily be travelled by train, in a reasonable time. However, the flights will be cheaper (fares like £23 for a 200 mile journey) than train tickets, especially as the government wants to remove Air Passenger Duty for domestic flights, making them still cheaper in relation to rail tickets.  The move by easyJet has been criticised by environmental campaigners, due to the increased greenhouse gas emissions. Some of the new routes were served by other airlines, including Stobart Air, which recently collapsed.  The UK government, while claiming to be serious about reducing the country's CO2 emissions, is in sharp contrast with France, which is banning flights where a train journey is available that takes less than 2.5 hours. Support for unnecessarily polluting airlines will further undermine our credibility at the COP26.  Though many of the new EasyJet routes are to/from Belfast, or Aberdeen or Jersey, others are within the UK land area, and viable rail routes.

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

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

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New report details big polluters’ next Big Con – exposé of “net-zero” pledges

The aviation sector, along with many other sectors, governments and organisations are keen to make pledges about how they are working towards "net zero".  This gives the impression that they are working hard to cut their carbon emissions, and by some future date (conveniently far into the future) they will be causing almost no extra CO2 to enter the atmosphere.  However, the realisation is now dawning that these pledges to be "zero carbon" actually mean either that the sector will buy carbon permits from others that actually cut carbon; or they depend on the unlikely scenario by which vast amount of carbon will be sucked out the air, either by vegetation or technologies that do not yet exist.  Over dependence on hoping carbon will be cancelled out by offsets or carbon removal have the effect of letting an industry continue pretty much with "business as usual" for the time being. Somehow, the next generation will sort out the problem and get the carbon removed.  A new report from Friends of the Earth International, “The Big Con: How Big Polluters are advancing a “net zero” climate agenda to delay, deceive, and deny,”  casts light on some of the carbon pledges, finding grossly ineffective plans.

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Southampton legal challenge against airport decision by Eastleigh Borough Council

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

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

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

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Virgin Atlantic looking at ‘flying taxi’ partnership for VTOL vehicles for transport to large airports

Virgin Atlantic is exploring whether it could launch a flying taxi VTOL service as part of a partnership with Bristol-based Vertical Aerospace. Virgin suggests electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles (eVTOL) could fly from towns like Cambridge to major airports, such as Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester - to save passengers the bother of getting there by surface transport.  Vertical Aerospace is conducting test flights of its aircraft this year, but it can see challenges ahead. The proposed VA-X4 aircraft will be able to carry 4 passengers and a pilot up to 100 miles. They claim they will be low carbon (depending on the electricity used) and not too noisy - or at least, less noisy than a helicopter. They say it will be "near silent" when cruising though the  "rotors and wings would still make noise in forward flight".  Vertical Aerospace has already partnered with American Airlines and Avolon, an aircraft-leasing company.  These would not be mini air taxis to ferry passengers from one skyscraper to another, which would require new air-traffic control technology, public acceptance of the noise and safety aspects of more aircraft in cities, and regulatory change - which could be years away.

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Heathrow’s Matt Gorman awarded MBE for ? reducing airport’s carbon emissions?

Matt Gorman, who has been Heathrow’s “Sustainability Director” for years, and is now its “Carbon Strategy Director” has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, for his work in cutting the airport’s carbon emissions.  He has not, of course, reduced the emissions of the planes using Heathrow. Far from it, he has been […]

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

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

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Deadline for submissions – 9th July – for Transport Sec of State re-determination of Manston DCO

RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) have been trying for a long time to turn Manston back into a functioning freight airport.  The development has to go through the DCO process.  In July 2020, DfT Sec of State Grant Shapps, decided to ignore the Planning Inspectorate’s advice, and allow the DCO. This was then legally challenged by local campaigner, Jenny Dawes.  In February a High Court judge ruled that the DCO had been quashed, because the decision approval letter issued from the Minister of State did not contain enough detail about why approval was given against the advice of the Planning Inspectorate and said the Judicial Review would not be contested. Now the DfT says the DCO will be re-determined, and people have until the 9th July to submit more evidence. The Secretary of State is now asking for more evidence on the extent to which current national or local policies (including any changes since 9 July 2020) such as the re-instatement of the ANPS, future level of demand, future benefits, other material matters, and the extent to which the Secretary of State should, have regard to the Sixth carbon budget (covering the years between 2033 – 2037).

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

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

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European airlines lobbying against tighter EU rules to reduce CO2 emissions

European airlines are fighting tougher CO2 emissions rules under the EU’s long-awaited climate package, according to documents obtained by environmental group, Influence Map through FoI. The documents show that airlines and industry bodies have been lobbying against stricter European Commission rules for the sector under the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS). They do not want new taxes for the fossil fuels they burn, and say they cannot pay more after the damage the sector has suffered due to Covid. The EU has been trying to introduce measures to enable the block to cut its emissions by 55% by 2030, from their 1990 level. The airlines have vague aspirations to be "carbon neutral" by 2050 (while growing numbers of passengers and flights) by use of novel, so called "sustainable" fuels - and new technologies such as use of hydrogen and electric-powered aircraft, which are unlikely to make much difference for decades, if ever. Also the use of offsets, which don't actually cut carbon. Industry group Airlines for Europe in October oppose a proposed tax on kerosene for flights within the EU, arguing that carriers would fill up in third countries. They do not want the phasing out of free airline credits, and are not happy that - at last - the cost of carbon permits has risen to a level that makes some sense.

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Uttlesford District Council leader calls for Government to intervene on Stansted Airport Expansion

The leader of Uttlesford District Council (UDC), Cllr John Lodge, has condemned the Planning Inspectorate’s (PI) decision to allow expansion at Stansted as “an insult to local democracy”.  He has written to the Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps and his Housing, Communities and Local Government counterpart Robert Jenrick and urged them to intervene. The application was rejected by UDC councillors, but the airport appealed - and the PI recently approved it - going against the democratic council vote.  John Lodge called on the Government to commit to "aviation demand management" to prevent the implementation of the planning permission at the airport, to raise the cap on annual passengers, from 35 to 43 million over the next 10 to 15 years. The PI considered the behaviour of the council to have been unreasonable, as officers had recommended approval.  The PI also said costs should be awarded against UDC. The decision to let the number of flights and passengers increase is completely contrary to government's stated seriousness about cutting CO2 emissions. The owners of the airport, the Manchester Airports Group, are mainly councils. So money will be taken by one council, UDC (not a rich council), to be paid to other councils. 

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Pressure on UK as Germany backs EU ending free carbon permits for airlines

The German government is backing an extension of EU carbon pricing that will end free carbon permits for airlines, putting pressure on the UK to put in place a similar package to meet climate targets. The European Commission will propose several climate policies on 14th July, to try to cut greenhouse gases faster in line with an EU goal to cut net emissions by 55% by 2030 from 1990 levels. The package will include reforms to the EU carbon market. Germany has backed the EC's plan to impose CO2 prices on transport through a separate system to the EU’s existing ETS.  Germany said the reforms to the EU’s carbon market should prolong free carbon permits “to an appropriate extent”, but end them soon for aviation. The UK has created its own carbon pricing market since leaving the EU, but it mostly follows the existing EU model and focuses on heavy industries and energy providers.  The UK's pledge to reduce CO2 emissions 78% by 2035 will dramatically force up the cost of fuel for transportation, including flying. Not all MPs are happy with that. 

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

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

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Shapps supports decision by the CAA to revoke Flybe’s operating licence – losing its Heathrow slots

Flybe collapsed into administration in March 2020. It had some slots at Heathrow because it was given them under “remedy” procedures aimed at preventing British Airways from dominating the market.  The (how many) pairs of slots, which prior to the pandemic changed hands for up to £52 million each are still believed to be worth about £10m despite the impact of coronavirus.  When Flybe failed, the slots were allocated back to BA last summer. Flybe still had the right to access them – but only if the airline had an operating licence after June 3.  But now Grant Shapps has supported a decision by the Civil Aviation Authority to revoke Flybe’s operating licence. The slots therefore remain with BA.  Had Flybe been granted the licence, it could have meant a lot of money of hedge fund manager, Lucien Farrell of Cyrus Capital.  Flybe has been bought by a new company called Thyme Opco, now called Flybe Limited.  It hopes to resurrect the brand (though it has always made a loss) and wanted those valuable slots, but has been awarded separate but less valuable slots at Manchester and Birmingham airports. 

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Flights v flamingos: can Barcelona wetland wildlife reserve survive airport expansion plans?

The Delta del Llobregat, one of the most important wetlands in the western Mediterranean, is being eroded on one side by the sea and on the other by Barcelona's land-hungry airport. Before the pandemic there were already close to 90 flights an hour and, if the airport authority has its way, this will increase still further. The delta covers 920 hectares and has 14 distinct ecosystems, ranging from coastal, marshland and lagoons to pine forests and farmland. As well as being home to a birds, a colony of turtles, there are more than 1,000 plant species, including 22 varieties of orchids. In the decades-long war of flamingos versus air passengers, the flamingos have lost every round. The airport wants to extend the runway into the wetlands and build another terminal, allowing passenger numbers to rise from 55 to 70 million a year. But now the European commission has weighed in, accusing the Spanish and Catalan governments of failing to protect the wetlands and warning against a proposed expansion of the airport. The EC says the Llobregat Delta ecosystem hosts outstanding biodiversity and plays a crucial role in the migratory routes of many European bird species.  

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

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

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

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

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Stansted to reclaim costs from Uttlesford council due to winning its expansion planning appeal

Stansted Airport intends to reclaim "hundreds of thousands of pounds" from Uttlesford District Council (UDC), after it won its appeal over expansion plans - against the council's refusal.  In January 2020 UDC had rejected proposals to increase Stansted's passenger cap from 35  to 43 million per year. The officers had recommended approval of proposals. An inquiry by the Planning Inspectorate found "overwhelmingly in favour of the grant of planning permission".  Uttlesford is a small council, which should not have to bear vast costs, in order to try to prevent harm to its local residents.  Stansted already has permission to increase capacity from 28 million to 35 million annual passengers. 

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Rising use of private jets (most in UK using Luton and Farnborough) sends CO2 emissions soaring

An analysis by campaign group, Transport & Environment, has found that CO2 from private jets in Europe increased by about a third between 2005 and 2019.  Flights that entered or left the UK accounted for nearly a fifth of these emissions, giving the UK the largest share of any European country.  Private jet use continued in 2020.  By August 2020, when the number of commercial flights was about 60% down in the UK, the level of private jet use was almost as high as in 2019.  Of the top ten highest carbon private flight routes that take off or land in Europe (the 27 EU members plus Britain, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland) six involved either Luton or Farnborough airports.  The Luton to Teterboro New York route had the  highest private jet emissions, with 565 flights a year, despite a commercial alternative routes between Heathrow and John F Kennedy airport. The private jet sector has grown rapidly, and provides convenience for the very rich, and the ability to reduce personal Covid infection risk at airports, and in crowded planes.  The CO2 emissions from a private jet, with very few passengers, is hugely more per person (5 to 14 times) than on a commercial flight - even first class. The inequity of private jet use, and the huge climate impact, mean the sector should be under the spotlight, especially for the UK in the year it hosts the COP26 talks, in November in Glasgow.

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Unreasonable behaviour

"Unreasonable behaviour": these were the words used by the Panel of Planning Inspectors to describe the conduct of Uttlesford District Council (UDC) in their formal ruling, dated 26 May, which approved an increase in Stansted Airport's planning cap from 35 million to 43 million passengers per annum ('mppa').   This followed a Public Inquiry which ran from 12 January to 12 March 2021, involving three main parties, namely UDC, Manchester Airports Group (MAG) and Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE).  (Note that SSE has since been succeeded by Stansted Airport Watch (SAW). Commenting on the outcome of the Public Inquiry, SAW Chairman Brian Ross, said: “We are, of course, disappointed but we are not at all surprised, bearing in mind that the Council's planning officers made no real attempt to defend the decision of their own Planning Committee.  We will carefully review the Panel's ruling and discuss with our legal advisers before deciding whether to seek leave to appeal." The approval comes despite UDC's Planning Committee having last year voted unanimously to refuse MAG's application for further expansion of Stansted.  

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

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

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

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

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Fewer airport jobs the more automation is brought in

Airports produce plans for expansion, which always have extensive claims about the number of jobs that will create. In practice, the sector reduces the number of staff as much as possible, and numbers reduce by around 2.5% each year. The massive disruptions to air travel caused by the Covid pandemic may have accelerated some of the drive towards more automation, because of passengers not wanting to touch surfaces that have been touched by others, and not wanting to interact with strangers. There are plans for ever more facial recognition and biometric technology at immigration, so arriving passengers can be checked automatically, without the need for a member of Border Force staff. The hope is that this would be more efficient, take less time, and save the cost of an employee.  There are also plans for automating check in, security and baggage, often via smartphones. "At Abu Dhabi Airport, Etihad Airways is testing a bag-drop system that uses AI to recognize unique scuff marks and other characteristics on nearly identical suitcases and match them to the correct passenger with a digital tag." There are also automatic rail shuttles around airports, and car park shuttles.

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

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

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Teenagers deliver petition to Jenrick, calling for a public inquiry into Leeds Bradford Airport expansion plans

Three West Yorkshire teenagers  hand-deliver a petition signed by over 54,000 people to the Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick, on behalf of the Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA).  The petition asks Mr Jenrick to ‘call in’ controversial plans to expand Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA) and hold a public inquiry.  The teenage campaigners say airport expansion would undermine the UK’s chances of cutting greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 and damage the government’s credibility as a climate leader, in the same year that it hosts the COP26 international climate conference.  LBA’s planning application was approved by Leeds City Council on March 22 but GALBA wrote to Robert Jenrick asking him to hold a public inquiry into the expansion plans. MPs from Labour and Conservative parties have supported the call for a public inquiry. On April 6, Mr Jenrick postponed making a decision on this request, giving no explanation or timescale.  Last week, GALBA joined a network of 16 national and local airport campaigns calling on the government to impose an immediate moratorium on all proposed UK airport expansions.

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

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

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

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

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Oxford airport doing building work, to get in more private jets

The airport is building a new 63,000 sq. ft. (6,000m2) 140m long hangar with two bays including rear offices, stores and workshops, capable of accommodating up to 6 Bombardier Global, Gulfstream or Dassault Falcon Jet models, simultaneously. The new hangar, the airport’s 15th, is the first facility in a new zone of the airport to the north of the original site. The hangar will be used predominantly by established tenants. The airport will progressively replace 80-year-old hangars with new, bespoke facilities, providing turnkey solutions for clients. "With demand for space [for private jets] consistently outpacing supply within the London region, the airport is committed to invest in infrastructure to accommodate more business and allow established companies, such as Airbus Helicopters, Volare Aviation and Jet Maintenance International (JMI) to expand."  ie more private jets, and very high carbon private jet flights. "A new fuel farm will enable a quadrupling of the capacity of the original facility, whilst also providing valuable space for additional future static tankage for Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)."

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

After 17 years of campaigning, 82-year-old Peter Sanders CBE is stepping down as Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) chairman as the organisation begins a new era with a fresh name – Stansted Airport Watch (SAW). SSE was founded in 2002 in response to Government proposals which shocked the local community by setting out options for expanding Stansted with up to 3 additional runway - at the time the low cost airlines were getting going. Stansted could have become twice as big as 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 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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Study shows carbon offsets, by forest protection, used by major airlines are based on flawed system

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Western Rail Link to Heathrow mothballed – won’t be revived until airport’s finances improve

Network Rail has now confirmed that staff working on the Western Rail Link to Heathrow  have been moved on to other projects, as there isn't enough money to keep building it. The proposed link goes from the Great Western Main Line at Langley to Terminal 5.  Plans to build a £900M western rail link have been brought to a “controlled pause”, or mothballed, by Network Rail due to the impact of Covid-19 on the aviation industry and Heathrow's finances. Heathrow is currently unable to commit any funding to the project due to its precarious financial position, with a £2 billion loss announced in February.  The indefinite delay to the rail link was disclosed in the minutes of the Network Rail board meeting on 20 and 21 January 2021, published in March. It is possible that the scheme could be resumed  at some future.  The DfT would periodically update its business case for the Western Rail Link to Heathrow, in the light of significant changes to both the aviation and rail sectors as a result of Covid. The delay will continue, if Heathrow does not get passengers - and earnings - back. The scheme will be pushed further down the priority list. 

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

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

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

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

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