Climate Change News

Below are news items on climate change – many with relevance to aviation

Domestic flights and flights to European countries now covered by UK ETS (replacing EU ETS)

Having left the EU, there is now a UK Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and aviation will be covered in that, in the same way as it was in the EU ETS.  So only applies to flights within the UK, or any flight within Europe (the countries that are the EEA). In response to a question in Parliament by Ben Bradshaw (Labour), Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Minister of State (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Clean Growth) said: "The UK ETS initially covers around one third of UK greenhouse gas emissions, and applies to the power sector, heavy industry, domestic aviation, and flights from the UK to the European Economic Area. We recognise that meeting Net Zero will require us to build on this ambition. That is why in the next 9 months we will consult on how to align the UK ETS cap with an appropriate net zero trajectory. The cap will provide certainty about the UK’s decarbonisation trajectory over the long-term ... We are also committed to explore expanding the UK ETS and will set out our aspirations to continue to lead the world on carbon pricing in the run up to COP26."

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

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

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Most Europeans may curb flying, eat less meat for climate, EIB EU poll says

The poll in October of more than 30,000 people published by the European Investment Bank shows 72% of Europeans and Americans and 84% of Chinese people think their own behaviour can make a difference in tackling climate change, up by between 7-12% since last year.  They think almost a third of the global population would be willing to fly less, due to climate fears. People now think giving up flying would be one of the easiest things they could do to cut their carbon footprint and respondents were far more reluctant to stop driving a car, video streaming, buying new clothes or eating meat.  When Covid-19-related restrictions are lifted, 43% of Europeans, 40% of Americans and 65% of Chinese people said they will try to avoid air travel, according to the survey.  Many of those cited climate change as the main reason.  The EIB Vice-President Ambroise Fayolle said: “The post-Covid-19 period will provide an opportunity to take a quantum leap in the transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy." People age d 15-30 were more likely to believe their behaviour can make a difference, than those older. On just CO2 emissions (ignoring the impact of non-CO2) aviation is around 2.5- 3% globally, and road transport 15%.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Legal fight to stop Bristol airport expansion – public inquiry in July into airport’s appeal against Council refusal

In February 2020 North Somerset Council rejected (by 18 to 7 votes) the application by Bristol airport to expand its annual number of passengers from 10 million to 12 million. In August, despite the fall in passengers due to Covid, the airport decided to appeal. North Somerset Council says it will make a “robust defence” […]

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

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

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The problem of a Heathrow 3rd runway for regional airports – it means they cannot expand. Letter from No 3rd Runway Coalition Chair, Paul McGuinness

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

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

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

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