Climate Change News

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

Campaigners call for temporarily moratorium on airport expansion until there is new UK policy on aviation carbon

There is currently no UK government policy on aviation carbon emissions, or airport expansion policy across the country. While the Committee on Climate Change says there should be no NET increase in airport capacity, it is unclear how this is to work. Meanwhile many airports are trying to push through expansion plans, to get them approved by local authorities as soon as possible. In the absence of proper UK policy, local decision are just being made by local councils, with no over-arching big picture logic.  The Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) is asking for a temporary moratorium on airport expansion plan decisions. Cait Hewitt of AEF said local airport applications show "the climate impact of airport expansion is not something that can be easily determined at a local level. The government really needs to get its act together in terms of setting out how the aviation sector in the UK is going to play its part in delivering net zero ... We would support a moratorium on airport expansions until the government has figured out what its policy is on aviation and net zero.”  AEF research showed that if all expansion plans put forward by UK airports were to proceed, it would cause an additional 9 MtCO2 to be emitted each year by 2050.

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French lawmakers in the National Assembly approve a ban on domestic flights, where train takes under 2hrs 30mins

In a recent vote, the French National Assembly voted to abolish domestic flights by any airline on routes than can be covered by train in under two-and-a-half hours, as the government seeks to lower carbon emissions - even while the airline industry has been hit by the pandemic. A citizens’ climate forum established by Macron to help form climate policy had called for the scrapping of flights on routes where the train journey is below 4 hours, or 6 hours. The bill goes to the Senate before a third and final vote in the lower house, where Macron’s ruling party and allies dominate. The measure is part of a broader climate bill that aims to cut French carbon emissions by 40% in 2030 from 1990 levels, though activists accuse President Emmanuel Macron of watering down earlier promises in the draft legislation.  However, the French government will contribute to a €4 billion ($4.76 billion) recapitalisation of Air France, more than doubling its stake in the airline, to keep it going during the Covid crisis. The Industry Minister said there was no contradiction between the bailout and the climate bill (sic) and despite carbon targets, companies had to be supported.  McKinsey analysts forecast that air traffic may not return to 2019 levels before 2024. 

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YouGov poll shows 45% of business travellers (in 7 European countries) planning to cut future flights

A YouGov poll surveyed business travellers in 7 European countries including the UK, in December 2020 and January 2021.  It found overall 45% said they would be flying less often in future - when Covid restrictions end - and 38% said their air travel would be about the same as before. The reduction would be because of videoconferencing. The reduction in the need to take business flights and travel abroad had been seen as positive by 20% of business flyers, and it had not negatively affected their work life or productivity. Business fliers tend to fly far more often than most holidaymakers, with 10% of those in the poll taking more than 10 flights in the year up to the first lockdown in March 2020.  Business passengers provide a huge part of legacy airline income, so without them, the price of air tickets would have to rise. Carbon emissions from aviation were growing at 5.7% a year before the pandemic, despite many countries committing to cut all emissions to net zero by 2050 to tackle the climate crisis. Green campaigners argue that the aviation shutdown provides an opportunity to put the sector on a sustainable trajectory.  The poll was commissioned by the European Climate Foundation.

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Climate campaigners call for halt to regional UK airports expansion, to avoid aviation CO2 growth

The Aviation Environment Federation says the UK government must intervene to stop the planned expansion of a number of small airports around the country if it is to meet legally binding environmental targets and avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis. Seven regional airports have devised plans to expand their operations, despite fierce opposition from climate scientists and local people, who argue the proposals are incompatible with UK efforts to address the climate and ecological crisis.  The decision on whether to allow a new terminal at Leeds Bradford has been delayed. The AEF says the government must go further and intervene to halt the other schemes which, taken together, would release huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The expansions are against the recommendations fo the government's climate advisors, the Committee on Climate Change, who say there should be no net airport expansion.  ie. if one expands, another has to contract (there are no volunteers).  The time is well overdue for government take a proper strategic overview of the climate impact of airport expansion proposals rather than leave it up to individual local authorities. There needs to be proper policy for aviation carbon, which is sadly lacking.

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UK government criticised by prominent scientists and lawyers, for ignoring Paris climate goals in infrastructure decisions

Prominent scientists and lawyers (including Jim Hansen, Sir David King and Prof Jeffrey Sachs) have written to ministers and the Supreme Court, to say the UK government’s decision to ignore the Paris climate agreement when deciding on major infrastructure projects undermines its presidency of UN climate talks this year.  The Heathrow case is a key example, when a 3rd runway was approved in principle by government (2019) and the Supreme Court finally ruled in December 2020 that the government had not needed to take the Paris climate goals into account. The UK is due to host the Cop26 summit in Glasgow in November, regarded as one of the last chances to put the world on track to meet the Paris goals.  It is dangerous for the highest court in the land to set a bad precedent. The letter, signed by over 130 scientists, legal and environmental experts, says that the Supreme Court "set a precedent that major national projects can proceed even where they are inconsistent with maintaining the temperature limit on which our collective survival depends.” And “Indeed, the precedent goes further still. It says that the government is not bound even to consider the goals of an agreement that is near universally agreed."

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Plans for expansion of Leeds Bradford airport put on hold – after government direction – giving time for a decision to “call in”

The government has issued a direction to Leeds City Council, preventing councillors from granting planning permission for Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA) expansion, without special authorisation. This means the expansion of LBA is now on hold.  The direction – set out in section 31 of the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015 – will give further time to Robert Jenrick, the Communities Secretary, (MHCLG) to consider whether to formally “call in” the planning application for a public inquiry. The plans to build a new terminal building on the green belt had been given conditional approval by Leeds City Council in February, despite widespread opposition from local MPs, residents and environmental groups. Campaigners argued the expansion would make a mockery of efforts to tackle the climate crisis and undermine the government’s credibility ahead of a key climate conference later this year. The issue is of more than local importance, and a full public inquiry - chaired by a planning inspector, or lawyer - would mean all the evidence being properly considered. The inquiry would then make its recommendation to Robert Jenrick, to make the final decision.

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French “eco-mayors” trying to reduce environmental impact – one suggests children don’t “dream of flying”

The Mayor of Poitiers has suggested that, due to the climate crisis, children growing up today should not aspire to many overseas flights.  She has been attacked by the aviation industry, for not helping them, and for other politicians etc for a "depressing" ideology and restricting people's freedoms. The Mayor, Léonore Moncond’huy, is one of several "eco-mayors" to deter people from traditional pursuits. She has cut subsidies to the town’s two flying clubs, on the grounds that “public money must no longer finance sports based on the consumption of non-renewable resources”.  She said: “We must protect children from some dreams. Sadly, aviation must no longer be part of the dreams of the children of today.”  The mayor of Tours has also tried to ban traffic and is halting Ryanair’s use of the city airport. Many green Mayors have tried to introduce various measures, some less sensible than others ... several are trying to reduce car use. The mayor of part of Lyon has opposed hosting part of the Tour de France because of its huge environmental footprint ...

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Treasury consulting on a Frequent Flyer Levy to tax aviation (Treasury not keen on it)

The Treasury has a  consultation (ending 15th June) on several aspects of the taxation of aviation. The first section was on domestic APD (Air Passenger Duty); the second part is on changes to the international APD bands  and also on a Frequent Flyer Levy (FFL). The Treasury document says:  "The Committee on Climate Change and several environmental stakeholders have suggested that the government should introduce a frequent flyer levy, in order to tackle the environmental impacts of flying in an equitable way. ... A frequent flyer levy would seek to constrain overall demand for flights, by increasing the amount of tax liability due, according to the number of flights a passenger had previously taken. Unlike APD, the tax would be levied on the individual, rather than the airline."  It stresses the various difficulties in administering the tax (a great deal of data to be collected, people with multiple passports, people who need to fly often...) It makes out that people who fly a lot already pay more APD, ignoring the key point of the FFL that the tax ramps up for each flight, so the 5th or 10th flight in one year costs a great deal more, than the standard APD rate on each. It concludes: "The government is therefore minded to retain APD as the principal tax on the aviation sector and not introduce a frequent flyer levy as a replacement, and welcomes views on this position."

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A few frequent flyers ‘dominate air travel’ (so dominating aviation CO2 emissions) – in all richer countries

Research for the climate campaign group, Possible, shows that a small minority of frequent flyers dominate air travel in almost all countries with high aviation CO2 emissions.  In the UK, 70% of flights are made by a wealthier 15% of the population, with 57% not flying abroad at all, in any one year. The Possible research suggests the frequent flyer trend is mirrored in other wealthy countries.   USA: 12% of people take 66% of flights.  France: 2% of people take 50% of flights. Canada: 22% of the population takes 73% of flights.  The Netherlands: 8% of people takes 42% of flights.  China: 5% of households takes 40% of flights.  India: 1% of households takes 45% of flights.  Indonesia: 3% of households takes 56% of flights. There are calls for a frequent flyer levy - a tax that increases the more you fly each year.  John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace: "Taxing frequent fliers is a good idea - but we also have to do something about air miles, which reward frequent fliers for flying more frequently. This is obscene during a climate crisis - and it should be stopped." The Treasury take the line that "Frequent flyers already pay more under the current APD (Air Passenger Duty) system" but that misses the point. They pay the same rate of APD on each flight, the first, the fifth or the tenth that year. A tax that ramped up on each successive flight would be a greater deterrent to frequent flying.

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Letter from nearly 80 organisations and groups urges Leeds Bradford Airport decision be ‘called in’

Nearly 80 West Yorkshire community groups, environmental organisations and councillors from all parties have urged the decision on Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA) to be ‘called in’. Signatories of the letter to Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, include Bradford councillors, Shipley Constituency Labour Party, Thornton, Allerton and Sandy Lane Branch Labour Party, Keighley and Ilkley Green Party, Bradford Green Party, Clean Air Bradford, Bradford Green New Deal, Baildon and Shipley Friends of the Earth, Extinction Rebellion Bradford, Shipley Town Council and more. The Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA) has asked the Secretary of State to hold a public inquiry because they say “there are significant effects beyond LBA’s immediate locality and there is substantial cross-boundary and national controversy; these issues have not been adequately addressed by Leeds City Council; and airport expansion conflicts with national policies on important matters”. The UK needs a proper national policy on airports, airport expansion, and carbon emissions. The CCC has said there must be no net airport growth, but many airports plan to expand - none plan to contract. 

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