Below are links to stories of general interest in relation to aviation and airports.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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
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."
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.
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."
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.
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.