General News

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

 

Government not keen on a frequent flyer levy to replace APD

There have been many requests to government to consider a frequent flyer levy, by which people could have one leisure flight per year with no tax, or little tax – but every subsequent flight would pay successively more tax. So someone going on their 5th or 6th flight of the year would be paying a […]

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NGOs write to Aviation Minister asking that airport expansions are stopped until aviation CO2 emissions can actually be reduced

Currently there are expansion plans by 7 UK airports (Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, Bristol, Leeds Bradford, Southampton and Manston) and government has no coherent policy on aviation carbon emissions in relation to the UK "net zero" by 2050 target. So a group of NGOs (AEF, AirportWatch, Friends of the Earth, Green Alliance, Greenpeace, Possible and T&E) has written to Aviation Minister, Robert Courts, calling on the Government to withdraw its policy support for airport expansion until aviation carbon emissions are actually falling, and wider UK emissions are substantially below a 1.5C-compliant trajectory.  It also voices concerns that the Government’s draft Jet Zero strategy is built around assumptions that future increases in sustainable fuels and carbon removals will occur after 2030, but with no clear policy plan to ensure that happens. The letter points out that neither the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) for a new runway at Heathrow nor the Making Best Use (MBU) policy for other airports – both released in 2018 – have yet been assessed for their compatibility with achieving net zero aviation by 2050.  Planning authorities should not be left reliant on out-of-date policies when determining applications for airport expansion - as happens now.

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Element Energy report shows air travel demand reduction is essential, to cut UK aviation carbon

New report for the Aviation Environment Federation, by Element Energy, looks at the reality of the UK government's reliance on novel technologies to eventually cut aviation carbon emissions. The DfT is depending on greatly improved aircraft energy efficiency, as well as electric planes, planes powered by hydrogen, and a huge component of new lower-carbon fuels, SAF (sustainable aviation fuels) replacing kerosene, and carbon capture and storage. The DfT does not consider reducing demand for flying, and considers an increase of 70% above the level in 2018, by 2050, as acceptable. Element Energy show the aspiration of 2% annual plane efficiency gains is unrealistic, and even 1.5% will be difficult. They consider that novel fuels might, at best, produce a carbon saving of 60%, not the 100% the DfT hopes for.  The price of carbon in future needs to be high, for international flights, and if it does not increase enough, flying demand will not decrease - to the DfT forecasts are unreliable. The study concludes that, even with a high proportion of SAF being used, and optimal fuel efficiency gains, by 2050 there would need to be a reduction in flights and passengers of around 45%, if the sector is to achieve the target of 15MtCO2 (even that is a huge amount of carbon).

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Tees Valley airport loses link to Heathrow. Is the airport even needed?

Heathrow (always keen to make more money) wants to charge the maximum possible on its take-off and landing fees.  Airlines and people who like to fly are angry about their trips costing perhaps £10 more than before .... that ignores the fact that rail journeys are hugely more expensive than flights, which are crazily cheap. Teeside airport has now lost its link to Heathrow, as Loganair says it cannot make money on the route, if the Heathrow charges are a bit higher.  Councils like the kudos of having an airport, and the Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen, is very keen on the airport increasing its number of passengers are routes, regardless of the increased carbon emissions.  Some are asking if there needs to be a Teeside airport, as it is 44 miles from Newcastle airport.  The recent launch of a direct train service from Middlesbrough to London means the Heathrow cancellation isn't much of a loss.

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TUI to offer train tickets instead of short-haul flights to 6 cities, from the Netherlands

Holiday company TUI will replace plane seats with train tickets on some routes from the Netherlands, in an effort to reduce its carbon footprint (while continuing to encourage more people to fly on holidays). Passengers booking Tui city breaks will be offered the chance to travel by rail from the Netherlands to six European cities - to Copenhagen, Prague, Vienna, Venice, Milan and Florence. The move will be launched by TUI’s Dutch division as part of a collaboration with train travel start-up Green City Trip.  Flight tickets will still be available for those routes.

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High Court hearing granted on the Bristol Airport expansion ruling

Bristol Airport Action Network (BAAN) campaigners have been given permission to go to the High Court to appeal against the expansion of Bristol Airport.  The date is still to be set. A judge has decided that BAAN raised arguable grounds following the Planning Inspectorate's (PI) decision to permit expansion of annual capacity, from 10 to 12 million passengers.  The airport will continue to fight for their expansion. Government planning inspectors granted permission for the expansion plans, on appeal in February, after the plans were rejected by North Somerset Council in 2020 on environmental grounds.  These include far higher carbon emissions, more noise, more air pollution and more road traffic. BAAN has raised more than £20,000, through crowd funding, to pay for legal costs to support its appeal.  Stephen Clarke, from BAAN, said: "The idea that airports can just continue to expand without limit, in the middle of a climate and ecological crisis, is so obviously wrong. We are delighted that the judge agrees we have arguable grounds that the inspector's decision has errors in law and we look forward to the full hearing."  If the court rules in favour of BAAN, then the PI will have to reconsider its decision.

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For 20 years the aviation industry has missed every [except one] of their sustainability targets – that will probably continue

A report commissioned by the climate charity Possible assessed every target set by the airline industry since 2000 and found that nearly all had been missed, revised or quietly ignored. This undermines a UK government plan to leave airlines to reduce their emissions through self-regulation. There are a range of targets that cover various measure of carbon efficiency. The levels of ambition underpinning the targets were generally insufficient, even if met, to reduce the absolute climate impact of aviation in the context of ongoing growth in demand.  Business behaviour does not appear to be driven by environmental targets. The target setting often appears to function principally as a tactic for giving an impression to the public and policymakers, of progress and action being taken to address aviation’s environmental impacts  in order to prevent any policy barriers to ongoing growth in the industry. The research found unclear definitions, opaque monitoring and inconsistent reporting made many targets difficult to assess, with many also suddenly changed, replaced or dropped. Even if met, they were insufficiently ambitious to reduce aviation’s climate impact.

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EU urged to cut emissions from aviation faster – and address the aromatics problem

Ciarán Cuffe, a Green MEP who is shadow rapporteur for the ReFuelEU Aviation file in the European Parliament’s transport committee, has called for the EU’s "clean" aviation fuels law to be amended to include non-CO2 effects. This includes the release of soot and harmful gases, including sulphur and nitrogen oxide, as well as water vapour, from jet engines. The EU’s proposed green aviation law overlooks the true climate cost of flying, with the non-CO2 effects of air travel producing 2-4 times the impact of CO2 emissions. He says it is not credible to delay by another decade and rely solely on voluntary industry efforts. This hasn’t worked up until now, and it won’t work in the future.  Some of the non-CO2 impacts are due to aromatics in the fuel (compounds like propyl benzene, tetralin and p-xylene). So there are demands to reduce the amount of these, and sulphur content, in jet fuel. However these aromatics are important in current jet engine design, as they help swell seals and improve flow.  If the industry goes for more novel fuels in future, these do not contain aromatics. So either aromatics will have to be added to the fuels, to protect the engines - or engines will have to be adapted.

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IAG, British Airways parent company, records heavy loss for first quarter of 2022

British Airways’ parent company, IAG,  has recorded a heavy loss for the first three months of the year as the Omicron Covid variant cut passenger numbers. Pre-tax losses for International Airlines Group were £916 million, although this was lower than the £1.2 billion loss in the same period in 2021. IAG says there is more business flying, a higher load factor, and more premium leisure passengers.  It says it expects to return to profitability from April for the summer, and for 2022 as a whole.  Flight capacity in the first 3 months of the year was 65% of 2019 levels, up from 58% between October and December.  IAG is hoping this will rise to 80% between April and June, and 85% during July, August and September. However, there have been a lot of cancelled flights, due to shortage of ground staff, and IAG is reducing the number of short haul (ie. not quite such high carbon ...) flights.

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How middlemen carbon brokers take a cut from money meant to help offset CO2 emissions

Many airlines like to encourage their passengers to buy carbon offsets, so they can hope the impact of the carbon their flight puts into the atmosphere is somehow reduced. There are many arguments against the uses of offsets, and reasons why they are ineffective - what is needed is preventing the CO2 being emitted today, not hopes of it being removed in several years. But now joint research by Greenpeace's Unearthed, and others, has found that much of the money that is paid for a carbon offset - in the hope it will go to some project that is attempting to reduce carbon - in practice is ending up in the hands of brokers and middlemen. The carbon offset market is booming, with many new schemes - and money to be made by those working in finance, who themselves do nothing to reduce carbon emissions.  There is a serious lack of regulation and transparency in the carbon markets, and that needs to change.  The research found cases where brokers bought carbon credits from forestry projects in poorer countries, and sold them on to consumers and companies, including airlines and oil firms, at much higher prices - making a huge profit.

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