General News

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

 

New study indicates non-CO2 impacts of aviation are twice as large as the CO2 alone

A new study trying to elucidate the various non-CO2 impacts of aviation has been published. There is very complicated science about the positive radiative forcing (ie. extra impact on increasing global temperature) of the water vapour, NOx and other gases, and particles emitted from jet engines at altitude. This study concludes that the non-CO2 impacts of "aviation emissions are currently warming the climate at approximately three times the rate of that associated with aviation CO2 emissions alone." They have looked in detail at the various effects and interactions. There are numerous non-CO2 impacts, some of which cause more radiation to be reflected back out to space, and some cause heat to be trapped, warming the earth. These effects include the contrails, ice cloud changes, sulphate and soot particles from jet engines, water vapour from jet engines, NOx emissions and production of ozone. The effects of contrails and extra cloud formation are perhaps easier to study, and more research is needed on the impacts of soot and sulphate particles.  The confirmation of the large contribution to warming, from the non-CO2 impacts of aviation is important.  The climate impact of aviation, including non-CO2 effects, has to be fully taken into account in how the sector fits into the UK's climate targets, and reaching "net zero".  Currently the DfT ignores non-CO2 impacts, though the CCC has recommended that they should be included.

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Heathrow has lost £1 billion since start of March, is cutting staff pay, and could cut 1,200 jobs

Heathrow says that it has lost £1 billion since the start of March, due to the Covid pandemic. There could be 1,200 Heathrow jobs lost.  The airport served a formal notice to staff yesterday, triggering a 45-day consultation period over compulsory job losses. The airport and unions have failed to agree to a deal over the future of its frontline workforce after months of talks. Heathrow is proposing salary cuts of between 15-20% for some affected staff, with a phased reduction in salaries over 2 years. A voluntary redundancy scheme has been offered. The airport claims there might be few compulsorily redundancies, but only if the unions agree a deal. About 4,700 frontline staff are affected, including engineers, security and airside operations. Heathrow has already lost 450 out of 1,000 head-office managerial staff.  The airport had indicated previously that as many as a quarter of staff could be made redundant, so up to 1,200 jobs may go. Heathrow said its proposals "guarantee a job" for anyone who wants to remain with the business. The Unite union is not happy with the airport's offers.  Gatwick is losing about 600 jobs, a quarter of its workforce. 

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Draft Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill calls for international aviation to be fully included in the UK’s Net Zero target

The proposed Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill (CEE bill) which is to be tabled as a private member's bill by Caroline Lucas MP on 2nd September, would see international aviation, shipping, and consumption included properly within the UK's 2050 net zero target. These are necessary in closing the gaps in the UK's Climate Change Act (CCA), where they have been excluded in the past. The CEE bill has support from the minority parties and Labour, as well as scientists, business figures and Extinction Rebellion. Currently when the UK claims its carbon emissions have fallen, the drop is largely from switching electricity generation from coal to gas, and the arrival of more renewables. Over recent decades, carbon emissions embodied in imports have grown, as have carbon emissions from international aviation and shipping. But those are not considered under the CCA. The CEE Bill proposes legislation to address the biodiversity crisis, by placing a stronger legal requirement for the government to protect and restore forests, soils, and ecosystems so then can provider a natural means of absorbing CO2. Despite Covid, bold government action is needed in the UK, now, especially before the postponed COP26 meeting in November 2021 in Glasgow.

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Protest by opponents of Southampton airport, against the “madness” of its expansion plans

Opponents of expansion of Southampton airport took part in a protest on Saturday 29th, as did many other groups at airports across the UK.  The group say the airport should not be expanding, at a time of climate crisis, and the impact would be a needless increase in carbon emissions, from the extra flights using the airport.  They said  1. The economic case does not stack up, in jobs, house prices or health impacts.  2. The noise impacts of expansion, with many more local people negatively affected.  3. More air pollution will affect local health and mortality rates, from an increase (the airport's own figures) of 272%  in NOx emissions. 4. No figures have been provided for ultrafine particles, which could be even worse than NOx for human health.  5.  The expansion will contribute to climate change and a ‘carbon-neutral’ airport is a myth; the expansion would roughly double current carbon emissions, and the airport is only looking to offset the relatively small ground emissions, not those from flights.

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Bristol Airport Action Network crowdfunding to challenge airport’s appeal against North Somerset Council rejection

BAAN (Bristol Airport Action Network) Committee Coordinators are crowdfunding, to raise £6,000 for their attempt to challenge the airport's appeal against the refusal, by North Somerset Council, of its expansion plans.  BAAN says: the airport's plans "would mean an extra 23,600 flights and two million passengers a year (as well as an extra 10,000 car movements a day). They would also mean a further million tonnes of carbon to be emitted a year at this time of climate and ecological emergency. Our position is that this airport expansion (and others that are planned) is not legally compliant with the Climate Change Act, The Paris Agreement and the Government's commitment to be carbon neutral by 2050 and MUST BE STOPPED." They are doing all they can to stop the expansion. BAAN say: "We have been given a very favourable fee quote from a specialist planning barrister and are talking to a number of top experts who are likely to give their time pro-bono or at much reduced rates to represent us at the appeal. We are also being helped by Greenpeace and other environmental organisations." Donations would be greatly appreciated.

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Bristol protests against the airport appealing against North Somerset Council rejection of expansion plans

Extinction Rebellion and local groups held a number of protest on Saturday 29th August, at UK airports. A large event was held at Bristol Airport, in protest against the decision by the airport to appeal against the rejection of their expansion plans, by North Somerset Council. Extinction Rebellion held a "mourning procession" and hundreds of people marched to the airport, observing Covid social distancing, and in silence, to follow a death theme. One of the protest organisers commented: “When the refusal of Bristol International Airport (BIA) expansion plans became international news in February this year, everyone thought we’d seen the death of the terrifying fantasy of an expanded airport in this time of ecological and climate emergency. We were wrong." Another said the "democratic process, underpinned by massive public objection, is being threatened, whilst lies about economic benefits and carbon-neutrality are spread with flagrant disregard to the truth." And it is crazy that precious council funds have to be wasted on this unnecessary appeal, when the money is need to deal with Covid-related issues, among many others.

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Letter to Kelly Tolhurst (Aviation Minister) from airport groups, about the need for aviation noise policies

Many airport campaigns have written to Aviation Minister, Kelly Tolhurst, asking her to provide details of the government's intentions about policies on aircraft noise. The organisations remind her of some of their key points. They want government to "put in place policies, processes and institutions which can together achieve outcomes that all parties accept are fair and balanced, a goal that the policies of the past two decades have failed to achieve". The aviation industry needs to be sufficiently incentivised to reduce noise, and it is not good enough to merely "limit, and where possible, reduce total adverse effects on health and quality of life from aviation noise”. Those are just meaningless in terms of cutting the plane noise experienced by people overflown. The groups fear that proposals for the Aviation 2050 document are in fact even weaker than the extant 2013 Aviation Policy Framework which says “the industry must continue to reduce and mitigate noise as airport capacity grows” . The campaigners want noise impacts to be "as low as reasonably practical", and any increase in noise in future, from more flights, to be balanced by reductions in noise and other environmental impacts - with compensation for those negatively affected. See the full letter.

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Gatwick could lose 600 jobs, and it could take 4-5 years for passengers to return to 2019 levels

Gawick plans to cut a quarter of its workforce due to the impact of coronavirus. So about 600 jobs could be lost following an 80% reduction in the 2019 number of passengers in August. It only has the North Terminal working.  CEO Stewart Wingate said the cuts were a result of the "devastating impacts" coronavirus had on the airline and travel industries.  In March, Gatwick announced 200 jobs would be lost, and it later took out a £300m bank loan. With the collapse in passenger numbers, the company said it was looking to further reduce costs. About 75% of staff are currently on the government's furlough scheme, which is due to end in October. The DfT says: "If people need financial support quickly they may be able to claim Universal Credit and new style Jobseekers Allowance."  Many staff belong to the union, Unite, which will fight to minimise redundancies.  The airport has said it will take "four to five years" for passenger numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels. Its revenue fell by 61% in the half year, January to June, compared to 2019. While Covid remains a very real issue, and levels are slowly rising in many countries, air passengers have no certainty about from which countries they would need to quarantine themselves for 14 days, on their return.

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How airships could provide low carbon transport, especially freight (going with the wind)

Zeppelins and dirigible airships might provide a low carbon transport alternative.  There is speculation that they could be used to transport air cargo, instead of high carbon aircraft. It is possible they will also be transporting passengers, on short or medium length journeys. British and French companies are working on designs for airships. Hybrid Air Vehicles in Bedford has already completed seven flights of its Airlander 10 prototype, after some mishaps along the way. It is filled with helium.  It can theoretically carry ten tonnes of freight or up to 90 passengers. It can take off and land almost anywhere flat-ish with a 600 meter expanse, or indeed on water, without the need for airports or buildings, in convenient locations near towns or cities. It cruises at 130 km/h using the vectored thrust of helicopter technology – hence the “hybrid” - and is an order of magnitude lower carbon. CO2 is even lower, if its engines are electric. "High-carbon air travel risks losing its social licence to operate. A carbon tax is coming ...  The air-freight industry may not survive en masse unless it cuts emissions drastically." But is there enough helium available? It would have to fly with the wind, ie. from west to east, using winds like the jetstream. 

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Challenge to Manston airport DCO – barristers from 39 Essex Chambers, and Harrison Grant solicitors

Paul Stinchcombe QC, Richard Wald QC and Gethin Thomas are instructed by Kate Harrison and Susan Ring of Harrison Grant LLP in a judicial review of the Secretary of State for Transport’s decision to approve the re-opening of Manston Airport, as a dedicated freight airport. In so deciding, the Secretary of State overturned the recommendation of the Examining Authority [the Planning Inspectorate] to refuse development consent. They act on behalf of Jenny Dawes, a local resident who participated in the examination. Manston Airport has been disused since it was formally closed in 2014. The claim, issued on 19th August, contends that the Secretary of State’s analysis of the need for the development was flawed, and that moreover, the Secretary of State failed to discharge his duty to ensure that the net UK carbon account for the year 2050 is at least 100% lower than the 1990 baseline (“Net Zero”), under section 1 of the Climate Change Act 2008.

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