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Latest news stories:
UK-led COP aviation declaration – “International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition” (IACAC) – too weak to clean up flying
The "International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition" (IACAC) has been launched by the UK government at the COP26 climate change summit. Its declaration is too weak to reduce flying’s climate impact. It relies too much on ICAO's CORSIA scheme to try to limit some aviation emissions. The number of global air passengers and cargo is expected to increase significantly over the next few decades, but the CORSIA scheme will be ineffective, and airlines are resistant to measures that would reduce demand for flights. At least now the UK has included international aviation in its national carbon target, which means cuts (or net reductions) will have to be made - but most countries have not even done that. The text of the IACAC merely contains non-committal statements such as "supporting", "taking steps", "working together", "ensuring", "advancing", "promoting" and "convening." One commitment is: "Promoting the development and deployment, through international and national measures, of sustainable aviation fuels that reduce lifecycle emissions ...avoiding competition with food production for land use and water supply."
HACAN calls for end to aviation greenwash and false “solutions”
Ahead of Transport Day (10th November) at COP26, community group HACAN were joined by a cross-party group of MPs and Peers outside Parliament to call for an end of greenwash from the aviation industry. Hacan said that instead of shifting responsibility to the international mechanism CORSIA, that heavily relies on greenwashed false 'solutions' such as offsets and so-called alternative fuels, Governments must take responsibility for aviation emissions in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). In a climate emergency the only thing we can do right now to cut emissions from flying is to fly less. Even with some of the techno-fixes the aviation sector hopes for, by 2050 it is likely to be adding about 12% of the 205 Giga-tonnes remaining global CO2 budget. The sector must not be allowed to continue growing, based on greenwashing claims about low-carbon fuels in future, which are highly unlikely to materialise on any large scale. Parliamentarians attending were Rupa Huq, Baroness Jones, Baroness Kramer, John McDonnell, Sarah Olney, David Simmonds, Andy Slaughter and Munira Wilson.
Stay grounded protests across many countries, on 6th November, during COP26
There were numerous protests, timed to be during the Glasgow COP talks, on Saturday 6th November. The aim was to highlight the need to reduce the demand for flying, and the number of flights being taken, globally. Also to point out the deceptive, misleading "greenwash" being peddled by the aviation industry, and enthusiastically taken up by governments, especially the UK government. The industry is placing its hopes in novel techno-fixes (electric planes, hydrogen, new fuels made from wastes or from supposedly excess renewably generated electricity, in future). None of those can be scaled up to anything even faintly the scale of demand, especially as the industry is planning continued rapid growth, for several more decades. The greenwash is dangerous, as it gives people a false, unjustifiable, sense that they can fly "without guilt" as the sector has brilliant solutions to carbon emissions, just around the corner. The greenwash is intended to permit more "business as usual" flying, with no reduction. Details here of many of the protests, organised through the Stay Grounded network.
FLY LESS campaign from Stansted Airport Watch
To coincide with the start of the COP26 international climate change summit in Glasgow, Stansted Airport Watch (‘SAW’) is launching its “Fly Less” campaign. Aviation currently accounts for around 9.4% of UK territorial carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions - about 38.5 MtCO2 in 2019 out of around 410 Mt CO2. On present trends aviation could be the largest single source of UK CO2 emissions by 2050. Stansted is (or was in 2019) the largest single source of CO2 emissions in the East of England. The Government’s independent advisor, the Climate Change Committee, has called for a slowdown in the level of air travel and a freeze on UK airport expansion until the aviation sector can show a significant reduction in its CO2 emissions. But so far the Government has rejected this call, or any attempts at behaviour change, and is instead putting its faith in technological solutions. SAW’s ‘Fly Less’ campaign will be publicised on its website and social media, supported by posters, banners and car window stickers. SAW will also be writing to the chairmen of the FTSE top 100 UK companies, encouraging businesses to play their part by reducing business flights, which emit far more carbon per seat than economy flights.
Aviation’s present-day contribution to human-induced global warming is 4% and is likely to increase over the next 30 years
It is possible that, though the global heating impact of aviation so far has been about 4%, this could make up about one-sixth (about 16%) of the remaining temperature budget required to limit global warming to 1.5˚C by 2050. A recently published article, by a number of well recognised academics, suggests that emissions produced by the aviation industry must be reduced each year if the sector's emissions are not to increase warming further. The authors show that the only way to 'freeze' the temperature increase from the sector is to cut its CO2 emissions by about 2.5% per year. The industry plans extensive growth over coming decades, but the academics say "there is little chance for the aviation industry to meet any climate target if it aims for a return to normal." There are hopes the low carbon fuels could be found, and also that the non-CO2 impacts of burning jet fuel at high altitude could be cut, by using different fuels, emitting less water.
COP26: airport campaigners to protest at 10 UK airports, against aviation expansion and greenwash
To remind everyone, during the COP26 talks in Glasgow, that aviation is a huge climate problem, aviation campaigners are planning to protest at Bristol, Doncaster-Sheffield, Gatwick, Glasgow, Leeds-Bradford, London-City, Luton, Liverpool, Manchester and Southampton airports from 11am on Saturday 6th. The action has been organised by Stay Grounded (a global network of more than 160 member organisations promoting alternatives to aviation to address climate change) – as part of the COP26 Coalition Global Action Days. Stay Grounded and the many UK protests, are calling for the halt of airport expansion. The Climate Change Committee (CCC), the UK government's advisors, have recommended that there should be no further airport expansion, unless some airport capacity closes - but government has ignored this. Stay Grounded is also asking for an end to the “greenwashing” of aviation, and false hopes being placed in uncertain techno-fixes such as "sustainable" aviation fuel (SAF). The CCC has warned that SAF and other small technology changes will not be able to reduce aviation CO2 enough.
Climate Change Committee advises government to act to reduce demand for flying
The UK government's independent advisors on climate, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), produced their assessment of the UK Net Zero Strategy, which was published on 19th October. On aviation the CCC say the government is not doing enough to reduce demand for flights. They have also not shown how to achieve their ambition of cutting the demand for road travel, or meat eating. The CCC warns a “techno-centric” approach to cutting emissions adopted by the prime minister has a high risk of failure. Boris Johnson has regularly promised that climate change can be tackled without what he calls “hairshirtery”. Nick Eyre, Professor of Energy and Climate Policy at Oxford University said: "The PM's headline about not changing the way we use energy is not just helpful - it's unrealistic. We won't reach climate goals unless there's a combination of technology and behaviour change." The CCC warns that the Treasury still lacks policies to cut emissions. They point out that the government hopes for 10% of SAF used by planes by 2030, while the CCC consider it might be 2% (at best). They hope demand for flights will reduce, if not by government policy, by increased public awareness of the severity of global heating.
Death knell for Heathrow’s 3rd runway as Ferrovial cuts off funding – and CAA blocks high passenger charge rise
Heathrow has been told by its regulator, the CAA, that it cannot raise its passenger charges for airlines by as much as it wanted. At present the airport can charge up to £22 per passenger, and it wanted to increase that to £43 in January 2022. But the CAA has said it will be capped at £24.50 to £34.40 for five years. - with an interim figure of £30 set for 2022. The CAA also reconfirmed its decision earlier this year on Heathrow's regulated asset base, (RAB) which determines how much money the airport can recover from its customers through charges. This will now rise by £300m, rather than the £2.3bn requested by Heathrow, which wanted to recoup its pandemic losses from consumers, but the CAA had refused. A final decision will be made in January. So Heathrow's finances are not looking healthy, and now their main shareholder, Ferrovial, has said it will not invest further in the airport, and is not happy about getting low returns. The withdrawal of support by Ferrovial could be the final straw for 3rd runway plans. Heathrow passenger numbers now are about 45% of the 2019 level, and the airport does not expect numbers to return to those levels until 2026.
Sunak halves domestic APD and introduces a band of over 5,500 miles (costing just £5 more)
Air Passenger Duty is the only tax paid on air travel, as it pays neither fuel tax nor VAT. The rate has been £13 for a return economy flight to anywhere in Europe, since April 2012. The price is £82 for trips of over 2,000 miles. Until April 2015 there were four distance bands for APD. Adults on domestic flights paid £13 for each part of the return trip, ie. £26 return. Now the Chancellor has halved the rate of domestic APD, from April 2023, so it would just be £13 for a return trip. The claim is that this helps connectivity within the UK, being useful for those in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Flights within the UK are usually cheaper than rail tickets, and cutting APD sends completely the wrong signal, in making flights even cheaper - when what would help cut CO2 would be to reduce the cost of rail travel. Riski Sunak has introduced a new distance band for APD, so instead of just the two bands - of under, or over, 2,000 miles - a new band is added - of over 5.500 miles. This is from April 2023. But the increased APD level will just be £91. The rate for trips of over 2,000 miles will be £84 from April 2022, and if it rises by £2 per year, which is usually does, would be £86 by April 2023. So the higher rate will be just £5 more. Not much of a disincentive, or help to reduce CO2. Treasury expects £35 million less per year from APD after 2023.
Vague hopes by Manchester airport for future supplies of low carbon fuels from Fulcrum NorthPoint
There is an enthusiastic story about Manchester airport hoping to be getting "up to 10% " of the fuel used by aircraft at the airport replaced with SAF (sustainable aviation fuel) within 5 years "of the Fulcrum NorthPoint facility becoming operational." Manchester Airport had about 196,000 flights in 2019 (and in 2017). Its carbon emissions were estimated to be about 3.6 Million tonnes of CO2 in 2017. As a quick, "back of the envelope" calculation, that would mean - if the number of flights returns to the level pre-pandemic in a few years - the airport would need over 1,100 tonnes of the SAF per year. But the company to supply the fuel has not yet built its facility. It is part of Essar Oil UK, which has owned the vast industrial site in Stanlow, Cheshire, for a decade. But Essar is grappling with a funding shortfall potentially running to hundreds of millions of pounds. Not a great start to embark on this novel fuel project, but hoping for the extensive funding the UK government plans to give companies that try to make "low carbon" jet fuel. The SAF is intended to have a "70% lower carbon footprint" than conventional fuel, and be made from non-recyclable waste, which would typically go into landfill." It is actually really hard to make on a large scale.
Campaigners remain confident after Southampton Airport legal challenge refused
Campaigners against Southampton Airport's runway extension say they remain confident after a legal challenge was refused. GOESA Ltd, a company set up by those opposed to Southampton Airport's runway extension, submitted an application to the High Court for a judicial review in July this year. This came after Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC) granted planning permission for the airport extension which proved controversial during the consultation process. An online fundraising page was set up to fund the review which raised over £60,000, but now, EBC has said that the High Court has refused the review of planning permission. Despite this though, GOESA Ltd has said that this is "not the end" and say that there are still chances to appeal this. They have to decide within the next seven days, whether they apply to have the matter renewed in open court. They are taking legal advice and that will be decided in the next few days. There is another stage in the appeal process. A second application for a judicial review was also made by Bournemouth Airport Ltd, but this has also been refused.
Rishi Sunak might bring back 3 or 4 band APD, with a higher long-haul rate, but lower domestic rate
Air Passenger Duty (APD) is currently charged in two bands, to destinations under 2,000 miles (£13 for passengers aged over 16) and above 2,000 miles (£82), with business class passengers paying more, and more for private jets. There was a consultation about rates of APD and the distance bands earlier in the year. It is thought that the Chancellor will announce, in his autumn budget, that APD will be reduce for domestic flights (passengers pay £26 for a return domestic flight, but only £13 for a return European flight). Until 2015 there were four bands for APD, with under 2,000 miles, 2,000 to 4,000, 4,000 to 6,000 and over 6,000 miles. It is thought likely that Rishi Sunak will bring back the higher distance band, for higher APD for flights of over 6,000 miles. It currently makes no sense, in terms of carbon emissions, that the APD on a flight to Cairo or Dubai is the same as one to Thailand or Australia. Scrapping the APD on domestic flights does not help encourage people to take the train, when often the journey by train is quite easy - but far more expensive. A recent trial by campaigners compared the train and plane between central London and central Edinburgh. The plane was two minutes faster. UK aviation is seriously under-taxed, paying no VAT and no fuel duty.
Government puts up, then almost instantly withdraws, document showing need for behaviour change to cut carbon emissions
Published with the government's decarbonisation, net zero, strategy on 20th October, was a document called "Net Zero: principles for successful behaviour change initiatives". It was produced for BEIS, by the Behavioural Insights Team (aka the Nudge unit). It contained many suggestions for ways the public's behaviour could be "nudged" to help lower carbon emissions. But the document was only on the BEIS website for an hour or two, before being withdrawn. Luckily one sharp-eyed and quick-witted aviation campaigner spotted it and saved a copy. The document suggests ways in which behaviour could be changed - while the government, and Boris himself, claims behaviour change will not be needed, and we will all be able to fly, guilt free, in future. BEIS says it does not wish to suggest behaviour change. The behaviour change paper said, of business aviation, that there needs to be a change in social norms, to international in-person meetings no longer seen as a sign of importance or pride, but "being an immoral indulgence or embarrassment." It also says government should lead by example, in not backing airport expansion for financially supporting the airline industry with little demands for decarbonisation in return.
Independent assessors for Manston expansion plans say there is no need for the extra air freight capacity
The Development Consent Order (DCO) for the re-opening and development of Manston as a freight airport was rejected by the High Court in February 2021. This was after Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, in July 2020 had decided to ignore the advice of the Planning Inspectorate (PI) in October 2019, that the DCO should be rejected. Grant Shapps said it should go ahead, but the court said there had not been enough detail for reasons to go against the advice of the PI. Grant Shapps then had to "re-determine" the DCO application, and people could submit reasons to the PI for why the airport proposal should be refused. A team was set up as "independent assessor" to investigate the justification for the airport's expansion, and report back to Mr Shapps. The team's report has now been published. It concludes that “the levels of freight that the Proposed Development could expect to handle are modest and could be catered for at existing airports ... Manston appears to offer no obvious advantages to outweigh the strong competition that such airports offer. ...the Applicant has failed to demonstrate sufficient need for the Proposed Development". Further submissions are welcomed until 19th November. Now 3rd December.
Lord Deben – head of Climate Change Cttee – UK must drop plans for airport expansion
Lord Deben, the Chair of the Climate Change Committee, has told the Airport Operators Association that the UK must drop plans for airport expansion if it is to meet carbon reduction targets. Lord Deben said “There is not any space for airport expansion ... The idea we are going to have a whole lot of airports expanding – we are just not in that world.” Currently there are up to 10 UK airports planning physical expansion, including Heathrow and Gatwick. Lord Deben said “The government has to make it easier and simpler to be good and hard and expensive to be bad. At the moment it is often more expensive and more complicated to be good....This is not about fiddling about around the edges ... We’ve allowed climate change to get out of hand." Meanwhile a document produced by the government's "nudge" unit (the Behavioural Insights Team), about necessary UK behaviour changes, was removed from the BEIS website. It contained a few suggestions about reducing demand for air travel, including encouraging more domestic holidays and more rail travel to Europe - acknowledging that stopping British people wanting foreign holidays, by air, would be very, very hard.
Good Law project delays its JR of the ANPS, until Government finalises its “Jet Zero” Strategy in early 2022
The Good Law Project, with Dale Vince (Ecotricity) and George Monbiot, started a legal challenge to the government legal department, asking for the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) to be suspended and reviewed. The Supreme Court had ruled in December 2020 that the ANPS was legal, and that it had taken proper account of the climate impact of airport expansion. Today the Good Law Project has said that the Government has promised to consider whether to review the ANPS once it finalises its “Jet Zero” Strategy in early 2022. So it is prudent to delay the judicial review until the Government publishes this strategy. They say: "The evidence we’ve gathered shows that the Government’s current maths around aviation emissions doesn’t add up. And if they fail to match their climate rhetoric with action by refusing to review the outdated ANPS, we expect to bring a challenge next year." This is especially the case, as this year the government has included international aviation and shipping emissions in the Sixth carbon budget (2033 - 37) and pledged to cut UK carbon emissions by 78% by 2035.
IATA now has aspirations for aviation to be trendy “net zero by 2050” while keeping on flying
IATA is now hoping it could achieve "net zero emissions by 2050". Previously it had aspired to emitting only half as much carbon by 2050, as it did in 2005. Climate experts consider two problems with "net zero by 2050" : the net part, and the date. IATA hopes to get some technical efficiencies to cut carbon, but its real hope is finding fuels that cause the emission of far less carbon than fossil fuels, up to the moment they are burned in a jet engine. (These fuels will still produce most of the non-CO2 impacts at altitude, due to water vapour and other gas interactions). There are widely varying estimates of how much "low carbon" fuel - SAF or Sustainable Aviation Fuel in the jargon - will be available. The main hopes for producing it are forestry waste, domestic waste, or electro-fuels produced from "surplus" renewably generated electricity. No SAF can be produced and delivered to the plane, without creating some carbon emissions. So claiming any SAF is "zero carbon" is incorrect. If a plane burns 50% conventional jet fuel, and 50% of a fuel the production of which saved 65% of emissions, that plane will only produce 33% less carbon than if it burned only conventional kerosene. And being able to permanently store residual carbon, underground, for ever is highly questionable.
Campaigners tell the Treasury that aviation taxation must be reformed
In a joint letter to the Chancellor, AEF, T&E, Tax Justice, Green Alliance, Bellona and Greenpeace have called on the UK Government to reform UK tax in order to better reflect the environmental costs of aviation. The letter has been sent in advance of the Autumn Budget and Spending Review plans which expected to be announced soon. Since 1990, UK’s aviation’s emissions have increased by 125%, and were rising steeply till the pandemic. Now that the government has decided to include international aviation and shipping in future carbon budgets, immediate taxation reforms are needed. The letter suggests a jet fuel tax, of at least the level proposed by the European Union, of €0.38/ litre. There also needs to be VAT on all air tickets, at a rate of 20%. To properly account for the climate warming effect of air travel, which is likely to be up to 3 times as much as that of the CO2 alone, there needs to be an additional charge. That would be world-leading. It the aviation sector was taxed in a more realistic manner than now, it would incentivise progress on decarbonisation initiatives. The government is not prepared to restrict air travel demand, but higher ticket prices, due to higher tax, would have this effect
Government considering counting aviation biofuel as generating zero CO2 emissions, in the UK ETS
The UK Government has proposed an amendment to the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (UK ETS) legislation to allow aviation biofuel (one type of sustainable aviation fuel or SAF) to be treated as having zero emissions as long as it meets the sustainability criteria in the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RFTO). The UK ETS will only cover domestic flights, and those from UK airports to European countries - not long haul. Airlines are permitted a number of free ‘allocations’ in the ETS per year. Once these allocations are used, airlines must buy unused allocations from other operators or sectors. Counting aviation biofuel as having zero emissions would mean that no allocations would need to be surrendered for that fuel. It is highly misleading to claim that biofuels provide 100% CO2 savings, in life cycle analysis. Currently fuels with a 50% emissions saving or more can benefit from the RTFO policy. The way the carbon saving is calculated can be complicated, and include different factors. When burnt, SAFs emit at least as much CO2 as kerosene, and as such, should only be considered to offer a ‘net’, and not ‘actual’ emissions reduction. AEF comments: "The aviation sector has a history of being given favourable treatment in policy. This has to stop if the sector is to achieve net zero."
UN chief, António Guterres, urges airlines and shipping firms to do more to cut GHG emissions
António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, says current efforts to cut carbon emissions, from international aviation and shipping, are more consistent with global heating ‘way above 3C’ - not 1.5C. He was speaking at the Global Sustainable Transport Conference, and said airlines and shipping companies - and others - have failed to cut their greenhouse gas emissions, and must step up with fresh commitments on the climate crisis as COP26 approaches. Otherwise the world faces catastrophic global heating. Guterres said: “Adopting a new set of more ambitious and credible targets that are truly consistent with the goals of the Paris agreement must be an urgent priority for both [ICAO and IMO] in the months and years ahead.” ICAO has been ineffective. He wants carbon emissions per passenger to be cut by 65% by 2050. But Leo Murray, from Possible commented renewable energy would be better used by other sectors, than making allegedly "sustainable" jet fuel (SAF) - as the process is “incredibly inefficient”. Leo said that the priority should be reducing flying rather than shifting planes to SAFs.
Greenpeace calls for end to carbon offsets – they just allow large polluters to continue as normal
Greenpeace International has said that carbon offsets are allowing the world's biggest polluters to forge ahead with business plans that are threatening global climate goals. The offsets do not have the effect of lowering global emissions, either now or in future. The practice of buying carbon offsets means polluting companies - such as airlines - can buy carbon credits from projects that reduce or avoid the release of CO2 elsewhere. Examples would be mass tree plantings or solar farms. Instead of making every effort to emit less CO2 themselves, the companies hope equivalent amounts of carbon are being removed from the atmosphere, by others. This cancels out the reduction in CO2 emissions achieved by the provider of the carbon credit. Few carbon credits are reliable, and can guarantee carbon is not emitted, or is removed from the atmosphere. One of the most popular is planting trees. When a tiny sapling is planted, if will (if all goes well and it does not die from neglect, or the impacts of worsening climate change) only become large enough to sequester much carbon in several decades. Eventually the tree will die, returning the carbon to the atmosphere. The only real offset would be permanent, for-ever, underground storage of carbon.
Bristol Airport awaits decision on expansion as inquiry draws to a close
The 36-day public inquiry into Bristol Airport's proposal to expand from 10 to 12 mppa has ended, with a decision by the planning inspectors expected early next year. The inquiry is into the appeal by the airport of the rejection in February 2020, by North Somerset Council, of the growth plans; councillors refused the planning permission by 18 votes to seven. The authority’s barrister, Reuben Taylor, said allowing millions more passengers a year to fly from Bristol airport would affect thousands more local people with significant impacts, as well as a negative effect on climate change and the green belt. Mr Taylor said the scheme was unacceptable and unlawful and urged the inspectors to make it clear to airport operators that they do not have a licence to expand. He said the airport "is a company that puts the pursuit of profit before the wellbeing of the people its operations affect." As well as being refused by North Somerset Council, the expansion has been opposed by Bristol City Council, Bath and North East Somerset Council, the West of England Combined Authority and numerous parish councils. There will be a decision letter eventually, after which there is no further right of appeal - other than a judicial review into the process.
Campaign for Better Transport urges a ban on UK domestic flights (where the train takes under 5 hours) and subsidised rail travel
The Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) says domestic flights should be banned on routes where the train journey would take under 5 hours (or to islands). They also want long-distance domestic train fares subsidised, in order to reduce the carbon emissions from travel within the UK. There should NOT be any cut in the rate of Air Passenger Duty for domestic fights, as the aviation industry is lobbying for. The CBT says there should also be mandatory emissions labels on tickets and a frequent flyer levy for those taking more than three international flights per year. There can be no justification, in terms of carbon emissions, for flights - for example - between Manchester and London, London and Edinburgh or Birmingham and Glasgow. Sadly at present, rail fares are often FAR higher than plane fares. In a staged “race” from central London to central Glasgow, the person taking the train arrived two minutes later (5 hours 17 minutes, and 19 minutes), and the train journey emitted less than one-sixth of the carbon emissions of the flight – 20kg compared with 137kg. But it cost twice as much at £109 v £52.
Local Councils asked to reject Newcastle Airport’s request for a £5.1 million loan of taxpayers’ money
Local group, Aircraft Noise Action Group (ANAG), at Newcastle say the 7 North East Councils, which own 51% of the Airport, are being asked to prop up (by £5.1 million of taxpayers' money) for an at-risk business which mostly enables people to take holidays and visit friends and relatives. Newcastle Airport has suffered huge financial losses as a result of Covid with revenues falling by £46 million according to its 2020 Annual Report. The airport is struggling financially - so it is asking for loan facilities to support its continued functioning. As well as the councils, the airport is asking the 49% private shareholder, AMP Capital, for a similar sum £4.9 million. Newcastle Airport claims to be a key driver of business in the North East. In practice, it is primarily a holiday and leisure facility with a small proportion of business specific travellers. Most travellers are British, taking their holiday spending money out of the country. ANAG says people need holidays, but a loan for this purpose is not an investment in the economic future of the north east. They also think it is environmentally short sighted and irresponsible and that the loan request should be rejected.
Years of exposure to air pollution and road traffic noise may raise heart failure risk
Exposure to air pollution and road traffic noise over the course of many years may be associated with an increased risk of developing heart failure, and the correlation appears to be even greater in people who are former smokers or have high blood pressure, according to new research published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association. The lead author commented: "Air pollution was a stronger contributor to heart failure incidence compared to road traffic noise; however, the women exposed to both high levels of air pollution and road traffic noise showed the highest increase in heart failure risk." And "To minimise the impact of these exposures, broad public tactics such as emissions control measures should be implemented. Strategies like smoking cessation and blood pressure control must be encouraged to help reduce individual risk." The data was part of a prospective study of over 22,000 members of the all-female Danish Nurse Cohort The women were 44 years of age and older at study enrolment and living in Denmark. Participants were recruited in 1993 or 1999. The study looked at NO2 and particulates, and took account of when and where the women moved house, over the years.
Bid to block expansion of Stansted, to 43mppa, hits the final buffers
Uttlesford District Council (UDC) had applied to the High Court to judicially review the decision by the planning inspectorate, to allow expansion of Stansted, citing noise and environmental concerns. A High Court judge has now dismissed UDC's challenge as “unarguable”, and awarded yet more costs against the authority. UDC has decided not to challenge this decision. UDC's Planning Committee originally refused Stansted permission to boost capacity from 35mppa to 43mppa, in January 2020. (Earlier, in November 2018, UDC had approved the plan, when the council was under Conservative leadership). Government inspectors then overturned the UDC decision in May 2021, after a process which cost Uttlesford taxpayers something approaching £2 million. The Council had fought hard to prevent the increase in Stansted flights, largely due to the increased noise problem, as well as the higher carbon emissions. Local campaign, Stansted Airport Watch, says this latest rejection marks the end of the road for moves to block the expansion. However, with the Covid pandemic and growing awareness of climate breakdown, Stansted may never actually reach 43mppa anyway.
Departing ICCAN tell Aviation Minister that the aircraft noise issue should be dealt with by an independent body, with “clout”
The DfT decided, at the start of September, that the Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise (ICCAN) would be closed down at the end of September. This happened even though there is no replacement for them, to give an independent voice on aircraft noise issues. The Commissioners have written to the Aviation Minster, Robert Courts. In their letter they say, on the breakdown of trust by overflown communities, the government and the aviation industry: "That breakdown was simplistically interpreted as an issue between airports and communities, although our work has revealed that there was also a disconnect between Government policy, regulation, industry and community ambitions." And "We hope you will look objectively at who is best to carry ICCAN’s work forward and we offer our views in good faith. However, for the vast majority of our work it is hard not to conclude that only a body independent of Government and aviation regulation, empowered with sufficient clout by the Government, can deliver a coherent programme for change in how aviation noise is managed."
Aviation demand in Scotland needs to fall by one third by 2030 to hit climate aims
The SNP Transport Minister Graeme Dey has demanded “radical behavioural change” in Scots’ transport choices – amid a warning that journeys by both plane and car will need to be permanently cut to end the country’s contribution to the climate crisis. There will need to be a significant reduction in demand for air travel, and technology alone will not achieve the transformational change required. There needs to be a reduction of 33% in the number flight kilometres travelled, between the number in 2019 and 2030. Transport is Scotland’s biggest contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, but there is little progress in making cuts. The SNP government has pledged to cut GHG emissions by 75% by 2030 and to become carbon "net zero" by 2045 (5 years ahead of the UK). An independent report, by consultancy Element Energy, says transformational change in individual and business behaviour, alongside shifting travel choices will be needed as well as advances in technology. The SNP Government has been told to rip up its contract with Heathrow which supports it building a 3rd runway, in light of the findings.
Airline industry needs to at least aim for net-zero by 2050 – rather than its current even weaker targets
In 2019 the ICAO confirmed its two global aspirational goals for the international aviation sector of 2% annual fuel efficiency improvement through to 2050, and "carbon neutral growth" from 2020 onwards. The IATA has its own target of aiming for "an average improvement in fuel efficiency of 1.5% per year from 2009 to 2020; a cap on net aviation CO2 emissions from 2020 (carbon-neutral growth); and a reduction in net aviation CO2 emissions of 50% by 2050, relative to 2005 levels." Now there is greater pressure on the aviation sector do actually do something to reduce its carbon emissions. In 2020, the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) produced its Waypoint 2050 analysis, hoping aviation “should be in a position to meet net-zero emissions at a global level by 2060 or 2065”. But now ATAG's director said it would soon publish an updated version of the Waypoint 2050 report to be more ambitious. The number of airlines that have made a commitment to aim for net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050 is now 61. There is huge dependence on "sustainable aviation fuels" (which only exist in tiny amounts now, and will be expensive) providing a route to net-zero. The amounts needed by aviation in coming decades might be x8,000 as much as exist now, with production facilities costing billions of $.
Extinction Rebellion blocks entrances to Farnborough, protesting about the high CO2 from private jets
Extinction Rebellion Farnborough activists blocked three entrances to Farnborough, which is a private airport in Hampshire. They are protesting at the very high carbon emissions produced by private jet flights - which could be x20 as high carbon as a trip on a commercial plane. Farnborough airport is the largest for private jets in the UK, with no commercial flights and few military. The flights are largely used by the very rich, celebrities and business leaders. Some of the protesters locked themselves to a stretch limousine, with a driver being locked onto the steering wheel, and to fuel barrels and a 3-metre steel tripod. At one point they moved flags blocking a road, in order to allow a car leave the airport to take someone to hospital. The airport continued to operate during the protest. Farnborough boasts of “offering a 5 star service with no compromises.” It operated over 32,500 flights in 2019, with 27% at weekends. There was a reduction in flights in 2020 (Covid) but a far smaller reduction than for commercial airlines. People who could afford to preferred to continue to travel, but on private jets. These jets tend to carry, on average, about 2.3 passengers. The airport hopes to expand to 50,000 flights per year.
CMA have launched a “green claims code” – and consulting on environmental sustainability for business
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched a consultation (29th September) "to help inform its advice to government on how competition and consumer regimes can better support the UK’s Net Zero and sustainability goals." It ends on 10th November. The CMS has issued a ‘green claims code’ and says too many businesses falsely make environmental claims, to attract customers. The CMA held a consultation in May (ended 16th July 2021) on misleading environmental claims - ie. greenwashing. It has now told companies that they have until the end of 2021 to stop the practice. It has issued new guidance for companies, to support global efforts to reduce carbon emissions. In 2022, the CMA will launch a review of misleading green claims, with sectors including fashion, transport, and others. It began looking into green claims last year, finding that up to 40% could be misleading to consumers. At the same time, the Advertising Standards Authority is clamping down on companies that make misleading claims on climate impact.
Advertising Standards Authority to launch crackdown on ads falsely claiming low-carbon credentials – including airlines
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) will conduct a series of inquiries into environmental advertising claims and practices by companies in several sectors - energy, heating and transport. Airline ads that encourage people to take flights and carmakers that show SUVs too positively are set to fall foul of a crackdown on marketing that encourages environmentally irresponsible behaviour. The intention is to support global efforts to reduce carbon emissions. In early 2022 the ASA will expand its investigation to look at the accuracy of green claims made by companies around waste - and then later it will look at meat and food sustainability advertising. The ASA hopes their "work will continue to positively influence the fight against climate change.” It will also commission research into what the public understands by terms such as “carbon neutral” and “net zero” in order to inform its policing of claims. It has already clamped down on Ryanair – which got caught using outdated information to claim it was the UK’s lowest emission airline. The UK Competition and Markets Authority is also launching its own review of misleading green claims next year.
Report finds Heathrow is world’s 2nd most polluting airport (after Dubai)
London's 6 airports make it the most polluting city by aviation emissions, according to a new interactive tool and accompanying report. The tool allows users to explore emissions data for the world’s airports. It shows Heathrow is the 2nd highest-emitting airport in the world, (after Dubai) and accounts for two thirds of the aviation carbon from the London area. It is (2019) the single biggest polluter in the UK. The authors of the report, by Transport & Environment, ODI and the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), said they hoped its findings would support challenges to airport expansion and force a “focus on the infrastructure that enables air travel and leads to more CO2 emissions in future decades”. The report shows that 86 of the 100 most polluting airports are located in the Global North - and that about 1% of the global population responsible for over 50% of all aviation-related CO2 emissions. But the climate impact of air travel is not only from the fuel burned, but also the non-CO2 warming impacts, including the insulating effect of contrails. The report says the global aviation sector was responsible for 2.5% of global CO2 emissions in 2018, with total emissions increasing by 5% annually in the 5 years before that.
BA plan for new low cost “BA Lite” at Gatwick, for short-haul flights, abandoned
At the end of August British Airways announced that it hoped to start a new low-cost airline, called "BA Lite" to operate from Gatwick, and compete with Ryanair, EasyJet and Wizz. BA would therefore move short-haul flights back to Gatwick, after deciding to move them to Heathrow because of the pandemic. BA had consultations with trades unions – telling them that change was essential if it was to return to Gatwick. But the contracts for staff were less generous than before. Now the plan to create "BA Lite" has been scrapped, as agreement could not be reached with the pilots' union, BALPA. The union says the benefits and protections its members would have under the new company are not good enough. So BA has shelved the plan and will now cut the short haul routes it already flies from Gatwick.The news may come as a blow for Gatwick Airport as well, as it looks to grow passengers numbers and bring its emergency runway into regular use to increase its capacity. The loss of BA and its routes means Gatwick has even less need for its costly, climate-wrecking, expansion plans to bring its standby runway into full use, by 2029.
Heathrow hopes to be allowed to increase long-haul passenger charge from £38.33 to £67.86 in 2022
The Telegraph has obtained details of plans by Heathrow to increase its charges for long-haul passenger next year, by about £30 per person, up from about £38. Heathrow has massive debts, bad before Covid and far worse now. It has one of the biggest debt piles in British corporate history. Heathrow says it is not expecting more than a quarter of the number of passengers in 2022, compared to the number (81 million) in 2019 - so it has to increases prices. It has had to ask lenders for waivers on banking conditions, to avoid defaulting on its loans. Heathrow will have to get agreement from the CAA for an increase in costs, under its regulatory framework. The CAA is likely to decide on this in the next month, and it may not be favourable to Heathrow. The airlines are predictably angry. However, in order to reduce aviation carbon emissions, some demand reduction is needed - such as higher prices - though the government will not consider that. Heathrow is also planning a new levy on air cargo, to make more money. It is also planning to introduce a new lower noise level, to encourage less noisy planes.
UK government minister claims people must keep flying to help cut aviation CO2
A government minister has angered scientists and environmentalists by claiming people need to keep flying in order to help cut carbon emissions. Junior transport minister Rachel Maclean said the aviation sector needed to have "confidence in its future" and that the government had no plans to try and reduce demand for flights. She said lower carbon planes and fuels would not be invented if they were rendered unprofitable by people abandoning air travel. So we have to have lots of people flying, causing the emission of more CO2, in order for the industry to pay for future changes to cut emissions. (Wonderful logic). She said flying was one of the things that "make life worth living" and that the government would not place restrictions on it, for business or leisure ... and "We believe that we can reach zero in aviation [by 2050], without having a demand management policy." Dr Doug Parr, chief scientist for Greenpeace UK, said: “According to the minister... it’s like advocating donuts as the confidence boost you need to make yourself go to the gym ... the Committee on Climate Change, and the Airports Commission, insisted that demand constraint was essential for aviation to meet our carbon targets."
West of England leaders to formally oppose expansion of Bristol Airport
Leaders of the west region (Bristol, South Gloucestershire, Bath & North East Somerset (B&NES) and North Somerset) are expected to change their minds, and instead of backing expansion of Bristol airport, now oppose it. Metro mayor Dan Norris is tabling a motion at a special meeting on 21st September of the West of England Combined Authority’s (Weca’s) joint committee, which he leads, that would scrap its previous endorsement of the plans. The motion could be carried by a majority vote of the 5 members, so the motion will be carried if Mr Norris (Bristol) and Cllrs Guy (B&NES) and Davies (North Somerset) support it as expected. Cllr Guy said: “Airport expansion is fundamentally incompatible with local councils’ commitment to tackling the climate emergency." Mr Norris’s motion includes the statements that: There is a climate and biodiversity emergency ... The West of England has ambition net zero targets for 2030 ...The proposed expansion of Bristol Airport is one of the biggest carbon decisions in the region for the coming decade. And “The Joint Committee resolves: To oppose the latest plans to expand Bristol Airport.”
Airport groups write to Aviation Minister, voicing concerns about ICCAN being wound up
The DfT has decided to close down the ICCAN (the Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise) at the end of September. Now a large number of community groups at airports, for people negatively affected by aircraft noise, have written to the Aviation Minister, Robert Courts. They say they "were surprised and disappointed by your announcement that ICCAN will be wound up later this month and its functions transferred to the CAA next year. We were particularly surprised you saw no need to discuss this significant change with communities impacted by aircraft noise." ICCAN was supposed to "give communities a greater stake in processes which propose to make noise changes, and ensure such processes better and more transparently balance the needs of all parties" and "be instrumental in ensuring that the needs of local communities are properly taken into account when considering the noise impacts of any airport expansion." There are therefore serious concerns of overflown communities, in the absence of ICCAN. The letter suggests 4 key actions and changes that will need to accompany any transfer of roles to the CAA if it is to command the confidence of adversely impacted communities.
Hope is not a Strategy – Aviation cannot be allowed to keep adding to the climate crisis
With just two months to go before the UK Government hosts the vitally important COP26 International Climate Change Summit in Glasgow, Stansted Airport Watch ('SAW'), and a host of other environmental campaign groups from all across the UK, are pressing the Government for immediate action to tackle aviation's growing impact on climate change. UK aviation was responsible for 38 million tonnes of CO2 emissions in 2019 and the Government is content to allow this to continue to increase until 2030 and still to be more than 30 million tonnes in 2040 - by letting airports expand. In response to the DfT consultation, on its "Jet Zero by 2050" strategy, SAW has submitted a highly critical evidence paper challenging the DfT's 'business as usual' strategy and its total reliance on technological solutions emerging from beyond the horizon over the next 20-30 years (new biofuels, novel fuels, electric and hydrogen fuelled planes, and carbon storage technologies). The key message from SAW is that "Hope is not a Strategy". SAW has also submitted evidence to the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee Inquiry into the apparent contradiction between the Government's expansionist aviation policy and its declared commitment to tackling climate change.
Letter from academics on Jet Zero’s failure to reduce aviation CO2 by avoiding air travel demand management
Sir, As academics and researchers with expertise in climate science, meteorology, transport, nutrition and other fields, we are writing in response to Jet Zero, the government’s proposed strategy to decarbonise flying. Jet Zero would allow UK aviation emissions to increase up to 2030 from 2019 levels. This is counter to very clear advice from the UK Climate Change Committee to the government: measures to limit demand for flying should form an integral part of meeting our emissions reduction targets, alongside exploring the longer term technological innovations set out in Jet Zero. The report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes it starkly clear that it is vital to meet our net zero targets. As António Guterres, the UN secretary-general, said recently: “There is no time for delay and no room for excuses.” The management of aviation demand must be sufficiently responsive so as to keep emissions reduction targets firmly within sight through the inevitable successes and failures of new technology.
Government will not review the Airports National Policy Statement, on any of the challenge grounds
The Government had the option of reviewing the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) after the legal challenges, which took place during 2019 and 2020. One key issue of the challenges was the impact on the UK's climate targets of allowing Heathrow to increase its carbon emissions by up to 50%. Now the DfT has decided it will not review the ANPS, so it continues to be the underlying policy through which Heathrow could expand. The airport still has to go through the Development Consent Order (DCO) process, to get approval for a 3rd runway. Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary of State, says that even though the UK now has a target of 78% cuts in CO2 emissions by 2035 and international aviation should be included in that target (compared to 1990 levels) and "considers that it is not possible to conclude properly that any of the policy set out in the ANPS would have been materially different had these circumstances been anticipated at the time of designation [June 2018]." The overall impact of Heathrow expansion, combined with expansion of other airports, will be considered by the Planning Inspectorate at the DCO stage. It appears an opportunity to reduce UK aviation CO2 emissions has been missed, and government will do as little as possible on the issue.
Gatwick’s Big Enough – a 2nd runway at Gatwick would be ‘disaster for the climate’
Protesters, organised through the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC), gathered near the airport, chanting 'Gatwick is big enough', to express their opposition to the airport's plans to convert its standby runway into a runway for routine flights. Campaigners, residents and councillors held a peaceful demonstration next to a noise monitor in Charlwood, to coincide with the midnight launch of Gatwick's public consultation into its proposed expansion. Operating as a 2-runway airport would see Gatwick increase its annual passenger capacity from 62 million to 75m by 2038 - making it almost as large as Heathrow today. GACC chairman, Peter Barclay said the expansion of the airport would have negative impacts for people over a wide area - in terms of noise and air pollution, more night noise and sleep deprivation, and impacts on local infrastructure. All that affects people's quality of life. While humanity urgently needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, if we are to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change, it makes no sense d to allow Gatwick to expand, adding another 1 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.
After two and a half years, Government closes down the ICCAN
The Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise (ICCAN) was finally set up by the government in March 2019, with the aim of looking into how the extra noise from airport expansion would affect those overflown, and the impacts of changes to flight paths. Its aim was not to reduce the amount of aircraft noise suffered, but to find out more about it, consult etc. Its creation had been a recommendation of the Airports Commission in June 2015, to make Heathrow expansion seem less unpalatable. Now Robert Courts, the Parliamentary Under Secretary for Transport, has announced that it is to be wound up at the end of September. Back in June 2015 ICCAN had said it would take them two years to: “Review existing enforcement mechanisms and consider whether enforcement powers are necessary”. It had been stated in 2019 that "ICCAN will be reviewed in two years’ time and a decision will be made about its future direction as an organisation, including whether to give it increased powers. In the meantime, ICCAN’s role is threefold: to listen, to evaluate and to advise." The government now says its role will mainly be taken on by the CAA, and part by the DfT. That will not bring reassurance to those suffering from aircraft noise problems.
Gatwick public consultation begins on plans to convert standby runway to full use as 2nd runway
Gatwick airport has started a public consultation on its plans to bring its standby runway, just north of the main runway, into routine use for departing aircraft - alongside the main runway. It means having to reposition the centre line of the standby runway, moving it 12 metres north. That then just meets international runway safety standards. The consultation ends on 1st December 2021. Due to the size of the proposal, increasing the annual number of passengers by over 10 million, it is classed as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project. Therefore Gatwick will next have to apply for a Development Consent Order (DCO) to build and operate the altered runway. This consultation is not the DCO application itself. Gatwick hopes to get consent to start the first stages of the runway process by 2023, starting actual building work in 2024, with the runway finished by 2029. The work is expected currently to cost £500 million - there are extravagant claims about numbers of new jobs and local economic benefit. This growth is in addition to more growth by increased use of the main runway, but that does not need a DCO application. Gatwick's annual CO2 emissions could rise by a million tonnes.
BEIS sets new much higher prices for the valuation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in policy appraisal
The government (BEIS) sets the price it uses for the valuation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in policy appraisal. This has been updated in September following a cross-government review during 2020 and 2021. Greenhouse gas emissions values (“carbon values”) are used across government for valuing impacts on emissions resulting from policy interventions. They represent a monetary value that society places on one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent (£/tCO2e). They differ from carbon prices, which represent the observed price of carbon in a relevant market (such as the UK Emissions Trading Scheme). To reach net zero in 2050 and meet UK 5-yearly carbon budgets, there needs to be a realistic value on GHG, in order to reduce emissions. The price has now been set, for 2021, at £245 per tonne (central value) rising to £378 per tonne by 2050. Even that may be too low. The prices now are around £70. This will have significant implications for the forecast economic costs/benefits of future infrastructure, such as airport expansion projects. The claimed economic benefits will be lower, with the realistic carbon prices, than the current low levels. Airport expansion plans will need to be reassessed.
Heathrow residents demand end to night flights as they’re extended to 2025
People are being disturbed by Heathrow night flight noise, as flight numbers increase again after the large reduction in flights due to the pandemic. Currently Heathrow is allowed 16 landings or take-offs per night (ie. 5,800 per year) between the times of 23.30 and 06.00, Heathrow says a night quota limit is also in place, […]
Gatwick 2nd runway plans must – and will – be opposed and rejected
Local community group, the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC), say the proposed expansion of Gatwick, which it confirmed today, is unwelcome, unnecessary; if approved, it would have devastating consequences for the environment, local communities, and people living under flight paths, even many miles away. GACC - with local community groups - is relaunching its ‘Gatwick’s Big Enough’ campaign to fight the proposals. The plan to grow the airport's capacity by between 40% and over 60% over the next 15 years involves use of new technology on the main runway, and re-aligning and widening the existing emergency (or standby) runway to form a 2nd runway. This will mean more noise, more local rail and road congestion, more air pollution and more carbon emissions. If it gets its way, Gatwick would be able to grow from 45 million passengers and 280,000 flights in 2018, to 74 million passengers and 390,000 flights over the next 15 years, nearly the size Heathrow is now. GACC says: "This proposal is unnecessary and ill conceived. It must and will be opposed and rejected.“
Gatwick announces plans to bring its standby runway into routine use
Gatwick airport has announced that it will start a 12 week consultation, from the 9th September to the 1st December, on its plans to modify and alter the current standby runway, for use as another runway. This consultation comes before Gatwick submits an application to the Planning Inspectorate for a Development Consent Order (DCO) for the expansion. This is necessary because, under the Planning Act ? 2012, any airport application that will result in more than 10 million more annual passengers, and thus be considered to be a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, has to go through the DCO process, rather than the conventional planning application to the local authority. Details of the consultation and its contents will be published on 9th September, but it is thought that materials will be entirely - or almost entirely - online. This application for a huge increase in annual air passengers, and thus inevitably an increase in carbon emissions, comes before the UK hosts the COP26 climate talks, and the IPCC has warned about just how serious the climate change situation is - including the urgency of the need to cut carbon emissions.
Airbus and Boeing will not be fuelling planes with hydrogen for perhaps 15 – 20 years
Airbus has said that most airliners will rely on traditional jet engines until at least 2050, burning conventional fossil jet fuel. Airbus says it plans to develop the world's first "zero-emission" commercial aircraft by 2035, but not whether the technology will be ready for the replacement for the medium-haul A320, due to be produced in the 2030s. It is working on several concepts for a novel plane. Until there is ample "green" hydrogen (no CO2 emitted in its production) any plane burning "blue" (or other types) hydrogen is not zero carbon. Airbus said that it if can produce planes that burn hydrogen, they will be regional and shorter-range aircraft - from 2035. It will be harder for long haul aircraft. The technology of using hydrogen to fuel planes is still on the drawing board. The aviation industry is wanting public money from governments, to develop hydrogen or electric planes, or low carbon liquid fuels. If the industry had to pay all the costs themselves, the price of flights would go up, and thus demand would go down. Not a profitable prospect for airlines. Boeing has also said that it will not be using hydrogen as fuel on a significant scale before 2050.
Unless hydrogen is “green” hydrogen, or all CO2 produced is genuinely stored for ever, it is not a low carbon fuel
The DfT is pushing the idea of planes fuelled partly by hydrogen, as part of its "Jet Zero" strategy - hoping to find ways in which people can continue to fly, without huge carbon emissions that make reaching the UK target of net zero impossible. However, the Government's "Jet Zero Council" said, at the end of June, that government was launching "the first round of £3 million Zero Emission Flight Infrastructure (ZEFI) competition, supporting development of infrastructure required to aid electric and hydrogen aircraft such as charge points for planes." Hydrogen can be produced in various ways, most using a fossil fuel and producing CO2 in the process. The hydrogen could only be a "low carbon" fuel if all this CO2 is captured and stored, for ever - not just reused (which is what usually happens at present.) Now a study by academics at Cornell and Stanford universities in the US, warned that blue hydrogen (produced by ‘steam reforming’, needing carbon capture and storage for the CO2 created) could be up to 20% worse for the climate than fossil gas owing to the emissions that escape during its production, multiplied by the amount of gas required to make the equivalent amount of energy from hydrogen.
Gatwick in talks with lenders, after losing another £245 million in the first half of 2021
Gatwick says it made a loss of £245m in the first half of 2021, as passenger numbers collapsed to 569,000. It expects to have 9 million passengers by December, but that is lower than the 10 million in 2020. In 2019 it had 46.5 million. The airport is now in talks with its lenders to ease the terms of its loans, due to the losses. It lost £465.5 million in 2020. Due to its weak finances and continuing low demand for air travel, Gatwick has asked its lenders to agree to short-term waivers on its loans to avoid it defaulting. This was also done last year, and the same thing happened at Heathrow. Virgin Atlantic, one of Gatwick’s longest-standing airline customers, has ceased its operations at Gatwick for now, while British Airways has moved all of its short-haul flights to Heathrow, due to the low level of demand. However, BA said it will continue with at least long-haul operations from Gatwick. The airport said it had 779m of liquidity at the end of June, which it hopes would last it for the next 12 months, with no more staff being made redundant. It has cancelled or deferred more than £570m of capital spending that had been planned for 2020, 2021 and 2022.
120 organisations call on Spanish government to cancel the expansions of Madrid and Barcelona airports
A total of 120 social, neighbourhood and environmental organisations are calling on the Spanish Government to halt the expansion projects for the Madrid Barajas and Barcelona El Prat airports. With this demand, the groups are responding to the intense lobbying campaign being carried out by the airport manager AENA to obtain support in different areas, without any public presentations of the projects and with a total lack of technical, social, environmental, economic, financial and budgetary justification. The expansion at Madrid airport is to increase annual passengers from 70 to 80 million; at Barcelona it would rise from 55 to 70 million. Airport expansion and the growth of aviation are entirely incompatible with climate objectives and commitments. The signatory organisations want the €3.4 billion budgeted for the expansion projects be invested instead in low carbon travel, such as rail. Apart from the carbon emissions, the expansion of Barcelona airport is planned in the area of La Ricarda, an area protected by the Natura 2000 network. The extension of the third runway would also endanger the aquifer system that provides water for the city and is vital for the natural and agricultural areas of the Llobregat Delta.
DfT consultation on mandate for very high SAF use by UK aviation in coming years
The government put out it "Jet Zero" consultation on 16th July (runs to 8th September) including aspirations for the industry to use a great deal of "sustainable aviation fuels" (SAF) in the attempt to keep everyone flying, but with lower carbon emissions. Now it has produced its consultation on mandating (instructing, ordering) the use of SAF in future for the sector (runs to 19th September). While the Climate Change Committee, in their advice to government in December 2020, said the most realistic estimate for SAF would be 5-10% by 2050, or at the most optimistic 25%, and with “just over two-thirds of this coming from biofuels and the remainder from carbon-neutral synthetic jet fuel …” Now the SAF mandate consultation is considering "a number of potential SAF uptake scenarios, up to 10% SAF by 2030 and up to 75% SAF by 2050." They are considering the fossil fuel baseline lifecycle GHG emissions intensity, by which to compare SAF for CO2 savings, as 89 gCO2e/MJ. An eligible new fuel would need to have CO2 savings of at least 60% compared to 89 gCO2e/MJ. They are considering the use of nuclear generated electricity as a way to make eligible SAF. And "feedstocks, including residues, should not be obtained from land with high biodiversity value or land with high carbon stocks in or after January 2008."
Inspector at Bristol Airport expansion inquiry says views of the public will be properly taken into account
The public inquiry into the possible future expansion of Bristol airport started on 22nd July and is expected to last for 10 weeks. There are concerns, as at many inquiries, that the views of the public will not be taken into account, and not fully considered. Campaigners have warned that ignoring thousands of comments opposing the expansion of Bristol Airport, from residents and others, would damage public trust and threaten the integrity of local democracy. However, planning inspector Phillip Ware said: “We’ve read an enormous amount of written material that’s come in from people for and against. We’ve obviously got a lot of people appearing at the inquiry in person and virtually. It is absolutely not a tick-box exercise. We will be dealing with the public views in our decision whichever way the decision goes.” Green MP Caroline Lucas said: “Local democracy thoroughly considered the airport's plans and decided against them and despite this the airport has now ignored these voices and called for this appeal. Now not only does that threaten to override local democracy, it also threatens the efforts that local communities and councils are trying to take to address the climate crisis themselves."
Tom Tugendhat letter to Aviation Minister – on need for proper scrutiny of Gatwick future main runway growth
The expansion that Gatwick might perhaps eventually be allowed, by using its emergency runway as a full runway, would require proper scrutiny through the planning Development Control process (DCO). The airport might be able to handle up to an extra 50,000 annual flights by doing that. However, more expansion and more extra annual flights could be added, by making more use of the single main runway. That might add another 60,000 annual flights (about 16 million annual passengers). But because there would be no physical building work required (no extra runway length or extra terminal) there would be no planning permission needed, and no chance for public scrutiny of the impacts of the gradual expansion. Now Tom Tugendhat (MP for Tonbridge & Malling) has written to Robert Courts, the Aviation Minister, to ask for a meeting to discuss this anomaly. He says the main runway growth would be "more than the aggregate growth at the 5 UK airports that are currently seeking expansion. In each of those cases the proposed growth has been robustly scrutinised and communities have been able to have their say. The government cannot simply ignore the greater impacts at Gatwick because it has different planning position."
High Court refuses application for JR of government programme to build more roads
Campaigners have lost a legal challenge to the government’s £27bn roadbuilding programme after the high court judge, Mr Justice Holgate, dismissed their application for a judicial review. Lawyers for Transport Action Network (TAN) argued that the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, had drawn up the roads investment strategy for England, known as RIS2, without taking into account the UK’s climate commitments or assessing the additional carbon emissions and climate impact of another 4,000 miles of road. Bizarrely, the judge considered the road building plans were not irrational, in bad faith or manifestly absurd. He accepted the assurances of the DfT that the road building policy was consistent with the UK's net zero target for 2050. And that a lot was being done to decarbonise road transport, but he added: “Whether they are enough is not a matter for the court.” The campaigners, TAN, are appealing against the judgement. The case could be an important precedent, relevant to aviation. Prof Jillian Anable of Leeds University’s institute for transport studies said the DfT's road building plans, and disregard for the the climate implications, "can only be interpreted as either blatant dishonesty or failure to understand the science.”
The future of Eurostar: How can we save our green link to Europe?
The Eurostar is one of the best ways that people in Britain can get to Europe, (as well as the ferry) avoiding flying. But it has really struggled during the pandemic. Eurostar had to refinance twice; March 2021 it borrowed £400 million and received a cash injection of £170 million from its owners; and again in May 2021 another £250 million. The company had to reduce from 20 trains to Paris per day to 1 train a day for most of lockdown. Since getting the new finance deal in place in May it increased to 3 trains per day and hoped to have a good summer to try and recoup some of its losses. It is uncertain if it will increase to more than three trains per day, and talks are taking place between the company and the recognised trade unions regarding what happens when furlough ends on 30 September. It does not look good, in the run up to the COP26 talks in November, for the UK not to be helping this lower form of transport to and from Europe. The 3 rails unions, TSSA, RMT and Aslef are adamant that Eurostar must be given necessary assistance. Zoom meeting open to the public on 4th August.
Heathrow losses now £2.9bn and consolidated net debt £15.2 bn
Heathrow has announced that its cumulative losses from the Covid-19 pandemic have hit £2.9 billion. In its results for the first half of 2021, Heathrow’s revenue dropped from £712 million in the first six months of 2020 to £348 million in the first half of 2021, which is 51.1% less than in the first half of 2020, and 76.2% less than the first half of 2019. Its pre-tax loss widened 18% to a little over £1 billion. It had 3.85m passengers, which is 75.1% less than the same period in 2020, and 90.1% less than the first half of 2019. Heathrow (it has a complex structure of numerous companies and levels) had consolidated net debt of £15.2 billion — not much less than the airport’s £16.9 billion regulated asset base (RAB), or the CAA’s proxy for its value. Heathrow had been allowed, by the CAA, to increase its RAB by £300 million, to £16.9 billion. Its chief executive John Holland-Kaye is using the half-year figures to warn about a covenant waiver on its various loans. The group of Heathrow companies has £4.8 billion of liquidity, (ie. ability to borrow) with average cost of debt just 1.64%.
Taxpayers face near £900m bill for Heathrow western rail link, if airport won’t pay
It was announced in September 2020 that the Great Western rail link between Reading and Heathrow would be delayed by up to two years. It was first proposed in 2012. A DCO application to construct the new line is not expected for some time. Heathrow was set to pay for much of the cost, as the link would benefit its passengers. But in April Heathrow withdrew its funding, because of the crisis in its finances due to the pandemic. Other funding from the private sector will be “much smaller” than previously envisaged. So it looks as if taxpayers may have to fund most of a £900m bill. The rail minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, told a parliamentary committee last week that he would recommend that taxpayers pay instead, as part of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s spending review this autumn. Network Rail said that the Department for Transport had asked it to delay beginning the project by a year until the winter of 2022. It said it would not progress until there was a satisfactory financial arrangement, "including an appropriate financial contribution from Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL); this requires endorsement by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) as the relevant regulator."
SAF competing for fuel feedstocks will have negative impacts on many other sectors
The aviation industry, and its enthusiastic backers like the UK government, are keen to claim the problem of the sector's vast carbon emissions can be solved, fairly soon, by SAF ("sustainable aviation fuels"). They agree these should not come directly from agricultural crops, competing with human food and animal fodder for land. They will instead come (as well as fuels produced using electricity) from agricultural, forestry and domestic wastes. These would be the feedstocks. But there are significant problems, so far apparently overlooked by governments etc, about competing uses for those feedstocks. There are already markets for used cooking oil, and it can all be used for animal food, or in other industries. Taking crop wastes off the land not only means lower organic matter returned to the soil, reducing its structure and fertility, but also its removal for other uses - such as for animal bedding. There are competing uses for forestry waste, such as the paper and pulp industry. Feedstocks could be used to make diesel for road vehicles, or burned to produce electricity. So if aviation wants these feedstocks, there will be competition and higher prices for other sectors. These problems should not be ignored in the mindlessly optimistic rush for the illusion of "jet zero".
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.
Gatwick campaigners dismayed by government’s failure to limit night flights
The Department for Transport has published its decision document on the first part of its recent consultation on night flights at Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted. The Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC) is dismayed that although numerous responses to the consultation showed strong and wide opposition to night flights at Gatwick and elsewhere, the Government has decided to extend current night flight numbers and noise limits for a further three years. DfT’s decision is a kick in the teeth for all those negatively affected by the noise and disturbance caused by aircraft flying at night. It entirely ignores the views of local communities, and groups representing them - and the negative effects on health caused by sleep disturbance. GACC had called on the government to ban all commercial night flights at all UK airports for a full 8-hour period each night. GACC also argued that any flights allowed should be far more strictly regulated. Unfortunately the government has not taken the opportunity, to make positive changes after the Covid hiatus. GACC says: "Instead the DfT continues to neglect its regulatory responsibilities and to see its role as serving the interests of the industry, not overflown communities.”
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.
DfT transport decarbonisation plan … nice-sounding targets for aviation CO2 .. . details on achieving those still awaited
The Government has put out a statement from Grant Shapps and a page on its website about its transport decarbonisation plan. But the plan itself is not yet available, just the introductory text and (wildly optimistic, bullish comments from Shapps) in order to get the headlines in the media this morning. On aviation, the plan hopes to decarbonise all UK domestic aviation by 2040. It hopes all UK airport operations will be zero carbon by 2040. It hopes all UK aviation will be zero carbon by 2050. But there is no detail on how these miracles are to be achieved. Unless there is serious intention to reduce the total numbers of air passengers and flights, it will not be possible to genuinely make flying zero carbon. So far any ambitions by government for this have been either by remarkable, novel fuels (which either have environmental impacts, or require huge amounts of non-emitting electricity which is unlikely to be available), or hydrogen (likewise requiring electricity) or electric planes. The industry itself acknowledges that neither hydrogen nor electric planes are going to enable even the current level of flying, for many decades, if ever. Government is keen to tell people they can continue to fly, with a clear conscience - and the aviation sector can continue with "business as usual" for the time being.
New NEF report on the Frequent Flyer Levy: “WHY DEMAND FOR AVIATION MUST BE CAPPED”
The Climate Change Committee has advised the UK government that aviation CO2 emissions should not rise more than 25% above their level in 2018 by 2050. However, with anticipated levels of demand, it is likely the CO2 will increase far more than that. So demand for air travel needs to be reduced. A new report by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) reiterates the suggestion that a Frequent Flyer Levy (FFL) should be used. This would mean people pay increasing amounts of tax on each successive leisure flight they take during a year. This rising price, depending on how often people fly, is intended to overcome the problem of flying being out of the price range for many people, leaving the rich to continue flying a lot. It would be more fair if everyone, regardless of wealth/income could have one flight per year relatively cheaply. Currently Air Passenger Duty (APD) is £13 for a short haul flight, or £78 for a long haul flight. To keep UK aviation demand to the level in 2018, by 2050, people could have one flight with no tax, but £350 in tax by the 5th flight. But to keep demand 66% lower than in 2018 by 2050, there would need to be £80 tax on the first flight, and £800 on the 5th flight.
Local Authorities must question if it is justifiable, or a financial asset, to own an airport
There is a glaring logical inconsistency between the declaration of "climate emergencies" by councils, and the backing of local airports. That is particularly the case where the airport owns, or partly owns, the airport. The Local Government Chronicle has written that "councils’ declarations of climate emergency will be mere weasel words unless they lead to painful but necessary decisions being made." To achieve action on climate, councils need to take urgent and significant action. Helping an airport expand and increase its number of passengers, flights and CO2 emissions should no longer be happening. And while some airports were useful sources of income for councils in pre-Covid years, there is no certainty at all that will continue. Instead airports have been a sink for public money over the past year. Councils should not attempt to confuse the situation, by claims that airports are cutting carbon, becoming carbon neutral etc. That is only for their buildings, conveniently ignoring the carbon from the flights the airport facilitates. Councils need to accept that the restoration of passenger numbers to previous levels is not desirable.
Teeside Airport bottomless pit for council cash – given another £10 million by TVCA
Teeside Airport is to get an extra £10m from the Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA), hoping to keep it afloat after Covid impacts. TVCA spent more than £40m buying the loss-making airport in 2019 following a previous election pledge by Mr Houchen to take it back from previous owner Peel. TVCA has also provided a further £19.4m to support operational expenditure, along with £15m towards capital expenditure, which has helped pay for a multi-million pound terminal redevelopment, new passenger lounges, bars etc. The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) said in November 2020 that the airport made a £2.6m loss in the previous 12 months. Its advocates say it could be profitable in about 6 years. Teeside Airport Ltd is governed financially by TVCA via another limited company, Goosepool, both being subsidiaries of TVCA, a structure which has been criticised by some for its apparent lack of transparency. Stobart Aviation, which operates Teesside Airport, has a 25% shareholding in Goosepool. Opponents of the handouts to the airport say too much is being spent on the airport and “The time for vanity projects is at an end – it’s time he started to deliver on the real needs of our people.”
Uttlesford Council applies for judicial review of Stansted airport expansion plans
In May, the Planning Inspectorate (PI) approved plans by Stansted airport to expand its maximum number of annual passengers from 35 to 43 million. This had been opposed by Uttlesford Council, but the decision was challenged by the airport. Now Uttlesford District Council UDC) is trying to get this PI decision reversed, as it goes against the decision by a democratically elected council. UDC submitted its application to the court for a JR one day before its submission deadline, and the UDC leader John Lodge said the decision to apply for Judicial Review was taken after seeking legal advice. Local campaign, Stansted Airport Watch, had asked for a JR, so the decision is taken by the Secretary of State for Transport, not the PI. Since the PI decision, the government enshrined a new "Carbon Budget" into legislation. The Sixth Carbon Budget now aims to cut emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels, and for the first time, the carbon emissions of international aviation will be included in UK totals. That should mean the collective increases in carbon of all the airport expansion plans will have to be considered together, and none of the airports seeking expansion should be considered in isolation.
Bristol Airport expansion (for 2 mppa more) public inquiry to will start on July 20th, for 10 weeks
The expansion plans would see passenger numbers grow from 10 million to 12 million a year. The public inquiry into the expansion plans is due to start on July 20 and last 10 weeks. The airport appealed against a decision by North Somerset Council last year to reject its expansion plans. Bristol City Council has also opposed the expansion with North Somerset Council saying it will ‘robustly defend’ the appeal. The inquiry will be held in person and online, via Teams, though requests had been made for it to be online only, due to Covid. Campaigners say any expansion of the airport would lead to higher carbon emissions, congested roads and more plane noise. A number of campaign groups including the Bristol Airport Action Network (BAAN) , the Parish Councils Airport Association and Stop Bristol Airport Expansion (SBAE) are all set to give evidence at the inquiry. The Planning Inspectorate team will be led by Philip Ware.
EC draft shows EU to propose aviation fuel tax in efforts to cut European CO2 emissions
The European Commission has drafted plans to set an EU-wide minimum tax rate for aviation fuels, as it seeks to meet more ambitious targets to fight climate change. The EC is drafting an overhaul of EU energy taxation, as part of a package of measures it will propose on July 14, to meet a target to reduce EU greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030, from 1990 levels. The draft proposes taxing aviation fuel, as its continuing exemption "is not coherent with the present climate challenges and policies." From 2023, the minimum tax rate for aviation fuel would start at zero and increase gradually over a 10-year period, until the full rate is imposed. The draft proposal did not specify what the final rate would be. A recent survey suggests that Europeans support the taxation of aviation fuel. Even factoring in the impact of the pandemic, aviation emissions are expected to grow between 220-290% by 2050 compared to 2015 levels, which would be disastrous for the climate. Airlines favour carbon offsetting schemes, rather than fuel tax; but these allow them to continue polluting even though offsets have been repeatedly found to be largely ineffective.
Heathrow at risk of defaulting on its £15bn debt as UK-US flights not returning soon
Heathrow has now made a loss of at least £3 billion, due to the pandemic. It is now at risk of defaulting on its huge £15bn debt, after talks stalled over the return of flights between Britain and America. Heathrow had been depending on lucrative trans-Atlantic flights resuming by the start of July. At the end of June, Heathrow warned its bondholders that if its profits are £66m or more lower than expected by December 2021, then it will breach the strict rules governing its complex portfolio of loans. It does not look likely that flights to the US will return to anything approaching 2019 levels for a long time. Up to 2019, North America was Heathrow’s single biggest market making up almost 19m of its 81m passengers in 2019. Heathrow is believed to have the support of its lenders despite the prospect of a potential breach of its banking covenants, the rules that govern loans. Shareholders, which include Spain’s Ferrovial and the state of Qatar, injected £600m into the business when it faced the prospect of a similar breach last year.
Southend airport owners, Esken, to get £20 million loan from CGI, to keep it going
Southend Airport is to get a £20 million cash injection (over 3 years) to boost its recovery from the Covid pandemic. Airport owner, Esken, has agreed a loan with US private equity firm Carlyle Global Infrastructure (CGI) – which will lend £120 million to Esken, which can be converted into a 30% stake in the airport. They hope it will help the airport survive, and attract low cost airlines for holiday flights. Only 147,000 passengers flew through the airport in the financial year end February 28 – compared to 2.1 million the year before. Of these 147,000 passengers, 68,000 flew in March 2020 before travel restrictions took hold – so only about 78,000 used the airport since March 2020.