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Meeting with the chair of the Airports Commission, debunking arguments for new runways, and contributing to the agreement of a new aircraft noise standard

Tim’s work this month has focused on the UN aviation discussions related to both noise and climate change. The body responsible for aviation noise issues has been considering a new noise standard for aircraft, with environmental NGOs (represented by a small team including Tim) pushing for a significant increase in noise stringency. The Committee’s final recommendation will be an improvement on the current standard, but only a marginal one. With air traffic forecast to continue to grow internationally, it is likely that aircraft noise will disturb increasing numbers of people over time.

Tim also met with representatives of both climate and transport departments from the UK Government to discuss the UK’s approach to a critical UN meeting this autumn, which is due to consider a global market-based measure to tackle aviation emissions. The Aviation Carbon 2013 conference included discussion about international progress, and Tim addressed a packed room of delegates to set out NGOs’ expectations.

In terms of UK policy, the spotlight has been very much on the question of possible airport expansion, and as a summary of the AEF position in relation to climate change, Cait produced a one-page document illustrating the incompatibility of runway expansion with UK climate goals, using Government figures.

The Airports Commission chaired by Sir Howard Davies has now published its first thematic paper, on which comments are invited by mid-March, and both Tim and Cait met with Sir Howard to discuss some of our thinking in relation to airport expansion.  Cait subsequently attended a briefing seminar with the head of the Commission’s secretariat and met with a number of other environmental NGOs to discuss the approach of our organisations to the Commission’s work. London Mayor Boris Johnson has also been consulting (through TfL, at a cost of £3 million) on possible criteria for assessing new runways, and Cait submitted a response on behalf of AEF.

Both Cait and Nic have meanwhile been trying to get to grips with the Government’s 70-question consultation on the next night noise regime; to discuss possible common lines of response, Nic attended a meeting of community representatives and local authorities. He also submitted a response to a European Commission consultation on air pollution, highlighting the need for enforcement by the EC of the legally-binding air quality standards given repeated breaches by the UK and others, and attended a public meeting in West London at which Foster and Partners were making the case for a new airport in the Thames Estuary.