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AEF Newsletter: Future tech and carbon neutral airports can’t solve aviation carbon problem

1st September, 2021

Government pins hope on future tech in strategy for net zero aviation

In July, the Government published its long-awaited proposals for delivering net zero aviation by 2050 (Jet zero: our strategy for net zero aviation), alongside the Transport Decarbonisation Plan. AEF supports the plans to decarbonise domestic flying by 2040, with the caveat that measures to deliver this target should focus on new zero carbon technologies rather than the use of offsets. We also support the proposal to consider mandating the provision of CO2 information to passengers. We are however concerned that overall the plan lacks policy detail, is overly reliant on future technologies that may not come to fruition, and avoids any commitment to limit demand in order to reduce emissions… read more

The Transport Decarbonisation Plan is a final document. Jet zero: our strategy for net zero aviation is open for consultation, and closes on 8th September.

Key questions still need to be answered on Government’s proposed SAF mandate

In addition to the Jet Zero consultation, the Government has published its first set of proposals to introduce a sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) mandate which will require fuel suppliers to supply airlines with fuel that contains a certain amount of SAF. We’re pleased that the Government is considering the scope and criteria of a mandate before any specific mandate levels are set. This is something we had called for prior to the consultation. Some key questions still remain to be addressed, however, in relation to how any emissions savings from SAF should be accounted for, as once burned in an aircraft they release at least as much CO2 as fossil fuels… read more

This consultation closes on 19th September.

All noise, little action

The Government has been consulting on night flight restrictions at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, and has recently published its response to Part 1 of the consultation. We are concerned that the Department for Transport, who announced a three-year rollover of current night flight restrictions at the three designated London airports despite suggesting a two-year rollover in its consultation, has failed to provide evidence about the economic importance of night flights, or to respond to concerns about the impact of night flights on public health.

Many of our members are adversely affected by aviation night noise. Amazon cargo night flights at Southend Airport (which began as a small local airfield) are causing sleepless nights for residents nearby: ‘The majority of people do not have an objection to flights during the day […] but it is simply not acceptable that people are being woken up multiple times during the night by these cargo flights’, says local MP David Amess, who has called for an end to the airport’s night flights.

Part 2 of the Government’s night flight consultation closes on 3rd September. The deadline was extended to allow stakeholders to consider the evidence presented in the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Survey of Noise Attitudes 2014: Aircraft Noise and Sleep Disturbance, which has only now been published, prior to responding to the night flight consultation.

Net zero airports? The problem with airport capacity growth

Airports are joining the queue to announce net zero and carbon neutral goals. In July, Bristol Airport announced its goal to be net zero by 2030, and recently Newcastle Airport announced plans for a solar farm as part of its net zero vision. The problem with these announcements? They gloss over the fact that these commitments do not include emissions from flights, which can be anywhere up to 98% of an airport’s total emissions. Despite this omission, airports are promoting these schemes to justify their plans to expand infrastructure and operations… read more

To keep up with the latest on airport expansions plans in the UK, check out our airport expansions tracker.

In other news

‘Unless there are immediate rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to 1.5C will be beyond reach’, finds IPCC report.

New Dutch website collects noise complaints about all Netherlands airports. It will anonymously publish results, and recognise frequent complainers’ concerns with the aim of building public trust. Could a similar website help those impacted by aviation in the UK?

With a single round-trip trans-Atlantic flight enough to wipe out the carbon savings from living car-free for a year, both business and leisure flying needs to be reduced, says Farhad Manjoo on the need to use the pandemic as an opportunity to reset how we tour this planet.

Space rockets emit 100 times more CO2 per passenger than flights – take note Bezos, Branson and Musk.

Long reads

Research paper: Trends in air travel inequality in the UK | Milena Büchs, Giulio Mattioli 

Report: A frequent flyer levy: Sharing aviation’s carbon budget in a net zero world | New Economics Foundation, Possible 

Research paper: Evaluating the climate impact of aviation emission scenarios towards the Paris agreement including COVID-19 effects | University of Birmingham

What’s coming up?

3rd September: Part 2 of Night flights restrictions at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports beyond 2024, plus national night flight policy consultation closes.

3rd September: Environmental Audit Committee call for evidence for inquiry into net aviation and shipping closes.

8th September: Jet zero: our strategy for net zero aviation consultation closes.

19th September: Mandating the use of sustainable aviation fuels in the UK consultation closes.

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