27th April, 2023
A regular update on relevant aviation and environment news stories.
The Financial Times found that current expansion plans at UK airports would, if permitted, lift passenger numbers by 60% to 387 million annually. Even while the sector pursues a target of net-zero emissions by 2050.
Meanwhile, research from Greenpeace found that more private jets left the UK in 2022 than any other European country, equalling one every six minutes.
BBC Ideas, in partnership with The Royal Society, questioned whether flying can be sustainable with a short video featuring the AEF’s Policy Director, Cait Hewitt, Cambridge University and other industry experts.
Although still awaiting a decision on its application to go to 19 million passengers, Luton Airport has submitted plans to expand the airport further to 32 million passengers per annum. The Examining Authority has agreed to examine the proposals for a Development Consent Order, and now has six months to come to a decision.
In March, the Mayor of London’s office came out against the plans to increase passenger numbers and change weekend flying times at London City Airport.
The Dutch Government announced plans to cap CO2 emissions from its airports from 2025. In a letter to parliament, Infrastructure and Water Management Minister Mark Harber said: “The CO2 cap secures the climate goals for aviation by setting clear and enforceable limits on permitted CO2 emissions, thus creating a guarantee for meeting the climate targets.”
Schiphol airport in the Netherlands was also making headlines this month. In June of 2022, the Government introduced limits on flights at thel airport to a maximum of 440,000 a year, following regular breeches of established noise limits. In March, five airlines began summary proceedings against the government’s decision and in April 2023, a local court ruled that the Government could not introduce the interim cap to flight numbers, as they did not go through the correct procedures, rather than on the merits of the decision itself.
Schiphol airport appeared to accept the decision, and has independently introduced measures to ban private jets, night flights and announce no expansion.
Over in America, residents around Seattle-Tacoma International Airport have filed a class-action lawsuit over exposure to a unique mix of pollutants from aircraft that can cause a range of health problems.
A report from the Royal Society on the resource requirements and environmental impacts of net zero aviation fuels warns “there is no single, clear, sustainable alternative to jet fuel able to support flying on a scale equivalent to present day use.” It also warns that to meet current UK aviation demand with biofuel would require half of all agricultural land.
AEF Policy Director Cait Hewitt was quoted in The Independent saying “The elephant in the room here is, of course, the need to fly less.
“One area that would really benefit now from some Government-funded research is how to deliver better standards of living, continued connectivity for businesses, and sustainable employment for the aviation workforce without the continued growth of flying.
“Tax cuts for domestic tourism and leisure and promotion of alternatives to in-person business flights would be good places to start.”
Meanwhile, the Department for Transport released a report on developing a UK sustainable aviation fuel industry.
The Travel Foundation also released a report on the future of travel. Key recommendations include slowing the expected growth in aviation and capping long-haul flights at 2019 levels.
Launching its revised carbon roadmap, Sustainable Aviation, a group of airlines, airports and manufacturers, have said that the cost of decarbonising air travel will likely increase the cost of flying, having an impact on demand.
The Civil Aviation Authority is currently consulting on “defining the scope of the environmental assessments for the airspace masterplan change.” The consultation closes on the 8th of May. The CAA also recently closed a consultation on making environmental information more readily available to consumers. The AEF response can be found here.
The Government has several consultations open at the moment. Their consultation on developing the UK sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) mandate is open until the 22nd of June. This follows the result of a previous consultation, which concluded that they will introduce a SAF mandate equivalent to at least 10% (around 1.5 billion litres) of jet fuel to be made from sustainable sources by 2030.
They have also opened a consultation on night time noise objectives at designated airports, which closes on the 9th of May. This follows the publication of the aviation noise policy statement at the end of March.
Analysis by The Mirror and AEF showed that extra routes introduced by one airline alone – which were directly linked to the cut – will dump more than 9,000 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year. Campaigners have called for the cut to domestic flights to be reversed.
An investigation from openDemocracy found that airlines and airports have downplayed the science on the non-co2 impacts of aviation in an attempt to quash any government policies to tackle them. Another openDemocracy investigation found that Rishi Sunak cut air passenger duty and rejected a frequent flyer levy after airline lobbying.
Climate charity Possible and the Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA) are taking the Government to court over their Jet Zero strategy. The challenges will proceed with a joint hearing at the High Court.
The UK advertising watchdog has also banned an ad campaign from Etihad airways promoting its approach to sustainable aviation. They ruled that it was misleading consumers over the environmental impact of flying.
There was also an excellent opinion piece in the Financial Times this month on how the aviation industry must change to tackle the climate crisis through demand management.