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Aviation and Environment News – June 2024 

4th June, 2024

The return of our regular update on relevant aviation and environment news stories.

UK news and airport expansions


In January, campaign groups and activists, including Greta Thunberg, marched in protest of the planned expansion of Farnborough airport (the largest private jet airport in the UK). The airport’s planning application, initially due to be assessed in March, is now expected to be determined in the summer.


Last year, Gatwick submitted a development consent order (DCO) application to use the existing standby runway as a regular second runway. The preliminary hearing and open sessions began on 27th and 28th February 2024 respectively, with the climate-specific hearing on 30th April. The public examination period continues for several months, followed by a recommendation from the Examining Authority later this year.


Adverts for the proposed expansion of Luton Airport have been reported to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA). The adverts stated, “If we miss our environmental

limits, our expansion will be stopped in its tracks’’, providing a potentially misleading representation of the airport’s climate ambitions. A recommendation from the Examining Authority to the Secretary of State for Transport on the airport’s planning application is expected very soon, raising further questions over the timing of these ads.

The ASA has also recently banned separate greenwashing ads from Air France, Etihad and Lufthansa.


Following a hearing on 24th April 2024, the Court of Appeal has dismissed an application by campaigners for judicial review of the Secretary of State’s decision to approve a Development Consent Order for the reopening of Manston Airport as an air freight hub. Details of the campaign against the expansion are available here.


EU regulators are investigating 20 airlines over potentially misleading greenwashing practices, including using the term ‘sustainable aviation fuel’ without justifying the environmental impact of the fuel.

The EU has also agreed in principle to set stricter 2030 targets for air pollution. The new standards will restrict PM2.5, a type of fine particulates, and nitrogen dioxide, or NOx, however these limits will still be double the WHO recommended levels.

Elsewhere, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has confirmed that it is lobbying against EU plans to introduce monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of non-CO2 emissions. The new EU rules are part of the Emissions Trading System (ETS) and are due to kick in from January 2025.

Continuing the rise in airport related litigation, residents near Wellington in New Zealand, who are affected by aircraft noise, are pursuing legal action to prompt flight path changes. 

In Malaysia, airlines are set to be allowed the option of charging passengers a carbon fee if they can clearly show how the money will be used to support decarbonisation efforts.

In lighter pop-culture news, air travel headlines early this year had a significant focus around the Super Bowl and Taylor Swift. The coverage has brought into the public eye broader questions  around offsetting, private jets and the role of celebrities in climate action. As mentioned in the last newsletter, more private jets left the UK in 2022 than any other European country. The ongoing Greenpeace petition to ban private jets has gathered almost 120,000 signatures.

Search term ‘Private jets’ (Google trends, showing interest over time)


At the end of 2023, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) published a review of the state of environmental protection relating to aviation in the UK. This is the first CAA review since they acquired responsibility for publishing these reports from the EU Aviation Safety Agency. AEF’s summary of the report is available here.

The government has also published a policy paper on the industrialisation of emerging aviation technologies in the UK. The ‘Future of Flight action plan’ discusses how to develop and integrate uncrewed aircraft systems (drones) and electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles (eVTOLs) into the existing civil aviation system.

Transport and Environment (T&E) have released their aviation trends for Europe in 2023, with all the data available here. The reports show that pollution from UK-departing planes is almost back to pre-pandemic levels, with British Airways the biggest polluter in the UK and Ryanair the top polluting airline in Europe for a third year in a row. 

A new report from ODI called ‘Airports, air pollution and climate change’, has been published as part of the Airport Tracker project, which also involves T&E and the ICCT. Airport Tracker is the first global inventory of CO2 and local air pollutants at the airport level. The project has revealed that, as a city, London creates the most aviation-related air pollution in the world. Additionally, the top 20 polluting airports globally produce CO2 emissions equivalent to 58 coal plants.

The Institute for Policy Studies recently issued a report called ‘Greenwashing the skies’ about private jets and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). The report found that SAFs are off track to replace kerosene-based jet fuel in a timeframe that would avoid dangerous climate change, with the author describing SAFs as a ‘huge greenwashing exercise’. 

Lastly, More in Common have a new report out called ‘Europe Talks Flying’, that uses the polling of more than 12,000 people in Europe to understand public opinion on aviation policy. Some of the key headlines include that the public do want airlines to clean up their act and people don’t trust airlines to tell the truth when discussing the environment.


Following the release of the SAF mandate, the government has a consultation open until 20th June on a revenue certainty mechanism to support the SAF industry in the UK. The idea of any mechanism is to reduce the financial risk of SAF production projects to encourage more investment. Our position is that the industry should pay for SAF, and no taxpayers money should be used.

A government consultation on night flight restrictions for Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports also closed on 22nd May. This follows the consultation last May which resulted in the night-time noise abatement objective: ‘To limit, and where possible reduce, the adverse effects of aviation noise at night on health and quality of life while supporting sustainable growth and recognising the importance to the UK of commercial passenger and freight services.’’ AEF’s response is on our website, available here.

AEF recently responded to CAA consultations on the slot allocation system and on prohibiting supersonic flight over land. Our response to the supersonic flight consultation is available here.

Political Updates

Aside from the recent announcement of a general election in July, it has been a fairly quiet start to the year for relevant political updates.

The main aviation policy update for the year was released in April in the form of the SAF mandate. The mandate requires increasing amounts of alternative fuels to be blended with kerosene from the 1st January 2025, aiming for 2% by volume by 2025 and 10% by 2030. The full AEF response can be found here.

The government also announced slight changes to air passenger duty (APD), with small rises in APD on economy fares and premium flights under 2,000 miles from April 2024. Premium and business class rates for flights over 2,000 miles will see a larger increase from April 2025. 

The High Court has ruled that the UK’s strategy for meeting legally binding targets on reaching net zero is unlawful for a second time. ClientEarth, alongside Friends of the Earth and the Good Law Project, have won in court again after the High Court had already ruled the government’s strategy as insufficient in 2022. The strategy was deemed to contain too little information assessing the risk of policies not being delivered and had an overreliance on unproven, high-risk technology. The government must now create a new climate strategy in the next 12 months.

Scientific Journal Articles

Gray 2024: The role of direct air carbon capture in decarbonising aviation Direct air carbon capture (DACC) is one of the technologies that is hoped will contribute to decarbonising aviation. This study reviews the technology and provides a comparison in terms of cost and emissions of two potential uses of DACC, carbon capture and storage and creating synthetic e-fuel (A and B in the figure, respectively).

Wong, C. 2024: Do climate lawsuits lead to action? Researchers assess their impact

The landmark case brought by a group of Swiss women against their government for not doing enough to address climate change is one of more than 2,300 climate lawsuits filed against companies and governments. This news explainer from Nature delves into the effectiveness of climate litigation.

Nature Editorial, 2024: EU climate policy is dangerously reliant on untested carbon-capture technology

This editorial from Nature examines and raises concerns about the European Commission recommendations for it’s 2040 climate targets.

Gössling, S. et al. 2024: National tourism organizations and climate change

This research article discusses the possibilities for fundamental (rather than incremental) change in the tourism industry to prompt rapid decarbonisation. Altering the strategies of national tourism organisations is one possible avenue that could help to bring about beneficial changes. 

Gössling, S and Humpe, A. 2024: Net-zero aviation: Transition barriers and radical climate policy design implications

This article looks at barriers that are currently preventing a transition to net-zero aviation, with these barriers broken down into seven categories: climate, management, technology innovation, fuel transition, finances, governance, and society.