| SSE NEWS ARCHIVE - January to March 2005
31 March 2005
TONY BLAIR GIVES HIS VIEWS ON STANSTED EXPANSION
It appears that he has no concerns about climate change or the effects
on residents' well being. If more and more people want to fly more
and more often, then they will need bigger airports!
East Anglian Daily Times - 29 March 2005
Prime Minister Tony Blair answers questions posed by readers of the East Anglian Daily Times
Q: Why is it necessary to build a second runway at Stansted Airport? How do you defend the destruction of the landscape and the environment?
L S Johnson, Braintree
A: Demand for all kinds of travel is growing rapidly and trips which were once considered a luxury for the rich only are now enjoyed by everyone. That's a good thing but the downside is, for example, that our airports are getting busier.
There are no easy answers to these problems. I wish there were. But the truth is that unless we are going to stop people flying – which would hit business travel and our future prosperity as well as people going on holidays or breaks - then we need more capacity at our airports. It was to look at how we could do this that we published our Aviation White Paper 18 months ago to look at our response to air travel over the next 30 years. Among the proposals to cope with the expected growth is a new runway at Stansted as well, if local air quality issues can be solved, at Heathrow.
Stansted's existing capacity will be full by 2012 which is why an additional runway has been proposed. I accept that this will result in new development around the airport. But the decision was made after a long and thorough assessment of all the possible options and the risk to economic growth in the south east if we did nothing. In the end, it will be for BAA to come forward with firm proposals for the new runway which they will only do if it they are confident that air travel - and particularly the short haul market - will continue to grow. Their proposals will, of course, be subject to local planning decisions so residents will have their chance to have their say.
COMMENTS ON MR BLAIR'S PRONOUNCEMENT
Carol Barbone, campaign director for Stop Stansted Expansion, last night denounced Mr Blair's comments as "hypocritical".
She said: "As the Prime Minister knows only too well, aviation is the fastest growing source of global warming emissions and his comments about expansion at Stansted are hypocritical in the extreme given his recent declaration that global warming represents a bigger threat than international terrorism.
"Tony Blair quite clearly lacks the political will to face up to the long-term damage which his air transport expansion plans would create for future generations."
She claimed that, despite Government and industry "spin", air travel statistics give no indication the less well off are travelling by air more frequently but instead show a decline in the overall percentage of those on low incomes travelling by air as the rich snap up cheap flights.
"If the Prime Minister really wanted to do something to help society as a whole he should consider charging airlines the same amount of tax as the motorist pays on fuel," she added.
Alan Line, chairman of the South Suffolk Air Traffic Action Group, which is opposed to the airport expansion plans, said: "I think the key thing Mr Blair is forgetting is whether we should be allowing this pace of aviation growth to carry on at the same level when it is doing so much danger to the environment.
"Our organisation does not have anything against anyone flying but not when the growth of air travel is to an extent that it becomes detrimental to the environment.
"I don't think a second runway is inevitable as I think current projections over numbers are just pie in the sky."
Airport operator BAA announced plans to build a second runway at Stansted by 2012 following the publication of the Government's Aviation White Paper 18 months ago. It intends to submit a detailed planning application in spring 2006.
No-one at BAA was available for comment last night.
HAS MR BLAIR READ THE LATEST REPORT OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS ENVIRONMENTAL AUDIT COMMITTEE ON CLIMATE CHANGE?
Para 1. While some scientific uncertainties still remain in relation to some aspects of the global warming process, the time for querying the science is long past. Nor should
policy makers still hope that science can come up with a definitive "safe limit" to global warming. Governments must act as a matter of urgency and on an unprecedented scale: a Marshall plan for climate change is now required. (Paragraph 13)
Para 2. The world will, in the absence of urgent and strenuous mitigation actions in the next 20 years, almost certainly experience a temperature rise of between about 0.5°C and 2°C by 2050. The fact that the tipping point for the irreversible melting of the Greenland ice sheet is now thought to fall well within this range is a matter of extreme concern. Indeed, in the light of such findings Sir David King has suggested that the UK's 60% carbon reduction target which the UK Government has set for 2050 may need to be increased to 80%. (Paragraph 14)
Para 12. We see no possibility of the UK Government achieving its objective of incorporating aviation in Phase 2 of the EU ETS, and we continue to think that a mixture of other policies including the scope for taxation and emissions charging should be pursued. (Paragraph 48)
Para 13. We would support the inclusion of aviation within a rigorous emissions trading system only on the basis that our concerns over allocations and global warming impacts were addressed. In such circumstances we accept that, as there is currently no possibility of achieving significant reductions in aviation emissions, emissions trading would act on aviation as a demand management tool and this would be reflected in very considerable increases in the price of air travel. If the Government is really concerned about the impacts on social equity, it should explore other avenues to address this including, for example, the concept of Domestic Tradable Quotas. (Paragraph 52)
Para 27. We take issue with the Prime Minister's view, expressed in his recent speech at Davos, that science and technology provide the means to tackle climate change.
Whilst we understand the desire to adopt such an approach in an effort to bring the US Government on board, it is simply not credible to suggest that the scale of the
reductions which are required can possibly be achieved without significant behavioural change. In focussing on science and technology, the Government is creating the appearance of activity around the problem of Climate Change whilst evading the harder national and international political decisions which must be made if there is to be any solution. (Paragraph 102)
Para 28. In our view the challenge of climate change is now so serious that it demands a degree of political commitment which is virtually unprecedented. Whether the
political leaders of the world are up to the task remains to be seen. Leadership on this issue calls for something more than pragmatism or posturing. It requires qualities of
courage, determination and inspiration which are rare in peacetime. In according priority to climate change, the Prime Minister has set himself and his Government a
mighty challenge and we must hope they rise to it. (Paragraph 103)
PLANE FACTS SPELL OUT DISASTER
Comment from David Begg
Ben Webster - The Times - 22 March 2005
As chairman of the Commission for Integrated Transport, David Begg has championed city congestion charges, but he now has his eyes on the skies
DAVID BEGG is the first to admit that he does not always practise what he preaches.
The chairman of the Government's Commission for Integrated Transport believes that strict limits must be imposed on how far we drive and fly in order to save the planet from catastrophic climate change. While he has not owned a car for 10 years, Begg is a frequent flyer and recently went to New Zealand. Ironically, he made the 24,000-mile trip to advise the Kiwis on "sustainable transport".
Begg, who steps down from the commission at the end of the month, is a recent recruit to the ranks of the global warming doomsayers.
He spent most of his six-year chairmanship arguing that the Government's top transport priority should be to reduce congestion. His was the loudest voice calling for London-style congestion charges to be imposed in cities across Britain. But last month Begg suffered the humiliation of seeing his home city, Edinburgh, reject tolls in a referendum by a margin of three to one.
Begg is determined to be remembered not for that failure, but for daring to speak the unspeakable about transport and climate change. His parting message to ministers is to urge them to take radical steps to cure us of our addiction to travelling further and faster.
"The fight is going to have to switch from congestion to climate change, on which transport is the worst offender," he says. "The public are like junkies when it comes to mobility. They just can't get enough of it. We must stop feeding the habit by building more roads and runways. There is going to have to be some form of restraint."
Transport is the fastest-growing source of greenhouse-gas emissions, accounting for 24 per cent of emissions in 2002. Advances in fuel efficiency are being outstripped by growth in traffic.
Begg says that the Government's policy of reducing the need to travel will deliver too little too late. To hit its target of a 60 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, he believes, it will have no choice but to impose substantial increases in the cost of motoring and flying.
"I want to see a move towards a tax on the pollution and noise that aircraft cause," he says. "The Government's proposal to allow air travel to more than double by 2030 is just not sustainable because the aviation industry has no alternative to burning fossil fuel.
"But I recognise the danger of alienating the public by putting restrictions on their mobility. It will be very difficult to persuade people to drive and fly less when the Americans are doing sod-all about climate change."
Begg says that the first step should be to make people aware of how much pollution they cause. He wants airline tickets to display the tonnage of CO2 emitted carrying each passenger. Excluding aviation, each person in Britain contributes 10 tonnes of CO2 per year. Begg points out this must be cut to four tonnes by 2050 to hit the Government's target.
He proposes that each individual should receive a "carbon allowance". Those who wanted to exceed the allotted level, say by flying to New Zealand, would have to buy allowances from others who had been more energy efficient. "If the system were introduced internationally it would address global warming and poverty in the Third World, where people could sell their allowances."
Begg's fear is that no political party will dare to confront the junkies. "We may take action only when it's too late, when we see on our TV screens the horrendous consequences of rising sea levels engulfing cities. Then the public will say 'what have the politicians been doing?' "
31 March 2005
MORE CONFUSED THINKING AT GATWICK?
YET ANOTHER RUNWAY TO ADD TO THE POLLUTION?
New Gatwick runway plan
Dominic O'Connell - Times On-line - 27 March 2005
BAA will this week unveil proposals for a new runway at Gatwick, Britain's second busiest airport, as part of a 25-year master plan for the southeast hub. The airports group is barred from building a second runway at Gatwick until 2019 by a legal agreement with local councils. But last year ministers asked it to investigate construction as part of a white paper on airports policy.
BAA is expected to identify a range of options for a new runway in a consultation document to be released on Tuesday.
The proposals are likely to enrage anti-airport protesters and local residents. The company will stress it has made no commitment, and is complying with the government's request for detailed proposals.
But BAA is also expected to reveal that it has increased the maximum number of passengers Gatwick will be able to accommodate with the current single runway.
The upper limit had been set at 40m and is likely to be raised to 45m. This increase will be achieved by a rejig of terminal buildings and the adoption of new technology that will all but eliminate check-in queues.
It is understood that BAA wants to use Gatwick to try out a number of new technologies and working practices that could greatly speed passenger throughput.
The release of the consultation document is likely to reignite the debate over runways in the southeast. Last year a long-awaited government white paper on aviation chose Stansted, another BAA airport, as the first site for a new runway in the congested region.
Another could be built at Heathrow, provided that air-quality concerns are addressed, with BAA directed to examine options for Gatwick after 2019, and to safeguard the necessary land if the Heathrow plans prove impracticable. Airport protesters have tried to overturn the white paper's findings, but the government fought off a string of judicial reviews in the High Court this year.
One of the grounds for the challenge was the financial viability of the Stansted project. Protesters argued that the low-cost carriers that dominate Stansted would refuse to pay the prices necessary to fund a new runway development.
The housebuilders Laing and Persimmon mounted a legal challenge specific to Gatwick, saying that expansion of the airport could jeopardise plans for hundreds of new homes near the airport.
31 March 2005
SOME RESIDENTS' VIEWS AND ACTIONS
Villagers vow to fight for fair deal
Dunmow Broadcast - 17 March 2005
TAKELEY Parish Council chairman Trevor Allen has this week pledged to continue the fight to have all property owners in his community compensated for the blight which hangs over them as a result of proposals to expand Stansted Airport.
He said: "BAA's claim, last week, that the judge's comments at a provisional hearing about a judicial review into their HOSS scheme means our parish council's legal proceedings have finished is not true. We have consulted again with our lawyers and have agreed to submit papers to the High Court to look at the whole issue at an oral hearing. We shall be fixing a date for this later in the year."
Judge Sullivan had initially commented that since the HOSS scheme was voluntary not obligatory it was "illogical" to introduce variations.
Cllr Allen said: "The judge said that our case was "arguable" and Takeley parish council agrees so we will be taking the matter further."
"BAA's comments about our desire to quash their HOSS scheme are completely misleading. We have never wanted to abolish compensation what we have sought to do is to extend it so that all property owners in our parish and other neighbouring parishes who are unable to move house or whose property has lost value can be compensated by BAA. At present neighbours in our village are divided by the 66 decibel noise contour, and this cannot be fair."
Residents in Great Easton and Duton Hill are in a similar position to those in Takeley, only eligible for compensation if they live inside the 66 decibel noise contour of the published runway site. Like Takeley, Great Easton Parish Council campaigned to have the HOSS scheme extended to the whole community.
Dennis Parker, a Great Easton parish councillor living in Duton Hill has recently received a letter from BAA assuring him that it will honour the existing HOSS scheme. Dennis said: "I would be eligible for help if I decided I needed to move but I am very unhappy that neighbours will not. In the White Paper the government placed an obligation on BAA to address general blight and this should mean helping all who live in our parish not just a few."
FLIGHT PATH ANGER LEADS TO LEGAL ACTION
Craig Robinson - News Standard - 28 March 2005
ANGRY campaigners have launched legal action against aviation bosses claiming that plans to redirect a flight path away from an area of outstanding natural beauty have not worked.
The Dedham Vale Society and barrister Tom Hill, from the nearby village of Bentley, have started civil proceedings against the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the National Air Traffic Services (NATS) following the change of the Suffolk flight paths in March last year.
The new paths were introduced when NATS earmarked a spot two miles east of Claydon for a new stack to be used to hold planes approaching Stansted Airport.
The area acts as an overflow site for the main Abbot Holding Stack above the Sudbury area with planes following a flight path from the North Sea.
In addition a new flight path north of Ipswich was created in order to increase capacity for air traffic controllers directing flights over southern East Anglia, with the beneficial side effect of relieving the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
However a year on some residents claim that very little has changed since the new paths came into operation.
They claim that if anything the Dedham Vale is experiencing more air traffic intrusion than ever before and that the new paths have simply been ignored.
Mr Hill said: "I have to confess I didn't know a lot about the flight paths until this time last year because living in Bentley it really wasn't something that affected me.
"However over the summer months I noticed a lot more aircraft activity so decided to investigate what was going on.
"When I looked into it I discovered about the airspace change and it was suggested that it would be places to the north of Ipswich that would be affected not places such as Bentley.
"That's when I thought something must have gone wrong. What was happening just didn't seem to accord with the plans.
"One of the alleged advantages of the new plans was that it would take air traffic away from the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty but this doesn't seem to have been the case.
"There were people who expressed support for the new paths at the time that wouldn't have done so if they knew what was going to happen."
Meanwhile chairman of the Dedham Vale Society Wifred Tolhurst said that if anything the number of aircraft entering the Vale had actually increased.
"We have suffered more intrusion in the past year than there ever was before," he said. "There has been more intrusive flying than in the past. It appears we have been misled over the original plans."
Katherine Blake, manager of the Dedham Vale and Stour Valley Countryside Project, added: "I don't actually live in the Vale itself so cannot comment directly but in terms of what I've been told it does seem that there is more air traffic over the area than before.
"In the initial consultations we were told that it would improve the situation but as far as I'm aware this hasn't happened."
The action has been brought primarily against the CAA because they authorised the final plans suggested by NATS.
A spokesman for the CAA said: "I can confirm that there is a civil action but as yet no date has been set. We will however be contesting the claim."
A spokesman for NATS added: "We cannot comment on the civil action because we are not the primary party concerned however I will say that in terms of airspace management the re-sectoring has been extremely successful.
"The new flight paths have reduced aircraft delays and holding in that area by more than 90%."
MORE PR TALK?
Stansted rep claims BAA will engage with community
Dunmow Broadcast - 24 March 2005
RALPH Meloy, head of public affairs for Stansted Airport, was at Dunmow's annual town meeting last Tuesday evening to outline plans for airport expansion and answer questions.
He stressed that BAA was aware that there was an information vacuum at present regarding the second runway but was very keen to enter into dialogue with the communities about the future.
He said :"The specific location of the proposed second runway will be announced in the summer. Looking for sites is enormous and complex work and we are prepared to listen and take on board views once the preferred site is suggested."
Dunmow town and district councillor John Murphy pointed out that a poll conducted by Uttlesford District Council had resulted in 89 per cent of those taking part opposing a second runway and said: "How can you convince us that you will listen in future when the 89 per cent have been ignored?"
Mr Meloy countered this by saying that a MORI poll for BAA conducted in 2003 had revealed that 57 per cent supported a second runway and refuted suggestions by councillor Murphy that the questions for that poll had been biased.
He then made the apparently contradictory statement: "We may not get planning permission but we are confident that we will". This provoked district councillor and town crier Richard Harris to say: "What we say or think does not matter because in your pocket you have influential friends."
"I suspect that if Uttlesford rejects the plans they will be passed to a higher authority where your friends will give permission."
Despite the generally hostile reception he received Mr Meloy said BAA was determined to engage with the community on the question of expansion and would be bringing a roadshow to the town once a site for a second runway had been suggested.
31 March 2005
ESSEX GREEN PARTY NEWS
Labour's Legacy: More Noise
24 March 2005
A Green Party report (www.carolinelucasmep.org.uk) published today shows how noise levels from aircraft over London and the South East have risen relentlessly under Labour and are set to get much worse as the Government continues to promote the growth of aviation.
The Government is accused of fiddling statistics on noise from jets by failing to use the World Health Organisation recommended noise level criteria and by failing to carry out up-to-date social surveys to ask people if noise bothers them
The Report by Green MEP Dr Caroline Lucas and Green London Assembly member Darren Johnson highlights problems from Heathrow jets, but the conclusions apply to the South East in general which is being overflown by ever more jets from Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and other airports. Although some jets have become less noisy, the huge increase in flights has more than offset any benefits.
Mid-Essex is now under the path of traffic not just from Stansted, but from many other airports. Residents are complaining about disturbance during the day, late into the evening, and in the small hours due to Stansted having one of the highest night time flight quotas.
The Report calls for a ban on night flights, no further airport expansion and the appointment of an Independent Regulator to monitor noise and pollution. Cllr. James Abbott, Essex Green Party Co-ordinator said:
"This welcome report confirms what many people know from experience - the skies are getting ever more noisy and this anti-environment Labour Government does not seem to care."
"I have been trying to get detailed information from airports and statutory authorities about jet numbers and noise over Essex. What information that is available is very limited and incomplete."
"The Government's support for the rapid and unsustainable expansion of aviation, with another runway planned for Stansted, guarantees that the environment over Essex will get much more noisy in years to come. But Essex faces a double whammy because not only are hundreds of thousands of more jet flights per year going to cross Essex, the level of road traffic is set to soar as the Labour Government and Tory Essex County Council build more major roads through open countryside, bringing traffic noise close to more communities."
"The main parties will no doubt barely cover these important quality of life issues during the elections. But the Greens will."
29 March 2005
MPS CHASTISE BLAIR OVER CLIMATE CHANGE
Geoffrey Lean - Independent on Sunday - 29 March 2005
Tony Blair is "wantonly squandering" Britain's leadership in the fight against gobal warming in order to pander to President Bush, a powerful cross-party committee of MPs reports today.
The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee says it is "profoundly concerned" by the PM's approach to what he called "the single most important long-term issue we face".
It comes at a particularly embarrassing time for the government, which this week had to admit that Britain's emissions of carbon dioxide - the main cause of global warming - are rising.
The committee - one of the only two in Parliament with the power to summon ministers from across Whitehall - says that the G8 and EU presidencies presented Britain with a "unique opportunity to provide leadership internationally on the issue of climate change" which poses a "potentially catastrophic effect".
But, it concludes, "the government is creating the appearance of activity while evading the harder national and international political divisions which must be made if there is to be any solution."
It takes issue with the Prime Minister's declared aims on global warming - "to further explore" the science of climate change, and develop techniques to address it - which closely reflect President Bush's own declared priorities, and calls them "dismally unambitious."
But it reserves its harshest judgement for an attempt by Mr Blair to increase the amount of carbon dioxide that can be emitted by British industry over the next three years, in defiance of a European Commission ruling that this is illegal.
It says that the Prime Minister pressed for the increase after lobbying from industry, in order to save electricity generating companies £33m a year. But it reveals this saving "pales into significance compared to "windfall profits" of £500m a year that generators stand to make.
Instead, it urges the government to base its policy on a scheme for sharing out permitted carbon emissions fairly among the world's people, proposed by the tiny London-based Global Commons Institute, a policy that is now backed by both the main opposition parties.
Peter Ainsworth MP, the chairman of the Commons committee, said last night: "The words and actions get wider and wider by the week. He is abandoning Britain's leadership on global warming at the behest of President Bush".
OUR COMMENT: The full report should be available from 29 March at www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/environmental_audit_committee.cfm
29 March 2005
ANALYSIS: THE TIGER OR THE TANK?
On the 24th (repeated on the 27th) March, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a programme during which a number of high powered experts discussed the problems of establishing a climate change abatement programme. The Report is copyright so must be read on the BBC website. Here is a summary. The discussion included comments on the conflict between transport policies, notably the encouragement of the rapid expansion in the number of cheap air flights and the need to reduce fossil fuel emissions right across all aspects of our way of life.
The Prime Minister has declared that combating climate change is one of his top two priorities for the United Kingdom's presidency of both the G8 group of advanced industrialised countries and, from July, of the European Union. But, this week's edition of Analysis asks, how can radical steps to halt degradation of the environment be made consistent with our expectations of getting ever richer?
At the moment, our environmentally damaging activities are not widely priced. Economically, we assume the future will take care of itself. So our attempts to manage climate change are limited. But these sticks are having only some effects. Carrots are needed if radical changes in the behaviour of individuals and companies are to be achieved and environmental catastrophes are to be minimised. But can the economic growth we want be made globally sustainable?
Western democracies currently expect annual growth of around three per cent each year. In rapidly industrialising economies, such as China and India, the figure can reach as high as nine per cent annually. But this fails to take account of resource depletion - whether from burning fossil fuels, cutting down trees or changing water courses.
We continue to proclaim our concern for environmental protection and for averting further degradation while the economic success which we expect exacerbates the very problems which give rise to biodiversity crises and climate change. President George H.W. Bush perhaps spoke for all rich countries, and not just the United States, when he declared at the Rio Earth summit in 1992 that "the American way of life is not up for negotiation".
In Analysis this week, Dieter Helm asks: can we go on getting richer and richer, simply assuming future generations will have the technology to solve the problems which we leave to them? But where would be the equity in our generation paying the costs which our ancestors have bequeathed to us? Do we nevertheless have to contemplate some costly and unpleasant options - such as sacrificing our addiction to cars and cheap holiday flights - to safeguard the planet?
What is your answer?
23 March 2005
CONSERVATIVES DISAGREE WITH AVIATION REPORT -
TIM YEO, SHADOW ENVIRONMENT MINISTER,
SAYS HE WAS MISUNDERSTOOD
Tories back Europe-wide tax on aviation fuel
Andrew Clark - The Guardian - 21 March 2005
Airlines say environment strategy will cost party votes
The conservatives intend to put brakes on Britain's boom in low-cost air travel by pushing for a Europe-wide tax on aviation fuel, which could lead to as much as £7 being added to the cost of airline tickets.
In an interview with the Guardian the shadow transport secretary, Tim Yeo, outlined environmental measures that will alarm airlines.
He questioned the justification for flying between London and Scotland, and said he would impose stringent financial obstacles to the construction of a new runway at Stansted airport.
Environmental organisations have long argued for a tax on aviation fuel in order to force airlines to pay for the damage they cause in harmful emissions and climate change.
Ministers from France and Germany last month suggested a Europe-wide tax of £208 per tonne of aviation fuel, which would add between £3.50 to £7 to every fare, with the proceeds to be channelled towards aid for Africa. Tony Blair opposed the measure, telling MPs he would not "slap some huge tax on cheap air travel".
In his first detailed comments on aviation policy, My Yeo said: "If I was in office on May 6th I would want to straight away talk to my colleagues in Europe about how we could make progress towards a fuel tax. Aviation has to take account of its environmental impact to a greater extent than it has done in the past."
His remarks were attacked by EasyJet, which said a tax would disproportionately hit travellers on a tight budget. Its spokesman Toby Nicol said passengers already paid £5 air passenger duty on every short haul flight, which was roughly equivalent to a 1005 tax on fuel. "The idea that airlines don't pay an environmental tax already is ridiculous", he said, "going out to the public 6 weeks before an election saying "I want to make air travel more expensive" is a surefire vote looser."
British airways and other big carriers argue instead for an emissions trading scheme, under which airlines would trade "permits" for pollution. They say this would be a better incentive towards less polluting fuel and they add that the objectives of a fuel tax could be foiled by airlines filling up with vast quantities of cheap fuel in the US and emitting more pollution as they carry it across the Atlantic.
Environmentalists privately suggested that the conservatives wanted to reach out to voters in rural areas around airports who were worried about the government's plans for runway development. Mr Yeos's South Suffolk constituency is close to Stansted. He said he would make it difficult for BAA to expand the airport by preventing it from "cross subsidising" using funds from Heathrow and Gatwick.
But Friends of the Earth aviation campaigner Paul de Zylva said: "I think the public is increasingly recognising that it is absolutely absurd for airlines to get away with paying less than 20p a litre for jet fuel". The group wants the duty to be set at the same rate imposed on motorists, which, if translated to ticket prices, would put £20 on a short haul journey and up to £120 on a transatlantic flight.
Passenger numbers on flights between Britain and the rest of Europe went from 51m in 1993 to 97m in 2003.
Mr Yeo said he wanted airlines to print information about environmental emissions on every ticket. He said: "No one can say they are serious about being interested in addressing climate change without addressing aviation. If you are going to go from London to Glasgow, the environmental impact is, often less if you drive".
MR YEO YESTERDAY DENIED A NEWSPAPER REPORT THAT
HE HAD CALLED FOR A EUROPE WIDE TAX ON AVIATION FUEL
Financial Times - 22 March 2005
He said he had been misquoted and was instead talking about how to bring aviation within the EU's emissions trading regime.
OUR COMMENT: A pity - he was apparently talking rather more positively than recent government pronouncements. Such policies are badly needed in view of today's news.
23 March 2005
GOOD NEWS OR BAD NEWS?
UK emissions rise 'within target'
Richard Black , Environment Correspondent - BBC News
Transport is a growing emissions sector
Britain's emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, rose by 2.2% in the year 2002-2003, according to new government data just released.
Environmental groups have accused ministers of failing to control greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon dioxide emissions in 2003 were higher than when Labour came to power. But the output of other greenhouse gases is falling, meaning that Britain is still on course to meet its Kyoto Protocol targets - just.
One reason behind the rise in emissions was the changing cost of basic fuels; the price of coal fell by 8% during the year, while gas rose by roughly the same amount.
But data also show that emissions from certain sectors - notably housing and transport - have been steadily rising for years.
"In overall terms, the figures are encouraging and put the UK ahead of most developed countries," said environment minister Elliot Morley in a statement.
"It is disappointing that there has been an increase in carbon dioxide emissions."
The various greenhouse gases vary widely in their "global warming potential" - the relative amount of warming produced by a given amount of the gas.
Comparing the volume of various gases would be meaningless; instead, scientists combine the volume with the global warming potential and express it in units called MtC - million tonnes of carbon equivalent.
Between 1997, when Labour came to power, and 2003, Britain's output of the three most important greenhouse gases has been:
Carbon dioxide - up from 153.9 to 156.1 MtC
Methane - down from 16.6 to 11.1 MtC
Nitrous Oxide - down from 16.6 to 11.0 MtC
Emissions of greenhouse gases in total are now 13.4% below 1990 levels, the baseline against which Kyoto Protocol targets are measured; Britain's target is 12.5%.
But carbon dioxide emissions have fallen by only 5.6%. The government admits it will fail to meet a unilateral target, contained in Labour's manifesto for the 1997 election, of reducing CO2 by 20% from 1990 levels by the year 2010.
According to Friends of the Earth (FoE) UK, efforts to tackle climate change are "a disaster".
"Government failure to tackle climate change is even worse than feared," said the climate campaigner for FoE UK, Bryony Worthington.
"Unless the government takes control of UK emissions and starts delivering substantial year-on-year reductions, its 20% target will be impossible to reach."
The heart of the problem is that although CO2 emissions from industry have fallen - partly as a result of measures like the Climate Change Levy, a pollution tax - they are rising from other sectors.
Since 1990, residential emissions have risen by 11%, while the road transport contribution is up 8%.
The government is currently reviewing its climate change programme and is expected to announce new measures in the summer. These may include the introduction of renewable energy into the transport sector.
OUR COMMENT: What should also have been included is the fact that between 1990 and 2002 CO2 emissions rose by 7% from road transport and by 35% from domestic air transport. Greenhouse gases from domestic aviation also rose by a similar amount.
(Source: Review of the Climate Change - Govt. Consultation Paper - Dec. 2004)
23 March 2005
EMISSIONS - CONCERNS RECOGNISED EVEN IN THE USA
Emissions by airliners leave Europe and U.S. split
Don Phillips - International Herald Tribune - 19 March 2005
Europe and the United States politely but firmly disagreed Friday on the best way to deal with worldwide calls for airlines to cut emissions and noise, although both sides agreed that government action has the potential to harm aviation while doing little practical good.
The first worldwide conference on aviation and the environment covered a wide range of issues, including some that the industry considers more emotional than real.
The conference, which brought together major airline and airport groups with government officials, produced no solutions to growing popular and official pressure to do even more to cut emissions and noise. The only agreement seemed to be that something must be done.
"The pressure for improving environmental issues is not going to change," said Andrew Sentance, chief economist for British Airways. "We have to do more in managing the tradeoffs."
Many speakers said airlines were subject to irrational public perceptions, and that those perceptions sometimes guided government decisions. And there was general agreement that the industry was worried that perceptions rather than facts may guide public policy.
"I am concerned that the tide of public opinion is running against our industry," said Robert Aaronson, director general of the Airports Council International, one of several groups that sponsored the two-day meeting.
It was clear from conference sessions that public pressure is now greater in Europe than in the United States, although U.S. and European governments received rare words of defense from the chief executive of British Airways, Rod Eddington.
"Europe is the most energetic center of action, and the U.S. appears to be the home of the skeptics," Eddington said. "And yet when we probe beneath the surface, this is something of a caricature. When it comes to practical steps to tackle climate change, many European policy makers share business concerns that we will be put at a commercial disadvantage.
"Meanwhile, in the U.S., there is much more action on climate change at the state level, and businesses are starting to develop programs of voluntary action in anticipation of future policy decisions," he said.
Carl Burleson, director of the Office of Environment and Energy at the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, said he was encouraged by some of the talk he had heard at the conference about being careful in taking sweeping actions. But he said that differences remained between the two continents.
Burleson also said that new information indicates that the natural tendency of the Earth may be toward greater swings in climate change than many had thought.
"It is difficult to make rational decisions when there is such uncertainty," he said. Sentance said comments by Burleson and others made it clear that the greatest danger of irrational decisions was in Europe rather than the United States.
"The airlines in Europe are caught in the middle," Sentance said. "Change won't come fast enough for European policy makers."
The conference also made clear that the United States has much greater control over air traffic and airport decisions than do the countries of Europe. Although there is now a Europewide air traffic management body, Eurocontrol, it does not yet have the power over national and local decisions that the U.S. agency has.
"The regulator is also the air traffic services provider" in the United States, Burleson said. "Our system works fairly well."
23 March 2005
A QUESTION THAT NEEDS AN ANSWER
BBC On-line "Have Your Say" - 20 March 2005
Stansted only works because flying is cheap: today Budget passenger flights succeed because it is a cheaper form of transport than road or rail and not because it's a pleasant experience.
Air freight operates at a distinct advantage over any other form because the fuel isn't taxed. Budget airlines now carry freight in preference to baggage because it is a lucrative business and costs them nothing extra.
We have high and unstable oil prices, but priced in US Dollars which is weak against the Pound, and OPEC have an interest in keeping the price high to preserve it's trading position in Europe. Oil is a diminishing resource that will cost more and more to extract. When oil gets more expensive in real terms, and the Dollar recovers, I wonder what will happen to cheap flights and budget airlines?
More expensive flights means fewer passengers, and half empty aircraft means higher ticket prices. A vicious circle begins leading to fewer flights, and with less freight which will cost more leading to competition from surface carriers. When flying is seen as expensive Stansted will rapidly decline.
23 March 2005
BA INITIATES INEVITABLE PRICE RISE
BA hikes fares to fight fuel costs
Oliver Morgan and Heather Stewart - The Observer - 20 March 2005
£3 surcharge forced by record high oil price · Branson's Virgin Atlantic likely to follow suit
British Airways is set to lead a fresh round of fuel surcharge increases on air fares in the wake of the recent surge in oil prices.
BA's move, expected this week, is likely to be followed by similar measures by Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic, which has ratcheted up surcharges in step with the Heathrow-based airline.
News of the increases comes after a week in which oil prices hit a record $57 high, despite Opec's decision to pump half a million more barrels a day. It is widely expected to add another half million as soon as this week.
Britain's businesses, which faced inflation-busting increases in their energy bills in 2004, are also warning that high crude prices will hit their bottom line. 'UK industry is already paying higher energy costs than other countries in the EU,' said Mark Swift, spokesman for the Engineering Employers' Federation.
BA introduced a £2.50 surcharge per flight in May last year, increasing it to £6 for long-haul flights in August and £10 for long-haul and £4 for short-haul in October, when oil was at $53 a barrel. A further increase of about £3 is expected. Virgin's charge is £10 for long-haul flights.
An industry source said: 'With prices this high another increase in the surcharge is unavoidable. British Airways is likely to lead the way on this, and it is likely to be promptly followed by Virgin.'
BA told investors earlier this month that higher oil prices would push its fuel bill up by some £300 million to close to £1.5 billion in the coming financial year. In November BA said surcharges would recoup some £160m of costs.
It has hedged 60 per cent of its fuel requirements at $36 a barrel from April to June, 50 per cent at $37 from July to December and 30 per cent at $40 from January to March next year.
Opec's failure to mitigate the price spike indicated its weakening grip on global oil markets, said Ray Holloway of the UK-based Petrol Retailers' Association. 'It shows you that Opec as a cartel is neutered - they're at the peak of their production output,' he said. Holloway predicted that Britain's motorists would see petrol pump prices soar to 87p a litre this summer, as rocketing crude prices were exacerbated by strong demand for petrol products from the US.
Kevin Norrish, oil analyst at Barclays Capital, said prices could decline over the next few weeks, but would pick up again later in the year, as demand accelerated. 'The fourth quarter looks quite scary.'
But Digby Jones, director-general of the CBI, said he was confident that UK Plc could withstand the oil spike. 'If this had happened in the 1970s, we would have had the IMF at the door by lunchtime.'
Benchmark West Texas Intermediate closed at $57.04 a barrel in New York on Thursday, finishing the week at $56.85 after speculators cashed in profits.
OUR COMMENT: And, why not air fares? Motorists have to pay extra. No one suggests that this is hard on low earners. Oil is a limited commodity and is and will be responsible for many more extra costs from increasing climate change, unless the government initiates effective action on rising transport emissions, action that is fair to all but curbs the use of fossil fuels.
Start by discouraging the building of new runways! That will actually save money!
23 March 2005
EERA MAKES ITS VIEWS CLEAR
'More cash needed' to support housing
Cambridge News - 19 March 2005
REGIONAL Assembly chiefs have sent a united message to John Prescott 'Give us the cash to build roads, schools and health centres or we will refuse to build houses'.
The East of England Regional Assembly (EERA) met yesterday at Cambridge Science Park for an emergency meeting to discuss a growing rift with the Government over funding for infrastructure.
EERA is currently working on a regional structure plan for the East which includes nearly half a million new houses. It has asked the Government for 1.5 billion to provide infrastructure such as roads, railways lines, doctor surgeries, schools and other community facilities.
But the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has only offered to pay around 450 million for a variety of projects so the assembly has temporarily withdrawn its support for the regional strategy.
Since the last assembly meeting in December last year the Government has announced some extra funding for infrastructure including the upgrading of the A428 between Cambridge and Cambourne and money for growth areas around cities but members say it is still not enough.
EERA chair Sue Sida-Lockett said: "People are very grateful for the money the Government has pledged but there are a lot of concerns that there is a huge infrastructure deficit across the whole of the region and not just in growth areas.
"We have made an infrastructure bid which is based on our needs; the money we have received is going towards those needs but it is not adequate.
"We will continue to lobby our MPs to try and make sure that the infrastructure deficit is addressed. If the Government doesn't come up with the funding and the jobs don't turn up then we will not build the houses. The regional assembly is standing firm and is insisting we can't go ahead with the plan unless we get the funding, that is a cross party decision from all local authorities in the region."
Alan Moore, the head of regional planning for EERA, said: "Our message to the Government has always been that we recognise the pressures on them but unless we get the funding we can't deliver the houses.
"We can't have a 10-year lag between development and the infrastructure coming behind it. We would have chaos.
"There would be increasing congestion, delays and accidents on the roads and if the schools and health centres weren't there it would just be an impossible situation.
"The Government has shown us that it is starting to listen and it has increased its funding but it's still not enough we will fight for the best interests of the region."
WATER RESOURCES REINFORCE THE PROBLEMS THAT WOULD ARISE IF TOO MANY HOUSES ARE BUILT - AND TOO MANY RUNWAYS AS WELL
Water firms threaten hosepipe ban
BBC News - 22 March 2005
Reservoirs are as much as 40% under expected capacity
Hosepipe bans may have to be introduced because the winter has been unusually dry, gardeners have been warned.
The Environment Agency said in the past four months southern England had had just three quarters of normal rainfall.
With the peak gardening season about to begin, the Agency is urging restraint in watering lawns and flowerbeds.
It said a dry April would make restrictions in the South West, the Midlands and East Anglia more likely.
Some reservoirs are just 56% full, compared with a usual 95% for this time of year.
Meyrick Gough of Southern Water said it had been one of the driest winters on record.
"We do need about another four to six weeks of rain before our reservoirs really respond and come back up to full water level," he said.
"We're really asking our customers to be aware of the dry winter and to use water wisely and not to waste it. It's not a renewable resource."
Southern Water may have to ban hosepipes if dry weather continued, he added.
A spokesman for Thames Water said there was a strong possibility it would have to impose its first hosepipe ban since 1990.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England has called for "across the board" efficiencies to tackle shortages, particularly in light of plans to build thousands of new homes in the south.
"There's a lot that can be done with regulations to try and improve water efficiency, especially with new developments," spokesman Edward Dawson told BBC News.
"We could introduce much lower flush toilets, lower flush showers and lower flush taps - they all help to try and reduce the consumption that we have from our customers."
A spokeswoman for the Environment Agency said that while rainfall had been relatively low all over England and Wales, the drop in reservoir levels had not been seen everywhere.
It was unlikely that restrictions would have to be imposed in northern parts of England or Wales, she added.
OUR COMMENT: The East of England is the driest area in the UK. Concerns have been expressed in the Sustainability Appraisal of the draft East of England Plan about water supplies for all the houses in the Plan. Concerns have also been expressed about the requirements of an expanded Stansted airport.
18 March 2005
SOME REACTIONS TO THE BROWN SCENARIO
Eddington will jet in as blue skies thinker
Andrew Clark - The Guardian - 17 March 2005
The outgoing chief executive of British Airways, Rod Eddington, is to advise ministers on long-term sustainable transport policy in Britain - while commuting from Melbourne, Australia.
When he retires from BA in September, Mr Eddington will live in Australia but will travel to London regularly to counsel the Department for Transport and the Treasury on the impact of transport decisions on Britain's productivity and stability beyond 2015.
His appointment was greeted with raised eyebrows among transport experts, who pointed out that the prime minister already gets advice on "blue-sky" transport thinking from the former BBC director-general Lord Birt. Senior fig ures in the transport industry suggested that Gordon Brown and the transport secretary, Alistair Darling, were keen to build an alternative policy power base to rival the Downing Street strategy unit.
In his budget speech, the chancellor said transport expenditure had doubled since 1997 and would rise by a further £2.4bn this year. Against this background, Mr Brown said it was "right to examine Britain's long-term needs and priorities" with the help of Mr Eddington.
During his five years running BA, Mr Eddington has made unfavourable comparisons between transport infrastructure in Britain and in his previous homes, Australia and Hong Kong.
In a speech to the Aviation Club he attacked Britain's historic culture of "managed decline" and asked why the high level of public debate was not matched with decisive action.
Speaking at BA's annual results presentation last month, Mr Eddington said Britain's transport infrastructure was in urgent need of investment: "If businesses are to survive here, if the quality of people's lives is to improve, the hard and soft infrastructure in the UK has to be maintained and advanced.
"In terms of hard infrastructure that means road, rail, ports and airports. In terms of soft infrastructure, the health system, the education system and the rule of law."
The Freight Transport Association said it was difficult to see what Mr Eddington could bring.
The association's chief executive, Richard Turner, said: "He seems to be being asked to look at what industry might need at some indeterminate time in the future. However, the whole of UK industry is wrestling with the weaknesses of our transport system here and now."
Environmentalists expressed dismay at the government's choice of an airline boss as an adviser. Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth, said: "Commuting between Melbourne and London is hardly a shining example of a green travel plan.
"If his personal arrangements are to be an example of government policy, we're deeply worried."
A GLIMMER OF BLUE SKIES
Airline boss urges responsibility on climate
Environment Daily 1843 - 17 March 2005
British Airways chief Rod Eddington has called on the global aviation
industry to cut its climate change impacts or risk governments imposing
new taxes. Speaking in Geneva, Mr Eddington said his company supported
emissions trading as "the most economically and environmentally
effective" way forward. Not all airlines support this view.
Only if the industry defines and promotes such a response will it
avoid "damaging and punitive" tax proposals, such as French president
Jacques Chirac's call for an aviation tax to help fund African
development, he said.
See press release
18 March 2005
TIM YEO: CONSERVATIVES TO CUT TAX
ON LEAST POLLUTING CARS
Speech to the Council for Sustainable Energy - 15 March 2005
Tim Yeo, the Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, launched the Conservative Party's Action Plan to tackle climate change and detail a Conservative road map to achieving a low carbon economy for Britain.
A Conservative Climate Change Policy would focus on two challenges. Firstly, getting Britain back on track to meet it's targets . Secondly, securing international agreement on the way forward post Kyoto. The strategy will mix targets and trade, focusing on:
* Increasing the Accountability of Government. Long term targets will be broken down into shorter term milestones. The role of the Environmental Audit Committee will be strengthened. The Government will be required to publish an annual report on progress in reducing Carbon emissions.
* Giving much greater prominence to energy efficiency. The Energy Efficiency Committment will be expanded and transformed from a closed shop into a dynamic market based mechanism Existing regulatory standards will be more rigorously reinforced. A road map towards zero emissions on new homes will be developed with industry.
* Sending much stronger signals to business and consumers.
* Rewarding millions of environmentally responsible motorists by cutting Vehicle Excise Duty for low pollution cars. The first budget of a Conservative Government would reduce Vehicle Excise Duty in Band C (C02 range 166-185) from £145 to £135. Band B (Co2 range 151-165) would be reduced from £125 to £110. Band A (Co2 range 121-150) would be reduced from £105 to £85. Band AA (CO2 range 101-120) would be reduced from £75 to £10. The least polluting band AAA (Co2 range below 100) would pay no Vehicle Excise Duty compared to £65 today.
* Doubling of Grants programme to reward purchase of the least polluting cars and the fitting of emission reducing equipment.
* Introduction of colour coded car tax disks to make clearer link with impact on environment.
* Support for inclusion of aviation into an EU emissions trading scheme as stepping stone towards a global scheme.
* Pursuit of an EU voluntary agreement to give air passengers the same level of information on emissions per journey as car buyers get on emissions per car model.
* Changes in Planning guidance to support Sustainability.
* Support for a wider portfolio of renewable energy.
* Encouraging the EU to seize the opportunity to shape and sell a post Kyoto framework.
Speaking of his personal commitment to the Environment and real concern with the growing evidence of the impact of global warming, Mr Yeo called for an end to warm words and criticise the Government for its addiction to rhetoric and targets without a coherent and credible plan of action. Conservatives 'will not fall into the same trap'.
He denounced the Prime Minister for allowing carbon emissions to rise under his watch, for undermining the European Emissions Trading System, and most importantly, for failing to provide crucial leadership by example and damaging Britain's credibility at international level.
"The Conservative party wants Britain to put its house in order and, together with the EU, seize an historic opportunity of leadership on climate change."
"Reduced Carbon emissions need not come at the expense of economic development . We must become more efficient in our use of energy and develop the markets for technology that can transform our use of natural resources. To engage business and consumers we must talk less of cost and sacrifice and more of benefits and opportunities."
18 March 2005
AIR POLLUTION CAUSES EARLY DEATHS
POLLUTION CAN PENETRATE DEEP INTO THE BODY
Air pollution is responsible for 310,000 premature deaths
in Europe each year, research suggests
A study by the European Commission, published at the end of February, calculated that air pollution reduces life expectancy by an average of almost nine months across the European Union
Poor quality air is thought to result in more than 32,000 premature deaths in the UK each year alone.
Experts say many of these deaths could be avoided if measures were put in place to cut pollution levels.
Premature deaths due to particulate matter
Czech Republic 7,996
The figures show every European takes on average half a day off sick a year due to illnesses linked to air pollution - costing the economy more than 80bn euros (£5.5bn).
The main threat to health is posed by tiny particles known as particulate matter, which can penetrate deep into the respiratory tissue, and even directly into the bloodstream.
They are emitted by traffic (particularly diesel engines), industry and domestic heating.
Ozone produced when sunlight reacts with pollutants emitted by vehicle exhausts is also a major cause of respiratory disease.
There are major variations between member states in terms of air pollution.
The situation is the worst in Benelux area, Northern Italy, and new member states such as Poland and Hungary.
Lost life expectancy is worst in Belgium, where on average people lose 13.6 months of life, and the Netherlands, at 12.7 months.
The Finns are the least affected, losing just 3.1 months on average, followed by the Irish at 3.9 months.
The European Commission is to try to reduce the threat to health by adopting a new strategy on air pollution from May.
Barbara Helfferich, an environment spokesperson for the Commission, told the BBC: "There are number of ways of doing this. We can reduce burning of fossil fuel, we can use alternative energy sources, we can restrict traffic in inner cities."
Professor Andrew Peacock, of the British Thoracic Society, said: "We have known for some time that high levels of air pollution have a direct link to respiratory illnesses."
"We would urge for this subject area to be looked into further and for the government to continue working with others to minimise pollution levels in this country."
A spokesperson for the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs said: "The government takes air pollution very seriously and we monitor air pollution levels very carefully.
"Local authorities now have action plans to tackle pollution hotspots, and we have tighter controls to cut industrial emissions."
"In general the long-term trend shows air quality is getting better, but there is still a lot to do to achieve even cleaner air, requiring local, national, and international action."
The spokesman said four Air Quality Strategy targets - for lead, carbon monoxide, benzene and 1,3-butadiene - had been met.
The UK climate change programme was also being reviewed. This is intended to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, but will also impact on levels of nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and particles.
OUR COMMENT: Aviation emissions are one of the main causes of air pollution round airports, notably Heathrow, but any airport is at risk and regular monitoring is required. Nitrogen dioxide is the main hazard and, together with other volatile organic chemicals will , especially in summer, combine to produce ozone. This may be a desirable gas in the outer atmosphere, protecting the earth from too much ultra violet radiation, but down below, where we live, it acts as an irritant, like nitrogen dioxide.
To date, Stansted levels of nitrogen dioxide have kept below statutory levels outside the airport, but they have been predicted to rise as traffic increases. The government is confident that better management and technological improvements will prevent this from happening. Soon we shall find out what BAA's predictions are for full use of the present runway when their environmental impact assessment for their application to expand to 35/40 mppa is published.
Within the airport levels at various places will be higher. However, for the public, maximum exposure levels are based on a year long exposure, and for employees, work levels are higher, based on an 8 hour day. These levels are meant to allow for the fact that some individuals may be especially sensitive, or may already suffer from chest complaints.
The Commission's study puts the blame mainly on particles, which are emitted more by HGVs and diesel cars. However, the chemistry of the formation of particles and their relationship with the other emissions from fossil fuel engines needs more analysis, especially around airports and in particular those in the country such as Stansted. Recent work has shown that secretions from plants and trees can increase the amount of ozone formed, especially in the summer. Our Local Authority is monitoring ozone and the levels reached will be important this summer as the number of flights increases.
As we have maintained, there is a limit to the size of any airport that can be tolerated both by the local environment and by the health of those living around the airport. We are reaching that limit with Stansted - many consider the limit has already been reached.
18 March 2005
THE EAST OF ENGLAND PLAN
Resounding 'no' to 123,000 homes bid
The Dunmow Broadcast - 17 March 2005
ESSEX County Council's consultation on the East of England Regional Assembly's draft plan for the London -Stansted -M11 corridor has revealed that more than 90 per cent of those taking part are against the proposals for 123,400 new homes to be built in Essex.
Parish and town councils and a number of other stakeholders were asked for their views which are included in Essex County Council's response which was sent to the East of England Regional Assembly this week.
The greatest concerns expressed were about pressures on public services, the road network and hospitals closely followed by fears for the environmental impact of such development, particularly the loss of open space and the impact of building on flood plains.
The ten per cent who supported the development wanted to give the highest priority to affordable homes particularly for key workers.
County councillor Peter Martin, spokesman for Planning, Enterprise and Regeneration, said: "In all of our public meetings there has been great and frankly very justified concern about how the public sector could cope with the impact of the level of development that the government is proposing. We already have massive underfunding of public transport in this county and I don't want to see that level of under funding spreading to other services."
Leader of Essex County Council Lord Hanningfield said: "One of the key reasons for Essex's economic growth in recent years is that the county really is a great place to live and work. I'm concerned that the level of development proposed by government, particularly without the dramatic investment in infrastructure needed, will harm the quality of life in Essex and could make the county less appealing to inward investment."
17 March 2005
SUSTAINABLE AVIATION AND EU LEADERSHIP
Important Seminar, today, 17 March
Organised by SERA, The Labour Environmental Group
Venue: The Commonwealth Club
As the EU has formally recognised growth in air transport is now outstripping environmental improvements from new technology and the industry's considerable own efforts. From 1960-1970, an annual technology induced fuel efficiency improvement of 6.5% was achieved. This rate fell to 1.9% during the period 1980-2000. Looking ahead, as the industry itself has acknowledged the scope for further improvements in fiel efficiency continues to diminish.
Against this technology background, air travel has seen substantial growth in the EU over the last twenty years, growing at a faster rate than any other transport mode. In terms of passenger-kilometres, traffic increased by an average of 7.4% a year between the year 1980 and 2001, while traffic at the airports of the EU-15 Member States increased five-fold since 1970. Despite the impact on air transport of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attack, the trend rate of air traffic growth is expected to make a robust recovery.
Across the EU, the aviation industry is seeking a "license to grow". In the UK, the government has recently published its UK Aviation White Paper, proposing substantial growth in UK airport capacity, including 2 new runways in the South East of England over the next 30 years. Across the EU, proposals for airport growth sit alongside highly ambitious environmental challenges, notably on noise, local air quality, and climate change:
* On noise, EU political momentum is growing for improved targeting of night time noise, reflected in the political decision to attach a "factor 10" weighting to the disturbance caused by night noise
* On local air quality, the health based limits set by EU air quality directives, particularly in respect of NOx emissions, may rightly prevent growth of certain airports, including London Heathrow
* On climate change, taxes, emissions charges, and emissions trading have all been floated by the European Commission and EU member states as potential mechanisms for addressing aviation's rapidly growing climate impact
Climate change in particular poses major challenges to the aviation sector. The EU's publicly stated long-term climate change policy objective is: "a long-term objective of a maximum global temperature increase of 2° Celsius over pre-industrial levels… In the longer term this is likely to require a global reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases by 70% as compared to 1990, as identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)"v. Building on this, the UK and Swedish Governments have already made commitments to a target of 60% CO2 emissions reductions against 1990 levels by 2050, and have called on other EU member states to follow suit, to help shape the post-Kyoto international climate negotiations.
In the year 2000, UK aviation already accounted for approximately 11% of the UK's total climate impact. As the graph below shows, without policy action, aviation is projected - on mid range estimates - to grow to occupy about 50% of the UK's entire climate budget by 2050viii. Considering the EU as a whole gives a similar picture. Finally, recent scientific developments indicate that aviation's climate impact needs to be revised upwards, heightening the challenge still further.
The SERA seminar discussion is to consider the role of EU leadership in furthering sustainable aviation. The seminar is aimed at 20 high quality decision-makers and opinion-formers, including:
* UK Secretary of State for Transport or other UK Government Minister (tbc)
* A select number of other politicians from Europe
* Some key stakeholders from both industry and NGOs
Discussion will be structured around the following three key themes:
* Predict and provide or sustainable aviation - which way are we heading? What are the key targets or outcomes we should be aiming to deliver?
* Tackling aviation's climate change impact - should airport growth be made conditional on climate performance, as is already the case for local air quality? What role for taxes, charges, and EU emissions trading?
* Night flights and night noise - what are the priorities?
SERA priorities and specific event objectives
SERA's priority is to help build EU agreement:
* On the need for some form of credible EU policy intervention
* On the urgent need to agree climate targets for the EU aviation sector - targets in line with the spirit and environmental credibility of the Kyoto Protocol, that take effect no later than 2008
* On a way forward that ensures all airline emissions are targeted, not simply those of EU airlines, and that is consistent with longer term EU public policy objectives on climate change
The specific event objectives are to:
* Build EU political momentum on sustainable aviation and climate change in particular
* Develop a short SERA paper, taking into account the general themes of the dinner discussion, on policies for sustainable aviation. This will be submitted at both UK and EU level in the context of current reviews of UK and EU climate policy, and would also be made available to participants of the dinner.
This proposal is timely, given that addressing aviation's climate impact is a declared priority of the UK's EU presidency in the latter half of 2005. As yet, there is no consensus across the EU on the best way of tackling aviation's climate impact. The UK government's public position is to prioritize bringing intra-EU flights within the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS), with blunter instruments the fall back approach if progress with EU emissions trading proves too slow.
As our name suggests, SERA - the Labour Environment Campaign - seeks to ensure economic, social and environmental concerns are addressed together. We have an established track record of bridging the environmental and social justice movements - and, more specifically, in chairing seminar discussions and facilitating seminars that bring together industry, government, and NGO representatives at the highest level.
Our core membership includes several MEPs, UK Government Ministers and over 100 MPs which, together with our Executive Committee, maintains our reputation for technical expertise and political insight, and as a valued "critical friend".
17 March 2005
WHAT DID GORDON BROWN SAY IN THE BUDGET?
Budget Statement - 16 March 2005
Mr Deputy Speaker, having doubled transport investment since 1997, and with the railways carrying more than 1 billion passengers last year, it is right to examine Britain's long term needs and priorities. And the Transport Secretary is announcing today that the outgoing Chief Executive of British Airways Rod Eddington will work with his Department and the Treasury in this task.
So having announced decisions on investment I come to my decisions on tax.
I have examined rates of corporation tax and capital gains tax. I have no need to raise them so I propose to freeze rates.
On air passenger duty, I will freeze rates.
On insurance premium tax, I propose to freeze rates.
On the climate change levy and the aggregates levy, I will freeze rates.
On company car tax, I will freeze rates. .....
I will maintain the duty differential for rebated oils as we continue to tackle oils fraud and tax evasion but because of the sustained volatility in the oil market, for the third successive budget I will this year defer this and the usual inflation increase for fuel duty until September 1st.
For environmental reasons, I will continue, for three years, the lower duties planned for natural gas, bioethanol, biodiesel and liquified petroleum gas.
While implementing the normal inflation rise for vehicle excise duty, there will be no increase for medium sized and small cars which are more environmentally efficient -
OUR COMMENT: More talk, more promises, but no action , just future hopes of technological fixes, as yet unproven plus the help of BA's Rod Eddington!
17 March 2005
BROWN CALLS FOR ACTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE
Press Release - Friends of the Earth - 15 March 2005
The Chancellor today warned a roundtable of international energy
and environment ministers that economic growth cannot ignore the
environment. He called for international action on climate
change, which he described as " the most far-reaching - almost
certainly the most threatening - of all the environmental
challenges facing us " and said it should also be an issue for
finance and economic ministries.
Friends of the Earth welcomed today's speech, but warned Gordon
Brown that the UK must do more to show international leadership on
the issue, including meeting the Government's own targets for
cutting carbon dioxide levels. CO2 levels have not fallen since
Labour came to power and the Government is not on track to meet
its promise of cutting carbon dioxide by 20 per cent of 1990
levels by 2010. The environmental group challenged the Chancellor
to demonstrate his commitment to tackling the problem by putting
global warming at the heart of tomorrow's Budget.
Friends of the Earth's director Tony Juniper said:
"This speech by Gordon Brown is crucially important. The world
cannot afford to continue to ignore environmental issues in its
pursuit of economic growth . Unless we take urgent action it
will be too late. The Chancellor must now seize the initiative by
announcing measures in his Budget to tackle global warming and
establish the UK as genuine leader on fighting this issue.
"Climate change is the biggest danger the planet faces. The world
must embrace the opportunities offered by renewable energy, energy
efficiency and new technologies and move away from coal, oil and
gas . If we don't adapt to the challenges we face , the
terrible consequences will be felt by generations to come."
Gordon Brown's promise to explore how Government and business can
remove barriers to the development of energy services markets in
His challenge to industry to put in place a long-term framework to
meet our climate change goals in the most cost-effective way .
TAX INCENTIVES PLAN TO BURY CARBON DIOXIDE EMISSIONS
Charles Clover, Environment Editor - Dailty Telegraph - 16 March 2005
Gordon Brown said yesterday he was considering tax incentives for firms to capture their carbon dioxide emissions and store them underground.
The Chancellor told a meeting of energy and environment ministers from 20 countries, organised as part of Britain's presidency of the G8, that accelerated climate change was a threat to the global economy and tackling it should be central to economic policy.
Mr Brown said new technologies such as the capture of carbon dioxide emissions in used oil and gas wells were likely to be crucial to tackling climate change, particularly for economies such as China.
The Treasury would now be examining economic incentives to encourage carbon capture, which he said had the potential to bring about a "step change" in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Britain has pledged to reduce them by 50 per cent by 2050.
Oil companies in Norway have found that pumped carbon dioxide can be used successfully to "wash" remaining deposits of oil and gas out of the rock strata in which it is held but there is controversy over whether the gas remains in the rock strata long term.
There are also difficulties involved in pumping the carbon dioxide from coal-fired power stations out to sea.
James Connaughton, an environmental adviser to President Bush, who attended the meeting, said America was committed to dealing with the "serious" issue of global warming but that work was still required to determine to what extent it was caused by human activities.
He said: "The President, working very closely with Tony Blair and other leaderships around the world, has been working to lead a dialogue in addressing this very important issue of climate change. The science is serious enough to treat the issue as seriously as we are now treating it. That's why the US has stayed at the table, working to design new strategies to address the issue."
His remarks on Radio 4's Today programme were criticised by Lord May, chairman of the Royal Society, who said: "The Bush administration appears to be out on a limb on climate change and in disagreement with its own scientific advisers."
Mr Brown did not mention nuclear power, which many believe the Government will be forced to act on if it wins the election, possibly building new power stations.
He did, however, make two references to "energy security", which many experts believe is the same thing.
Liu Jiang, the Chinese energy minister, was less coy, promising his country would soon be one of the world's biggest markets for nuclear power, which it would satisfy with its own new design of pressurised water reactor.
17 March 2005
TAKELEY CARRIES ON THE FIGHT
Takeley Parish Council renews claim for judicial review
of BAA's HOSS compensation scheme
Press Release - Takeley Parish Council - 14 March 2005
Takeley Parish Council has applied to the High Court for an oral hearing to
consider its application for Judicial Review of the BAA compensation scheme
relating to generalised blight around Stansted which has resulted from
airport expansion proposals and the publication of the Air Transport White
If successful at the oral hearing for which no date has yet been given,
Takeley Parish Council will then be allowed to proceed to full Judicial
Review of BAA's Home Owner Support Scheme (HOSS).
The application follows the court's initial refusal to allow the original
claim to proceed based on a perceived illogicality in asking the legal
system to compel changes to what it saw as a voluntary compensation scheme.
However, barristers for Takeley Parish Council which is aiming to secure an
extension to the HOSS to the wider catchment affected by generalised
blight - some 12,000 homes compared with the 500 covered by BAA's Home Owner
Support Scheme - say that to focus on the voluntary nature of the code is to
ignore the reality of the case. They have therefore asked for the
opportunity to put their grounds for application to the High Court in
Charles George QC and James Pereira, acting for claimants Takeley Parish
Council, Trevor Allen and Michael Mew, make clear in the Grounds for Renewal
of Application for Judicial Review submitted to the High Court on Friday (11
March 2005) that in order for BAA to acquire consent to the runway it will
be required to comply with Government policy. This in turn requires the
airport developer to adopt a compensation scheme that meets the requirements
of the White Paper. If BAA fails to do so, there is no real prospect of the
runway being approved.
It follows, say the parish council's legal advisers, that in practice the
adoption of a compensation code is not optional, but an essential
requirement if the runway is to proceed. If the existing code were quashed,
there are only two possible consequences. Either a lawful code will be
adopted so that the generalised blight caused by the runway proposal can be
compensated. Or no code will be adopted, the runway proposals will not
proceed and the blight will subside. Neither consequence is illogical.
Both have a real practical value for the claimants and others whose property
is currently blighted.
BAA has so far sought to minimise compensation payments by refusing to
entertain claims from home-owners whose properties lie outside a very
tightly defined 66 dBA Leq (decibel) noise contour, despite clear evidence
of property blight over a much wider area. Many householders beyond the
HOSS perimeter have been unable to sell their homes despite repeated
viewings because of fears about the impacts of airport expansion amongst
prospective purchasers. Latest Land Registry statistics for example, show
that the volume of property sales in the vicinity of the airport is at its
lowest level for 14 quarters.
Takeley Parish Council has been spearheading the fight to extend the HOSS to
ensure the needs of its own parishioners are addressed as well as those of
people from other communities who are suffering from exclusion from the
scheme. Financial support from a number of other affected parishes towards
the legal challenge has already been forthcoming, with further offers of
Trevor Allen, Takeley Parish Council Chairman, made clear that his parish
would continue to do everything in its power to secure an extension of the
compensation scheme to those who were affected by generalised blight.
"It is wholly unacceptable for BAA to crow with delight at the prospect of
having to compensate a mere scattering of families when it is patently clear
that thousands more are affected by the company's self-interested plans. I'm surprised that Stansted Airport's management can sleep at night when their
firm's selfishness is causing such hardship and anxiety to so many local
people. BAA's actions are clearly out of step with those of a company which
takes its responsibility to the community seriously."
14 March 2005
THE NEW EUROPEAN CARBON EMISSIONS TRADING SCHEME
Further action after the UK's attempt to get higher carbon allowances -
UK 'climbs down' over climate
BBC News Online - 11 March 2005
The UK government has announced tougher limits on greenhouse gas emissions
following pressure from the European Commission.
The announcement will enable UK firms to join fully with the fledgling
European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), a key component in EU plans to
combat global warming.
It may also allow the government to avoid a damaging political row at an
electorally sensitive time.
Under the ETS, every EU member country has to set a limit - a National
Allocations Plan (NAP) - on the amount of carbon dioxide which its industrial
plants can produce during the next three years.
Each government must then divide up this limit between the companies involved,
each company receiving an 'allowance', which it can trade with other
companies at a rate set by the market.
The aim is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in a business-friendly fashion.
Britain published what it called a 'draft' figure in April; the government
calculated that during the period 2005-7, UK companies involved in the scheme
should produce no more than 736 million tonnes of CO2.
With some small caveats, the European Commission approved the plan.
Then, in October, the government revised its limit upwards, to 756 million
tonnes; the reason, said Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett, was that
forecasts of Britain's energy demand had changed - the country would need
more energy in the next three years, and so would need to produce more CO2.
Environmental groups accused the government of caving in to demands from big
business, and the Commission was clearly not convinced that the UK, alone
among EU countries, had a case for raising its emissions cap.
The result has been a stand-off, which the Commission has clearly won; the
government has gone back to its original figure of 736 million tonnes, though
it aims to take legal action against the Commission.
Environmental groups have welcomed the move.
"We are delighted that the Government has re-introduced proposals for sensible
cuts in UK carbon dioxide levels," said Friends of the Earth climate
campaigner Bryony Worthington.
"Tony Blair has promised to put climate change at the top of the international
agenda; and undermining EU plans to cut carbon dioxide is the wrong way to go
about achieving this."
The electricity industry will be most affected by the change to the NAP - it
will have to cut all of the extra 20 million tonnes of CO2.
"We are naturally disappointed, but not surprised," the Chief Executive of the
Association of Electricity Producers, David Porter, told BBC News.
"Electricity will be more expensive as a result."
The government has made much of its stated commitment to combatting climate
change, and has won plaudits from environmental groups for its stance.
It may have been unwilling, at a time when a general election is anticipated,
to see the UK cast as the country obstructing European attempts to tackle
INDUSTRY PROTESTS AT THE GOVERNMENT'S ACTION
Industry fury as Beckett retreats over UK carbon allowances
Michael Harrison, Business Editor, and Stephen Castle in Brussels - News Independent
12 March 2005
The government was forced into a humiliating climbdown yesterday over the amount of carbon British industry will be allowed to produce under new European Union emission trading rules.
Margaret Beckett, the Environment Secretary, announced that the UK would proceed on the basis of a lower carbon allowance than ministers had wanted after the European Commission refused to permit an increase in the allocation.
The move represents a victory for Brussels, after the heavy-handed tactics used by Mrs Beckett to force it to agree to more generous carbon allowances. However, Commission officials sought to play down its pleasure at the Government's U-turn for fear of appearing triumphalist.
The climbdown was also welcomed by the environmental lobby, which had accused ministers of reneging on their commitment to reduce greenhouse gases. But it will pile extra cost on industry.
Mrs Beckett said the UK would now take the Commission to court in an effort to get the higher carbon allocation reinstated. She hopes for a ruling from the European Court of First Instance in the first half of next year.
But Commission officials and MEPs were convinced that the legal case stood little chance of success. Chris Davies, the leader of the British Liberal Democrat MEPs described the threat of action as "no more than a fig leaf designed to protect the Government from attacks by the Confederation of British Industry before the general election".
Under the new EU-wide trading system, British industry will be allowed to emit a maximum of 736 million tonnes of carbon over the next three years. In order to emit more than that, industry will have to buy permits from other countries which have undershot their carbon allocation. The permits are trading at about £10 per tonne of carbon.
The allowance of 736 million tonnes was what the UK applied for when it submitted its draft national allocation plan to Brussels last April. In July, the Government asked for an increased allocation of 756 million tonnes after discovering it had underestimated the amount of carbon produced by the UK because of higher electricity demand and increasing use of gas and coal-fired power stations.
The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it was "disappointed" at the Commission's refusal to allow an higher allocation. Defra also pointed out that the extra 20 million tonne allowance asked for amounted to only a 3 per cent increase in the UK's national allocation when it now estimates that UK emissions will exceed the allocation by 56 tonnes or 7.6 per cent.
David Porter, the chief executive of the Association of Electricity Producers, said it was essential that the Government got the UK's allocation right for when the second phase of the emissions trading scheme begins in 2008. "That's when investment in new power stations will come into play. It is imperative that the Government gives clear guidance about Phase 2 as soon as possible. Time is short. New power stations require serious finance and they take years to plan and build."
Stavros Dimas, the European Commissioner for the Environment, said: "It is important that companies based in the UK have the opportunity to trade in the EU emissions system from the start and I warmly welcome their participation. UK-based installations represent 11 per cent of the EU system so their active involvement in trading will contribute to its success and help them to meet their climate change obligations in a flexible, market-friendly way."
Officials in Brussels were concerned that, if they set a precedent by allowing the UK to change targets that had been approved, other nations would be certain to follow suit.
OUR COMMENT: So much for leading the world in action against climate change! Fortunately someone is acting more positively about climate change.
14 March 2005
COMMISSION CONSULTS ON AVIATION AND CLIMATE
Brussels - 11 March 2005
The European Commission on Friday launched an eight-week consultation on how to tackle rising climate change impacts of aviation. The results will feed into a strategy due this summer, focusing on possible use of economic instruments.
The leading contender is to bring aircraft emissions into the EU industrial greenhouse gas emission trading scheme. The consultation canvasses opinion on this plus other options including aircraft fuel taxes, VAT on air transport, departure/arrival taxes, en-route charges or taxes on emissions. Details are on the website.
10 March 2005
SECURING THE FUTURE: PRIME MINISTER LAUNCHES
NEW UK SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY
DEFRA Press Release - 7 March 2005
The Prime Minister today said the Government would lead by example in promoting sustainable development. The Prime Minister said:
"By joining up thinking and action across all levels of government, and by setting long term objectives, the Government is dedicated to securing the future for all. I want to use this new strategy as a catalyst for action."
Launching the cross-government strategy in London today, Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett said the aim was to show how people can be involved in making more sustainable choices. Mrs Beckett said:
"Sustainable development is vital to building a decent future for everyone. The Government is leading by example but the strategy can't be delivered by the Government alone."
"The Government wants to ensure everyone has the opportunity to get involved - for local or global benefit."
The headline points of the strategy are:
* A new task force under Sir Neville Simms on sustainable public procurement will draw up a national action plan to make the UK a leader in the EU by 2009.
* A new scheme to enable Government departments to offset the carbon impacts of their air travel by April 2006. When there is no alternative to flying, Government will compensate for carbon dioxide released from our flights by investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.
* Community Action 2020 - Together We Can - will launch in the autumn. It will give local groups support, information and training to influence what goes on where they live. They will be given specific support to help influence local authorities' Sustainable Community Strategies and local development plans.
* Local action will be backed up by:
- Giving everyone access to "data-on-the-doorstep" - by 2010 we will develop a new comprehensive set of web-based maps and statistics that will give complete information about the quality of everyone's local environment in England.
- Consulting later this year on improved powers for environmental protection for the Environment Agency.
The Government is giving the independent Sustainable Development Commission, chaired by Jonathon Porritt, a new role as the watchdog on the performance of government in delivering sustainable development. This will help drive action to ensure delivery of our sustainable development goals.
The new UK Strategy was launched today alongside a new Framework for Sustainable Development across the UK, shared between the UK Government, the Devolved Administrations and the Northern Ireland Office.
OUR COMMENT: Is this how the emissions from air travel are going to be mitigated? Invest in low carbon technologies to compensate for the CO2 produced? An excellent idea within reasonable limits. Tony Blair jets to the USA (or to Tuscany for a holiday) and plants a few trees or orders an electric car, or even invests in research into the technology of pumping waste CO2 into underground storage. Will it include investment into renewable energy technology? The scheme has all sorts of possibilities and if this really means that the government becomes a leader of actions rather than a producer of words it is to be welcomed.
However, as a remedy for dealing with all aircraft emissions it is hardly adequate, and certainly could not compensate for the massive increase in air travel proposed in the White Paper. It is a beginning, an admission that air travel is very polluting and should not be the first choice for the traveller if other ways of travelling are available. This applies to low cost holidays as well as to the government.
10 March 2005
A VIEW FROM IRELAND
Our appetite for destruction will starve us of a future
Terry Prone - Irish Examiner - 7 March 2005
THE day before 9/11, a satellite photograph of the United States showed the country covered by a white grid. Straight lines going up. Straight lines going across.
Straight lines clustered thickly over cities such as Washington, New York and Atlanta. Straight lines more sparsely distributed over less populated states. Straight lines, thin and sharp. Straight lines swelling and going fuzzy. Jet-trails, every one of them, tracing the flight path of a passenger jet.
Two days later, the satellite view showed the continent clear and visible. No grid. No planes in the sky, creating jet trails. With one single solitary exception. A lone trail going up the east coast: Air Force One, taking President George W Bush to New York.
When planes were airborne again, the received wisdom was that it would take years to get back to the days before 9/11. It didn't take years - 1.6 billion passengers will travel by air this year alone. That figure is set to double by 2010. Where I live, the growth's visible. Because my home's directly under the flight path to Britain, by breakfast time this morning, my sky was filled with jet-trails: the underside of that satellite photograph. Very fetching, the display.
That's the oddity about aircraft. They're top of the industrial beauty parade, while incinerators are at the bottom. People say "Not In My Back Yard" (NIMBY) about incinerators because of bad stuff they might send out through their chimneys, notwithstanding the number of licences they have to get before they send anything at all out through their chimneys, and disregarding the fact that if they look crooked at a dioxin, the EPA can close them down quick as look at them. Nobody says "Not OVER My Back Yard" although what comes out of the exhaust pipe of a jet-plane obeys the law of gravity like everything else. Ergo it comes down in our back yards. Do we get upset about it? No.
Because we use and love planes, we buy into how the aviation industry describes its plans. Sustainable growth. That's what they say they're aiming at. Ask them to define "sustainable" and they tell you about tourism, about how everybody can afford to fly, these days, and how they're working to reduce emissions.
Once upon a time, "sustainable" was the mantra of the Greens. Now, it's been nicked and co-opted, not just by aviation, but by every industry. It's comforting but imprecise. De-natured. Its essence has been dissipated, like chewing gum, post-mastication. Does your chewing gum lose its flavour on the bedpost overnight? Too right, it does. And your sustainability, likewise.
What's happened to 'sustainability' as a meaningful contribution to public debate is similar to what happened when Mark Twain's wife, mortified by his swearing, began to use his swear-words back at him to show him how bad they sounded. It didn't work. He said she had the words right, but didn't know the tune.
We've lost the tune of the future. According to Professor Jared Diamond's book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, a brilliant new study of the way societies disintegrate and become extinct, we've now put in place all of the key factors which destroyed many of those societies. The only difference between us and the people who died in places such as Easter Island is that we have state-of-the-art rationalisations for doing the same crazy things they did.
One of those rationalisations is the happy delusion that technology will rescue us. Technology is developing all the time and in no time at all, we believe, some scientist will come up with a way to sort everything out. Sure, weren't there dire predictions back in the late 19th century that Cork and Dublin would soon be impassible, due to the horse droppings donated by the dominant mode of transport at the time?
The local authorities of the day counted the horses, worked out how many more of them were going to arrive on the streets, multiplied that by the volume of waste material each animal pooped, and forecast that traffic would get slower and slower, as it waded through knee-high manure.
DID that happen? Not quite. New technology came along, and guys such as Henry Ford pioneered ways of making that technology cost-effective. We can now buy cars that can go from zero to 90 kilometres in 60 seconds for the pleasure of sitting in them while they do three kilometres an hour.
The manure they generate is largely invisible and doesn't smell quite as vividly as the horse-generated alternative. In fact, as you sit in your air-conditioned car, talking on your hands-free, listening to the radio or to a CD, you might even kid yourself that you're making progress.
Prof Diamond says it was ever thus; people destroying their future with actions that make perfect sense at the time. Like chopping down trees to plant crops, thus ensuring that the topsoil blows away, there's nothing to hold the crops and the local population has to flee the resultant dust storms. Or insisting on eating one particular foodstuff (think fish, at the moment) long after the signs of impending extinction are clear.
Several of the societies he studied eventually ended up eating each other, so that the killer line in any argument became "The flesh of your mother sticks between my teeth."
Precious few societies seem to apprehend the truth hammered home in business courses: if you keep doing what you've always done, you'll keep getting what you always got. Take roads, for example. They figure in both by-elections, but particularly in the one in Meath. The local Chamber of Commerce has found that many people from the county spend 120 working days a year in their cars. That's more than someone living in Los Angeles spends in their car, but nearly as much as endured by commuters in Bangkok, where the latest must-have item (unlikely to be stocked in the new shopping Mecca in Dundrum) is a small portable chemical toilet, for use mid-journey. Whatever about men employing such a gadget unseen, it's difficult to imagine women in business suits in the middle of gridlock doing so.
Back in Meath, the candidates lashing around the constituency - interestingly enough, on their feet - are understandably eager to prevent this trend taking hold in Trim, Navan or Kells, never mind Nobber.
So they are promising to join up unjoined roads, build new and bigger roads, bypass the bypasses. Nay-sayers have been drowned out by the hugely popular message that roads are the delivery-systems of sustainability.
We could, of course, change our individual and corporate behaviour, like those few societies in history which made radical changes in order to survive. We could kick life back into the 'sustainability' concept.
There's two chances of that happening: slim and none. What we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history. Instead, we'll opt for more roads, cars, planes, congestion and environmental destruction, excusing it all as "sustainable."
If advanced societies in the past ended up eating each other, then, a few years hence, we may celebrate Mother's Day in a quite new way.
With Mother as the main dish.
5 March 2005
UN AIR POLLUTION PROTOCOL GETS GREEN LIGHT
Environment Daily 1834 - 4 March 2005
Recent ratification by Portugal means that the Gothenburg protocol on
tackling air pollution now has enough signatories to enter force (www.environmentdaily.com/articles/index.cfm?action=article&ref=5941).
The UN economic commission for Europe (Unece) announced this week that
the protocol will be effective from 16 May.
The protocol sets limits for emissions of sulphur dioxide (SOx),
nitrogen oxide (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and ammonia
(NH3). It will not have a great effect on EU member states since all
25 are already subject to equivalent or stricter emissions standards
under Europe's national emissions ceilings directive.
5 March 2005
Ryanair claims win in website ads case
Paul Owen - The Guardian - 3 March 2005
Ryanair won a "victory for small print" yesterday in a test case for internet advertising when a court decided that it was legal to advertise flight costs without taxes as long as that was made clear.
But the budget airline was fined £24,000 after the jurors at Chelmsford crown court concluded that a page of its website, which did not immediately explain that tax would be added, breached consumer protection legislation.
Ryanair had been prosecuted by Essex county council's trading standards department. The council's lawyers argued that the legal position in relation to internet advertising should be "the price you see is the price you pay", as it is for newspaper, billboard and television adverts.
Ryanair was accused of breaking the Consumer Protection Act by advertising a flight as "London-Stansted - Pisa £4.99 one way excluding tax", because the offer did not immediately spell out the full cost, which would have been £11.87 when £1.88 for insurance and £5 for UK airport duty was added.
But the jury disagreed. They found the Dublin-based company guilty regarding six other website adverts which did not feature the words "excluding tax". Judge Charles Gratwicke fined the firm £4000 for each charge. But he did not order Ryanair to pay any costs, so that the £32,000 cost of bringing the prosecution will have to be met by the council.
Ryanair denied the offences. It said its policy was to always add the phrase "excluding tax". The words had been missed off the six flight advertisements in error, it claimed.
Mike Hill, Head of Essex county council trading standards department, said the council would lobby the government for a change in consumer legislation.
"We have tested the law and it has been found wanting" he said. "In newspapers and on billboards, companies have to advertise the true costs of goods. If a petrol company advertised a litre of petrol at 25p - excluding tax, it would be illegal. It should be the same for internet advertising for flights."
"We thought that by bringing this prosecution we would be able to show that the Consumer Protection Act also applies to internet advertising. But the jury's verdict shows that it doesn't, and we will now lobby the government for change. Ryanair advertises in this way because it makes their flights look cheaper."
He called the decision a "Victory for small print".
Caroline Green, head of consumer services at the airline said: "Ryanair's internet banner headline advertising - e.g. £4.99 exclusive of tax - was not misleading to customers. 98% of our customers book via the internet. We have 30 million customers a year and we have not had a single complaint about our advertising."
Mr Hill said trading standards officers around the country had received complaints about the way in which airlines advertised internet prices.
5 March 2005
THE BENEFITS OF AIRPORT EXPANSION
BAA OFFERS A HOSS SCHEME TO ITS HARES
More hare houses in this scheme, but no compensation
for loss of tranquillity, air pollution or habitat
Hares mad about living in Stansted
Cambridge News - 1 March 2005
MAD March Hares will be able to live in peace, thanks a new project to protect their habitat.
The brown hare - nicknamed mad because of the bizarre boxing ritual it displays during courtship in March - has been found to thrive at Stansted Airport.
Now, its habitat will be enhanced and a system set up to monitor numbers.
The project, run in conjunction with Biffa Waste Services, The Game Conservancy Trust, The Mammal Society, Middlemarch Environmental Ltd and The Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, aims to double the population of the brown hare by 2010. Stansted Airport is one of seven sites across the country chosen to take part.
A £39,690 grant from Biffaward - a fund managed by the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts - will pay for the three-year project, which includes recruitment of a brown hare officer.
BAA Stansted has also committed itself to providing an extra 20 hectares of land for brown hare and skylark management if further airport development takes place.
Garry Cornell, environment manager at Stansted, said: "The airport land provides a refuge for brown hare populations from some of the problems that the surrounding agricultural practices has on the species.
"I am really pleased that we can be involved with this project to learn more about the populations at the airport. Brown hares are an historic part of the landscape in this area, and I hope we can contribute to its wellbeing."
Brown hares thrive in grassland and arable fields. Unlike rabbits, they do not dig burrows and need undisturbed areas for cover and raising their young.
Martin Bettington, chairman of Biffaward, said: "The brown hare is a valuable part of our countryside and everything must be done to safeguard its future.
"Hopefully this project will be able to expand across the country and greatly contribute to increasing brown hare numbers."
The Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts estimates there are currently 800,000 to 1.25 million brown hares across the country.
It did not know the number living at Stansted Airport but said they were regularly seen there.
5 March 2005
DEFRA: CHANGING PUBLIC ATTITUDES TO CLIMATE CHANGE
Now both the Kyoto Protocol and the EU Trading Scheme are in action.
Defra has started a public campaign.
Press Release - Department for The Environment, Food And Rural Affairs - 16 February 2005
Defra today announced a £12m package of funding over three years as the
first part of a new climate change communications initiative to change
public attitudes towards climate change.
The announcement follows a report from consultants Futerra, who were
asked to develop an evidence-based strategy, addressing public attitudes
as a key step towards achieving the UK's climate change targets.
The initiative will focus strongly on communicating at a local and
regional level, where the evidence suggests is can be most effective.
Margaret Beckett, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural
Affairs, said: "Evidence suggests that we need to engage people close to home if we are
going to succeed in changing attitudes to climate change."
"We need people to understand that climate change is happening here and
now, that it will affect all of us, and that there are things we can
each do to help reduce our personal contribution to climate change."
"It is essential to deepen popular understanding and support for action
on climate change, to complement the work we are doing at a national and
"Climate change is a key priority for our G8 and EU Presidencies this
year. Recent media coverage makes this an ideal time to launch a
programme to raise public awareness of everyone's role in limiting
climate change," she added.
The report includes a number of recommendations, many of which will be
taken up by the Government over the coming months. Among the proposals
being taken forward today are:
* The announcement of at least £12m to support a new climate
communications initiative, with £4m in financial year 05/06 and at least
as much in the following two years.
* The establishment of a new fund, starting next financial year, to
support climate change communications at a regional and local level.
* The intention to publish a Toolkit to help local communicators.
* Publication on the Defra website of Futerra's report and evidence
There will be a high-level workshop after Easter to discuss the Strategy
with key stakeholders as part of an informal consultation process.
The communications initiative is designed to complement the work of
Defra's key climate change delivery partners - the Devolved
Administrations, Carbon Trust, Energy Saving Trust, the Environment
Agency and the UK Climate Impacts Programme.
Note: Final statement of press release - "Defra's aim is sustainable development"
OUR COMMENT: Has Defra told the DfT? Tell us what they intend to do!
3 March 2005
NEWS UPDATE ON STANSTED - FROM MARK PRISK MP
High Court Ruling
The judicial review against the Government proved successful on two counts. First it enabled us to force Government documents into the open. These included the Treasury documents which question the viability of the runway and highlighted the financial risks. These documents had been withheld by the Government before the case. Indeed the Judge censured the Department of Transport. He said:
" Government Departments should remember that their obligation to tell the truth to the Court does not mean that the Court need only be told so much of the truth as suits the Department's case, and that inconvenient parts of the truth may be omitted from their evidence. In Court, a witness is not merely obliged to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, but also to tell the whole truth. A statement that is only partially true is as capable of being misleading as a statement that is untrue."
Coming from a High Court Judge this is a serious criticism. He also found that the Government had acted unfairly and may have prejudged the planning situation.
This ruling means that the full planning process must endure, something which the Government hoped to avoid. All options must be considered at any inquiry. Indeed that inquiry will also have to bear in mind both this case's outcome and the previous judicial review in which the consultation was found to be flawed. This will help our case.
Holding Darling to account
The Government avoided making an oral statement to the House about the case, and so avoided our questions. I have therefore complained to the Speaker about this. In addition, I have now written to the Secretary of State with a series of questions about his Department's actions. I shall press him if I get the chance in Transport questions or in any debates before the likely General Election. Feel free to write to him to ask him why his department withheld this information (and copy me in).
Do the sums add up?
I have always believed that the Achilles heel of this scheme is its finances. Stansted is the least profitable airport in BAA plc., and to build this runway they would need to seek cross subsidies from Heathrow and Gatwick, from higher landing charges. The airlines there have said they will contest this in court and there are also anti-competitive laws which may prevent such cross subsidies.
To that end, I helped with Stop Stansted Expansion's Briefing to City experts last week. The purpose was to highlight why BAA plc's shareholders should question the viability of this scheme and the risk it poses to the company as a whole. The briefing was well received and will help SSE's case immensely.
Media commentators and aviation experts are now calling the second runway unworkable. There is a growing recognition that it doesn't stack up financially and that therefore BAA should think again. This has taken a lot of effort and SSE deserve our thanks.
I am continuing to work closely with the team and my Parliamentary colleagues to ensure that we keep battling against this scheme.
Mark Prisk MP
Working for Hertford & Stortford
3 March 2005
LIB DEM LEADER PROPOSES AN AVIATION FUEL TAX
Melissa Stock reports at www.bloomberg.com
Charles Kennedy said he advocates introducing taxes on aircraft to help tackle air pollution. The current U.K. government plans to introduce regulations encouraging airlines to cut pollution. If enacted, the measures would require companies including British Airways Plc, Deutsche Lufthansa AG and Air France SA to pay for curbing emissions.
"We're not trying to prohibit people from travelling abroad or taking short breaks,'' he said. "The aircraft that cause the big problems of pollution are those that are travelling half empty on long-haul flights.''
Global airline traffic is predicted to increase by an average 5 percent a year through 2008, according to the International Air Transport Association.
1 March 2005
THE LOCAL PRESS REPORTS THE HIGH COURT JUDGEMENT
A Victory for Democracy
The Saffron Walden Reporter, published last Thursday 24th February,
presented the ruling as its lead story on the front page
All sides are claiming a victory after a High Court judgement over a proposed second runway at Stansted airport.
Mr Justice Sullivan said plans set out in Government White Paper for airport development were lawful, but upheld a challenge brought by Essex and Hertfordshire Count Councils and Uttlesford and East Herts District Councils.
He said the location of a planned second runway should be a matter for the local planning authorities and its communities, not the result of a government directive.
BAA had geared its plans to developing a second runway on a line running from Bambers Green to the edge of Great Easton and Broxted, one of three possible locations suggested by the Government in its consultation documents and the one leading to the greatest take-over of land.
Alistair Darling's comments
The Reporter continues: "Transport Secretary Alistair Darling accepted the High Court ruling. He said: "I am pleased that the High Court has upheld the case for two additional runways in the south-east of England at Heathrow and Stansted, and rejected calls for that part of the White Paper to be quashed. The Government has always accepted that the exact positioning and capacity of the runways at Stansted will be decided by the normal planning process."
(OUR COMMENT: This interpretation might not be recognised by the Judge himself as a fair summary of the judgement!)
Lord Hanningfield's comments
The Reporter reports: " Lord Hanningfield, the leader of Essex County Council, said he was "delighted" with the result. "This is yet another example of the Government being caught adopting a consultation report and ignoring an approach to planning. The Government has attempted to exercise its will irrespective of procedure and the democratic process and BAA was hiding behind that. The verdict represents a great victory for local government and local democracy. The Government and BAA can no longer view the expansion of Stansted as a fait accompli and we can now be sure that the planning process will examine all expansion options in a more comprehensive, robust and open fashion."
Terry Morgan from BAA also claims victory
The Reporter continues: Terry Morgan, BAA Stansted's managing director, also claimed victory from the judgement. He said "This judgement is very good news, and I welcome the clarity it has brought. The ruling gives the green light to continue with expansion for the next 30 years. It upholds the government's policy for extra capacity and the location of the first new runway here at Stansted. We will continue with our project on track and on schedule." He is later reported as admitting that the ruling demanded that BAA consider other options for the runway.
He also promised that the BAA HOSS scheme would go ahead and would be extended if another area was selected for the runway.
OUR COMMENT: The judgement made no reference to the effects of aviation expansion on the environment. Neither did the White Paper except in the most general terms. Current serious concerns about the contribution of aviation emissions to climate change have clearly not reached the ears of Alistair Darling, or, if they have, he is ignoring them, at our peril.
As for local residents, even the White Paper makes it clear that a second runway cannot be built at Heathrow if the regulations on Air Quality will continue to be breached. The same considerations must apply to Stansted airport, which, to date, has never had a comprehensive investigation of the present state of the local air quality other than a certain amount of monitoring carried out by the Local Authority at Council Tax payers' expense. BAA and the government have rebutted predictions associated with future expansion that show breaches of air quality regulations at Stansted on the grounds that they can be prevented - following the old nursery rhyme - "this year, next year, sometime, or, (if the second runway goes ahead), probably never.
MEANTIME, RYANAIR - STANSTED'S MAIN CARRIER -
IS IN THE NEWS AGAIN
Ryanair in dock over web deals
Saffron Walden Reporter - 24 February 2005
Budget airline Ryanair has been accused of misleading and inaccurate advertising for its air fares on flights from Stansted to some European destinations.
The Stansted based company faces 10 charges relating to allegedly misleading fares information on the Ryanair website for flights operated by the airline Buzz.
It also faces another eight charges alleging misleading fares information on the website for some of Ryanair's own flights.
The charges have been brought by Essex Trading Standards under the 1987 Consumer Protection Act.
Miles Bennett, prosecuting at Chelmsford County Court, said the prosecution was not an attack on cheap airline companies. Many of the Ryanair fares, even including taxes and other charges were "cracking deala".
But it was the prosecution's case that the way Ryanair advertised some of its flights on a website were misleading. Some of the 'eye-catching' advertisements for cheap flights were not all they seemed, said Mr Bennett.
An Essex Trading Standards Officer checked the Ryanair website jn March 2003. It was discovered that some flights advertised on one website page at a certain price allegedly turned out to be more expensive on other website pages.
Other fares advertised at half price were allegedly not half price, Mr Bennett said.
The company denies all the allegations and the trial continues.
25 February 2005
RYANAIR LOOKS TO DOUBLE PASSENGER NUMBERS
WITH ORDER FOR 70 BOEINGS
Andrew Clark - The Guardian - 25 February 2005
Ryanair declared an ambition yesterday of becoming Europe's biggest airline within 5 years by ordering 70 Boeing jets with a list price of $4.6bn (£2,4bn).
The Irish no-frills airline has secured the Boeing 737-800s at a knock-down price and has an option of doubling its order to 140 aircraft.
The airliners will allow Ryanair to increase its passenger numbers from an expected 34 million this year to 70 million in 2011, creating 2,500 jobs and taking it ahead of British Airways and Air France.
Ryanair's deputy chief executive, Howard Millar, said the airline still saw enormous potential for growth in budget flights across the European mainland, including the untapped eastern markets.
"Four out of 10 flights in the UK are on low-fares airlines. But there are whole swathes of Europe which don't have any low-fares airlines at all."
He said the prospect of overtaking traditional flag carriers was "not of any importance". He said "In this game. Size isn't everything or anything – it's all about profitability".
Ryanair is Boeing's second biggest customer for its new generation aircraft, behind the US carrier Southwest Airlines.
Two years ago, Ryanair ordered 155 Boeing jets, of which 100 will have been delivered by the end of this year. Some of the new jets will be deployed at Ryanair's 12 European bases, including its main hub at Stansted. Others will be at 10 new air bases that Ryanair intends to establish over the next 7 years.
Yesterday's announcement was a boost to Boeing, which was recently overtaken by Airbus as the world's biggest aircraft manufacturer.
Ryanair's aircraft orders are backed by the US government, which provides credit guarantees allowing the Irish carrier to borrow money at low interest rates. The deal must be approved by Ryanair shareholders.
Although the airline refused to say how much it was paying for the planes, Ryanair said the order meant it would have "the lowest per seat operating cost in Europe".
Analysts said this meant it was below the low price paid by easyJet for a fleet of planes from Airbus 3 years ago. Joe Gill, of Goodbody Stockbroker in Dublin, said: "Ryanair are in very good shape – they are already the most profitable airline in Europe. By doing this deal, they'll be taking their costs down even further."
Ryanair has built its popularity on flying to secondary airports with low landing charges. But critics questioned the logic of its services to increasingly obscure destinations – recent additions to its network include Spain's Santiago de Compostela, Brno in the Czech Republic and Wroclaw in Poland.
Michael O'Leary. Ryanair's outspoken chief executive, has mooted plans to cut costs further by scrapping window blinds, abolishing check-in desks and charging for luggage.
OUR COMMENT: No Boeing's greener "dreamliners" for Ryanair! And – profits are the main aim, so, no "gold plated" runways and probably no higher landing charges to help BAA pay for even a no-frills runway.
25 February 2005
NEW RISK OF MORE AIR POLLUTION
FROM AIRPORT OPERATIONS?
Summer heat will cause deadly ozone
This article was published last summer but has just resurfaced
Robin McKie, Science Editor- The Observer - 9 May 2004
Thousands of Britons may be forced to wear charcoal masks and stay indoors this summer to avoid deadly fogs of ozone that will pollute the country during heatwaves, scientists have warned.
They have discovered that last August's heatwave caused plants and trees to release waves of a chemical called isoprene, which contributes to the production of ozone in the air. Scientists now believe ozone killed up to 600 people last summer.
"Temperatures topped 100F (37.7C) last summer for the first time since UK records began, and similarly intense heatwaves will become increasingly frequent as global warming intensifies. Current projections suggest they could happen ten times more often," said Professor Alan Thorpe, of the Centres of Atmospheric Science. "Among all our other problems, we are going to deal with severe ozone pollution."
Ozone, which is particularly dangerous for children, old people and asthmatics, is produced when strong sunlight breaks up the nitrogen oxides released by car exhausts. In recent years Britain has made major improvements in reducing these oxide levels in the air, and hopes rose that the problem was under control.
But the latest ozone study, carried out by a team led by Alastair Lewis, of York University and funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, has discovered that a dangerous new factor arises when temperatures soar into the high 30s.
"We went to Chelmsford to study ozone and isoprene levels last year," said Lewis. "By chance, we picked the two weeks of the heatwave. What we discovered was startling. When the temperature reached the high 90s and topped 100, plants and trees... start to produce greatly increased amounts."
It is thought that isoprene acts as a kind of heat-shock molecule, protecting leaves from damage when temperatures rise above 35C. When plants are short of water, they produce even more.
However, in the atmosphere isoprene acts as a catalyst driving the rate at which sunlight breaks down nitrogen oxide and turns it into ozone. The more isoprene there is, the more ozone is generated, effectively wiping out the moderate success the government has had in reducing levels.
Britain's new midsummer heatwaves are therefore likely to have severe consequences. European law states that governments must inform the public when hourly concentrations of ozone rise above 180 microgrammes per cubic metre. On 6 August last year, ozone levels over London peaked at 300 microgrammes. Other high spots were found in East Anglia and the Midlands.
The impact on the public was dramatic. One study by the Office of National Statistics indicated that 2,000 more people died in August 2003 compared with the same month in previous years. But calculations by John Stedman, at the National Environmental Technology Centre, indicate that these deaths were not all caused by heat stress and deyhdration, as was initially supposed.
Between 225 and 593 were caused by ozone, Stedman estimated. Many thousands of others suffered extreme distress, such as museum clerk Alison Bottomley, of Nottingham, who suffers from asthma. "I had to stay indoors last summer to get away from the ozone. It was awful. I could hardly breathe. I tried a charcoal mask but it restricted my breathing. I had to lie or sit down till the heatwave went away."
While most advice for dealing with the heat involves staying in the shade and drinking plenty of water, the response to pollution by ozone, which irritates the lining of the lung, is more draconian. Vulnerable individuals are told to avoid major road junctions (where car exhaust levels are high), stay indoors and wear masks.
The team's discovery will intensify calls for Britain to introduce even tougher new regulations to reduce emissions of car exhaust gases, the basic ingredient that fuels ozone production.
And, near airports, plane emissions as well.
25 February 2005
PUBLIC HAS ITS SAY ON EU AIR POLLUTION POLICY
Environment Daily 1827 - 23 February 2005
The European Commission has collated results of a consultation on the
EU's forthcoming "Cafe" thematic strategy on air pollution. A draft
report on the exercise was discussed by member state representatives at
a meeting in Brussels this week. Full results are due to be published
soon. The strategy itself is due in June.
The consultation drew 11,500 responses - the highest number yet for a
European Commission online questionnaire. The large majority were from
private citizens, especially from Portugal and the EU's ten new
According to a Commission official, the consultation has broadly
confirmed the direction of policies already signalled by the EU
executive. It "gives us some order of priority and idea of where to
put the accent," he said (ED 16/11/04
The consultation shows that "people are prepared to do a lot" to
improve air quality. About 69% said they would be prepared to quit
their cars in cities at peak pollution times. Some 41% said they would
pay more for less polluting products and services, while another 37%
said they might.
Environmental damage emerges as a higher public concern than health
risks. Traffic is identified as a more serious problem than industry.
However, the majority of respondents felt they were not well informed
on air quality and its implications.
Some responses bore this out, said the official. Nearly half of
respondents believed air quality in their neighbourhoud had
deteriorated in recent years. The message must be got across that, in
several areas, air quality is actually improving, he concluded.
Overall, there was a slight preference for legal standards - be it on
industrial emissions or new vehicles - over taxes and charges. Cafe is
expected to propose a mixture of instruments to tackle air pollution.
Well over half of respondents said they wanted the risk inherent in
air quality to be no greater than that of drinking tap water, something
the official admitted would be almost impossible to achieve.
21 February 2005
MORE COMMENTS ON THE HIGH COURT DECISION
Setback for UK government airport expansion push
Environment Daily 1824 - 18 February 2005
The UK's High Court has found serious flaws in the British
government's handling of plans to extend key airports around the
capital city, London.
The government will now have to reopen
consultations on development at Luton, and hand a decision on the
location of an extra runway at Stansted back to the local planning
authorities. But objections to building work at Heathrow airport were
The challenge to the government's aviation policy - the
first of its kind - was launched by local councils and campaigners
concerned about environmental and social effects .
STANSTED RULING AND LOCAL DEMOCRACY
Press Release from the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings
(Essex Regional Group)
Douglas Kent - SPAB - 20 February 2005
The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB), which firmly opposes the further expansion of Stansted Airport, welcomes Friday's High Court ruling declaring the Government's White Paper plans for a second runway unlawful because it failed to conduct a proper consultation on the alternative options.
The SPAB has pointed out that those proposals would involve the destruction of more historic buildings in one hit than has occurred since the Second World War. The result of the Judicial Review, however, leaves plans for the possible new runway in total confusion.
SPAB Technical Secretary and Essex-based building surveyor Douglas Kent commented: "I was intrigued to hear, following the ruling, that Alistair Darling, Transport Secretary, says his intention has always been to let local people have a say in things. If local democracy is so important, perhaps he will realise the consensus is against any second runway ever at Stansted and take heed of that."
Editor's Note: The SPAB is Britain's oldest historic buildings pressure group, founded by William Morris in 1877. It is the largest of the national amenity societies that by law must be notified of all applications to demolish listed buildings in England and Wales.
SECOND RUNWAY FIRMLY ON TRACK - BAA
Cambridge News - 19 February 2005
AIRPORT bosses said the timetable for a second runway was "firmly on track" despite a High Court ruling that the Government was wrong to prescribe just one possible location.
Terry Morgan, managing director of BAA Stansted, said other options for the second runway were already being evaluated. "From the very outset of our work on the second runway at Stansted we have always said we would consider other options. Today's judgment has not altered our plans," he said.
Mr Justice Sullivan yesterday said the required balance between the airport's capacity gain and environmental impacts was tilted in favour of the former because a specific runway location was mentioned in the Government's Air Transport White Paper. In doing so, he upheld the legal challenge mounted by local authorities including Uttlesford District Council and Essex County Council.
The so-called "wide spaced" Option 5, which would see a second runway built about 1.5 miles from the existing runway, had originally been one of a number of proposals presented in a previous consultation document.
"The practical effect of upholding this ground of challenge will be that among the various options for a second runway at Stansted, Option 5 will not have been given a "head start" in policy terms," said Mr Justice Sullivan.
Alastair McDermid, director of the airport's Generation 2 project, said the existing timetable had not changed. He said the airport would present its chosen option to the public in the summer and would explain why other options were turned down. A planning application would still be submitted to Uttlesford District Council in the spring of 2006 and a planning inquiry was envisaged to run during 2007/8. This would be followed by construction and the opening of the runway in 2012.
"We would have done exactly the same thing anyway," he said. "That is why there is no difference in time scale."
He also said the airport would honour agreements made through the Home Owner Support Scheme, which was drawn up in relation to Option 5, and that a new scheme would also be introduced if another runway option was chosen.
Mr Justice Sullivan did not uphold the legal challenge mounted by Stop Stansted Expansion and other campaign groups when he ruled that the Government had sufficiently considered the commercial viability of a second Stansted runway.
Mr Morgan welcomed the news. "Those who argue that the Stansted runway project is not commercially viable have now been shown to be completely wrong by the courts. I hope they will now turn their attention to more constructive issues to ensure that the project delivers most benefit for the local and regional community," he said.
SSE will decide whether to appeal against the decision. Chairman Peter Sanders said: "We will be exploring every avenue for taking this judgement even further, including examining the scope for appeal against certain aspects of the court decision which still leave the threat of a second runway, in some shape or form, hanging over us."
PRESS RELEASE FROM FRIENDS OF THE EARTH
Judge reveals flaws in Aviation White Paper
18 February 2005
Friends of the Earth today called on Government to cancel plans to expand airports across the UK and address the impact aviation has on climate change after a High Court Judge found serious errors in the process used by ministers to develop the Aviation White Paper.
Friends of the Earth Aviation Campaigner Richard Dyer said:
"This judgement shows that ministers failed to follow correct procedures in drawing up the aviation White Paper. This is yet more evidence that the Government's aviation policy is flawed. The Government must listen and scale down its expansion plans which pose an unacceptable threat to our environment and communities."
Justice Sullivan said of the White Paper:
* That the Government "unfairly managed to convey the impression" that a runway extension at Luton had been consulted upon;
* It was "a bridge too far" for the Government to specify the exact location of the proposed second runway at Stansted.
The Judge was also critical of the Government's response to questions about the economic viability of Stansted's second runway.
The Government is not appealing against the ruling, and claim that this ruling gives the White Paper a clean bill of health.
What Friends of the Earth thinks:
This judgement is significant for being the first time that a Government White Paper has been challenged in the High Court. The Judge described as "most unfortunate" that the Government has been secretive about the economic case for a second runway at Stansted. It has taken a challenge by ordinary citizens in the High Court to obtain the full information.
This is particularly important as one of the main justifications used to justify the huge environmental impacts of airport expansion are the claimed economic benefits. In addition, the judgement further undermines public confidence in the Government's approach to aviation and airport expansion, which has been criticized on many fronts.
Respected bodies such as Parliament's Environmental Audit Committee, the Sustainable Development Commission and the Lords European Committee have all been critical of the Government's expansionist approach .
The High Court hasn't forced the Government to re-issue the White Paper, but Friends of the Earth believes Ministers should use the opportunity of the planned 2006 progress review to cancel their airport expansion plans.
The White Paper progress review should:
* Cancel all new runways. The Government's own modelling has shown that if fair taxation were applied to the aviation industry no runways would be necessary.
* Ensure that carbon dioxide emissions from aviation are stabilised or reduced in order that our climate change targets can be met.
* Ensure that 'the polluter pays' principle is applied to the aviation industry - this Government promised this in 1998 but this promise has not been honoured.
* Commit the Government to tackling the unfair tax exemptions on fuel and VAT that are partly responsible for the unsustainable rate of air traffic growth. Air Passenger Duty, the only existing tax on flights has fallen in real terms while Labour has been in power. Friends of the Earth believes this should be increased in lieu of international agreement to remove the other tax exemptions.
* Commit to bringing all UK airports within the Night Noise regulatory regime ASAP with a medium term commitment to reduce night noise to World Health Organisation recommended levels
21 February 2005
FURTHER ACTION ON FUEL TAX AND CLIMATE CHANGE?
Cautious welcome for EU aviation fuel tax plan
Environment Daily 1824 - 18 February 2005
Finance ministers and the European Commission are open to
Franco-German proposals for a tax on aviation fuel, a meeting of the
EU's economic and financial affairs council revealed this week.
Speaking after a ministerial debate in Brussels on Thursday, a council
official told Environment Daily there was strong support for taking the
idea of a kerosene tax further. It was nevertheless much too early to
expect agreement, he added.
"There are differences of opinion but nothing that can be termed
outright objection. The majority view is: let's look at this in
greater detail," the official said.
The idea of a kerosene tax was revived last year in a report for
French president Jacques Chirac as a possible new way to fund increased
international development aid. It was then aired jointly with Germany
at a G7 finance ministers' meeting on the subject a fortnight ago
Environment Daily understands, however, that the outline proposals
presented to EU ministers this week would not limit tax revenues to aid
funding. The official said ministers were looking at whether funds
might also be used for other purposes, including environmental
The ministers' main concern was how a kerosene tax would avoid running
EU air companies into competition difficulties, since Europe has no
authority to levy taxes on non-EU carriers.
Recognising this obstacle, EU transport commissioner Jacques Barrot,
who last year expressed interest in a fuel tax, (ED 04/10/04
said before the meeting that he would be "reluctant to introduce a tax
on jet fuel today for European air companies."
But the council official said the debate showed the European
Commission was "fairly favourable... [and] certainly not opposed". It
is to carry out further studies on the different possibilities of
introducing a tax.
The emergence of a kerosene tax onto the agenda would appear to
threaten separate plans formed in the UK to include aviation in the EU
emission trading scheme. This idea is being pushed by airports and
some airlines with the rationale that it would fend off the imposition
In any event both options are likely to feature in a Commission policy
paper on aviation and environment due before the summer. Before that a
March review of EU international development policy will also examine
the Franco-German idea.
EXPERTS THRASH OUT POST-KYOTO CLIMATE FUTURES
Environment Daily 1824 - 18 February 2005
The world must agree both absolute and relative targets to cut
greenhouse gas emissions as part of an inclusive regime to tackle
climate change post-2012, Sweden's former chief climate negotiator said
Bo Kjell who led the Swedish EU presidency's efforts to prepare a
landmark global agreement on implementing the Kyoto protocol in 2001,
told a conference at the European parliament on Wednesday that the
pact's successor would have to be based on a "multifaceted" approach.
Mr Kjell suggested a four essential elements for a true global
agreement: first there would have to be a "Kyoto bis" with absolute
emission caps along the lines of the existing protocol, he said. This
must be accompanied by targets to cut emissions relative to energy
intensity or to economic growth.
Alongside these must be created a separate "adaptation" protocol to
help poorer countries to cope with the effects of climate change
demands. There must also be a comprehensive investment scheme
promoting cleaner transport.
The climate diplomat's prescriptions for united future action on
climate come a week after the European Commission published a
deliberately vague policy paper on future climate action. The EU
executive is keeping its powder dry until after initial international
talks on the post-climate regime in May .
Addressing the same conference, Amsterdam university professor Joyeeta
Gupta said developing country commitments should be weighted according
to two criteria: emissions per capita, and average income. As these
indicators rose or fell, the country's climate change obligations would
be tightened or weakened accordingly.
Finally, Jean-Pascal van Ypersele of the Intergovernmental panel on
climate change said the panel's forthcoming fourth report was likely to
focus on the socio-economic and regional impacts of climate changed. It
will review studies that predict different maximum safe atmospheric
concentrations of greenhouse gases, and will probably reveal that the
capacity of carbon sinks was decreasing faster than previously
19 February 2005
MEDIA RESPONSES TO THE HIGH COURT JUDGEMENT
The Judge's ruling on the judicial review of the Aviation White Paper was reported yesterday by all the media channels on radio and TV. All the TV programmes featured the SSE objectors outside the High Court and gave time to Lord Hanningfield (Essex County Council) who claimed a victory over the second runway at Stansted, as did Carol Barbone on BBC1.
All reported the Judge's decision that both a second runway and an addition to Luton's runway would require a full public inquiry, giving local residents a chance to make their views known - in Stansted's case to the siting of any second runway where the government had acted illegally in prescribing the exact position of the runway. However, the claim that the White Paper itself was flawed was dismissed by the Judge - his criticism of the DfT for misleading the court over the Treasury doubts of the financial viability of a second runway was widely reported.
The TV media appeared to interpret this as official judicial approval of the central theme of the White Paper - the need for an expansion in airport capacity in the south-east. The commencement of the Kyoto Treaty this week and the recent publicity about the dangers of climate change from greenhouse gases was forgotten - no connection was made between increasing air pollution from an ever increasing number of flights.
Alistair Darling gave his verdict – business as usual, no change to the aviation policy, of course any planning application would provide an opportunity for local views to be put to an inquiry. With regard to the criticism of the DfT, he said that only one official was criticised and the situation was soon remedied!
Terry Morgan, BAA's Stansted manager, also dismissed the verdict. Again, business as usual, planning for the second runway would continue.
RUNWAY RULING TO DELAY STANSTED EXPANSION
Andrew Clark, Transport Correspondent - The Guardian - 19 February 2005
The government's plans to turn Stansted' airport into one of Europe's biggest international hubs face a potentially lengthy delay in prescribing the location of a new runway.
Mr Justice Sullivan ruled yesterday that the transport secretary, Alistair Darling, had short-circuited the planning process bym publishing a map showing the precise position of an extra landing strip at the Essex airport.
To the relief of the government, the judge stopped short of entirely throwing out Mr Darling's policy on aviation, refusing to support a claim that the commercial viability of new runways was flawed.
The ruling is the first time a White Paper has fallen foul of a judicial review. It left the government with the embarrassing prospect of paying a six-figure sum for the legal costs of Essex Conservative controlled county council. The judge also criticised a senior government official for failing to tell "the whole truth".
Stansted is central to the government's policy of expanding airports to cater for the appetite for cheap flights. Mr Darling announced in December 2003 that the airport capacity was to go up from 25 million passengers per annum to a maximum of 82m by 2030.
The judgement is likely to mean that a new runway will undergo scrutiny at a public inquiry, of a length and at a level of detail that Mr Darling was anxious to avoid. It will hearten campaigners at other airports including Heathrow, Birmingham and Edinburgh.
Essex county council's leader, Lord Hanningfield, said it could push back the opening date of a new landing strip at Stansted from 2012 to 2016.
"The government has got to go back to the drawing board. They will have to think again on whether Stansted is the best site in the south-east for a new run-way" he said.
The judge also ruled that Mr Darling over-reached his powers by giving the green light for an expanded runway at Luton without consulting local people.
Government officials insisted that the defeats, on two of the four challenges, would make little difference.
Speaking on Radio 4's World at One programme, Mr Darling said he accepted that the exact position of a runway should be "a matter for a local inquiry".
"What we were trying to do in the White Paper is to set out a strategic direction for air transport over the next 30 years. The judge was specifically asked to quash that; he rejected the arguments against expansion at Heathrow".
One of Mr Darling's officials, Mike Fawcett, was criticised for his reluctance to reveal grave doubts at the Treasury.
Mr Justice Sullivan said government officials "should remember their obligation to tell the truth to the court does not mean that the court need only be told so much of the truth as suits the department's case, and that inconvenient parts of the truth may be omitted from their evidence".
RUNWAYS BLUEPRINT SURVIVES LEGAL CHALLENGE
Nikki Tait and Kevin Done - Financial Times - 19 February 2005
Plans for the biggest increase in airport capacity for 30 years, including new runways at Heathrow and Stansted, have survived a High Court challenge by local residents and Councils.
But a judge did accept the protesters' arguments on two issues – ruling, in particular, that the government could not pre-judge the scale and location of a new runway at Stansted.
A government White Paper on the future of air transport, published more than a year ago, set out a 30 year strategy for tackling the rise in demand for air-transport, especially in the south-east, by building two new runways – one at Stansted by 2011-2012 and one at Heathrow by 2015-2020 – subject to environmental restrictions.
It has been opposed by many local residents, worried that the environmental implications will affect their quality of life.
In his 109 page judgement, Mr Justice Sullivan said that, in general, the government's White Paper and the process by which it was drawn up, was an "impressive attempt to grapple with a difficult and complex issue". Protesters' demands that parts of it should be quashed were rejected.
But the judge also said that there were two qualifications to that general conclusion. The first dealt with the scale of the second runway at Stansted. He found the way in which the White Paper equated this to "the wide-spaced runway option presented in the consultation document" was "a bridge too far". He also said that the White Paper "unfairly" conveyed the impression that a proposal by the owners of Luton airport to extend the existing runway had been the subject of consultation.
"In the context of an air transport policy for the UK, or for the south-east of England, these are minor qualifications" the judge said. But he continued: "From the claimants point of view, they are of considerable local significance".
Afterwards, the coalition of five local authorities, one of two groups that instigated the judicial review, welcomed the findings.
They said it would mean the proposal for a wide spaced runway which would be almost one and a half miles from the existing runway and could virtually quadruple Stansted's capacity to more than 80m passengers a year, had "no greater weight than any other and will not have a head start in policy terms".
The Stop Stansted Expansion campaign group said it would be "exploring every avenue for taking today's judgement even further, including examining the scope for appeal against certain aspects of the court decision which still leaves the threat of a second runway, in some shape or form, hanging over us".
But the High Court decision was also warmly welcomed by Alistair Darling, the Transport secretary, and BAA, the airports group that includes Stansted, Heathrow and Gatwick.
Mike Clasper, BAA chief executive, said the judgement allowed BAA to press ahead with planning a second runway at Stansted and examining the feasibility of a second runway at Stansted.
19 February 2005
JOINED UP THINKING IN THE GOVERNMENT?
While Alistair Darling celebrates the survival of his general aviation policy – a massive expansion, which will add a huge "overdose" of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere, both the Financial Times and the Guardian and several other newspapers also feature the latest report which provides more evidence of the serious effects of climate change.
The Report is from the Scripps Institution in San Diego, not yet published, but reported yesterday to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Dr Tim Barnett told the conference that during the last 40 years there has been considerable warming of the planetary system, and that about 90% of the warming has gone directly into the oceans. Their research showed that the changes could not have occurred on their own, global warming is real, and humans are responsible.
The warming of the oceans has serious consequences not only because of the melting of arctic and antarctic ice and the rising of sea levels, but also in the disturbances of ocean currents, partly from temperature changes but also from accumulations of fresh water as opposed to salt water. (This could have implications for the gulf stream, which warms the UK, so that global warming could lead to the UK climate becoming much colder.)
The overall levels of ocean warming are small, 0.5 degrees C at the surface, and less at greater depths, but oceans cover 70% of the earth's surface and the total amount of extra energy stored is enormous.
Dr Barnett said that the debate was not whether there was man made global warming, but what were we going to do about it. Nations who are not part of the Kyoto Treaty should now consider whether they should join.
(Previous reports have suggested that marine life appears to be showing changes from ocean warming. There has been concern about coral reefs for some time.)
OUR COMMENT: The government wanted to be the World Leader of Action on climate change. This has been somewhat prejudiced by the spat with the EC over the UK's last minute application to increase the UK carbon allocations in the newly started EU carbon emissions trading scheme. Now we have the Minister for Transport renewing his calls for a massive increase in air transport. How are all these extra carbon emissions to be compensated for? Every extra plane means that some other business or the public have to economise more in their energy use. Why the favoured case for air transport, already advantaged by untaxed fuel and servicing a much higher proportion of recreational passengers than essential business travellers or freight requirements?
15 February 2005
BAA – ATTEMPTS TO RAISE MONEY FOR AIRPORT INVESTMENT
BAA properties to fund venture
In Brief - The Guardian - 15 February 2005
The airport operator BAA is raising £575m to develop its UK and overseas airports by transferring commercial properties into a joint venture with Morley Fund Management. The properties, mainly warehouses and offices at BAA airports, are valued at £801m.
OUR COMMENT: The Financial Times (Jim Pickard and Kevin Done, February 15th) reports that this property transfer will help pay for BAA's planned £8.7bn investment programme for the south-east over the next 11 years, most of which will be spent on Heathrow and its new Terminal 5. The figure does not include the costs of the proposed new runway at Stansted airport "scheduled for completion in 2012".
60% of the property is in warehouses and 20% in offices, the remainder in land and other sectors. 12% is at Stansted. (Any HOSS houses included?)
This makes the problem of finding £4-£5bn plus infrastructure costs for Stansted all the more impossible, even if the new runway is not gold plated.
15 February 2005
THE EC OBJECTS TO THE UK CARBON EMISSION REDUCTIONS
Allocating blame instead of emissions
Leader - Financial Times - 15 February 2005
Far from providing moral leadership on global warming, the government has landed itself in a row with Brussels that sets a lousy precedent for smooth implementation of the Kyoto Treaty on climate change, which comes into effect this week.
Kyoto's main instrument for achieving cost-effective pollution reductions is the trading of emission permits, prefigured by a European Union system supposedly already underway. No EU state has been keener on this market mechanism than Britain, which is already practising such trading at home. No other EU state however, has had its revised national allocation plan flatly rejected by the European Commission. At this rate, the UK risks trading insults with Brussels rather than emissions.
The UK was one of the first EU states to come up with a plan to allocate pollution reductions across its national industry. But the UK has been the only EU country to come back with a substantially reduced plan - allowing 20m tonnes more of carbon dioxide - which it published yesterday, even after being warned by Brussels that such an increase was flatly unacceptable.
So a stand-off has developed. The UK says it has had to revise its plan in the light of higher than expected projections of emissions by industry, and that in any case its plan will still far exceed the 12.5% reduction Kyoto obliges it to start making by 2008.
The Commission blames the UK for coming up with a percentage reduction before it had any clear idea of what overall level was to be reduced. But Brussels main fear is that, if it gives in to the UK, other countries will start, Oliver Twist style, asking for more, and the whole system will begin to unravel, if not this year, then next.
This is not the first time the government has had second thoughts about the price of moral leadership: remember how it trumpeted its free admission of workers from East European states joining the EU last year, only to impose some subsequent curbs in response to domestic opinion. In reality, the UK yesterday signalled a line of retreat on emissions. It said that any further lowering of its emissions ceiling would be borne by power generators, because they are less exposed to international competition than power-users.
Quite apart from the inauspicious start it gives to Britain's presidency of the Group of Eight countries, and of the EC itself later this year, Tony Blair has another reason to want to settle this emissions trading row. Pressure is building up for new ways to control aviation emissions, the fastest growing source of greenhouse gases. France, Germany and others want to see a flat tax imposed on aviation fuel. But international agreements, and US opposition, make this difficult. Mr Blair, rightly, prefers to use the less blunt instrument of bringing airlines into the emissions trading scheme, and wants to use his EU presidency to promote this idea. But it would be possible only if a viable trading scheme existed in the first place.
OUR COMMENT: There is another much less blunt instrument. Do not encourage unlimited aviation expansion! No more runways!
The Financial Times has published a 16 page supplement on climate change, "Understanding Business and Climate Change" (February 14th). It contains much useful advice for business - www.ft.com/climatechange
14 February 2005
EMISSION POLICY IN DISARRAY AS
BRUSSELS REJECTS BLAIR'S 'BUNGLE'
Geoffrey Lean, Environment Correspondent - Independent on Sunday - 13 February 2005
Britain's plans for combating global warming have been rejected by the European Commission for being too lenient to industry, throwing them into disarray.
The rejection – which comes just days before the Kyoto Protocol, tackling climate change, comes into force on Wednesday – is a personal humiliation for the Prime Minister, who insisted on watering down the plans in response to industry pressure.
It further undermines his credibility as he seeks to use Britain's presidency of the European Union and the G8 group of wealthy countries to push the issue up the international agenda this year.
The Secretary of State for the Environment, Margaret Beckett, will tomorrow announce that the government has no alternative but to accept the EC's rebuff, and will outline measures to try to keep Britain's programme on track.
This is only the latest of a series of government climb-downs since Mr Blair announced his intention to lead the world in the fight against climate change. Late last year Labour had to admit that it was not on target to meet an election promise of reducing pollution by carbon dioxide – the main cause of global warming –by 20% below 1990 levels by 2020.
Britain will meet a less stringent target laid down under the Kyoto Protocol but only, to minister's huge embarrassment, as a result of action taken by their conservative predecessors; carbon dioxide emissions have actually increased since Labour took power.
Yet 10 days ago leading experts from around the world – at Mr Blair's invitation – in Exeter, warned that global warming was proving to be more catastrophic than previously predicted, and that there was only a decade left in which to take effective action against it.
The latest embarrassment arises from Britain's contribution to Europe's main instrument for tackling global warming, a so-called emissions trading scheme. Under it, industries are given pollution allowances but are allowed to trade them. So firms that succeed in reducing their emissions below the limit can make money by selling part of their allowances to those who overshoot.
The scheme offers a flexible, and fashionably free-market way of cutting pollution, but crucially depends on tight limits on allowances. Under the scheme each EU country has to submit a national limit to the EC, and then share it out to individual industries and firms.
Britain submitted its plan by the deadline of March last year, adding the proviso that it might revise it later. In July, having heard no more, the EC formally accepted it.
However, industry, which had originally pressed for the scheme as the most business-friendly alternative, then put pressure on ministers to relax the limits. Patricia Hewitt's Department of Trade and Industry took up its cause, leading to a bitter row with Mrs Beckett's Department for the Environment, which insisted on sticking with the original plan.
Eventually Mr Blair personally resolved the row, deciding to increase the limits by 6.6 million tons of carbon dioxide. His decision caused a political and public outcry, with opposition spokesmen accusing him of hypocrisy.
But the EC has now called his bluff. It told the Independent on Sunday late last week that it had "no intention" of accepting Mr Blair's revised figures, adding: "Britain submitted its plan, and we are sticking to it".
In a desperate attempt to save face Mrs Beckett will tomorrow accept the EC's ruling, but will not reduce the individual more relaxed limits for individual businesses under the revised plan.
She believes that industry, despite its protestations, will not need to emit as much pollution as it says. But if it does, she will crack down on emissions later to ensure that the EC's ruling is observed.
Last night Michael Jack MP, chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee shadowing Mrs Beckett's department, described the episode as a "bungle". And Peter Ainsworth MP, chairman of the powerful Environmental Audit Committee, added: "Mr Blair's habit of trying to please everybody all the time has landed him in a predictable mess.
It is time he translated his expressions of concern about climate change into action at home. Until he does, he cannot expect the rest of the world to listen to him".
OUR COMMENT: The Government Review of the UK Climate Change Programme, now out for consultation until March 2nd, shows that carbon dioxide emissions from the industrial sector did in fact fall by 17% and from the business sector by 11% between 1990 and 2002. They also fell from public sector sources by 29%, and from the residential sector by 2%.
At the same time emissions rose from road transport by 7% and from domestic air travel by 35%. International air travel emissions also rose but are not counted within the UK figures and are not counted in the Kyoto targets.
Can the government justify putting the burden of reduction mainly on business while actually pursuing a policy of increasing the number of air flights? Are sensible and fair measures to be sacrificed to chasing travellers' votes? Perhaps the same travellers are also worried about climate change predictions.
Review of the UK Climate Change Programme. Consultation paper. Obtainable from 0845 955 6000 quoting PB 10372.
14 February 2005
TRANSPORT IS NOW THE MAIN SOURCE OF
AIR POLLUTION AS INDUSTRIAL EMISSIONS DROP
News Environment - 11 February 2005
Emissions from traffic are now the main source of air pollution and the main reason for 95% of the designated Air Quality Management Areas in the UK, the Environment Agency has warned.
Reporting to its board this week, the Agency said that better controls were needed on road transport to meet air quality targets in the future.
However, transport lies outside all Environment Agency regulatory limits and is likely to have the most significant impact on air quality of all sectors over the next ten years unless further action is taken.
OUR COMMENT: They should have included air transport as well.
14 February 2005
FROM THE USA -
SNUBBING KYOTO: OUR MONUMENTAL SHAME
As the world celebrates the global warming pact's
Bush continues to pander to the energy industry
Laurie David - Los Angeles Times - 11 February 2005
Next Wednesday, in the enormous glass-paneled
European Union Parliament building in Brussels,
hundreds of men and women will gather to mark the
start of a new era. A similar celebration will be
held in Toronto, another in Casablanca and others
in Tokyo, New Delhi, Rio de Janeiro, Paris,
Auckland and Mexico City, among other places.
In each of these cities, people will be
celebrating an unprecedented international treaty
that's going into effect that day. It is the
product of eight years of work and it has brought
141 countries together. It represents exactly the
kind of broad global undertaking that idealists
all over the world have been striving for since
the end of World War II: a massive, worldwide
plan to address a terribly pressing problem
confronting the entire planet.
The treaty is the Kyoto Protocol, a collective
response to the greatest security crisis in the
world - global warming.
But one country will not be celebrating. The
United States. Even though almost all European
countries are on board, and even though Russia is
on board and even though China is on board, the
United States, in an act of supreme
irresponsibility, is standing on the platform
watching the train leave the station. (The only
other industrialized nations that have failed to
join the protocol are Monaco and Australia.)
This is particularly egregious when you consider
that the United States would be by far the most
significant participant. That's because it is the
single biggest polluter on the planet, accounting
for about one-quarter of the world's greenhouse
Why won't the United States take part? Because
the Bush administration refuses to believe in
science and refuses to ask for responsible
leadership from its giant corporate backers.
Instead, genuflecting to the coal, oil and
automobile lobbies, our country continues to act
like a superpower bully that does what it wants,
when it wants and how it wants - deadly
consequences be damned.
The rules that apply to the rest of the world,
the administration in effect is saying, need not
apply to us. International agreements - whether
they involve the International Criminal Court,
the Kyoto Protocol or the Geneva Convention -
should not be allowed to bind the hands of the
most powerful nation on Earth. On that point, at
least, the U.S. is are consistent.
At a time when international cooperation is more
important than ever, it's hard to overstate just
how out of step the United States is with the
rest of the world. Instead of providing
leadership, we are standing in the doorway of the
future blocking an eminently reasonable attempt
Few people bother to deny the problem anymore.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, for instance,
noted the "emerging consensus" on climate change
at the Davos conference last month.
But the U.S. energy industry continues to spend
millions on lobbyists and propagandists in an
effort to spread doubt and confusion on the
subject. The industry, instead of putting money
into research and development to come up with the
renewable energy technologies desperately needed
to secure both our national security and its own
economic future, has mounted a relentless
campaign to discredit the truth.
Of course, corporate America would not have the
power to torpedo common-sense solutions to an
imminent threat were it not for the complicity of
our elected officials. Take Sen. James M. Inhofe
(R-Okla.), chairman of the Environment and Public
Works Committee. He has been so hypnotized by
enormous campaign contributions from the energy
industry that he actually had the chutzpah to say
that "global warming is the greatest hoax ever
perpetrated on the American people."
And what's Michael Crichton's excuse? His latest
best-selling novel, "State of Fear," offers up
the delusional notion that global warming is the
creation of environmental groups looking to boost
their profile and fill their coffers. This is
like arguing that the link between smoking and
cancer was dreamed up by oncologists,
radiologists and funeral home directors.
Unfortunately, Crichton's sophomoric fiction may
be the only thing many Americans read on global
The truth is that the jury is no longer out;
there is no more room or time for confusion,
doubt or skepticism. Global warming is real and
rapidly altering our weather, our economy and our
world. The 1990s were the hottest decade in the
last 1,000 years, according to the Natural
Resources Defense Council. Nine of the 10 hottest
years on record occurred after 1994, according to
the United Nations' World Meteorological
The arctic ice sheet has shrunk 20% since 1979.
And bears are coming out of hibernation a month
early, throwing off their entire life cycles.
The can't-do crowd in our industry and our
government continues to claim that anything we do
to control emissions will hurt our economy
unacceptably. Get real!
The Kyoto Protocol is not the be-all to ending
global warming, but it is an important first
step. And we are spitting in the eye of the rest
of the world by refusing to be part of it.
Laurie David is a trustee of the Natural
Resources Defense Council and co-founder of the
Detroit Project, a not-for-profit campaign that
pressures automakers to produce fuel-efficient
AND CHINA –
Climate fears prompt energy U-turn in China
Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor - Independent on Sunday - 13 February 2005
China has abruptly slowed and halted work on building 22 major dams and power stations in a dramatic greening of the policies of the world's most populous nation.
The surprise move - one of the most dramatic ever undertaken by any government - arises from rapidly growing environmental concern in China. It calls the bluff of President George Bush, who has cited growing pollution in China as justification for refusing to join the Kyoto Protocol, which enters into force on Wednesday.
Last week Tony Blair went out of his way to welcome China's readiness to take "a real lead" in combating global warming. In the first instance of its kind, the Chinese State Environment Protection Agency laid down that the projects - which cover 13 of the country's provinces and are worth a total of £7.5bn - should not proceed until their impact on the environment had been reviewed. Among the halted projects is an important power facility at the highly controversial Three Gorges dam on the Yangtse River.
Observers attribute the move to growing interest in the environment by premier Wen Jiabao and other national leaders. Many of the children of top Chinese politicians and officials are members of the environmental pressure groups that are thriving at the country's top universities.
President Bush has cited the prospect of growing emissions of carbon dioxide from China as one of the main reasons for trying to kill the Kyoto treaty as "fatally flawed", and for his administration's attempts to try to stop the world agreeing to a successor. But even before the latest move, China had already done far more than the US to combat the danger of climate change. Although its emissions of carbon dioxide, the main cause of global warming, rose rapidly between 1978 and 1996, they then fell sharply as a result of clean-up measures. US government figures suggest emissions dropped by 17 per cent between 1996 and 2000, while the Chinese economy grew by 36 per cent. During the same period, US emissions grew by 5 per cent.
AND AUSTRALIA AS WELL -
Heat on to sign Kyoto
Alison Rehn - Australian HS - 14 February 2005
THE heat was turned up on the Howard Government ahead of the official start to the Kyoto Protocol on Wednesday, with protests in London and political pressure at home. Australia and the US are the only major industrialised countries to have resisted signing the protocol, which will limit greenhouse emissions and introduce an international carbon trading scheme.
Several hundred protesters marched in London at the weekend, demanding Australia and the US sign up.
Both countries have rejected the agreement on the ground it would disadvantage their industries against those in the developing world
More than 350 protesters marched through central London, carrying flags of the 136 countries that have ratified the protocol and signs calling for the US and Australia to join the agreement.
At home, opposition environment spokesman Anthony Albanese will today introduce a private member's Bill called "Avoiding dangerous climate change", requiring Australia to ratify Kyoto.
And the ALP will use today's Valentine's Day to distribute postcards reading "Love the Planet: Avoid Dangerous Climate Change", asking people concerned about the environment to sign and send them to Prime Minister John Howard.
The Federal Government has refused to ratify the protocol, saying it is a "failed, flawed" treaty.
"I think the debate about what you ratify or not is out of date," Environment Minister Ian Campbell said.
Senator Campbell said the Government had committed $1.8 billion over five years on alternative energy development, looking at subjects including solar energy, a hydrogen economy and geosequestration - which involves storing carbon underground.
"It's not what we're not doing, it's what we are doing," Senator Campbell said.
Labour believes that by not signing the protocol, Australia is missing out on a historic opportunity.
Mr Albanese hoped the postcards would touch a chord with Australians.
"As important as human relationships are, so too is our collective relationship with our natural environment," Mr Albanese said.
He said by not ratifying the treaty, Australia would miss out on any global economic opportunities that came with ratification, including carbon trading schemes worth $6 billion.
But Senator Campbell said carbon trading was not yet established.
Mr Albanese said it concerned him that both the US, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and Australia, the largest emitter per capita, were the only two countries in the developed world not to have ratified the protocol, named after the Japanese city in which the initial climate change conference was held seven years ago.
12 February 2005
CLIMATE CHANGE AND AVIATION
From 1990 to 2002, in the UK, domestic aviation was the
fastest growing source of greenhouse gases. When questioned by the House of Commons Liaison Committee on the government's policies for reducing the causes of climate change Tony Blair said in relation to aviation:
(Extract from uncorrected transcript of oral evidence relating to aviation and climate change given to the Parliamentary Liaison committee, from Parliament's website - 8 February 2005)
Q156 Mr Key: Okay, let's move on. Do you believe the rapid growth in cheap international air travel with tax-free aviation fuel, the impact at home of needing new runways and all of that, the impact the other end of environmentally-damaging tourist resorts and the damage to the atmosphere in between caused by high level emissions of carbon, is really sustainable? Do you think it is really acceptable?
Mr Blair: I think it is a very good reason why the science and technology needs to be explored; aviation fuel in particular. I also think, and it is something I said in Davos and I repeat and I know people think it is not the right thing to say but I believe it is true, hands up around this table how many politicians facing, let us say or not say, a potential election at some point in time in the not too distant future, would vote to end cheap air travel? Right. None. Oh, Richard!
Mr Hinchliffe: He is not standing!
Q157 Mr Key: It is really not a question of ending it, is it?
Mr Blair: It is not, but that is why I say this is what is important, if we are realistic about this, then the only way through is to take a hard-headed look at what the science and technology offer us. For example, the new Airbus we went down to Toulouse to celebrate is actually on fuel efficiency far more fuel efficient than the current airliners, and that is the sort of thing you need to be looking at and I think that is the only way through it. I do not think you are going to have any political consensus for saying, "We are going to slap some huge tax on cheap air travel", unless you think differently.
Q158 Mr Key: But that is a bit defeatist. We cannot just say, "Okay, it is terrible but we will do nothing."
Mr Blair: I am not saying do nothing, but the way through it is to focus on, for example, on aviation fuel how we would improve the environmental sustainability of that, and that is what is happening with the whole hydrogen fuel cell debate in relation to cars in America. Incidentally, America is putting probably the largest sum of money into science and technology in these things of any country around the world.
OUR COMMENT: Not very logical when we are told on the news that electricity costs may rise in order to obtain more electricity from renewable sources to help combat global warming! Every home on the UK pays an electricity bill, but not everyone can afford the full costs of a "cheap flight holiday", or even wants to! Why is one politically acceptable but not the other?
BLAIR RULES OUT AIR FUEL TAX
Matthew Tempest, Political Correspondent - The Guardian - 8 February 2005
Tony Blair today in effect ruled out introducing a fuel tax on aviation - the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions - just days after leading members of the G7 group of industrial nations backed the idea.
Cross-examined on climate change by a panel of MPs this morning, the prime minister defended Britain's no-frills airline industry, saying he would not "slap some huge tax on cheap air travel".
Aviation fuel - kerosene - is unique in being tax free. Environmentalists claim the exemption deprives the government of around £7bn a year and breaches its own "polluter pays" principle.
At the London meeting of G7 finance ministers at the weekend, a consensus emerged for the first time on moving toward taxing kerosene. Germany, France and Luxembourg backed the proposal but earmarked the money for international aid rather than tackling climate change.
In its aviation white paper, the government had said taxing aviation fuel unilaterally was unfeasible until there was international support for the move. The most recent transport select committee report similarly ruled such a tax out.
Today Mr Blair instead pointed to the Airbus, a pan-European project launched in Toulouse last week. He told MPs the new aircraft's increased fuel efficiency was the way forward for the industry.
Pressed on aviation emissions, he said: "I think that it's a very good reason why the science and technology need to be explored, [regarding] aviation fuel in particular.
"I do not think you're going to have any political consensus for saying we're going to slap some huge tax on cheap air travel."
With France and Germany now pushing for a tax, Britain's veto is likely to result in a stalemate because airlines would purchase aviation fuel in countries not imposing a kerosene tax.
In a long session - much of which was devoted to climate change - before the chairmen of all the Commons select committees, Mr Blair would not say what measures he and his family had taken at their Downing Street residence to lower energy use.
However, he said the whole of Whitehall was looking at measures such as long-use lightbulbs and obtaining electricity from "green" suppliers. "In government we try to do what we can, where we can," he said.
But he said: "There is a limit to what government can do for people in their existing houses. There's a limit to the degree to which I can say to people: 'You must do this or that in your domestic situation.'"
Mr Blair said he had no doubt personally of the science behind climate change, despite sceptical voices among the US business community. "My personal view is there's little or no doubt about it," he told MPs. He said the only sensible way to proceed was to take a "precautionary" approach.
"Even if there were a residual doubt, any sensible precautionary policy would say the consequences of it being right are so severe it's best to change behaviour," he said.
Mr Blair has said getting a consensus on the need to tackle climate change is one of his priorities for the UK's chairmanship of the G8 group of leading industrialised democracies.
But he said of his prospects for gaining agreement at the Gleneagles G8 summit in July: "We shouldn't set an over-ambitious target for ourselves."
Mr Blair acknowledged there was no prospect of Washington signing up to Kyoto but insisted the US was open to dialogue on measures to tackle global warming.
"The argument about Kyoto has not shifted. Let's be absolutely blunt about that. The Senate voted 100 to nothing against Kyoto. In my view, whatever administration was in power, Kyoto would not be passed.
"However, if you look at individual states in the United States, if you look at legislation now being brought by individual senators, some of whom are Republican, there is a change in debate going on in the US and we should make use of that and see if we can't mould that to a greater consensus."
"I think it is possible to get the US back into a dialogue on this, by patient and successful diplomacy and negotiation," he told the committee.
Mr Blair said he had no doubt that Britain would meet its Kyoto targets, even though it was not on track for its own more ambitious target to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 20% by 2010.
He said: "It is true that CO2 emissions have risen slightly in the last couple of years as a result of very strong industrial growth, but on the other six greenhouse gas emissions we have achieved reductions.
"I think we can be very proud of what we have done and I can assure you that, from the conversations I have had with different people from different parts of the world, the UK is very much regarded as a market leader in this field."
OUR COMMENT: The biggest proportional rise in emissions has been from transport and aviation not from industry. Much of the burden of reducing greenhouse gases has been put on industry and it has produced results. Other sectors should contribute too.
G7 IDEA FOR JET FUEL TAX ANGERS AIRLINES
Kevin Done, Aerospace Correspondent - Financial Times - 8 February 2005
European airlines yesterday reacted angrily to suggestions for a tax on air travel to help pay for poverty relief in Africa.
Some European finance ministers at the weekend G7 meeting suggested such a tax could fund an ambitious scheme to increase aid flows immediately to some of the world's poorest countries.
The plans were opposed by the US but Jean-Claude Juncker, the Luxembourg prime minister representing the European Union, spurred speculation that the EU would propose a tax on aviation fuel or air tickets.
He said: "I have the impression - and indeed the knowledge - that most EU finance ministers are in favour of taxation of kerosene."
Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus, secretary general of the Association of European Airlines, said: "Of course we applaud humanitarian initiatives, but why target the airlines? Our industry is in the midst of a fundamental crisis.
"Our members are laying off staff and trimming their product to be able to offer the sort of low-cost, low-fare product the customers want, only to be once again confronted with a measure designed to increase our costs."
He said that if ministers were sincere about helping developing countries, "they would be asking themselves how they could encourage, and not discourage, travel and tourism into these regions".
The international airline industry is firmly opposed to the introduction of a global kerosene tax, which has been proposed by many environmental groups.
Aviation is currently exempt from taxation on international air travel under the terms of the 1944 Chicago Convention, which still governs much of international aviation regulation, and there is no consensus among governments on introducing an international jet kerosene tax.
The assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, a United Nations agency, last September ruled out any such move for at least three years.
However, the EU and the European Commission are investigating moves that could be taken solely on intra-European flights to take greater account of the environmental impact of aviation, including its contribution to climate change.
The UK government is leading the way in urging the inclusion of aviation by 2008 in the European carbon emissions trading scheme and is committed to making this one of the priorities of its presidency of the EU in the second half of this year.
12 February 2005
A GOOD TIME TO EXPAND AN AIRPORT
IN THE DRIEST REGION OF THE UK?
Concerns about an adequate water supply have been one of the many reasons for objecting to the expansion of Stansted airport
U.K. to Revoke Water Licenses to Cope With Droughts
Peter McGill - News Environment - Bloomberg - 10 February 2005
The U.K. will revoke some of the thousands of individual licenses to extract water and encourage farmers to build reservoirs to help cope with summer droughts caused by global warming, Environment Minister Elliot Morley and Food and Farming Minister Larry Whitty told journalists.
The numbers licensed to take water from the ground, lakes and rivers was "unsustainable'' and will have to be "reined in,'' Morley said. In parts of southern England, "chalk streams run dry in summer, causing all sorts of ecological damage'' as a result of water extraction.
Farmers in drier parts of the U.K. will need to build reservoirs to store rainwater that falls during wetter winters. Morley cited a model reservoir in central England, costing about 1 million pounds ($1.89 million), that was built by a group of "two or three farms'' with government subsidy.
Global climate change will bring more storms, flooding, and heatwaves to the U.K., along with drier and hotter summers, wetter and milder winters, and rising sea levels, the government says. About 12 percent of U.K. farmland is estimated to be at risk from flooding or coastal erosion.
Emissions of greenhouse gases will probably raise global temperatures by between 1.4 and 5.8 degrees Celsius during this century, a U.K.-sponsored conference on climate change concluded last week. Heat-trapping concentrations in the atmosphere of gases such as carbon dioxide, produced in power generation, are already about 50 percent higher than in pre-industrial times, according to the government.
"Water availability and water management are likely to be critical issues for U.K. farmers,'' Whitty said, especially for arable crops "such as potatoes, sugar beet and vegetables'' that are grown on large farms in East Anglia, a region of southeast England that's expected to be one of the worst hit by drought.
12 February 2005
VITAL RULING LOOMS ON AIRPORT GROWTH
Cambridge News - 10 February 2005
AIRPORT protesters have vowed to fight on no matter what the outcome of their High Court battle. "We won't stop": say Stansted protestors.
Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) challenged the Government's Air Transport White Paper, which includes plans to develop Stansted Airport. The result of the challenge is expected to be handed down by Mr Justice Sullivan on Friday, February 18.
During the original High Court hearing, campaigners argued there was no commercial justification for a second runway at Stansted and that there had been a failure to inform the public about alternatives.
Anti-expansion groups from Luton, Heathrow and the London boroughs of Hillingdon and Wandsworth have also joined the fight against the Government.
The decision of another High Court challenge against the White Paper, mounted by Essex County Council, Uttlesford District Council and other local authorities, is expected on the same day. Principle points argued in that challenge surrounded the funding and viability of a second Stansted runway.
In a statement, SSE's campaign director Carol Barbone said: "We are under no illusions about the scale of the challenge of overturning the White Paper and to succeed would be a momentous achievement."
"However, there is no doubt at all that the judicial review has already provided extremely valuable ammunition to Stop Stansted Expansion for future attacks through the UK and EU legal system, in the City on commercial viability grounds and via the planning process. Our fight will go on - whatever it takes - until we ultimately force BAA and the Government to abandon its plans."
A BAA Stansted spokesman said: "The legal challenges are against the Government and not BAA, but the completion of a second runway development at Stansted will be subject to two key factors: obtaining the required planning permission to build, following the inevitable public inquiry; and the financial formula being in place that will allow us to afford to build the new runway."
He said it was "business as usual" at the airport and preparations were continuing for a formal planning application. "It would appear that yet again, opponents of airport expansion are fuelling their arguments with speculation and guesswork," he added.
(Note our italics above)
9 February 2005
THE FINANCES OF STANSTED EXPANSION
ANOTHER SET- BACK
Another BA boss quits over Heathrow debacle
Dominic O'Connell - Business Section - The Sunday Times - 6 February 2005
ANOTHER senior British Airways executive has quit in the wake of last summer's flights chaos at Heathrow. Peter Read, a BA veteran who was operations director at the airport, resigned last week. He was one of three bosses reported to be in the firing line after the disruption.
Mervyn Walker, UK airports director, resigned last month. Of the three, only Mike Street, main-board director with responsibility for customer service and operations, is still working for the airline.
Thousands of passengers were left stranded in August amid staff shortages, walk-outs by check-in workers and recriminations over the airline's cost-cutting plans.
Read will continue to serve as BA's appointee to the board of Nats, Britain's air-traffic control agency.
BAA has had a setback in its plan to build a new runway at Stansted in Essex. The Civil Aviation Authority, the company's regulator, has taken the unprecedented step of withdrawing an approval for it to recover £105m spent on preliminary works after a threat of legal action by airlines.
The CAA formally agreed that BAA could recoup the money from airline charges. But last week it withdrew the decision, saying it had not "fully" taken into account the views of airlines, which are fiercely opposed to higher charges.
A letter from a group of Stansted airlines to the CAA said the original decision was "highly questionable".
MORE SET-BACKS FOR EXPANSION?
Airlines warn of fuel tax meltdown
Ashley Seager - The Guardian - 7 February 2005
Airlines reacted furiously yesterday to moves by European governments to slap a tax on aviation fuel, with some in the industry warning that a third of European airlines would be forced out of business within a year.
Environmentalists, however, said a tax on jet fuel - which is unique among major fuels not to carry any duty - was long overdue and the only way that Europe could have any hope of meeting its carbon emissions targets.
At a meeting of Group of Seven finance ministers in London at the weekend, Germany, France and other European countries said they favoured a kerosene tax as a way to raise revenue to channel towards greater aid for the world's poorest countries.
A spokesman for easyJet said the company did not object in principle to a tax on aviation fuel as long as the flat-rate air passenger duty was scrapped.
"If they want to do something for the environment, fine. But if they are just going to stick this tax on top of what we already pay, the industry would be very angry," said a spokesman.
"Fuel prices are already incredibly high and no one is making any money. An additional tax would drive a third of airlines in Europe out of business within a year."
Gordon Brown at the weekend said he would be prepared to consider such a move. The Treasury has long recognised that aviation fuel is untaxed whereas petrol duties amount to almost 80% of the cost of a litre at the pumps, though it is unlikely to want to back a plan to tax it ahead of the general election expected in May.
British Airways, which last week said its profit had been almost cut in half in the final quarter of 2004 by record high oil prices, also rejected the idea of a tax on kerosene, as jet fuel is known.
"We are currently taking part in the UK government's trial emissions trading scheme and believe that intra-EU aviation emissions should be included in the EU emission trading scheme from 2008," said a spokeswoman.
"A tax on aviation fuel places additional costs on the aviation industry but provides no incentive to improve environmental performance."
Environmentalists were delighted at the idea. "The only reason that cheap flights are possible is because the airline industry is undertaxed and one reason for that is that fuel is untaxed," said Tony Bosworth of Friends of the Earth.
Taxing jet fuel would be a good start if countries were serious about tackling the environmental damage associated with burning carbon fuels, Mr Bosworth added.
He urged the chancellor to raise air transport duty sharply as an interim measure until a wider fuel tax could be introduced.
The German finance minister, Hans Eichel, told the Guardian ahead of the weekend that he would propose a kerosene tax at the G7 meeting, thereby meeting a demand of his party's Green coalition partners and raising money for sub-Saharan Africa.
His idea was backed by the French. Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of Luxembourg, who chairs the monthly Ecofin meetings of European finance ministers, said the issue would definitely be on the agenda of the next Ecofin.
"We will push in that direction and we are prepared to do it independently of the US," he said, acknowledging that Washington was opposed to the plan.
Mr Juncker said he was convinced that once Europe got such a tax up and running, other countries around the world would be under severe pressure to follow suit.
9 February 2005
LOCAL RESIDENTS ARE VERY DISTURBED
Readers' Letters - Financial Times - 5 February 2005
Sir, Tyler Brule (Fast Lane, FT Weekend, January 22-23) displays the insouciance of those who seem happy to fly anywhere at the drop of a hat, and damn the environmental consequences for the rest of us.
I would be surprised if many residents around Heathrow airport, London, were suffering badly from the lack of "anything much to look at since Concorde went into retirement".
In fact I imagine that a good many of them are absolutely delighted.
And I doubt if many of those under the UK's increasingly busy flight paths are, as he suggests, inclined to gaze heavenward and ask: "How does a thing like that stay in the air?" It is much more likely to be: "Why are there so many more things like that in the air, and why aren't these particular polluters being made to pay?"
Hadstock, Cambridge CB1 6PA
9 February 2005
AIRPORT NOISE - A CHANCE TO GET SOME ACTION
European campaign launched against night flights
Marit Ruuda - EU Observer - 25 January 2005
Millions of Europeans lose sleep because of night flights
Green MEPs on Tuesday (25 January) launched a European campaign against night flights, hoping to cut down on noise pollution, which is affecting millions of Europeans every day.
According to the MEPs, night flights threaten the quality of life and health of more than 10 million Europeans and the costs to society, in terms of sick leaves and health problems, are enormous.
"One of the reasons we started this campaign was that we were getting so many complaints from people from different countries", said Belgian Green MEP Bart Staes.
Speaking to journalists in the European Parliament, the campaigners said that only action across the whole of Europe could solve the problem.
"Otherwise we will have a race to the bottom where airlines will simply move their operations to the country or region with the lowest standards in this field", said UK Green MEP Caroline Lucas.
The MEPs believe that only if every airport in the EU is obliged to comply with the same set of rules, could the number of night flights be reduced to a minimum.
However, they are not campaigning for a total ban. Sometimes night flights are needed and "there is no need to be too stubborn", said Mr Staes.
The Greens have produced a written declaration and are hoping that more than half of MEPs will sign it. The idea of the declaration is to ask the European Commission to produce a proposal for a law restricting night flights in the EU.
The nuisance caused by aircraft noise should be reduced to the absolute minimum between 11pm and 7am, states the declaration.
There are currently more than 550,000 night flights each year in the EU.
The campaigners have launched a website where people can sign the petition and also urge their MEP to sign the declaration.
You can read all about it and sign the on-line petition at www.nonightflights.org/eng/index.php
OUR COMMENT: Have you supported this petition ? If not, Why not?
9 February 2005
WHAT ABOUT AIR POLLUTION?
THE BAD NEWS: UK GOVERNMENT DELAYS
Ministers at odds with Brussels over greenhouse gas limits
Fiona Harvey, Environment Correspondent - News Environment - 5 February 2005
The government's row with the European Commission over carbon dioxide emissions escalated yesterday as it was forced to delay its allocation of emissions allowances to industry.
The announcement of the allocations was originally scheduled for Monday. It will now take place later in the week, after the government disclosed it had received a letter from the Commission on Wednesday, responding to the UK's proposal to raise the ceiling on the amount of greenhouse gas British industries can produce.
Under the European Union's greenhouse gas trading scheme, which started on January 1, energy-intensive businesses across Europe have been obliged to monitor their emissions, and hold to strict limits in the amount they produce.
The Commission is known to have been angered by the UK's attempt last October to revise upwards its ceiling on emissions. The UK is believed to have responded by threatening the Commission with legal action.
The decision to revise the UK's limits, which the government said was because of a miscalculation when it first submitted the plan in April, has dented the reputation of Tony Blair, who has sought to lead the world on the issue by making it a priority for the Group of Eight industrialised nations.
Earlier in the week, leading international scientists attending a conference on climate change in Exeter urged governments to take immediate action to prevent the phenomenon.
THE PROBLEM – ANOTHER REPORT FROM THE IPPR
UK should cut emissions by 40 per cent by 2020
Press Release - Institute for Public Policy Research - 1 February 2005
The Government should commit to reduce UK emissions of carbon dioxide by 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 if it is to do its fair share to prevent dangerous climate change, according to a report published today (Tuesday) the Institute for Public Policy Research (ippr).
ippr's research shows that if global average temperature is allowed to rise more than 2°C above the pre-industrial level, dangerous climate change impacts are likely to occur including:
* Billions more people facing water shortages worldwide;
* Crop losses hitting major food exporting countries;
* A very high proportion of coral reefs dying; and
* The irreversible decline of the Amazon rainforest.
Simon Retallack, ippr Research Fellow and report author, said:
"If the Government is to be credible in its attempt to lead the world in making progress on climate change, through its presidencies of the G8 and EU this year, it needs to commit to greater action to reduce emissions at home. Matching Germany's pledge of a 40 per cent carbon dioxide reduction target for 2020 and delivering on its existing target of a 20 per cent cut by 2010 is essential."
The report presents new evidence showing that to have an 80 per cent chance of preventing global temperature rising by more than 2°C, the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere would need to be stabilised at the equivalent of about 400 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 by 2100 (compared to 379ppm of CO2 only in 2004 and 280 ppm of CO2 in pre-industrial times). By contrast, stabilising at 550ppm, the basis of the Government's current 2050 target, would provide only a 10-20 per cent chance of keeping global temperature rise under 2ºC.
To allow for a rise in prosperity and emissions in the developing world, the new research suggests that the UK will need to reduce its CO2 below 1990 levels by about 40 per cent by 2020 and about 90 per cent by 2050. These reductions can be achieved through substantial increases in energy efficiency and renewable energy generation, and by greater action to protect forests and soils which absorb CO2. That will need to be matched by measures to slash emissions of other greenhouse gases, such as methane.
Currently, the Government has a target to cut UK CO2 emissions by 20 per cent by 2010, but is only on track to achieve a 14 per cent reduction. It also has a long-term goal of a 60 per cent cut by 2050, but ippr's research indicates that this will fall short of what will be necessary.
ONE OF THE CAUSES OF THE PROBLEM
Passengers send easyJet soaring
Guy Dresser, This is Money - This is London - 7 February 2005
BUSINESS is booming at easyJet but the budget airline says its visibility remains cloudy and it has a 'limited' ability to predict the industry's outlook.
The Luton-based carrier revealed soar-away passenger numbers today, after a bumper January in which 2.08m people flew with the no-frills outfit.
This represents a 23.8% jump on the same month last year and for the 12 months to the end of January the total number of passengers carried reached 26.1m, up 22.8% on the previous 12 month period.
Chief executive Ray Webster said first-quarter performance remained positive, buoyed by a good start in January. But, he admitted, the business remained tough.
'We base the yield assumptions in our longer-term business plan on an outlook for continued intense competition. To date the second quarter is performing positively. However, as with any airline, visibility remains limited, and part of the positive performance will be due to the timing of Easter,' Webster added.
Yields, the all-important indicator of profit per passenger also held up well. And load factor, the proportion of passengers to seats available was 76.4%, down 0.8%. Total revenue per passenger in the quarter to the end of December was down slightly at £41.87, another 0.8% fall, but easyJet said that while average fares went down 2% to £39.04, efforts to make up this money elsewhere had paid off.
EasyJet, like its rival Ryanair, has looked to other sources besides fares to raise revenue from passengers. The focus on ancillary revenue, such as excess baggage charges, proved successful as contributions per passenger from these extra sources rose 21% during the last quarter of the year.
EasyJet's apparent continuing good fortune contrasts with difficulties at rival Ryanair, which last week revealed a 26% drop in third-quarter profits to £24m as higher oil prices and a collapse in fares took their toll.
Ryanair's chief executive Michael O'Leary, meanwhile, is continuing to resist a £40m claim from BAA over allegedly unpaid landing fees at Stansted. That claim is set to end up in court next year.
THE GOOD NEWS
Some people are trying to find a way to reduce aviation pollution
Climate Change and the Future of Air Travel
Source: Imperial College, London - 2 February 2005
Researchers are investigating how air travel can be adapted to ease its impact on the environment.
The investigation focuses on how aircraft can avoid creating vapour trails, also known as contrails. These spindly threads of condensation may not seem important but some persist for hours and behave in the same way as high altitude cirrus clouds, trapping warmth in the atmosphere and exacerbating global warming.
Air travel is currently growing at between 3 and 5% per year and cargo transportation by air is increasing by 7% per year. Uniquely, the researchers at Imperial College London are combining predictions from climate change models with air traffic simulations to predict contrail formation and identify ways of reducing it.
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is funding the work, which is a joint effort between the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering and the Department of Physics at Imperial College London.
As the climate changes, so will the general condition of the atmosphere and the new work aims to understand how this will affect contrail formation. They have already found that aircraft could generally minimise contrail formation by flying lower in the atmosphere. Their work suggests that in the summer, when the air is warmer, restricting jets to an altitude of 31,000 feet could be beneficial. In winter, when the air cools, and contrail formation becomes more likely, the ceiling should be no more then 24,000 feet.
Day to day variability in atmospheric conditions were also found to have a substantial effect on the ability of simple altitude restrictions to be an effective policy. Current work is aiming to examine more complex aircraft routing strategies aimed at avoiding air masses that lead to persistent contrail formation.
At present the production of contrails and their effect on the environment is not taken into account in government assessments of the environmental impact of air travel. Team leader, Dr Robert Noland, thinks it should be. He says, "We'd like this research to inform government policies, not just in the UK but throughout the EU and the rest of the world so that decision makers can take all the environmental issues into account and do the right thing."
Dr Noland also believes that the work has direct relevance to aircraft manufacturers. He says, "There is little more that aircraft designers can do to increase engine fuel efficiency at high altitude, but designing new aircraft that can be as fuel efficient flying at 20,000 feet, as todays aircraft are at 35,000 feet, would help eliminate contrails."
This story has been adapted from a news release issued by Imperial College London
OUR COMMENT: Meantime - No expansion of aviation - No extra pollution!
5 February 2005
MORE WARNINGS ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE
Scientists issue clarion call on global warming
Environment Daily 1816 - 4 February 2005
The world faces the likelihood of dangerous climate change unless it
makes deep and early cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, it has emerged
from a UK government-sponsored international scientific conference.
The meeting was called by prime minister Tony Blair, who is pursuing
global consensus on the need to curb greenhouse gas emissions during
the UK presidency of the G8 group of nations. The core objective of
the 1992 UN climate change convention is to avoid "dangerous" global
The Exeter conference has provided the closest thing to a definitive
scientific update on climate change since the last UN intergovernmental
panel on climate change assessment in 2001. In just about all areas
the conference conclusions suggest that the risks are equal to or
greater than previously thought.
It has not produced agreement on a single threshold beyond which
climate change is indisputably "dangerous". However, a consensus is
emerging around a global temperature rise from pre-industrial levels of
two degrees centigrade. This is already the EU's political goal.
The Greenland ice cap could suffer irreversible melting if world
temperatures rise by as little as 1.5 degrees, the conference heard.
New findings suggest that the western Antarctic ice sheet, previously
thought to be stable, may actually be starting to melt. One paper put
the probability of the Atlantic thermohaline circulation shutting down
in the next 200 years as two in three.
Meanwhile, completely new climate change risks were presented. Most
notably the oceans are growing more acidic as dissolved carbon dioxide
concentrations rise. The trend could threaten phytoplankton
populations, putting at risk the ocean's ability to remove CO2 from the
atmosphere and damaging the entire marine food chain, scientists fear.
Global warming will probably exceed two degrees even if atmospheric
greenhouse gas concentrations are stabilised at 550ppm
(CO2-equivalent), Malte Meinshausen of ETH in Switzerland told the
conference. Concentrations would have to stabilise at 400ppm - which
is actually about 50ppm lower than today - for there to be a high
certainty of the two degree temperature limit being respected.
Limiting greenhouse gas concentrations to even 550ppm represents a
huge challenge. The world would have to cut emissions 10% from 1990
levels by 2050 to achieve it, Dr Meinshausen suggested. Emissions
would have to be halved to achieve stabilisation at 400ppm. In fact
latest International energy agency figures predict that world CO2
emissions will rise by 63% over 2002 levels by 2030.
Emission cuts need to be made quickly, scientists also said. Even a
delay of five years could be significant, according to the conference
conclusions. If action is delayed for 20 years, cuts might have to be
3-7 times larger to achieve the same temperature limit.
Although its main focus was on climate science, the conference also
considered technological options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Greater energy efficiency, nuclear and other non-carbon energy, and
carbon capture and storage were all highlighted. UK environment
minister Margaret Beckett welcomed the discussion for showing that
there can be "substantial moves away from carbon without damaging
OUR COMMENT: Still more words than actions. There could be substantial moves away from carbon without damaging economic growth but only if economic growth is sustainable. Aviation growth cannot be sustainable until aircraft are genuinely "greener". Why is there no credible plan for greening aviation, only a plan for expansion, thereby compromising all the hard-won greenhouse gas reduction efforts in other fields?
5 February 2005
DEFIANT IN THE FACE OF ADVERSITY
SSE's Community Conference
Sandra Perry - Herts & Essex Observer - 3 February 2005
Stop Stansted Expansion's 2005 community conference on Sunday began to the refrain "They've paved paradise and put up a parkin' lot" as supporters were urged not to relax just yet.
Some 200 people packed into the Hilton National for a recap on what had been achieved so far and battle lines for the future.
The event, sponsored by Uttlesford District Council, was opened by the authority's Alan Dean, who adapted the Joni Mitchell words from Big Yellow Taxi by Counting Crows band - "the environment is too precious to pave, it's worth fighting to save".
Director Carol Barbone said SSE had proved a second runway was not a done deal, BAA was not invincible, membership was 30% up to 6,000. SSE had raised £180,000, and forged a reputation for communicating researched facts. It had three integrated battle fronts - legal challenges, the planning system and the economic viability of expansion - and was not depending on a single "killer blow", she said.
Legal adviser David Hall said that if the government lost the judicial review against the Aviation White Paper, it might appeal or re-run the consultation. SSE might also appeal if it lost.
SSE would seek to persuade any planning inspector that the runway was unacceptable on planning grounds, and might take legal action if appropriate.
It was also exploring EU avenues about environmental requirements, and reviewing BAA's market behaviour to see if the Office of Fair Trading could become involved.
BAA's monopoly should be broken up and the London airports operated in competition with each other, Mr Hall said.
SSE chairman Peter Sanders said it would be making representations to the forthcoming Regional Plan inquiry, it supported the regional assembly's stance on "no second runway", and stressed that a Stansted masterplan was needed before BAA sought permission for 35 mppa.
SOME REVELATIONS FROM
"Plenty of parking at Starbucks Airport"
Herts & Essex Observer - 3 February 2005
The phrase "Starbucks Airport" has been coined in a link to the remark made by its chief executive Mike Clasper about the costs per passenger of an expanded Stansted - the price of a couple of cups of coffee.
SSE economics adviser Brian Ross' humorous and informative slide show kept the analogy going, ending with the suggestion that people "sell BAA shares, buy Starbucks".
Using BAA accounts for 2003-4 he set out how Stansted lost £1.03 per passenger on the aviation side, but made a profit of £1.42 on car parking and £1.60 on retail per traveller.
He said, "We cannot find another airport in the world which has as many car parking spaces per passenger throughput as Stansted. There are 42,700, plus 6,100 for employees and about 1,500 at the Hilton and Radisson hotels. "Its fundamental to the economics of Stansted airport."
Mr Ross stressed that BAA could not skimp on road and rail infrastructure for a second runway - there would have to be a tunnel under Hatfield forest and one between Elsenham and Takeley - and houses would have to be moved, pushing up the HOSS budget to £250m not the £100m that BAA had allowed.
5 February 2005
TERRY MORGAN ATTACKS TAKELEY PARISH COUNCIL
BAA boss attacks challenge
Dunmow Broadcast - 3 February 2005
THE managing director of BAA Stansted has said legal action bought by Takeley Parish Council could lead to an uncertain future for the Home Owner Support Scheme.
The council's legal challenge, on behalf of residents, hopes to address the absence of proper protection for homeowners in the community in relation to the property blight which has arisen as a consequence of the airport's expansion proposals.
But airport boss Terry Morgan said at a meeting of the Stansted Airport Consultative Committee last Wednesday that it had put a question mark over the scheme.
He said: "Although Takeley Parish Council and others have mounted a legal challenge against HOSS, we took the decision to launch the scheme on schedule on January 4."
"We thought it important to press ahead and honour the commitment made to local people under the terms and conditions of the scheme."
"This legal challenge potentially puts a question mark over the future of HOSS, and a measure of uncertainty returns to those directly affected, in particular the 108 residents who have applied to date."
HOSS has effectively split Takeley in two, with some residents falling inside the 66 decibel noise contour and therefore eligible for compensation, while others - next-door neighbours in some cases - are not.
Parish council chairman Councillor Trevor Allen told the Broadcast: "We fully appreciate the scheme is a voluntary scheme but what we want is for it to be widened."
"At the moment it has divided my parish down the middle. If they are being as fair as they say they are they should include the whole of the parish in the scheme."
5 February 2005
BOOST FOR BUSINESS?
(but the Airline has no aircraft and still has to get certified)
Transatlantic flights to Stansted to begin again?
De Havilland News - 3 February 2005
American budget carrier SkyLink Airways is seeking Federal Aviation Authority approval to bring transatlantic flights to Stansted Airport.
If successful, SkyLink will fly from Baltimore-Washington International airport to the Essex base.
The American carrier hopes that Stansted will provide a base for flying to other European destinations.
Transatlantic flights were halted three years ago, when Continental Airlines axed its Stansted to New York service in the aftermath of 9/11.
The East Anglian Daily Times quoted Adam Holloway, the UK spokesman for SkyLink Airways, as saying Stansted was an "amazing airport".
"We are in an early phase. We haven't yet bought our aircraft. We're trying to get ourselves certified. By March we'll have some aircraft and a clear idea of where we are going to fly to," Mr Holloway added.
SkyLink is currently recruiting for Stansted-based cabin crew and airport staff.
A Stansted Airport spokesman said: "Nothing is definitely concrete at the moment. They're very keen to start services from here this year."
3 February 2005
THE LAST BAA INTERVIEW
BAA's chief executive agreed to meet the Herts and Essex Observer's news editor, Sandra Perry, and answer questions put by Observer Readers. The first two interviews were about HOSS (the much criticised Home Owners' Support Scheme) and on noise. Both have been reported on Recent News.
The third was a mixture of questions on several topics.
* Why continue to talk to, consult with and listen to local people when it is clear that you are not going to take any notice of their views?
* Are you aware that people feel you are doing as little as possible to improve the unpleasant aspects of an expanding airport?
* Are you aware that you are losing credibility with local people? You are riding "roughshod" over them.
* You are the judge and the jury when it comes to complaints. You do not take them seriously and who knows if the statistics you publish are correct?
* Would you agree to an independent watchdog to monitor noise?
* How will you make sure that the rail service is not adversely affected by Stansted expansion?
* Are you planning to build a rail track through or under Hatfield Forest?
* When will you take a final decision on developing a second runway?
* We are both a good and a bad neighbour. We provide jobs, economic and social opportunities but we make a lot of noise that we must try and mitigate as best we can.
* We do listen to what local people say. We had lots of answers to our HOSS consultation and some of them did not want any scheme. We think it's a good scheme and it is providing compensation now, not in the future. We use Land Registry statistics because they are factual and not anecdotal.
* We are not the government, we are a private company, but we believe that we do consider the community, even when it is not required that we do so. We set up HOSS 3 days after the White Paper was published. We did not wait until after we had planning permission.
* We consider the views of those who are prepared to take a balanced view, recognising that the south-east needs airport development for its business success with measures to mitigate the negative effects.
* Our statistics are correct and are independently verified by Uttlesford. We have an independent working group watching noise and track keeping. They check the materials we publish and they can ask any questions and get truthful answers. The deputy chairman of Stop Stansted Expansion is a member.
* We work with the DfT and the Rail industry to ensure that enough rail services are provided. We will pay for a proportionate share of new infrastructure in line with the benefit to airport users.
* We are still working on plans for rail improvements. We are aware of "the appropriate sensitivity around Hatfield Forest".
* We need a second runway at Stansted. There are no spare slots at the peak time of 6.30am - 8.30am. We cannot make any decisions about timing until we have planning permission and a pricing framework determined by the regulator which gives an "appropriate return to our shareholders".
OUR COMMENT: BAA's Head of Public Affairs, Ralph Meloy, was a little more generous in a letter in the same edition of the Herts & Essex Observer (January 27th). He is answering Robert Halfon's comments , (prospective conservative candidate for Harlow), in the previous weeks' edition. He had suggested that the money spent on a second runway would be better spent "on improving our roads and railways and on cleaning up the environment".
Ralph Meloy points out that BAA is a private company and would be responsible for building the runway, taking "full responsibility for the risks as well as the rewards of investing millions of pounds in improving transport infrastructure". He then narrows the promise somewhat by adding: "our project costs will also include a considerable sum to fund the road and rail improvements necessary to support a new runway, and these benefits will be shared by airport customers and local people alike. All at no cost to the taxpayer".
Mike Clasper's statement of policy "to pay a proportionate share of any infrastructure development in line with the benefit that airport users get" is even more restrictive. The taxpayer is going to have to pay for their "proportionate share" whether they are enjoying any benefits or not. The taxpayer would not have needed the additional infrastructure if there was no second runway. BAA should fund all the necessary road and rail "improvements" (as well as the rest of the required infrastructure).
3 February 2005
TAKELEY PARISH COUNCIL TAKES ACTION
Council and BAA clash on apology
Dunmow Broadcaster - 27 January 2005
BAA Project Director Alastair McDermid has rejected calls from Takeley Parish Council for an apology over remarks he made to the press, saying he has nothing to apologise for.
In a letter, the council demanded a full apology over remarks made to the press by Mr McDermid about the nature of the parish council's legal challenge to the Home Owner Support Scheme (HOSS).
Takeley Parish Council Chairman, Trevor Allen, says in the letter: "I am writing to ask for a full apology to Takeley Parish Council and a full retraction in respect of the totally false information that you provided to journalists last week."
"I refer, of course, to the remarks you made about the nature and effect of the Parish Council's legal challenge to BAA's Home Owner Support Scheme (HOSS)."
Mr Allen goes on to say Mr McDermid said the action that they (Takeley Parish Council) want taken is that the scheme should be quashed and "it seems illogical to me that people want it quashed and I can't understand why they don't want a scheme that would provide help and support for local people."
Mr Allen claims Mr McDermid knew, from the papers that have been submitted to BAA Stansted and to the High Court, that the council's challenge seeks the HOSS to be widened.
"It is crystal clear in our submissions to the Court," says Mr Allen in his letter, "that the purpose of our challenge is to force BAA to extend eligibility for the scheme to a far larger number of homeowners than are currently eligible on the basis of BAA's woefully inadequate boundary based on a theoretical 66 decibel Leq noise contour."
"By deliberately providing misinformation to the media, presumably in an attempt to discredit Takeley Parish Council, you have caused unnecessary anxiety to local residents who currently qualify for the HOSS."
In a statement issued yesterday (Wednesday) morning, BAA said Alastair McDermid has not to date received any letter from Takeley Parish Council and would have appreciated this courtesy, rather than being informed of its existence by the media.
"Mr McDermid will reply directly to the Council as soon as he is in receipt of the letter. However, he will not be apologising for or retracting the statements made, which were subsequently reported in the press."
"It is a statement of fact that the only request made by Takeley Parish Council to the court is: A) The quashing of the Home Owner Support Scheme (HOSS), B) Seeking of costs."
3 February 2005
DO AS WE SAY!
(Even though we may not do all we should do)
Blair presses America on climate change
Environment Daily 1810 - 27 January 2005
UK prime minister Tony Blair has again urged the USA to fully support
world efforts to reign in greenhouse gas emissions - while accepting
that Washington is very unlikely to sign up to the existing Kyoto
In a speech at the Davos world economic forum on Wednesday, Mr Blair
said that Britain wanted to achieve agreement from all G8 countries
during its presidency of the rich-country grouping that the "direction
of travel" is towards reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
If these reductions were to involve drastic cuts in economic growth
then "they simply won't be agreed to", he said. But "this need not be
the case", he insisted, and through the G8 Britain wanted to develop
"practical measures" to cut emissions, all of which can often be done
"at a much lower cost than we realise".
Mr Blair's comments came against a background of dire new scientific
warnings on climate change. British scientists reported computer
modelling forecasts that global temperatures could increase by up to 11
degrees Celsius. This is twice the worst-case estimate for 2100
suggested by the UN intergovernmental panel for climate change in 2001
OUR COMMENT: The government is still lecturing others and failing to put their own house in order. While there are many good moves to reduce greenhouse gases, dealing with aviation pollution remains one of the biggest gaps in the UK's programme.
3 February 2005
SUSTAINABLE LIVING IN THE UK - WE COULD DO MUCH BETTER
"All countries must learn" on sustainability
Environment Daily 1809 - 26 January 2005
The most comprehensive environmental ranking of world nations has been
re-released after a three-year gap. The 2005 environmental
sustainability index (ESI) demonstrates that all countries have
something to learn from others, stressed US academic experts behind the
ESI was first launched in 2000, then profiling just 50 countries. Its
coverage has now been expanded to 146 nations. It rates countries'
performance across five categories, based on 21 indicators, in turn
based on 76 detailed data sets. The pressure-state-response framework
used in ESI has also championed by the European environment agency
ESI's key benefit, say its authors, is to enable governments to
benchmark their performance against others, something businesses have
long been doing. In particular, ESI enables peer group comparisons of
the underlying contributing factors to countries' overall score.
Environmentalists harshly criticised ESI when it was last issued in
2002 because so many rich countries appeared - and still appear - at
the top of the rankings. The new edition rejects this criticism - the
index includes an ecological footprint measure of consumption-related
environmental stress as favoured by green groups, it says, but in a
Judged by overall scores, European countries generally emerge
strongly, for example taking four out of the five top rankings. Most
European countries appear in the top quarter. Only five appear in the
third quarter, and one in the lowest (see table below).
Scandinavian countries rule supreme, not only in a European but also a
global context. The EU-15 and ten new members are widely scattered
below this with no apparent pattern. A few countries, notably Poland
and Belgium, emerge as far behind the others.
ESI attempts to make more sense of the data by identifying seven
clusters of countries based on shared patterns across the system's five
basic categories. European countries virtually all appear in just
three of these.
A first cluster comprises rich countries with relatively strong
environmental systems, suffering only moderate stress, and which are
showing moderate environmental stewardship. All Europe's Scandinavian
top four are in this category.
A second cluster comprises rich countries which again are showing
moderate environmental stewardship, but against a background of
relatively poor environmental systems and high environmental stresses.
Almost all other EU-15 states plus Slovenia are in this category.
The third cluster is distinguished by being poorer and by poor
stewardship, against a background of moderate environmental systems and
stresses. The rest of the new member states plus Greece fall in this
European countries in the 2005 ESI
1 ||Finland ||75.1 ||1
2 ||Norway ||73.4 ||1
4 ||Sweden ||71.7 ||1
5 ||Iceland ||70.8 ||1
7 ||Switzerland ||63.7 ||2
10 ||Austria ||62.7 ||2
15 ||Latvia ||60.4 ||3
19 ||Croatia ||59.5 ||3
21 ||Ireland ||59.2 ||2
22 ||Lithuania ||58.9 ||3
26 ||Denmark ||58.2 ||2
27 ||Estonia ||58.2 ||3
29 ||Slovenia ||57.5 ||2
31 ||Germany ||56.9 ||2
36 ||France ||55.2 ||2
37 ||Portugal ||54.2 ||2
41 ||Netherlands ||53.7 ||2
48 ||Slovakia ||52.8 ||3
54 ||Hungary ||52.0 ||3
66 ||UK ||50.2 ||2
67 ||Greece ||50.1 ||3
69 ||Italy ||50.1 ||2
70 ||Bulgaria ||50.0 ||3
76 ||Spain ||48.8 ||2
91 ||Turkey ||46.6 ||3
92 ||Czech Republic ||46.6 ||3
94 ||Romania ||46.2 ||3
102 ||Poland ||45.0 ||3
112 ||Belgium ||44.4 ||2
29 January 2005
MORE LETTERS ON AIRPORT EXPANSION
The launch of the Airbus 380 and the publication of yet another report on climate change initiated a media debate, not only on the practicality of greener aircraft but also on the wisdom and costs of expanding airports when the UK is aiming to be a world leader in reducing greenhouse gases. The debate continues:
Readers' Letters - The Guardian - 27 January 2005
From Jeff Gazzard, GreenSkies Alliance
Mike Clasper, BAA plc's Chief Executive, stated that "air transport pays for all of its infrastructure without a penny of public money", Guardian Letters, January 25th.
The Luxembourg-based European Investment Bank, the EU's long term financing institution, lent BAA plc €622 million (£432 million) for infrastructure projects at its UK airports between 1998 and 2002, including €391 million (£271 million) for the construction of its flagship Heathrow Terminal 5. In 1997, the Bank also supported the construction of the Paddington to Heathrow Express by BAA plc to the tune of €175 million (£121 million). The EIB's shareholders are the EU Member States and its Board of Governors is composed of the Finance Ministers of these States. The Bank's main role is to fund projects that might find it difficult to attract commercial finance, often in new EU member states and further afield, at less than commercial rates.
The attraction for BAA plc of these publicly-controlled funds is that they are considerably cheaper than the market rates which would normally be readily available to the UK's largest, highly profitable airport operator - BAA's pre-tax profits for the last 2 years were £587 and £616 million respectively.
BAA plc's initial construction financing costs and subsequent airport charges will be much cheaper in the long run because of these discounted EIB loans, clearly a virtuous circle as far as the company is concerned. The EIB's involvement in financing BAA plc's infrastructure projects is a very clear example of a substantial subsidy direct from a public institution to the air transport industry.
From Gary White, Bishop's Stortford, Herts
It is estimated that the cost of additional rail and road infrastructure to support a second runway at Stansted will be about £13bn (over and above the airport development cocts of £4bn).
Is Mr Clasper saying that if a second runway at Stansted were given the go-ahead, BAA would fit the bill for all the infrastructure? Or, as I suspect, will BAA expect councils and taxpayers to pick up the bill, on the premise that it will "Benefit" the community as a whole?
From John Phillips, Director of Communications, Heathrow
BAA Heathrow recognises that, as the world's busiest international airport, our operations have an impact on those who live under flight paths. Lucy Mangan (Peace struggle, G2, January 25th) gave some of our critics a forum but failed to reflect any of the positive attributes the airport brings to the local community and the economy of the south-east.
We try to be the best neighbour we can. We have established insulation schemes for residents and work with the airline industry to find ways to reduce noise levels.
And those communities whom aircraft noise is a problem depend on the airport for work or are home to our most frequent flyers.
OUR COMMENT: In other words, if you don't like it, move away! Not so easy these days - has BAA Heathrow got a HOSS that covers this kind of situation?
29 January 2005
IS THE POLLUTION PROBLEM GETTING WORSE?
Alarm at new climate warning
Richard Black, BBC Environment Correspondent - BBC News - 26 January 2005
Global temperatures could rise by as much as eleven degrees Celsius, according to one of the largest climate prediction projects ever run.
This figure is twice the level that previous studies have suggested. The scientists behind the project, called climateprediction.net, say it shows there's no such thing as a safe level of carbon dioxide.
The results of the study, which used PCs around the world to produce data, are published in the journal Nature.
Climateprediction.net is run from Oxford University, and is a distributed computing project; rather than using a supercomputer to run climate models, people can download software to their own PCs, which run the programs during downtime.
More than 95,000 people have registered, from more than 150 countries; their PCs have between them run more than 60,000 simulations of future climate. Each PC runs a slightly different computer simulation examining what happens to the global climate if levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere double from pre-industrial levels - which may happen by the middle of the century.
What vary most between the simulations are the precise nature of physical processes like the extent of convection within tropical clouds - a process which drives the transport of heat around the world.
So no two simulations will produce exactly the same results; overall, the project produces a picture of the possible range of outcomes given the present state of scientific knowledge.
The lowest rise which climateprediction.net finds possible is two degrees Celsius, ranging up to 11 degrees. The timescale would depend on how quickly the doubling of CO2 was reached, but large rises would be on a scale of a century at least from now.
"I think these results suggest that our need to do something about climate change is perhaps even more urgent," the climateprediction.net chief scientist David Stainforth told BBC News.
"However, with our current state of knowledge, we can't yet define a safe level in the atmosphere."
On Monday, the International Climate Change Taskforce, co-chaired by the British MP Stephen Byers, claimed it had shown that a carbon dioxide concentration of over 400 ppm (parts per million) would be 'dangerous'.
The current concentration is around 378 ppm, rising at roughly 2ppm per year.
Next week the UK Meteorological Office hosts an international conference, Stabilisation 2005, announced by Tony Blair late last year.
Its aim is to discuss what the term "dangerous" global warming really means, and to look at ways to stabilise greenhouse gas levels.
Myles Allen, the principal investigator of climateprediction.net, said the focus on stabilisation might not be appropriate.
"Stabilisation as an exclusive target may not be adequate," he told BBC News.
"Stephen Byers claims to know that 400 ppm is the maximum 'safe' level; what we show is that it may be impossible to pin down a safe level, and therefore we should not focus exclusively on stabilisation."
Distributed computing has been used before, notably by the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence or Seti, where several million people have downloaded software enabling them to analyse data from observations of distant galaxies for signs of alien life.
The scientists behind climateprediction.net believe their project, because it is distributed to individual PCs, can help inform people about climate change - and that, in turn could bring political change.
"It's very difficult to get politicians to collaborate, not only across the globe but also over sustained lengths of time," Bob Spicer from the Earth Sciences Department at the Open University, told BBC News.
"The people who can hold politicians to account are the public; and with this project we are bringing cutting-edge science to the stakeholders, the public."
INTERNET PROJECT FORECASTS GLOBAL WARMING
Biggest-ever climate simulation warns temperatures may rise by 11ºC
Michael Hopkin - Nature article - Published online - 26 January 2005
The greenhouse effect could be far more severe than experts had previously predicted, according to results from the world's biggest climate-modelling study. In the worst-case scenario, doubling carbon-dioxide levels compared with pre-industrial times increases global temperatures by an average of more than 11ºC.
But as well as a predicting a bigger maximum rise, the project has also increased the range of possible temperature changes.
The results are the first from climateprediction.net, a project that harnesses the world's desktop computers to predict climate change. More than 90,000 people have downloaded software that uses the spare capacity of their computers to run global climate simulations.
A doubling of carbon-dioxide levels could eventually lead to an increase in world-wide temperature of anything between 1.9ºC and 11.5ºC, the project's researchers report in this week's Nature. That is a far greater level of uncertainty than the 2-5ºC rise predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The uncertainty is greater because climateprediction.net looks at more possibilities than previous models, explains the project's leader, David Stainforth of the University of Oxford, UK. Previous predictions of global warming have been based on just a few dozen simulations; Stainforth's team analysed more than 2,000.
The researchers cannot yet put a time scale on the temperature increases, although they suggest that extreme warming could take decades or centuries. Atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels, currently standing at 379 parts per million, are predicted to hit double their pre-industrial level of 280 parts per million midway through this century.
Policies aimed at keeping greenhouse-gas levels below a safe threshold may miss the point, says team member Myles Allen, a physicist at the University of Oxford. Uncertainty over global warming may mean that no such threshold can be determined; rather, we may need to keep cutting greenhouse gases for many years to come. "The danger zone is not something in the future," he says. "We're in it now."
THE DANGER ZONE IS NOT SOMETHING IN THE FUTURE
- WE'RE IN IT NOW
Myles Allen - University of Oxford
Each simulation is a different version of a programme called a general circulation model. This model divides the globe into thousands of sectors, and estimates the future temperature based on certain assumptions such as cloud coverage, the rate of heat movement and rainfall rates.
Previous studies have included only the most probable values for these factors, whereas climateprediction.net's power has allowed the researchers to investigate two or three settings for each parameter.
The project's final predictions are based on the 2,017 simulations that were able to mimic the current climate. All predicted temperature rises. Most were about 3.4ºC, the average value predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; many were far more severe.
The researchers plan to improve their models, including a more sophisticated picture of how heat travels through the oceans, regional data and a more accurate picture of how temperatures will change during this century. "There's a huge database of which we've hardly scratched the surface," comments team member Mat Collins of Britain's Met Office in Exeter.
Meanwhile, they hope that more users will volunteer their spare computing power through climateprediction.net - "There's lots and lots more to do," says Stainforth.
26 January 2005
CORRESPONDENCE INSPIRED BY THE NEW AIRBUS 380
Air Travel can have a green future
Readers' Letters - The Guardian - 24 January 2005
From Richard Faulkner, Chair, all-party parliamentary sustainable aviation group, House of Lords
Your leader (January 19th) rightly labelled the new Airbus 380 a "technologically sophisticated" advance in both aircraft construction and European cooperation. You also pointed out the continuing anomaly of aviation fuel being tax free when set against a background of air transport's growing environmental impacts.
The UK government has a menu of market-based approaches to control and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft, which include the possibility of a fuel tax, en-route emissions charges and emissions trading, although all sides acknowledge the difficulty in shifting the US-dominated International Civil Organisation on the issue of kerosene tax. With help from the Dutch government, the European commission and 39 other European states, as well as New Zealand, our Department of Transport recently managed to influence ICAO's general assembly and retained the right to implement this package of measures at least within Europe.
We support this menu-driven approach, which, when added to tougher operational and fuel efficiency standards and performance, is the only way to control and reduce greenhouse gases from air transport.
Avoiding the worst impacts of climate change does not necessarily mean flying less than we do today - but some of the more extravagant forecasts of air passenger growth have to be scaled down. All sectors of our economy must play their part in reducing greenhouse gases as we move towards a low-carbon future.
This will include changes in the way we consume air travel as well as doing away with the tax-free "favoured nation" status of air transport. There are now clear signs across Europe that this is starting to happen.
WHAT DOES BAA SAY?
Cleaner air travel
Reader's Letters - The Guardian - 25 January 2005
From Mike Clasper, Chief Executive, BAA
Richard Faulkner is right to say air transport should play its part in moving to a low-carbon future (Letters January 24th). UK aviation is working hard internationally to get EU aviation into the EU emissions trading scheme.
But he is wrong to suggest that air transport gets away scot-free on tax. As an enthusiastic advocate of rail, he should know that while railways are, rightly, massively subsidised, air transport pays for all its infrastructure without a penny of public money.
And while aviation doesn't pay fuel tax, it does pay £900m a year in air passenger duty, and will have to bear the costs of emissions permits under the EU ETS.
OUR COMMENT: Air transport infrastructure? Surely the sky is still free? We doubt if NAT's charges can compare with the costs of rail and road provision. Has BAA paid for all the rail and road access facilities to its airports? Or just those within the airport boundary? Will they be offering to pay for all the additional rail and road services that would be needed for an expanded Stansted airport?
26 January 2005
MORE ON THOSE TREASURY COSTINGS FOR STANSTED
Treasury: Increased landing charges likely at Stansted
Metro and de Havilland - 24 January 2005
Secret Whitehall documents have been revealed, which appear to cast doubt on a new runway at Stansted.
According to the content of the papers, the Treasury is concerned that Stansted scheme could add £10 to airfares. This price hike could see budget airlines taking their business away from Stansted.
BAA, who own Stansted, had originally said that the new runway could be built without raising fares any more than "the price of a cup of coffee".
Stansted expansion plans have met with strong opposition from residents and local authorities.
Part of the report reads: "HM Treasury is concerned that there is a high degree of revenue risk as the required level of increase in landing charges is likely to be difficult to achieve at Stansted."
Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary has already voiced his opinion on the proposed runway, calling the venture a "white elephant". Mr O'Leary has declared that Ryanair would move to Luton or even outside the UK in the event of any increase in landing charges.
26 January 2005
COMMENTS ON AIR TRAVEL
In the last week two feature writers, one in The Independent, and one in The Guardian, have looked at the world of airports, air travel, and those who live round airports.
Janet Street-Porter writes in the Independent - 20 January 2005
The debut of the world's largest plane in Toulouse this week was an
opportunity for Messrs Blair, Chirac and Schroder to shake hands looking
happier than usual as they basked in some good news. Together with Spain, 'Old'
Europe was parading a glorious example of co-operation, technical innovation, job
creation and goodness knows what else with the unveiling of Airbus 380.
This super-plane is larger than its American rival, the Boeing 747, and
uses less fuel, carrying a maximum of 850 passengers versus 410 on the Boeing.
With heavily subsidised development, the consortium behind it already has 149
orders from 11 different passenger airlines, and flights between London and
Singapore start next year.
The A380 is truly a communal effort, with the Welsh servicing the
engines and making the wings, the Germans providing the fuselage, and the tail being
manufactured in Spain. I'm as pleased as the next person to hear that jobs
in engineering are staying in Europe and that depressed parts of Britain are
competing for and winning important contracts like this one.
But behind all the crowing about beating the yanks (Boeing are
developing a smaller aircraft, the "dreamliner", to replace the 757 and 767, carrying
between 230 and 300 passengers), I have a niggling suspicion that here's one more
example of bigger not necessarily meaning better.
Sure, this wonderful new airbus has the space on its two decks for gyms,
casinos, showers and private bedrooms for the rich and those whose employers
are paying. But for most economy travellers, there will be virtually no
difference whatsoever in the cramped conditions they currently suffer - seats on the
airbus are just one inch wider than on existing rival planes. And you can forget
about more leg room, because Virgin (who have ordered a total of 12 planes in two
stages) claim research indicates that economy travellers prefer to have more
places to visit in the air than a larger personal space to stretch out in.
They would say that, wouldn't they?
This new generation of massive planes require terminals to be rebuilt to
handle their cargo, luggage and disembarking passengers - already work has
started at Heathrow's Terminal 3. The A380 needs stronger runways and more
turning space because it is heavier and has a wider wingspan than existing
Then there's the question of quality time on board - I am sure that for
first and business-class passengers, this will be an attractive option with work
spaces and better beds. But for ordinary travellers, there will be more
waiting for food, more on-board noise, a long time to disembark and a lack of
Next month we will hear the findings of the judicial review set up last
December to hear objections to the Government's White Paper on Aviation.
This week has been the turn of property developers and building consortiums who
feel that the proposed expansion of Gatwick and Stansted will affect their plans
to construct new homes. (Which, funnily enough, Mr Prescott is always telling
us we need more of.) Mr Justice Sullivan has heard from groups objecting to the
increased noise that will emanate from the new terminal at Heathrow, and
from the councils of Hillingdon and Wandsworth over whose airspace one plane a
minute currently roars from dawn to well after dark. Many other campaigners and
pressure groups have objected to the Government's Aviation White Paper on
environmental and noise grounds.
Nobody, it has to be said, really expects that the review will alter the
plans to turn the south-east of England into one of the busiest air spaces
in the world. Now the A380 airbus will mean not just longer runways but endless
refurbishment of existing buildings too.
The Government cannot afford the airbus to fail - 700 will have to be
sold before anyone starts to recoup the investment, and costs so far are £1bn
over budget. So it's easy to see why this week's spectacular unveiling (with a
flashy show costing £1.4m) outdid the lavish launch of Concorde.
It is predicted that air travel world-wide will double by 2020 - a
chilling thought. But is building huge planes that use slightly less fuel per
passenger and are only fractionally quieter than existing jumbos the answer?
I would predict that within a decade most business journeys will be
redundant. Online conferencing and new technology will mean that physically
travelling all the way out to an airport, going through two hours of
security checks, and then sitting, playing poker, taking a shower or sleeping for 14
hours to get to Singapore or Los Angeles is an arcane (not to mention
exhausting) way of doing business.
The very rich will continue to buy and operate charter planes for both
privacy and security. The rest of us ought to be asking ourselves whether
cheap flights on small airlines or intercontinental trips on huge planes add
anything whatsoever to our lives. What should our criteria for leisure and pleasure
be in the next decade? Cattle class or personal space? A beach hut in Phuket or an
isolated cabin in the Highlands? Sun and skin cancer, cheap drugs and tawdry
girly bars in a Third World country or self-catering, walking, cultural
tours closer to home?
The rise of budget airlines has meant that costs have been stripped to
the bone, comfort has been sacrificed together with any sense of style or
enjoyment during the airborne part of the journey. It already takes 30 minutes to walk
to most gates at Heathrow - do we really think that represents progress? We
fill up these jumbos and airbuses to transport us to parts of the world where we lie
exhausted on loungers for two weeks, too shattered to take in the local
culture and too strapped for cash to leave our all-inclusive hotel compound.
We're not really contributing to the local economy in any meaningful
way - changing restrictive trade tariffs would do far more long-term good. Tourism
is fast becoming the worst way for any underdeveloped country to expand - it's
prone to fickle fashions in travel, natural disasters, and investment by
foreign businesses which seek to turn every resort into a homogenised paradise.
Somewhere along the line we ought to consider what this huge expansion
in air traffic, caused by mass tourism, really means for the one third of the
British population who live in the footprint of the pollution engendered by
it. The fumes and noise endured by most residents in south-west London or around
Gatwick and Stansted at present are already quite disgusting. Quite why we,
of all countries, should have decided that our future lies as a giant airport
terminal to the rest of the world is beyond belief.
With the proposal for a new toll motorway from London to Birmingham it
is clear that New Labour cares not one whit about the quality of life enjoyed
by their voters. They've seen the future and it's bigger than ever.
WHAT IS IT LIKE TO LIVE NEAR HEATHROW?
(Or a two runway Stansted)
Peace struggle by Lucy Mangan
The Guardian - 25 January 2005
The expansion of Britain's airports will bring a huge increase in air traffic - and further misery to the people who live in their shadow. So what is life like on Britain's noisiest streets, with seven jets roaring overhead every 10 minutes? Lucy Mangan packs her earplugs and heads for west London.
There are a number of reasons why you might object in principle to the prospect of further airport expansion in Britain. You might point out that this overcrowded isle barely has enough room for Mrs Trellis's new conservatory, let alone for the board, lodging and servicing of the projected 16 million extra passengers a year that the new terminal at Heathrow will have coming through its controversial portals alone.
You could object to subsidising it. Airlines pay no fuel tax, a concession that costs the Treasury £6bn a year, nor VAT on ticket sales, which undermines the government's claims about the industry's vital importance to the health of the country's economy (as does the fact that we fly out more tourists than we fly in, at a net cost to the hospitality industry).
Or you could go down the environmental route. Even if expansion did unquestionably benefit the national economy, it would be doing so at huge cost to the global ecology. There will be an estimated half a billion air travellers in the UK by 2030, producing an extra 60 million tonnes of carbon emissions.
Then you could factor in the fumes produced by the generally congested roads funnelling passengers to and from the airports and ask how we are going to satisfy imminent EU legislation on air and noise pollution if the government continues with the "predict and provide" strategy it currently clings to (despite its dismal record as a policy in relation to the roads) rather than finding ways of managing demand.
But if you live anywhere near a flight-path, there is one factor that counts above all others. The noise. The ceaseless, oppressive, inescapable, all-but-unbearable noise of planes flying overhead. At first I thought the people I spoke to were, if not exactly exaggerating, perhaps oversensitive to the problem after living with it for so long. That was before I went to spend 24 hours in Cranford, which is just beside Heathrow, with one of its oldest inhabitants, 75-year-old Lorna Newman. She remembers when it was all fields round here. "And the occasional smallholding and an orchard," she adds, as we drive down the dual carriageway past the Ramada Jarvis hotel.
As I step off the bus from Hounslow West tube station at 7.30pm, I am too busy consulting my map to remember where I am. So for quite a few seconds I am stupidly bewildered by the enormous roaring sound that comes up behind me, and keeps coming. And keeps coming. I look up and see an enormous plane thunder overhead. It is an undeniably magnificent sight, but a truly horrendous noise. It seems to fill my brain from the bottom up, so that by the time it is directly above me I am no longer even capable of making the strangulated "What the f-!?" cries I had been managing as the thing approached. I can only stand with my shoulders hunched up to my ears, heart racing, waiting for it to pass, willing the noise to be over.
In the quarter of an hour it takes me to find Lorna's house, a number of (fractionally quieter) planes also sweep across the sky and my nerves are jangling by the time I stumble across her threshold into the relatively peaceful sanctuary offered by her triple-glazed home and heavy curtains. At 8 o'clock, we set off for the pub. By this point I am tensing up every time I hear a car coming, because it sounds very much like the very beginnings of an aircraft approach and I instinctively begin to hunker down each time. The pub has music playing loud enough to drown out the planes that are landing only yards away. At 9pm we head for Waye Avenue, which gets the full impact of fligh-path noise. Three planes go over in as many minutes, seven in the 10 minutes I can stand it before I have to retreat to the car again. I experiment with putting my gloved fingers in my ears. The curious and irritating effect is to cut out the ambient noise (including the constant rumble of earthbound planes taxiing on the runways and refuelling) and highlight the periodic overhead cacophony.
At a distance of 17 miles from Heathrow, planes can hit more than 70 decibels. The government deems a noise of 57 decibels as constituting "significant community annoyance". My interviewees, I am beginning to realise, have in fact been models of understatement.
Librarian Cheryl Hounslow lives - where else? - in Hounslow under a Heathrow flight path with her husband and two children. "The worst thing for the kids is that when we're walking to school, we can't chat," she says. "It's just not worth the effort of trying to make ourselves heard. The school is under the flight path too. It was really bad before they had insulation but I'm sure they also don't spend as much time out of doors as they should, as they would if it was quieter." She - and indeed everyone I speak to - talks about how awful it is to have to keep the many-glazed windows shut night and day throughout the summer, and of the impossibility of enjoying the garden. "There are planes coming over every minute. If I'm about to go outside and I hear one coming, I just don't because it's just so horrible."
Artist Julia Lambert lives just behind Putney Common under one flight path and close to another. "People are staggered by how noisy it is even this far away," she says. "If you try and have lunch outside, it's impossible to keep up a conversation."
And the noise continues after dark. The night flights at Heathrow have been an enormous bone of contention between Hounslow residents and the government for years. The Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise (Hacan) won a historic victory in 2001 when the European Court ruled that they breached the right to an uninterrupted night's sleep and banned them, but the decision was overturned on appeal. Now the flights are supposed to stop between 11.30pm and 4am but whenever I mention this it is greeted with hollow laughter. Certainly at midnight, tucked up in Lorna's spare room, I can still hear them going overhead. (As an aside, although I do not have any air pollution monitoring equipment with me, I can report that Cranford fails the black bogey test spectacularly. After 12 hours there, my hanky looks like an engine rag.)
When I go on an exploratory walk at eight the next morning, by which time the planes are using the southern runway, I begin to appreciate the value of the alternation system the airport agreed to put in place some 30 years ago to give the residents some degree of relief. Currently, aircraft land on one runway between 4am and 3pm and take off from the other the rest of the time and then vice versa for a week at a time. Philippa Edmunds, a communications consultant living about a mile from a flight path in East Twickenham, refers to this procedure as "a lifesaver". "It makes such a big difference to be able to fall asleep with an open window and know that you will just have to get up and close the window when the planes start again in the morning," she says. "If you get the noise all day, it drives you potty, but if you know you're getting half a day's peace, you can plan your life - or at least a barbecue - round that. I can't tell you how valuable it is."
It's also under threat. BA, Virgin and BMI gave their backing in 2003 to a proposal to do away with alternation and bring in a "mixed mode" sage of the runways, which would employ both between 4am and 11.30pm in order to increase the number of flights from 80 to 90 an hour. "If it happens it will make life absolutely appalling," says Julia Lambert. "Alternation is a lifeline," says Cheryl Hounslow. "The threat of taking it away is just outrageous."
But if things are so bad why do they still live here? Lorna points out she has lived in the same house since she was four. Cheryl's husband has lived here all his life and his children are settled at the local school (which was also his when he was growing up). Julia Lambert in Putney "totally fell in love with the place" 15 years ago, and can't imagine being without the "wonderful" network of friends and neighbours that has evolved over the years. "I'm very, very lucky - we're in and out of each others houses, we eat together... it's such a valuable communal aspect for someone like me who has to spend a lot of time working on her own."
All of them point out that the increase in air traffic has been constant but gradual, that there has never been the kind of sudden, massive change that might have prompted overwhelming outrage and a mass exodus.
And of course each time there was an alteration to the status quo, it was usually accompanied by reassurances from the government that limits and conditions would be set to protect residents. When permission was given for Terminal 4 in 1979, for example, the inspector said that this should be "the last major expansion of the airport" and a strict limit was set on the number of flights, which was exceeded within a few years of the terminal opening in the late 80s as international air travel became cheaper and more popular than ever before. After the longest public inquiry in Britain's history, Terminal 5 was given the go-ahead in 2001 with a limit of 480,000 flights a year; within nine months Whitehall was sliding consultation proposals for a third runway in the south-east which at Heathrow would increase flights to 655,000 a year.
That said, the signs are that Stansted is the current favourite for such expansion. Local forces are mobilising there to try and stop it and, in conjunction with Hacan and others, have made an unprecedented application to judicially review the 2003 White Paper that recommends the move. Their primary motivation was to get access to a range of documentation that would only be released in the process of a legal challenge. "Succeeding in the application would be the cherry on top," says the Stop Stansted Expansion campaign director Carol Barbone. "But it's just one strand of various challenges that we're running on a range of fronts."
The numerous local pressure groups are optimistic about their chances not just of preventing the proposed third runway (wherever the foe decides it should be) but of succeeding on a larger scale too. Barbone says that BAA and the government seem taken aback by their inability to divide and conquer the campaigners, and Hacan's website says the group is "not in the business of exporting our misery to someone else". As part of the umbrella organisation AirportWatch, they are hoping to raise people's awareness of the social and environmental dangers inherent in the policy of constant expansion and challenge the government to resist the aviation industry's pressure to adhere to it.
Until then, those living under the flight paths will settle for smaller gains. "They shouldn't expand," says Julia Lambert wearily, "until they can let the people of south-west London sleep." That afternoon I thank Lorna for her hospitality and climb into the photographer's car to leave. She waves us off. "Hurry up," says David. "It all stinks here." I agree. But at least we can drive away.
24 January 2005
MORE ANSWERS FROM BAA:
THE HERTS & ESSEX OBSERVER NEWS EDITOR, SANDRA PERRY, REPORTS THE SECOND INTERVIEW WITH MIKE CLASPER, THIS TIME ON HOSS AND PROPERTY BLIGHT
Sandra Perry - Herts & Essex Observer - 20 January 2005
Brief précis of the questions and answers given in Sandra Perry's report:
* Why choose the 66 decibel contour to determine who qualifies for help under the scheme? Why not 57 decibel, or the WHO recommended level of 50 decibels?
* What is the justification when the contour goes right through a village/community and arbitrarily divides neighbours?
* What about compensation for the "ruination" of the quality of life by noise, traffic, pollution and loss of countryside. Why should it be spoilt for the benefit of BAA's shareholders?
* The owners of all blighted properties should be compensated. Why only when the house can't be sold?
* Does BAA know that some estate agents are refusing to accept houses for sale because it is impossible to sell houses in, for instance, Tilty.
* The object of HOSS is not to address noise issues - there are other ways, e.g. insulation. We are concerned with the fear of generalised blight. Any noise contour is only a guideline to the kind of area where blight might occur, But, the more we talk about it the more likely it will happen. We use the Land Registry scheme to help assess the situation.
BAA is not going to get "tied up" over decibel numbers, HOSS is about general blight. Noise can be mitigated by insulation and "other measures".
* The 66 decibel contour was used for train noise from the channel tunnel. Noise is noise wherever it comes from. It's a scientific measurement.
* Nobody wants to divide communities but there has to be a division somewhere. This one has some scientific basis and is consistent with government policy.
* HOSS is intended for those who have to move before the runway is built. Legal compensation can be claimed by others when the development occurs.
* The runway will not be built just for the benefit of shareholders, but for the economy of the UK as a whole and the economic and social benefits it brings to the area and the people who want to fly. BAA try to mitigate the environmental effects. Mike Clasper then lists out all the ways in which BAA is reducing noise levels round the airport and dealing with air quality and traffic problems, e.g. by paying for the new slip roads to and from the M11 and allowing airport roads be joined to the new A120 which now by-passes the village of Takeley.
* BAA are unable to comment on the experience of individual house agents who claim they are unable to sell some houses. They have the HOSS scheme and they use information from the Land Registry which appears to be more reliable then anecdotal evidence.
OUR COMMENT: Now we know - the well being of the country demands that local people put up with the "negative effects" of expansion. BAA sees its role as trying "to balance the negative effects versus those obvious... positive effects". This might be more convincing if the perceived positive effects of yet more expansion had been properly costed and better evaluated environmentally. As we learnt last week, BAA have yet to work out the full costs of another runway, and does not accept that the required infrastructure improvements should necessarily be their responsibility. More costs put onto the local community? Or onto the taxpayer? BAA shareholders may also have views. AND, we must not complain about local blight. It is this kind of bad publicity that causes house prices to fall, not the prospect of another Heathrow next door.
24 January 2005
EUROPE BEGINS TO RECOGNISE AVIATION POLLUTION
Did BAA agree as well?
Airports back aviation carbon emission trading
Environment Daily 1806 - 21 January 2005
European airports have called for the aviation sector's carbon dioxide
releases to be covered by the EU's emissions trading scheme from 2008.
Trade body Airports Council International (ACI) says trading should be
embraced as preferable to charges or taxes - "crude, blunt and
unacceptable" alternatives also being considered by the EU.
"I do not believe that our industry will be able to grow in line with
demand unless aviation meets the environmental challenge,"
director-general Roy Griffins said. Airports now want the EU's
airlines to take a similar position and present a united front in
favour of trading. Airlines would have to do most of the work if
aviation was incorporated into the scheme. Emissions from airport
facilities are already covered.
A joint industry position is already forming in the UK, where the
heads of two British airlines, BA and Virgin, have publicly declared
their support for trading. Scandinavian, Dutch and French carriers are
also thought to be in favour, though German and Italian airlines are
A strong momentum has now built up around the idea of including
aviation in the trading scheme. Backed by his domestic industry, UK
prime minister Tony Blair has made it a key ambition of the UK's
presidency of the EU later this year. The European Commission is
developing proposals (Environment Daily 05/03/04).
Environmentalists are warier of the plan. "We aren't against it, but
we just don't think it will be enough," Jos Dings of campaign group T&E
told Environment Daily on Friday. Permit prices will probably not be
high enough to force big enough emission cuts, he said. The group
wants governments to remove fiscal benefits to the industry first; it
is preparing a European parliament seminar on the issue later this
24 January 2005
THE GATWICK CHALLENGE
House Developers Not Cleared to Land Runway Site
John Aston - The Scotsman - 21 January 2005
Developers failed today in a High Court challenge over a "blight" on a major housing project caused by the Government's air transport White Paper.
A consortium led by Persimmon Homes South East and Laing Homes said plans for hundreds of new houses near Gatwick had been unfairly put at risk.
Some £800,000, plus £1 million public finance, had already been invested in developing the site at north-east Crawley, West Sussex, a judge was told. It was hoped to build at least 2,700 homes, plus schools, on 120 hectares (296 acres) south-east of Gatwick Airport.
But the scheme was being blocked by a Government decision to reserve land for a new, wide-spaced runway at Gatwick under the airport policy set out in the White Paper, said John Steel QC, for the consortium.
The Government wants the greenfield site to remain empty in case further expansion at Heathrow is rejected on environmental grounds and another option becomes necessary. As a result the Gatwick site could be blighted for another 15 years, with no compensation payable.
The consortium, seeking a judicial review, accused Transport Secretary Alistair Darling of failing to set up appropriate procedures to keep the situation under "continued and pro-active" review and failing to take sufficient account of the drive to provide 200,000 more homes in the South East.
But Mr Justice Sullivan said procedures existed in the form of a planning inquiry, which was open to the developers and would be a far more appropriate forum than a court hearing to decide the technical issues involved.
"I sympathise with the claimants' position - so near to and yet so far from obtaining planning permission - but their complaint that there is no mechanism for review of the policy is not well-founded," he said.
The developers are likely to seek leave to appeal against his ruling.
Today's case is the latest challenge to the White Paper. Plans for a second runway at Stansted and other proposals to expand passenger capacity at Heathrow and Luton airports have already led to applications for judicial review by affected local authorities and residents.
The unprecedented widescale legal attack is of major importance as the White Paper, published in December 2003, concerns the future of air transport over the next 30 years in the South East.
Accusations levelled at Mr Darling include flawed consultation procedures and a failure to give the public a proper opportunity to comment upon controversial proposals.
He was quoted earlier this month in a newspaper interview as saying: "If I go for a walk through large parts of the South East, I am liable to be lynched."
23 January 2005
MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS
In December the Herts & Essex Observer asked readers to send in questions about an expanding Stansted Airport. Mike Clasper, BAA's chief executive had agreed to meet the Observer news editor Sandra Perry and answer some of the questions. The first instalment was on the costs of an enlarged airport, a question that has been highlighted during the recent judicial review.
Briefly, Mike Clasper claimed that BAA:
* Could commercially justify a second runway on a stand-alone basis.
* Would continue to enjoy their monopoly at all three London airports.
* Saw no problems with the low airport charges (£3 a passenger) at Stansted, claimed the regulator set the charges and any increase would only be the cost of a couple of Starbucks' coffees.
* Was prepared for further expansion at Heathrow if air quality issues were solved.
* Made it clear that the idea that passengers at Heathrow and Gatwick subsidise Stansted is wrong - "we make a profit". Heathrow passengers actually benefit since, for instance, BA prices at Heathrow are lower because of competition from low-cost airlines at Stansted.
* Said that the second runway has not yet been costed, and any infrastructure improvements benefit all passengers in London… if costs were high there might be a case for a modest increase at other airports, e.g. 50p or £1.
* BAA may benefit financially from airport-related car parking but that is the decision of the local Council - park the cars within the airport. Villages around don't want multi-storey car parks.
Readers will judge for themselves as to whether the answers are adequate.
LETTER FROM ONE READER
Herts & Essex Observer - 20 January 2005
I was fascinated to read Sandra Perry's interview with the BAA Chief
Executive, Mike Clasper (Observer 13 January) because it confirmed to me
once again that, even at the highest level of management, BAA is not
interested in straight answers but only in putting forward PR spin.
To begin with, Mr Clasper says that BAA will not be destroying any
communities - they will only "evolve and change". Try telling that to the
people who have lived in Molehill Green, Bambers Green and Broxted for all
their lives. Try telling that to the elderly who might be forced out of
their homes - forced to leave behind friends and neighbours - and a
lifetime of memories. And try explaining that to the schoolchildren who
will need to be uprooted and moved away from their familiar school friends
and teachers - away to some brave new BAA world.
Mr Clasper says that BAA Stansted is paying its way when the reality is
that they would make more money investing their assets in a building
society. How on earth can he make that claim when BAA's annual accounts
show that it borrows money at about a 7% rate of interest and earns about
4% at Stansted?
Mr Clasper says in reply to one question that a second runway at Stansted
can be commercially justified by BAA if it has to be financed on a
stand-alone basis - then in the answer to another question he says that
there may have to be cross-subsidies from Heathrow and Gatwick of between
50p and £1.00 per passenger. Let's say it's 75p per passenger. Heathrow and
Gatwick handle about 100 million passengers a year between them - so that's
around £75 million a year in cross-subsidy. So is it "stand-alone" or
"cross-subsidy" Mr Clasper?
He avoids the question of who should benefit financially from
airport-related car parking. The fact is that the principal source of the
"profit" which BAA makes at Stansted comes from airport car parking. Take
that away and the sums for building a second runway will never add up.
Surely the time has now come for Mr Clasper to come to this area to answer
questions from local people directly - face to face - in a public meeting.
Just let us know your availability - whatever dates you suggest - and we'll
rent the meeting hall and make the arrangements. You know where to find us
and we are at your disposal any time and any place.
Stop Stansted Expansion Executive Committee
21 January 2005
THE WAY FORWARD?
Is the A 380 the way to achieve sustainable aviation?
The Airbus - Europe's super-jumbo
Leader - The Guardian - 19 January 2005
The most tangible example of the European project was unveiled with the razzmatazz of an Olympic opening ceremony yesterday. Europe's leaders gathered in an enormous hanger outside Toulouse to greet the Airbus 380, the world's largest airliner. Weighing 560 tonnes when loaded and capable of carrying 555 passengers on flights of up to 15,000 kilometres, the new Airbus is a muscular symbol. The French media was not alone in drawing unflattering comparisons between "proactive" European business and EU politics.
Once heavily subsidised by its European partner governments, Airbus has now turned into a profit-maker. Parts for the A380 are produced in Spain, Germany and the UK, while assembly takes place in France, spreading jobs around Europe. A signal of Airbus's success is that it has outsold the US national champion Boeing in each of the past two years. So far the new A380 looks like continuing that record, usefully timed to meet the latest surge in appetite for international air travel. Airbus has already pre-sold 149 of what the French newspaper Liberation called this "whale of the air" to 13 airlines around the world.
The A380's arrival has a significance well beyond the bounds of airline economics. When coupled with the success of the European Space Agency's Huygens mission to a moon of Saturn and the approaching launch of the Galileo satellite radio navigation system, it adds up to a technologically sophisticated and competitive Europe. Where Boeing 747 jumbo jet symbolised US technological dominance from the 1970s onwards, so the launch of the A380 super-jumbo spells the start of Europe's stealthy challenge to the US's suzerainty.
It is no surprise that the US dropped its complaint to the WTO over Airbus's subsidies, since the case threatened to embarrass both sides; as Boeing had its own glasshouse of government support, the fewer stones thrown the better. But the US's ranks of mouth-frothing free-marketeers should thank Europe's governments for keeping Airbus alive. Had they not done so, then Boeing would surely have established a monopoly in airline manufacture. Luckily there is an intellectually and economically respectable case for subsidising and protecting high-tech industries such as this.
The other good news is that Airbus has better levels of fuel efficiency and claims to be more economical than the family car. That does not mean that it is "green". The rampant increase in air travel means that the environmental harm will continue unabated. As things stand, international air travel is still largely governed by rules drawn up in the 1940s. These are now hopelessly out of date. A renegotiation is needed, one that allows for environmental taxes on aviation fuel, sets limits on damaging emissions and altitudes, and leaves room for a sensible distribution of landing rights. Otherwise the "whales of the air" may find themselves high and dry.
OUR COMMENT: The Airbus claims that fuel consumption is 20% less per passenger than that of the Boeing 747. It will travel 0.145 miles per gallon as opposed to the Boeing's 0.2 miles, but it can carry up to 850 passengers - Boeing's capacity is 410. One journey by Airbus could therefore, if full, carry as many passengers as two journeys by Boeing 747. On a journey of 6000 miles this would save over 18,000 gallons of fuel, a contribution towards reducing pollution assuming that the number of long haul flights was actually halved. BUT, what do we learn? That one of the purchasers, Sir Richard Branson, intends to use the extra space by installing luxuries for first class and business passengers! Bars, gaming tables, beauty parlours, a gym and double beds! This is the same Sir Richard who only last week was applauding the carbon emissions scheme as a way to reduce pollution.
The new Airbus could be the beginning, though as yet only the beginning, of introducing technological improvements that would allow a reasonable number of flights to operate without increasing pollution, and eventually to reducing it. If the Airbus is to be misused as an airborne hotel or bar then we can all resign ourselves to unrelieved climatic changes and all the disasters that such changes will cause.
FLIGHT OF FANCY
Robert Shrimsley - Notebook - Financial Times - 19 January 2005
European leaders gathered yesterday for the unveiling of a large aircraft. Tony Blair, Jacques Chirac, Gerhard Schroder and Jose Luis Zapatero all travelled to Toulouse for what turned out to be as much a visit to the Cirque du Soleil as a commercial launch.
A giant messianic figure, half wizard, half alien, is projected on a large screen, talking of peace, dreams and Icarus, people float across the sky as Aled
Jones sings "nous promenons en l'air". Children pull a large rope, lifting a curtain to reveal…an Airbus 380. The leaders, led by the French president, take the stage.
Chirac: Today is the crowning achievement of industrial adventure. Not since the Wright brothers launched the European Coal and Steel Community have the spirit of innovation and the goal of EU integration been so closely intertwined. Even the British joined in and, believe me, that takes some doing. Let us pursue the success of Airbus in other fields, in energy, transport and medicines, the ratification of the EU constitution, my third presidential term and Nicolas Sarkozy's continued success as our envoy to Mosul. Today Airbus, tomorrow the world.
Blair: Today, I really do feel the flight attendant of history at my shoulder. For this big aircraft is an astonishing technical innovation. Greener than a Ford Galaxy and as recyclable as a pledge card, it is also the biggest, nicest and most economical aircraft ever. And it would be nothing without Britain.
The guests notice Mr Blair is changing so that he is half prime minister and half Jeremy Clarkson.
You lot may have built the fuselage or interiors - mmmmmm genuine calfskin - but Britain built the wings and the landing system - try flying this bird without UK plc. I'll give you metaphors for the European project. It makes the Jumbo look like a model aircraft. Its cheaper to run than a smart car and deadlier than a Eurofighter - well it would be if it fell on you. It has Trent 900 engines - when you put your foot down on this baby, the sky's the limit. West London - get some ear muffs.
Schroder: This is a chance to wave the European flag although if we'd tried this under the stability pact, we'd be standing in front of a Cessna now.
Zapatero: Don't forget the Spanish role. We were part of this too, what happened to the lights? Come back.
The leaders walk off as little children dressed as pilots dance to the strains of the Marseillaise and footage of the White House being obliterated in the film Independence Day.
21 January 2005
FOR BAA, MORE TROUBLE
Worried investors seek to clip the wings of BAA
Alistair Osborne, Associate City Editor - Daily Telegraph - 18 January 2005
Airports operator BAA is to be forced to table a new resolution at its annual meeting in July which, if passed, would compel the company to seek shareholder approval for all major investments, such as new runways.
The resolution, which will be forced on BAA by rebel investors from the Stop Stansted Expansion campaign, seeks to introduce a new provision in the articles of the company.
It would require the directors to obtain shareholder approval before proceeding with any investment whose "aggregate cost" - covering all phases of a project and adjusted for inflation - exceeded 50pc of shareholders' funds.
BAA, which owns seven UK airports including Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, had shareholders' funds of £5.18billion at its most recent results for the half-year to September 30. Such a change to the articles would compel BAA to obtain permission for projects such as the mooted £4billion second runway at Stansted.
The resolution would compel BAA to seek shareholder approval for such projects when the company made a planning application.
The rebel investors are the same group which last year forced BAA to hold a vote on its long-standing practice of giving free car parking passes to MPs. After the AGM vote highlighted significant opposition, BAA agreed to end the free passes.
The rebels require signatures from 100 BAA shareholders holding an average of 100 shares each to compel the company to table the resolution.
Yesterday, Brian Ross, economics adviser to the Stop Stansted campaign, said getting the signatures was a formality. "That's not an issue and BAA knows we'll get the signatures," he said. "The essence of the 50pc rule is this: if management want to bet half the shop on a single throw of the dice, they need to obtain shareholder approval."
Mr Ross asked BAA last month if it might, in principle, be willing to put forward such a resolution and, last Friday, met BAA company secretary Rachel Rowson and corporate affairs director Ian Hargreaves. He did not, however, disclose the proposed percentage of shareholders' funds at which investor approval would be required.
Yesterday he said: "Although the board of directors of BAA have so far not been persuaded, on reflection they may come to recognise that the 50pc rule would be useful in resisting government pressure to compromise on shareholder value in the public interest."
He said the BAA management are "coming under pressure from the Government" to deliver new airport capacity, some of which may benefit "UK plc" but "would not be in the interest of BAA shareholders".
He believed Stansted was such a case. Its current return on capital, he said, was just 4pc and "major expansion of Stansted airport would be likely to destroy shareholder value".
The Civil Aviation Authority, the industry regulator, has told BAA it must not subsidise expansion of Stansted by raising prices at Heathrow and Gatwick, while any such move would leave the company facing legal challenges from Heathrow-based airlines.
Last night, Mr Hargreaves said BAA was yet to see the final resolution. "On the face of it, it would be surprising to me that it was a welcome idea that the directors should be fettered in making judgments about the capital expenditure of the group in developing our own airports. I have never heard anything like that before."
19 January 2005
MORE VIEWS ON CARBON EMISSIONS TRADING
AND ITS PLACE IN REDUCING AVIATION POLLUTION
Emissions trading is an easy option for airline chiefs
Jos Dings - Reader's Letters - Financial Times - 12 January 2005
Sir, The bosses of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, Rod Eddington ("How airlines can fight climate change", January 4) and Sir Richard Branson (Letters, January 11), (published in Recent News on January 13th) are right to argue that more must be done to reduce the impact of aviation on the environment. But they underestimate the existing problem and are wrong to argue that emissions trading is the only answer.
Mr Eddington says his industry is only a small source of greenhouse gas emissions. Yet the climate impact of aviation is put at 4-12 per cent of human-induced global warming, and the market is growing fast - at 5 per cent per year. Yet this industry, which contributes just 1 per cent to global gross domestic product and 0.2 per cent of global employment, still exists in a parallel universe where value added tax (not paid on fuel or international tickets) is described by airline bosses as a "swingeing tax".
In fact, compared to other sectors, the industry as a whole has ferociously resisted any attempts to make it take responsibility for its environmental impact. The total inaction of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), given responsibility to tackle the issue after Kyoto, attests to this.
Both men suggest that the European emissions trading system is now the only solution. They would. The industry stands to gain by joining - as the history of similar systems suggests that carriers will receive the majority of their tradable permits free, on entry to the system, and pay for only a tiny number. Furthermore, the price is likely to stay low because of the political necessity of appeasing energy-intensive European exporters such as the steel industry, who, as of January 1 already participate in the system. Consequently there will be little or no incentive to reduce emissions.
There is a range of fairer options that would make airlines pay for every ton of emissions they produce and therefore give a real incentive for reductions - en-route emissions charges and tax on aviation fuel are two examples. Far from being "blunt" instruments, such charges would merely bring the sector into line with every other area of economic activity.
If airline bosses are really serious about climate change, they should get their heads out of the clouds and start taking these other options seriously.
Jos Dings, European Federation for Transport and Environment (T&E), 1000 Brussels, Belgium
Hot Air From Branson & Co
Opinion - Air Cargo News - 14 January 2005
By Jeffrey Gazzard
An article in praise of aviation joining the European Emissions Trading Scheme penned by "Hot" Rod Eddington, British Airways‚ CEO, "How Airlines Can Fight Climate Change," January 4th 2005, provoked hollow laughter from those of us working to control and reduce the worrying climate change impacts of flying.
And now BA's commercial rival Virgin, in the shape of that grandiloquent PR opportunist Sir Richard Branson, have joined the supporting chorus (Financial Times Letters, January 12th 2005).
But emissions trading schemes are untested and unproven on the scale currently envisaged across Europe. There is already an increasing reluctance from some of the players involved, both countries and industrial sectors, to play by the allocation rules and accept the costs of participation and compliance. These schemes are simply gambling with our climate.
Charging passengers just the cost of CO2 from aircraft operations at today's market levels of £10 a ton would, we estimate, add a mere £2.73 to a BA intra-European return ticket price - this is why they are favoured by some sections of the industry.
Cheap, "get-out-of-jail" tax avoidance gambits devised and promoted by the industry's corporate affairs specialists can be dismissed right now for the non-policy options they clearly are.
But if BA, with about 22 million intra-European passengers annually currently emitting about 3 million tons of CO2, are given a "grandfathered" emissions allowance based on their 1990 CO2 output, they might only have to buy about 900,000 tons of CO2 which would add even less, about 41 pence to ticket prices. We don't see this having any supply or demand side effect whatsoever.
The UK Government has a menu of market-based approaches to control and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft, which include a fuel tax and en-route emissions charges, although all sides acknowledge the difficulty in shifting the U.S.-dominated ICAO on the issue of a kerosene tax. Current thinking at EU level is broadly similar.
We support this UK & EU menu-driven approach, which when added to tougher operational and fuel efficiency standards and performance, is the only way to actually control & reduce greenhouse gases from air transport. Shifting the millions of short haul European flights under 500 kilometres in length to rail would be good too.
The total external costs of air transport are currently estimated at €52.5 per 1000 passenger/kilometres and for airfreight, €271.3 per 1000 ton/kilometres (source: INFRAS/IWW 2004). Adding these costs to ticket prices and shipping costs should have an impact on reducing both demand and pollution.
Policymakers should initially aim to halve the current projected growth rate of air transport, to bring growth more in line with forecasts of what we can reasonably expect technology and operational improvements to contribute, as a significant step towards lessening the sector's climate change impacts.
The clear advantage of such environmental taxation, which would be billions, going straight to the coffers of European Chancellors is that society gets hospitals, schools, increased old age pensions and many other sensible and worthwhile investments.
We cannot understand why the air transport industry continually seeks to deprive society of these benefits by refusing to face up to its responsibilities and pay tax on its fuel, VAT on its tickets and the cost of its environmental impacts.
We don't believe the environment can cope with so-called industry leaders like British Airways and Virgin promoting "business as usual", which is why it isn't an option.
Avoiding the worst impacts of climate change will mean a lot less air travel and a much higher environmental tax regime during the 21st Century than the industry forecasts or is prepared to pay. All sectors of our economy must play their part in reducing greenhouse gases, not pretending to, as we move towards a low-carbon future. This will include doing away with the tax free "favoured nation" status of air transport. And the sooner the better.
17 January 2005
Blair tried to ditch green policy
Mark Townsend, Environment Correspondent - The Observer - 16 January 2005
Tony Blair's international credibility on climate change was seriously damaged last night as it emerged that the government tried secretly to ditch key global warming targets.
Leaked documents seen by The Observer reveal that the UK sought to remove targets that would reduce carbon dioxide emissions during high-level meetings to formulate Europe's climate policy.
At the same time the Prime Minister, who has made tackling climate change a central tenet of his presidency of the G8 nations, was publicly stressing the need for a world commitment to reduce global warming. Blair has described climate change as the greatest problem facing mankind.
The revelations, which have stunned climatologists, are contained in a leaked draft council text on Europe's long-term strategy. They show that senior government officials attempted to remove a commitment for massive cuts in greenhouse gases by 2050 from a European Union agreement.
The findings will prove damaging to Blair's worldwide standing on the issue as he attempts to coerce countries to take the issue more seriously. Environmentalists last night accused Blair of "betrayal". They claim the UK's attempt to drop ambitious emission targets may have been an attempt to persuade the US to join a climate agreement while Blair holds the EU and G8 presidencies.
But rather than trying to strengthen the US commitment to higher targets, it has emerged that the government covertly tried to weaken the European position.
Dated 9 December last year, the internal documents reveal that the government tried to have commitments deleted from key European texts at meetings between September and December 2004. However a final meeting that took place shortly before Christmas saw the UK's attempts to lower targets defeated by other member states. On 8 December, Blair's chief scientist, Sir David King, announced that the target to cut carbon dioxide emissions - the principal cause of global warming - by 60 per cent have to be increased to 80 per cent by 2050 because of the extent of melting on the Greenland ice-sheet.
Blair has said that development and climate change will be the focus of his foreign policy agenda this year. In a September speech he said timely action to cut carbon dioxide emissions is essential to "avert disaster". During the speech, Blair cited an influential Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution report which said that the UK needed to reduce emissions by 60 per cent by 2050. "We are committed to this change," said the Prime Minister.
The precise pledges that the government officials attempted to remove from European proposals include a lowering of carbon dioxide emissions by up to 50 per cent by 2050. In addition, government officials also called for more ambitious targets, involving up to 80 per cent reductions when the emissions of poorer countries were taken into account, to be dropped.
A spokesman for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs declined to comment on the leaked documents, but said it was important to have a flexible approach to targets that could respond to continuing scientific research.
He said: "It is important that we move to evidence-based policy-making, so that we have a process based on the latest facts. The UK has been at the vanguard of setting targets to tackle climate change," he added.
Yet Stephen Tindale, executive director of Greenpeace, said he found it hard to comprehend the government's position. "This is a betrayal of trust on an issue he claims to be passionate about. He's undermining the progressive position of the EU and reneging on promises he simultaneously boasts about."
Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrats' spokesman on the environment, said: "By watering down his position Blair may think that he can get the US to meet him halfway, but if he thinks that he has made a fatal mistake."
MORE BROKEN PROMISES?
Carbon dioxide prices crash as chaos hits emissions trading
Tim Webb - The Independent on Sunday - 16 January 2005
The price of carbon dioxide has crashed after the first week of proper trading, as deepening uncertainty over the emission trading scheme prompted traders to sell their holdings.
Prices ended the week almost 20 per cent down on the price on 1 January when the initiative was launched.
Under the European Union scheme, aimed at reducing global warming, companies are told how many tons of CO2 they can pump into the atmosphere each year. If they exceed their allocation, they have to buy "carbon credits" from under-polluting companies.
But analysts said that few companies participating in the programme had bought any credits so far because five countries - including the UK - have yet to finalise their plans and so cannot tell companies how much they can pollute.
The uncertainty for UK participants increased last week when Brussels rejected Britain's revised plan for the scheme. UK companies will not know their individual allocation until the end of March at the earliest.
A tonne of CO2 exchanged for €6.88 when markets closed on Friday, down from €13 at the start of last year in the "grey market".
Some 2 million tons of carbon have changed hands so far this year because of traders' rush to sell. This compares to a total of 10 million tons of trades in the two years before 1 January.
Veronica Smart, an analyst at Energy Information Centre consultancy, said: "We saw a crash in prices the moment the scheme launched."
"If I were a UK participant I would not buy or sell anything when there is so much uncertainty," she said. "In the UK, hardly any participating companies have bought credits."
Low gas prices, which encourage electricity generators to use gas rather than dirtier coal, were also pushing down carbon dioxide prices, she added.
OUR COMMENT: The government has been congratulating itself as "Leaders" in the fight to moderate climate change, with the carbon emissions trading scheme its favoured Action Policy. The scheme has also been presented as the solution to lowering pollution from aviation expansion. Now, the UK appears to be trying to sabotage the whole idea. Is there a change in policy? One thing is clear, there should not be any increase in the number of air flights until the government's promise to limit pollution by including environmental costs in the balance sheet is put into effect.
17 January 2005
THE EAST OF ENGLAND PLAN
This draft Plan, if approved, will set the pattern for development
in the East of England until 2021
It has over 80 policies - 16 of which lay down the conditions that have to be satisfied to ensure that all developments are sustainable. These basic principles would, if followed, provide a good basis for ensuring a good quality of life for both new and present residents.
What is more contentious is the amount of development that is proposed - 478,000 new houses and 421,000 new jobs. About 61,000 of these houses have been included over and above the original plan after pressure from the government.
The government's proposal to build an extra runway is rejected, though full use of the existing runway is included.
The Plan contains proposals for 63,250 new houses in the Stansted/M11 corridor, between Cambridge and the Greater London boundary. It includes proposals to regenerate and expand Harlow into a sub regional centre. 2000 extra houses are allocated to Bishop's Stortford. Nearly half the new houses would have to be built on "green land".
In our area of Uttlesford the proposal is that the extra houses should be sited as an extension to Great Dunmow, or in a nearby new village on the A120 which runs from Hertfordshire through Stansted airport eastwards to Colchester and Harwich. Dunmow is one of small towns where Stansted "airport related" houses are now being built.
On January 14th a meeting was initiated in Dunmow by three local environmental groups - Uttlesford Local Agenda 21, the Campaign to Protect Rural Essex, and Friends of the Earth - so that the implications of the Plan could be explained and fully discussed. The Plan is now out for public consultation until March 16th.
The meeting was well attended with over 100 people present to hear, firstly, Alan Dean, the Leader of Uttlesford District Council, speaking independently, explain the history of the East of England Plan, how the government had asked that the Plan should allow for nearly 80,000 extra houses, together with more jobs - more than had been planned for. The Regional Assembly had agreed to include 61,000 of these extra houses but only on condition that additional jobs were forthcoming and that all the necessary infrastructure was in place and paid for before additional housing was approved.
Extra money for transport had not been forthcoming and no further promises had been received, and the Assembly had suspended any approval of the Plan until assurances on extra funding were received.
Meantime the consultation would go ahead. Uttlesford had only been asked to take 3000 of the extra houses, making a total of 400 new houses a year until 2021 requiring about 66 hectares of land, less than one tenth of that needed for a second runway at Stansted. 40% of houses would be affordable, to help meet the existing shortage. Uttlesford Council would be looking at all the options and deciding what their policy would be both on the whole plan and on the proposal in the Plan that there would be 2,650 extra houses sited in Dunmow area or in a "new village" in the A 120 corridor.
The Assembly had rejected the Aviation White Paper's proposals for a second runway at Stansted.
All the speakers, including Suzanne Walker of CPRE, Councillor Keith Clarke and Paul Garland of Local Agenda 21 urged those present to respond to the Plan. Although the official response form asked for comments on particular policies, there was a general section that could be used. Briefing sheets were available at the meeting on both the Plan and the Sustainability Appraisal of the Plan, which was explained by Paul Garland and which had concluded that the scale of the proposed developments was too great for the Region's resources and would require the most careful management and restraints if they were to be adopted.
Peter Sanders, chair of Stop Stansted Expansion, and other speakers from the floor emphasised that Stansted airport expansion would mean still more houses and everyone was reminded that they should also give their views on the future of the airport.
Councillor Mrs Hughes read out the following statement on behalf of Great Dunmow Town mayor, Michael Miller, who was unwell.
"Dunmow Town Council is pleased to have been given this opportunity by Friends of the Earth to summarise its views on the draft East of England Regional Plan. The Plan proposes that 2650 extra new dwellings are built in Uttlesford in the period 2001 to 2021 and that most of these are likely to be located in and around Dunmow. This would increase the population of the town by approximately 50% - to about 14,000. This is on top of the 50% increase - from 6,000 to 9,000 - when current planned development is completed. Great Dunmow is earmarked to take the lion's share of development in Uttlesford - past, present and in the future.
We in Dunmow question whether this is NECESSARY, FAIR OR SUSTAINABLE.
We have some specific questions on the plan for the District Council:
1. Is it the UDC's policy to accept the level of 2,650 houses for the district?
2. If so, do the UDC agree that most if not all of these dwellings should be in Great Dunmow?"
The statement goes on to ask the District Council to examine all the possible options to determine whether this expansion in Uttlesford is sustainable and if so, where it should take place.
It should also determine what extra infrastructure is required and how much it would cost, as it would have to be in place before any further expansion occurred. The Dunmow Town Council has set up a working party that includes representatives from across the community and which intends to evaluate the plan and put forward local views on how the town should develop.
Other meetings have been arranged in Hertfordshire and at other towns in Essex and in the rest of the region. Details should be in the local press. There will be another Uttlesford meeting in the Town Hall, Saffron Walden, on Febuary 16th at 7.30 p.m. EERA is also holding a series of "Regional Spatial Strategy Public Consultation Events" listed on their website which start at 10.30am and end at around 12.30pm.
Copies of the East of England Plan, the Sustainability Assessment of the Plan and the response form are available from the East of England Regional Assembly at 01284 729442 and can be seen in local libraries or on the website www.eera.gov.uk
A summary of Key Issues has been prepared by Essex County Council, who also want views from the public. Visit the website www.essexcc.gov.uk or telephone 01245 437544. Ext. 51544.
13 January 2005
BAA INTRODUCES HOSS
No compromise - public views are ignored
Home Owner Support Scheme Launched on Schedule
BAA Press Release - 11 January 2005
The Stansted Airport Home Owner Support Scheme (HOSS) was launched as
planned on Tuesday 4th January.
Nearly 100 local residents have already applied for the scheme, and each is
being contacted with guidance on how applications are to be processed.
The scheme will enable those property owners who qualify, and who live
within the defined boundary, to sell their homes or commercial premises
without financial penalty, if they need or want to, before the proposed
second runway opens.
Airport Managing Director, Terry Morgan, said:
"We are aware of the attempt by Takeley Parish Council and others to mount
a legal challenge against HOSS, but we believe that it is right to go ahead
and launch the scheme on schedule. We want to press ahead and honour our
commitment to local people under the terms and conditions of the scheme."
"One of the main messages we got back from the public consultation on HOSS
was that people wanted the scheme to start as soon as possible, in order to
remove uncertainty within the local property market. People need to know
where they stand, and the introduction of this voluntary scheme helps to do
"This legal challenge potentially puts a question mark over the future of
the whole scheme, but we have decided that 'business as usual' is the best
approach, and is by far the best way to help and support applicants to the
13 January 2005
NEWS FROM NATS
UK flights up in 2004
10 January 2005
Flights in Britain rose by 4.9 per cent last year, according to UK air traffic control company National Air Traffic Services (NATS).
New figures show that a total of 2.18 million flights in UK airspace were handled by NATS during the year.
Published in the latest issue of Airline Industry Information this week, the data indicates that short-distance traffic from Europe has increased due to budget travel, while routes across the Atlantic Ocean have recovered from a downturn following the September 2001 terrorist attacks.
Transatlantic arrivals and departures increased by 7.4 per cent in 2004, domestic traffic rose 4.4 per cent and other arrivals and departures went up by 7.5 per cent, NATS reports. The areas demonstrating the strongest growth last year were Scotland, where flights increased 7.9 per cent, and Manchester, where they were up 6.9 per cent.
The NATS figures also reveal that the average delays per flight attributable to air traffic control fell to 25 seconds during the year, from 44 seconds in 2003, and 97.5 per cent of flights had no delays.
NATS hopes to cut flight delays and safety incidents by 2007 to help restore confidence in the organisation, which has struggled after facing a financial crisis caused by the slump in transatlantic air travel after 2001.
"Despite record numbers of flights, NATS delivered its best performance in 2004 on record," NATS chief executive Paul Barron said in a statement.
The partly privatized body is implementing a £1 billion investment plan to modernize Britain's air-traffic control system before European Union plans to form a single network of air-traffic control zones.
13 January 2005
FURTHER REFLECTIONS ON AVIATION POLLUTION
AND CLIMATE CHANGE
A Letter from Sir Richard: Global emissions trading scheme
is right way to limit aviation pollution
Financial Times by Richard Branson , Chairman, Virgin Group - 11 January 2005
Sir, I am delighted that Rod Eddington, the British Airways chief executive, has drawn attention to the problem of climate change and the need for everyone in the air transport industry to play a part in finding a solution ("How airlines can fight climate change", January 4).
Air travel continues to bring enormous benefits to society. It oils the wheels of commerce; it generates jobs; it opens minds as ever more people experience new cultures. The recent tsunami in the Indian Ocean has been an appalling disaster but just imagine how the world could have responded without the aid of air transport. Virgin Atlantic alone has sent a number of relief flights to the region and carried large amounts of aid free of charge. Other airlines have also contributed substantially.
We have to recognise, however, that there are costs as well as benefits associated with aviation. Everyone in the industry has to do everything possible to minimise environmental costs. The record so far has been good but more can and must be done.
Some environmentalists simply want to stop air travel. That is a foolish approach. For example, imagine putting all those people on ships and the consequent impact on the extremely delicate marine environment.
There are others who seek to impose blanket taxes on the industry. Yet, as Mr Eddington points out, such instruments are blunt and usually ineffective. They are not the best way to achieve the objectives we strive for.
There is a growing consensus that the way forward is an emissions trading scheme. Virgin Atlantic has been a strong supporter of such an approach for aviation and we are pleased that the UK government intends to seek agreement on a Europe-wide scheme during its presidency of the European Union later this year.
In the longer term, the answer is a global scheme agreed through the International Civil Aviation Organisation. This will take time to achieve but it is worth our effort and patience. There is too much at stake, environmentally and commercially, to risk anything less than a well thought-out and tested initiative.
Aviation has made considerable progress in reducing aircraft noise and emissions and companies do not always get the recognition they deserve for what has been achieved. Virgin Atlantic, for example, has invested substantially in new, more environmentally friendly equipment, to the point where we now have one of the youngest fleets in the world. Between 2000 and 2003 emissions generated by our aircraft during take-off and landing fell significantly. However, more can be achieved, especially if all interested parties work together. For our part, we are committed to doing just that.
WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THE EMISSIONS TRADING SCHEME?
UK carbon output revision threatens trading scheme
David Gow in Brussels - The Guardian - 10 January 2005
The EU's carbon dioxide emissions trading scheme (ETS), the world's first
market-based plan for cutting greenhouse gases, is in danger of being
stillborn because of threatened legal action by Britain, Germany and other
countries against the European commission.
Margaret Beckett, environment secretary, has warned Stavros Dimas, the
environment commissioner, that the UK will take Brussels to the European
court of justice if he does not approve a new version of Britain's plan for
emissions by power generators and energy-intensive sectors that is more
generous to industry.
The threat of legal action, which could delay trading in the ETS for several
months, is causing consternation within Britain's manufacturing sector, which
fears that the European Union's scheme will add significantly to increased
energy costs this year.
The ETS was launched on January 1, with the first deal (on forward credits)
between Shell and the mining group BHP Billiton executed three days later in
London, when 5,000 tonnes of CO2 were brokered by TFS at a price of €8.40
(£5.80) a tonne. It aims to help to cut EU emissions to 8% below 1990 levels
The EEF, the manufacturers' organisation, has warned ministers that delays to
the scheme, including legal action, will add further uncertainty to
industries whose energy costs this year are expected to rise to £6bn,
compared with £4.2bn in 2003 - with 30% of the rise down to the ETS.
It has told Ms Beckett that, if legal action produces a more effective and
equitable scheme, manufacturers would back the government. An EEF report
argues that, because of Britain's liberalised market, British companies will
end up paying more for energy than their EU rivals.
The government's national allocation plan, which sets out how much CO2
companies or plants can emit in a given year and enables them to trade such
allowances on the open market, was approved by the commission in July last
year - subject to a few technical changes. But after further reports from
consultants, ministers submitted a revised scheme in October, which the
commission has rejected as it contains bigger and more generous allowances.
Brussels is especially perplexed as the UK's targets for cutting greenhouse
gases under the Kyoto protocol are the toughest in the EU - 12.5% by 2012.
Ms Beckett's officials said last night that the government hoped for a speedy
settlement of the dispute so the scheme could go fully ahead but it would be
March at the earliest before ETS would be wholly operational. Ministers claim
the revised NAP would still cut CO 2 emissions by 5.4% -though admittedly of
a larger amount.
They denied that Ms Beckett had "caved in" to industry but Mr Dimas, who is
demanding justification for the changes, has told her the revisions are far
larger than those demanded by other countries, including Germany - and no
country can "under any circumstances" increase the total number of
OUR COMMENT: So much for the much vaunted UK Leadership role in tackling climate change!
IS THIS THE REMEDY?
Lobby group will name and shame lying MPs
Charles Clover, Environment Editor - Daily Telegraph - 11 January 2005
A lobbying group that will "name and shame" MPs who say one thing and vote for another was launched in London yesterday.
The non-party political campaign group, Active Citizens Transform, is chaired by John Jackson, chairman of the Countryside Alliance, and includes Charles Secrett, former director of Friends of the Earth.
It has already, in combination with Greenpeace, earned Labour's wrath by "naming and shaming" 123 Labour MPs who signed up to saving energy to tackle global warming but voted against measures under pressure from Government whips.
An £18,000 advertisement entitled "No wonder people don't trust politicians!" led to MPs calling for the resignation of Stephen Tindale, a former special adviser to Michael Meacher.
However the advert was ACT's idea and Mr Secrett promised to use the same tactics again to deliver the campaigning group's aims: a written constitution, statutory carbon reduction targets, and decentralised government.
THE NETHERLANDS MAKES A START
TOWARDS CURBING AVIATION POLLUTION
Kerosene tax on national flights in The Netherlands from 01-01-2005
Memo by: Ton Sledsens - The Netherlands Society for Nature and Environment, The Netherlands - Utrecht, December 2004
This memo describes the abolishment of the tax-exemption on kerosene excise duty on domestic flights in the Netherlands.
It will be introduced as of 1-1-2005. The tariff will be € 206.28 per 1000 litres.
In the yearly budget discussions in autumn 2004, several amendments on the Government proposals were introduced by the Dutch Parliament to relieve certain budget cuts. Consequently, new sources of income had to be found. In that process, the Parliament proposed to find some of the funds by removing the tax-exemption on domestic flights in The Netherlands. The Government adopted this proposal and introduced the proposed revision to the budget-law . The Second Chamber of the Parliament has adopted the new budget-law 2005. In December 2004, the First Chamber is expected to approve the budget law 2005 without alterations. The scheme is expected to start at 1-1-2005.
The Government has set the level of excise duty to be introduced at € 206,28 per 1000 litres. In the explanation to the budget law, we can read that the tariff is calculated as the sum of two elements: The first and biggest part is the European minimum level for excise duty on low taxed medium heavy fuels. The second part is calculated from the Dutch energy-tax. This latter part is going to be indexed as of 1st January 2006 onwards. Add them up, and the result is the proposed excise duty. The expected income is estimated at 14-15 million Euro per annum. As it is - perceived by the ministry of Finance - in origin a fund raising exercise to correct the historic tax exemption, no environmental considerations have played a part of the design of the excise duty.
Tax exemptions, Aviation and Climate Change
The tax exemptions which the industry enjoys stem from 1944, when it was necessary to stimulate the sector after the Second World War. There are no excise duties on international flights, nor does VAT have to be paid. Also duty-free shopping is an additional advantage for the aviation industry. They have enjoyed these tax breaks since then, and this has caused an overuse compared to other sectors. Currently, aviation is responsible for about 6% of the global climate change. If trends continue, aviation will become an even greater - and possibly the largest - climate killer over the next decades.
OUR COMMENT: The motives may be financial and not environmental but the Netherlands have not claimed to be leading the world in action on climate change. The same tax exemption benefits are enjoyed by aviation in the UK - hasn't Gordon Brown noticed?
9 January 2005
STANSTED EXPANSION 'NOT VIABLE'
Whitehall documents reveal official fears that BAA
cannot afford to expand the Essex airport
Dominic O'Connell - The Sunday Times - 9 January 2005
SURVEYORS in yellow jackets have been popping up around Hatfield Heath, a pretty village on the Hertfordshire-Essex border. They are working for BAA, the airports group that owns nearby Stansted airport, and are doing a "non-invasive" survey to find a route for a new railway line.
Fast-growing Stansted is the government's first choice for a new runway in south-east England. The railway would help carry the millions of extra passengers the government expects to throng the airport's terminals. Numbers are expected to rise from 21m passengers a year today to up to 80m a year when a second runway is in full use.
But Whitehall documents seen by The Sunday Times show how government officials are deeply worried about the commercial viability of the Stansted expansion. It could, they fear, be delayed by several years to make it more affordable - a delay that would spell disaster for government transport policy.
The documents were uncovered during judicial reviews of the plans brought by local councils and residents.
The protestors say that Alistair Darling, transport secretary, has failed to show commercial justification for the new runway. If they are proved right, the government's controversial aviation policy, laboriously drawn up over several years, may have to be redrawn or scrapped altogether.
Two documents in particular uncovered during last month's court hearing seem to support the challengers' view.
One is a "key messages" paper from the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Treasury. The other is a detailed report on how expansion would affect BAA's finances, drawn up by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) at the behest of the DfT. Both documents appear to question the robustness of the development timetable.
"There is collective agreement between DfT, HMT [the Treasury] and CAA that we cannot state categorically that a new runway at Stansted is not financeable on a stand-alone basis, but, due to the higher degree of revenue risk at Stansted ... BAA could choose to delay development to allow the financing situation to improve," the paper said.
"Precisely when BAA would begin to develop Stansted is subject to a wide degree of uncertainty and depends greatly on the development of the airline market ... HMT is concerned greatly about the potential for serious delay."
The separate CAA report suggests BAA's finances could be put under stress by Stansted. "All DfT scenarios appear to stress BAA's key financial ratios during early years, when revenue streams are not strong," the report said.
Development of the Stansted runway could cause BAA's gearing (level of debt) to rise from the 45% assumed by regulators to nearly 60%. "We note that gearing of this magnitude needs to be considered by DfT in the context of risks borne by BAA," the CAA said. "Stansted development on the timetable suggested would take BAA's interest cover at an EBIT (earnings before interest and tax) level to two times - in other words, its interest bill would eat up half its earnings.
Helpfully for BAA shareholders, the CAA economists also did some work on the effect that fundraising by the company would have on the EBIT cover ratio, including modelling a £1 billion rights issue in 2008-9, and a five-year dividend holiday from the same financial year.
Brian Ross, a leading campaigner against expansion at Stansted, said: "It would probably be better if the £2 billion initial cost of a second Stansted runway were left in shareholders' pockets rather than putting more concrete on the grass at the behest of Department for Transport civil servants."
The CAA said yesterday that its report had been prepared at the request of the DfT and based on the department's assumptions. It had not been intended as a definitive view of the commercial viability of the runway plans.
BAA was not represented in court - the legal challenge was against the government, not the company - but it rejected suggestions that expansion at Stansted would imperil its financial stability.
BAA said it was committed to retaining a single A credit rating, and credit-rating agencies are comfortable with its capital-spending plans. A spokesman said: "Our net debt will peak at £6 billion in 2008 because of spending on Terminal Five at Heathrow. Assuming we spend between £1.7 billion and £2 billion at Stansted, the debt figure will get to only £6.7 billion in 2012. We are confident that we have the headroom to do it."
And BAA has yet to decide whether it will proceed with the Stansted development to the timetable envisaged in the white paper, which envisages the new runway opening in 2011-12. "In the end we will be the ultimate arbiter of whether Stansted is commercially viable because we are a commercial organisation," the spokesman said.
Wrangles over Stansted's viability are not new. It has been a source of controversy since the government first selected it in 1985 as the site for airline expansion in southeast England.
Wary opposition MPs and rival airports cried foul, suspecting that the then government-owned British Airports Authority (now BAA) would use profits from Heathrow and Gatwick to prop it up.
The late Nicholas Ridley, secretary of state for environment in the Thatcher government, insisted this would never happen. He told parliament on June 5, 1985: "I can confirm that there will be no subsidy to Stansted. I confirm that Stansted has benefited financially from the profits of other BAA airports. This should not be the case in the future under our proposals."
Yet despite all the investment poured into it in the intervening years, including a handsome terminal designed by Lord Foster and road, rail and other infrastructure investments, Stansted did not make an operating profit until the 1997-98 financial year, according to the Competition Commission.
David Starkie, managing director of the consultancy Economics-plus and a former adviser to the House of Commons transport select committee, noted in a recent paper for the Institute for Fiscal Studies* that "Stansted's financial performance has been consistently poor over several decades and the airport still makes a return less than its cost of capital."
BAA had been able to balance its books because of the way it was regulated, Starkie said. It owns and runs the three big London airports - Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted - and was until recently allowed to set its prices on a "system" approach. Rather than each airport having to generate a return on its individual assets, BAA could set prices that generated a return on its assets in aggregate.
"The approach ... ensured that the financial deficits of Stansted are recouped through higher charges at Heathrow," said Starkie.
In 2003 the CAA decided things had to change. After a tussle with the Competition Commission, which wanted to retain the system approach, the regulator sprang into action. In future, the CAA said, BAA's airports would have to work on a stand-alone basis.
"The regulator's change of policy is of critical importance. It means that, at least for the time being, BAA cannot rely on securing a return on investment at Stansted by being allowed to leverage its Heathrow market power," said Starkie.
But increasing prices at Stansted may be easier said than done. BAA is already struggling to ask anything like full price. Under the CAA formula, it is allowed to charge airlines up to £4.89 per passenger. But they currently pay between £2.50 and £3.50 per passenger.
These low prices are an essential part of the mix that has fuelled Stansted's recent rapid growth. Attracted by the cheap tariffs, low-cost airlines, led by Ryanair and Easyjet, have swarmed in, bringing crowds to what had been an empty terminal.
For BAA to recoup the £2 billion investment in Stansted's new runway and terminal under the CAA's new rules would mean large rises in prices. The "key messages" document says that charges would have to rise to between £6 and £10 per passenger.
The low-cost airlines that have made Stansted a success are unlikely to stick around if costs rise. "We will not be mortgaging our future for some white elephant built by BAA," said Michael O'Leary, chief executive of Ryanair.
O'Leary - who is in dispute with BAA over Ryanair's payment of charges at Stansted - is scathing in his assessment of BAA's ability to construct a suitable terminal or runway.
"The figures talked about are ridiculous. At Manchester airport they built a new runway and terminal for £240m, and at Luton they built a new terminal for not much more than £20m. We are not handing them (BAA) a blank cheque."
Luton airport is owned by the local council and run by one of BAA's rivals. Manchester is owned and run by a consortium of local authorities.
There are already signs that BAA's attempts to end cheap deals have brought an end to the rapid growth of recent years. Figures to be released next week are expected to show that in 2004 Stansted numbers grew by about 11%, rather than the 20% and more recorded in previous years.
O'Leary said congestion was not the reason for slackening growth. "It is difficult to get runway slots in the morning and evening peaks, but there is still room for us to add capacity during the day. But our extra planes and, I would think, Easyjet's will be going elsewhere in Europe," said O'Leary. He has already voted with his feet, putting extra aircraft this month into Luton, Stansted's deadly rival.
BAA would not give specific estimates on potential price rises at Stansted but said it was confident it could fund the investment with price increases per passenger equivalent to "the price of a cup of coffee".
If the sums were to prove too tight, BAA could delay the development, giving it time to recover from its huge investment in the new fifth terminal at Heathrow, and time for Stansted's traffic mix to be robust enough to stand higher prices.
Starkie's assessment is brutal. "It is never going to be possible to deliver under the original timetable because the strength of demand isn't there."
BAA's other option could be to challenge the ban on cross-subsidy from Heathrow. In its 2003 ruling, the CAA said it would require "compelling evidence" before it would revisit the matter. Airlines at Heathrow would fight tooth and nail.
"The airline community at Heathrow as a whole has been very robust in saying it would not be acceptable," said Andrew Sentance, British Airways‚ chief economist. "It would be completely wrong for us to be subsidising new infrastructure for our competitors."
* Testing the Regulatory Model: The Expansion of Stansted Airport. David Starkie
Fiscal Studies (2004) Vol.25. no4.pp.389-413
7 January 2005
MORE ON THE WHEELCHAIR SAGA
Two versions of the Court case, will wheelchair users now benefit?
BAA PRESS RELEASE - 21 December 2004
"The Court of Appeal today judged that Stansted Airport was partially responsible for discrimination suffered by passenger, Mr Robert Ross.
The Court found that while Ryanair failed to provide free assistance to reduced mobility passengers, Stansted Airport did not take sufficient steps to ensure its provision. The weight of blame was judged to be split equally between the parties.
Stansted Airport believed it was properly fulfilling its responsibilities under the Disability Discrimination Act and apologises to Mr Ross for not doing more to prevent the discrimination against him. Stansted Airport places high priority on providing accessible infrastructure for all passengers and the Court of Appeal recognised that Stansted Airport was not reluctant to fulfil its responsibilities.
Stansted Airport will take the necessary steps to ensure airlines including Ryanair treat passengers with reduced mobility such as Mr Ross equally with all other customers.
The Court's decision will not affect BAA's arrangements with other airlines and handling agents which already provide assistance to passengers with reduced mobility without charge."
RYANAIR PRESS RELEASE - 21 December 2004
RYANAIR WELCOME COURT OF APPEAL DECISION TO FORCE BAA STANSTED TO ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY FOR WHEELCHAIR SERVICES
Ryanair, Europe's No.1 low fares airline today (Tuesday, 21st December 2004) welcomed the Court of Appeal's decision to overturn the previous County Court ruling in the Ross case, and finally establish the responsibility of the British Airport Authority to provide for wheelchair assistance for passengers.
The Court of Appeal's decision establishes a 50/50 responsibility upon BAA Stansted and the airlines for the provision of wheelchair services through the terminal building at Stansted Airport. Ryanair is disappointed that the Court of Appeal did not establish that the BAA was 100% responsible - as is the case with the owners of all other public buildings - for wheelchair access, however the Court of Appeal's decision to clearly impose a 50% responsibility on the BAA will be welcomed by all airlines using BAA airports, as well as by disabled passengers.
Today's judgement concluded that:
The original County Court judge was "wrong to acquit BAA Stansted of responsibility"
BAA Stansted's "failure is a serious one"
BAA Stansted "unlawfully discriminated against Mr. Ross"
In keeping with this announcement today, Ryanair accordingly will be reducing its wheelchair levy by 50%, and we will be continuing our campaign to persuade the BAA monopoly airports in London to provide a free of charge wheelchair assistance service to the disabled, in line with custom and practice at 87 of Ryanair's 93 European airports, and also in line with the current European Union draft disability paper which states "there is a strong case for making the airport manager responsible for organising and financing the assistance of people with reduced mobility who need to use air transport". Ryanair fully supports and endorses this view.
Welcoming today's victory at the Court of Appeal, Ryanair's Head of Communications, Paul Fitzsimmons, said:
"We welcome the decision by the Court of Appeal to clearly and unambiguously impose a responsibility upon the British Airports Authority to provide for wheelchair access through its terminal buildings. Today's decision vindicates Ryanair's decision to appeal the Ross case, and highlights again that Ryanair is fighting on behalf of disabled passengers to force those few airport managers, such as the BAA, to provide free of charge wheelchair access in a manner similar to most other European airports. Ryanair will continue to fight to lower the cost of air travel for all passengers and it is not unreasonable that the very rich owners of terminal buildings such as BAA Stansted should be responsible for providing free of charge wheelchair access through these complicated terminal buildings for those with limited mobility."
7 January 2005
NEW ACTION COMMENCES TO COUNTER CLIMATE CHANGE
Will it soon include aviation?
EU climate gas trading scheme underway
Environment Daily 1795 - 5 January 2005
In what could be one of the most important milestones in EU
environmental policy, the bloc's pioneering greenhouse gas emission
trading scheme was officially launched on 1 January.
Under the scheme some 12,000 industrial installations, accounting for
half of European carbon dioxide (CO2) output, will have their releases
capped. The first phase, now underway, runs from 2005-07.
A second phase will run from 2008-12. It is very likely to involve
stricter emission caps for market participants and could be expanded to
cover new industrial sectors such as chemicals, aluminium and -
possibly - aviation.
The trading scheme will be critical to EU efforts to comply with Kyoto
protocol restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions by 2008-12. It is
beginning to give birth to a global market in carbon allowances
eventually expected to be worth billions of euros. Countries outside
Europe have already expressed an interest in joining.
The major preparatory work of 2004 was development of national
allocation plans (Naps) for emission allowances for 2005-07. By the
scheme's official launch this had still not been completed.
Having already endorsed 16 Naps, on 27 December the European
Commission approved a further five, for Spain, Cyprus, Hungary,
Lithuania and Malta. Approval for Spain's plan is conditional on minor
This leaves Naps for four countries - Italy, Poland, the Czech
Republic and Greece - unapproved. Their companies are therefore
excluded from trading for the time being. Greece, the most prominent
laggard, finally submitted its draft Nap only on 30 December.
Question marks also remain over the UK after the government abruptly
increased its proposed hand-out of CO2 allowances in October to the
consternation of the European Commission (ED 27/10/04
"We're still waiting for information to justify the new plan," a
spokeswoman told Environment Daily.
Meanwhile, the European Commission on 21 December published the final
bit of legislation necessary for the scheme's full operation - an EU
regulation introducing an electronic registries system to track
emission allowances as they change hands.
The scheme's official launch has made little immediate difference to
the carbon market. Trading in forward contracts has been underway for
some time - in the week before Christmas allowances worth 450,000
tonnes of CO2 changed hands, according to broker Point Carbon.
"The next real step is to get the registries up and running in the
major trading countries first to allow the spot market to develop," Tim
Atkinson of Natsource brokers told Environment Daily. This should
start to happen by early March, he said.
Environmentalists remain wary of the scheme. On 23 December, green
group WWF warned that member states had allocated too many emission
allowances to industry for 2005-07, "undermining the scheme from the
3 January 2005
RESIDENTS PUT BAA IN THE DOCK OVER RUNWAY
Dominic O'Connell - The Sunday Times - Business Section - 2 January 2005
AIRPORTS group BAA is to face the first legal challenge to its £2 billion plan to build a new runway at Stansted Airport in Essex.
The controversial plans are already the subject of several High Court challenges against the government over the validity of the 2003 white paper that gave BAA the green light to expand Stansted.
But BAA itself is now the target of an action by Takeley Parish Council and local homeowners. They claim the company's compensation scheme, under which it will buy up houses affected by the new runway, is unlawful because it breaches British compensation legislation, fails to meet the requirements of the white paper, and falls foul of European human rights laws.
BAA's scheme covers only those houses that will face a strictly defined level of noise from the new runway. Those deemed to fall outside its definitions — even if they are only yards away from the houses covered — will not receive any compensation.
Campaigners say the scheme has been so tightly drawn that it will cover just 500 of the 12,000 houses affected.
Trevor Allen, chairman of Takeley Parish Council, said: "We intend to do everything in our power to challenge BAA's attempts to short-change local people through its penny- pinching approach to developing Stansted on the cheap."
"BAA's compensation plan — based on an arbitrary and inadequate noise contour that excludes the vast majority of people who are affected by the blight — might satisfy BAA and its cronies at the Department for Transport, but we'll now see if it satisfies the courts," he added.
Takeley lodged papers with the High Court on December 21. Its move is another blow to the Stansted plans, which are already being challenged by local authorities that claim the government white paper was drawn up incorrectly.
BAA is also facing a rough ride from the low-cost airlines that are Stansted's main users. They are fiercely opposed to an increase in fees to pay for the new runway, while airlines at Heathrow, BAA's cash cow, are equally determined to prevent their fees being used to cross-subsidise the construction.
A spokesperson for BAA Stansted said: "We are aware of the challenge that Takeley Parish Council is seeking to make against the homeowners' support scheme."
"This scheme was only ever designed to address generalised blight for those living very close to the site of the proposed new runway and who may be worst affected by it."
"We believe that is exactly what it does."
3 January 2005
RYANAIR IN ANOTHER LEGAL BATTLE
Ryanair in German subsidies suit
Dominic O'Connell - The Sunday Times - Business Section - 2 January 2005
AIR BERLIN, a German budget carrier, has initiated a legal action against Lubeck airport, claiming it gave unfair subsidies to Ryanair. Ryanair flies six routes in and out of the German airport, which is regarded as key to its aggressive plans to dominate the German market.
Air Berlin operates from Hamburg airport, which is 30 miles away, and claims that Lubeck's alleged subsidies to Ryanair distort the market.
The allegations were dismissed by Michael O'Leary, Ryanair's chief executive. "Air Berlin should stop complaining and come compete with us at Lubeck," he said.
Air Berlin claims that Lubeck airport has handed over subsidies of up to €10m to Ryanair. The German airline is being supported by several charter services, including those which operate for Thomas Cook, a British travel operator.
Ryanair is still fighting the €4m fine imposed by the European commission after it was judged to have received illegal subsidies to fly to Charleroi airport in Belgium.
3 January 2005
QUESTIONS ON CLIMATE CHANGE
BBC 1pm News - 2 January 2005
After reporting on the situation following the earthquake disaster, the tidal waves and the terrible loss of life, James Cox interviewed Jonathon Porritt, the chair of the Sustainable Development Commission, and George Monbiot, the author and journalist.
He suggested that this tragedy surely made us all aware not only of the power of nature, but also of the numbers of people who lived near the sea and who were immediately exposed to danger from rising tides and sea levels. He asked them what were the likely long-term effects of climate change - would such people be threatened?
George Monbiot pointed out that most natural disasters were not preventable, though they are often predictable. Climate change itself may be part of a natural change taking place over hundreds of years, but man-made greenhouse gas emissions were accelerating a gradual warming up of the world and that was accentuating the effects of such climatic disasters as ferocious hurricanes in Florida, flash floods in Cornwall, ice melting in Antarctica and an overall rise in sea levels world wide. It is predicted that sea levels could rise over 90 cms in the next 100 years. 80% of the Maldive Islands, for example, would be under water.
Jonathon Porritt believed that we were approaching the point of "no return" though there had been much more awareness of the problem during 2004. Tony Blair was now to chair the G8 group and last September he had said that one of his aims would be to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He had admitted that the hoped for reductions from the Kyoto Treaty were not happening and that we must act now. Insurance companies were taking action to guard their interests.
A wide ranging discussion followed about what needed to be done. It was agreed that a major shift in public attitudes was needed, a realisation that a man-made disaster is in the making and that our own actions can have an influence. Fossil fuel use had to be cut - this would in the case of transport probably mean a rise in costs, especially for air travel.
So far Tony Blair appears to back away when it comes to political action - will he be tough enough with an election coming next year? For instance, there is no "God-given" right to fly to Malaga or any other holiday resort for under £12 return. Yet the government seems more concerned about a political backlash to rising fossil fuel costs than in preventing serious environmental damage.
It needs to be brought home to the public that fossil fuel use has to be reduced. The USA has to cooperate and an example has to be set to India and China - we cannot ask them to do what we are not prepared to do ourselves.
While Bush has set the US against cooperating in the Kyoto Treaty, the US has now got a voluntary programme to achieve a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of 18%. This has been criticised as being inadequate but it is a beginning and the US has begun to admit that there is a problem.
Jonathon Porritt said that the job of chairing the Sustainability Commission had been frustrating. The UK has not done enough to match its verbal claims of the government's intention to lead in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It is trying to achieve reductions through actions by industry and is not taking the action it should to convince the public of the need to cut down on fossil fuel use.
When asked what members of the public should do, the answer was to ask the politicians what they were going to do. Only political action could promote all measures necessary to reduce energy use and only international political pressure could hope to influence the US, India and China, and then only if we were prepared to limit our own fossil fuel use.
2 January 2005
THE LAST DAYS OF 2004
We are now into the year 2005, still with hopes of a better future,
so what were the last words of 2004 in our local battle?
Aviation White Paper: Final days of High Court judicial review
Government documents reveal Treasury's economic doubts
Herts & Essex Observer - 22 December 2004
Stop Stansted Expansion says the High Court judicial review hearing is living up to its billing of a battle royal.
Director Carol Barbone said that throughout last week, barristers for the claimants put the government's legal team under intense pressure on a range of issues, with the question of Stansted's commercial viability dominating the exchanges towards the end of the session.
"The government was forced to provide key financial documents relating to the viability of a second Stansted runway and, as more information was revealed, the government's position began to look increasingly shaky."
"These previously highly confidential internal documents showed that the government had not been entirely candid in its earlier submissions of the Treasury's doubts about a second runway. However, there were still gaps in the evidence trail that suggested that ministers had not been made aware of Treasury concerns - gaps which need to be filled."
Ms Barbone added that Mr Justice Sullivan issued a "stunning rebuke" to government QC Richard Drabble. He said he shared "the concern that it is becoming difficult to accept the government's evidence at face value, some of which clearly does not meet the standard of candour expected of a government department in litigation."
The judge also said he was not now prepared to take any of the government's evidence on trust, she reported.
SSE's barrister David Smith claimed the Stansted second runway proposal was "irrational and unsound", while Tom Hill appearing for the five Essex and Herts authorities, said it was a "triumph of hope over experience which bordered on recklessness."
2 January 2005
THE END OF A BATTLE?
Ryanair loses wheelchair appeal
Sam Jones - The Guardian - 22 December 2004
Disabled travellers were celebrating a landmark victory yesterday after a high court judge ruled that both airlines and airports have a duty to provide free wheelchairs.
The dispute began more than a year ago when a disabled passenger sued Ryanair for charging him £18 to use a wheelchair.
Bob Ross, who has cerebral palsy and arthritis, claimed that the budget airline had acted unlawfully by making him pay for a wheelchair as he tried to board a flight from Stansted to Perpignan in southern France. The charge for the wheelchair was higher than the cost of his return ticket.
His claim was upheld in a Central London county court judgement and Mr Ross was awarded £1,336 in compensation, prompting Ryanair to appeal. But yesterday, Lord Justice Brooke rejected Ryanair's claim that Stansted airport was responsible for the cost, saying both were "100% liable".
Mr Ross said: "I think this will enable more disabled people to travel more easily. They now know that from today, if they turn up at an airport they are entitled to a free wheelchair."
Paul Fitzsimmons, Ryanair's head of communication, said the decision placed the responsibility on BAA to provide wheelchairs. He said: "We will continue in our campaign to try and bring BAA into line with all other airports in Europe we fly to."
"It is not unreasonable that the very rich owners of terminal buildings such as BAA Stansted should be responsible for providing free of charge wheelchair access."
He added that Ryanair would now halve the 50p levy on tickets that it had introduced to cover the cost of wheelchairs.
But Caroline Brooking, of the Disability Rights Commission, said Ryanair was "willfully passing the buck".
Terry Morgan, the managing director of Stansted airport said: "We will now be sitting down with Ryanair to discuss plans and we have to work out between us who is going to pay for what parts of the service."
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