Home Page Link Thaxted - under the present flightpath and threatened with quadrupled activity Takeley's 12th century parish church, close to proposed second runway Harcamlow Way, Bamber's Green - much of the long distance path and village would disappear under Runway 2 Clavering - typical of the Uttlesford villages threatened by urbanisation
Campaigning against proposals to expand Stansted Airport

image SSE NEWS ARCHIVE - July to September 2005

29 September 2005


Aviation "could enter climate trading from 2008"

Environment Daily 1949 - 27 September 2005

Including airlines in the EU's carbon emission trading scheme is the best way of tackling the sector's climate impacts, the European Commission confirmed in a policy paper published on Tuesday. The Commission says it will propose legislation by the end of next year.

The new paper does not say when aviation might enter the emission trading scheme (ETS), but does not rule it out from the second phase starting in 2008. In contrast EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas said in May that aviation could not be included until at least 2012.

EU officials told Environment Daily that earlier action depends on political will among governments and MEPs. The UK, currently president of the EU, strongly favours the earlier timetable Its environment and transport ministers called the new paper a "key step forward" on Tuesday.

The Commission will now set up a working group that will contribute to a wider review of the ETS directive next June. The group will tackle technical questions, especially how to allocate emission allowances.

The Commission has side-stepped its consultant's recommendation that allowances should be distributed centrally rather than by member states Instead the paper simply proposes a "harmonised allocation methodology". Airlines should be the entities responsible for trading since they have most influence over emission levels, the paper says. All airlines operating from EU airports should be covered.

The group will also discuss how two options to include the greenhouse effects of aviation caused by emissions of gases other than CO2. In the first, airlines would have to surrender extra emission allowances calculated by multiplying the CO2 emission by a "precautionary average factor".

In the second, only CO2 emissions would be covered in the ETS and "ancillary instruments" would mop up other effects. The most likely of these is differentiated airport charges based on levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx).

In a separate impact assessment, the Commission concludes that including aviation in carbon trading is "unlikely to have any significant adverse effects on competition". Ticket price rises would be "modest", it says, and air transport demand "would not fall but simply grow at a slightly slower rate".


Controlling aviation's impact on climate change:
the European Commission outlines its methods but not the environmental objective

28 September 2005

The AEF today welcomed the release of the European Commission's Communication on Aviation and Climate Change, but warned that Europe urgently needs to identify the environmental targets it wishes the air transport sector to achieve.

The Communication highlights the importance of taking regional action to bring greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft under control in the absence of any global proposals, and the need to tackle all the climate change impacts of aircraft, not just its carbon dioxide emissions.

The measures outlined in the Communication, which include aviation joining an emissions trading scheme in the short-term and the potential role of taxation in the long-term, highlight the tools available but the report stops short of setting targets for reducing aviation emissions.

Tim Johnson, Director of the AEF, said "The range of market measures to address this significant and growing problem has been on the table for at least six years. It is very positive that the Commission's Communication has developed the arguments for their introduction, and outlined a way forward, but the vital next step is to prioritise discussion on what we want these instruments to achieve. We know the scale of the problem, we have agreed a level at which we need to stabilise atmospheric greenhouse gases and now we urgently need to agree a limit for emissions from the air transport sector. Including aviation in an emissions trading scheme must not become an end in itself, rather it should be a tool to secure genuine emissions reductions, and that means setting a tough cap on the sector."

Note by AEF:

In 1999, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its report on aviation that estimated the total climatic impact of aviation as between 2 and 4 times that of its CO2 emissions alone. The 'multiplier' effect is due largely to the impacts of oxides of nitrogen emitted at altitude and the warming effect of contrails.

Emissions from EU air travel, if allowed to grow unchecked, are set to consume the entire sustainable carbon budget of Europe by 2045. That is, if we wish to stabilise atmospheric greenhouse gases at the level EU leaders have agreed is necessary to avoid dangerous climate change, there will have to be no emissions from any other sector - if aviation continues to grow at its present rate. This forecast, published recently by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research, takes into account all projections from the industry for improvements in technological and operational efficiency.

In addition to a stringent cap, the AEF would like to see the auctioning of allowance permits to airlines, the inclusion of emissions from all flights departing EU airports, as well as the introduction of parallel measures, such as taxes and charges, to tackle non-CO2 impacts.

29 September 2005


Extract from Speech to Labour Party Conference - Labour Party website - 27 September 2005

"Next year too, building on Britain's Kyoto commitments, we will publish proposals on energy policy. Global warming is too serious for the world any longer to ignore its danger or split into opposing factions on it. And for how much longer can countries like ours allow the security of our energy supply be dependent on some of the most unstable parts of the world? For both reasons the G8 Agreement must be made to work so we develop together the technology that allows prosperous nations to adapt and emerging ones to grow sustainably; and that means an assessment of all options, including civil nuclear power. In transport, we will continue to develop proposals for a fundamental change in its funding, including road pricing."

Gordon Brown - Extract from his speech to the Conference on September 26th:

"And to steer that course of stability I call on world oil producers and oil companies now to support the British plan agreed this weekend by the whole international community to raise production, to open the books, prevent high prices hurting the poor, and - let us be clear - to do what should have been done years ago: to promote the environmental agenda for energy efficiency and alternative sources of energy."

OUR COMMENT: Not much on what has been described as the most serious threat facing the world.


BAA put on the mat in Brighton

Alistair Osborne, Associate City Editor - Daily Telegraph - 26 September 2005

BAA Monopoly Beer Mat - Click on image for a larger version Someone with an axe to grind against airports operator BAA has decided to get it off their community chest by littering the Labour Party conference in Brighton with satirical beer mats based on the Monopoly board game. From the comfort of a seaside bar stool, delegates can play BAA Airports Monopoly, dubbed "fantastic fun for just one player".

The beer mats, distributed to almost every conference hotel, bar and coffee shop, feature a truncated version of the traditional game, with the famous London streets replaced by Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports - all owned by BAA.

As players move around the board, the game's perpetrators take swipes at BAA. Heathrow is shown as a "Licence to print money", while players landing on Stansted are invited to "Invest £4billion for penny flights," a reference to BAA's plans to build a second runway at Stansted, whose main customers are low-fare airlines Ryanair and Easyjet.

There is no suggestion that BAA chief executive Mike Clasper should go directly to jail without passing Go, but the corner Parking square omits the word "Free", instead adding £ signs. The Civil Aviation Authority, which regulates the airports monopoly, is portrayed as a fluffy poodle.

The identity of the perpetrator is a mystery so far, though there is no shortage of suspects. Virgin Atlantic, Bmi, Ryanair and Easyjet have all railed at the BAA's monopoly, while even the Transport Select Committee has criticised it. Michael O'Leary, the outspoken Ryanair boss, rarely gets through a press conference without dismissing BAA's plans for Stansted as "some bloody marble Taj Mahal". Ryanair said it had no knowledge of the game.

Asked if he was the brains behind it, Brian Ross, economics adviser to the Stop Stansted Expansion campaign, would only say: "We might confess to a peripheral involvement and we congratulate the main protagonists behind it."

29 September 2005


EU holds the line as world CO2 emissions rocket

Environment Daily 1950 - 28 September 2005

World energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions rose by 4.5% last year, their fastest rate since 2000, according to first estimates by German economics institute DIW. The figures show that EU-15 emissions climbed only marginally in 2004 after increasing significantly in 2003 released.

DIW's early review of 2004 data confirms China as currently the major driver of global emissions growth. It released an extra 579m tonnes of CO2 in 2004, a year-on-year increase of 15%. In comparison, world emissions increased by 1.2bn tonnes to stand at 27.5bn tonnes, or 26% above their 1990 level.

Emissions growth in industrialised countries in 2004 was far less rampant. Energy-related CO2 rose by 1.3% across the OECD area, DIW reported. In the USA it increased by 1.4%. In the old EU-15 countries it rose by 0.7%, less than half the rate of increase in 2003, according to official EU figures (ED 21/06/05 www.environmentdaily.com/articles/index.cfm?action=article&ref=19041).

Meanwhile, DIW estimates that EU-15 emissions of all six Kyoto greenhouse gases rose by just 0.3% in 2004, again well down on their 1.3% increase in 2003 according to official EU figures. According to the German institute, EU-15 emissions are now 1.4% below their 1990 level compared with a commitment to minus 8% by 2010.

Across all countries bound to limit greenhouse gas emissions by the Kyoto protocol, total output was 4.1% below the 1990 level in 2004, DIW reports. This compares with the overall commitment by these countries to an aggregate 5.2% emissions reduction by 2010.

Most non-EU industrialised countries have seen substantial increases in emissions over the 1990-2004 period (DIW reports 26% for Australia, 25% for Canada, 14% for the USA). The key factor behind the overall reduction has been the 35% decline in emissions from Russia and other former communist countries of eastern Europe since 1990.

Benefiting from this, greenhouse gas emissions from the full 25-member EU were 7.6% lower last year than in 1990, the institute estimated.

DIW called for "further intensive climate protection measures" to reverse the global increase in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions. Emission trading, now underway in Europe for industry, should be extended to transport and households, they said.

OUR COMMENT: Tony Blair has made it clear that he considers that a technical solution is the answer to reducing Carbon emissions, either by CO2 sequestration - storing it below ground - or by the development of green aircraft. We know that a low emission aircraft is not going to appear, if ever, before the 2020s - it also seems clear that CO2 sequestration is a long way off. Instead of simpler "this year, next year" measures these solutions are "sometimes? never?" - can we afford to wait that long?


Environment Daily 1949 - 27 September 2005

Many obstacles stand in the way of carbon capture and storage becoming a key answer to global warming, the Intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) said in a long-awaited report published on Monday. The downbeat conclusion contrasts with rising expectations for the technology in Europe and elsewhere.

The IPCC acknowledges that some studies have suggested that sequestering carbon underground could account for up to 55% of all emission reductions needed between now and 2100 to stabilise greenhouse gases concentrations in the atmosphere.

Such forecasts are beset by uncertainties and constraints, the panel concludes. For example, the real capacity of underground reservoirs is still unknown. And though the cost of carbon sequestration is expected to decline, estimates are subject to significant uncertainties.

Unless governments put a cost on emitting CO2 then there will be no incentive to use carbon sequestration, the IPCC adds. Sequestering carbon will itself push up the cost of fossil fuel power stations, it points out - a plant with carbon capture could require up to 40% more energy than one without.

As well as technology and cost issues, health, safety, environmental and legal concerns would have to be addressed to ensure public support. A key legal issue would be how international law would treat CO2 injection in international seas.

At present, only the electricity sector, which produces around 40% of total CO2 emissions, could use the technology at a reasonable cost, the IPCC finds. The price of CO2 reductions would have to exceed US$25-30 (€21-25) per tonne of CO2 over the lifetime of projects to make this viable.

Environmental groups, who are generally sceptical of carbon sequestration, welcomed the report. Greenpeace called it a "clarification of the limits of the technology". The conclusions further reinforced the need for massive deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, it said.

27 September 2005


Blair falls into line with Bush view on global warming

Geoffrey Lean and Christopher Silvester - The Independent - 25 September 2005

Tony Blair has admitted that he is changing his views on combating global warming to mirror those of President Bush - and oppose negotiating international treaties such as the Kyoto Protocol.

His admission, which has outraged environmentalists on both sides of the Atlantic, flies in the face of his promises made in the past two years and undermines the agreement he masterminded at this summer's Gleneagles Summit. And it endangers talks that opened in Ottawa this weekend on a new treaty to combat climate change.

The U-turn will inevitably bring accusations that he has, once again, sold out to Mr Bush, just at the time that the US President is coming under unprecedented pressure to change his policy in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Last week the UK Government's chief scientific advisor, Sir David King, said that global warming might have increased their severity.

Over the past two years Mr Blair has consistently claimed global leadership in tackling what he described as "long term, the single most important issue we face as a global community" and has stressed that it "can only properly be addressed through international agreements". President Bush repeatedly expressed anger at his position.

Sharing a platform with the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, in New York this month, Mr Blair confessed: "Probably I'm changing my thinking about this", adding that he hoped the world's nations would "not negotiate international treaties".

This contradicts his assertion in a speech a year ago - which drew a private rebuke from the Bush administration - that "a problem that is global in cause and scope can only be fully addressed through international agreement".

It also denies what his ministers claimed to be his main achievement on global warming at Gleneagles. He had succeeded in getting all the leaders except Mr Bush to sign up to negotiating a successor to the Kyoto treaty, and in arranging a meeting between the G8 and leading developing countries to discuss it.

But instead of endorsing agreed limits on the pollution that causes climate change, Mr Blair told this month's meeting at the Clinton Global Initiative that he was putting his faith in "developing science and technology" - precisely Mr Bush's position.

He justified his change of heart by saying that countries would not negotiate environmental treaties that cut their growth or consumption - another of the President's main contentions. But in another speech last April he said it was "quite false" to suppose that environmental protection would inhibit growth.

Last night, Tony Juniper, executive director of Friends of the Earth, called the Prime Minister's volte-face "unbelievable": "Having failed to practise what he preaches, he is now changing his preaching to match his practice."

25 September 2005


EU clean air strategy sees the light of day

Environment Daily 1945 - 21 September 2005

The European Commission on Wednesday proposed a comprehensive 15-year programme to improve EU air quality. "This will enable the EU to have one of the most advanced air quality policies in the world," said environment commissioner Stavros Dimas.

As we reported earlier this week, in its final form Cafe is costed at €7.1bn annually by 2020, with projected benefits conservatively estimated at €42bn each year. Earlier drafts called for bigger cuts in air pollution costing nearly €12bn per year. It was watered down under pressure from EU commissioners for industry, agriculture and internal market.

Mr Dimas hinted at the difficulties he had faced in gaining his colleagues' backing for the final version. "We reached a compromise without considerably compromising health aspects," he said. "There had even been some voices considering that the strategy was not necessary at all."

At Cafe's core are a series of targets for reducing key pollutant emissions between 2000 and 2020. Sulphur dioxide should be slashed by 82%, nitrogen oxides by 60%, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by 51%, ammonia by 27% and ultra-fine particulates (PM2.5) by 59%.

The Commission has now set the ball rolling by issuing a first piece of draft legislation, consolidating existing EU laws on air quality standards and introducing the first limits on PM2.5 (see separate story, this issue). Beyond this, Cafe sets out an orientation for future measures for political debate.

Under the Commission's vision, agriculture will bear the brunt of change. EU official Peter Gammeltoft said Cafe was "opening up new territory" by requiring farmers to make a "dedicated effort" to cut emissions. "Industry and the transport sector have made efforts over the last 20 or 30 years," he said. "We're now at a point where we can't envisage cost-effective reductions without some contribution from agriculture".

Cafe could thus cost agriculture about €2.5bn, of which about €1bn in costs are already in train through the recent form of the EU's common agricultural policy. The Commission estimates costs of around €2bn for transport, €1bn for large and small combustion plants, €1bn for households, and around €600m for other industrial activities.

Among possible measures, the Commission is already preparing to propose a strengthening of the EU's 2001 national emissions ceilings directive next year. It will also examine whether small combustion plants under 50 megawatts in capacity should be brought into the IPPC industrial pollution regime. But there are no plans to place extra controls on installations already covered by the IPPC or large combustion plants directive.

In the transport sector the Commission is to propose new "Euro V" air quality standards by the end of the year. It will "examine the scope" for reducing VOC emissions from petrol stations and will "further encourage shifts towards less polluting modes of transport".

It will also "consider" whether to introduce low-emission zones and minimum public procurement quotas for cleaner vehicles. An existing programme to cut emission from shipping will also be strengthened.


Environment Daily 1945 - 21 September 2005

The European Commission proposed the first ever EU-level limits on ambient concentrations of ultra-fine particles under 2.5 microns wide (PM2.5) on Wednesday. Its legislative proposal is the first building block in the Cafe air quality strategy (see separate article, this issue).

The draft law will clamp down on PM2.5 pollution in two stages. By 2010 all member states will have to comply with a "concentration cap" of 25 micrograms per cubic metre (ug/m3). This is derived from an existing EU limit on particles up to ten microns (PM10) of 40ug/m3 by the same date.

Member states meeting the PM10 target should automatically meet the PM2.5 mark because the smaller fraction is also lighter. Nevertheless, the Commission proposes giving states leeway to exceed the cap by up to 20% when the directive enters force, declining in steps to 0% in 2015.

In the second stage member states will have to cut PM2.5 concentrations by 20% by 2020, compared with the average during 2008-2010. Five years after the directive's adoption the Commission will propose further targets differentiated by member state.

As well as PM2.5 curbs, the draft directive consolidates the 1996 air quality framework directive and four daughter directives passed since then, cutting the volume of legal texts by half. Existing air quality limit values remain unaffected.

OUR COMMENT: Although there are no proposals for reducing emissions from aircraft (which would have to be controlled by international agreement, a major task) the proposed Directive will require more stringent air quality standards. If there is a 60% reduction in nitrogen dioxide levels included, BAA can forget R2! However, it will be a long time before we see any details or any action. We must follow the progress of this legislation and fully support it. It has very big implications for the future - it will be resisted and attempts will be made to dilute it. Improvements in Air Quality would have very important health benefits and tougher action is overdue.

Pat Dale

25 September 2005


Ryanair 'guarantees' two million passengers if MIA lowers tariffs

Michael Carabott - News Airline - 21 September 2005

If the Malta International Airport lowers its tariffs to something close to the European average, Ryanair will set up a six-aircraft base in Malta and will guarantee two million passengers per year, said deputy CEO Michael Cawley yesterday.

Addressing the press at the Westin Radisson yesterday, Mr Cawley said that Ryanair can and will save the Maltese tourism industry, generating 750,000 new tourists and directly creating about 2,000 new jobs at the airport - not counting the positive domino effect on the whole of Malta.

Mr Cawley said that the key to everything was price. "Ryanair has recently set up a route to some remote town in Norway. No one had even heard of it. Yet, since we set up the route and charged €32 for a return trip, we have sold almost 600,000 seats in eight months," he said.

Mr Cawley said that low frills, low costs, was the only way to attract tourists. "And Malta will only benefit if it allows us to operate here. We can advertise Malta at €39. And believe me, experience has shown me that people will flock here," he said. He mentioned Riga as another example.

He explained: "We do not only operate from the UK; we can bring tourists from Spain, Italy, France, practically anywhere we fly from."

"For years Malta's tourism industry has been in decline, starved of low cost access which is so necessary for tourism to grow. Our proposal is to base six aircraft and deliver two million passengers to MIA," said Mr Cawley.

He also said that he realised that the proposal might sound radical, but Ryanair has succeeded in many similar ventures around Europe. "Our proposal will help bring Maltese tourism up to the growth enjoyed by other destinations in Europe. We would like to embark on a project with the government of Malta to generate 2,000 jobs within the next three years," said Mr Cawley.

He said that Ryanair's nearest competitor was EasyJet, which was 59 per cent more expensive. "We use price stimulation. At €62, you might not fill an aircraft. But at €32, people don't really care where they go. It's cheap, they can afford it and might just take a weekend break," he said.

Mr Cawley also rubbished suggestions that Ryanair cannot service a route that is serviced by another airline. "We think straight to the point. Most airlines just do not think rationally at all. Look at Air Malta. They were in trouble long before we ever came along," said Mr Cawley. As incredulous as it sounds, Mr Cawley said that Air Malta employs 2,000 staff to cater for 1.5 million passengers.

"Ryanair has 2,800 staff to cater for 35 million passengers. Do the sums and you will see what I mean. We expect our staff to work hard and be efficient – and in return they are the highest paid in the industry. The philosophy runs all the way through the company. Our aircraft only have a 25 minute turnaround time on ground," he said.

He said: "We gear our prices in order to be able to put people on the plane. Sometimes if need be we give away free seats and only charge taxes because we know that these people will spend on other things such as car hire and the like."

Mr Cawley said that Ryanair was well capable of delivering its promise, because it had done so in every other country it decided to operate from. "But if we are bringing so many passengers, we expect more competitive fees. If we don't meet our targets, then yes, we will refund the difference to the MIA," he said.

He explained that MIA's tariffs were not expensive, but outrageous. "They are about three times as expensive at the European average with €20 handling fees per person. We cannot profitably carry passengers with those charges," he said.

He likened the process to a large supermarket buying from a wholesale at a cheaper price in comparison with the prices charged for orders made to a corner shop. "The supermarket buys in bulk and is given a discount. The corner shop buys things at a costlier price and in turn charges a costlier price," he said.

He said that if Malta wanted to be part of the European tourism boom, the MIA had to lower its fees. He said the European average was e7 handling charge per person.

Mr Cawley said that on 1 May 2004 Malta changed forever. "Joining the EU is a good thing. Ireland benefited from it. But I just hope it does not take you 20 years like it took us to realise that things have to change. I hope you change quicker than we did," he said.

Mr Cawley said the airline realised that Malta had particular circumstances and that his company was prepared to work around them.

"We could make it an evolutionary change rather than a revolutionary one by servicing a few routes at first and even not the UK. We would love to have a base here, but at the end of the day it's up to you. You cannot make omelettes without breaking eggs," he said.

He said that Malta was the only country that registered a drop in arrivals from the UK. "The market is ailing. But it is up to you to allow us to do something about it," he said.

He said Ryanair could double if not treble arrivals from the UK. He concluded: "Customers like paying low costs. They don't care about image anymore and that is the reality. Low cost carriers are here to stay, the only obstacle for us and Malta is the MIA charges. We want a deal that is competitive in relation to European average charges."

He said that discussions would continue between the airline and the authorities.

OUR COMMENT: If Malta wants more tourists, airlines and passengers must be prepared to pay for the pollution they cause to Malta as well as to the UK. More important, aircraft emissions must be reduced - this needs pressure from the government and from the EU. What has happened to Blair's climate change mission? How many trees is he planting after his round the world trips?

Pat Dale

21 September 2005


Global warming 'past the point of no return'

Steve Connor, Science Editor - The Independent - 16 September 2005

A record loss of sea ice in the Arctic this summer has convinced scientists that the northern hemisphere may have crossed a critical threshold beyond which the climate may never recover. Scientists fear that the Arctic has now entered an irreversible phase of warming which will accelerate the loss of the polar sea ice that has helped to keep the climate stable for thousands of years.

They believe global warming is melting Arctic ice so rapidly that the region is beginning to absorb more heat from the sun, causing the ice to melt still further and so reinforcing a vicious cycle of melting and heating.

The greatest fear is that the Arctic has reached a "tipping point" beyond which nothing can reverse the continual loss of sea ice and with it the massive land glaciers of Greenland, which will raise sea levels dramatically.

Satellites monitoring the Arctic have found that the extent of the sea ice this August has reached its lowest monthly point on record, dipping an unprecedented 18.2 per cent below the long-term average.

Experts believe that such a loss of Arctic sea ice in summer has not occurred in hundreds and possibly thousands of years. It is the fourth year in a row that the sea ice in August has fallen below the monthly downward trend - a clear sign that melting has accelerated.

Scientists are now preparing to report a record loss of Arctic sea ice for September, when the surface area covered by the ice traditionally reaches its minimum extent at the end of the summer melting period.

Sea ice naturally melts in summer and reforms in winter but for the first time on record this annual rebound did not occur last winter when the ice of the Arctic failed to recover significantly.

Arctic specialists at the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre at Colorado University, who have documented the gradual loss of polar sea ice since 1978, believe that a more dramatic melt began about four years ago.

In September 2002 the sea ice coverage of the Arctic reached its lowest level in recorded history. Such lows have normally been followed the next year by a rebound to more normal levels, but this did not occur in the summers of either 2003 or 2004. This summer has been even worse. The surface area covered by sea ice was at a record monthly minimum for each of the summer months - June, July and now August.

Scientists analysing the latest satellite data for September - the traditional minimum extent for each summer - are preparing to announce a significant shift in the stability of the Arctic sea ice, the northern hemisphere's major "heat sink" that moderates climatic extremes.

"The changes we've seen in the Arctic over the past few decades are nothing short of remarkable," said Mark Serreze, one of the scientists at the Snow and Ice Data Centre who monitor Arctic sea ice.

Scientists at the data centre are bracing themselves for the 2005 annual minimum, which is expected to be reached in mid-September, when another record loss is forecast. A major announcement is scheduled for 20 September. "It looks like we're going to exceed it or be real close one way or the other. It is probably going to be at least as comparable to September 2002," Dr Serreze said.

"This will be four Septembers in a row that we've seen a downward trend. The feeling is we are reaching a tipping point or threshold beyond which sea ice will not recover."

The extent of the sea ice in September is the most valuable indicator of its health. This year's record melt means that more of the long-term ice formed over many winters - so called multi-year ice - has disappeared than at any time in recorded history.

Sea ice floats on the surface of the Arctic Ocean and its neighbouring seas and normally covers an area of some 7 million square kilometres (2.4 million square miles) during September - about the size of Australia. However, in September 2002, this dwindled to about 2 million square miles - 16 per cent below average.

Sea ice data for August closely mirrors that for September and last month's record low - 18.2 per cent below the monthly average - strongly suggests that this September will see the smallest coverage of Arctic sea ice ever recorded.

As more and more sea ice is lost during the summer, greater expanses of open ocean are exposed to the sun which increases the rate at which heat is absorbed in the Arctic region, Dr Serreze said.

Sea ice reflects up to 80 per cent of sunlight hitting it but this "albedo effect" is mostly lost when the sea is uncovered. "We've exposed all this dark ocean to the sun's heat so that the overall heat content increases," he explained.

Current computer models suggest that the Arctic will be entirely ice-free during summer by the year 2070 but some scientists now believe that even this dire prediction may be over-optimistic, said Professor Peter Wadhams, an Arctic ice specialist at Cambridge University.

"When the ice becomes so thin it breaks up mechanically rather than thermodynamically. So these predictions may well be on the over-optimistic side," he said.

As the sea ice melts, and more of the sun's energy is absorbed by the exposed ocean, a positive feedback is created leading to the loss of yet more ice, Professor Wadhams said.

"If anything we may be underestimating the dangers. The computer models may not take into account collaborative positive feedback," he said.

Sea ice keeps a cap on frigid water, keeping it cold and protecting it from heating up. Losing the sea ice of the Arctic is likely to have major repercussions for the climate, he said. "There could be dramatic changes to the climate of the northern region due to the creation of a vast expanse of open water where there was once effectively land," Professor Wadhams said.

"You're essentially changing land into ocean and the creation of a huge area of open ocean where there was once land will have a very big impact on other climate parameters," he said.


"There won't be any more Kyoto Treaties"

Tony Blair at the Clinton Global Initiative - 15 September 2005
Plenary Session, page 13 of 19

MR. BLAIR: I think that - three points I would like to make here. The first is that I think, whether for reasons to do with concern over global warming or for reasons to do with concern over energy security and supplies, I think this issue is coming together in an important way. It's there now on the agenda and I'm pleased about that. I think it's very important.

The second thing, though, is that I think - and I would say probably I'm changing my thinking about this in the past two or three years. I think if we are going to get action on this, we have got to start from the brutal honesty about the politics of how we deal with it.

The truth is no country is going to cut its growth or consumption substantially in the light of a long-term environmental problem. What countries are prepared to do is to try to work together cooperatively to deal with this problem in a way that allows us to develop the science and technology in a beneficial way.

Now, I don't think all of the answers lie in just - in developing the science and technology, but I do think there is no way we are going to tackle this problem unless we develop the science and technology capable of doing it.

And that really brings me to the third point, which is I think the point that you were really raising, which is, well, how do you create the forces that drive people then to develop the science and technology?

How do you create the markets and the research and the development of this technology so that we can shorten the timeline so that we're not waiting 25 or 30 years to develop fuel cell technology, so that, for example, in nuclear fusion, which is now a major issue as well we are developing the technology, so that you can bring those costs of wind power and solar power down?

How do you do that? And I think that is the issue that the international community needs to address because we tried at Gleneagles to try and - some people have signed Kyoto, some people haven't signed Kyoto, right. That is a disagreement. It's there. It's not going to be resolved.

But how do we move forward and ensure that post-Kyoto we do try to get agreement? I think that can only be done by the major players in this coming together and finding a way for pulling their resources, their information, their science and technology in order to find the ways of allowing us to grow sustainably?

And the meeting that will take place on the 1st of November, which is effectively the G-8 of the India, China, Brazil, South Africa, and Mexico.

That is going to allow us, I hope, not to negotiate international treaties, but to allow us to start beginning the necessary dialogue as to how we are going to shorten these timelines for developing the science and technology and how we are going to ensure that countries like China and India, as they grow - and they will grow.

And they are not going to - they are not going to find it satisfactory for us in the developed world to turn around and say, look, we have had our growth. You have now got yours so we want you to do it sustainably even if we haven't. So they aren't going to demand, in my view, some process that allows us to share the technology and transfer so that we can benefit collectively for the work that needs to be done.

And the real issue I think - because to be honest, I don't think people are going, at least in the short term, going to start negotiating another major treaty like Kyoto. The real issue is how do we put these incentives in the system so that the private sector, as well as the public sector says, this is the direction policy is going to go, so let's start getting behind this. So that is what - I think it's a key issue.


Swedish budget piles on the green taxes

Environment Daily 1944 - 20 September 2005

Sweden's proposed budget for 2006, published on Tuesday, follows the precedent of recent years in allocating over SKr1bn (€107m) "to the environment and a continuation of the green tax shift".

This will entail a rise in green taxes of SKr3.6bn. The increase will be balanced by a rise in the basic income tax allowance worth SKr2.5bn and a cut in employer's contributions for solo entrepreneurs who take on staff.

Transport and energy will continue to bear the brunt of this process, with the introduction of a SKr50 -100 tax on air tickets from next May, a 60% increase in the vehicle tax on light buses and light lorries, and a 30% rise in the tax on gravel. The output tax on nuclear electricity will be raised by 85%, a tax on waste incineration will be introduced and the tax on electricity used by households and the service sector will rise by SKr0.006/kWh.

"As part of adaptation to the EU, the reduced tax rates for electricity, gas, heating and water will be eliminated", the government said in a statement. However, the carbon dioxide tax will be scrapped for industrial plants covered by the EU emissions trading system and for high-efficiency cogeneration, with reductions for other plants included in the trading system.


Report warns current measures will not help meet emissions targets

Environment Daily - 16 September 2005

Drastic policy changes are required if the government is to meet its target of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 2010, a new report warns.

Projections by Cambridge Econometrics suggest that despite efforts to improve carbon efficiency and cut the production of greenhouse gases, the government is on course to miss its self-imposed target.

And the economic forecasting group warns that the emissions trading scheme (ETS), where firms are given a certain limit on the carbon dioxide they can emit, must be tightened to have any effect.

There are two main tenets to Britain's energy policy – the climate change programme (CCP), which is a tax on the use of energy in industry, and ETS.

Across the European Union, the EU ETS requires firms to purchase permits that effectively give them the right to emit carbon dioxide. Each permit brings with it an allowance, which firms can then trade with each other according to need.

However, today Cambridge Econometrics argues that too many permits are being issued and that they are not expensive enough to deliver the kind of cut in greenhouse gas emissions required to meet environmental targets.

It claims that prices must be increased even to achieve a 12 per cent cut in carbon emissions by the end of the decade – well short of the government's self-imposed 20 per cent target.

However, the report notes that despite last year's rise carbon emissions, Britain should meet the Kyoto target of cutting emissions by 12.5 per cent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.

Responding to the report, environment minister Elliot Morley said it showed the progress the government has already made, while admitting that more still needs to be done.

"This report confirms the UK is well on course to meet its Kyoto obligations for cutting greenhouse gases however, it underlines the need for substantial measures in the climate change programme review if we are to meet our more ambitious domestic target for cutting carbon dioxide emissions," he said.

"It also underlines the importance of energy efficiency from households; the new building regulations announced this week for better insulation and more efficient heating systems will save a million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2010.

"Renewable energy and carbon abatement technologies for cleaner fossil fuel us will reduce our vulnerability to high fossil fuel prices."


Environment Daily 1943 - 19 September 2005

The European Commission will finally unveil the Cafe EU air quality strategy on Wednesday, Environment Daily has learned. Implementation costs have been slashed by 40% in response to business concerns over competitiveness. But all elements of the environment directorate's original plans survive, including the first EU-level controls on ultra-fine particle emissions.

Originally due out before the summer, the Clean air for Europe programme was delayed after EU employers' association Unice complained to Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso . Environment commissioner Stavros Dimas was then forced to make a defence of the programme before colleagues.

Whereas the earlier proposal was costed at around €12bn, the Commission will now propose measures expected to cost €7.1bn. The main change is a lowering of the ambition level for curbing ground-level ozone pollution. Specifically, the Commission will propose achieving only 60% of all technically feasible abatement measures by 2020, compared with 80% proposed by its environment directorate.

Ambition levels for other pollution indicators have also been cut, but by smaller margins. The Commission will now propose introducing 55% of technically feasible measures to cut eutrophication and acidification and 75% for particulate matter. Concrete proposals to implement all the cuts will be developed after consultation with governments and MEPs.

Cafe will also propose new controls on fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5). All member states will be asked to cut PM2.5 concentrations by 20% from 2010 to 2020. Plans to introduce a formula forcing member states with higher PM2.5 levels to make deeper cuts have been abandoned, but will be revisited in 2011.

Finally, Cafe will propose collecting the air quality framework directive and its four daughter directives into a single legal text. The exercise, designed to appease the EU's 'better regulation' lobby, will cut the number of legal articles from 69 to 32 and the number of annexes from 32 to 15.

Internal market commissioner Charlie McCreevy is understood to be still arguing for a further watering down of the plan, but his resistance is unlikely to hold up its adoption on Wednesday. Critically for Cafe's champion, environment commissioner Stavros Dimas, the strategy is now expected to produce €42bn in health benefits, plus unquantified benefits in reduced damage to biodiversity and buildings.


BAA Can't Get Away From Runway Problem

Dow Jones Newswires - 20 September 2005

0817 GMT [Dow Jones] Davy Stockbrokers says BAA (BAA.LN) is well-run and good at project management, but says there's a regulatory question mark over the viability of a new Stansted runway. "The best new runway to compete with Frankfurt and Dubai is and should be Heathrow," says Davy's Stephen Furlong. Has no rating. (QAF)

OUR COMMENT: Better still, no extra runway anywhere.

Pat Dale

17 September 2005


Ryanair has overtaken BA by making the ordeal of flying a selling point

Peter Preston - The Guardian - 12 September 2005

Cry victory for Tampere, Rzeszow, Kaunas and, indeed, Bydgoszcz! They - along with 85 other faraway places with strange-sounding names - have just made Ryanair your carrier of supreme choice: more bums (3.26 million of them) on more seats in August even than BA. It's another triumph for Michael O'Leary, for rampant expansion - and for sheer, unadulterated, un-Irish nastiness. Welcome to MasochismAir.

Here we are again, waiting to check in with 102 people in front of us because the bus from the big city - 60 miles away - arrived five seconds before we did. Nothing's moving. A Croatian girl at the front has left her passport in the hotel (60 miles away). A Spanish boy thought that identity cards would get him on a plane to Stansted.

And the familiar business of the baggage rebalancing is already far advanced. Right down those two stretching, desultory queues, lads in trainers have their suitcases open on the floor, shuffling stuff back and forth. "Is it under 15 kilos now?" "No, still bloody 17.5." Piles of jeans and T-shirts are slyly decanted into a black garbage bag to be carried through below check-in sightlines - then stuffed into hand luggage. The floor itself is strewn with mounds of crumpled cotton debris, as though Mandelson's China boycott has gone flops in a trice.

Occasionally, after glum altercations, company weight watchers dispatch cursing transgressors to queue at an overflow office and pay for their sins. When does a £40 ticket cost you double the money? When you're 10 kilos over a load. Expletives seldom deleted. So back to the crawl through security, and the sharp-elbowed rush when the boys with the black bags disregard any hope of an orderly boarding routine (as explained via a defective loudspeaker system). So to seats so closely packed you can hear the first squeaks of incipient pulmonary embolism starting four rows away.

Nasty? Of course. But insanely cheap some of the time (unless you're old, young, disabled or want to change your booking) and relatively efficient most of the time. MasochismAir takes you to places you never knew existed, destinations without reasonable alternatives. That's not the whole of its branding success, though.

For O'Leary doesn't play emerald super-yob by accident. He's just a "jumped-up Paddy" who "doesn't give a shite", because he says so. Worried about the environment? Then "sell your car and walk". Worried about Europe's commissioners? They're "morons". Fill in the blanks after B and A "and you get bastards". His most unctuous ballad is called "Screw the share price, this is a fares war". He's honed Mr O'Nasty, the guy who liked to charge extra for wheelchairs.

One lurking strand of Ryanair's subliminal pitch, in short, seems to translate BO down that stretching queue into bloody ordeal. This isn't supposed to be a pleasant experience circa 1986, with welcome smiles and blond stewardesses handing out cocktails. This is a carefully constructed obstacle race. O'Leary's increasing operational shift from Stansted to Luton puts the airport of reality TV choice back at screen centre. I'm a nonentity, get me out of here.

And, of course, it works brilliantly, 3.26 million times over. Decades of airline marketing tried to make flying a wondrous experience, full of cosseted comfort and luxurious treats. The truth, though, was always grimly different. The ordeal was constant; it just wasn't made into a selling point.

Michael O'Leary has put that straight for ever. Bondage and humiliation still function at 36,000 feet. Ryanair prospers because indignity sells. There's the same retrospective glow from the standing and scrabbling as you get from kneeling in front of a pile of jeans in Primark, Peckham, and finding a £5 pair that fit. I went, I fought, I endured - and now I have a bargain tale to tell. Call it victim consumerism: classless examination by indignity.

How does BA strike back? The good news, maybe, is that they've finally got the message, courtesy of Gate Gourmet, days of inaction and buckets of bile. On my last long-haul test a few days ago, check-in pushed a scrap of paper back over the desk along with my boarding pass. What's this? It was a voucher to spend $20 (Canadian) on any airport meal before leaving, "because the in-flight food may not be up to our normal standards".

Good, old-style thinking, except that the only "meals" on offer before the departure gate were polythene-wrapped bagels at a bar. I notionally dined on two packets of peanuts, an apple and a Bloody Mary, and left the notional change. The cabin stewards - serving below-normal-standards cheese and biscuits - were surly all the way home. But the captain wasn't on message with his farewell "thank-yous" and "pleasant trips". On MasochismAir, we never forget we have no choice.

17 September 2005


How our planet is being raped by cheap air travel

Melanie Reid - The Herald - 13 September 2005

Car drivers look like being in for a rough few weeks. As if the scare stories about fuel rationing and supply blockages weren't enough, we must also endure a climate of rebuke from those who eat organic and ride bicycles, but think nothing of jetting away every other weekend on budget flights.

Truly, the pressing double standard de nos jours is not marital infidelity, nor even how both to vote Labour and send your child to private school: it's the refusal to accept that cheap air travel is raping this planet faster than anything else.

The current finger pointing at motorists is a classic diversionary tactic. Excessive consumption, says the populist blame game, is down to car owners and, by extension, George W Bush (who is, after all, to blame for everything). In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, it has become clear that, jointly, we are responsible for the ills of the world.

As if to emphasise this, judgmental TV cameras in the American gulf states have lingered on long lines of cars queuing for petrol. In Britain they are alighting greedily on "Unleaded sold out" signs on the forecourt. Here are the culprits, they imply. Here is the hubris: the petro-chemical age brought to its knees.

Nobody, but nobody, has lifted their eyes to the skies and examined the vapour trails of a million budget flights, each one responsible for hundreds of tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions daily.

Up there, releasing gases into the atmosphere at a much higher and more harmful level than car exhausts, are the planes. Up there, the real disaster is taking place. Up there, unchecked, they're pumping one thousand times more filth into the air than all the Ford Focus drivers in the world.

A plane flying from Australia to London, for example, will use more than 200 tonnes of jet fuel and pump out more than 500 tonnes of carbon dioxide. On a flight from London to Miami, one person will be responsible for climate change emissions equivalent to one car doing 12,000 miles. Multiply that by 350.

Or, closer to home, travelling by plane from Scotland to Manchester produces up to nine times more CO2 per passenger than travelling by train. Forty five per cent of European flights are around 300 miles, barely long enough to reach maximum cruising height before coming down again. Many of these journeys could be made as quickly on a high-speed rail network.

According to the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, if aviation grows as predicted, by 2050 it will contribute 75% of the total greenhouse gas emission.

But we don't get it, do we? We're seduced by the jet and blind to the evils it commits. Air travel has increased five-fold since 1970. Worldwide, passenger numbers are due to double to 7.4 billion a year by 2020 – and that's before Chinese and Indian people start using planes like we do. In Britain, numbers are expected to grow from 200m in 2003 to 470m in 2030.

The no-frills travel boom, which has turned the world into an extraordinarily cheap adventure playground, has become the world's number one climate killer: a fact which, so far, we refuse to face. But if there is no such thing as a free lunch, neither is there such a thing as £5 return ticket to Paris.

It cannot go on. British Airways yesterday launched a green donations scheme: their passengers will be asked if they want to contribute something to compensate for the environmental impact of their flight. A £5 donation on the London to Paris route would be used for carbon off-setting – projects to help developing countries reduce emissions.

A similar initiative in Germany, Atmosfair, encourages passengers to contribute even more. But passengers on easyJet or Ryanair, crisscrossing Europe for fantastically tiny fares, are unlikely to be persuaded to cough up extra money in a voluntary green tax. Astonishingly, international aviation is specifically excluded from the Kyoto Protocol. Flight emissions were not included in the agreed targets, "because of the difficulties that had arisen over the methodologies for allocating these emission".

In other words, the aviation lobby has so far proved too powerful to take on. And so, you could say, those who criticise George W Bush for not signing up to Kyoto are on much the same low moral ground as him when they board a scheduled low-cost (SLC) flight to anywhere.

Airlines and airports enjoy about £10bn of tax breaks and subsidies (unlike British motorists). Incredibly, no airline pays tax or VAT on fuel, an agreement which dates from the 1940s. If aviation fuel were taxed it would bring the Exchequer £6bn in extra revenue. Likewise, if other VAT zero-rated aspects of air travel – tickets, aircraft purchase, baggage handling and meals – were taxed, this would bring in more than £4bn.

It is a myth that international agreements rule out the ending of aviation's privileged tax-free status. Britain needs no international agreement to place VAT and fuel tax on domestic flights. There is nothing to stop it increasing air passenger duty.

The other great fallacy about low-cost air travel is that SLC flights have democratised air travel. By implication, to question their right to exist is to be elitist. Yet industry figures show 75% of trips on budget airlines are made by people in social classes A, B and C. Most of the growth predicted will be the wealthiest 10% of the population flying overseas at weekends.

The poorest 10% of people rarely fly. Nor are they likely to fly over the next 30 years, because of the overall cost of holidays. Indeed, some say cheap flights reinforce the social divide rather than lessen it. One poll showed that 4.5% of the UK population makes 44% of all flights; another demonstrated that most passengers earned more than £30,000.

It is clear that the £10bn revenue from taxing airlines in the same way as motorists could be spent in a far more equitable way, mitigating damage to the environment and providing safe routes for every child to get to school.

In February 2003, the Department for Transport re-ran its computer-forecasting model, taxing aviation fuel at the same rate as petrol and with VAT on aviation products. The resulting forecast showed no new runways would be needed anywhere in the UK to 2030.

Whichever way one looks at it, budget airlines must be landing in the last-chance saloon. Britain is likely to use its presidency of the European Union to force airlines to buy permits to cover their carbon dioxide emissions, a scheme that will probably take effect by 2008. This should put ticket prices up within the European Union by £1-£6.

Meanwhile, the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution thinks tickets should cost a minimum of £35 one-way, if only to end the sense of disconnection between flying and what it does to the environment. For the sinners in the sky, it seems a small punishment.

17 September 2005


Companies bow to pressure on CO2

Fiona Harvey - Financial Times - 14 September 2005

More than 70 per cent of the FTSE 500 companies have agreed to help investors assess the impact they make on global climate change, by disclosing the amount of carbon dioxide they produce.

The Carbon Disclosure Project, supported by a coalition of institutional investors with more than $21,000bn (€17,000bn, £11,500bn) in assets, wrote to every company in the index of the world's biggest companies, asking for information on their output of greenhouse gases. The companies were also asked whether they considered climate change a commercial risk or an opportunity, and to outline the risks.

James Cameron, chairman of the Carbon Disclosure Project, funded by a variety of charities, said investors should welcome the opportunity to know more about companies' risk from climate change: "Who can be against greater disclosure and transparency?" He said the number of companies responding to the letter showed how the issue of climate change was rising up the corporate agenda.

Last year, 59 per cent of FTSE 500 companies responded, up from 47 per cent in the previous survey.

Investors could also benefit by understanding a company's output of greenhouse gases, which are coming under increasing regulation in many parts of the world. Countries that have ratified the United Nations brokered Kyoto protocol on climate change - the treaty came into force earlier this year - must reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, which cause climate change.

Businesses are expected to bear the brunt of these emissions cuts, as they account for the bulk of emissions in most places. In the US, which has rejected the Kyoto treaty, some states are planning to ask companies to reduce their greenhouse gas output on a voluntary basis. Paul Dickinson, co-ordinator of the Carbon Disclosure Project, said companies were likely to make a clean breast of their emissions in responding to the project's questions. "They wouldn't want to lie to their investors."

Steve Westly, controller of California and trustee to the Calpers pension fund, a signatory to the project, urged fund managers to support the calls for disclosure: "We believe it is inevitable that the US will join the other G8 countries and introduce limitations on the emissions of greenhouse gases. That is why we are leading investor collaboration to gather the data on corporate greenhouse gas emissions required to undertake prudent investment management."

In New York this week, business leaders will discuss action on climate change at the Clinton Global Initiative, called by former US president Bill Clinton. More than 300 business leaders and heads of state will take part.

17 September 2005

Meteorologists are to warn John Prescott that his plans
for thousands of new homes could change weather patterns

Matt Weaver - The Guardian - 13 September 2005

The warning comes after the deputy prime minister linked America's refusal to tackle climate changes to the New Orleans flood disaster. Professor Chris Collier, president of the Royal Meteorological Society, will use his address to society's annual conference on Thursday to express concern about "heat islands" from urban areas.

Prof Collier is calling for research on the impact of new setlements on the climate. He told SocietyGuardian.co.uk today: "The meteorological effects of urban areas on the can be comparable to climate change." He explained that areas downwind of cities could expect higher levels of rainfall.

"Tall buildings have the biggest effects, but it built up areas generally have an impact," he said. "John Prescott is talking about a very extensive new development, particularly to the east of London. The potential impact of that needs to be studied."

His speech will come at a time of increasing alarm at the environmental impact of the government's housebuilding plans. Earlier this month Peter Ainsworth, the chairman of the Commons' environmental audit committee, warned that the scheme would add to global warming.

In an interview with SocietyGuardian.co.uk he said: "The environmental consequences of a huge expansion of housing in the south-east are also potentially very worrying. Unless you have really rigorous environmental standards built into the houses themselves, you've got a whole lot of little CO2 generating plants all over the countryside."

Last week the Campaign to Protect Rural England warned that the genuine countryside could be lost in a generation unless current development trends are reversed.

In a report published on Friday it added that in the meantime: "Climate change threatens to undermine the long established natural processes at work in the countryside, while our response to the associated extreme weather and increased shortage of water could cause more damage still."

OUR COMMENT: It's not only air traffic that causes climate change, it is cars and houses as well. However, it is possible to build houses that conserve energy so well that they are almost "carbon neutral". It is also possible to reduce the level of vehicle CO2 emissions in a variety of ways. (The simplest, don't buy gas guzzlers!) So far, a climate friendly plane has yet to be built and, until it is in use, then air traffic should not be encouraged to expand.

Pat Dale

12 September 2005


Secret plan to ration fuel on the forecourt
Ministers draw up crisis strategy to combat petrol protests as prices soar

Francis Elliott, Deputy Political Editor - The Independent on Sunday - 11 September 2005

Motorists face rationing at petrol stations under emergency plans that are being drawn up by ministers to combat this week's fuel protests, The Independent on Sunday has learnt.

Ministers met secretly last week to finalise the Government's response to blockades of Britain's refineries threatened for Wednesday.

Petrol prices - which passed the £1-a-litre mark in the wake of Hurricane Katrina - are expected to remain at record highs in the coming weeks because of damaged refineries on the US Gulf Coast.

Soaring petrol prices are likely to add to growing demands for fuel tax cuts and further encourage militant hauliers and farmers into taking direct action in order to force the Government's hand.

Planned measures to combat a successful blockade include rationing of supplies, limiting the hours during which petrol can be sold and reserving some filling stations for "priority users". Leading hauliers were called in for a meeting with Department of Trade and Industry officials last week, at which they were warned that police have new powers to remove blockades.

Nevertheless, protesters are determined to press ahead with plans to cause traffic chaos with a mass go-slow. The South Wales Hauliers' Association is to mount a rolling blockade on the M4 on Wednesday, before deciding whether to advance on refineries. Another group, Fuel Lobby, has already announced that it plans to prevent supplies from reaching filling stations from 6am on Wednesday.

The Government is taking seriously the prospect of a repeat of the 2000 fuel protests, Mr Blair's most serious domestic crisis until the 7 July bombings. "I think that you can be sure that we are not going to get caught napping," one well-placed senior official said yesterday. Ministers meeting last week discussed a document, "Downstream Oil Resilience", setting out its response to threatened shortages.

"Specific measures... may include a restriction in some form of the amount of fuel a motorist is able to purchase at any given time," states the document under a section entitled "Forecourt Supply Management". It continues: "Measures may also be introduced to discourage motorists from the practice of topping up their fuel tanks at frequent intervals. The Secretary of State may also restrict the hours during which filling stations may sell fuel."

Additional emergency measures to be introduced under the Energy Act of 1976 include setting aside designated filling stations for the exclusive use of "priority users".

Police were placed on alert to expect protests from this weekend in a memo sent to all forces last week. It stated: "Intelligence indicates that spontaneous protests and blockades may occur as early as Saturday 10."

Gordon Brown yesterday described surging oil prices as a "global problem which requires global solutions". The Chancellor urged oil producers to serve their "common interest" and boost supplies during a meeting of European Union finance ministers in Manchester.

Britain may come under increasing pressure to follow France's lead in threatening a windfall tax on petrol companies unless they agree to reduce prices. Mr Brown insists the economic impact of crude oil prices will be "limited". Motorists facing the prospect of paying £1 a litre for unleaded petrol for months to come may disagree.

Disquiet about rising fuel costs is set to deepen over the coming days as more energy suppliers introduce sharp price hikes. British Gas led the way last week when it increased prices by an astonishing 14.2 per cent. The week-long blockade five years ago closed more than 1,000 petrol stations across the country as panic buying took hold.


Juliette Jowit, Transport Editor - The Observer - 11 September 2005

They say an Englishman's home is his castle, but no more so than his car - until now, that is. High petrol prices are prompting British motorists in their thousands to open up their hatchbacks and share car journeys with neighbours and colleagues.

The number of people signing up for a scheme offering and taking lifts this summer doubled compared with the previous three months, says Liftshare, Britain's biggest such organisation. It claims 87,000 drivers on its books, with 100 joining every day.

Two new recruits are Amanda Green and Pauline Day, who work for Essex County Council. They started sharing the commute from Colchester to the office in Chelmsford in August and will soon be joined by another colleague to cut costs further.

"Other people who work near me live near me or are on the way, so it was easier for lift-sharing and cheaper for everyone because petrol prices and the cost of public transport have gone up," said Green, an administrator, who receives £12.50 a week from her boss, Day, towards her £25 petrol bill. The agreement is a big money-saver for Day: she used to spend more than £100 a month commuting by car and train.

"I would have driven all the way before, but the A12 is atrocious, so it cost me the same to drive as to take public transport," she said. "With Amanda and Annabel [the third person], if we share we reduce costs enormously."

Liftshare's development manager, Imogen Martineau, said the story was the same across the country. The biggest membership area is London (10,000), followed by Devon (2,000). Regions where the scheme is supported by the local council tend to have more members, with motorists everywhere frustrated by the increasing cost of petrol and congestion.

"We don't show our map of members in presentations any more, because there are so many details you can't see the UK," Martineau said.

Liftshare, set up by Ali Clabburn when he was a student looking for lifts from university in Bristol to London at the weekends, estimates that participants typically save £1,000 a year. Environmentally it is also a bonus, saving the equivalent of 200 trips to the moon in car miles every year, said Martineau.

About two-thirds of Liftshare members come via schemes paid for by local councils and businesses.


The RAC tells motorists to get on their bikes as petrol costs spiral

Juliette Jowit, Heather Stewart and Gaby Hinsliff - The Observer - 11 September 2005

"Get out of your car and take up cycling" has been the message of environmental groups for decades. Now it has become the unlikely slogan of the RAC, one of Britain's leading motoring organisations and a friend of the driver for more than 100 years.

The RAC is issuing the advice to persuade drivers to save fuel as it warned that higher petrol prices are here to stay. The RAC - better known for its opposition to "attacks on motorists" like road charging and speed humps - says one in five car journeys is under 1.5 miles and therefore unnecessary.

"You could easily walk, cycle, take the bus, without putting yourself at any great hardship," said Edmund King, executive director of the RAC Foundation, the organisation's policy wing.

The surprise advice came as protesters are threatening to mount blockades of fuel refineries this week in protest at the high duty on petrol, which is threatening to top £1a litre.

Yesterday, however, Chancellor Gordon Brown raised hopes for a cut in petrol duty to ease the pain of Britain's motorists, after he blocked a Europe-wide agreement against tax reductions to cushion the oil shock.

The Chancellor will also call this week for Britain to reduce its dependency on oil, switching to greener renewable energy instead.

At a meeting of the 25 European finance ministers in Manchester this weekend, Brown refused to endorse a promise by eurozone finance ministers not to take "special tax measures to lower excise duties or VAT rates", as a response to surging prices.

After the meeting the Chancellor would not rule out reducing excise duty in Britain, saying "any further announcements that we make are announcements in the pre-Budget Report".

Later this year Brown is also expected to confirm the second successive annual freeze in fuel duty, but the Treasury is expected to bank a windfall of £1.5bn in extra VAT and tax on oil company profits as a result of the recent surge in prices.

Earlier in the week the Treasury dismissed calls for variable fuel duty - which would be cut if petrol went above a certain prices, or increased if it dropped much lower. "We never rule things out; it's just not something I can see us bringing forward at the moment," a spokesman told The Observer.

Instead the finance ministers focused on increasing supply to try to ease the world oil shortages, blamed on disruptions caused by the war in Iraq and damage by Hurricane Katrina to operations in the Gulf of Mexico.

The EU is urging the major oil-producing regions of Russia, Norway and Opec to increase production, and member states called on oil companies to boost investment in oil exploration as well as alternative energy sources.

Sources said the events of the last two weeks had given "a real impetus" to alternative energy. "We have got to do something, so we are not so vulnerable to these shocks and in the longer term we are able to get things more stable," said a senior Treasury source.

12 September 2005


British Airways' carbon offset scheme "flawed & hopeless"

Press Release - GreeenSkiesAlliance -12 September 2005

BA's new scheme to allow passengers to "offset" the global warming emissions from their flights has been dismissed as "fundamentally flawed and environmentally hopeless" by environmental campaigners.

The scheme calculates aircraft exhaust emissions for a flight, creates a "value" for those CO2 emissions and passengers can then buy a contribution to schemes such as low energy light bulbs or biomass stoves in the Third World through an organisation called Climate Care.

Unfortunately, Climate Care don't set any CO2 reduction goals for their schemes so it's difficult to see if these projects actually reduce CO2 on any meaningful scale - their contribution to reducing climate change seems largely to consist of generating a warm feeling amongst donors.

BA's total CO2 emissions were 15.8 MILLION tonnes in 2004 - GreenSkies estimates that each Climate Care scheme by itself would only "save" around 2/300 TONNES of CO2 a year at the most.

GreenSkies Alliance co-ordinator, Jeff Gazzard, said: "BA's offset scheme will not make even a pinprick of difference to the growing and worrying climate change impacts of their flights. Most passengers will simply ignore a voluntary scheme like this; the CO2 savings are unquantified and it's difficult to judge if they are additional and might therefore have happened anyway; and we have no idea of the climate change reduction programmes in each scheme's host country, where CO2 emissions could well be growing. There is simply no context to see if these schemes, however well meaning, actually work"

Jeff Gazzard added: "What is clear, however, is BA's desire to convince its more gullible and bewildered passengers that flying can be guilt-free and environmentally friendly - it can't! This CO2 offset scheme is simply a light-green curtain in front of a stage full of pollution and is an out and out eco-con trick. We would strongly advise BA passengers to spend their "green £'s" with established environmental groups like the Woodland Trust, WWF, Friends of the Earth and the many other NGO's who actively make a difference."

"British Airways simply wants to encourage its passengers to 'Carry on Polluting'. But there is only one sure way to reduce the climate change impact of aircraft exhaust emission - and that is to fly less! Our casual and extravagant use of fossil fuel must change. Holidaying in the UK and using video conferencing are just two straightforward alternatives to flying that actually work and we urge everybody to try and do their bit in the fight against climate change by flying less."

OUR COMMENT: Expensive oil may be here to stay. The government should be reminding all that oil is a limited resource, and we have an urgent climate change problem which has arisen because of the excessive use of fossil fuels. Increasing production is not a long term answer . Neither is rationing by price. What has happened to the promised UK world lead in promoting action on climate change? – which means alternative energy and energy conservation. AND, what contribution will the airlines make?

Pat Dale

12 September 2005


Clive Cookson - Financial Times -10 September 2005

Engineers have designed an aircraft so quiet that people will be unable to hear it beyond an airport perimeter. The "Flying Wing" was unveiled yesterday on the final day of the British Association science festival in Dublin.

The design came from the Silent Aircraft Initiative, an academic-industrial collaberation involving Cambridge University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rolls Royce, Boeing and other aerospace companies, airlines and airports. Forty researchers have been working for two years to produce the design. Simulations show that it would be "functionally silent" – not detectable above the ambient urban noise such as road traffic.

Development times mean it is unlikely to fly before 2025. But Tom Reynolds, a Cambridge University engineer, said the project would deliver shorter-term benefits in the form of new flying and air-traffic control procedures to reduce the noise from existing aircraft. Arrangements were being made to test these at a regional airport - perhaps Nottingham East Midlands - next year.

The design is far more efficient than a conventional aircraft because the whole structure provides lift. There is no separate fuselage to drag back performance.

Mr Reynolds said silencing features included putting engines above the aircraft so the body of the plane shields the ground from sound, embedding the engines in long ducts muffled with acoustic liners, and designing a low-noise engine that pushes air through more slowly but in greater volumes than today's engines.

The experience for passengers will be transformed. Instead of sitting in rows with a window at either side, they will be in a huge delta shaped cabin that will give airlines great scope for imaginative configurations.

"The cabin need not have windows, or it could have virtual windows displayed around the cabin," Mr Reynolds said.

The aircraft will descend more steeply and more slowly than today's models. This will have a big silencing effect because half the noise emitted comes from the flow of air over the air frame rather than the engines. Even a slightly slower approach can make a big difference to noise on the ground.

Paul Collins, manager of the Silent Aircraft Initiative, said the MIT would spend £2.3m on the three year project, which started in September 2003. But most of the resources – researchers and equipment – have been committed by the industrial partners.

The initial design is for the minimum viable size – a 250 seat aircraft with a 4000 mile range, comparable to a Boeing 767.

Mr Reynolds said: "It becomes more efficient as it gets bigger and there would be no problem scaling it up to take as many as 800 passengers".

The Cambridge engineers said there would be no trade-off between silencing and other environmental objectives, above all reducing carbon emissions in the fight against global warming. "The blended wing is much more fuel efficient than today's aircraft designs and the noise shielding does not add any penalty in efficiency" Mr Reynolds added.

OUR COMMENT: No testing at Stansted? - the Regional airport for Cambridge! Surely BAA can find time to help test ways to reduce noise.

Pat Dale

10 September 2005


John Vidal, Environment Editor - The Guardian - 5 September 2005

Britain is burning so much oil, gas and coal it may miss its international target to reduce global warming gases, according to government figures which show carbon dioxide emissions rising by 2.5% in the first six months of this year.

The figures from the Department of Trade and Industry, analysed by Friends of the Earth, show that emissions of the main greenhouse gas have risen by 5.5% since 1997, when they should be reducing by 1% a year.

The Article continues:

The government is obliged by the global Kyoto agreement to reduce emissions of six greenhouse gases to 12.5% below 1990 levels during the 2008-12 period. It was so confident of meeting this target that it set an ambitious domestic target of a 20% cut in 1997. That is now widely accepted as a near impossibility.

The prospect of Britain missing the lower Kyoto target will embarrass Tony Blair, who has taken a diplomatic lead on global warming and is in Beijing today for EU bilateral summits with India and China, where climate change is due to be discussed.

"Britain's credibility as a leader on climate change is now in serious danger and urgent steps must be taken," said Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth.

Yesterday the government said that it still considered itself on target to meet its Kyoto obligations. "But there is no complacency. We are reviewing our climate change programme to meet our ambitious target of 20% cuts by 2010 and will report later this year", said an environment department spokesman.

One of the reasons Britain took the international lead on global warming was because its carbon gases fell dramatically in the 1980s and 1990s with the closure of coal mines and the wider use of gas. Much of the emissions rise is attributed to a rise in transport.


High oil prices and Katrina sow winds of change

Environment Daily 1934 - 6 September 2005

Record oil prices and now the unfolding disaster of Hurricane Katrina on America's southern seaboard are producing a new political climate on energy efficiency and global warming policies.

Speaking in the European parliament on Tuesday, EU energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs called for faster development of an EU action plan to cut Europe's energy consumption by 20% by 2020, as foreseen by a green paper launched in June.

Calling for "greater political focus" on ways to deal with soaring oil prices, Mr Piebalgs said he intended to increase pressure on member states to implement the EU buildings directive, and agree the energy services directive before the end of the year. Mr Piebalgs said the Commission would push for more research in green energy sources, adding that he also expected to see an increase in investment in nuclear energy.

He confirmed that the Commission will table a biomass energy action plan by the end of the year. A communication on national renewable energy support schemes should also be published this year, and a biofuels communication will follow in 2006.

Meanwhile, led by Germany's indefatigable environment minister Jürgen Trittin, a number of European politicians have explicitly linked Katrina to climate change and highlighted US refusal to agree binding greenhouse gas reductions as being part of the problem.

In a newspaper commentary written on the day of the storm, Mr Trittin accused US president George Bush of "closing his eyes to the economic and human damage being inflicted on his country and the world economy by natural disasters such as Katrina".

Far from relaxing global emission reduction targets they should be strengthened, Mr Trittin wrote. "Once common sense prevails in the headquarters of the environmental polluters, the international community must be in a position to reach out to America with a detailed proposal on the future of international climate protection".

In a further development, some of Britain's largest environmental and third world aid NGOs last week joined forces to launch a new campaign demanding substantial UK and global greenhouse gas emission cuts. They have dubbed the campaign "Stop Climate Chaos".

OUR COMMENT: Can the government still justify promoting a huge aviation expansion?

Pat Dale

10 September 2005


Report from AirportWatch - 6 September 2005

Regional airports in the European Union, often used by low-fare carriers like Ryanair, face limits and certain freedoms to help them attract business under rules approved by the EU Commission today.

The rules, first proposed in February, are meant to encourage development of smaller airports in the EU, some of which have flourished as low-cost airlines grow and start new routes. The Commission said it wanted to encourage this growth and the mobility it generates while preserving fairness and compliance with EU state aid rules.

The guidelines allow state aid to be used for establishing new routes at regional airports with fewer than five million passengers a year. In most cases the aid may cover 30% on average of the additional start-up costs for routes that will become economically viable, a Commission spokesman said. The aid may be used for three years or, if the airport is in a less developed region, up to five years.

The guidelines were developed after the Commission ordered Ryanair to repay about €4m in aid to the Belgian regional government of Wallonia, which had offered the airline cheap rates at the area's Charleroi airport.

A Commission spokesman said today that the EU executive was still following that case closely. Ryanair is appealing the order. But Ryanair criticised the guidelines, saying they imposed restrictions on what public airports could offer to airlines, while these restrictions did not apply to private airports.

The airline said this automatically put public airports at a competitive disadvantage. Chief executive Michael O'Leary said the rules would "destroy the competitiveness of the many publicly owned regional and secondary airports around Europe that are currently trying to survive and grow their passenger numbers by offering lower costs and more efficient services to airlines".

OUR COMMENT: This is somewhat at odds with the EU environment commissioner's declared intention of including the aviation industry in the EU carbon emissions trading scheme which is designed to encourage lower carbon emissions through a market mechanism. This EU decision could result in an encouragement of more aviation expansion . However, by restricting the help to airports with less than 5mppa the measure might help to spread the environmental burden placed on those who live round airports, a recognition that there should be environmental limits to airport development. A 5mppa limit would be too much to expect, but when considering Stansted's experience most would have settled for 10 or even 15mppa, a size that could have offered a good service as a regional airport, annoying to many residents, but not impossible, instead of the increasingly intrusive presence it presents today, a national centre for low-cost carriers with passengers who have to travel a considerable distance from their home town.

Pat Dale

10 September 2005


Cambridge News - 6 September 2005

FLIGHTS from Stansted to New York are due to start again next week. Eos, a new US airline, has completed all the test flights to and from Stansted and will be flying exclusively business class in a Boeing 757 with only 48 seats.

Each will be in a space the size of a double bed and recline to become completely horizontal. Every passenger space will also contain extras for the business traveller such as a work surface and laptop access. The fares will be half the price of the average business class ticket.

Starting in November, another new US airline, Maxjet, will be operating daily flights between Stansted and New York, again using 757s, but with 148 'premium' economy seats throughout and fares aimed at being low.

There have twice before been scheduled transatlantic flights from Stansted. In the 1980s there was a service to Chicago, then in 2001, Continental Airlines began flying to the US, until the September 11 terrorist arracks.

"We felt that it was going to be a long haul to get back," said Mark Davison, a spokesman for BAA Stansted, "especially as most US carriers are still in financial strife, and BA and Virgin are firmly encamped at Heathrow. "So the most likely solution was going to come from a new, start-up airline, which is what has happened."

Asked whether the recent militancy demonstrated at Heathrow was encouraging airlines to look for alternatives, Mr Davison said: "There has been trouble at Heathrow the last three summers and I don't think it has done them any favours, or us any harm. "There is no militancy at Stansted."

Added to the news about US flights - Stansted currently has flights almost exclusively within Europe - comes the promise of flights to China. Geoff Conlon, head of airline business development for BAA Stansted, will be in Copenhagen later this month for a "routes" conference due to be attended by 200 airlines and 400 airports. The idea is to shuffle who will fly where, and Stansted is hoping to bag a Chinese carrier.

"Hopefully we will be seeing the Chinese operating more services here now that the UK has been given tourist status by the Chinese Government.

"This happened only this year and means Chinese citizens are now allowed to come here for holidays as well as business and education."

OUR COMMENT: Stansted needs long haul carriers to justify the scale of its present development. Environmentally the encouragement of Stansted's speciality, the cut price short haul flights, especially within the UK mainland, is one of the worst features of the UK transport system. Successive governments have failed to develop a rail system that could offer an adequate comparable service, and many long distance coach services fail to provide a comfortable journey, often operating from inconvenient coach stations without proper facilities.

Pat Dale

5 September 2005


BAA "proud of our work on noise"

Herts & Essex Observer - 25 August 2005

May I come back briefly on the 3 reports (complaints from Bishop's Stortford – ed.) about aircraft activity in your August 11th issue?

First of all, we can be proud that due to the combined efforts of community representatives, BAA, air traffic controllers, pilots and the DfT, some 99% of take-offs currently stay outside Bishop's Stortford on the two flight paths that loop around the town to the north-west and the south-west.

Unfortunately, the ability of air traffic controllers to use the north-west flight path for more than one in three days, as Mr Morton would like, is limited to the very few days of the year with little or no wind. But operating take-offs in that direction would also mean aircraft arriving from holding stacks to the north-east and north-west of the runway having to fly past it and over more communities, causing more emissions, before touching down at the south-west end. At the same time the extra take-offs to the north-west would increase noise at the western point of Bishop's Stortford and the Hadhams.

Turning to your report about Sawbridgeworth, we find that most people, like us, stay focused on the need to get the best possible fit between air travel and quality of life. To illustrate the kind of balance we are achieving, the geographical area affected by the onset of aircraft noise disturbance at the 35 mppa mark is forecast to be considerably less than the area agreed by our local planning authority for 25 mppa.

We want to listen to what people say before we put in a planning application about making better use of the existing runway. That's why our roadshows will be visiting so many places in the local area. Call freephone for dates and venues or visit our website www.stanstedairport.com/future

Thirdly, our systems monitor aircraft track keeping automatically. It was because of those systems that we were able to alert air traffic control to what we suspected was an unusual aircraft approach on December 12th, and that in turn led to an independent investigation and the retraining of the aircraft crew. But such incidents are extremely rare. Our systems are there to maintain high standards of on-track performance round the clock and to keep noise infringements to minimum.


Chris Bennett - Chairman of SSE Noise Group - 25 August 2005

The Herts & Essex Observer issue of 25th August includes a letter from Ralph Meloy of BAA in which he says:

"Most people, like us, stay focused on the need to get the best possible fit between air travel and quality of life. To illustrate the kind of balance we are achieving, the geographical area affected by the onset of noise annoyance at the 35 million passengers a year mark is forecast to be considerably less than the area agreed by our local planning authority for 25 million."

Perhaps I could add a few points to Mr Meloy's 'balance':

The area that he mentions with reference to noise annoyance is the 57 dBA Leq contour. Despite being put forward by the government as the level for the 'onset of noise annoyance', this level is disputed by many, including the World Health Organisation and other international authorities, and was roundly criticised by the government's own Inspector at the Heathrow Terminal 5 enquiry.

This 57 dBA Leq area agreed with UDC for 25 million resulted from a gross over estimate. The fact that BAA bamboozled the planning authority into setting a cap greatly in excess of the airport's needs is neither here nor there. The fact is that the area predicted by BAA to be affected at 35 million passengers per year will be greater than the area currently affected - and that's with the airport still being some way off the 25 million mark.

The last time that Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) looked at this issue, we found that in the second quarter of 2002, approximately 91% of the complaints received by Stansted Airport's Flight Evaluation Unit related to incidents outside this 57 dBA Leq area. According to Mr Meloy, though, these people weren't in an area where aircraft noise is annoying.

Perhaps it's time that Mr Meloy's focus turned to the realities of the disturbance his airport causes, rather than focussing on imaginary geographical areas and unrealistic measures of noise nuisance.

5 September 2005


Airport expansion costs money. Will the Stansted low-cost carriers pay up?

Cornwall defies Ryanair on £5 levy

Mark Milner - The Guardian - 1 September 2005

Ryanair said yesterday it was cutting the flights on its Stansted-Newquay route from 28 to 16 per week because of what it described as an "anti-visitor" tax imposed by Cornwall County Council. The local authority responded by inviting other airlines to fill the take-off and landing slots Ryanair will vacate in November.

Cornwall is to impose a £5 fee on all passengers over the age of 16 flying out of Newquay from late next month. It says the levy is needed to help fund a £2.8m expansion of the airport. Ryanair attacked the levy as "ridiculous", and warned that it would consider cutting flights to Newquay further if demand fell as a result.

Michael Cawley, the airline's deputy chief executive officer, said the airport was in a competitive, price-sensitive market against 84 other low-cost destinations available on Ryanair flights out of Stansted.

My Cawley claimed that "Cornwall's ridiculous decision to introduce a £5 tax would result in increased revenue of £250,000 for the council and reduced income for the region of £10.5m – leaving Cornwall worse off to the effect of £10 per year in terms of expenditure by visitors bought by Ryanair from London."

The airline said its figures for the potential loss to the region were based on studies done elsewhere in the UK.

The council said it was disappointed by Ryanair's response, but its executive committee member for the economy said the airport fee was essential. "Newquay is one of the fastest growing regional airports in the UK, with passenger figures growing from 118,000 in 2002 to a predicted 334,000 in 2005."

Mr Mitchell said that in recent months, bmibaby, Monarch and Air South-West had either introduced flights or announced plans to do so.

"We are currently talking to a number of operators about expanding the flights to and from Newquay. The flights to Stansted are very popular with both local residents and visitors and I am sure that another airline will be interested in taking up any flights freed up by Ryanair's decision."

3 September 2005

Only a week ago we reported on Professor Emanuel's research on the increasing intensity of Atlantic storms, especially hurricanes. Since then Hurricane Katrina has done her worst.

Press Release - Friends of the Earth - 2 September 2005

Hurricane Katrina should be a wake up call for President Bush on the need for urgent US action to tackle climate change, Friends of the Earth said today. The hurricane is one of the worst natural disasters America has ever faced and is a stark reminder of what scientists expect to happen as a result of human induced climate change.

Although there is at present no means by which to tell whether this particular storm was due to human induced global warming, the devastation it has caused is consistent with the projections generated by climate change models that suggest such storms will become more severe as the world warms up.

Computer models projecting the impacts of climate change on the weather suggest that increased sea surface temperatures caused by global warming will lead to more intense hurricanes.

Research findings published in the science journal Nature [1] in July suggests that this is already happening. The analysis, by climatologist Professor Kerry Emanuel of the Massachussetts Institute of Technology, says that major storms in the Atlantic and Pacific since the 1970s have increased in intensity by about 50 per cent. This trend is closely linked to rises in the average temperatures of the sea surface.

In stark contrast to the position of the Bush Administration, the New Orleans City Council in May 2001 passed a resolution urging federal action on climate change. And the danger posed to the city by global warming was recognised in June by New Orleans Mayor, C. Ray Nagin who noted. "The International Panel on Climate Change has warned that New Orleans is the North American city most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The rise of the Earth's temperature, causing sea level increases that could add up to one foot over the next 30 years, threatens the very existence of New Orleans".

Tony Juniper, Director of Friends of the Earth, said that "The Earth is warming up fast and the consequences of extreme weather are being felt in all regions. In the face of mounting evidence of rapid climate change President Bush has downplayed the scale of the problem and refused to take action to tackle it. His Administration has worked tirelessly to derail international agreement on climate change and sought to put narrow US economic interests above global climatic stability. In the aftermath of this storm even he must wonder if he has made the correct choice".

[1] Nature 4 August: "Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years", by Kerry Emanuel.


France promises aid to households over oil price

Reuters - 1 September 2005

PARIS, Sept 1 (Reuters) - The French government will pay 75 euros ($91.49) to millions of families to help them cope with the rise in oil prices, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said on Thursday.

Villepin said several million low-income households which use fuel for heating would receive a 75-euro cheque, and promised to boost the use of renewable energy.

"I know that some of our compatriots are suffering head-on from the rise in domestic fuel and petrol, without being able to immediately adjust their consumption," Villepin told a news conference.

"We have entered the post-oil era," he said. "I want to draw all the consequences of this and give a real impulse to energy savings and to the use of renewable energies."


EU 'pollution permits' could add £55 to cost of air tickets

Jason Nisse - The Independent - 21 August 2005

Ticket prices for long-haul flights could go up by as much as £55 under proposals to cut pollution being considered by the European Commission.

A report for the environment commissioner, Stavros Dimas, delivered last month by consultants CE Delft, recommends that the European Union's emissions trading system should be extended to aviation.

Mr Dimas is considering the report and is expected to present proposals next month.

Well-placed sources say he will propose that airlines purchase "pollution permits" that help pay for the CO2, nitrates, water vapours and soot created by every flight.

The CE Delft report claims the extra cost to airlines would be the equivalent of no more than €9 (£6) per air ticket. However, the Swiss environmental group Myclimate has predicted that the extra cost could be $20 (£11) for a short-haul flight within Europe and as much as $100 for a long haul flight.

Globally, airlines are estimated to produce more than 4 per cent of all greenhouse gases and pollution produced by the industry could be costing as much as £30bn a year.

The proposals are likely to prompt a massive row, not only between Mr Dimas and airlines opposed to the changes, but also between Brussels and the US, which is opposed to unilateral action by Europe.

The airlines have mixed feelings about the change. Some, including British Airways and SAS, have been participating in trials of the planned system and believe they can absorb the changes. Others, notably the low-cost airlines such as Ryanair and easyJet, are strongly opposed.

The European Low Fares Airlines Association has already published a paper opposing any changes coming out of Brussels and is planning a stronger response in coming weeks.

The CE Delft report claims there is no legal reason why the EC cannot unilaterally extend emissions trading to cover flights taking off and landing at airports within the European Union.

However, US and other international airlines disagree and could mount a legal fight against Brussels. They argue that the United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is working on a global system for emissions permits, and it would be a breach of international law for the EU to launch its own system first.

Mr Dimas, though, is believed to be frustrated by the slow progress of the Montreal-based ICAO.


Beat global warming, the crowds and the queues by holidaying at home

Jackie Ashley - The Guardian - 1 September 2005

There are times in a woman's life when she questions her most basic beliefs. There are moments that break open lifelong assumptions. Since adolescence, I have held the belief that a week or two of the summer should, if financially possible, be spent abroad. This does not mean mountains, bracing wind or interesting cathedrals. It means somewhere on the Mediterranean, soaking up the sun so meagrely rationed at home. It means swimming, the wine cheap but cheerful, and broken-backed novels around the beach lounger.

As millions of Britons know, it also means endless airport queues, usually at about 4am; flights on which you are crammed like dazed animals heading for the abattoir; and packed, noisy resorts. The Med is almost full. The French, Spanish and Italian coasts form a nearly unbroken, thousand-plus-miles-long line of barbecued flesh. The Greek islands are pulsating with Eurotrash music and the sound of Darren, 17, throwing up.

Where we went this year, on a relatively obscure part of the Greek mainland, tractors and earthmovers were flattening every available outcrop of sea-facing land for new holiday villas. The north African coast is now a mass tourism magnet. Turkey is spotted with resorts. Even Croatia is filling up, they tell me. As I float, blissfully, in the oily azure waters, I can't help wondering where all the sewage goes.

Then there's the climate. Global warming brings its unpredictable events, including sudden dousings and storms in southern Europe, but the sun shines on. The trouble is, increasingly, it shines blisteringly on. One of the most miserable weeks I've had was in an Italian house a couple of years ago with no air-conditioning, when it was so hot no one got a wink of sleep at night. By day, towns like Siena and Florence were empty because nobody could bear to walk their baking streets. Forest fires from Provence to Portugal have become a staple of August front pages around Europe.

All of this could be borne - there are shady spots, sea breezes still - if we felt that at least the summer migration south was a guilt-free, innocent pleasure. But it isn't. The vast growth in cheap and charter air travel is a serious contributor to global warming, and rightly rising fast up the political agenda. The aviation economist Brendon Sewill has just published a devastating pamphlet (Fly now, grieve later, Aviation Environment Federation) about the impact of flying on global warming. It isn't just the CO2 emissions. He describes the smog created by aircraft exhaust gases, the hot, moist air forming condensation trails and the effect of engine kerosene on cirrus cloud formation. This makes flying up to four times more damaging than if measured by emissions alone.

He says that flying is by far the worst thing we do, much worse than driving around in big cars: "Young eco-warriors who care passionately about recycling set off to backpack around the world with hardly a thought that they may be undoing tenfold what they have tried to achieve." Even "elderly couples proudly tell their friends how they have flown halfway round the world to visit their grandchildren without recognising that they themselves have helped to destroy their grandchildren's future."

Between 1990 and 2000, worldwide aviation emissions grew by 50%. Here, the Department for Transport is promoting a huge growth in air travel (an extra 275 million passengers over the next 25 years), expanding airports and assuming huge further increases in aviation emissions - more than cancelling out the reductions forecast for other parts of the economy. The government itself says that by 2030 aviation emissions "could amount to about a quarter of the UK's total contribution to global warming".

All I conclude is that the cheap flight boom cannot and will not last. All those ex-military airstrips being hurriedly turned into new regional airports, all those elderly jets criss-crossing Europe, all those bargain-basement tickets to unfamiliar destinations ... the bubble has to burst. Oil price rises, tax hikes and growing pressure on the industry over its environmental impact will all have their effect. True, cleaner aircraft are being developed, and yes, we are all hypocrites (me included), still keener to visit Prague, go skiing or see friends in their so-cheap gîte in France, than to think through the consequences of the explosion in flying. But this is unsustainable, and most of us know it.

That was the first part of my holiday reflection - a mixture of irritation at the discomfort and hassle of the experience, plus unease about the effects of the crowded airspace. We had a good time, but the excitement and pure pleasure of earlier forays south has gone.

So what should we do? Stay at home? Perhaps it's the effect of the summer ending with such glorious bank holiday weather, or perhaps it was all the conversations with happy friends calling from the West Country - but a better answer might be the revival of the British beach.

Every year, we do go for a week to Devon and we take meteorological pot luck - rain this time, and very persistent rain at that. But those who holidayed later are returning with tales of holidays in Cornwall, Norfolk, Lyme Regis and Wales that rival any sun-kissed nostalgic childhood memory. When the weather is good, there is nowhere like a seaside holiday here. We have sand far softer than anything around the Med. We have the excitement of tides and lovely villages. Many dirty beaches have been cleaned up. And as the temperatures soar further south, our climate begins to grow in appeal.

It's also true that some British resorts and coastal areas that have been in grim decline for decades are changing themselves. Cornwall's surf chic is well known, as are the upmarket Devon sailing towns, like Salcombe. Bournemouth and trendy Poole have been on the up for ages, now as expensive as anywhere outside London. Even in the Scottish west highlands, little villages like Plockton and Gairloch have good restaurants, shops and cafes that are thriving. At the other end of the scale, Blackpool has taken the bold decision to rebuild itself as a gambling mecca.

Between those places, though, there are dozens of resorts that remain desperately forlorn - pebble-dashed, dirty fronts, deserted piers, boarded-up boarding houses, fantastic views cluttered with empty caravan sites. The British coast, once well served by railways, can be surprisingly hard to get to. Compared with the continent, our seaside food remains bland and often disgusting.

Personal revelations are mostly suspect, but if even this Med obsessive is thinking of chucking in the beach towel and holidaying in Britain, there may be something going on. We live in a crowded and highly developed island. But our own resorts have been starved of money and affection for too long. Ministers, mostly returning into international arrivals, might consider the time is right for treating our wonderful shoreline as more than the setting for another party conference.

31 August 2005


Ben Webster, Transport Correspondent - The Times - 30 August 2005

AIRLINE passengers will have to accept longer journey times on board a new generation of aircraft that will fly more slowly to save fuel. Trips within Europe will take about ten minutes longer but aircraft will burn up to 20 per cent less fuel.

Aircraft manufacturers have abandoned plans to build faster jets, such as Boeing's Sonic Cruiser, which would have flown close to the speed of sound. Instead, they are designing aircraft that will do the least possible damage to the environment.

The new aircraft will look different to existing jets. The wings will be longer and straighter. The engines will sit on top of the fuselage rather than under the wings to reduce noise disturbance. There will be two tail-fins rather than one to prevent noise being deflected downwards. The aircraft will fly at about 430mph compared with more than 500mph flown by existing jets.

Airbus, the European aircaft manufacturer, is leading a European Commission research project on the new aircraft. It is working with more than 30 companies on the four-year project, entitled New Aircraft Concepts Research.

João Frota, the project's leader, said that the new aircraft would be half as noisy as existing jets. He said that the straighter wings would allow slower take-offs and landings. This would permit the use of more efficient engines, which would save several tonnes of fuel during each flight.

Mr Frota said that although flights would take longer, some time could be recovered by more efficient operations at airports. Removing national boundaries from the air traffic control system would save time and fuel by allowing aircraft to fly direct routes. At present, they have to fly in zigzags as they switch between sectors of airspace controlled by different countries. Ron van Manen, head of civil aeronautics at QinetiQ, Britain's leading aviation research centre, said that the aircraft would initially be used on routes of up to 1,000 miles.

He said: "People won't mind spending an extra five or ten minutes on a flight from London to Frankfurt because you can already easily waste that time queueing for take-off. But it would take an extra hour to fly from London to Singapore and people are unlikely to want to do that. They will probably be prepared to pay extra to burn more fuel."

Mr Van Manen said that airspace would have to be divided into lanes to allow the slower aircraft to be overtaken.

Aviation is the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions and is on course to be the biggest contributor by 2050. Worldwide air passenger numbers are due to double to 7.4 billion a year by 2020, according to Airports Council International. In Britain alone, passenger numbers are expected to grow from 200 million in 2003 to 470 million in 2030.

Sustainable Aviation, a group representing British Airways, Virgin, BAA and 20 other British aviation companies, has set a target of introducing new aircraft by 2020, which will produce 50 per cent less carbon dioxide.

The group has pledged to reduce noise by 50 per cent. Andrew Sentance, the head of environmental affairs at BA, said that flying more slowly would help to meet environmental targets but would not be welcomed by all passengers.

"A plane which is 20-30 per cent more fuel efficient would be very attractive but there are some business passengers for whom getting there as quickly as possible is very important."

Jeff Gazzard, of Greenskies Alliance, a coalition of environmental groups, said: "Taking ten minutes extra is a small price to pay for the sake of the environment. But the only long-term cure is to fly less. Even the fuel savings on this slower plane will be outweighed by the huge growth in flights."

OUR COMMENT: If this aircraft with a combination of less noise and less fuel is actually produced and is purchased by airlines then aviation will be responsible for a little less environmental damage. However, CO2 emissions have to be reduced by 60% by 2050 so, unless the manufacturers can come up with that kind of improvement in the not too distant future, then an increase in the number of flights world wide should be minimal, and that includes the UK!

Pat Dale

31 August 2005


Franco-German ministers call for green action

Environment Daily 1931 - 29 August 2005

France and Germany's environment ministers underlined common environmental policy priorities at their latest regular meeting last week.

Nelly Olin and Jürgen Trittin called on the USA to play a constructive part in global climate change talks in December and stressed the need for more measures to cut transport greenhouse gas emissions.

Aviation should be included in the second phase of the EU's industrial CO2 trading scheme, they said, and agreed targets on cutting CO2 emissions from cars "must be guaranteed".

The ministers also backed moves to achieve a first agreement this year on the EU's Reach chemical policy reform.

27 August 2005


House prices hit by airport growth

James Hore - EADT - 24 August 2005

HOUSE prices in the area surrounding Stansted Airport have been blighted by more than £600million since expansion plans were announced, it was claimed yesterday.

The Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) campaign said homeowners in Uttlesford district had suffered an average loss of £30,000 compared to price increases across the rest of Essex.

But while airport operator BAA is considering compensation for about 500 homes directly affected by the proposed second runway, the campaign group maintains about 12,000 homes have suffered.

But BAA, which also uses the Government's Land Registry figures as the basis of its compensation scheme, criticised the comments as "sweeping statements based on selective statistics".

Members of the campaign said owners of all types of homes had lost out in the past three years, claiming prices in Uttlesford had only risen by 24.6% since July 2002, compared to an increase of 38.5% across the county.

Peter Sanders, chairman of SSE said: "We hear so many claims from BAA about the economic benefits of the airport but here we have a clear economic cost of £635 million to local homeowners."

"Coming on top of the report earlier this month that air travel cost the UK economy a £15billion balance of payments deficit last year, one begins to wonder whether there is any net economic benefit, other than to BAA itself."

SSE said the 12,000 homes adversely affected by airport-related blight were mostly in the six CM postcode areas around the airport in the southern part of Uttlesford.

But Mark Pendlington, director of communications for BAA Stansted, said: "Old habits clearly die hard as far as SSE is concerned - yet again we have sweeping statements based on selective statistics that add up to no firm conclusion."

"All this kind of publicity achieves is to further damage the property market that is already under pressure nationally for a whole host of reasons completely unrelated to airport development."

"This scare-mongering must stop and SSE should join us in the real world where millions of people want to travel at affordable prices and where Stansted is widely applauded for helping to underpin the local and regional economy."

Tony Mullucks, a senior partner with Mullucks Wells estate agents, which has an office in Stansted Mountfitchet, said he agreed with some of SSE's argument.

"Houses that are difficult to sell are those immediately around the area of the possible second runway, but others are selling."

"But in Uttlesford it is only a very small part which is being affected by the airport – quite a few people are moving into the area to be within a reasonable distance of the airport."

"The area affected is close to the would-be second runway and at either end – but, outside that, houses have been selling in villages such as Takeley, the Eastons – all of which are not a million miles away."

He added the housing market had slumped across the country, with final selling prices dropping by five to 10% in the past year.

William Chastell, 70, and his son Rob took to their bikes last Sunday to cycle 106 miles round the six Essex villages with the name Tye Green to raise over £350 for Stop Stansted Expansion's fighting fund.

William, from Broxbourne, completed the circular ride in just 10 hours with the start and finish point being the Elsenham Tye Green, which is threatened with "possible destruction" by proposals for a second runway at Stansted Airport. The route passed through Tye Greens in Harlow, Good Easter, Stock, Cressing and Wimbish.

27 August 2005


Helios holiday jet in new flight alert is diverted to Stansted

Saffron Walden Reporter - 25 August 2005

A HELIOS Airways plane had to make an emergency landing at Stansted Airport just one week after another of the airline's Boeing 737s had crashed near homes in Greece.

The pilot of the latest 737 was diverted from Luton Airport to Stansted on Friday after he reported a problem with the flaps on the aircraft's wings, which are used to slow the plane down during landing.

At 10.35am the Helios flight, with 177 passengers on board, landed safely. The passengers were transferred to Luton, their original destination, by coach.

The incident happened less than a week after a similar 737 crashed approximately 400 metres from homes at St Theodore's Hill near Marathon in the early hours of the morning on August 14. All 121 passengers and cabin crew on board died in the disaster, which investigators believe was caused by a sudden drop in cabin pressure which knocked out both the pilots.

A Stansted spokeswoman said the airline flew regularly from the airport on Saturdays but the problem was a regular one for planes. She said: "This is a standard procedure. What happened here on Friday is something that can happen often with airlines."

Norman Mead, the former chairman of the Stop Stansted Expansion campaign group, said although he felt it was the correct decision to divert the plane to Stansted he was worried about maintenance standards on Helios' planes and the possibility one could crash in a residential area near Stansted.

His main concern was over the airport's designated status as a diversion for hijacked aircraft, when it would be more appropriate to send them to a coastal airstrip where they would be away from urban areas.

"It was the correct thing for them to have done while they were having trouble with the plane and Stansted was the obvious place to have put them down."

"But I have campaigned against the use of Stansted Airport for taking hijacked aircraft in particular."

"We have an international responsibility to help out where we can and our help should be confined to helping them by landing them on the coast. But where there is a malfunction, that is a different matter," Mr Mead.

He also felt Luton Airport needed to make sure that Helios' aircraft had a high standard of maintenance.

27 August 2005


Weather expert finds destructive power worse than models predict

Paul Brown, Environment Correspondent - The Guardian - 26 August 2005

Tropical storms have doubled in destructive potential in the past 30 years because ocean surfaces have become warmer, according to a leading climate researcher.

This is the first time that an increase in the size, duration and power of tropical storms has been linked to global warming.

The result could have a significant effect on British weather, and have potentially disastrous consequences for the Caribbean, the west coast of the United States and Pacific countries such as Japan.

Article continues

Professor Kerry Emanuel, of the atmospheric, oceans and climate research department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has studied data from all the severe storms - or tropical cyclones - over the past 30 years.

He says they have been more intense and longer in duration, and have generated far more power, than computer models had predicted. Prof Emanuel, an acknowledged world expert on the thermodynamics of tropical cyclone research, told the Guardian he believed the power of the storms to create huge waves and mix the surface water of the oceans could also effect ocean currents - particularly the Gulf Stream, which sends warm water northwards and keeps Britain's climate milder than it otherwise would be.

Many scientists have predicted that the Gulf Stream could slow or be "turned off" by the effect of increased fresh water entering the Arctic from melting ice.

But Prof Emanuel believes that the greater mixing of warm water in the tropics could have the opposite effect - speeding up the currents and driving more warm water north.

Although there is no connection between his research and recent observations in Iceland, temperatures in the North Atlantic have risen notably as a direct result of a strong current flow pushing farther north.

Prof Emanuel's findings, published in Nature magazine, follow an inconclusive scientific debate about whether the frequency of storms is a natural phenomenon or a result of man-made climate change.

Climate models run through computers indicate that storms are likely to become more severe, but this is the first evidence that this is already happening. What is surprising is that the severity is far more pronounced than the computer models predicted.

According to the paper, the computer models estimated that wind speeds would increase by 2 to 3% as a result of an already observed rise in the ocean temperature of .5C. Because of the longer duration of storms, this would increase the total force exerted by the average hurricane by 8 to 12%.

However, Prof Emanuel's measurements of real winds show that storms can pick up much greater intensity as the ocean waters mix.

During a storm, the winds cause the warm surface water to mix with the cooler ocean below. Normally, this mixing would puts a brake on the power of the storm because of the overall reduction in sea temperature caused by the mixing. But measurements show that it is not just the surface of the sea that has warmed in recent decades - the layer underneath is also at a higher temperature.

This means the wave action that mixes the layers does not have such a pronounced cooling effect as before and, as a result, the intensity of the storm remains significantly higher.

Prof Emanuel's view is that at least part of this increase in ocean temperature is caused by man-made climate change.

"Whatever the cause, the near doubling of power dissipation over the period of record should be a matter of some concern, as it is a measure of the destructive potential of tropical cyclones."

Julian Heming, a tropical prediction scientist with the Met Office in Exeter, said he did not question Prof Emanuel's measurements, but pointed out that there was disagreement among scientists about whether the observed trend was man-made or part of a natural cycle.

27 August 2005


Experts call for refocused EU particle debate

Environment Daily 1930 - 24 August 2005

Researchers have called into question a draft EU plan to shift its regulatory focus on fine particle pollution to even finer grades. Controls on particles up to ten microns (PM10) still need to be strengthened, even as Europe introduces new limits for the sub-2.5 micron fraction, they say.

A review of American and UK data claims existing evidence shows significant health risks from the "coarse" fraction of PM10, particles larger than 2.5 microns. In contrast, recent scientific advice has tended to emphasise the risks of PM2.5

In the "Cafe" EU air pollution strategy to be launched this autumn, the European Comission is expected to propose making PM2.5 the EU's principal metric, while retaining some controls on PM10. The projected costs of Cafe have aroused controversy.

In an article in the European Respiratory Journal, Dutch and Swedish researchers review evidence for health effects specifically from particles between 2.5 and 10 microns diameter. An accompanying editorial points up policy implications for the EU.

The EU's current plan is to leave controls on particles larger than 2.5 microns "regrettably unaltered" the editorial states. One of its authors, Leendert van Bree of the Dutch environmental assessment agency (MNP) told Environment Daily the new study showed the EU's debate on coarse particles needed to be "reopened and revitalised".

OUR COMMENT: These fine particles are produced by the burning of fossil fuels especially from cars, lorries and aircraft. Much research has been done which shows that these particles when inhaled can be damaging to both lungs and the cardiovascular system, especially in the elderly and those suffering from heart or lung disease. We should like to see a survey of the finest particles round Stansted airport - it appears from Uttlesford's sampling that PM10 levels are within recommended limits, but there have not been any measurements of the smaller PM2.5 (which are more difficult to measure), neither are any proposed by BAA in their recent public consultation document. This document makes claims about satisfactory air quality in future years (after expansion) without supplying any evidence to support this claim. (Similar unsupported claims are made for other expected adverse effects, such as increased noise levels.)

Pat Dale

24 August 2005


Aubrey Meyer - The Guardian - 22 August 2005

In what was old Rhodesia, a steam train used to go daily between Salisbury and Bulawayo along a single track through rhino territory. Eventually, a cranky alpha-rhino took umbrage. As the train chugged south at 70mph, the rhino mounted the track and charged north. The smash derailed the train and killed the rhino.

So with global climate change. With greenhouse gas emissions still accelerating, we are now going down the tracks towards the oncoming rhino. The threatened impact challenges our economy and even our survival. Peat-bogs are on the verge of out-gassing methane in Siberia and giving climate stability the coup de grâce. Yet we continue to change the climate faster than we act to stop it. Risk analysis suggests we are less than a decade from the point of no-return. Atmospheric CO2 is now at 380 parts per million and on course for 400ppm within 10 years.

As frequently argued here and elsewhere, whatever else is true, the answer is "emissions contraction and convergence (CC)", markets that operate to a full-term concentration target. Fossil fuel emissions must contract globally while the international shares in emissions converge on equality per capita.

The United Nations framework convention on climate change now says this is "inevitably required". The Church of England says: "Anyone who thinks this is utopian has simply not looked honestly at the alternatives."

Support for CC grows relentlessly. Following the so-called Byers report, Greenpeace put out its own report in July advocating CC with a concentration target of 400ppm. Since 1997, CC has been the position of the Africa group of nations. Will the UK NGOs' new "avoid climate chaos" movement now adopt such a focus - one that has only severally and partially attracted its members so far? Africans would be pleased: African poverty is aggravated by climate change and CC addresses both together.

Everyone knew that Kyoto fell short. But now, apparently killing this baby before it had even crawled out of the cot, our prime minister as good as conceded so at the G8. In exchange for the disarming concession by the US president that we actually do have a problem called human-induced global climate change (as if we didn't know), Mr Blair arranged for five key developing countries to attend and informally succumb to this somewhat vacuous transaction.

Three weeks later Mr Blair learned the US had quietly been putting together a "clean-technology" deal with India, China and Australia behind his back. This deal not only ignores Kyoto, it also ignores the UN and tackles neither rising emissions nor atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.

More extraordinary still is the untold story of the corporations. Chief executives of the 23 largest corporations in the Davos World Economic Forum made a joint statement to the G8 leaders. It said governments must define an atmospheric greenhouse gas concentration that is stable and safe, and create a common global framework to enable them to invest in markets that operate effectively to this purpose from now on.

UK building industry leaders wrote to Mr Blair saying that this framework-based market is contraction and convergence.

They were all ignored. The rhino cometh, but Rome was not fazed. Washington's men appear to regard the whole matter as either above or below - but not actually at - their pay-grade.

Preliminary climate change damages, already lethal at a local and regional scale, are growing globally at twice the rate of the economy. The buck stops either with UN-led CC or with the rhino.

Aubrey Meyer is director of the Global Commons Institute


EU 'pollution permits' could add £55 to cost of air tickets

Jason Nisse - The Independent - 21 August 2005

Ticket prices for long-haul flights could go up by as much as £55 under proposals to cut pollution being considered by the European Commission.

A report for the environment commissioner, Stavros Dimas, delivered last month by consultants CE Delft, recommends that the European Union's emissions trading system should be extended to aviation.

Mr Dimas is considering the report and is expected to present proposals next month. Well-placed sources say he will propose that airlines purchase "pollution permits" that help pay for the CO2, nitrates, water vapours and soot created by every flight.

The CE Delft report claims the extra cost to airlines would be the equivalent of no more than €9 (£6) per air ticket. However, the Swiss environmental group Myclimate has predicted that the extra cost could be $20 (£11) for a short-haul flight within Europe and as much as $100 for a long haul flight.

Globally, airlines are estimated to produce more than 4 per cent of all greenhouse gases and pollution produced by the industry could be costing as much as £30bn a year.

The proposals are likely to prompt a massive row, not only between Mr Dimas and airlines opposed to the changes, but also between Brussels and the US, which is opposed to unilateral action by Europe.

The airlines have mixed feelings about the change. Some, including British Airways and SAS, have been participating in trials of the planned system and believe they can absorb the changes. Others, notably the low-cost airlines such as Ryanair and easyJet, are strongly opposed.

The European Low Fares Airlines Association has already published a paper opposing any changes coming out of Brussels and is planning a stronger response in coming weeks.

The CE Delft report claims there is no legal reason why the EC cannot unilaterally extend emissions trading to cover flights taking off and landing at airports within the European Union.

However, US and other international airlines disagree and could mount a legal fight against Brussels. They argue that the United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is working on a global system for emissions permits, and it would be a breach of international law for the EU to launch its own system first.

Mr Dimas, though, is believed to be frustrated by the slow progress of the Montreal-based ICAO.

OUR COMMENT: Airlines now only produce 5.5% of the UK's CO2 emissions, but the government ("Securing the Future", Defra 2005) agrees that, if flights increase at the predicted rate in the UK, aviation will be responsible for about a third of the UK's greenhouse gases by 2050. This does not allow for international flights that do not start in the UK - nor does it allow for the extra "radiative forcing" of planes in flight which is agreed to intensify the warming effects of the gases by 2.5 to 4 fold. A recent study by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research suggests that aviation could be responsible for all the UK allocation of carbon emissions before 2050. Dramatic cuts would be required from other sectors - an impossible situation.

Pat Dale

21 August 2005


Two of the leading contenders to contest the next US presidential election have delivered an urgent warning to the United States on global warming, saying the evidence of climate change has become too stark to ignore and human activity is a major cause.

Andrew Buncombe in Washington - The Independent - 19 August 2005

On a high-profile and bi-partisan fact-finding tour in Alaska and Canada's Yukon territory, Senators John McCain, a Republican, and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic senator for New York, were confronted by melting permafrost and shrinking glaciers and heard from native Inuit that rising sea levels were altering their lives.

"The question is how much damage will be done before we start taking concrete action," Mr McCain said at a press conference in Anchorage. "Go up to places like we just came from. It's a little scary." Mrs Clinton added: "I don't think there's any doubt left for anybody who actually looks at the science. There are still some holdouts, but they're fighting a losing battle. The science is overwhelming."

Their findings directly challenge President George Bush's reluctance to legislate to reduce America's carbon emissions. Although both senators havetalked before of the need to tackle global warming, this week's clarion call was perhaps the clearest and most urgent.

It also raises the prospect that climate change and other environmental issues could be a factor in the presidential contest in 2008 if Mrs Clinton and Mr McCain enter it. Mrs Clinton and Mr McCain, who represents Arizona, are among the leading, and the most popular, likely contenders.

That they chose Alaska as the stage from which to force global warming on to the American political agenda was not a matter of chance. In many ways, this separated US state is the frontline in the global warming debate. Environmentalists say the signs of climate change are more obvious there than perhaps anywhere else in the US.

Dan Lashof, a scientist with the Natural Resources Defence Council, a respected Washington-based group, told The Independent: "People in Alaska are starting to freak out. The retreat of the sea ice allows the oceans to pound the coast more, and villages there are suffering from the effects of that erosion. There is permafrost melting, roads are buckling, there are forests that have been infested with beetles because of a rise in temperatures. I think residents there feel it's visible more and more, more than any other place in the country."

President Bush's administration has repeatedly questioned the evidence of global warming and the contribution of human activity to any shift. Mr Bush, who in 2001 refused to ratify the Kyoto treaty on global warming weeks after he took office, has repeatedly been accused of doing nothing to enforce tighter controls on emissions of carbon dioxide and other "greenhouse gases".

But this summer, the US National Academy of Sciences - and the scientific academies of the other G8 nations as well as Brazil, China and India - issued a statement saying there was strong evidence that significant global warming was happening and that "it is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities".

They called on world leaders to recognise "that delayed action will increase the risk of adverse environmental effects and will likely incur a greater cost". Mrs Clinton, who must first win her re-election to the US senate next year if she is to enter the 2008 White House race, said at the press conference that she had spoken to scientists as well as native Alaskans during the trip.

She said that, flying over the Yukon, she saw forests devastated by spruce bark beetles, believed to be increasing at an unprecedented rate because of warmer weather. She also talked of what a 93-year-old woman at a fish camp at Whitehorse told her. The woman said she had been fishing there all her life but now fish have strange bumps on them.

"It's heartbreaking to see the devastation," Mrs Clinton said. Mr McCain, Mrs Clinton and Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Susan Collins of Maine, also went to Barrow, the northernmost city in the US. There, they spoke to scientists and Inupiaq Inuit. They also saw shrinking glaciers in Kenai Fjords National Park.

Mr McCain - with Senator Joe Lieberman - is behind proposed legislation that would require power-generating companies to reduce carbon emissions to their 2000 levels. Mr Graham, a Republican, said he had been moved by what he had seen. "Climate change is different when you come here, because you see the faces of people experiencing it. If you go to the people and listen to their stories and walk away with any doubt that something's going on, you're not listening."

Mrs Collins, a Democrat, was even more convinced. She said the evidence in Alaska represented the "canary in the mine shaft of global warming crying out to us to pay attention".


Air Travel emissions threaten UK climate strategy

Aviation Notes - STEER Newsletter - August 2005

Emissions of greenhouse gases from the aviation sector have nearly doubled in the last 13 years according to recent figures from the Office of National Statistics. The official figures also show that total UK greenhouse gas emissions fell by just 8.1% between 1990 and 2003.

Moreover, according to a new study by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change at the University of East Anglia for Friends of the Earth (reported in Recent News) , growing greenhouse gas emissions from aviation would take up the entire emissions budget for every sector of the nation's economy by 2037 if current rates of growth are maintained.

This would mean that all other sectors, including road transport, would be unable to release any emissions at all if targets are to be met.

The report concludes that there will be "severe consequences for both the UK and the EU in terms of meeting their obligations to reduce carbon emissions and if European governments continue to permit, or indeed, promote historically high levels of aviation growth".


Aviation Notes - STEER Newsletter - August 2005

A total of 217m passengers went through UK airports last year, an 8% rise on 2003, according to the CAA. Passenger numbers at London's five main airports grew by 7%, while traffic at UK's regional airports grew by 9%.

No comment necessary!


Stansted Expansion in doubt?

Aviation Notes - STEER Newsletter - August 2005

A major cash row threatens the projected expansion of Stansted airport, and airlines have warned that they will leave over the surcharge plan to fund new runways.

The government's ambition of turning Stansted airport into one of Europe's biggest international hubs has been thrown into doubt by a bitter dispute about who will foot the bill for a £4bn expansion programme.

Budget airlines are hammering BAA for over-egging the bill for expansion at Stansted and threaten to pull out from the airport altogether if BAA puts up charges to airlines using the airport.

Likewise the larger players like Virgin and BA insist they will not stomach cross-subsidy by surcharges at other London airports.

17 August 2005


Heathrow Strike - Leaving a bitter taste

The Guardian - 13 August 2005

Airline food is a standing joke - but the passengers stranded at Heathrow airport yesterday looked as though they would have gladly accepted the usual tray of beef or chicken without complaint. Instead, the passengers found themselves sitting and waiting for a few morsels of news as to when the industrial dispute – which escalated into an informal strike affecting hundreds of flights by British Airways and other airlines – would be resolved, as it finally was, by early yesterday evening.

Many of the more dejected-looking passengers were those preparing to go away on summer breaks. Heathrow's shabby terminal four is unpleasant enough at the best of times, and hardly the place to spend the first days of a holiday. Thousands of others scattered around the world's airports were also left without flights.

To make matters worse, this is the third summer in a row that BA passengers have faced such uncertainty. But if things are grim out on the concourse, conditions are even tougher in the light industrial units dotted around Heathrow that supply Heathrow's voracious appetite for specialised services. One such unseen hand is Gate Gourmet, the sole provider of 80,000 in-flight meals a day for BA at Heathrow.

For reasons it claims are justified, the company dismissed several hundred of its staff on Wednesday. In response members of the Transport and General Workers Union began an unofficial secondary action the following day in support of their colleagues at Gate Gourmet. The knock-on effect was enough to keep BA out of the skies.

Although the frustrated holidaymakers marooned west of London will find it difficult to do so, there should be sympathy for the workers' cause. To be sacked by megaphone is callous, even for part of the service sector well known for low pay, insecure job tenure and poor career prospects. The Gate Gourmet workers say the company was attempting to force through pay cuts and standstills.

The company itself is an anonymous international one based in Switzerland and owned by Texas Pacific, a US venture capitalist firm. It bought Gate Gourmet off the troubled Swissair group in 2003 for 870m dollars, at a time when staff were already being laid off and margins were being squeezed. Venture capitalist firms such as Texas Pacific generally aim to dip quickly and profitably in and out of industries – although Gate Gourmet is not following the plot, having been running at a loss for several years. That will be cold comfort for those waiting at Heathrow. For the sacked workers, airline food leaves a bitter taste.

OUR COMMENT: Whatever the rights and wrongs of the industrial dispute, surely the lesson for Stansted is that a huge airport that dominates the local business and employment market has significant drawbacks , as has been pointed out by local Councillors. The question must also be raised about the relentless cutting of the costs of flying - the environment is not the only sufferer, many passengers might even prefer to pay more just for a better and more reliable service.

Pat Dale

17 August 2005


In spite of the present noise from Stansted flights
over the Bishop's Stortford area

EAST Herts is the sixth best place to live in the UK, according to TV property gurus Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer.

Presenting the Channel 4 show, The Best and Worst Places to Live in the UK, on Tuesday night, they waxed lyrical about the beauties of the district, using film of Hertford, Much Hadham and Bishop's Stortford as a backdrop.

Kirsty, who co-presents Location, Location, Location with Phil, said: "With a population of around 130,000, East Herts boasts five historic market towns and you can't lob a brick without hitting a picturesque village — think village greens with duck ponds, medieval churches, Norman castles, timber-framed cottages, ancient-spired churches and stately old halls and mansions."

It was the district's quality schools, low crime rate and the desirable lifestyle of its residents that shot it in to the top 10.

"The attraction of SG13 is that it is in the catchment area of three of the best state schools in the country. But they could become over-subscribed," said Phil, who did not name the schools to which he was referring.

But while visiting Beckingham Palace in Sawbridgeworth, he cheekily claimed: "This is the place for chavs. Even David and Victoria Beckham live here."

Phil also highlighted the proposed expansion of nearby Stansted Airport in Essex and plans to build more than 20,000 homes in the district as threats to East Herts.

The Mercury has reported how Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott's house-building super-plan could damage the district's character.

But East Herts got one over Prescott during Tuesday night's show — the Deputy Prime Minister's home city of Hull was deemed the worst place to live in the UK. The city is famed for its population's obesity — it has 101 chip shops, but only nine leisure centres.

Researchers looked at all 434 local authorities in the UK and rankings were based on statistics in five categories including crime, education, employment, environment and lifestyle. Epsom and Ewell was the best place to live, with the City of Westminster second. East Herts beat South Cambridgeshire into seventh place.

Cllr Mike Carver, the leader of East Herts Council, said: "I'm delighted that the district is in the top 10 list, but it doesn't surprise me. It has a very good quality of life, low crime and good education."

"There is a shortage of affordable housing and we're working towards getting more."

OUR COMMENT: If Stansted airport expands East Herts will certainly lose this "award"!

Pat Dale

15 August 2005


Suing Korean Air over crash is right - Mead

Saffron Walden Reporter - 4 August 2005

A PARISH councillor has pledged his council's support to the National Trust's bid to sue Korean Air over a plane crash near Hatfield Forest in 1999.

Norman Mead, a Great Hallingbury parish councillor, said he agreed with the conservation charity's claim aginst the airline because of the amount of damage caused to the medieval woodland when the Boeing 747 crashed on December 22.

He said: "It is one of the important natural assets in this area and it was severely disrupted by the crash and I am surprised that it has taken so long for the compensation claim to be considered."

"We fully support their claim, it is fully justified knowing the disruption caused by the crash."

Mr Mead, a leading figure in the Stop Stansted Expansion campaign, said the plane crash highlighted why the airport did not need a second runway because it would increase the risk of further disasters.

There was also concern about depleted uranium, which was used as ballast in the tail, as one of the 20 parts on board the plane had gone missing in the aftermath. But Mr Mead said the level of radiation from the uranium was minimal and he did not think it posed a risk to nearby residents.

The Trust, which owns the land, is suing because it claims some of the ancient trees were either lost in the crash, or their lifespans were severely shortened. The patch of woodland included Oak Coppice trees dating back 1,000 years, as well as Field Maples and there is also a vast array of wildife, including rare fungi and insects.

Adrian Clarke, the Trust's property manager, said surveys had been carried out to assess the impact of the disaster and although these could determine the loss of woodland it was more difficult to find out how badly the wildlife had been affected. He explained the five-and-a-half year delay in suing Korean Air was to allow the studies to be carried out.

"Although things like calculating direct losses and financial expenditure are relatively straightforward, it has taken this long to find out how much habitat damage there has been to trees and animals," Mr Clarke said.

He said the best way of repairing the damage to the trees would be through restorative tree surgery, and the charity was looking to recover the costs for the work that needed to be done to the nature conservation at the High Court.

Peter Barron, sales manager with Korean Air, said the company was looking to carry out its own survey into the state of the woodland in the wake of the crash. But he could not understand why it had taken the Trust so long to issue the writ.

He said: "It is five-and-a-half years after the event that they are suddenly making a claim."

15 August 2005


Warming hits 'tipping point'

Siberia feels the heat. It's a frozen peat bog the size of France and Germany combined, contains billions of tonnes of greenhouse gas and, for the first time since the ice age, it is melting

Ian Sample, Science Correspondent - The Guardian - 11 August 2005

A vast expanse of western Sibera is undergoing an unprecedented thaw that could dramatically increase the rate of global warming, climate scientists warn today. Researchers who have recently returned from the region found that an area of permafrost spanning a million square kilometres - the size of France and Germany combined - has started to melt for the first time since it formed 11,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age.

The area, which covers the entire sub-Arctic region of western Siberia, is the world's largest frozen peat bog and scientists fear that as it thaws, it will release billions of tonnes of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere.

It is a scenario climate scientists have feared since first identifying "tipping points" - delicate thresholds where a slight rise in the Earth's temperature can cause a dramatic change in the environment that itself triggers a far greater increase in global temperatures.

The discovery was made by Sergei Kirpotin at Tomsk State University in western Siberia and Judith Marquand at Oxford University and is reported in New Scientist today. The researchers found that what was until recently a barren expanse of frozen peat is turning into a broken landscape of mud and lakes, some more than a kilometre across.

Dr Kirpotin told the magazine the situation was an "ecological landslide that is probably irreversible and is undoubtedly connected to climatic warming". He added that the thaw had probably begun in the past three or four years.

Climate scientists yesterday reacted with alarm to the finding, and warned that predictions of future global temperatures would have to be revised upwards. "When you start messing around with these natural systems, you can end up in situations where it's unstoppable. There are no brakes you can apply," said David Viner, a senior scientist at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

"This is a big deal because you can't put the permafrost back once it's gone. The causal effect is human activity and it will ramp up temperatures even more than our emissions are doing."

In its last major report in 2001, the intergovernmental panel on climate change predicted a rise in global temperatures of 1.4C-5.8C between 1990 and 2100, but the estimate only takes account of global warming driven by known greenhouse gas emissions.

"These positive feedbacks with landmasses weren't known about then. They had no idea how much they would add to global warming," said Dr Viner.

Western Siberia is heating up faster than anywhere else in the world, having experienced a rise of some 3C in the past 40 years. Scientists are particularly concerned about the permafrost, because as it thaws, it reveals bare ground which warms up more quickly than ice and snow, and so accelerates the rate at which the permafrost thaws.

Siberia's peat bogs have been producing methane since they formed at the end of the last ice age, but most of the gas had been trapped in the permafrost. According to Larry Smith, a hydrologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, the west Siberian peat bog could hold some 70bn tonnes of methane, a quarter of all of the methane stored in the ground around the world.

The permafrost is likely to take many decades at least to thaw, so the methane locked within it will not be released into the atmosphere in one burst, said Stephen Sitch, a climate scientist at the Met Office's Hadley Centre in Exeter.

But calculations by Dr Sitch and his colleagues show that even if methane seeped from the permafrost over the next 100 years, it would add around 700m tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere each year, roughly the same amount that is released annually from the world's wetlands and agriculture. It would effectively double atmospheric levels of the gas, leading to a 10% to 25% increase in global warming, he said.

Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth, said the finding was a stark message to politicians to take concerted action on climate change. "We knew at some point we'd get these feedbacks happening that exacerbate global warming, but this could lead to a massive injection of greenhouse gases.

"If we don't take action very soon, we could unleash runaway global warming that will be beyond our control and it will lead to social, economic and environmental devastation worldwide," he said. "There's still time to take action, but not much."

"The assumption has been that we wouldn't see these kinds of changes until the world is a little warmer, but this suggests we're running out of time."

In May this year, another group of researchers reported signs that global warming was damaging the permafrost. Katey Walter of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, told a meeting of the Arctic Research Consortium of the US that her team had found methane hotspots in eastern Siberia. At the hotspots, methane was bubbling to the surface of the permafrost so quickly that it was preventing the surface from freezing over.

Last month, some of the world's worst air polluters, including the US and Australia, announced a partnership to cut greenhouse gas emissions through the use of new technologies. The deal came after Tony Blair struggled at the G8 summit to get the US president, George Bush, to commit to any concerted action on climate change and has been heavily criticised for setting no targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

OUR COMMENT: Man-made greenhouse gases come from transport (road and aviation) 29%, domestic heating and appliances 27%, industry (including power stations) 28%. At the moment industry is required under the EU carbon emissions trading scheme to reduce their emissions. Road vehicle emissions will be subject to more tougher controls and fuel is already taxed - smaller cars pay less vehicle tax though there is a strong case for higher taxes on 4x4 gas guzzlers. Domestic users can claim a number of grants to help energy efficiency in the home and with the higher price of oil will be paying more for electricity (though green energy should become relatively cheaper). Aviation remains the privileged producer of more emissions per Km travelled than any other means of transport, paying no tax on fuel and with virtually no controls over emissions.

If the government continues to support the level of aviation expansion proposed in the Aviation White Paper, and does not take action to create a level playing field with the rest of industry in requiring emission reduction, aviation will become the biggest contributor to climate change.

Facts: Average energy use for a home for one year = 5 Tonnes of C02; Average car journey of 800 miles = 280 Kgms of C02; Average plane 2 hour flight = 17.50 tonnes of C02

Pat Dale

15 August 2005


Town suffers noise "double whammy" from aeroplanes

Sandra Perry - Herts and Essex Observer - 11 August 2005

A RESIDENT, continually annoyed at being woken by aircraft from Stansted during the weekend, got up early to count how many planes flew overhead on Sunday.

And Jeremy Morton was horrified to discover that there were 56 taking off over a two-hour period, with 20 of those counting twice because they "looped" around Bishop's Stortford. "I had estimated it to be at least 20 an hour, but the results certainly surprised me and show just how serious this aircraft noise problem is becoming," said Mr Morton, who lives in the High Street area of town.

Referring to the "double noise whammy", as he called it, he said the town suffered from an additional exacerbating factor. When planes take off to the south-west, on the current flight paths, those heading for destinations to the north or north-west had to loop around the south and west of the town first.

"This effectively means Bishop's Stortford suffers two bouts of noise for each of these."

On Sunday, Mr Morton, who works in the City and has lived in Bishop's Stortford for three years, counted, and photographed, 30 between 6.30am and 7.30am and 26 the following hour. Adding in those looping round, it made a total of 76 intrusive noise episodes, he said.

He wants BAA and relevant bodies to introduce a system for Stansted where on days with little or no wind, planes take off on a north easterly heading.

"Given that with present weather conditions the majority of flights take off to the south west, I feel strongly that Bishop's Stortford is suffering more than its fair share of departure noise."

Longer term, he wants the take-offs routed differently for planes ultimately going north so they do not have to loop round. Mr Morton, who is in his 50s, accepts that Bishop's Stortford's gain would be others' loss, "but the issue is fairness".

A reaction from the National Air Traffic Services was not available yesterday (Wednesday, 10 August).

15 August 2005


Sam Bond - News Environment - 5 August 2005

Traditional, unfettered economic growth is not an option for the South East unless we want to see air quality plummet and roads choked with traffic, according to an official report.

The final report from the Commission on Sustainable Development in the South East run by the Institute for Public Policy Research outlines two stark options - the 'business as usual' approach which it claims will quickly lead to gridlock and soaring pollution, or what it terms 'smart growth'.

If the report is to be believed, smart growth would allow us to keep prosperity and improve quality of life by spreading economic benefits to all while protecting the environment. The cost would be pulling in the reins on mushrooming house building, combating increases in traffic with wider congestion charging and more efficient use of energy and water.

According to the report the South East must increase the provision of affordable housing in the region, delivered through a range of providers but taking into account the need to create sustainable communities and provide adequate infrastructure.

The commission also questioned the wisdom of setting house building targets for the next twenty years, as advocated in the Kate Barker's Review of Housing Supply last year, and argues for greater flexibility in the planning of new homes, with a bigger say for local authorities when deciding the housing needs of their communities.

Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, commission chairman said: "The difficult challenge for the South East is to maintain its role as an economic powerhouse while at the same time protecting its environment and maintaining quality of life."

"IPPR concluded that a new approach to growth and consumption was needed."

"The goal should be to raise employment, GDP per head and prosperity per household right across the South East, and not simply to raise GDP in total by drawing more and more people into the South East."

"This would help prevent the drain of skills and people out of other parts of the UK."

The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) is among the cheerleaders for the findings of the report. "It's hugely encouraging that a high-powered commission with such a variety of expertise is challenging both the Government's growth-at-all-costs strategy and Kate Barker's call for a huge increase in market housebuilding," said Henry Oliver, the CPRE's chief planning and housing campaigner.

"Instead the commission's report argues persuasively for smart growth that emphasises quality of life and environmental protection in this most pressurised English region."

"It rejects massive increases in housebuilding over what is currently being contemplated by the South East Regional Assembly. And, quite rightly, it argues that an important part of the solution to the problems caused by household and economic growth is to help other, less prosperous regions catch up instead of being left further and further behind."

"We particularly welcome the commission's emphasis on the need for more subsidised, affordable housing to be built in the region as opposed to a massive increase in construction of market homes."

OUR COMMENT: And all the concerns apply to airport growth as well - more traffic and more pollution.

Pat Dale

8 August 2005


Joint traffic air system to boost flights

Kevin Done - Financial Times - 5 August 2005

The UK and Spain are to co-operate on the development of an air traffic control management system that will be at the core of UK plans to handle 50% more flights by 2012. National Air Traffic Services, the part-privatised UK system, has signed a memorandum of co-operation with Aena, the Spanish state-owned airports and air traffic control group.

They are to invest about £104m during the next 6 years in a 50/50 joint venture company, to be set up in Madrid by the end of the year. It will develop the existing Spanish Sacta air control system to be capable of managing the air space in Spain and in the UK, which has some of the most complex air traffic control in the world.

It will provide the core software for the UK's future air traffic control organisation, covering radar and flight data processing and communications.

The collaborative effort will underpin Nats' ambitious 10 year, £1bn investment programme to modernise and expand the capacity of its air traffic control system to enable it to handle about 3m flights a year by 2012. In the 12 months to the end of March Nats handled 2.2m flights.

Nats is aiming to consolidate its fragmented operations with the London terminal control and military air traffic control operations, currently at West Drayton, near Heathrow airport, and due to move to Nats' main site at Swanwick, Hampshire, by the end of 2007. The Manchester operation will be transferred to Prestwick in 2009.

Nats is aiming to have both Prestwick and Swanwick operating on the same new generation Sacta management system. The software platform will be introduced first at the new Scottish centre under construction at Prestwick and will become operational in 2009. It will also be introduced at Swanwick to run operations in the London flight information region from 2012, replacing the system supplied by Lockheed-Martin of the US.

Sacta will be supplied by Indra Sistemas, the leading Spanish information technologies and defence systems group, which has already developed systems that manage about a third of the world's air traffic.

Nats sees the collaboration with Aena, the most far reaching joint venture yet attempted between 2 European air navigation service providers, as an important step in the single European Sky initiative championed by the European Commission to rationalise air traffic management across Europe.

The two groups are also in discussions with DFS, the German air traffic control group, about a possible joint venture to develop a flight data processing system for the 3 countries, which would be incorporated into the Sacta platform.

Crucially this will open the way for the replacement of the NAS flight data processing system, which is more than 30 years old but still at the core of the UK's highly complex air traffic control system.

Several failures of the national airspace system have led to severe delays and thousands of flight cancellations in recent years.

OUR COMMENT: Room for 800,000 more flights over the UK annually? If the government have their way nearly 600,000 of them will eventually be visiting Stansted. Can this new system, as yet untested in the UK, manage to fit them all into the Stansted area? This question has yet to be answered and it looks as though we shan't know until after decisions on expansion have been taken – putting the cart before the horse. AND, what about climate change, is the rest of industry expected to "subsidise" aviation?

Pat Dale

6 August 2005


DeHavilland - Information Services
Today's issue - Airport Expansion Report

5 August 2005

The era of budget airlines and cheap online travel agents has led to an increasing demand for flights and predictions of a massive increase in air traffic in the UK by 2030.

This has led to plans for airport expansion across the country, particularly in the densely populated south-east - airports in that area attract 120 million of the 200 million UK passengers who fly each year.

But many worry airport expansion could be having a detrimental impact on the environment. Local campaign groups, such as Stop Stanstead Expansion and HACAN ClearSkies, have sprung up in protest against the air and noise pollution associated with large airports.

Airport expansion could also be bad for the economy. Highlighting figures from the Office of National Statistics, Friends of the Earth said today expansion of regional airports could mean more people travelling and spending money abroad - hitting the local economy.

FoE claims boom in cheap flights costs economy millions

Richard Dyer, aviation campaigner at Friends of the Earth (FoE), has claimed that the boom in flights from the UK's regional airports is costing the economy millions of pounds. His comments come as research from FoE shows that travellers are spending an average £15 billion more abroad each year than people coming to the UK.

Speaking to BBC Radio Wales' 'Good Morning Wales' programme about the research, Mr Dyer said that FoE used figures from the National Office of Statistics.

He explained: "What we have done is we have actually broken down those figures on a regional basis, and it shows that the problem is worse than we thought."

"We knew there was a problem nationally, but what is actually happening is that London is showing a small positive result, which means the regions are actually suffering even worse than we thought."

Speaking about Wales specifically, Mr Dyer said: "The figure for 2004 is £750 million. That is three quarters of a billion."

"There are big expansion plans in aviation, as everybody knows, and we expect that figure will double by 2020. It will be up to £1.5 billion. So that is money flowing out of the economy over money flowing in."

He claimed that the amount people spend when visiting another country is fairly similar, and so the figures are directly linked to the amount of people coming into or going out of the UK. He said: "Much more of us fly out to other destinations than tourists visiting the UK. That is the simple mathematics of it."

He said that people are being attracted by the cheap price of air tickets, attacking the airline industry because of the subsidies it receives through not paying tax on fuel, or not paying VAT.

He claimed: "That's why the airlines are able to offer these crazy deals, whereas the domestic tourism industry has to pay taxes like everybody else. So it is often cheaper to take a flight to Prague than to go to a B&B on the North Wales coast."

BATA: Air travel boosts the economy

The British Air Transport Association (BATA) today dismissed the claim by Friends of the Earth that expansion in air travel is bad for the economy and the regions.

A spokesman said there is "no evidence" airport expansion hits the economy and the industry supports 200,000 direct jobs and 600,000 indirectly.

He said BATA supported expansion of airports subject to environmental constraints, and the expansion of regional airports would relieve pressure on those in the south-east.

"About 18 million foreign visitors flew to Britain last year and this is set to grow, partly because of the expansion of regional airports," he said. "Improving air links between the regions and Europe is vital to the development of regional businesses and the ability to attract overseas investment."

He said the availability of cheaper air fares had also made flying much more "socially inclusive".

BAA: Airport expansion good for the economy

BAA said today airport expansion was good for the economy and dismissed a report by Friends of the Earth suggesting otherwise as "ladybird economics".

A spokeswoman for BAA said airport expansion would actually help the economy as it would create new jobs. It was also needed to keep the UK internationally competitive and relieve congestion in areas such as the south-east.

In relation to a possible balance of payments deficit created by airports, she said such a deficit was associated with many industries, including car manufacture. Any increase in the cost of air travel, as urged by green campaigners, would simply encourage tourists to visit other countries instead of the UK, she said.

The clear reason why air travel is increasing is because people want to "go away for a bit of sun every year", she said and it would be wrong to put limits on people's freedom to do this.

Government: Managed expansion a good thing

The government said today that expansion of regional airports could provide benefits to the local community as long as it was properly managed.

A spokesman for the Department of Transport told politics.co.uk that the government did not want to see the unchecked growth of airports but a managed expansion of regional facilities could bring benefits.

He said airport expansion could create new local jobs as well as ensuring businesses had access to international trade.

"The government doesn't want to stop people who choose to travel abroad," he said. "As long as planning criteria are met and environmental impact is taken to account, expansion of regional airports can be a good thing."

Lib Dems: Economic benefits of airports exaggerated

The Liberal Democrats said today the economic benefits of airport expansion were exaggerated and the government should consider the environmental impact of air travel.

Responding to the Friends of the Earth report suggesting airport expansion hits local economies, transport spokesman Tom Brake said it showed the "exaggerated claims" about the positive effects of airport expansion did not stand up to scrutiny.

He also pointed to the environmental impact of air travel, highlighting the fact that aviation is now the fastest growing source of carbon dioxide pollution in the transport sector. "The environmental impact of airport expansion must weigh very heavily against any economic benefit," he said.

Conservatives: Moratorium of expansion needed

The Conservatives said today any further expansion of airports in the country should be carefully managed and those who are hit by the expansion should be compensated.

Transport policy advisor James North told politics.co.uk that the Tories had a three-pronged strategy. Firstly, "there should be a moratorium on all airport expansion until the government signed up to the new EU emissions trading scheme - designed to curb emissions of carbon dioxide," he said.

Secondly, there should a better compensation package for those who suffered from the negative impacts of airport expansion, "not just in the footprint of the airport but beyond".

Thirdly, there should be no "cross subsidy" of airports, so large airport owning companies could not use the profits from one airport to increase the size of another site - thereby forcing passengers to use a different airport.

HACAN ClearSkies: Expansion hits environment and economy

Campaign group HACAN ClearSkies said today the tax breaks on aviation had created an artificial demand for air travel which was damaging the environment and was bad for the economy.

Chair John Stewart told politics.co.uk that today's Friends of the Earth report was significant as it showed how airport expansion did not help the economy.

He said the government should look at airport expansion again, which was driven by an "artificial demand" on the back of tax breaks for the aviation industry.

"If the industry paid its fair share of tax, growth in demand would be moderated and there would be no need to build new runways," he insisted.

He also said the expansion in air travel was bad for the environment - with emissions from planes adding to climate change - and undermined the quality of life for those near airports, who faced "a motorway overhead, a sky of sound".

Stop Stanstead Expansion: Expansion hits economy and environment

Campaign group Stop Stanstead Expansion welcomed the study by Friends of the Earth suggesting airport expansion hit the economy as well as the environment, and called on the government to tax the aviation industry more.

Economics advisor Brian Ross highlighted the figures showing the aviation industry caused a £15 billion balance of payments deficit for Britain last year.

He said it "beggars belief" that the government continues to give tax exemptions to the aviation industry despite the fact that it is the "fastest growing cause of global warming" and "a massive drain on regional economies".

Criticising the aviation industry, he said the promotion of airport expansion was wrong and aircraft companies were basically saying: "To hell with the planet and to hell with the national economy, our business interests come first."


Radio Essex: 12.30 News

Unofficial transcript - 5 August 2005

BBC: Airport expansion is harming our economy - that's according to environmentalists. Research by Friends of the Earth is suggesting that UK air travellers are spending 15 bn pounds more money abroad each year than the amount being spent by visitors to the UK. The environmental group is claiming that low cost flights and airport expansion are damaging tourist spots in this country.

Alistair McDermid is the Director of Stansted Generation 2 which is overseeing the plans for the second runway at the Essex terminal. What do you reckon to these comments by Friends of the Earth that expansion of airports and the plethora of low cost airlines is actually damaging our economy?

BAA: Well, this is a selective quoting of statistics and, being selective, it invites a wrong and misleading conclusion. In fact, the statistics they quote ignore many other factors which are relevant here: the value to local businesses of exports from the region, inward investment to the region and the value of business trips abroad, so it is a very narrow definition that they have looked at and is misleading in that sense.

BBC: These are the comments of Richard Dyer from Friends of the Earth; we spoke to him on BBC Essex Breakfast this morning: He said: "What politicians often say is: 'We know it is a problem for the environment but it is so good for the economy; it is so good for jobs.' What we are saying is, hang on, there is another reason here why it is bad news expanding airports. It's bad for the environment; it is also not so good for the economy either. Sure, aviation creates jobs like any industry but let us get a better balance about the figures on tourism because there is a serious drain on the economy of the country going on here."

BAA: I think that what we would say is that you need to look at the total picture. The East of England region is the second largest exporter of any region in the country, worth £17.5 bn or thereabouts. There are 11,000 jobs located in the region from inward investing companies and many other factors as well, so if you look at it in the round then you get a much more valid picture. That's what we would say.

BBC: Friends of the Earth are also concerned that the Government is not going to meet its target when it comes to cutting emissions. Richard Dyer said: "We've got a problem in that the Government's target cuts are seriously under threat because of aviation expansion and it is likely to make it unachievable simply because the amount of pollution from aviation will be so large that even if other industries cut their pollution, it simply won't be enough, so we can't let the aviation industry grow as fast as it is."

Alistair, you are overseeing the plans to expand Stansted Airport for the second runway there. Do you reckon that Friends of the Earth have a point there that because so much expansion is taking place, emissions are just simply going to grow and grow?

BAA: I think they are confusing two facts. The first thing is that aviation is good for the economy and that is the view that the Government takes as well. The second thing is that there is a very real environmental issue, mostly to do with climate change, which the industry is already addressing along with the Government. The way of addressing that is not to stop people travelling - it is to move towards a capped emissions trading system which will prevent existing pollution levels being increased.

Note: The figures in the Report were calculated by Friends of the Earth and Brian Ross from the 'Stop Stansted Expansion' campaign using statistics provided by the Office of National Statistics

The report demonstrates that:
The boom in flights from airports in the East of England is coming at a hefty cost to the local economy, with the region losing almost five times more revenue than it gains from aviation, according to new research published today by Friends of the Earth using data from the Office of National Statistics. UK air travellers using the regions airports are spending £1.9 billion more abroad per year more than foreign visitors flying in to the region, contradicting claims that airport expansion is good for the economy.

The situation could get a lot worse if the region's airports, Stansted, Norwich, Southend and Luton, expand to cater for further growth in passenger numbers. The number of trips abroad by UK residents would increase far more than the number of visitors to the UK. The proposed expansion would lead to an annual deficit to the region of £3.8 billion by 2020. Popular tourist destinations, such as the Great Yarmouth, Cromer and Hunstanton are particularly likely to suffer.

Pat Dale

4 August 2005


Sinead Holland - Herts & Essex Observer - 4 August 2005

Airport bosses have been accused of performing the "dance of the seven veils" as they reveal their plans for Stansted's expansion.

BAA chiefs came under fire as they launched a three month consultation period for their application to handle 35 million passengers per year by 2015. Around 22 mppa currently pass through the Uttlesford gateway and the present permitted capacity of 25 mppa is expected to be exceeded by 2007.

At the same time management also issued a draft "lnterim master plan" outlining its vision for the airport over the next decade – but neither of the two documents include details of the second runway bosses also want to build by 2015. They stressed that their current focus is making the best use of the existing landing strip.

First to hear the details were members of the Stansted Airport Consultative Committee. Member Peter Wilcock made the "seven veils" jibe as both he and Norman Mead, who represents the North West Essex and East Herts Preservation Association, said it was impossible to scrutinise facts and figures unless all the information was on the table at the same time. Mr Wilcock said: "It would be better if we could see the whole model."

Instead, Stansted's managing director, Terry Morgan has revealed that a further consultation document will be released in November to discuss the location of the second runway. He hoped Uttlesfortd District Council could be persuaded to deal with the application separately because the airport would need extra capacity sooner rather than later.

He and his team then delivered that message to more than 150 community leaders at a special reception. They will take their travelling road show to 27 towns and villages over the next 12 weeks in a bid to make their position clear and get feedback which will be used to shape their planning application.

Mr Morgan said: "We are really really committed to ensuring that people have the maximum opportunity to express their opinions over the best use of the existing runway, but to do so in the knowledge that there may be a second runway – but look at it on its own merits."

Note: The road show commences on September 1st at both Newport Church House and Braintree Learning for Life Centre. It will remain there all day from 10 a.m. until 8.0 p.m.

OUR COMMENT: "There may be a second runway" Are BAA beginning to have doubts?

Pat Dale

2 August 2005


The consultation paper "Growing Stansted airport on the existing runway" has been distributed to a number of people with the new issue of BAA's News sheet "Plane Talk". If you are not one of those who have received a copy and you intend to respond to the questions asked (and possibly to some that have not been included!) then you should order the full copy either by downloading it from www.stanstedairport.com/future or by telephoning 0800 783 1764. The consultation closes on October 31st.

A preliminary survey of the paper - which claims that your answers will help BAA to complete their formal Planning Application for expansion to Uttlesford District Council - shows that BAA, like the government, is still using the word "sustainable development" to describe a process that can never be regarded as sustainable either locally or nationally.

For example, any growth of air traffic at Stansted will, as shown in the predictions, lead to big increases in greenhouse gases and water usage. The effects on climate change can only be mitigated by other sections of society having to reduce their own energy use. Increase in water use will have to be compensated for by savings elsewhere. The real question that both BAA and the government have to answer is where are those savings going to be made? As yet there are no carbon neutral planes on the horizon and no practical plans to improve the water supplies of the driest region in the UK (the M11 area being one of the driest areas within the region).

BAA presents the predicted figures of energy and water use for 2015 (including airport use only, and relying on future efficiency savings) as an improvement, by comparing the airport's present energy and water use per passenger with those in 2015, rather than the overall demand. In the case of water the figures for the original predictions for 2010 made for the application to expand to 25 mppa are included - they were higher than the new 2015 predictions so the implicit suggestion is that there has been a significant future saving of water, though no explanation is given as to how this will be achieved.

The question of the emissions from the increase in the number of planes using the airport (another 30,000 flights are predicted - 274,000 in place of the present limit of 241,000), is dismissed as being a matter for the proposed EU carbon emissions trading scheme to deal with.

It is important to remember that although the draft East of England Plan supports the full use of the present runway, the Sustainability Appraisal of the Plan makes it clear that in the consultants' view the extended use of runway 1 as well as the building of runway 2, would lead to a rise in carbon emissions that would be inconsistent with the government's policy of trying to reduce such emissions.


This Plan is now a statutory requirement for airport operators and is intended to help local Planning Authorities as it will provide an account of the future intentions of their local airports. BAA has chosen to restrict itself to its plans for the present runway and to postpone any consideration of the changes expected with runway 2 until various essential studies have been completed, probably not until 2007.

It should not be regarded as part of the actual Local Planning Framework, simply as a statement of a local developer's intent. It may have the apparent backing of the government's Aviation White Paper, but it still has to pass the Planning procedures and to satisfy an independent Environmental Impact/Sustainability Appraisal. It, too, has been put out for consultation and can be downloaded from the website or obtained from 0800 783 1764.

The information given is basically identical to that in the first document, though much more information is given about the actual organisation of the airport and its associated businesses. The issues are the same, that of expansion and its effects. There are questions to be answered and it is hoped that as many people as possible will respond.

Pat Dale

30 July 2005


US in plan to bypass Kyoto protocol

Paul Brown and Jamie Wilson in Washington - The Guardian - 28 July 2005

The United States and Australia have been working in secret for 12 months on an alternative to the Kyoto protocol and will reveal today a joint pact with China, India and South Korea to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The deal, which will be formally announced by the US deputy secretary of state Robert Zoellick in Laos today when the five "partners" hold a press conference, comes a month after Tony Blair struggled at the G8 summit to get George Bush to commit to any action on climate change.

Details of the agreement are not yet public but it is clear it is designed to give US and Australian companies selling renewable energy and carbon dioxide-cutting technologies access to markets in Asia.

It is thought the pact does not include any targets and timetables for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which the rest of the developed world has signed up to under Kyoto.

The US, Australia and China are big coal exporters and are anxious to develop and export clean coal technologies.

The existence of the pact appeared to come as a surprise to Downing Street yesterday.

The government eventually issued a statement through the Department for Environment welcoming the agreement but warning that it could not replace Kyoto. It also made clear that Mr Blair would continue to discuss climate change with America, China and India, as part of his G8 presidency.

Oliver Letwin, the Conservative environment spokesman, said it was "odd" that the pact had not figured in the Gleneagles discussions but added: "I hope that it means Bush at last accepts the need to move in a sensible direction."

Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth, described Mr Bush's failure to disclose the deal at Gleneagles as "a poke in the eye for Tony Blair".

The existence of the pact, and the fact it was designed as an alternative to Kyoto, were disclosed by Australia's environment minister, Senator Ian Campbell.

He said: "It is quite clear that the Kyoto protocol won't get the world to where it wants to go. We have got to find something that works better. We need to develop technologies which can be developed in Australia and exported around the world - but it also shows that what we're doing now, under the Kyoto protocol, is entirely ineffective. Anyone who tells you that the Kyoto protocol, or signing the Kyoto protocol is the answer, doesn't understand the question."

Kyoto would fail because "it engages very few countries, most of the countries in it will not reach their targets, and it ignores the big looming problem - that's the rapidly developing countries".

He disclosed that the US and Australia had been working on the deal for 12 months.

The British government statement said: "We welcome any action taken by governments to reduce greenhouse gases... The announcement from Australia and others certainly does not replace the Kyoto process.

"Kyoto represents a historic first step in world cooperation but needs to be built on post 2012 - that process continues in Montreal later this year. We made excellent progress on climate change at Gleneagles.

"The G8 leaders, including President Bush, signed up to a plan of action to reduce emissions. In addition... China, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and India, were brought into the debate on energy needs, development and climate change, on equal terms."

The trade agreements in the Kyoto protocol allowed developed countries, and companies in them, to export clean technologies to developing countries and make money by claiming carbon credits. These credits are the notional tonnes of carbon saved by using low-carbon technologies and renewables to generate electricity rather than dirty coal or other fossil fuel plants. These deals are not open to the US and Australia because they repudiated the treaty.

Environment groups across the world yesterday expressed doubts that the US was doing any more than safeguarding its own trade in technology.

Mr Juniper said that only a legally binding treaty which set targets and timetables to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would achieve the 60% reductions which scientists said were required to save the planet from climate change.

"I fear this is another attempt to undermine Kyoto and a message to the developing world to buy US technology and not to worry about targets and timetables."

US environmental groups agreed and pointed to an energy bill expected to move through Congress this week which includes $8.5bn in tax incentives and billions of dollars more in loan guarantees and other subsidies for the electricity, coal, nuclear, natural gas and oil industries.

The White House said that President Bush intended to sign the bill.


Vision Statement of Australia, China, India, Japan, The Republic of Korea, and the United States of America for a new Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate

Development and poverty eradication are urgent and overriding goals internationally. The World Summit on Sustainable Development made clear the need for increased access to affordable, reliable and cleaner energy and the international community agreed in the Delhi Declaration on Climate Change and Sustainable Development on the importance of the development agenda in considering any climate change approach.

We each have different natural resource endowments, and sustainable development and energy strategies, but we are already working together and will continue to work to achieve common goals. By building on the foundation of existing bilateral and multilateral initiatives, we will enhance cooperation to meet both our increased energy needs and associated challenges, including those related to air pollution, energy security, and greenhouse gas intensities.

To this end, we will work together, in accordance with our respective national circumstances, to create a new partnership to develop, deploy and transfer cleaner, more efficient technologies and to meet national pollution reduction, energy security and climate change concerns, consistent with the principles of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The partnership will collaborate to promote and create an enabling environment for the development, diffusion, deployment and transfer of existing and emerging cost-effective, cleaner technologies and practices, through concrete and substantial cooperation so as to achieve practical results. Areas for collaboration may include, but not be limited to: energy efficiency, clean coal, integrated gasification combined cycle, liquefied natural gas, carbon capture and storage, combined heat and power, methane capture and use, civilian nuclear power, geothermal, rural/village energy systems, advanced transportation, building and home construction and operation, bioenergy, agriculture and forestry, hydropower, wind power, solar power, and other renewables.

The partnership will also cooperate on the development, diffusion, deployment and transfer of longer-term transformational energy technologies that will promote economic growth while enabling significant reductions in greenhouse gas intensities. Areas for mid- to long-term collaboration may include, but not be limited to: hydrogen, nanotechnologies, advanced biotechnologies, next-generation nuclear fission, and fusion energy.

The partnership will share experiences in developing and implementing our national sustainable development and energy strategies, and explore opportunities to reduce the greenhouse gas intensities of our economies.

We will develop a non-binding compact in which the elements of this shared vision, as well as the ways and means to implement it, will be further defined. In particular, we will consider establishing a framework for the partnership, including institutional and financial arrangements and ways to include other interested and like-minded countries.

The partnership will also help the partners build human and institutional capacity to strengthen cooperative efforts, and will seek opportunities to engage the private sector. We will review the partnership on a regular basis to ensure its effectiveness.

The partnership will be consistent with and contribute to our efforts under the UNFCCC and will complement, but not replace, the Kyoto Protocol.


Climate Change: A New Environment

Why, after being so implacably opposed for so long to the Kyoto protocol, did the US perform a U-turn yesterday? To the complete surprise of even its closest allies, it announced a new pact with five Asian-Pacific states to cut greenhouse gases. Together, the six states - Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea plus the United States - account for over 40% of the global warming gases that are already changing our climate.

Australia's Green Party was in no doubt about the motive, describing the move as a self-protecting "coal pact" involving four of the world's largest coal producers. But within the US and Australia there was a separate business motive: clean energy technology is set to be a boom industry of the 21st century. Both states, being outside Kyoto, were in danger of losing out to the trading in this technology that the protocol promotes.

Meanwhile, China, while keen to maintain the phenomenal expansion of its economy, is also aware of the dangers of climate change with its internal deserts expanding and its prosperous eastern seaboard vulnerable to rising tides.

Whatever the motive, yesterday's pact is symbolically significant, even if in practice it changes little. Belatedly even the US president, whose bread has been buttered by the fossil fuel industry has acknowledged that global warming is a problem.

Thanks for this change are in part due to the 132 American City Mayors and several state governors who voluntarily signed up to help meet the targets that Kyoto set for the US. This support was not confined to the Democratic party. Leading Republican figures, such as Senator John McCain and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, once and future stars of the Republican party signalled their strong support for a ceiling on US carbon dioxide emissions.

Yesterday's pact, alas, does not contain any legally binding obligations on any of the parties in respect of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The environmental lobby was right in its declarations that without clear and unequivocal caps on emissions, the pact is meaningless. The US is the world's biggest generator of greenhouse gases, accounting for 25% of the total.

As Friends of the Earth noted: "It looks as though this will be business as usual for the United States".

Even so, Sir David King, the government's chief scientist, who believes climate change is a bigger threat than terrorism, gave the pact a cautious welcome as long as it moved on to cap emissions. The true test will be the forthcoming UN climate change convention in Montreal called to set post-2012 goals.

30 July 2005


The EU carries on with plans for extending emissions trading -
including aviation

Environment Daily 1923 - 27 July 2005

Full details have emerged of draft European Commission proposals to include aviation in the EU emission trading scheme to help tackle the sector's rising greenhouse gas emissions.

A draft seen by Environment Daily recommends making airlines subject to the scheme. All flights departing any EU airport would be included - the alternative option of covering only intra-EU flights would address less than 40% of these emissions, it says.

Both carbon dioxide (CO2) and non-CO2 impacts should be included as far as possible, it goes on. Numbers of emission allowances could be determined by CO2 emissions multiplied by a factor for other climate impacts. Alternatively, emissions like nitrogen oxides could be dealt with separately, for example through differentiated airport charges.

The scheme's economic impacts would be very limited, the paper suggests. Modelling suggests that ticket prices would increase by €0-9 per passenger per return flight. Air transport demand might grow by 3% less over five years than without the scheme.

Other measures should be taken alongside emission trading, the paper says. EU states could more consistently apply energy taxation to aircraft fuel (an option so far only taken up by the Netherlands) it says. Europe's air traffic management system could be improved. And research should be given a higher priority.

The Commission is due to publish the communication as early as September, having abandoned plans to issue it this month. Drafted by the environment directorate, it must still go through inter-service consultation with other Commission departments.

At the outset, the communication was supposed to reflect on the pros and cons of different economic instruments that could be used to tackle aviation's climate impacts. It became clear earlier this year that emission trading would be the preferred option.

Advantages, the paper says, include the fact that the EU already operates the world's largest industrial greenhouse gas emission trading system. Incorporating aviation should lower costs for the aviation sector and the whole EU for the same effect on emissions. Emissions trading is a fundamental part of the Kyoto protocol and has been endorsed by the International civil aviation organisation (ICAO).

The paper faults emission charging, the main alternative, because it would not be as efficient as a large emission trading scheme, and because it has aroused controversy within Icao. It dismisses a third option of ticket or departure taxes as likely to depress demand without promoting better environmental performance.

The draft proposes setting up an aviation working group to come up with more detailed rules by next summer. It envisages the Commission making legislative proposals before the end of 2006.

26 July 2005


Pollution levy could push up price of European air fares

George Parker in Brussels - Financial Times - 25 July 2005

Ticket prices for return flights out of European airports could rise by up to 9 Euros (£6.25) under Brussels plans to make airlines pay for the pollution they cause.

The European Commission wants to include airlines in its strategy to tackle climate change, putting them in the same category as power generators and oil refineries.

Under plans seen by the Financial Times, the Commission wants airlines included in Europe's emissions trading scheme, which caps the amount of carbon dioxide the industry is allowed to produce.

The proposal has the backing of the British European Presidency, and is accepted by some big airlines including British Airways.

An aide to Stavros Dimas, EU environment commissioner, said, "some airlines see this as inevitable and the least bad solution, but Lufthansa is among those which are concerned."

Mr Dimas said that including airlines in the emissions trading scheme was "the most promising way forward", preferable to alternatives including a tax on kerosene or a new ticket tax. His draft proposal accepts that the cost of the emissions crackdown is "likely to be passed on to air transport users" with a surcharge on a return ticket of up to 9 Euros.

Mr Dimas hopes to present his plan in the autumn, after a wide-ranging environmental programme was approved in principle by the Commission last week. However, new legislation is unlikely to come into force until several years after the original 2008 target date.

The draft paper says: "As regards the coverage of flights, the Commission believes that all emissions from any flight departing from the EU should be included." The inclusion of non-EU airlines would help protect the competitiveness of European airlines.

The Commission adds that limiting the scheme to flights both departing from and landing inside the EU would address only 40% of the emissions caused by flights leaving European airports.

Europe's emissions trading scheme, which started on January 1st, the first of its kind in the world, caps emissions of carbon dioxide. Companies are issued with free permits for each tonne of carbon dioxide they may produce. Cleaner companies that do not use their allowance can sell their permits on the market to companies lagging behind.

The Association of European Airlines said it was evaluating the emissions trading scheme but was already using better technology to reduce emissions.

OUR COMMENT: A detailed analysis of the possibilities of including aviation in the EU emissions trading scheme has been carried out by CE, Delft - "Giving wings to emission trading" at www.ce.nl

Pat Dale

26 July 2005


The starting date has been postponed until November 1st, giving everyone a longer time to prepare further submissions. This means that the sessions could continue until the 3rd March, with a break for Xmas and two breaks in the middle of both the pre and post Xmas sessions. The venue for the post Xmas sessions has not yet been arranged.

The second preliminary meeting was held on the 19th July at the Maltings in Ely and the chairman of the Panel clarified a number of points but final arrangements will not be known until a third meeting on September 14th. It is hoped that a final list of participants invited to take part in the verbal discussions will be available within the next 2 weeks and a timetable by the middle of August.

Meantime the secretarial staff have completed the mammoth task of selecting a representative number of short summaries of some of the 22,000 representations and these are available on the Go-east website - www.goeast.gov.uk/goeast/planning/regional_planning/rss_eip_panel_sec/277142/. They are in chapter order and are very helpful as it helps those intending to make a further submission choose which other representations they ought to read in full. The staff are to be congratulated on their work.

Further submissions do not have to be sent in until 27th September for those matters being discussed before Xmas and 9th December for those after Xmas. They must be under 2000 words and the Panel Secretary asked for the respondent's number to be put at the top right hand of every sheet of paper, with a special plea for the avoidance of emails with headed designs, icons etc. (they take so much longer to down load!), and care with stapling paper copies, one copy to be left free for easy photocopying and also printed on one side only.

Further instructions from the chairman on the content of the submissions were not so easy! Further clarification will be given, but those objecting to site specific developments or wishing to actively support them are asked to include a sustainability appraisal. He accepted that the standards of the appraisal might be very variable but the Panel could request an independent one if it was felt necessary.

However, this did not apply to Stansted airport. At the moment it appears that there will be no discussion on the policies in the Aviation White Paper, only on the actual effects of an expanding airport on the Region itself and whether the policies in the Plan have allowed for them. This must surely include the effects of a second runway, (which was not included in the Plan), if only because there are a number of objections to this omission. More clarification is promised on these points.

Two presentations were made. The first was by the Environment Agency, who had assessed the effects of the Plan on the water resources. Their conclusion was that even with 25% efficiency savings in water use in all new houses, there would still be a need for additional water resources as beyond 2021 there would be an inevitable water deficit (shown on the maps as in the M11 corridor area and east Norfolk./ Suffolk).

The second presentation was by the Highways Agency who had modelled the effects of the Plan, which includes the Regional Transport Strategy. Their conclusions were that while the proposed strategy would deal with most of the predicted increase in traffic, congestion was likely to remain in certain routes even after improvements. These included the M11 south of Stansted airport, which is one of the main access routes to the airport.

Both reports are available on the Go-east website and are very relevant to the issue of airport expansion as well as to the huge increase in housing proposed for the M11 corridor.

Pat Dale

25 July 2005


David Gow in Brussels - The Guardian - 21 July 2005

The European Commission is to go ahead with plans to force governments and industry to improve air quality by cutting emissions, despite a furious row among commissioners yesterday over the cost of environmental policies.

Stavros Dimas, environmental commissioner, who won strong backing for fresh measures to combat pollution in the face of opposition led by president Jose Manuel Barroso, is also due to present plans to include aviation fuel within the EU's emissions trading scheme this autumn.

Opponents, including Gunter Verheugen, industry commissioner, are certain to dilute proposals to force the transport sector to improve air quality because of fears that the costs will damage the overall EU strategy of boosting jobs and growth.

Mr Dimas told his fellow commissioners the measures to cut pollutants would cost 12bn Euros a year but would bring 48bn Euros in benefits in the form of improved health.

He also indicated he would go ahead with proposals, backed by Britain, the presidency holder, to include aviation within the emissions trading scheme rather than the more costly and difficult options of imposing new taxes or a user charge. The scheme sets a cap on CO2 emissions for industry.

Officials pointed out a single passenger flight from Europe to New York emits as much CO2 as a medium-sized family car in a year. The airline industry favours carbon trading, despite resistance from some carriers.

Chris Davies, leader of Lib-Dem MEPs, said Whitehall had estimated that with a relatively low cap this would add 1 Euro to the costs of flights. The delays were a "betrayal of promises" by Mr Barroso that there was no conflict between economic growth and environmental improvement. Some green groups welcomed the decision to go ahead, even with diluted measures.

The UK industry last year cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 14.4m tonnes, more than double the government's target.

OUR COMMENT: Industry has made a good start. Transport continues to increase emissions, notably from the increase in vehicle traffic and especially from the increase in the number of aircraft flights, whose total effects on climate change are worse than those of the CO2 emissions themselves by a factor generally accepted to be about 2.7.

Pat Dale

21 July 2005


Tony Berkeley says BA's argument that airlines should join an EU
emissions trading scheme is an attempt to dodge its responsibilities

The Observer - 17 July 2005

In his piece 'Don't tax airlines for sins of emissions' (Observer Business, 3 July), BA chairman Martin Broughton told us that his airline doesn't mind buying the right to continue polluting from other industry sectors via an emissions trading scheme (ETS), so long as the price is right. This is not Enigma-level code - he means a very low price.

The European ETS that Broughton, along with industry players such as airport operator BAA, is so keen on joining is, at its theoretical best, a carbon rationing and taxation system. But emissions trading schemes are untested and unproven on the scale currently envisaged across Europe.

There is already an increasing reluctance by some of the players involved, both countries and industrial sectors, to play by the allocation rules and accept the costs of participation and compliance.

Many other industry sectors are worried that including aviation in the embryonic European ETS would lead to massive fluctuations in supply and demand - fine if you can afford to fly, not so good if you want to heat your home. These schemes are simply gambling with our climate.

But in reality, research by the Aviation Environment Federation estimates that under one likely ETS scenario linked to Kyoto-type targets, BA, with about 22 million intra-European passengers emitting 3 million tonnes of CO2 a year, could simply be given a 'grandfathered' emissions allowance based on its 1990 CO2 output. BA might only have to buy about 900,000 tonnes of CO2, which would add about 66p to a return ticket price. This would have virtually no supply-or-demand side effect.

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 are.

The former Observer journalist Greg Palast has looked at the genesis of emission trading schemes, which began life in the US as, in his view, Kyoto compliance avoidance schemes. In his 2003 book The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Palast describes emissions trading as 'the ugly stepchild of the new mania to replace regulation with schemes that pose as "market" solutions ... It provides a pretence of action to the public while giving winking assurance to industry that the status quo is not disturbed.'

The British government has a menu of market-based approaches to control and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft, which includes a fuel tax and en-route emissions charges. Current thinking at EU level is broadly similar and we expect to see this menu reflected in the forthcoming EU communication on this topic.

The European Commission's own Transport and Energy Policy Advisory Forum, of which I am a member, has also suggested that a menu-driven approach is required.

Supporting the UK and EU way forward, when added to tougher operational and fuel-efficiency standards and performance, is the only solution to actually control and reduce greenhouse gases from air transport. Shifting the millions of short-haul European flights (under 500 kilometres) to rail would be good too.

In his article, Broughton wrote that 'High motor fuel taxes haven't prevented congestion'. This is true to an extent - but can he imagine what our roads would look like if we all paid zero tax or VAT on our petrol, as his airline does?

The total external costs (costs that are generated by, not borne by, the industry) of air transport are currently estimated at £36 per 1,000 passenger/km and for air freight, £184 per 1,000 tonne/km.

Adding these costs to ticket prices and shipping costs should have an impact on reducing both demand and pollution. Turning these external costs into a congestion charge for the skies at the rate suggested previously would work out at just 3.6 pence per passenger/km and should be introduced gradually over a three- to five-year period.

Policymakers should initially aim to halve the current projected growth rate of air transport, to bring it 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 that also create thousands of jobs. It is difficult to 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.

Our environment cannot cope with industry leaders like British Airways and BAA promoting 'business as usual'. Their support for emissions trading is merely a light green curtain in front of a stage full of pollution. 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 just 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.

NOTE: Tony Berkeley is a member of the House of Lords. He is also a member of the European Commission's Transport and Energy Policy Advisory Forum and president of the Aviation Environment Federation.

21 July 2005


Mark Milner - The Guardian - 20 July 2005

British Airways chairman Martin Broughton yesterday labelled the world's airline industry as "crazy" and lambasted governments for keeping ailing carriers afloat. He said the industry was forecast to lose $5.5bn this year, bringing the cumulative loss top more then $40bn since the turn of the century.

Yet, in the United States, the government "continues to prop up the walking dead" through the use of the chapter11 bankruptcy procedures, while the European Commission "approves what looks to us like more state aid for Alitalia", Mr Broughton told shareholders at the annual meeting.

The industry had to shoulder blame for its situation. Earlier this year Europe's 60th no-frills airline had taken to the skies, Mr Broughton said: "That there is room for several no-frills airlines is self-evident, but 60?"

Mr Broughton's greatest ire was reserved for the way in which new route rights were negotiated at government to government level and which could only be operated by nationally owned carriers.

"In an industry crying out for consolidation, any Wall Street investment banker dreaming up a poison pill as effective as the bilateral system would be in court at best and in jail more likely."

"Against this crazy background though, British Airways has performed very well."

Mr Broughton acknowledged that BA still faced a number of challenges. Its £1.4bn pension deficit was the third largest among FTSE companies, accounting changes had reduced its ability to pay a dividend and costs needed to be driven down further ahead of the move to the new terminal five at Heathrow, Mr Broughton said.

The BA chairman paid tribute to outgoing chief executive Sir Rod Eddington, who steps down at the end of September. "I was asked recently what was Rod's greatest legacy to the company. I replied that perhaps his greatest legacy is that we're still here to ask what his greatest legacy was."

Mr Broughton said that the airline would be reviewing its plans for new planes for its long haul fleet but said that the relative newness of its existing aircraft meant it had plenty of time to mull over its options.

"A board paper will be coming within the next three months. We are in the happy position that we don't need to make a decision yet."

21 July 2005


Environment Daily 1921 - 20 July 2005

EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas fought off demands for a freeze on new European environmental policy making on Wednesday during a special debate of the full European Commission. The EU executive is now set to release thematic strategies on seven environmental themes between September and December.

Commission insiders praised Mr Dimas for having "turned the debate around". It had earlier seemed possible that the strategies could have been further delayed or watered down after several earlier postponements. European environmentalists reacted with relief at the news that they will instead go ahead as planned.

A majority of commissioners rallied to Mr Dimas' side in the debate, according to sources, including Neely Kroes (competition), Margot Wallström (communication but formerly environment), Jacques Barrot (transport) and Mariann Fischer-Boel (agriculture).

"It was a learning process for the Commission", an official close to Mr Dimas told Environment Daily. Essentially, Commission president José Manuel Barroso learned "how not to dismiss a policy that is essential to the European model".

Mr Dimas and his supporters stressed the existence of strong public support throughout Europe for proactive EU environmental policies. The commissioner also argued that the strategies would contribute to long-term economic sustainability, not undermine it.

The debate was sparked by fears that new environmental rules would cost too much and conflict with Mr Barroso's overriding aim of boosting jobs and growth. An estimate that the proposed new air quality strategy Cafe will cost €12bn per year to implement is thought to have triggered the process. During the meeting, enterprise commissioner Günter Verheugen said that existing EU air pollution rules already cost the bloc €18bn per year.

Other commissioners critical of the strategies included Peter Mandelson (trade), Charlie McCreevy (internal market), Andris Piebalgs (energy) and Jo Borg (fisheries), according to a source. Mr Mandelson pointed to the EU's enormous implementation deficit with environmental rules as a reason for caution before adding more.

Until June, two of the seven strategies – Café (air Quality) and a strategy on the marine environment - were due to be adopted this month. Cafe is now likely to be first in the queue, with adoption due in September, an official said. The other five strategies cover pesticide use, the urban environment, resource use, waste recycling and soil management.

Though Mr Dimas' environment department has regained the upper hand, its ascendancy could be temporary. The details of all the strategies will be subjected to comment and challenge from the whole Commission as they go through internal consultation, an official noted.

Mr Barroso reaffirmed the Commission's commitment to European leadership on environment on Wednesday. For each individual strategy in turn the devil could still prove to be in the detail.

OUR COMMENT: Mr Dimas has also supported an early introduction of aviation into the EU emissions trading scheme, and the imposition of an aviation tax. There were fears that the new commission was forgetting the need for sustainable development, and pushing for economic growth without considering the environmental effects, especially climate change.

Pat Dale

18 July 2005


BAA London trading meets expectations

Kevin Done - The Financial Times - 16 July 2005

BAA said yesterday that its performance in the first three months of the financial year had been "in line" with its forecasts for growth in passenger traffic at its three London airports.

Investors had been expecting year-on-year growth of 3.5% at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports in the period from April to June. Net retail income per passenger was also forecast to grow by more than one per cent, Marcus Agius, chairman, told the company's annual meeting. Passenger traffic through Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports grew in the 12 months to March by 6.2% to 120.8m.

Mr Agius added that the group was facing problems in the timetable laid down by the 2003 government white paper for building the planned second runway and terminal buildings at Stansted airport. He said government policy was at odds with the demands of the Civil Aviation Authority, the economic regulator for the three BAA London airports.

BAA might be able to carry out the £4bn Stansted development by 2013 only if it received a "limited stream of revenue from outside Stansted's own operations" he said. The CAA has so far opposed such "cross-subsidisation" using revenues from Heathrow or Gatwick airports to develop Stansted.

Mr Agius said there was a "difference" between the stance of the CAA and the government's. He sought to allay shareholders' fears that the Stansted expansion project could threaten BAA's financial performance.

For shareholders, "these are not make or break issues", he said. "The precise timing of our Stansted investment does not make a critical difference in terms of shareholder return".

He warned, however, that delay in developing Stansted could "result in less choice and higher air fares across the whole of the south-east, with knock-on damage to UK competitiveness". BAA also faces opposition to cross-subsidisation from the main line airlines using all three London airports.

OUR COMMENT: Mr Agius ignores the fact that it is the airlines and passengers at Heathrow and Gatwick who are actually subsidising the cheaper charges and tickets on the cheap "no-frills" airlines using Stansted, not to mention the extra environmental damage from short haul flights, a price that will be paid by our grandchildren, not today's shareholders. He could have also have mentioned that the huge expansion of aviation that is actively encouraged by one arm of government, the Department for Transport, is working against the principles of the climate change policy of another arm, the Department of the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs, and that the main burden of reducing CO2 emissions is at present being put on the rest of industry, aviation is being shielded from reality.


Clay Harris - The Financial Times - 16 July 2005

Marcus Agius, BAA chairman, rattled at a great lick through the first 10 resolutions at the end of the airport operator's annual meeting yesterday.

Then came number 11, proposed by Brian Ross, economic adviser to the Stop Stansted Campaign. It would require shareholder approval before BAA sought planning permission for any project expected to cost more than 50% of shareholders' funds.

The board had urged a vote against the resolution, but Agius was in full flow.

All those in favour? The chairman's hand was the first to shoot into the air waving his blue card, to the amazement of his fellow directors. Slowly the arm came down. "I'm sorry, I will read that again. That was just to prove that the chairman is fallible," he sighed, as his face reddened. All those in favour?

But Agius had not been alone. BAA had been sufficiently alarmed when institutions representing several million votes also sent in proxies in favour of the resolution. The investor relations department rang to check if they had ticked the intended box.

BAA said that several, accounting for 3 to 4% of votes, were "mortified" at their mistake and changed their vote. Finally 98.05% voted No with the board.

16 July 2005


100 years stuck in traffic

Epping Forest Guardian - 12 July 2005

AT present rates of Government funding it will take 100 years for Essex's transport infrastructure to deal with the current pressures on roads and cope with the pressures of Government plans for new housing, the county council claims.

County council highways and transportation cabinet member Rodney Bass fears that the county is facing traffic gridlock if prompt action is not taken.

He was speaking following the publication of the Tym Report which highlighted a feared 'black hole' in funding to provide the infrastructure needed to support the hundreds of thousands of new homes earmarked for the east of England.

He said: "As the Tym Report makes clear, it is imperative first to address the historic underspend on Essex roads and transport infrastructure when considering the additional impact generated by new housing in Essex. At present rates of Government funding it will take 100 years to meet these needs."

Road development priorities in the county include £180m for potential links to support housing development near Harlow, and the development of the A120 from Braintree to the A12 (£220m).

The county council also believes there is a desperate need for expanding public transport in the Thames Gateway and for a major expansion in rail capacity if a second Stansted runway is given the go-ahead.

Mr Bass added: "As we have seen in the past few years, funding for roads has tended to follow on from development. The recently completed work on the A120 from Stansted to Braintree was intended to meet the needs of the last round of expansion at Stansted."

"It took 20 years to put infrastructure in place for that development. Given pressure on our road network has grown over that time and that fact that in the last ten years we have seen an increase of almost 25 per cent in the number of cars on Essex roads, a similar delay in coping with the needs of Essex will bring us gridlock."

He added: "Essex County Council will continue to fight to make sure that we don't see development without the transport infrastructure to support it."

16 July 2005


Our Peace and enjoyment shattered by 24 Aircraft

Letter to the Saffron Walden Observer - 14 July 2005

Last month I attended the 65th concert of the Haileybury Madrigal Society at Amwell Pool, Great Amwell, as chairman of Uttlesford District Council. It was an excellent evening of music sung in close harmony and held to raise money for the Isabel Hospice.

My disappointment came from the fact that many other music lovers and I were severely distracted by the number of overflying aircraft, that did not allow the singing to be clearly heard. In the space of about 45 minutes I counted no fewer than 24 aircraft that meant I lost hearing about 10 minutes of the singing and lost total concentration.

Although the level of noise disruption was disappointing, imagine what impact that sort of disruption would have on a school child trying to concentrate on a difficult subject.

Noise from aircraft is an ever increasing nuisance and needs to be seriously addressed in any possible further expansion of air traffic in the south east.

Peter Wilcock
Chairman, Uttlesford District Council

OUR COMMENT: There is no way to address the noise problem other than to restrict the number of flights to a reasonable level. BAA have already in place a plan to reduce noise levels as far as is practicable and they reported at their last Forum success in persuading airlines to follow the rules laid down. However, even with the best intentions nothing can change the nature of planes - they make a noise, and even the new Boeing "dreamliner" and the latest Airbus only claim to be up to 20% quieter. If Stansted expands and the number of flights increases, then any gains from new technology will be lost and the situation will worsen. There needs to be an agreed limit to noise annoyance, both the area affected and the noise levels experienced. A possible way is to require every airport plan to include a statement and a justification of the operator's proposed environmental limits to growth, which would then be debated with the local community and the local authority through the planning system. At the moment it is unclear what the relationship will be of an airport plan to the planning framework of the Local Authority. While such plans will be primarily the "Wish List" of the airport operator, they could form the basis of a firm agreement on future development over a reasonable future period, thereby avoiding the creeping expansion that has characterised Stansted, and no doubt other airports.

Pat Dale

16 July 2005


Dangerous chemical levels misinterpreted

Herts & Essex Observer - 14 July 2005

Levels of the dangerous chemical butadiene do not exceed target levels in Sawbridgeworth, but the town's mayor has stressed the need for vigilance.

In last week's Observer we reported how Roger Beeching told town councillors that the incidence of 1,3 Butadiene was above national target levels in ther town, saying the figures came from East Herts District Council.

This week, however, Dr Beeching conceded he had misinterpreted figures which had in fact come from BAA's issue brief on Climate Change, which assessed air quality around the airport. A spokesman for BAA Stansted said it had made so-called spot grab samples for 1,3 Butadiene at the airport, but results had showed a very low presence.

Nevertheless, Dr Beeching reiterated his call for dangerous substances to be watched. "I would like to see benzene and butadiene measured" he said, "because we do have aeroplanes going overhead and we also have an enormous amount of traffic going through Sawbridgeworth. Over a period of time they can be accumulative and can cause problems – that is quite clear- and I would like the figures to be more transparent than they are."

A spokeswoman for the East Herts District Council said it was required by DEFRA to evaluate levels of 1.3 Butadiene in the 1990s but that it had not subsequently been required to monitor it because its incidence was negligible.

OUR COMMENT: Dr Beeching's call for transparency is to be supported, and the effects of increasing traffic congestion have to be monitored as well with regard to Stansted. BAA has to institute a plan for monitoring emissions from the airport as part of the conditions imposed by Uttlesord District Council when permission was given for expansion to 25 mppa. So far the plan has been somewhat slow in taking off and at the recent Forum on Air Quality actual monitoring results were somewhat thin on the ground. The emission likely to cause the most concern are the nitrogen oxides, irritants to both human lungs and to plants and while levels today may still be within legal limits, BAA will have to produce reliable and satisfactory predictions for the future situation in an expanded Stansted or, as at Heathrow, expansion plans would have to be halted.

Pat Dale

12 July 2005


Green firms could become real money spinners over the next few years

Kathryn Cooper - Times On-line - 10 July 2005

CLIMATE change was high on the agenda at the G8 summit of world leaders last week - and it could become one of the most pressing issues for investors in the coming decades. Tony Blair, the prime minister, has called climate change "probably the single most important long-term issue we face as a global community". Now investors are starting to latch on to its importance.

Pascale Sagnier, head of socially responsible investment at Axa Fund Management in Paris, said: "About 20% of the global economy is affected by the risk of climate change. For many industries, including energy, transport and farming, climate change is more important than interest-rate or currency fluctuations."

Average global temperatures are expected to go up by between 1.4C and 5.8C over the next century, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. There is a growing scientific consensus that one of the causes is the rise in greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

One of the biggest effects of global warming could be a big increase in extreme weather, such as storms.

The Association of British Insurers has estimated that climate change could boost the annual cost of flooding in the UK by about 15 times from £1.5 billion to £22 billion by the 2080s, assuming carbon-dioxide emissions remain high. The European Commission has put the total future cost of global damage from climate change at €74 trillion (£51,000 billion) if nothing is done.

About 2m British homes are at risk from flooding, with up to 200,000 at a particularly high risk. These homes could be blacklisted by insurers and lose up to 80% of their value, according to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.

Veronica Fuller, 44, a local-government officer, fell victim to severe floods in Carlisle six months ago. The entire ground floor of her three-bedroom Victorian terrace was damaged, and she is still living in rented accommodation while it is repaired, courtesy of her building insurer, Halifax. She said: "It was extremely distressing. I am worried that my insurance will get more expensive. My contents insurer has already introduced a £2,500 excess for floods."

Despite the doomsday scenarios, investors can benefit from climate change by backing winners and avoiding the losers.

Jennifer Hall Thornton of Climate Change Capital, an investment bank specialising in the field, said: "London is a leading centre for climate change, and we have identified about 70 firms that will benefit from government action. Investors who think climate change will become a big issue should consider backing these firms, although many of them are at present very small."

One likely winner is the global alternative-energy industry, including solar and wind power. Investment in the sector is expected to grow from $20 billion (£11.5 billion) a year to $100 billion over the next 10 years, according to the International Energy Agency. Investment in renewable energy, including energy-efficiency measures and wind power, rose by 150% between 2000 and 2004.

The industry received a boost from the G8 last week when world leaders agreed to promote new, clean technologies to replace fossil fuels that produce carbon-dioxide emissions.

Investors who have backed alternative-energy companies have already enjoyed stellar gains. D1 Oils, which produces green fuel from the tropical jatropha tree, listed its shares on the London stock market at 160p last October, and they have more than doubled to 330p. Agcert, a Dublin-based firm that helps reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by converting methane from animal waste, listed on the London stock market at 140p and is now worth 215p.

The green-energy industry will not be the only beneficiary from climate change.

Farming in northern Europe could benefit from a longer growing season if summers continue to get warmer - as long as temperatures do not go up too much.

Dr Andrew Dlugolecki of Andlug Consulting, who has recently compiled a report on climate change for Allianz, the insurer, said: "A temperature increase of up to about two degrees Celsius might result in increased yields from farming in the European Union."

"However, any benefits in the north from an extended growing season may be cancelled by more pests, weeds and droughts."

British Sugar, part of Associated British Foods, expects climate change to boost production of sugar beet, and plans to build Britain's first factory producing bioethanol, a green fuel, from sugar beet.

Fund managers are also looking at construction companies. The government has pledged to allow 1.1m new homes in the southeast by 2016, many on flood plains - but some housebuilders are seeking to mitigate the risks.

Emma Howard Boyd, head of socially responsible investment at Jupiter, the fund manager, highlights Bellway, which is behind the Barking Riverside development in London. The landscape will be several metres higher than is natural, to reduce the risk of flooding.

It is just as important to avoid the losers from climate change. WestLB, the German investment bank, estimates that the value of companies globally could go down by between $192 billion and $916 billion if nothing is done about climate change. The Carbon Trust has estimated that if the oil and gas sector does nothing, its value could be destroyed by about £4 billion; the airline sector could lose £1.5 billion.

To help investors avoid the losers, the Carbon Disclosure Project, part of the Carbon Trust, publishes an annual climate leadership index. It picks 50 companies in each sector that are the best in their class.

Anglo American, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto appear in the metals and mining sector; BP and Royal Dutch Shell are top in the oil sector; Aviva and Prudential are among the insurers doing most about climate change. You can find the full list at www.cdproject.net.

OUR COMMENT: Where does the aviation sector come in the hierarchy? Will firms spending time and money on reducing CO2 emissions be happy to see aviation expanding?

Pat Dale

12 July 2005

The Civil Aviation Bill has been passed by the House of Commons and now proceeds to the House of Lords for further consideration. As yet, no significant changes have been proposed in relation to the proposed plans for the mitigation of aircraft noise. Individual airports would still be responsible for producing their own plans, with the exception of the three London airports, including Stansted, which will still be regulated by the DfT. This is hardly the best way to introduce essential health protection legislation, which is usually subject to UK wide standards recommended by expert authorities and not left to individual bodies to determine what is best for those who live in their area. A reminder of some of the serious issues that ought to be considered.

Press Notice issued 06 June 2005 by Queen Mary College

* Largest ever study on the effects of noise on children's health
* Chronic exposure to aircraft noise impairs children's reading comprehension
* Children suffer increased annoyance with increased exposure to aircraft noise and road traffic noise
* Exposure to road traffic noise related to improved children's memory recall

Researchers at Queen Mary, University of London have carried out the largest study on the effects of long-term exposure to noise on children's health to date, examining almost 3,000 children living in the UK, Spain and the Netherlands.

Professor Stephen Stansfeld, Centre Lead for Psychiatry at Queen Mary, University of London, led the three-year Road Traffic and Aircraft Noise Exposure and Children's Cognition and Health (RANCH) study, with findings to be published in The Lancet on 4 June 2005.

The RANCH study was designed to extend current research by examining exposure-effect relationships in children aged nine and 10 years. The researchers investigated the relationship between chronic exposure to noise and impaired cognitive function, health and noise annoyance for aircraft noise, road traffic noise and a combination of these.

Aircraft noise exposure was related to impaired performance in reading comprehension and recognition memory. The reading age in children exposed to high levels of aircraft noise was delayed by up to two months in the UK for a five decibel change in noise exposure. London residents are exposed to about 50-55 decibels of noise on an average day: residents living near a major airport endure up to 60-70 decibels.

Surprisingly, the RANCH study found that exposure to road traffic noise was related to an improved recall memory in children, but was not associated with reading comprehension, recognition memory or working memory.

Professor Stansfeld, based at Queen Mary's Wolfson Institute, said: "The RANCH study results suggest that long term aircraft noise exposure impairs children's reading. Schools exposed to high levels of aircraft noise are not healthy educational environments."

Fellow researcher, Dr Charlotte Clark, said: "Noise exposure across childhood is an important public health issue. Finding similar effects of aircraft noise on reading across three European countries strengthens our conclusion that this is specific causal effect of aircraft noise on children's school performance."

Both long-term aircraft and road traffic noise exposure increases the level of annoyance in children. A stress response, annoyance implies a reduced well-being and lower quality of life. Disturbance by road traffic noise was also related to sleep quality and problems with sleepiness during the daytime for children.

When questioned about the noise, children perceived road traffic as the greatest disadvantage to their home environment. However, the researchers found that psychological restoration in the home, such as creating a calm and pleasant environment, may potentially protect against the adverse noise reactions.

The findings from this project will be used to inform the guidelines for the key EU directive on environmental noise.

OUR COMMENT: The Civil Aviation Bill should be incorporating such general guidelines in its noise mitigation proposals for airports.

Pat Dale

9 July 2005


Chair's Summary - Gleneagles Summit, 8 July 2005

Climate Change

We were joined for our discussion on climate change and the global economy by the leaders of Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and South Africa and by the heads of the International Energy Agency, International Monetary Fund, United Nations, World Bank, and the World Trade Organisation.

We have issued a statement [see link below] setting out our common purpose in tackling climate change, promoting clean energy and achieving sustainable development.

All of us agreed that climate change is happening now, that human activity is contributing to it, and that it could affect every part of the globe.

We know that, globally, emissions must slow, peak and then decline, moving us towards a low-carbon economy. This will require leadership from the developed world.

We resolved to take urgent action to meet the challenges we face. The Gleneagles Plan of Action which we have agreed demonstrates our commitment. We will take measures to develop markets for clean energy technologies, to increase their availability in developing countries, and to help vulnerable communities adapt to the impact of climate change.

We warmly welcomed the involvement of the leaders of the emerging economy countries in our discussions, and their ideas for new approaches to international co-operation on clean energy technologies between the developed and developing world.

Our discussions mark the beginning of a new Dialogue between the G8 nations and other countries with significant energy needs, consistent with the aims and principles of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. This will explore how best to exchange technology, reduce emissions, and meet our energy needs in a sustainable way, as we implement and build on the Plan of Action.

We will advance the global effort to tackle climate change at the UN Climate Change Conference in Montreal later this year. Those of us who have ratified the Kyoto Protocol remain committed to it, and will continue to work to make it a success.

G8 Communiques are at:


G8 leaders agree new climate policy dialogue

Environment Daily 1917 - 8 July 2005

Leaders of the group of eight industrialised nations have agreed to launch a new dialogue on climate change, also including major developing countries, at their Gleneagles summit in Scotland. UK prime minister Tony Blair told journalists after the event that the deal offered a "pathway back to an international consensus".

Long negotiations in the run-up to the summit failed to achieve any significant breakthroughs to bridge the fundamental divide between the USA and other G8 members, though US president George Bush has accepted the scientific evidence for climate change more clearly than before.

The result is that the statement is actually less robust on climate change than positions taken by G8 leaders during the 1990s. One environmental group greeted the statement as "short on action and long on rhetoric".

Mr Blair, however, was adamant that it was the long-term that mattered. There was never any question of the USA agreeing to rejoin the Kyoto protocol, which expires in 2012, he told journalists.

But if America is not part of the global framework to counter climate change after this then major developing countries like India and China will not join either, he said. In this case then, no matter what targets EU and other countries agreed, the problem would not be tackled.

Significantly, the leaders of China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa attended the summit as well as those from the G8 countries, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK and the USA, plus the European Commission.

The dialogue is to focus on climate change, clean energy and sustainable development. It is supplemented by a plan of action also agreed at Gleneagles. Japan will host a first progress review during its G8 presidency in 2008.

The plan of action calls for changes aimed at "transforming the way we use energy". It promises a wide range of steps to promote energy efficient buildings, appliances, vehicles and planes. It pledges support for cleaner fossil fuel use and continued development of renewable energies. It also calls for promotion of more research and development and a sound basis for financing cleaner energy investments.

Follow-up:  UK G8 website, and climate change statement and action plan


Environment Daily 1917 - 8 July 2005

Priorities for improving the EU carbon emission trading scheme in its second phase (2008-12) have been identified in a new report by the Brussels-based Centre for European policy studies (Ceps). Significant changes can be achieved without having to make cumbersome legal changes, it concludes.

Policy makers and business representatives debated the findings at a meeting in London on Thursday morning, oblivious to growing chaos outside following a series of bomb attacks around the city.

The Ceps report highlights options for making the process of allocating emission allowances through phase two national allocation plans (Naps) more transparent, fairer and more cost-effective. More strategic changes, will have to wait for the scheme's third phase from 2013, it concludes.

Hovering behind the discussion, but hardly mentioned, is the political reality that governments will have to cut total allocations significantly in phase two to align emissions with their broader Kyoto targets. Nevertheless, the technical issues addressed by Ceps are central to how the scheme functions

Key priorities highlighted in the report and discussed at the meeting include:

Greater transparency: There is general agreement that the complexity of phase one Naps caused problems. "Every single first plan we've read led to more questions", European Commission official Peter Zapfel told the meeting. Andrei Marcu of the International emission trading association called greater transparency "critical".

The Commission will issue new guidelines on Nap formulation, Mr Zapfel confirmed. However he warned against expectations of radical simplification. "Every plan is a complicated animal", he said.

Combustion installations: Different national definitions have led to similar plants being included or excluded from the scheme depending on their location. Pressure is building for a more harmonised definition to avoid market distortions.

Small installations: The scheme has been criticised for imposing unreasonable costs on smaller companies. Steps might be taken to reduce costs for these firms. Alternatively they might be taken back out of the scheme.

The number of participants could be cut significantly without much affecting the amount of carbon dioxide covered, Ceps notes. Setting an emissions threshold of 10,000 tonnes CO2 per year would cut participants by 3,400, or 32%, but the scheme's emissions coverage by only 1%.

New entrants and closures: Drafting rules for firms entering or exiting the scheme after launch has been another problem area during phase one. At a minimum, a first step should be made towards harmonisation, Ceps recommends.

Allocation methodologies: The scheme has started off with free allocation of emission allowances, generally based on plants' historic and forecast emissions. Ceps calls for more intense investigation of benchmarking and auctioning as potentially more environmentally effective or fairer long-term alternatives.

Broadening the scheme's scope: The scheme allows for expansion to include non-CO2 greenhouse gases and new sectors such as chemical industry processes and aviation. There "may be a case" for such "unilateral opt-ins" in phase 2, Ceps concludes.


G8 Summit Delivers Nothing on Climate Change

Joint Environmental Groups Press Briefing - 7 July 2005

Leaders of the eight most powerful countries (G8) today agreed their final statement on climate change, but Friends of the Earth International said the document added nothing in the fight against climate change.

The agreement lacks a clear acknowledgement of the urgent need for action and fails to state any significant steps G8 leaders will take to tackle climate change.

The environmental campaign group is disappointed that the G8 did not make more progress on climate change and sees the Bush administration as the main block to a stronger outcome.

Friends of the Earth International Vice Chair Tony Juniper said:

"The Bush Administration has again done its best to derail international action to tackle climate change, but this is by no means the end. There are many good initiatives happening in the USA to tackle climate change and it is only a matter of time before the President will have to follow suit".

"Tony Blair now needs to tackle the issue with even more urgency during the UK Presidency of the European Union. He should also work to agree strong positions with other countries in the run up to the vital climate change talks in Canada this December."

"Tony Blair was right to prioritise climate change at the G8. Even if there was no progress here, there has been a big impact on public awareness and that will make it easier to achieve more in future talks".

The G8 inaction on climate change flies in the face of the leaders of Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa (known as G5) who on July 7 stated that, as specified under the Kyoto Protocol, "developed countries should therefore take the lead in international action to combat climate change by fully implementing their obligations of reducing emissions and of providing additional financing and the transfer of cleaner, low-emission and cost-effective technologies to developing countries."

9 July 2005


Flying this Summer?
The Real cost of a £50 ticket from London to Edinburgh

The Guardian, G2 - 7 July 2005

This comprehensive article gives an excellent overview of the pros and cons of using air travel for short and long haul flights. Here are some extracts that relate to climate change and the general conclusion to the question - when is flying a justifiable option?

Initial Statistics

* Flying from London to Edinburgh produces 96.4 Kg of CO23 per passenger per journey
* Driving is the next worst at 71 Kg
* A high speed electric train produces 11.9 Kg
* Travelling by coach produces the least, 9.2 Kg

Why Air Travel Spells Trouble
Ian Semple

The advent of aviation has made the world a smaller place, but in doing so it has used an inordinate amount of kerosene. And, as with any fossil fuel, the more you burn, the more greenhouse gas you churn out.

So common has air travel become that it is now a huge problem for the environment. Greenhouse gases from all UK flights alone have doubled in 13 years to around 40 million tonnes, a direct consequence of jet engines torching fuel to generate thrust. Vast amounts of carbon dioxide are dumped into the atmosphere, nitrogen oxides are released at just the right altitude to damage atmospheric ozone and particles from the engines attract droplets of moisture, seeding cirrus clouds that warm the earth like a blanket.

Air travel accounts for somewhere between 3% and 5% of Britain's total carbon dioxide emissions, but passenger numbers are increasing so dramatically that emissions are almost certainly going to spiral out of control, experts warn. Estimates suggest that by 2030, CO2 emissions will have reached a total of more than 70 million tonnes and the government's own White Paper on aviation, barring any drastic clampdown, emissions from the industry will account for half to 100% of the country's target CO2 emissions by 2030.

Last month, the UK aviation industry published self-imposed targets to reduce emissions from aircraft by 50% by 2020, but it is a target that many see as hopelessly ambitious. "They honestly haven't got a cat in hell's chance of achieving it" says Kevin Anderson, an expert on aviation and the environment at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change at Manchester University. "The argument that's often made is that you can improve efficiency and cut emissions that way. But jet engines are a mature technology and there are no big changes on the horizon that are suddenly going to make them wildly more efficient."

There are some simple changes that airlines are making to cut their emissions. Devising more direct routes, spending less time in holding patterns above airports and minimising the time pilots have their engines running while still on the ground can all help. But tightening up on what is essentially sloppy practice is not going to cut emissions drastically.

At best, according to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the industry will be able to cut its emissions by 1.5% a year purely by improving efficiency. "What that means is that any increase in passenger numbers beyond that figure will mean that CO2 emissions go up", says Anderson.

For the aviation industry, the available options for cutting emissions are limited and largely unappealing. Hopes that hydrogen fuel cells might one day carry us to 35,000 feet are futuristic, requiring planes to be redesigned from scratch.

"There are simply no alternative fuels on the horizon, its kerosene for the next 50 years" says Peter Lockley of the Aviation Environment Federation. One way carbon dioxide emissions might be reined is by committing the European aviation industry to a cap and trade system for emissions as already exists for other industries.

Such a move would put pressure on the industry to ferret out the most efficient ways to cut emissions, but according to Anderson, the system would soon become ineffective if passenger demand continues to increase.

Which leaves the industry with little room for manoeuvre. If the government is serious about its aim to cut the country's carbon dioxide emissions by 60% by 2050, as set out in the last energy White Paper, it must either persuade other industries to cut more or restrict the growth in air travel.

"Realistically, other industries are not going to make cuts just so the air industry can continue to expand. So the only real way forward is for growth to match efficiency improvements." Says Anderson, "We're not saying don't fly, we're saying that we cannot fly very much more than we do now."

What is the Alternative?
Leo Hickman

If you are worried about the impact of flying on the environment the answer is simple, is somewhat unpalatable: fly less. By choosing to reduce the number of times you get on a plane each year you are, in a flash, making a major reduction in the greenhouse gases emitted as a result of your life style.

However, ignoring the allure of those 10 pound flights to the far side of Europe can be as testing to one's will power as refusing the dessert trolley. Why not start as all dieters mean to go on, by setting realistic, achievable targets? Promising yourself that you'll never fly again is an admirable aim but one that is unlikely to be met in the long term. Refusing to fly to a destination in the UK, though, is far more achievable. In fact, except for destinations at the extreme end of the country, it is often quicker to travel city centre to city centre by train - and usually cheaper once you have factored in the cost of getting to the airport, parking and all those impulse buys while waiting for the flight to be called.

Beyond the UK, train travel basically limits you to Western Europe for any any trip less than, say, a 2 weeks holiday. But travelling by train to Europe offers some key advantages over flying - namely, its much more child friendly, it's typically less stressful and, by using a sleeper carriage, you can, with a bit of planning, save on accommodation. Beyond Europe, flying remains the only option. It is with these long haul flights that abstinence remains the most effective tool.

There are, however, a growing number of people who are voluntarily limiting themselves to no more than one flight a year (the fact that this should feel restrictive is a sign, perhaps, of how much flying has become part of our lives compared to just a decade ago). One technique is to set yourself a personal carbon quota. Greenpeace, in partnership with the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales, has recently set up its "carbon gym scheme" (www.cat.org.uk/carbongym) whereby you work out your annual carbon dioxide emissions by answering a set of questions on your lifestyle (size of fridge, how you heat your home, how far you drive etc.) then receive advice from its "personal trainers" about how to meet your quota.

The trouble is that Greenpeace's ideal quota would be 2.5 tonnes of CO2 per person per year, which is its "global fair share" target. This is an uncomfortably long way off the UK average of 10 tonnes per year. In fact, the only real way of achieving this target without giving up flying would be to ration yourself to, say, that alternate each year between UK based and foreign based. Even then, to get the average down, long haul flights would probably have to be a once in a three or four year treat.

In recent years carbon offsetting schemes have been a popular way of avoiding the abstinence route. Plant a tree, goes the theory, to "offset" the CO2 that has been emitted by your actions. One tree, say the proponents, absorbs a tonne of CO2 a year. But there is an increasing dissent about whether this is the best way to atone for our pollution, with question marks over the science behind the practice, alongside the belief that such actions simply help to further legitimise our unsustainable life styles. While there's never any harm in supporting tree planting schemes (such as Future Forests and Climate Care) it would of course be far better not to pollute in the first place.

An alternative therefore is to support organisations campaigning against airport expansion, such as Airport Watch (www.airportwatch.org.uk). Begin by signing the Pledge against Airport Expansions. (www.airportpledge.org.uk) which was set up in 2004 by a coalition of environment, transport and airport campaign groups.

OUR COMMENT: And, of course, Stop Stansted Expansion through this website!

Pat Dale

7 July 2005


Charles Clover, Environment Editor - Daily Telegraph Online - 2 July 2005

Every individual in Britain could be issued with a "personal carbon allowance" - a form of energy rationing - within a decade, under proposals being considered seriously by the Government.

Ministers say that increasingly clear evidence that climate change is happening more quickly than expected has made it necessary to "think the unthinkable".

They believe they need to start a public debate on energy rationing now if Tony Blair's aspiration of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds by 2050 is to be achieved.

Under the scheme for "domestic tradeable quotas" (DTQs), or personal carbon allowances, presented to the Treasury this week, everyone - from the Queen to the poorest people living on state benefits - would have the same annual carbon allocation.

This would be contained electronically on a "ration card", which could be the proposed ID card or a "carbon card" based on supermarket loyalty cards.

It would have to be handed over every time a form of non-renewable energy was purchased - at the filling station, or when buying tickets for a flight - for points to be deducted.

High users of energy would have to purchase points from low users, or from a central "carbon bank", if they wanted to use more energy.

The scheme applies the principle of carbon trading already accepted for industry.

The implications of domestic carbon trading have been studied for two years by the Tyndall centre for climate change research, which says the scheme is "feasible, affordable and fair".

The virtues of the scheme, according to Mr Blair's "green" advisers, the Sustainable Development Commission, are that it would provide a "virtually guaranteed" way of reducing fossil fuel emissions by 60 per cent by 2050.

That is the amount scientists say is necessary to avoid "unacceptable" climate change, such as the switching-off of the Gulf Stream, the melting of the Greenland glaciers and the die-back of the Amazon rain forest.

Domestic tradeable quotas have many advantages over carbon taxes, not least that they are independent from political control, the commission says.

It has recommended that the Government "formally consider" domestic tradeable quotas, "within two years".

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Elliot Morley, the minister for the environment and climate change, said the Government was committed to a review of its policies by the end of the year. "We should have an open mind about the kind of levers that we apply and not be afraid to think the unthinkable," he said. "It is fair to say that for a lot of people personal carbon allowances falls into the unthinkable category. "I don't think we should dismiss these approaches. "There might be a decade of debate in it before we get anywhere with it, but my job is to consider quite radical new approaches."

The problems were the cost and making it work as a system that prevented cheating.

Kevin Anderson, of the Tyndall Centre, said: "Once you have accepted that we need a reduction of 60 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 - which it seems now that all parties have - you need to start soon. "We saw what the public thought of carbon taxes in the protests over the fuel tax escalator. The beauty of personal carbon allowances is that you only need to make about a 1.25 per cent reduction in carbon emissions every year."

"This is a way that enables us to make the necessary annual changes without radical adjustments to our lives."

"It is about making the small changes year by year. It won't stop us going on holiday. But it might constrain how many times we fly. "This could be up and running within four to 10 years."

A Private Member's Bill to establish DTQs and a trading system was introduced recently by the Labour MP Colin Challen, but this is the first time it has been seriously considered by ministers.

OUR COMMENT: Such a scheme would have the advantage that it would be fair to everyone, whatever their income. It makes more sense than an identity card!

Pat Dale

7 July 2005


Brussels rift opens over attempt to crack down on air pollution

Raphael Minder, Tobias Buck and George Parker in Brussels - News Environment - 4 July 2005

A rift has opened up in the European Commission over a proposed crackdown on air pollution, intended to help prevent 350,000 premature deaths a year, but with a projected €12bn (£8.1bn) annual cost to the economy.

José Manuel Barroso, European Commission president, has ordered a comprehensive rethink of the plan, fearing it could hit business at a time when he wants to boost EU competitiveness.

But the pro-business approach of Mr Barroso and senior colleagues has angered the Commission's strong green lobby, just days before world leaders discuss the environment at the G8 summit in Gleneagles.

"Europe is meant to show leadership on the environment, but here we are being forced to dilute our ambitions because of pressure from business-friendly colleagues," said an official close to Stavros Dimas, EU environment commissioner.

"This is really the wrong attitude because, even if you only care about money, the cost of not doing enough about the environment is real and we will feel it in the long term."

The air pollution strategy was expected to be presented this month by Mr Dimas. The plan foresees tightening emissions legislation not only for vehicles but also small combustion plants, ships and aircraft and promoting scrapping schemes for older road vehicles.

Other measures proposed in the paper include legislation to crack down on fuel station emissions that contribute to ground level ozone, and charging drivers according to air pollution damage.

In addition, Mr Dimas also wants to extend the battle against carbon dioxide emissions to other gases, notably ammonia emissions from farming, and aims to introduce electronic monitoring of particle matter in the air.

The Commission now plans an "orientation debate" on Mr Dimas's proposed air pollution strategy at its meeting on July 20 - a move likely to delay any formal adoption of the plans until after the summer.

At last week's meeting, some participants - including Mr Barroso, Günter Verheugen, the industry commissioner, and Charlie McCreevy, the internal market commissioner - voiced concern over the costs of the plans.

They pointed to an internal Commission impact assessment, seen by the FT, which predicted direct costs of between €5.9bn and €14.9bn every year from 2020, to be borne by businesses and consumers.

The EU's controversial chemicals regulation, by comparison, was forecast to cost businesses €2.2bn over 11 years.

Mr Dimas's supporters say comparisons between the two are unfair, because the air pollution plans would be phased in over 15 years and costs would be spread over the entire economy, not just one sector.

OUR COMMENT: Good luck to Mr Dimas! A lot of consumers would welcome better air quality, especially in traffic congested areas and round airports. As to paying, surely the Polluter should pay?

Pat Dale

7 July 2005


Letter to Evening Standard on BAA Regulation

25 May 2005

Dear Sir

In your report headline "Call for BAA monopoly probe in Stansted row", Evening Standard, 20 May, you state that it has emerged that the Civil Aviation Authority will invite BAA to submit plans to move the regulatory goalposts and scrap the ban on it cross-subsidising its airports.

For the record, the CAA has not invited BAA to submit such plans. The position is - and always has been - that if new evidence and arguments are put to us in the course of the next regulatory review we will consider them, as we are legally bound to do. In the meantime, and in accordance with a speech made by the CAA's Chairman Sir Roy McNulty on 10 March 2004, the working assumption should be that the CAA will continue to regulate BAA's designated airports on an individual - or stand-alone - basis both up to 2008, and beyond.

Yours faithfully

Clare Brown
Corporate Communications Director

OUR COMMENT: BAA Please note

Pat Dale

3 July 2005


Environment Daily 1912 - 1 July 2005

The United Kingdom took over the presidency of the EU on Friday at a pivotal point in the development of the bloc's environment policy. By December it should have overseen the first formal talks on a post-Kyoto global climate regime and have advanced a radical revision of EU chemicals policy.

Climate is one of the UK's declared priorities. Its main task will to represent the EU in Montreal in November at the first meeting of Kyoto protocol parties since the treaty entered force earlier this year. The prospects for success will become clearer after next week's meeting of G8 leaders in Scotland.

To prepare the way the UK will hold an EU policy debate at the October environment council on ways to tackle climate emissions from aviation, based on a European Commission policy paper expected later this month. Ministers will be asked to agree a resolution on the issue in December.

The UK wants to get aviation added to the EU emission trading scheme from 2008, whereas the European Commission has consistently hinted at no entry before 2012. On Friday, UK environment minister Elliot Morley hinted at new Commission flexibility. "We might be able to do a bit better" than 2012, he said.

Meanwhile, an informal meeting of environment and agriculture ministers from 9-12 September will discuss the "significant challenges and opportunities that climate change presents to European agriculture" and "examine agriculture's role in reducing greenhouse emissions".

Next in importance will be steering talks on the new Reach EU chemicals policy to a conclusion. The competitiveness and environment councils will hold policy debates on 11 and 17 October respectively, before competitiveness ministers attempt to reach political agreement on 29 November.

Mr Morley said the UK could still seal a deal this year, despite doubts raised by outgoing environment council president Lucien Lux last week. "There's a tendency for these things to slip...but we do think it's possible this year," the British minister said.

During the presidency the Commission is due to table seven draft EU thematic strategies on subjects from waste to water. The October environment council will discuss the strategies in general, and especially how they can contribute to the EU's "better regulation" drive.

The first to emerge will probably be the Cafe programme on air quality. If it is tabled early enough the UK will try to reach political agreement on its legislative elements - likely to be limited to a merger of existing directives and new partial controls on particulates pollution - at the December environment council.

The same session will hold a policy debate on the planned strategies on sustainable resource use and the prevention and recycling of waste. It will hear a progress report on the marine thematic strategy.

Among other issues, the December council may reach agreement on the Life+ environment project funding programme, though this may depend on higher-level talks to agree the EU's overall budget allocation from 2007. The environment council will also hold a policy discussion and adopt a resolution on European Commission proposals to revise the EU's sustainable development strategy.

Meanwhile the energy council will adopt a resolution on three topics: the recent green paper on energy efficiency, on a biomass action plan, and on options for financing the promotion of renewable energy.

In a related development, green group EEB on Friday issued its traditional "ten green tests" for the incoming presidency. Top of the list of priorities, it said, should be to bolster the EU's global leadership role on climate policies.

3 July 2005


Insurers sound the alarm on climate change

Fiona Harvey, Environment Correspondent - News Environment - 28 June 2005

The cost worldwide of storms, expected to become more frequent owing to climate change, is likely to rise by two-thirds to £15bn ($27bn, €22bn) a year in the next seven decades, the Association of British Insurers will warn on Wednesday.

Nick Starling, the ABI's director of general insurance, urged the leaders of the Group of Eight industrialised nations to take action on greenhouse gas emissions when they meet to discuss climate change next week.

"Governments now have a chance to make rational choices for the future, before it is too late," he said. Making the right decisions based on assessment of the costs of climate change "will ensure lower costs for the public in future".

By 2040, the average annual cost of hurricanes in the US alone would rise from $9.5bn to $11.4bn. In a bad year, hurricanes in the US would cost $71bn in the 2040s and $104bn in insured costs alone.

Separately, a poll carried out across Europe by the market research group TNS found that seven out of ten people thought governments would take serious action on environmental issues only if there were an environmental catastrophe.

In one of the most detailed estimates seeking to price the effects of climate change, the ABI said that in years with a high number of storms, the cost of Japanese typhoons could reach £19bn a year by 2080.

Though scientists cannot say exactly what will happen as the climate changes under the influence of the increased burning of fossil fuels, they estimate that the incidence of storms, floods, droughts and heatwaves will increase.

Joachim Faber, chief executive of Allianz Global Investors, said climate change was influencing financial markets: "In the interest of our clients and shareholders, we are obligated to take these risks into account when making decisions on insurance underwriting, investments, or credit."

Sebastian Catovsky, adviser to the ABI on natural perils, added that the figures in the report were likely to be an underestimate, because they did not take into account the likely increase in the value of property in future decades. Insurance markets would also become more volatile.

Some of the costs could be avoided by taking preventative measures. Improved coastal defences could reduce the global annual damage from a 0.5m rise in sea level by up to £16bn. In the UK, where insurers have paid out £2.2bn in flood claims in the last five years, effective flood management could save 80 per cent of the costs of flood damage.

The report will be published on Wednesday at an ABI-organised conference on the financial risks of climate change. At the conference, Allianz and the environmental campaigning group WWF will urge financial managers and analysts to evaluate their client portfolios for climate change risk, in an effort to price such risk into the financial markets.

Allianz will pledge to invest between €300m and €500m in renewable energy over the next five years.


Cheap Flights Blamed for Aircraft Greenhouse Gas Rise

Amanda Brown, PA Environment Correspondent - The Scotsman - 30 June 2005

Greenhouse gases from aircraft rose by almost 90% between 1990 and 2003 according to new Government figures published today.

The boom in low-cost air travel is partly blamed for the huge rise – disclosed on the eve of the G8 talks where climate change is a key issue.

One of 68 sustainable development indicators, the Government says the figures help to show whether life is getting better or worse across a range of areas including health, housing, pollution, jobs, crime and education.

On global warming, carbon dioxide outpourings from industry fell by 21% over the same period, emissions from domestic users were down 3%, despite having increased over the preceding four years.

Transport emissions, excluding international aviation and shipping, were up 8%, although in recent years the rate of increase has slowed.

Last year UK emissions of carbon dioxide were 4% lower than in 1990, but had increased by about 1.5% between 2003 and 2004.

Environment Minister Elliot Morley told a London news conference the rise in warming gases from aviation fuel "is partly due to the cost of air travel falling across the board and the impact of low-cost airlines".

International aviation emissions are not included in the Kyoto target, but if they were included, the UK's total greenhouse gas emissions would be about 5% greater.

While the UK economy has continued to grow, air pollutants have reduced, ammonia by 19%, nitrogen oxides by 44%, particulates by 51% and sulphur dioxide by 74% between 1990 and 2003.

Other figures show that children are getting fatter. The prevalence of obesity in two to ten year olds increased from 10% to 14% between 1995 and 2003 in England.

On local environmental quality, 56% of local areas in England were judged to be unsatisfactory or of poor quality in 2003-4, compared with 68% in 2001-2.

Fewer than two in three households in England (64%) are satisfied with their local area. The main problems cited are traffic (53% of households), litter/rubbish (45%) and vandalism/hooliganism (43%).

3 July 2005


This Bill received its second reading on June 22nd. Hansard reports many excellent speeches that brought out not only the fears about the proposals that would give the airport operator too much power in setting noise and emission charges, but also those concerns over the ever increasing role played by aircraft in fuelling climate change.


Mark Prisk's contribution

Mr. Mark Prisk (Hertford and Stortford) (Con): I commend the remarks by the Hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Graham Stringer). Although I suspect that we will disagree on much of the detail, he brings knowledge and experience to the debate, and his contribution was interesting.

The Bill extends to just 13 clauses and 17 pages. As such, it may be short in length, but it is, nevertheless, significant in its scope. For example, from the contents we see that it deals with public airport companies, appeals on route licences, the health of passengers travelling, the documentary evidence in relation to references and the Air Travel Trust. Hon. Members will be pleased to know that I do not intend to make a detailed exposition of each; rather, I wish to consider the first section, which relates to noise, vibrations and emissions.

The absent Secretary of State will, I suspect, be all too familiar with the fact that my constituency borders on Stansted airport. As such, my constituents are constantly affected by the noise and emissions from overhead aircraft. That intrusion affects their quality of life. Sadly, over recent years, it has grown steadily as air traffic has increased.

It is not only people at home who suffer. A number of schools in Sawbridgeworth, Spellbrook and Bishop's Stortford have to interrupt lessons because the noise makes teaching inaudible. The rural parish of Thorley has reported oily droplets that coat the leaves of trees and plants. Indeed, a film of oil is often found when an aircraft has been reported as being off route. It is also found forming on ponds and pools. My constituents, and, I suspect, many other people across the country who have to live near airports, find that intrusion of great concern. The way in which noise and emissions are monitored, managed and enforced has a direct effect on their daily lives.

That is especially the case with night flights, which the Minister mentioned. Those are controlled at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted by a combination of noise quotas on one hand and a limit on the number of aircraft movements on the other. Clause 2 enables the Secretary of State to discontinue limiting the number of night-time flights at those designated airports. That leaves the noise quotas alone to regulate night-time traffic. While in principle I could accept that the regulation of aircraft noise needs to be more flexible and effective, and that aircraft movement controls on their own are crude, I do not believe that the answer is to discontinue limiting aircraft movements. Sadly, however, I suspect that that is what the Government plan. The Department has decided to delay by six months the second stage of the night-flight consultation. There has been no satisfactory explanation. Any new regime will therefore begin a year later than we were originally advised.

The resulting delay means that the Government have the time to change the law through this Bill and then use the new powers to create a very different regulatory regime, almost certainly starting from October next year. Given his remarks earlier, it is clear that the Minister expects to abolish the movement limits and thus allow more night-time flights. I did not notice that in bright lights in the Labour party manifesto, but it is of great concern and interest to many around the country.

A second point emanates from the issue: the switch in regulation would establish a precedent. Limits on aircraft movements provide the main way in which to regulate the growth of airports, as a number of my right hon. and hon. Friends have mentioned. If regulation for all flights - not just those at night - were centred solely on noise and emissions, the British Airports Authority could grow incrementally its three London airports without some of the existing checks and balances. That would represent a serious setback in the control of airport development, and I am sure that it would be universally opposed by my constituents.

Given the Minister's equivocal answer earlier, I ask the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the Hon. Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck), to put on record clearly in her reply to the debate the Government's true intentions - not just about night-time flights, about which we have had half an answer, but about daytime movement limits too. In the exchange earlier, the Minister seemed to be saying, "Well, these may or may not be abolished. We will have to decide in the future." That is not an acceptable answer. We do not want the limits to be removed, but for the Government to put a piece of legislation before us and not to give a clear answer on the record is reprehensible. I hope that the Under- Secretary will be able to clear up that point.

That lack of ministerial candour leads me to consider how aircraft noise is measured and by whom. Licensed airport operators such as at Luton or Manchester have a free hand in dealing with their neighbours' complaints. Indeed, they can even decide which of the environmental noise objectives should be adopted. That rather ad hoc approach has concerned nearby residents and campaigners for some years. They believe that, given the daily impact on their lives, the procedures for monitoring, managing and enforcing noise and emissions levels should be clearly founded in law. Indeed, there have been several campaigns to secure a change. For example, in the 1990s a former Member of this House, Mr. Stephen Day, was a vociferous campaigner on behalf of his constituents in Cheadle. It is good to see the Government finally responding to his and other campaigners' concerns.  

However, there is a second aspect on which the Government have failed to act: the need for independence in the system - an independent watchdog that is able openly to investigate and enforce the rules. At present, when my constituents are disturbed by excessive noise, they complain to the flight evaluation unit at the airport, which investigates the complaint, judges whether the noise limits or noise preferential routes have been breached, and then decides under its own rules and in its own manner whether a breach has occurred. It is also able to decide whether to fine the guilty airline. The problem is that the unit is owned, managed and staffed by British Airports Authority plc. Thus, the airport operator both monitors the problem and decides whether to charge and what to fine. It is not so much poacher as both policeman and judge.

I have visited the flight evaluation unit at Stansted and taken a number of my constituents there so that we could have a positive exchange, and I have no doubt that the individuals involved there are thoroughly professional, but what is wrong is the system, not the people. It is a complaints procedure that lacks transparency and objectivity. Indeed, given BAA's effective monopoly in the south-east of England and its pivotal role in delivering the Government's plans for air travel, it is vital to public confidence that the complaints procedure for noise lies outside the remit of a public limited company that runs the airports. That is why the Bill should establish an independent watchdog to monitor, manage and enforce aircraft noise and emissions limits - a watchdog independent of commercial interests and therefore likely to attract the full confidence of the public.

Such a unit does not need to cost the taxpayer a penny. After all, it could draw the funds that it needs from the fines that it levies, much as many other watchdogs do already. Nor would the regulatory burden need to increase. What is at issue is the status of the regulator, not the size or complexity of the rule book. I therefore suggest that all flight evaluation units be transferred to become independent of airport operators. Ideally, they might operate under the auspices of the Civil Aviation Authority, but I would be happy to discuss that if the Minister were willing to have an open mind on the question. The aim should be a complaints system that is objective and seen to be so - a system that is open and fair to all.

I welcome the Government's wish to update the regulatory regime for civil aviation. Although the Bill is somewhat equivocal in tone and permissive in law, it is high time that the issues that it addresses or refers to were dealt with. However, the Bill is imbalanced. It seeks to help passengers, but hesitates when proffering help to those affected by air travel. That is why we need greater clarity on the question of night-time flights. I hope that the Under-Secretary will think carefully about how she will reply on that point, and that she and her colleagues will ensure that they give the matter the greatest consideration before any loosening of the regulations.

The Bill should also make the monitoring, management and enforcement of noise and emissions levels thoroughly independent of commercial airport operators. Others have suggested that there is no conspiracy, and I tend in politics and in life generally not to see conspiracies about me, but residents near airports genuinely feel that they are not being heard. Putting the system on an independent footing would help to allay those concerns and to ensure a positive dialogue between airport and resident. We would be sending the clearest of signals to people that their complaints will not only be treated fairly but that there is a system that they can trust. In the area in and around Stansted, that is not the case at present.

I hope that the Government will grasp this opportunity and therefore help to improve the quality of life not just of my constituents but of millions of people around the country.

A View from Heathrow

Justine Greening (Putney) (Con): Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for giving me the chance to speak in this debate on the Civil Aviation Bill. For many of my constituents, particularly those who live in Thamesfield, East Putney and Roehampton, the issue of aircraft noise at night is of great, and growing, concern. I want to make it clear from the outset, however, that, like the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Alan Keen), I am not against aviation or against Heathrow. I fully understand the importance of the aviation industry to the UK, and the opportunities that it gives to so many of us to travel. I also fully recognise that Heathrow is very important for the local economy, in terms of the employment that it provides.

My worries about the Bill are specifically related to its potential effect on night flights, which already have a severe impact on many of my constituents. I know that many other hon. Members have similar concerns. The Bill proposes a fundamental change in the way in which aircraft noise from planes landing at designated airports such as Heathrow will be managed. At present, the noise created by night flights - flights landing at airports such as Heathrow between 11.30 pm and 6.30 am - is controlled in two ways. The first is a noise quota system that measures the estimated total noise created. The second is the calculation of the absolute number of movements overhead.

At present, an average of 16 flights land at Heathrow between 11.30 pm and 6.30 am every day, with the majority landing from 4.30 am onwards. These planes fly directly over my constituency and, indeed, over my own home. However, rather than strengthening the controls over noise, the Bill proposes to take away one of the two means of control currently in place. Clause 2 will give the Secretary of State the power to change the noise regime, if he so chooses, and to remove the movements limit element altogether, so that we should rely instead only on the noise quota measure.

I recognise that the air transport White Paper said that the Government intended to introduce legislation to make such changes, but they are strongly opposed by me, my constituents, the London borough of Wandsworth and many other boroughs and interests around Heathrow. I am sure that the Department for Transport will explain that the justification for this change is that removing the movements limit will provide an effective incentive for airlines to use aircraft that are less noisy. I understand that, but less noisy aircraft are still noisy and they still wake people up. I find it hard to understand the logic of a policy that suggests that a less noisy aircraft is somehow, miraculously, not noisy at all. This policy could enable airlines to increase the number of night flights, possibly significantly, when our objective must surely be to limit, and gradually to phase out, the number of night flights coming into airports such as Heathrow. I will come back to other aspects of the noise quota system - the one noise control that will remain in place - to demonstrate just what a discredited system it is.

I should also like to take this opportunity to point out that the Bill does not give any indication as to when such a power to remove the movements limit might be used by the Secretary of State, and under what criteria he might judge it appropriate to launch a consultation to change the powers. Given that the Bill proposes to introduce these powers, I can only assume that there is an intention to use them, which can only mean that we will have more planes flying overhead than at present.

Just as worryingly, the Secretary of State will be aware that, only on 10 June, his Department issued the second stage of consultation on night flights into Heathrow, just a day after the Civil Aviation Bill was published, on 9 June. The Department for Transport is taking both documents forward simultaneously. My constituents might have expected these two documents to have some consistency between them, but they do not. The night flights consultation document makes no mention whatever of the Civil Aviation Bill's proposals, and shows the existing regime of a mix of movement limits and quota limits continuing at least until 2012. The Bill therefore seems wholly inconsistent with the tone and apparent objective of the night flights consultation.  

Of course, I cannot talk about the Government's strategy - I use the term loosely - on civil aviation without referring to the previous White Paper, "The Future of Air Transport". That document said that it was the Government's intention to "bear down" on aircraft noise. It also said that the Department for Transport's basic aim was to "limit, and where possible, reduce the number of people in the UK significantly affected by aircraft noise".

But the proposal from that same Government in the night flights consultation is that we should see a 10 per cent. increase in planes landing at Heathrow during the night period. That consultation also proposes that my constituents should have to bear an increase in the night flight regime, from 2,550 movements in the current winter season to 2,820 by 2011-12, and a similar increase in summer flights.

That is bad enough, but the Bill also proposes to give the Secretary of State the power to take away any need for movement limits whatever. My constituents will be left with a noise control system that the Secretary of State could, at any point - without specifying why or when - change to rely solely on the quota count system. That system is arguably fundamentally flawed, which leads me to my next concern regarding the Bill.

We are used to fine words from this Government, but as ever there is little of substance behind them. The Department for Transport may say that it wants to "bear down" on aircraft noise, but it is placing confidence in a quota count system that is based on estimated noise, rather than on actual noise. How can we possibly justify, let alone explain to our constituents, a system for monitoring aircraft noise that is based on estimates of the noise level that an aircraft makes, rather than on the actual noise that it makes. That is surely absurd.

To explain why the quota count system using estimated noise is so discredited, research was carried out by the London borough of Wandsworth to show that the level of night noise at Heathrow is understated by 74 per cent., owing to the misclassification of the louder quota count 4 and quota count 8 747-400 aircraft landing at Heathrow between 4 o'clock and 6 o'clock each morning. Those planes had, in fact, been classed as quota count 2 level planes, which are supposedly much quieter. The planes that have been so badly misclassified make up an amazing 80 per cent. of the current night flights into Heathrow over Putney. I look to the Minister to give the House an assurance that her Department will now take steps to move to a noise monitoring system based on actual, not estimated, noise.

The issues do not end there. We need to measure actual noise more effectively, but having done that, we must at last define what level of actual noise constitutes "excessive". The London borough of Wandsworth, which has campaigned tirelessly for a reduction in night noise, has repeatedly asked for a definition of "excessive noise", but to date has not been given one by the Government. This issue has also been pointed out to the Government not only by other hon. Members but by the inspector carrying out the terminal 5 inquiry. He said in his report that he "had some difficulty in establishing current government policy towards aircraft noise".

His report went onto say: "I find it very hard to understand how the policy can be implemented fairly and openly in the absence of a measure of definition of what is an excessive noise level". I agree.

The issues do not end there, however. We do not even have up-to-date information on how aircraft noise at airports such as Heathrow affects the well-being and health, both short and long term, of local people. In fact, the last large-scale social study of the impact of night noise on people was carried out in 1985, 20 years ago, in the aircraft noise index study. Surely it is time for an updated review. I believe that the sleep disturbance study of 1993 was also debated in the House. It was heavily criticised at the time of its publication and failed to consider adequately the experience of residents on the ground.

No study of which I am aware has examined the impact of night flights or aircraft noise on people such as my constituents in Putney. I am not aware of any permanent noise sensors monitoring aircraft noise in my constituency, but they are badly needed. If they are there, the data are certainly not being made publicly available. It takes only one noisy plane to wake someone up.

Given the Government's reluctance to provide me with facts and data, I have done my own search instead of relying on estimates. I have found only one piece of research that considered actual noise created by aircraft landing at Heathrow and passing over Putney, although even that did not examine the impact of that noise on my constituents. That report was carried out in 1999 by the then Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, and was innovatively titled, "Noise from Arriving Aircraft". It did consider maximum noise levels experienced in a number of locations, including one noise sensor in Putney, and I have a chart of the output from that sensor with me.

For the Boeing 747 - again, I remind the House that 80 per cent. of night flights coming into Heathrow are Boeing 747s - the maximum decibels created were up to 80 dB. That comes right at the end of the chart that I am now showing the House. In fact, no aircraft monitored carrying more than 100 passengers was recorded at less than 65 dB. However, the 80 dB noise that my constituents experience can be contrasted with the World Health Organisation's guidelines as to what noise will prohibit a good night's sleep: "for good sleep, sound level should not exceed 30 decibels for continuous background noise, and individual noise events exceeding 45 decibels should be avoided."

While I fully understand that the WHO levels are in fact for internal noise, the average home will provide only about a 15 dB reduction by way of sound insulation. Therefore, people who wish to have a window open, even slightly, for ventilation, are experiencing levels in excess of what the WHO would advise.

From the only piece of evidence available, it seems that my constituents must endure noise far in excess of that which the World Health Organisation believes is the maximum tolerable for a good night's sleep. The WHO has also stated that there can be significant health impacts from disturbed sleep. In the short term, there is an increased risk of accident; additionally, blood pressure and stress hormones can be affected. In the longer term, however, the World Health Organisation says that persistently disturbed sleep can lead to cardiovascular problems, worsened cognitive performance and immune system problems. I would urge the Minister to study carefully and take a lead from the World Health Organisation guidelines, which would suggest that night-time noise at airports such as Heathrow is already excessive, in the context of my constituents having their sleep disturbed. I also look to the Minister to give this House an assurance that her Department will undertake a full study of what determines "excessive" noise and to make its findings and subsequent policy known to the House at last.

Even the Government's former aviation Minister, the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin), seems to support my position. In an article on this topic in the Evening Standard, dated 14 January, 2003 he said: "Although nowadays the industry pays lip service to the notion of sustainability, its demands are essentially unchanged. It wants more of everything - airports, runways, terminals. The industry is not even prepared to negotiate seriously on such relatively resolvable problems as the 16 night flights which daily disrupt the sleep of several hundred thousand Londoners and are a source of continual complaint. During my time as aviation Minister I had difficulty persuading representatives of the offending airlines even to sit around a table with MPs whose constituents are affected, let alone contemplate the slightest change to their night flight schedules."

I hope that the latest aviation Minister will have more success. The previous Minister ended his article by saying that any further concessions to the industry should be conditional on an end to night flights. I do not expect that to happen, but I find myself in agreement with a former Labour minister.

In summary, the Bill represented an opportunity to bring actual aircraft noise fully into the Department's decision making. That opportunity has been missed. The Bill represented an opportunity finally to define what our Government believe is "excessive" noise. Again, that opportunity has been missed. I believe that it is incumbent on a Government making such major proposals related to aircraft noise, affecting hundreds of thousands of people in London, including my constituents in Putney, to base those proposals on hard evidence that is not only accurate but up-to-date. That evidence is absent from the Bill.

The Bill proposes not to tackle the issue of aircraft noise and the resultant health impacts, but to do the exact opposite and remove a fundamental check on worsening aircraft noise that has been in place for a number of years. The Bill gives the Secretary of State power to lessen controls on noise created by aircraft, and thereby opens the door for aircraft operators to have as many planes landing during the night-time as they wish. The Bill implies that quieter aircraft are less disruptive than noisier aircraft and that therefore there is no more need for a movements limit. The World Health Organisation evidence, however, suggests that all planes carrying 100 or more passengers will wake up residents beneath the flight path as they land.

It is time the Government initiated a large-scale study not only of actual noise experienced by people such as my constituents in Putney, but also of the impact that that noise has on sleep disturbance. The Bill emphasises the lack of balance in this Government's aviation policy, placing the economic interests of airlines and airport operators over the livelihoods of people who each night suffer the consequences of noise from aircraft. The Department has placed much store on the need to balance the social impact of night noise with its economic benefits, and it needs to do so as a matter of urgency. Let us find out what the economic benefits of night flights truly are. So far, I have seen no detailed report justifying aircraft operators' claims about their contribution to London's economy. I will listen to the Minister's response with great interest, and I hope that, as a minimum, she will assure me that those studies will be undertaken as a precondition of the legislation being implemented.

On the specific issue of night noise at least, it is time that the interests of local communities were at last placed on an equal footing with those of the industry. Finding the right balance is long overdue. The best decisions are based on facts and data, which, in this Bill, are badly needed but missing.

Before increased powers are conferred on the Secretary of State via the Bill, I look to the Minister to give the House assurances on actual noise monitoring being put in place in areas near Heathrow such as Putney, an assessment of the impact of actual noise on people experiencing it, a definition of what constitutes excessive noise according to this Government, and a full review of the economic case for night flights as a matter of necessity. Failing to give those assurances and carry out that action puts the Bill on a dangerous path along which to progress.

The Minister, Karen Buck, gave a long and detailed answer to the various points

On Climate change:
Our opponents try to portray our developing aviation policy as predict and provide. That is a deliberate misrepresentation. More capacity is needed, not to allow the unconstrained meeting of demand, but to act responsibly to support future economic growth and the UK's competitiveness. Several hon. Members referred to the broader issue of aviation's contribution to climate change. Although that is outwith the Bill's scope, it is an important point and we should use every opportunity to make the Government's policy clear.

Aviation produces carbon emissions equivalent to just 2 to 3 per cent. of the UK total. Emissions on international travel are not allocated to states under the Kyoto protocol. However, we are all aware that aviation has grown significantly in the past few years and is projected to continue growing. We flagged up in the air transport White Paper the fact that aviation emissions could amount to about a quarter of the UK's total contribution to global warming by 2030.

Some hon. Members referred to the recent report by the Tyndall centre. I welcome that contribution to the debate. The report is based on its projections of demand and emissions, which are in excess of the figures that we recognise. Its picture is unduly bleak. However, there is common ground and we all believe that action is needed. It is for that reason that we have taken an international lead in pressing for aviation emissions to be included within the EU emissions trading scheme from 2008 or as soon as possible thereafter. That will be a priority for the UK presidency starting this week. The advantage of emissions trading as a mechanism is that it enables us to determine an environmental outcome and allow operators flexibility over how best they achieve that outcome.

That should assure the House that we are committed to working to tackle the major environmental challenges that aviation poses. The Bill includes more detailed measures that supplement that action and offer the prospect of making a valuable contribution to tackling environmental challenges at a local level.

General statement on noise and ermission charges:
The Bill specifically relates to environmental aspects - noise and emissions - that can have an impact on the quality of life for those living near airports. Linking airport charges to emissions would be put on a statutory footing and the Government would have the ability to intervene should that be necessary if, for example, an airport is in breach of agreed EU air quality limits.

Amending the powers by which we control noise at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted will give us more flexibility to introduce measures to encourage the replacement of older aircraft with quieter new ones. A noise limit creates an incentive to use quieter aircraft in a way that movement limits on their own do not. As has been made clear, any change will be subject to full consultation. It is worth pointing out that between 1985 and 2003, the population exposed to daytime noise above the 57 dB level at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Manchester declined by 21 per cent. It is important that we understand that noise reduction can be achieved, and has been achieved, by aircraft.

The hon. Lady and, I think, the hon. Member for Windsor (Adam Afriyie) argued in the debate last week that we should have a different definition of noise to reflect the actual noise of aircraft, rather than their certification. As we explained in the consultation document on night noise, we have limited discretion under EU rules for doing what she suggests. There is an internationally recognised system of noise measurement, and that is the one that we adhere to. I am afraid that we are not in a position to implement her proposals.

The next night restrictions regime until 2012 will be based on current legislation - a number of people expressed concerns about that - and will continue to incorporate a movements limit. Airports' ability to set up noise-control measures and impose penalties on aircraft operators will be enshrined in statute, but airports should follow a balanced approach when introducing new measures. Hon. Members made some important points about noise measurement, including noise averages and the value of decibels to determine nuisance. Although the Government use well established measurements, we are undertaking further research to help us inform the debate.

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