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 - January to March 2006

31 March 2006


Climate Change - The Prime Minister's speech

Press Notice - Downing Street Online - 28 March 2006

The Prime Minister Official Spokesman (PMOS) previewed the Prime Minister's speech on climate change later. He said that in terms of climate change, the Prime Minister would address the climate change conference which was being held in Wellington and he would join it via videolink at 9.00 New Zealand time tomorrow morning, which was 10.00 tonight in London.

The basic message, and this was if you like what united both John Howard and himself today, was that the way to deal with climate change was through developing the technology. Now for some people the need to deal with climate change was because of the environment's degradation and we very clearly believed in the science, for others the primary motive was energy security. Whatever perspective you took, the solution was developing the technology and giving the private sector the certainty and the confidence it needed to invest in developing that technology as quickly as possible. That was why tomorrow morning he would say in Auckland that we couldn't afford to wait the five years Kyoto took to negotiate, we couldn't afford that period of time because time was running out for the planet, and also because of the energy supply issue. The Prime Minister would say that we needed to make progress in 2006, that we couldn't afford to stand still after the progress that was made last year, and we needed to make progress to agree a future framework for when Kyoto ends in 2012, a framework that included China, India, the US and others who were not part of Kyoto.

The key point was that at the heart of that framework must be a goal to stabilise both temperature and concentrations of greenhouse gas emissions. We needed a technology revolution to do that, which he believed would be comparable with the internet, and again the key was a goal which would give business the confidence and the certainty it needs to invest in cleaner technology and reduce emissions.

This year the Prime Minister intended using the G8 meeting in St Petersburg in July, where energy is going to be a key issue, as identified by the Russians already, the Gleneagles dialogue in Mexico in September, which is the follow-up to our Gleneagles agreement on climate change, and the EU to drive this forward.

The PMOS gave some context around the publication of the review today. He said that the UK record on climate change was unmatched. The measures we announced today would mean that we would go significantly beyond our Kyoto target. The Kyoto target was 12.5%, and we were going to get to 23-25% cuts in emissions by 2012, in effect we are doing twice as much as required under Kyoto.

Asked if the Prime Minister would be mentioning Nuclear energy in his speech, the PMOS said that nuclear energy was clearly part of the energy review. That review was ongoing. The Prime Minister believed that nuclear energy must be part of the debate.

Asked if the Prime Minister believed it would be unchristian not to address environmental issues, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister's view was that whether we looked at this issue from a moral, environmental or energy security perspective the important thing was that we dealt with it. In the UK, in terms of greenhouse gas emissions we were doubling our Kyoto target. We needed to go further and recognise that the UK itself was only 2% of the overall problem. Therefore we had to develop solutions which were applicable, in terms of both the developed and developing economies, particularly China and India.

The Australian Prime Minister himself said this morning said that if you shut down all Australian emissions, China would reach that limit within 8 months. Asked if the Prime Minister welcomed the intervention by the Archbishop of Canterbury on this issue, the PMOS said that all contributions to this debate were welcome. The important thing was to find a solution. The solutions would come through giving private industry the certainty and the confidence with which to develop the alternative means of energy and the cleaner means of energy that were required to tackle this problem.

Asked if the Prime Minister would be taking up President Bush's record in this regard when they next met, the PMOS reminded journalists that President Bush had been part of the progress in Gleneagles last year, the US had been at the UN meeting in Montreal at the end of last year in which all countries agreed to discuss what the new framework would be in place after 2012. It was wrong to suggest that this was just a problem related to the US. It was a global problem and increasingly a problem involving countries such as India and China.

Asked if the Prime Minister was hoping to reach agreement on this before he left office, the PMOS said that he knew that someone would try to find some way of working that issue in. The Prime Minister saw climate change as a priority and an issue which he had been pursuing since the run-up to the Gleneagles agreement last year and this was an issue which he would continue to prioritise.

Asked if the Prime Minister would be arguing forcibly with his G8 partners to cut the emissions from aviation and presumably attempt to rein in the huge growth in aviation in the UK and elsewhere, the PMOS said that in terms of aviation and other sources, the important thing was to develop the technology to deal with the issues. At the same time the Prime Minister did not believe that electorates would support anything that would result in the economy suffering. The reason for that was that you had to have a buoyant economy to pay for the research, and the development of the very technology which would deal with the problem.

Asked what progress had been made on that, the PMOS said that the progress was that countries agreed at Montreal that we needed to discuss a new framework for what would happen after 2012. What we now needed to do was inject an urgency into that process. We also agreed at Gleneagles about how we would begin to exchange technology with countries such as China. We needed to develop that thinking as well and why we needed to bring all these strands together into the UN process.

Asked what was actually new in this speech, the PMOS said that what was new was identifying 2006 as the year when we began to get a consensus on setting a stabilisation goal. That process meant that we had to have intensive dialogue on this issue, with the US, the EU, India and China as well as other countries. That was why he would use the G8, Gleneagles and the EU to push this forward. As we had announced today we wanted to see 20% CO2 and 23-25% greenhouse gas emissions in 2012.

Asked if it was not ironic that the Prime Minister had flown halfway around the world to make this point, the PMOS pointed out that the emissions from the Prime Minister's plane would be offset and that from April 1st the emissions from all government planes would be offset. This problem would not be solved by preventing economies from working, this problem would be solved by providing economic incentives to deal with this issue. Asked what he meant by offset, the PMOS said that in terms of trading emissions it is offset. Asked if that meant like planting a tree, the PMOS said no, we provide additional funding into schemes which promote sustainable energy resources, mostly in the developing world.

Asked if the Prime Minister supported a levy on air travel, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister supported mechanisms that encouraged industry to develop the technology necessary to deal with this issue.

Asked if the Prime Minister had discussed the stabilisation goal with Prime Minister Howard, the PMOS said that climate change had come up in virtually all the discussions we had had in Australia, it had come up in the leadership forum discussions with business leaders, during the discussions in the bilateral with Prime Minister Howard and in the discussions with the Cabinet. As he had said, we might approach this from different angles. He didn't want to speak for Prime Minister Howard but he thought it was fair to say that he had made it absolutely clear that he recognised the need to develop cleaner technology. The PMOS pointed out that Australia was a major exporter of coal, it therefore had a very strong interest in seeing that that continued with new technology which was clean coal.

OUR COMMENT: A Technology Revolution Now! – BUT he has already had a revolution (though the ancients knew all about wind power) and these solutions have been available all the years he has been prime minister - renewable energy, wind, solar and wave as well as microgeneration. Has he promoted them? Plenty of words but less action, very little research on wave energy and very little encouragement to solar energy. It seems that our Prime Minister's obsession with technological solutions blind him to the simplest solutions, possibly because it means restraining those voters who might be antagonised if they were restricted in some of their choices. And, the government seems to be obsessed with choice.
Right now, without the need for a revolution, he could:
* Legislate to require all new buildings to observe a sustainable building Code which includes the highest standards of energy efficiency
* Promote all measures to ensure all new vehicles have low-emission engines
* Review the aviation White Paper, manage expansion, no more runways and promote international agreement on aviation emission limits
* Tell the DTI to agree a lower emissions cap for the EU emissions trading scheme.

Pat Dale

31 March 2006


James Meikle - The Guardian - 30 March 2006

Carbon dioxide emissions in Britain have risen for the third year in a row, and are the highest under Labour, figures revealed yesterday.

A government review of climate change policies this week provoked concern over the political will to tackle the issue. About 157.4m tonnes of carbon were released into the atmosphere in 2004.

Friends of the Earth said this was 2.3% more than when Tony Blair became Prime Minister. The government blamed increased consumption and a small switch from gas to coal in power stations, but said net emissions were 5.5% down on 1990.

OUR COMMENT: Presumably emissions from international aviation flights leaving the country are not included.

Pat Dale

31 March 2006


Europe "facing unsustainable transport trends"

Environment Daily 2069 - 29 March 2006

European freight transport continues to grow along with gross domestic product with no clear signs of decoupling between them, the European environment agency (EEA) warned on Tuesday.

Relative decoupling has emerged recently in passenger transport, but absolute volumes are still increasing, it said in a major review of transport and environment issues. The EEA warns that these persistent unsustainable trends are undermining undermine progress towards Kyoto targets.

Aviation is the most problematic area, with air passenger transport up by 96% between 1990 and 2002. In comparison, all passenger transport grew by 30% over the same period and all freight transport by 34%.

The report argues that areas affecting transport demand, such as spatial planning, industrial development and agriculture, must include demand reduction policies. "We are locked into patterns that are not easily changed in the short term", said EEA executive director Jacqueline McGlade. "Long-term policy initiatives are needed to encourage people to change their habits."

The "Term" report is the agency's sixth annual environmental assessment of transport in Europe. Most of the data comes from the period 1999-2002 though for some issues it reports trends up to 2003.

Greenhouse gas emissions from transport in Europe increased by 22 % from 1990 to 2003 while decreasing in other sectors, the EEA reports. Ireland posted a spectacular 130% increase in emissions over the same period. At the other extreme, in Germany the increase was only 5%.

The report explores transport's contribution to poor air quality and forecasts that many European cities will continue to fail EU limits. Limits set for ozone in 2010 are widely exceeded, the agency points out, and many member states including the Netherlands are struggling to meet fine particulates standards.

Although data on passenger transport is patchy, there is no evidence of a shift from road to rail, it says. Cars have declining /spanoccupancy rates, while average loads of lorries in countries like the UK, the Netherlands and Denmark either remain stable or are declining.

31 March 2006


BAA calls for less airport regulation

Reuters Online - 30 March 2006

Airport operator BAA said on Thursday the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) should ease regulation of BAA's trio of London airports.

"BAA is asking the CAA to consider removing those activities from the regulatory domain that are already subject to significant competition, namely advertising, long-term car parking and bureaux de change," the airports operator said in a statement to the London Stock Exchange.

BAA was responding to the CAA's review of caps it sets every five years on the fees which BAA charges airlines to use its London airports. The latest caps will apply from April, 2008.

BAA owns the three main airports, Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.

The CAA said in December it planned to regulate each of the airports on a stand-alone basis, ruling out the cross-subsidisation of projects such as a second runway at Stansted from charges at other airports.


BAA supports UK govt plans for more airport capacity in SE England

Forbes.com - 30 March 2006

LONDON (AFX) - BAA PLC, the airports operator under threat of a takeover bid from Spain's Grupo Ferrovial SA, said it supported the UK government's plans for more airport capacity in Southeast England.

BAA was responding to a policy consultation paper from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), on proposals to lighten the burden of regulation on airports.

This is the first stage in a five-yearly process examining the future regulatory environment for BAA's London airports, due for completion early 2008.

BAA expressed support for the government's White Paper, with its detailed plans for additional airport capacity in the South East of England. It also said it supported early investment in airport capacity in general and Heathrow Airport in particular.

The company said timely investment in a second runway at Stansted airport could be encouraged by adopting a 'dual till' approach for the airport. Under the current 'single till' system, BAA's profits from commercial operations like shops, restaurants and car parking are taken into account when the regulator calculates the fees BAA can charge airlines for using the airport.

31 March 2006


BAA looks east for growth to take off as UK feels the pinch

Terry Macalister - The Guardian - 28 March 2006

BAA, the owner of London's Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports, is looking to China to keep up momentum as passenger growth at its British airports slows and costs soar.

The company which bought Budapest airport for £1.2bn last year, is looking at China's "secondary" facilities rather than the main terminals at places such as Beijing or Shanghai. Mike Clasper, chief executive, said: "What we are looking at are the secondary airports but given the way the Chinese economy is booming the secondary airports are handling millions and millions of passengers."

He was commenting at the release of a trading statement from BAA, which has itself been the subject of an unwanted bid approach from the Spanish infrastructure group Ferrovial. BAA earlier this month rejected the £8.75bn conditional offer but there are growing expectations that the Spanish company, which already owns the British support company Amey, will come back with a high offer.

BAA said it expected passenger numbers at its seven airports across Britain to increase by 2% in the year ending March 31 - half the previous year's figures - while higher staffing costs, energy prices and business rates have driven up costs by 8%.

The group, which unveiled plans last November to save £45m a year from 2008-09 by cutting jobs and other costs, said its airport retail business performed strongly with income from passengers up by 2%.

Mr Clasper believed his company's overall trading position was still solid, "given the impact of a softer UK economy and increased security requirements".

BAA said it handled 145.1 million passengers at its airports - including Budapest - in the 11 months to the end of February, a 3.1% rise on the year before.

The new terminal 5 at Heathrow is now three-quarters complete, on budget and on schedule to open on March 30th 2008. BAA has agreed to the forward sale of a ground lease to Arora International hotels at the terminal worth £40m.

Mr Clasper declined to comment on the 810p-a-share offer from Ferrovial. Earlier this month BAA argued that the offer did not reflect the true value of its assets.

Cheuvreux, a European broking group, said it expected Ferrovial to launch a bid for BAA in the 850p to 900p range soon, adding that BAA "is a well run asset but we think Ferrovial can run it even better".

This year BAA is expected to handle 130.5m passengers at its three price regulated airports.

31 March 2006


Mark Milner - The Guardian - 30 March 2006

Grup Ferrovial has recruited Australia's Macquarie Bank to its consortium stalking British airports operator BAA, a move analysts said could increase the Spanish construction company's financial fire-power for a bid. It also removes a possible rival suitor with Macquarie, which is Australia's biggest investment bank, previously tipped as a potential alternative bidder for BAA.

Ferrovial said it had also reached agreement with Macquarie under which its investment fund, Macquarie Airports Group, could acquire Ferrovial's near-21% stake in Sydney airport and its half-share in Bristol airport.

The Ferrovial consortium, which includes Singapore's GLC Special Investments and Canada's Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, submitted an outline proposal for BAA in February valuing the UK company at £8.8bn or 810p a share. That was rebuffed by the company, which operates seven airports, including Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.

Earlier this month the Takeover Panel, which regulates bids for UK companies, gave Ferrovial and its allies until April 24th to make a firm bid or walk away. Yesterday analysts said Ferrovial could be in a stronger position as a result of the tie-up with Macquarie. "We now expect the consortium to become more aggressive price-wise on the bid for BAA without fearing Macquarie's opposition" analysts at Banco BPI said in a research note.

Damian Brewer, an analyst at investment bank JP Morgan took a similar line. "It brings Macquarie on-side and I think therefore increases the likelihood that we will see an improved offer from the Ferrovial consortium". Yesterday BAA shares rose 9.5p to 832p.

Macquarie Airports group already has substantial interests in airports in Birmingham, Rome, Copenhagen and Brussels. Under the terms of a series of put and call options with Ferrovial, which depend on the consortium succeeding in acquiring BAA, Macquarie Airports would pay up to £106m for Ferrovial's 50% stake in Bristol airport, taking its holding to more than 80%. It would pay up to A$1bn (£400m) for the 20.9% stake in Sydney Airport, which would raise its holding to more than 75%.

When it rejected the proposal from Ferrovial, BAA said the offer undervalued the group's assets. Earlier the company said it was trading in line with its own expectations, with traffic through the UK airports expected to grow by 2% over the year.

The company, which paid £1.2bn last year for Budapest airport, said it was looking to countries such as China to provide growth momentum, though it would look to "secondary" facilities rather than the main terminals at cities such as Beijing and Shanghai.

Mike Clasper, chief executive, said the full-year performance would be a "good result given the impact of the softer UK economy and increased security requirements".

29 March 2006


Hot Air – but no Action

Guardian Leader - 29 March 2006

The bulldozers are out this spring widening the congested southern end of the M1, which is welcome news for anyone who has missed a low-cost flight from Luton airport because they were stuck in a jam, but one example of why Britain is way off course on its climate change targets.

People want to drive more, fly more and use more energy and they have hardly begun to change their behaviour in order to lessen the impact on the environment. The result is that the M1 and Luton airport are busy but Britain's carbon dioxide emissions have increased by 5.5% since 1997. This has made a mockery of the government's targets to cut them to 80% of 1990 levels by 2010, a target which was in effect abandoned yesterday by Margaret Beckett.

Bowing to the inevitable after an 18 month review, she set out plans which she hopes will allow Britain to meet a new and less demanding reduction of 15-18% by 2010. But as environmental campaigners pointed out yesterday, achieving this goal is far from certain, not least because of a Whitehall turf war between Ms Beckett's department (which wants an 18% cut) and the DTI (which backs 15%). When ministers cannot agree on the destination, it is hardly surprising that the journey is a slow one.

True, Britain is on course to meet with ease a less demanding 12.5% target for all greenhouse gases, set by the Kyoto Treaty, and carbon emissions are still lower than 1990. But what Ms Beckett is less keen to advertise is the reality that this reduction was a byproduct of Britain's move in the 1990s from coal-fuelled power stations and the decline of heavy industry, rather than a genuine shift to a more efficient, less polluting society.

Exclude the switch from coal, and government efforts since 1990 appear to have had no impact at all. Worse, the official figures on carbon emissions (and Kyoto targets) exclude air and sea transport. Add that in and emissions are almost certainly higher than they were before anyone tried to do anything about the problem.

This is a bleak position to be in, since research suggests that both the pace and the impact of climate change are much greater than previously thought. Instead of scaling back its ambitions, as the government did yesterday, it should be scaling them up, towards the target of a 60% carbon cut by 2050 which the government once hoped to achieve. At the moment this looks impossible.

The good news is that the government and opposition parties accept the need to act: the bad news is that so far their solutions are superficial, spray-on greenery. The budget, spun in advance as an environmental breakthrough, was nothing of the sort, while the Conservatives have talked a big game but offered nothing that might cost them votes.

Politicians have pushed the seductive mistruth that climate change can be solved by painless, invisible measures: some windmills on chimneys and a few more trees. It cannot. Small measures will help, but big ones are needed too. Some of them will hurt and voters will squeal. That does not mean abandoning economic growth, as Bill Clinton pointed out in a speech in London yesterday. But it does mean sharing responsibility between individuals and industry, national governments and the world community. At the moment everybody seems to be waiting for someone else to take the burden.

Britain has at least acted more responsibly than most, not least at last year's Montreal talks. Tony Blair and Margaret Beckett are certainly sincere on the issue, but they must be judged by the results, which are so far not impressive.

Cheap flights, new roads and a frozen tax on petrol are all the product of government decisions. "We need a technological revolution…on a parallel with the internet," the prime minister argued yesterday. He is right, but there is little sign of it so far. And meanwhile the problem gets worse day by day.

29 March 2006


Environment Daily 2067 - 27 March 2006

The EU has called on all industrialised countries to make deep cuts in greenhouse gases in a submission ahead of talks on post-2012 global climate policy. The talks will be the first since world governments agreed in Montreal last December to begin discussing the issue in earnest.

A working group of countries that have ratified the Kyoto protocol will kick off the post-2012 talks in Bonn between 17 and 25 May. Just prior to this a broader "dialogue" on long-term climate change policy will be launched, bringing together both developed and developing countries.

The EU takes at its starting point a plea for policy to be guided by the UN climate change convention's ultimate objective of avoiding dangerous climate change, which it says should be taken as limiting an increase in world temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius.

To achieve this, scientists suggest that the world as a whole will have to reduce emissions by 15-50% by 2050, the EU says. As a more focused goal, it says, developed countries should make cuts of 15-30% by 2020 and further cuts by 2050, it goes on.

The EU insists that further binding quantified emission limits will have to be set for the post-2012 period.  Only with such limits will the Kyoto protocol's flexible mechanisms of joint implementation, the clean development mechanism and international emission trading also be able to function effectively, it argues.

At its first meeting, the Kyoto working group should try to agree a work programme to take forward discussions, the EU says.  It flags up a number of issues to be resolved, including the length of future commitment periods, how carbon sinks should be treated and whether emissions by aviation and international shipping should be brought into the protocol.

The EU's paper is one of about a dozen so far received by the UN climate change convention secretariat in Bonn.  It expects to start posting submissions on the internet in about a week's time, according to an official.

29 March 2006


Environment Daily 2068 - 28 March 2006

The UK government aroused a storm of protest on Tuesday by admitting that Britain will not cut CO2 emissions 20% by 2010 and by delaying setting a cap on industrial emissions under the second phase of the EU emission trading scheme.

It has been clear for some time that the unilateral 20% target would probably not be reached. Nevertheless, the government's public admission in a review of national climate change policy drew strong criticism from environmentalists and opposition parties.

It now forecasts that Britain will reduce CO2% by 15-18% by 2010, compared with 1990 levels.  The projected cut in all six Kyoto-controlled greenhouse gases remains higher at 23-25%, well above the UK's official commitment of a 12.5% reduction by 2008-12.

The range in forecast CO2 is entirely down to uncertainty over how strict a cap the government will put on industrial emissions in the second phase of the EU emission trading scheme.  The industry and environment ministries are widely reported to be fighting furiously over the issue behind the scenes.

The government released a draft of the UK national allocation plan (Nap) for the scheme's second phase alongside the climate change review.  It said that CO2 emissions would be brought down by 11-29m tonnes compared with business as usual depending on the stringency of the cap.  It will not release final proposals until close to the deadline of 30 June.

Green groups complained that even the strictest emissions cap envisioned would reduce the trading sector's permitted emissions by only 6% compared with the emission trading scheme's first phase.  At the upper end emissions would be allowed to increase by 2%.

A range of new measures other than the emission trading scheme should cut another 15m tonnes of CO2 annually by 2010, the government estimates.  Biggest amongst these is a renewable transport fuel obligation at 6m tones.  Other measures include subsidies for biomass heat, and implementation of the EU buildings energy and energy-using products (EUP) directives.

29 March 2006


Review highlights need for climate law

Press Release - Friends of the Earth - 28 March 2006

Friends of the Earth accused Ministers of lacking the political will to tackle climate change, following today's publication of the Government's review of its climate change programme. The environmental campaign group described the review as "pathetic" and called for a new law to make the Government legally responsible for reducing UK carbon dioxide emissions, a move backed by the majority of MPs.

The Government has repeatedly promised to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent of 1990 levels by 2010, including in all three of the general election manifestos that have put New Labour in Government. But emissions have risen by three per cent since Tony Blair came to power in 1997. The latest figures show that they are currently only around five per cent below 1990 levels. The revised strategy was supposed to get the UK back on track – but it is clear that it has failed to do this.

Friends of the Earth director, Tony Juniper said: The programme published today has a number of significant failings:

• It will not deliver the Government target of a 20 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2010;

• It lacks an overall framework for tackling climate change, relying instead on a piecemeal approach which past experience strongly suggests is doomed to fail;

• It does not ensure that there will be significant carbon dioxide reductions from industry. The Government says that under the next phase of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme industry will have to cut its carbon dioxide emissions in 2010 by between three and eight million tonnes, based on projected levels. Because industrial carbon dioxide emissions are projected to rise, a reduction of just three million tonnes will actually see industrial emissions higher than they are today.

• It doesn't commit to a reduction in traffic and does not do enough to ensure that more efficient vehicles are used. Road transport accounts for 25 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions.

• There is no review of the Government's disastrous aviation strategy, which heavily subsidies cheap flights and is allowing a massive expansion in capacity through the building of new runways and airport terminals. Aviation is the fastest growing source of carbon dioxide emissions in the UK.

• It does not go far enough in realising the massive potential for energy saving, renewable power and combined heat & power schemes, leaving Britain largely dependent on the inefficient use of fossil fuels for electricity and heating.

Tough action is needed to tackle climate change. But once again the Government has caved in to short-term political pressures and produced a totally inadequate response. This pathetic strategy will not deliver the Government's promise to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent by 2010, and will further undermine the Prime Minister's reputation on this issue. The ship is heading for the rocks, but rather than changing direction, Captain Blair has simply reduced speed while his crew continues to squabble."

"Most MPs now back Friends of the Earth's call for a new law requiring the Government to make annual cuts in carbon dioxide. It's time that Ministers accepted how their present programme is failing and embrace the need for a stronger and more structured approach. The solutions exist, but the Government clearly lacks the political will to use them." Friends of the Earth's climate campaign, The Big Ask, is calling on the Government to introduce a climate law that would set a legally binding target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 3 per cent every year, monitored through an annual carbon budget. For more information see www.thebigask.com

29 March 2006


Oil Independence
Sweden Plans Wood-fueled Future

Gerald Traufetter - Spiegel Magazine (English Site) - 22 March 2006

Sweden has set itself the goal of achieving total independence from oil by 2020. The country is already covering many of its energy needs with renewable resources such as bioethanol to fuel its cars and wood to fire its power plants.

If Swedish entrepreneur Per Carstedt is right, the next big energy revolution will really be a step backward. "The industrial age began with the transition from wood to fossil fuels," he says. "Now we're going in the other direction."

Carstedt reaches into a bucket of wood chips. This is the raw material he wants to convert into modern society's lifeblood -- fuel. But before wood can power a car engine, it needs to be chemically processed. And that is exactly what's happening on the top floors of the Örnsköldsvik plant in northern Sweden. Carstedt steps into a large room crowded with steel pipes and aluminium tanks. On the end of each pipe is a safety seal.

"Government regulations," the fifty-year-old Carstedt says with a smile. The material flowing through the pipes is quite popular on dark Scandinavian nights: alcohol -- or rather ethanol to be specific. "Nobody is allowed to tap it here without permission," he says.

The liquid produced in the pilot project of Sweden's Bioethanol Foundation will eventually reach the tanks of so-called Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) that run on both ethanol and gasoline. Tens of thousands of Swedes are already driving such cars. They're an important part of an ambitious project. The government has decided that Sweden will be the first country in the world to become independent from oil -- by the year 2020.

Breaking the Oil Habit

What got Swedish politicians so worried? The surge in oil prices, which many experts no longer expect will fall -- at least not by enough to make it economical. Oil consumption in China and India alone is pushing the technical capacities for oil production to the limit.

Even US President George W. Bush, a former oil man himself, recently criticized his country's "oil addiction." He also visited Colorado's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and spoke enthusiastically about the research into alternative energy sources being conducted there. Bush was excited: "We are on the brink of a breakthrough -- we want people to drive with fuel that grows in America."

A whole series of biofuels are currently being tested. They have colorful names like "Sundiesel" or "CropPower85." Bioethanol is perhaps not the easiest fuel to produce, but the transition from gasoline to bioethanol is a simple one. Ethanol companies are currently a hot tip among investors. Bill Gates recently acquired stock in a company that soon plans to produce some 750 million liters (198 million gallons) of bioethanol. And intrigued US energy experts are already making their way to Sweden.

It's no accident the country -- which used to be known mainly in America for its pre-fab furniture -- is leading the way into the age of sustainable energy. As early as the oil crisis of the 1970s, the country began to turn its back on fossil fuels. Three decades ago, Sweden relied on petroleum for 77 percent of its energy needs. Today, that figure has shrunk to only 34 percent. Conversely, Sweden's use of renewable energy has increased steadily. No other European country covers as large a proportion of its energy needs -- 24.7 percent -- by such sources.

Sweden's geography puts it at an advantage. There are plenty of forests to provide biomass, and there is no shortage of water for producing electricity either. But it's mainly political decisions that have reduced the country's dependence on fossil fuels. Sweden now has a large number of small power plants. It's a decentralized but effective system that provides most homes with heating and many with electricity. The plants run mainly on wood and waste. In Germany, by comparison, heating comes predominately from gas and oil sources, and electricity is mainly produced by large coal-fired power plants.

Sweden in the lead

After re-thinking its electricity and heating, Sweden has now opted for a new course with regard to car fuel as well. An oil commission has been charged with leading Sweden into a greener future. The commission includes entrepreneurs such as Leif Johannson, CEO of carmaker Volvo. Bioethanol-powered cars have become a new sales focus for companies such as Saab, Ford, and Volvo. Around 450 gas stations are already providing an alternative fuel known as E85. By 2009, E85 will be available at every gas station in the country.

In fact, even drivers of regular cars are using bioethanol. In Sweden, conventional gasoline is really already a hybrid of gasoline and the new fuel. "The transition is in full course, and other countries will follow," predicts Kjell Bergström, a Saab engineer.

Sitting behind the wheel of his model 9-5 Saab, Bergström puts his foot to the accelerator. The engine makes a quiet, slightly high-pitched sound as it propels the car forward. Corn power gently pushes the car passengers against their leather seats. Some 85 percent of the fuel in the tank is ethanol obtained from fermented wheat. Bioethanol is slightly more flammable than gasoline and has a high octane rating of 104. "That means the horsepower of an ethanol-powered engine is about 180," Bergström calculates. "That's 30 more than an engine fuelled with gasoline."

That puts Saab's marketing department in the happy position of being able to sell the company's ethanol-powered cars as both environmentally friendly and fun to drive. A recent ad showed a tachometer with three green trees to mark the highest engine speeds -- instead of the usual red stripes.

Bergström, the engineer, knows very well there's another reason why bioethanol sells well: it's cheap. A Stockholm driver who uses only biofuel saves about €177 ($216) every year. Thanks to the government's tax policy, gas station customers pay about a third less for bioethanol than they would for normal gasoline. What's more, bioethanol drivers in Stockholm don't pay the tax normally levied on city driving. And a biofuel-powered Saab is only about €400 ($487) more expensive to buy than a regular car.

"In the end, it doesn't really matter why people buy the car," Bergström says. "What matters is that it helps the environment." As far as he's concerned, he simply appreciates bioethanol from the point of view of an engineer: it's more combustible than gasoline.

An accident of history

That cars haven't been running on ethanol for a long time is, in fact, simply a historical accident. In the 1920s, car magnate Henry Ford was in favor of ethanol-powered engines. But the Rockefeller oil dynasty was able to push through the use of gasoline motors.

But the wheel of history may be turning backward. The obstacles are certainly not technological, Bergström explains. He opens the hood of his Saab and points to the many tubes that run from the tank to the engine block. "They've got a special rubber coating," the Saab engineer says. Ethanol is more corrosive than gasoline; the tank and the engine valves need to be protected from the fluid. Saab's technicians also recently had to write new algorithms for the car computer, since the amount of energy contained in one liter of ethanol is lower than that contained in a liter of gasoline. The engine's fuel consumption is higher, but there are fewer emissions.

Compared to other fuels such as hydrogen and natural gas, ethanol has one decisive advantage: it's a liquid, not a gas. Bergström isn't impressed by scenarios that present gases as the fuels of the future. "It would be too complicated fueling the car, and the distribution network would have to be changed substantially."

Today's dual biofuel engines, which run on both gasoline and ethanol, are a transitional model, according to Bergström, who is convinced that engines running purely on ethanol will soon be introduced. "Then ethanol's high octane rating will allow us to make the engine run more efficiently and reduce emissions." What's most important to him is that Sweden has managed to solve the old dilemma of how to begin travelling down the road to sustainable energy. "Car producers used to keep demanding a new fuel from gasoline providers, and the oil corporations would reply: we'll get you a new fuel when you build a car that runs on it."

But will it work?

Whether the Swedish model will work elsewhere depends largely on whether enough bioethanol can be produced. Today the most effective source of ethanol is sugar cane. Brazil produces ethanol from it and Sweden obtains most of its ethanol from Brazil. But the country also already produces a fourth of its ethanol from Swedish wheat. Neither system is fully satisfactory in terms of energy output and the effects on the environment involved.

"We need a cellulose-based system," Bergström says. Developing such a system is one of the aims of Per Carstedt's pilot project. One day Carstedt's plant will be able to convert many kinds of organic matter into fuel: hay, tree bark, maize, leftovers from wine production. Around 400 billion liters of ethanol could be produced every year in the United States alone. But for fields and forests to become the primary energy source of the future, it will require a vast re-organization of the planet's agriculture. Both uncultivated land and organic waste would have to be put to use.

In Sweden, giant pine woods are waiting to be put to use as energy. Carstedt plans to extract 70 percent of the energy contained in wood. Around 500 liters of ethanol can be produced from two tons of wood. Lignin, a by-product of the cellulose-processing technique, could be converted into electricity and heat in power plants. "We have to think in terms of circuits and cycles, if we want to get the most out of this technology," Carstedt says.

One benefit is that wood is now cheaper than fossil fuels. Producing electricity from willow wood costs €8 per megawatt hour, whereas producing it from coal costs €9.50.

Eddie Johansson, the director of a power plant owned by the city of Enköping, 60 kilometers to the west of Stockholm, explains the attraction: "We're the first community to cover one hundred percent of our electricity and heating needs by processing wood." The community of 38,000 people has also managed to solve another problem thanks to the power plant: the sludge and carbon dioxide-rich water from the local sewage processing plant serves as fertilizer for Johansson's wood fuel.

"We have to get away from these bombastic solutions like giant coal plants and nuclear reactors," says Johansson. "Clever, locally based concepts are the key to success."

29 March 2006


Report reveals how the world's poorer countries
are forced to pay for the CO2 emissions of the developed nations

Andy McSmith - The Independent - 25 March 2006

Over 70 million Africans and an even greater number of farmers in the Indian sub-continent will suffer catastrophic floods, disease and famine if the rich countries of the world fail to change their habits and radically cut their carbon emissions.

The stark warning, contained in a private Government document commissioned by Gordon Brown, comes days ahead of an announcement that will show Tony Blair backing away from his promise to "lead internationally" on climate change. The Government has decided to delay setting targets for industry to cut carbon emissions until other EU governments set theirs. Previously, Mr Blair has made a virtue out of leading the way in Europe.

The bleak facts on how climate change threatens the third world were laid out in a briefing paper drawn up this month by the Department for International Development. It pointed out that a quarter of Africa's population lives within 100km of the sea coast. As sea levels rises, when global warming melts the ice pack, the number of Africans at risk from coastal flooding will increase from one million in 1990 to 70 million in 2080.

In India, rising temperatures could drive down farm incomes by as much as a quarter, while the cost to Bangladesh of changes in the climate could be more than half the £58bn that country has received in foreign aid.

"It's the poorest people in the world who suffer from climate change, but they are the least responsible for it." John Magragh, of Oxfam, said yesterday.

The report emphasises that - despite the recent focus on New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina - 94 per cent of all natural disasters, and 97 per cent of deaths from natural disasters, occur in the developing countries.

All the work that aid agencies do to end hunger, improve education, combat disease, and close the gender gap will be jeopardised, the report warned. In Bihar, India, for example, flooding can shut schools across the state for three months of the year. Flooding caused by Hurricane Mitch brought a sixfold increase in cholera in Nicaragua. Mozambique's annual economic growth dropped from 8 per cent to 2 per cent in a year after a cyclone.

The briefing paper was drawn up for a review ordered by Gordon Brown into the economic impact of climate change. It was made public after a request by the BBC made under the Freedom of Information Act. The review team, headed by Sir Nicholas Stern, will report in the autumn. Sir Nicholas has already warned that climate change could push millions back into poverty, or force them to migrate.

Meanwhile, environmental agencies will focus their attention on next Tuesday's publication of the Government's climate change programme. A spokesman for the Environment department, Defra, said that the programme will contain "measures that will affect every sector of the economy" and said that the UK already has "one of the best records in the world" for combating climate change.

But the announcement could run into criticism from environmentalists for failing to specify targets on business to cut carbon emissions. This is the outcome of a battle between the Environment Secretary, Margaret Beckett, who wanted strict targets, and the Trade secretary Alan Johnson, who warned about the consequences for the competitiveness of British firms. The outcome is there will be no targets in next week's announcement.

The decision has angered the former environment minister, Michael Meacher. "Britain once led the EU and the world in our targets and our radical policies to tackle climate change. It's very disappointing that we seem to be holding back now to see what the rest of Europe is doing before we make up our minds."

Labour's general election manifesto last year singled out climate change as "one of the most pressing challenges that the world faces" and promised: "We will continue to lead internationally on climate change."

But the UK's carbon emissions, which had been falling since 1990, are now three per cent higher than when Labour came to power in 1997. This week, Gordon Brown announced that he is going to increase the climate change levy, which penalises businesses that produce high levels of carbon emissions, but it is thought unlikely that next week's programme will include any other increases in 'green' taxes.

Heating up

* By 2025, China will overtake the US as the leading emitter of greenhouse gases. It is already the world's biggest driver of deforestation.

* Current levels of carbon dioxide are higher than at any time in the past 650,000 years.

* Last year, the thermometer reached 50C (122F) in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Algeria.The northern hemisphere is warmer than it has been for 1,200 years. Temperatures are expected to rise by 6C in some places by 2100.

* The UK will fail to hit its 2010 target of reducing carbon emissions by 20 per cent on 1990 levels. The Government predicts a cut of 10.6 per cent.

* 2005 was a record year in the intensity and frequency of tropical storms: 26, compared with 21 in 1933. Fourteen were hurricanes. Hurricane Wilma was the strongest on record.

29 March 2006


Cheap flights lead to shortage of pilots

David Millward, Transport Correspondent - Daily Telegraph - 27 March 2006

The airline industry is struggling to find pilots as demand for flights fuelled by no-frills airlines continues to grow.

While carriers continue to expand their networks, the soaring cost of aviation fuel is making training increasingly prohibitive, with one estimate putting the cost of getting a licence at more than £60,000.

Figures, show the number of UK-registered pilots falling from 2,723 in 2002-3 to 2,400 in 2004-5. According to the Civil Aviation Authority the number of planes taking off from and landing at British airports increased by 6pc in 2004 - the latest year for which figures are available.

British Airways is advertising for pilots, Ryanair is scouring Europe for recruits, and Easyjet has slashed its flying experience requirement from 1,500 to 500 hours.

"Pilots are in demand and cutting flying hours reflects that," said a spokesman for Easyjet, which has added 50 new routes this year.

According to one source at BA, nobody within the company can remember the airline advertising so extensively. "Ryanair is currently paying more to its Boeing 737 pilots than BA, and with the pension crisis and the retirement age of 60 years, many see little point in joining BA for 'job security'," the source said.

Ryanair, which has increased its UK-based routes from 116 last year to 178, is taking on about 300 pilots. The company has held recruitment fairs in a number of European cities and has benefited from shake-outs among some scheduled airlines by taking on staff who have been laid off.

But even Ryanair has struggled to keep up growth towards the end of its "flying year", which finishes at the end of the month.

Many of its pilots have come close to their 900 maximum annual cockpit hours and action was needed to make sure the company did not run out of flying time. As a result Ryanair had to cut capacity by 100,000 seats for the first three months of the year.

The company is prepared to pay salaries of up to £100,000 for an experienced pilot as well as share options.

"Experienced airline pilots are in short supply," said Nick Wilcox, commercial director of Storm Aviation, a company which supplies staff to the aviation industry. "It is extremely busy for this time of year."

"We supply a large number of blue-chip airlines and were recently contacted by a low-frills carrier saying they needed a significant number of individuals."

British-based airlines are in a stronger position than some of their continental rivals because English is the international language of aviation.

27 March 2006


Daniel Barden - Bishop's Stortford Citizen - 22 March 2006

STANSTED Airport operator BAA has been slammed by campaigners for providing inadequate information on the impact of proposals for a second runway.

BAA is carrying out a two-pronged public consultation - one on the extended use of the existing runway and another on possible locations for a second runway - the latter which ends later this month.

Stop Stansted Expansion says the consultation "gives a misleading impression that a second runway is a foregone conclusion".

SSE chairman Peter Sanders rejected all runway options as unsustainable saying said: "If you're seriously asking members of the public to choose between the various options, you should at least put forward sufficient information to enable a meaningful choice."

SSE campaign director Carol Barbone added: "It seems the poll is more designed to convert people to BAA's preferred runway option than to gain an objective picture of what people really think."

"Such a questionnaire might suffice for a simple product launch but it is scandalous for such spin to be put on a complex and sensitive issue. We have grave doubts about the value of any analysis which follows from its results."

BAA communications director Mark Pendlington said SSE is creating a "smokescreen" because it does not fully understand what is being set out in the year-long consultation process.

He said: "The thousands of people we're engaging with about Stansted's future are much more interested in helping us to shape the development of the airport."

"This latest attempt at a news story by SSE quite blatantly sets out to undermine and discredit a process that the local community has taken part in with enthusiasm and understanding."

"Calling for a 'no runway' option clearly highlights SSE are living in the past - the Government's Aviation White Paper stated the first new runway should be built at Stansted, a policy confirmed by the outcome of last year's legal challenge by SSE."

"It's time SSE realised they represent only themselves, not the wider community, when they make these sort of claims. The debate has clearly moved on. The public tell us they understand that - SSE choose not to."


Bias claim from SSE rebutted

Press Statement by BAA - 16 March 2006



We launched a public consultation on 9th December 2005, asking for views on our proposals for a second runway development at Stansted Airport. Details were sent direct to around 200,000 local homes.

Recipients were invited to attend one of 11 public exhibitions held locally, or to view the exhibition on line at www.stanstedairport.com/future. Everyone was invited to let us have their views, by letter, email, online, or by completing a questionnaire.

In the last month, 39,000 questionnaires were sent direct to local homes as a reminder of our invitation to local residents to let us have their views. This is in advance of the end of the consultation period on 24th March 2006.

The straightforward and clear questionnaire was prepared in conjunction with the independent national research company Populus. Populus abides by the Market Research Society's Code of Conduct, and has been at the forefront of the industry's recent moves towards greater transparency. Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council, and as such takes its responsibility to ensure that polls are properly conducted very seriously.

The answers given on questionnaires will be fully analysed and will be part of the full Consultation Report to be published by BAA.

Why was there not a 'No runway' option on the questionnaire?

Because this is nothing to do with the current consultation. That was the subject of the separate Government consultation held between July 2002 and June 2003, to which half a million people responded. The issue was widely debated and discussed in this area at the time.

The decision to locate a second runway at Stansted was announced by the Government in December 2003, and BAA was tasked to bring forward plans for the development. The current consultation is the first of a number that will take place in advance of us submitting a full planning application for a second runway in Summer 2007.

However, those who wish to make a point about not having a second runway have the opportunity to do so in the questionnaire, where general comments are invited (section 11).

Why was there no mention of Climate change?

In the White Paper, the Government explained how it intended to allow the aviation industry to grow in line with both the policy recommendations for future runway capacity and the UK's wider climate change policy.

Specifically, the White Paper stated (in paragraph 3.37):
Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions across the economy does not, however, mean that every sector is expected to follow the same path. The Government is committed to a comprehensive approach, using economic instruments to ensure that the growing industries (such as aviation) are catered for within a reducing total.

The White Paper also recommended in Chapter 3 that:
Aviation's emissions form part of an EU emissions trading regime
The industry continues to pursue actions to improve the efficiency of its operation through development and adoption of new technologies and operational procedures
Options for other economic instruments continue to be pursued although these must take into account their effects on the competitiveness of UK aviation and the impacts on consumers.

We take this guidance as setting out a policy for managing the responsible growth of aviation's greenhouse gas emissions within an overall national target.

Climate change was not considered as part of our runway optioneering consultation process as it had been taken into account by the Government in its Air Transport White Paper and is in any event subject to a separate, nationwide action programme.

Emissions Trading progress:
In December 2005, after BAA took a lead in the lobby in Westminster and Brussels, the EU's Environment Ministers approved the inclusion of aviation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme from 2008 and called on the Commission to bring forward a legislative proposal by the end of 2006.

SSE say there was a lack of information concerning environmental effects of the various options. Is this true?

No. The environmental analysis was thorough and complex, involving 15 topics with independent specialist consultants advising on each. Different options were judged to perform relatively better or less well than others on the basis of the criteria devised by each of the independent specialist consultants for their specialist topics. These include land take, properties and community facilities affected, ecology, air noise and ground noise impacts.

A number of other topics, including air quality and health, were considered during the environmental appraisal process, but as the outputs were so similar across the options, they did not help us choose between the options. These topics, however, will be included in the Environmental Impact Assessment of the scheme we eventually choose to take through the planning process.

It is important to remember that this is the first of a number of consultations concerning the development of a second runway. There will be further consultations on any road and rail schemes to serve a two-runway airport later this year, in conjunction with the Highway Agency and rail authorities respectively . Any airspace changes required for the new runway will also be the subject of a later and separate consultation.

SSE "audit" of questionnaire responses

No-one, other than Populus, has access to all the questionnaire responses, so it is simply not possible for SSE to present the results of any "audit" as representative or accurate.

OUR COMMENT: BAA is apparently relying on the assumed meaning of paragraph 3.37 in the White Paper quoted above, i.e. that growing industries such as aviation are not expected to reduce their carbon emissions, or even to take very seriously attempts to modify future increases - in other words, others have to take positive steps, not airports or airlines. However, since the Aviation White Paper was published, another White Paper, "Securing the Future" could be regarded as representing rather more up-to-date views. Those views are very clear - all new developments must be within environmental limits and the effects of any development on climate change must be considered. It is also extraordinary that air quality predictions were similar across all the options - if this was so, why not give the figures?

Pat Dale


Readers' Letters - Dunmow Broadcaster - 23 March 2006

I WRITE in response to the article headed "Campaigners blast survey as 'biased'", March 16.

I am one of the "thousands of people engaging in BAA's consultation" to say a clear and resounding 'No' to a second runway at Stansted.

Far from "living in the past", SSE's no runway option is the only option for the future. Only people who don't care or don't think about the future can possibly think a second runway is a good idea. A second runway at full capacity would release the same amount of carbon emissions as every household in the East of England region put together, effectively negating all other initiatives to reduce emissions in our region. This is a head in the sand strategy.

BAA's sham of a "consultation" is attempting to detract from the real issue with a smokescreen of corporate spin. Its aim is to make local people feel they are being democratically involved in the planning process by having a say in the location of the runway, when the real issue is not location, but that this is a runway that no-one wants in the first place.

Our community is not being deceived by these tricks and recognises the second runway for the environmental catastrophe that it certainly is.

C.A. Roberts
Address supplied

16th March 2006

BAA's latest consultation about siting a second runway at Stansted closes on March 24.

As usual the public has been asked to respond under the pretence that BAA "would like to know what you think". This is the third consultation from BAA.

Eighty-nine per cent of residents have already said no to a second runway but BAA does not listen.

They haven't in previous consultations, which have all been a farce.

People should fight BAA to protect our beautiful countryside and children's heritage. A children's story springs to mind ....

    Who is this creature with eyes that glisten?
    But has no ears so does not listen.
    The pound signs in its eyes do roll, and from its mouth its tongue doth loll.
    Dripping, foaming from its jaws, about to dig in its terrible claws.
    And when it speaks with a poisonous roar,
    It spouts propaganda, lies and more.
    What is this creature who shows such contempt?
    For all of its neighbours - no one is exempt.
    Oh help! Oh no! It's the BAA ffalo!
    "My favourite things" the BAA ffalo said,"are planes in the sky, the environment dead.
    I care not for humankind.
    Global warming's such a bind.
    Reply to my consultation and you'll soon see, a second runway is for me.
    No matter what you people say,
    I'm going to build it ANYWAY!"
    All was not quiet in the Stansted wood.
    The people were stirring and this was good.

A. Armitage
Address supplied

Readers' Letters - Dunmow Briadcaster - 23 March 2006

I AM bemused by your article quoting BAA's communications director, Mark Pendlington, considering people with a 'no runway' [for Stansted] opinion as "living in the past".

Did he not perhaps also make similar comment about Uttlesford District Council, who has the same stance as evidenced, on page 13, with their guidance on how to respond to the consultation? A definite NO in case Mr Pendlington missed it.

Or is it that he harbours a belief that, by not confronting the council and continuing to lambaste Stop Stansted Expansion, his company's requests for planning permission will gain miraculous and spontaneous support.

Does he believe this will get it nodded through?

Dear BAA, please wake up to the fact that within your own industry YOU are the lone voice behind the 'smokescreen' not those of us who denounce your destructive plans.

I would suggest that your time is better spent brushing up your CVs for the inevitable day when a foreign company subsumes you and looks long and hard at the economics of your unwanted proposals.

Terry Moore
Address supplied

27 March 2006


Ryanair Announces Partnership with BCP
for Low Cost Car Parking & Airport Lounges

Noticias.info Online - 23 March 2006

Ryanair, Europe's No. 1 low fares airline today announced a partnership with BCP - the UK's leading airport car parking service that will enable passengers to pre-book discounted airport car parking and entry to executive lounges through www.ryanair.com .

Speaking today, Peter Sherrard, Ryanair's Head of Communications said:

"Ryanair is delighted to announce this new partnership with BCP at 17 of our busiest UK airports. Ryanair's passengers will be able to avail of discounts of up to 30% on car parking and executive lounge bookings."

"Ryanair has made flying cheap and simple and we are constantly looking at ways to enhance and make our passengers' trips as hassle-free as possible. Delivering online booking for low cost car parking and travel-related services is just another step in that direction".

BCP Commercial Director, Kevin Sage commenting on the new agreement said:
"We are delighted to be working closely with Ryanair, Europe's largest low cost airline. With so many people choosing Ryanair for all their travel needs, www.ryanair.com has fast become one of the most frequently visited web sites on the Internet for savvy travelers looking to book their trip quickly and conveniently. Now visitors to the Ryanair website will have the facility to be able to add one of BCP's many product offerings to their travel itineraries, such as discounted airport car parking, meet and greet or chauffeur drive services, and many more."

OUR COMMENT: Parking space is very short in Bishop's Stortford with all the new developments near the railway station. Those outside the town both working and using shopping facilities ought to have first use of any facilities available, if permission has been or might be given. What action is BAA going to take? Much of their income comes from car parking on the airport, so Ryanair is inflicting a "double whammy", low airport charges and now taking away parking business. It has, however, been accepted from the time that the airport was first given planning permission that all airport activities including car parking should be restricted to the airport. This has been rigorously imposed by Uttlesford Council.

Pat Dale

27 March 2006


BAA opens up Pakistan and Europe as ex-Stansted MD joins bid queue

Business Weekly - 23 March 2006

High ranking BAA shareholders are set to cash in on a bidding war from international consortia fighting to take control of the UK company by pushing the asking price past £10 per share.

Standard Life Investments has already disclosed that more than £10 a share wasn't an unreasonable price for any bidder to pay for control of BAA and other leading backers have fallen into line.

Taking off from San Jose's international airport alongside the likes of Southwest Airlines may become commonplace for local executives

Spanish company Ferrovial has already had a bid of 810p rejected by BAA's board and has been given a final deadline by the Takeover Panel of April 24 to lodge an improved offer.

But it now looks more likely that Australian based Macquarie Bank will come up with a more acceptable bid for BAA.

John Stent, former chief executive at BAA Stansted Airport, is on the board of the bank's Macquarie Airports subsidiary and former BAA colleagues are also involved with the business.

A firm offer would trigger a multi-billion pound bidding war. Macquarie is in talks with US private equity group Blackstone and Canada's Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan about piecing together the finance to launch a potential bid but talks are very early stage.

Even then, one well placed Australian financial source told Business Weekly he felt BAA may prove "too big a mouthful to swallow."

Stansted Airport executives are meanwhile getting on with the business of building the Essex hub into an ever-more glittering jewel in the BAA crown.

Business Weekly can reveal that talks have advanced on opening up a direct and major Asian route, understood to be Islamabad, the Pakistan capital.

Several new European routes are coming on board between the end of March and beginning of May, chiefly Helsinki and Gothenburg through Scandinavian Airlines subsidiaries, Athens (through FlyGlobespan) and Palma via Ryanair.

Officials from the capital of Silicon Valley, San Jose, have renewed a pledge to broker a proposed direct air link between the city and Stansted.

Business Weekly revealed last week that start-up airline, Maxjet planned to expand its existing transatlantic services to take in a direct route to Silicon Valley, with the aim of taking it live early in 2007.

The City of San Jose, which owns and operates Norman Y Mineta San Jose International Airport, says that a direct link forms a key strand of its policy going forward.

Joe Hedges from its office of economic development said: "Aviation links are an important area of San Jose's economic partnership agreement with the East England and efforts have been made to develop a San Jose-East of England flight."

Bill Sherry, director of San Jose International Airport added: "We have an ongoing air service programme focused on establishing international services that fit our market area. London and the East of England are areas of particular interest."

OUR COMMENT: Has building for expansion actually started at the airport? Has BAA (or the consortium) had time to find the money? – quite apart from the yet to be received first planning application.

Pat Dale

27 March 2006


BAA shows interest in China's middle-scale airports

Chinaview 0nline - 24 March 2006

BEIJING, March 24 (Xinhua) -- The world's leading airport company, the Britain-based BAA, is interested in investing in some middle-scale Chinese airports, said Friday's Beijing News.

BAA is interested in those airports which have opened international air flights and have had an annual passenger volume of around 5 million journeys, said the newspaper, quoting a senior official with the BAA.

Currently, there are about 14 Chinese airports meeting the BAA's conditions and most of them are airports in provincial capitals.

Large Chinese airports like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou airports are not on the list for BAA's China strategy, said the BAA official.

Statistics from the BAA said that about 142 Chinese airports are experiencing losses and are thirsty for investment.

To date, foreign capital is only allowed a limited stake in Chinese airports, with the Chinese operators owning a controlling stake.

27 March 2006


Kevin Done, Aerospace Correspondent - Financial Times - 23 March 2006

Tensions between environmental and business groups over the future of Heathrow airport are growing, as the government seeks to press ahead with long-term moves to increase capacity at Europe's most congested airport.

Heathrow remains the busiest aviation hub in Europe measured by passenger numbers, but its competitive position in Europe is being eroded, as it runs up against the limits of its current capacity.

It is the main profits engine of BAA, the world's leading airports group, which is facing a possible takeover bid by a consortium led by Ferrovial, the Spanish construction, infrastructure and services group.

According to figures from ACI Europe, the airports trade association, Heathrow had the lowest growth last year of any of the top 30 airports in Europe with an increase in passenger numbers of only 0.8 per cent to 67.9m, compared with increases of 4.9 per cent to 53.8m at Paris Charles de Gaulle and of 2.2 per cent to 52.2m at Frankfurt, its main rivals.

Heathrow passenger numbers benefit from the airport's bigger share of lucrative long-haul traffic and therefore a greater number of large aircraft than its rivals, but it has already fallen behind both Paris Charles de Gaulle and Frankfurt in the number of aircraft movements.

Measured by take-offs and landings, Charles de Gaulle was the leading airport in Europe last year at 522,619 ahead of Frankfurt at 490,147, Heathrow at 477,888 and Amsterdam at 420,633.

Heathrow is one of the most productive airports in the world, as it operates from just two runways, while Amsterdam Schiphol already has five, Charles de Gaulle four and Frankfurt three with a fourth planned for the end of the decade.

According to Airport Co-ordination, the independent body responsible for allocating take-off and landing slots at Heathrow, there has been little increase in runway capacity since 2002.

With its aircraft movements last year, the airport is also already bumping up against the annual limit of 480,000 movements set by the government, as a condition of the approval to build the new fifth terminal.

Terminal 5, the £4.2bn project being developed by BAA will remove the bottleneck to further growth posed by the existing passenger terminal buildings.

The terminal, which will be exclusively occupied by British Airways when it comes into operation from March 2008, will add capacity for 30m more passengers taking the total airport up to about 90m.

Environmental and residents' groups are committed to fighting any further expansion, however.

According to the Aviation Environment Federation the airport is already breaching the European Union and UK legal limit for nitrogen dioxide emissions and therefore the present growth in flights is "probably unlawful".

Its recent report "Emissions Impossible" says that "all predictions to date showing that air pollution at an expanded Heathrow could be successfully mitigated rely on assumptions ranging from the optimistic to the implausible."

Without highly controversial moves to change Heathrow operating procedures, however, there is little that can be done in the short to medium term to raise the number of aircraft movements, meaning that further growth in passenger numbers will have to come from the use of larger aircraft.

The first 555-seat Airbus A380 super-jumbo, the world's biggest commercial jet, is expected to start commercial service to Heathrow with Singapore Airlines around the end of the year.

Heathrow's relative status as a world aviation hub is also declining against its rivals in terms of the network of connections it is able to offer.

The government supports the building of a third runway and sixth terminal at Heathrow to start operations between 2015 and 2020, but only if strict environmental conditions, chiefly for local air quality, can be met.

OUR COMMENT: "Emissions Impossible" can be obtained from the Aviation Environmental Federation - 020 7329 8160 and www.aef.org.uk. It gives an excellent breakdown of all the assumptions that have been made and are being made about the ability of management and airlines at Heathrow to manage a significant reduction in noise levels and an improvement in air quality, sufficient to satisfy the existing regulations / EU Directive on Air Quality. It reaches the conclusion that even if the most optimistic forecasts were actually put into practice, expansion would still lead to breaches of the Directive. This conclusion is very similar to the one reached by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution - that future technological changes in aircraft design will not be sufficient to allow for aviation expansion on the scale proposed by the government.

Pat Dale

27 March 2006


Ministers fail to set greenhouse gas limit

Fiona Harvey and Christopher Adams - Financial Times - 24 March 2006

The government has failed to resolve a row over how much businesses should be forced to cut their greenhouse gas emissions, days before the publication of its long-awaited climate change programme review.

The failure means that the review, which is due to be published on Tuesday after nearly a year's delay, will not give a clear signal to business on how the government plans to meet its target of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent by 2010. Alan Johnson, trade and industry secretary, told the Financial Times yesterday: "We haven't decided [the basis for emissions cuts] yet. We haven't decided a figure yet."

The government has indicated it will postpone a decision on emissions cuts for businesses under the European Union's greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme until the summer, after the deadline of June 30 which the European Commission has set. The decision involves carbon dioxide emissions in the second phase of the mandatory scheme, from 2008 to 2012.

Instead, next week's climate change review is likely to present a range of possible options.

Two government departments have been in dispute over how low the limits on business are set, with the Department of Trade and Industry arguing for a looser limit to give British businesses a competitive advantage and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pushing for a lower limit that would have more effect on Britain's overall greenhouse gas output.

The compromise will not satisfy environmental groups, which have been arguing for tougher cuts to business emissions.

Mr Johnson also appeared to rule out big changes to taxation to reduce carbon emissions as part of next week's review. "We have to take this in bite-sized chunks," he said.

But he suggested the emissions trading scheme should be broadened after 2012 to include surface transport, and that UK ministers were lobbying Brussels for this.

Matthew Farrow, head of environment at the CBI, warned this could be tricky to implement. "It's very important to explore the scope for extending emissions trading but the practical implications need to be fully understood before a commitment is made."

Next week's review will also contain elements more encouraging for businesses. There will be details on government plans to report annually on the greenhouse gas output, steps to support small-scale renewable ener-gy projects and measures on energy efficiency in homes.

Mr Farrow said it was important to ensure consumers, small businesses and the commercial sector were obliged to cut emissions, as the brunt of cuts to date had been borne by companies in a few industrial sectors.

OUR COMMENT: Mr Farrow should have added aviation to his list of those who should be obliged to cut emissions.

Pat Dale


States gear up for EU emission trading phase 2

Environment Daily 2066 - 24 March 2006

Draft national plans are starting to emerge for the second phase of the EU carbon emission trading scheme (ETS), running 2008-12. A number of member states are under pressure to cut the number of allowances compared with the 2005-7 first phase if they are to meet their Kyoto protocol emission commitments.

Early signs of how governments are approaching the task have emerged from Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland and Bulgaria. The latter is due to join the EU plus the ETS next year. The deadline for all states to submit their plans is 30 June, drawing on guidance issued by the European commission in January.

On Wednesday, the Swedish government submitted an outline of its second phase national allocation plan (Nap) to parliament. Numbers of emission allowances should be lower than what the trading sector is expected to emit, according to the document. However, it does not propose concrete numbers.

The Dutch draft plan will be issued in April, elements emerged in a letter sent by economy minister Laurens-Jan Brinkhorst to parliament, also on Wednesday. In his letter the minister presents possible options for the power sector during the period based on two consultancy studies.

One possibility would be to allocate fewer allowances to electricity companies. One study argues that a 10-20% reduction in allocations would not dramatically affect companies' profits.

In Finland, the emissions cap will be set "well below" the current level, according to an official from the ministry of industry and trade quoted by analyst Point Carbon. The country faces a significant challenge to bring national emissions back to 1990 levels by 2010-12.

Finnish companies were allocated 45.5m allowances per year for the scheme's first phase. Assuming proportionate emission reductions in the non-trading sector, this would have to fall to 37.4m allowances per year during the second phase. It could be higher, however, if the government purchased foreign carbon credits through the Kyoto flexible mechanisms.


Can you expand an airport when water is rationed?
Firm imposes hosepipe ban

Cambridge News - 23 March 2006

A HOSEPIPE ban is to be introduced in parts of mid-Anglia from April 3. Three Valleys Water, which supplies Saffron Walden and Royston, is imposing the ban for the first time since 1992 because of low water levels in the region. It is set to run indefinitely.

The ban means domestic customers cannot use hosepipes to water gardens or wash cars. It also prohibits the use of garden sprinklers and irrigation systems. The Environment Agency warned that unless there is sufficient rainfall in the next few months, more drastic measures than a hosepipe and sprinkler ban may be needed.

Terry Hayes, Cambridge rainfall analyst, said: "Across Cambridgeshire we have so far had only 67mm of rain this year. For the same period last year we had 74mm. On an average year we would expect to see 125mm. So, it is a very significant decline."

Met Office spokesman Barry Gromett said: "Unfortunately there is no indication we will have a significant amount of rain during spring. However, even if we do have a very wet spring, this would only maintain the current status quo. We would also need a wet autumn and winter to redress the balance and replenish any empty reservoirs."

Water customers in the rest of East Anglia will not be affected. Cambridge Water, which supplies Cambridge, Melbourn, Guilden Morden and Ramsey, will not introduce a ban in the immediate future.

A spokesman for Anglian Water Services, which supplies the area of East Anglia not covered by Three Valleys or Cambridge Water, said their resources were also in good shape. The spokesman said: "We have no plans for a hosepipe ban this year. All our reservoirs are at normal operating levels. Rutland Water is 86 per cent full and Grafham Water is 92 per cent full."

Three Valleys said its drastic decision was the result of 15 months of below average rainfall. Peter Darby, managing director, said: "After careful consideration we have had to make this decision to safeguard supplies. Whilst we are not running out of water, supply levels are low and we need to be mindful of the position we may be facing in 12 months if the drought continues."

"We very much regret the inconvenience that will be caused to our customers. Our immediate concern is that we are already seeing lower flows of water in many of our rivers and streams. These lower flows will be exacerbated if there is a dry summer and people continue to increase their water use, so the ban will help prevent long-term damage to these habitats."

He added that a dry winter at the end of the year would cause major supply problems in 2007, which a hosepipe ban would help to avoid.

OUR COMMENT: The area round Stansted is even drier. There will also be problems in dealing with more sewage if building plans for thousands of houses go ahead. The same difficulties will be experienced in expanding the airport.

Pat Dale

27 March 2006


Environment Daily 2064 - 22 March 2006

The UN environment programme has warned that freshwater shortages are likely to trigger increased environmental damage up to 2020 in an assessment released to mark world water day on Wednesday.

The report identifies falling river flows, rising saltiness, loss in water wildlife and reduced sediments reaching the coasts as key threats.

UN secretary general Kofi Annan called for greater efforts to protect rivers, lakes and aquifers. In Brussels, Waterregio, a new network on water issues, was launched.

27 March 2006


Nation's most crowded trains

David Millward, Transport Correspondent - Daily Telegraph - 22 March 2006

A commuter service from Cambridge to London has been identified by the Department for Transport (DfT) as the most overcrowded in Britain.

Statistics released under the Freedom of Information Act showed that demand for the service was 85 per cent greater than the number of seats normally provided.

According to the DfT's estimate, 433 passengers wanted to use the 234 seats in four carriages on the 8.02am train to Liverpool Street.

One, which is the company that runs the franchise, said yesterday that the snapshot survey appeared to have been distorted by service disruption on the day when it was carried out.

The company insisted that under the new timetable - which led to chaos on its network when it was introduced last December - that service now runs with an eight-car train. Another heavily oversubscribed service was Thameslink's Sutton to Luton 4.33pm train, which provided 412 seats for 618 passengers.

Southern's 7.51am train from Victoria to London Bridge came in at third place with 635 seats on offer for the 944 people it would normally expect to carry.

Yesterday South West Trains, which had two services in the "top" 10, announced plans to ease overcrowding, including longer trains and a major overhaul of London's Waterloo Station.

The strategy will see platforms at suburban stations extended. But finding room for the number of extra services needed at Waterloo during the rush hour will be difficult.

Last week Alistair Darling, the Transport Secretary, said the Government was considering reintroducing double-decker trains - last seen on the Dartford line in 1971 - as a means to ease overcrowding.

24 March 2006


A report by the Environmental Audit Committee
accuses the Treasury of inertia over green taxes

Patrick Wintour - The Guardian - 22 March 2006

The Treasury was accused yesterday of "institutional inertia" over climate change in a damaging all-party select committee report that points out carbon dioxide emissions are rising at a time when government is cutting the level of green taxes as a proportion of national income.

The report by the Environmental Audit select committee was seized on yesterday by the Tories and Liberal Democrats as a sign that the chancellor, Gordon Brown, is not willing to take the tough, and sometimes unpopular decisions to cut Britain's carbon emissions.

The report reveals that Mr Brown has allowed receipts from air passenger duty to fall by 8% from £931m to £856m, even though the number of chargeable passengers rose by 25m, or 35%, largely due to his introduction of a lower £5 duty for economy short flights. The committee argues that the Treasury should tax air travel on the basis of a flight's level of emissions, and not the number of passengers.

It also points out that the freezing of environmental taxes, such as climate change levy, vehicle excise duty, fuel duty and aggregates, means the level of green taxes in Britain is now below that at the time Labour came to power. The proportion of total tax revenues made up from green taxes has fallen almost year on year since 1999 from a peak of 9.8% to 8.3% in 2004. Fuel duty has been frozen 4 out of the past 5 years.

The committee, chaired by the former shadow cabinet member Tim Yeo, rejects the Treasury claim that the fall in green taxes as a proportion of revenues is a sign of the success of its policies in that they must be discouraging the activities on which the tax is levied upon. The committee argues instead the green taxes are failing sufficiently to discourage the processes and activities that emit CO2 and said the Treasury's reluctance to take bolder steps was mystifying.

OUR COMMENT: It appears that Gordon Brown has taken some welcome steps to remedy the situation, but not enough to make up for past lack of action. Nothing effective to deter unnecessary flights! Or to encourage more fuel efficient planes.

Pat Dale

24 March 2006


Boom in air travel across the East region

David Woodthorpe - BBC Online - 19 March 2006

Budget airlines have been one of the business successes of the last decade. Led by easyJet and Ryanair more people are flying than ever before.

Eastern England, and in particular Stansted and Luton, airports have become the engines of this growth. Low-cost airline easyJet claims it has created 30,000 jobs directly and indirectly through its growth.

Yet environmentalists say our love air fare with budget air travel means pollution and harmful greenhouse gas emissions are rising so fast that the government will miss its target to cut carbon dioxide from 1990 levels by 20% by 2010. It is time, they say, to hike taxes on aviation.

At present travellers pay air passenger duty but there is no tax on aviation fuel, no VAT on the purchase of planes and no VAT on airline tickets. Mary Edwards a "Friends of the Earth" East region campaigner said: "Airlines are getting a free ride worth £9.2bn a year, equivalent to £300 per taxpayer. If they paid some of the above taxes the rest of us would be able to have lower National Insurance."

Aviation is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas. At the carbon reduction unit at the University of East Anglia they say the need for action is urgent.

Dr Keith Tovey is the energy science director at the University of East Anglia's carbon reduction project. He said: "If you fly to Sydney, Australia, a plane will emit 5.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide per passenger, which is as much as an average household will emit all year."

The green lobby wants air passenger duty to go up in the Budget. It is currently £5 a journey when you leave the UK on a short-haul flight. Putting it up by, say, £10, as Friends of the Earth recommend, might reduce demand.

Mary Edwards of Friends of the Earth, said: "If people were to pay a full price for their ticket, not a subsidised price, they wouldn't go off to Rome for a cup of coffee at the weekend, which is what industry is based upon now."

The airlines point out they are busy buying new aircraft which pollute less than old ones. And they are discussing an emissions trading scheme to take account of environmental damage. As for a levy on aviation fuel, there are international treaties in place which say it should be exempt from tax. For Britain to work in isolation of other countries seems impossible, according to experts.

Dr Peter Morrell, Cranfield University, said: "If the UK tried to introduce a fuel tax it would be against these treaties. "Norway tried to do it but had to back down."

But would Gordon Brown really want to hamper that growth with higher taxes in his budget? Might the motorist be an easier target. The RAC Foundation is calling for a new £200 tax disc for gas guzzling vehicles.

Sheila Rainger, of the RAC Foundation said: "We wish to see a bigger difference between the taxation of cars. Smaller cars paying less, and those with very large engines, polluting the most, paying more."

The Prime Minister has described climate change as the greatest issue facing the planet. Critics say it is high time his Government faced up to that challenge.

24 March 2006


Almost half of capital's businesses support higher aviation taxes

Andrew Clark, Transport Correspondent - The Guardian - 21 March 2006

Environmental concerns about air travel are changing attitudes in the boardroom, with almost half of businesses in the capital declaring themselves in favour of higher taxes on the cost of flights.

The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry yesterday revealed that 44% of its members believed higher taxes should be levied on aviation fuel and air tickets to mitigate the environmental havoc wreaked by aircraft.

A small majority, 56%, are holding out against any fiscal measures, but the degree of support for higher taxes surprised business leaders and environmentalists. Michael Cassidy, president of the chamber, said: "I think there's a recognition coming up, particularly through the younger generation, that aviation is a significant contributor to carbon dioxide emissions and that it might be preferable to restrict demand than to allow it to continue unconstrained." Support for environmental taxes was highest among the financial services sector, where 48% were in favour. Four out of 10 manufacturers and 20% of retailers backed paying more for flights.

Stephen Joseph, director of the pressure group Transport 2000, said: "It's part of a wider shift - there's been lots and lots of coverage recently about the impact of air travel."

Despite their environmental concerns, businesses are lobbying aggressively for expansion at Heathrow to prevent Britain's biggest airport from losing ground to European rivals. It emerged this week that Heathrow has been overtaken by Munich airport in terms of the number of destinations it serves and now lies fifth behind Frankfurt, Paris and Amsterdam.

Budget airlines oppose environmental taxes. Andy Harrison, easyJet's chief executive, said: "This... discriminates against the poorest in society who, until recently, were priced out of the sky."

24 March 2006


London Chamber of Commerce Report

Report published 20 March 2006

Businesses from outside the aviation sector have renewed their call for urgent expansion of airports in the South East on the day that it emerged that Heathrow would soon fall behind Munich in terms of the number of destinations served.

Some 29 per cent of London firms rated access to an airport as "very important" to their business model, with a further 21.5 per cent saying it was "fairly important".

Heathrow is already used regularly for business purposes by 67 per cent of companies. Some 34 per cent think that Stansted should be expanded; 25 per cent that Gatwick should be expanded; and 22 per cent that Heathrow should be expanded.

A small but significant number of company directors (one sixth) said that they would consider switching their operations to a rival European hub, such as Amsterdam or Paris, if there was insufficient capacity at their usual airport.

The findings come from a report by the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry which interviewed 287 firms, overwhelmingly from outside the aviation sector. The report - The Business Case for Airport Expansion: Why the Anti-Airport Protesters are Wrong - has been produced to demonstrate how important aviation expansion is to businesses which are not in the sector but nevertheless depend on it.

In other findings, 93 per cent of firms said that they already accessed customers, partners or suppliers in other EU nations. The corresponding figures were 63 per cent for Asia, 54 per cent for North America and 31 per cent for Australasia.

On the question of whether higher taxes should be levied on aviation fuel and air passenger duty to limit the environmental impact of air travel, opinions were divided. Some 44 per cent of firms said yes they should and 56 per cent said no they should not.

"The debate over airport expansion is too often portrayed as the aviation lobby against local residents and environmental protesters," said LCCI president Michael Cassidy. "This report shows that large numbers of firms outside the sector are reliant on aviation and recognise the need for capacity to be expanded as soon as possible."

"Today's news that Munich will soon serve more destinations than Heathrow is a wake-up call. Government now needs to inject renewed urgency into aviation expansion - it would be scandalous if the date for the second runway at Stansted were to slip any further than 2013."

"Already, significant numbers of directors are reporting that they have difficulty finding the necessary direct air transport routes for their business. And many others think that surface access to airports in the South East is a problem."

"Everyone who wants to enter the debate should accept as a given that aviation underpins the prosperity that many residents and employees in the South East alike now take for granted."

OUR COMMENT: Yes, it is the same report! Hopefully more business travellers will also realise that for parts of Europe the train is not that much slower. It might also occur to them that perhaps the fact that they cannot always get to exactly where they want to from Stansted or Luton is because the low cost airlines choose to use airports with the lowest charges, not necessarily the ones their customers want to visit!

Pat Dale

24 March 2006


Ferrovial would sell up to seven BAA airports

Rupert Steiner and Richard Orange - Business Online - 19 March 2006

THE Ferrovial consortium has earmarked up to seven BAA airports for disposal, should a bid eventually be accepted, to help secure financing for a raised offer. Ferrovial's £8.7bn (E12.52bn, $15.28bn) approach for BAA was rejected on Friday.

The Ferrovial consortium, which includes Grupo Ferrovial, Spain's second-biggest builder, Canadian pension-fund manager Caisse de depôt et placement du Quebec, and Singaporean GIC Special Investments, is also embarking on a charm offensive among BAA shareholders this week in a bid to win them over.

The Business has learned that while the consortium has committed to retaining all BAA's UK airports including Heathrow and Gatwick, as well as its stake in Budapest it is not wedded to its stakes in Italian and Australian assets.

A source close to the situation said it has identified stakes in Naples, Melbourne and Perth airports as well as four other Australian airports that could be sold. There are competition issues in Australia arising from Ferrovial's 20% stake in Sydney airport. While BAA's interest in Budapest Airport restricts an immediate sale, its Italian assets can be ditched and are not core.

Analysts at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein estimate the value of BAA's international airport stakes at £840m. World Duty Free, through which BAA operates a retail business in three US airports, could be worth £250m.

Interest from the consortium has uncovered BAA's value and sparked interest from other trade buyers and infrastructure funds attracted by the group's growth potential. Ferrovial will also embark on a push to win over shareholders this week although its opening offer at 810p came in significantly lower than many had expected.

Some shareholders have already described the bid as "ridiculous" and the board meeting convened by Marcus Agius, the respected chairman of BAA, on Friday quickly rejected it.

Most analysts were expecting a price exceeding 900p and BAA's shares dipped to 828p on Friday, still up on the 655p value they had before rumours of a bid started circulating in the market.

The consortium said it would improve its offer by a small amount if it was given access to BAA's books. Opinion was divided over whether there would be a significantly improved offer, or whether the consortium has struggled with funding and is using this low bid as a face-saving way to bow out.

A City source told The Business that funding created a problem for any consortium: "I wouldn't be at all surprised if no one else comes forward because it's a very sizeable amount of funding that's required, and to be credible you have to have the capacity to continue BAA's expansion plans."

24 March 2006


Stansted given fresh heart

Business Weekly - 16 March 2006

"Stansted Airport has been handed a golden opportunity to cash in on the frustration of Chinese carriers with limited capacity at Heathrow."
Terry Morgan

Managing director Terry Morgan has just returned from a series of summits in China with leading airlines and is confident he has succeeded in progressing a dialogue designed to plumb Chinese carriers directly into London and Cambridge through the Essex hub.

Morgan's fast-track mission saw him cover a lot of ground. He initially flew to Beijing for two days where he met with representatives from the Chinese equivalent of the Civil Aviation Authority.

"I had a very constructive meeting with the government officials responsible for the UK-Chinese bilateral air traffic regulations," he said.

Morgan then winged south to Guangzhou province, which is a designated Special Economic Zone. There he met with China Southern Airlines to talk about a potential hook up with Stansted, before moving on to the commercial capital of China, Shanghai. He also visited Hong Kong.

Morgan said the Chinese airlines and airport executives that he met were keen to hear about the hi-tech, knowledge-based industries in the East of England region.

"Many of the airlines were also attracted by Stansted's comprehensive European network, which would allow long haul travellers to easily connect to a huge range of European business destinations, especially in developing markets."

Why is China so important to Stansted? Morgan said: "At Stansted, we recognise the huge potential benefit of direct connections to China in terms of trade, commerce and tourism. Currently two Chinese airlines – Air China and China Eastern – operate services to Heathrow. However, many Chinese carriers are frustrated at the lack of capacity at Heathrow – and this is where Stansted can benefit as a viable alternative."

James Gray, chief executive of East of England International, praised Stansted's efforts to bring direct routes from China into the region. Gray said: "There are huge opportunities for growth in a number of markets, for Stansted, for the region and for the UK."

"Traffic from China is massive in terms of students coming here to learn at the region's world-leading universities, in terms of tourism and – increasingly – in respect of business."

"We are tremendously excited about what these hook-ups could mean for the East of England and are aware how energetically Terry and his colleagues at BAA Stansted are working on this initiative."

24 March 2006


Manchester.ac.uk Online - 19 March 2006

Those expecting climate change to have at least one silver lining - a tourism boom for domestic destinations over cheap package holidays in the Med - may be due a rude awakening. A new report into long-term visitor trends at major tourist attractions suggests a changing climate may bring as many challenges as opportunities for the visitor economy.

Worth £91.8 billion per year according to government statistics, the travel and tourism sectors in the UK employ 2.1 million people - over 7% of the working population. Domestic customers are key to the sector, with 86% of tourism income coming from domestic visitors - of the 194 million overnight stays taken in England in 2002, 135 million were made by domestic visitors.

The widely held belief that the sector will experience a boom courtesy of climate change is challenged by a new report compiled by Sustainability Northwest and The University of Manchester. The report looks at the impact of weather on a leading national tourist attraction, Chester Zoo and finds that weather has little or no impact on visitor numbers, and that conversely many tourist attractions will have their work cut out for them adapting to the hotter, stormier conditions expected in the years to come.

Conventional wisdom suggests hotter, drier, longer summers would help the tourism industry but evidence uncovered by this new report points to a more complex reality. Although longer summers and warmer weather may promote a more outdoor lifestyle, it has little effect on the demand for our 'honeypot' tourist attractions .

The Chester Zoo analysis - examining almost 30 years of visitor data - shows that temperature has no influence on visitor numbers over the long term. Rain causes small changes, mainly the postponement of visits. More significant are other factors, such as school holidays, marketing, and changes in how we spend our leisure time.

There is an important message here for those involved with the regional visitor economy. Businesses cannot rely on climate change alone to boost the visitor economy in the future. Effective forward planning and management will also be needed to fully exploit future opportunities, and to stimulate demand. The results from this study will provide an important evidence base to aid in this planning process.

Instead of people flocking to outdoor attractions, such as zoos, during the long summer season, the research has found that the effects of climate change could actually have adverse effects on the attractions themselves. There will be a need for more shade from the hot conditions, extra water supplies to prevent dehydration and strategies to deal with changing vegetation as summer temperatures rise and summer rainfall decreases.

The lead author on the report, Jonathan Aylen of Manchester Business School at The University of Manchester, spelt out some of the implications of the study: "Our research found that visits are not influenced by the weather. Only rainfall matters - if it rains, visits are postponed to the next dry day. As the climate has become milder there are no noticeable increases in visitor numbers. Visits to Chester Zoo have remained relatively stable over the 27-year study period.

"As people become increasingly cash rich and time poor they will become more discerning in how they spend their leisure time. Our report suggests that while there may be fewer zoo enthusiasts, those who are keen to see animals will spend more time at the attraction and more money while they're there."

Steven Glynn of Sustainability Northwest stressed the importance of the study: "Climate change is one of the most important issues facing us today and the biggest threat to our environment. This research is part of a wider scheme of work that is examining a number of issues relevant to tourism and recreation in the region. The results will help those involved in the visitor economy recognise, and prepare for, the impacts of climate change."

The Northwest Regional Development Agency - a lead body on tourism - helped to fund the study. Its Head of Sustainability, Mark Atherton, highlighted the wider implications for the visitor economy: "It's clear that climate change will create as many challenges as opportunities for zoos and other outdoor attractions. In fact, as people become more specialised in how they spend their leisure time, zoos and similar attractions will face marketing challenges to attract and retain their visitors, on top of the practical changes they'll need to make to adapt to the implications of climate change.

"Our region's tourism economy is going from strength-to-strength, and so this timely report, one of a number expected in the year ahead on tourism and climate change, is a welcome 'heads up' on what we can do now to prepare for an uncertain climate in the future."

The project is being managed by Sustainability Northwest with the University of Manchester's Centre for Urban & Regional Ecology (CURE) and Manchester Business School leading on the research. The work is funded by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Northwest Regional Development Agency, and the Environment Agency. The UK Climate Impacts Programme is lending its expertise to support the project.

OUR COMMENT: Is anyone in the Eastern Region looking at these problems? With the warnings about a lack of water in the south and the risks of being flooded by rising sea levels in the east maybe some research is needed!

Pat Dale

24 March 2006


ELFAA calls for emissions trading restraint

atwonline.com - 21 March 2006

In conjunction with a study it commissioned to quantify the effect of the inclusion of air transport in the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme, the European Low Fares Airline Assn. yesterday declared its support of the "principles" behind the policy but demanded an end to the "sloppy thinking and hysterical persecution" that finger aircraft as a leading emissions contributor.The association also protested the possibility that the EU may limit the scheme to intra-EU flights, thus singling out short-haul carriers and LCCs.

"Contrary to common misconception, aviation is not a major emitter and in fact its contribution to EU emissions accounts for only 4% of EU15 CO2 emissions and will only account for around 5% of EU25 CO2 emissions by 2030," ELFAA Secretary General Jan Skeels said. "This shows that too much of the debate thus far has been based upon inaccurate and one-sided information. The result is that some of Europe's biggest offenders in terms of emissions, in particular road transport, are getting off lightly and aviation is being characterized as a major problem."

ELFAA's study, prepared by Frontier Economics, noted that power generation is responsible for 34% of emissions and road transportation currently is not covered by the ETS. It argued that as a generator of 3.1 million jobs and €221 billion in GDP in the EU15, aviation should not be subject to policies that undermine its growth.

The study further said that airline emissions have decreased 64% in the past 30 years and that carriers, especially LCCs, already are burdened by high fuel prices and are given incentives to cut costs and operate more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly aircraft. It identified opportunities for improvement constituting 8% of current emissions, but said half of that would come from improvements in Europe's "famously inefficient" ATC.

In addition, ELFAA called for a more equitable implementation of any ETS. It should be "pan-European," covering all flights leaving EU airports and not just intra-continental services. It should have "harmonized rules and administration" so as to "avoid favoritism and illegal protection of national airlines" and should "guard against distortion of competition" by including "inefficient national airlines operating with old, dirty aircraft" as well as LCCs flying new equipment.

ELFAA comprises easyJet, FlyBE, Hapag-Lloyd Express, Norwegian, Ryanair, SkyEurope, Sterling, Sverige Flyg, Transavia and Wizz Air.

OUR COMMENT: Where do they get their figures from for 2030? They don't even agree with government predictions and certainly not with the Tyndall Centre. They should do their sums again.

Pat Dale

18 March 2006


Ferrovia mulls raising price after BAA rejects £8.8bn bid

Kevin Done & Mark Mulligan - Financial Times - 18 March 2006

Grupo Ferrovial, the Spanish construction, infrastructure and services group, will consider increasing its bid for BAA after the UK airports operator yesterday rejected the outline terms of a possible cash offer.

The Spanish company laid the groundwork for the world's biggest airports takeover with a conditional offer of 810p a share, valuing BAA at £8.75bn. It said it was prepared to increase the bid by "a small increment" if BAA recommended the offer and allowed limited due diligence.

Ferrovial sought to win over the UK government and Civil Aviation Authority, which regulates BAA's London airports, by saying it was committed to ambitious airport expansion plans. The Spanish group said it intended to keep BAA's UK regulated assets together and would work "cooperatively" with the government to deliver its 2003 white paper recommendations for new runways and terminals at Stansted and Heathrow.

Ferrovial is leading a bidding consortium which includes Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, the Canadian financial institution, and GOC special investments, the Singapore government's private equity arm.

Rafael de Pino, chairman of the majority family-owned group, met Marcus Agius, BAA's chairman, yesterday to present the proposed bid to initiate confidential talks. But within hours the BAA board rejected the approach. It said the proposal did not begin "to reflect the true value of BAA's unique portfolio of airport assets".

BAA controls 7 airports in the UK including Heathrow, the busiest airport in Europe by passenger numbers. It also has airport interests in Australia, Italy, Hungary and the US. Ferrovial said its offer price was a premium of 25% to the average price of 637p in the 30 days to February 6th when speculation about a bid started. It placed an enterprise value of about £14.8bn on BAA including debt.

The proposed offer fell short of the 900p sought by some leading BAA shareholders, and was pitched below the recent all-time high of 843p. Yesterday BAA shares closed at 828½p, down 1.25%.

The BAA rebuff to Ferrovial was backed by Scottish Widows Investment partnership, which has a stake of 3.4%.

Ferrovial said it was "the strong preference" of the consortium to proceed with the transaction on a recommended basis, adding that it was "disappointed" BAA had rejected the proposal "without discussion". It said debt finance for the bid had been agreed by Citigroup, Royal Bank of Scotland and Banco Santander.

Ferrovial is being advised by Citigroup and BAA by Rothschild and UBS. HSBC is advising CDC.

OUR COMMENT: This is the way our own lives could be affected by decisions taken by those with no particular interest in the wellbeing of North-West Essex or East Herts, or for the health of the Planet. However, whoever "owns" BAA, continued airport expansion on the scale proposed by the government will be one of the major factors in the UK's future contribution towards climate change. The worst effects will be in countries that can least afford it, in Africa and the Far East, though in the UK our own East of England will be the major sufferer.

Pat Dale

18 March 2006


Climate Change 'Irreversible' as Artic Sea Ice Fails to Re-Form

The Independent - 14 March 2006

Steve Connor writes that satellite measurements in the Arctic indicate that sea ice has failed to re-form for the second consecutive winter, raising fears that global warming may have tipped the polar regions into irreversible climate change sooner than predicted.

Mark Serreze, a sea ice specialist at the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado, said that the observed reductions in the sea ice cover, combined with recent Nasa findings that the Greenland ice sheet "may be near a tipping point," indicate that "the Arctic is starting to respond to global warming."

Cambridge University professor Peter Wadhams, the first Briton to monitor Arctic sea ice from nuclear submarines, said: "Climate models did predict a retreat of sea ice in the Barents Sea but not for a few decades yet, so it is a sign that the changes that were predicted are indeed happening, but much faster than predicted."

18 March 2006


Braintree joins "the club"

Press Notice - Witham & Braintree Green Party - 16 March 2006

Green Councillors welcome Braintree District Council decision to oppose second runway at Stansted

Braintree District Council voted last night (15th March), almost unanimously, to oppose the development of a second runway at Stansted Airport.

Green Party Braintree District Councillors James Abbott and Philip Hughes have welcomed the vote, after many years of pressing for the council to adopt a clear position on the issue and consistently calling for BDC to join with the many other local authorities and groups in Essex and neighbouring counties battling the BAA over its huge expansion plans.

An amendment written by Green Councillors to expand on the original recommendations put before councillors was partly agreed. The successful clause states that

"This Council will work with local authorities in Essex and local authorities bordering Essex that oppose the major expansion plans of the BAA in order to help ensure a strong and united position for the protection of our shared environment."

Cllr. James Abbott, Green Party Braintree District Councillor said

"We welcome the almost unanimous decision by Braintree Council to oppose a second runway at Stansted Airport. It would have been simply untenable for the Council to continue to state its environmental credentials whilst sitting on the fence on this threat to Essex."

"It is also very welcome that the council has agreed to our proposal to join forces with the many other local authorities battling the BAA. If the BAA get their way, Stansted would become one of the largest airports in the world, swallowing up many thousands of acres of countryside. Road traffic would increase by millions of vehicle movements per year. Noise from jet aircraft would get much worse, with many more people having their sleep disturbed and not being able to enjoy being outdoors free from jet noise. Carbon dioxide emissions from the airport and flights would rise to such an extent that to mitigate the rise, every household in the East of England (several million) would have to use no heating, electricity and abandon their cars – clearly that's not going to happen, but it illustrates the impact on the environment and climate of a Heathrow sized Stansted Airport."


Lords back a limit on night flights

Dunmow Broadcaster - 16 March 2006

A NOISE quota system has been rejected in favour of a cap on the number of night flights, to the delight of Stansted campaigners.

Debating the Civil Aviation Bill last week, the House of Lords voted by 167 to 127 to keep a limit on night flights at South East airports instead of introducing a noise quota, favoured by the government.

Stansted already has 8500 flights a year between 11.30pm and 6am, an average of 23 a night, with proposals to increase these by up to 40 per cent.

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) campaigners have argued that a movements limit can be easily understood by most people and is far more transparent and open to validation than a noise quota limit.

SSE campaign director Carol Barbone said: "We are delighted the government's attempts to increase the burden on those who are already badly affected by the night flights at Stansted Airport has been exposed.

"Given that it's air transport policy specifically included promises to bear down on night noise, it was disingenuous for ministers to pretend that the Bill would offer greater protection by encouraging the use of quieter aircraft through noise quotas only."

The Civil Aviation Bill now passes back to the House of Commons for its final reading.

Ms Barbone added: "While the Government's majority means that it could overturn the Lords' decision, the arguments for retaining limits on night flights are compelling."

A spokesman for Stansted Airport said: "We did not look to extend the number of night flights and are happy with things as they currently stand.

18 March 2006


Stansted marks 15th birthday of terminal

Roddy Ashworth - EADT Online - 15 March 2006

IT is 15 years to the day since Stansted Airport's landmark terminal was opened by Her Majesty the Queen.

Back in 1991 just 10 scheduled airlines were operating at the former wartime airfield, with 1.6 million people using the airport.

But last year more than 22 million jetted in and out of Stansted, showing an average growth of 1.3 million passengers per year.

Yesterday Melvyn Seymour, Stansted's airport duty manager, said he had seen a lot of changes since moving to the new terminal in 1991.

"We have grown rapidly. We have grown to being the third largest airport in the UK in terms of passengers."

"When we started we had two scheduled destinations and there are 139 now. We have seen various additions to the terminal, and it is a great airport to work in."

Over the years Mr Seymour said celebrities he had met included Tom Hanks, Madonna, Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, Roger Daltrey, The Corrs and Pierce Brosnan.

And last week he met David Beckham and walked him through the terminal. "We had quite a long conversation," Mr Seymour said.

Stansted's award winning terminal - its glass and steel architecture masterminded by Lord Foster - broke with tradition when it opened.

Designed to be easy on the eye and easy to use, with departures and arrivals all on the same level, the building was planned to give a feeling of space, light and airiness not usually associated with airport buildings.

Its spectacular lightweight roof span - held in place by a series of metal "trees" - allows the building to be lit by natural light. The building is only illuminated by indirect lighting at night, which has led to significant energy savings.

Pipes and ducts for air conditioning, heating, lighting are all housed within the metal 'trees' that rise up within the terminal building and the practise of extracting waste heat from the highly populated commercial areas means the building is virtually self heating for most of the winter period.

Today, Stansted Airport employs around 11,500 people in over 160 companies. And it has controversial plans for expansion.

In 2003, transport secretary Alistair Darling announced that the Essex airport was favoured by the Government for the building of a second runway.

This growth, unpopular to many people living around the airport, would lead to the demolition of many local homes and the need for even more infrastructure - including a new terminal - to be built.

Yesterday local resident Norman Mead, who has been general secretary of the North West Essex and East Herts Preservation Society for 20 years, said he did not believe the expansion was viable.

He said over the last 15 years there had been a number of problems as the airport got bigger.

"It's true that aircraft have got quieter, but it is a matter of increasing frequency. The general feeling is enough is enough."

18 March 2006


Letters to the Editor - Herts & Essex Observer - 16 March 2006

Ours is not NIMBY view mayor holds
Keith Barnes claims to represent Bishop's Stortford people when he says that runway option A is the best and feels that if he represented Broxted he would have a different opinion. Well, I represent Broxted and we do have a different opinion, and this is not the NIMBY option that Mr Barnes espouses.

We want NO runway, not any of the options being put forward by BAA, not at Luton, Not at Heathrow, not at Gatwick. And we don't want expansion beyond 25 mppa either.

Every survey and independent opinion poll taken locally shows overwhelming opposition to the expansion plans. Across the region people are slowly beginning to realise, with horror, just what an additional runway would mean.

It is not just another strip of concrete, it will mean an additional one million people a week using the airport – what chance a seat on the train to Liverpool street then? It will mean urbanisation throughout the entire area as hotels, car parks, freight forwarding depots and all the activity ancillary to what would be the largest airport in the world seeks to be accommodated close by. Is that what Mr Barnes wants?

Does he believe that Bishop's Stortford will somehow escape this nightmare scenario? It takes only a few seconds to fly over Bishop's Stortford from Stansted. Moving the runway a few hundred metres this way or that will make no difference at all. Why is Bishop's Stortford Council the only local authority not to oppose expansion at the airport?

Mr Barnes claims to be speaking personally yet signs his letter as Town Mayor. Is he fairly representing townspeople, or do they have a different opinion?

Roger Clark
Vice-Chairman, Broxted Parish Council.

Let BAA answer a few questions
I have recently received a questionnaire from BAA on the preferred location of the new runway development at Stansted airport. An additional runway will have a huge destructive effect on the quality of life of people living in the area. It may also adversely affect those living further afield due to the increased destruction of the ozone layer.

In the questionnaire BAA seems to tacitly recognise that the additional runway will hugely damage many aspects of local life. This is evidenced in question 5 where correspondents are asked to rank such issues as air quality, aircraft noise, effects on natural habitats, impact on road network, etc.

This exercise seems nonsensical, rather like asking which part of your body would you like to be shot in.

I would like BAA to complete the questionnaire:

1. What proportion of local children is it acceptable to have airport/air traffic induced respiratory problems due to expansion at Stansted? A 10%, B15%, C 25%, D 50%.

2. Accepting that a second runway will irrevocably damage the quality of life in the region, which of the following do BAA consider the most destructive?

    A  Destruction of the ozone layer
    B  Swamping of ground transport channels by air passengers
    C  Dangerously high levels of pollutants in the air
    D  Destruction of local forests and other habitats
    E  Disruption of sleep due to increased night flights
    F  Withdrawal of £700,000 funding to local charities if BAA doesn't get its way.

Lastly, if the worst happens and a second runway is built, will BAA undertake to restore the countryside to its present condition if the runway proves a commercial failure? This may not be as fanciful as it sounds given the opposition of the local cheap flight operators and the major airlines at Heathrow.

Perhaps BAA investors should have a chat with Channel Tunnel shareholders whose investment seems to be less profitable than originally envisaged.

Ian Mitchell
Hatfield Broad Oak.

OUR COMMENT: The BAA consultation closes on March 24th. Make your views known. A simple reply slip is included in the recent edition of Uttlesford District Council's publication 'Uttlesford Life' - which should have been sent to every home in Uttlesford. Let the Council know if you have not received a copy.

Pat Dale

18 March 2006


Flight stimulator: cosseting with cashmere may not be enough
when the fare is £3,500

Andrew Clark, Transport Correspondent - The Guardian - 16 March 2006

New airlines are looking for niches at both ends of the market

They offer cashmere blankets, Bellini cocktails, Tempur-Pedic pillows and yards of legroom. Two new business-class airlines began flying last year between Britain and the United States - but the missing ingredient is passengers.

MaxJet and Eos, both American-owned and operated, have set out to break the mould of long-haul airlines by devoting their aircraft exclusively to premium-class travellers who want to fly across the Atlantic in the lap of luxury. They began flying from London's Stansted airport amid a blaze of publicity in October and, a few months after launch, they are enthusiastically talking up their progress.

However, figures obtained by the Guardian paint a rather less successful picture. According to official filings at the Civil Aviation Authority, 2,726 people flew between Stansted and New York in January. MaxJet and Eos offered 8,484 seats, which means that between them, they sold 32% of their tickets.

January is typically a slow month for air travel but December, when flights peak around the Christmas holidays, was even quieter for the new kids off the block - the airlines only managed to shift 2,563 seats and the November figure was just 2,201.

Critics are already questioning whether the concept of an elaborately luxurious airline is sustainable in an era of low-cost budget carriers and whether Stansted airport is an appropriate place to attract executives.

One leading industry analyst, who declined to be named, said: "It's very tough. The issue is what load factor they need to break even and how many free seats they're giving away."


Eos is the more upmarket of the duo. Run by a former BA strategy director, David Spurlock, Eos is named after the Greek goddess of the dawn. It charges £3,500 for a return flight on two metre (6ft 6in) flat beds with lashings of Lanson Black Label champagne and limousine transfers at either end. It uses Boeing 757s, which usually carry 200 people, to take just 48 passengers.

Mr Spurlock is bullish about prospects: "We're very pleased with how things are going. What stands out most strongly is the absolutely incredible feedback we're getting from everybody who touches or flies Eos."

He says two-thirds of passengers are Americans and and maintains that, despite offering "leisure" fares at £950 each way, Eos is discounting very little.

He names "seamlessness, speed and efficiency" as the attractions for passengers and insists Eos is making good headway in signing corporate accounts. But in a note of caution, he adds: "As with any new company, we watch things by the minute and by the day, and we will continue to do so."

MaxJet is pitched more modestly, with a return fare of £854. Its seats are not flat and it carries 102 people in each plane but MaxJet still offers gourmet meals, scones with clotted cream, an entertainment system with more than 100 hours of variety and a one-to-10 ratio of cabin crew to passengers, compared with one to 50 on many airlines.

MaxJet's chief executive, Gary Rogliano, says: "We've been very, very satisfied - it's all really going above our expectations."

He maintains that MaxJet only needs loads of 45% to 50% to break even, although Eos's David Spurlock expresses consternation at this: "That sounds impossible to me in terms of business models, cost structures and sustainability."

Mr Rogliano is planning a new route to Washington, although this has been put back from mid-March to April 4 - a delay blamed on hold-ups in fitting out a new aircraft.

The challenge, according to experts, is in attracting corporate accounts, which are notoriously difficult for small airlines to capture. Airline seats are a commodity business, sold in large contracts to multinationals that tend to want network carriers which provide frequency and a wide range of routes.


A British Airways spokesman pointed out that BA offers 10 daily flights from London to New York's JFK and Newark airports: "Any new competition is good - we welcome it on any route - but we're very confident that the business traveller will look for frequency and network in an airline."

The all-business airline has been mooted in Britain before. Blue Fox, a British operation, never got off the ground. In the US, the Florida-based Crystal Airways has been poised to enter the market since 2002 with "brushed brass-accented sidewall panels" and full-size dining tables.

Alex McWhirter, consumer editor of Business Traveller magazine, says: "There have been a number of attempts to do this and they've always floundered." He has doubts about persuading business customers to use Stansted, rather than Heathrow or Gatwick, and he is particularly sceptical about Eos: "I would imagine that the Eos product is probably too good for the marketplace; it's a bit over the top. MaxJet is a bit more affordable."

Several European flag carriers, including Swiss and Lufthansa, already fly all-business class aircraft on a few transatlantic routes. A senior executive at one major airline told the Guardian that the Stansted experiment was being watched carefully within the industry.

MaxJet and Eos could be trailblazers for aviation but to get there, they will have to step up the pace. No airline can survive for long with aircraft two-thirds full of air.

OUR COMMENT: When we reported on the maiden flights of these services we expressed the view that even with a full load such a small number of passengers could not justify the tonnes of CO2 emissions being wasted on the unnecessary luxuries offered to the passengers.

Pat Dale

18 March 2006


Ryanair's Swedish snub

Ryanair has said it may shift its Scandinavian focus from Sweden to Denmark in response to changes in each country's airport tax systems.

The budget airline currently serves three airports in Sweden and two in Denmark.

But according to newswire Ritzau Beureau, Ryanair is considering moving some flights from Malmo in Sweden to Copenhagen. It had previously been reluctant to begin flying to the Danish capital due to high taxes.

The move is in response to simultaneous tax changes in the two countries. While Sweden is set to introduce a new environmental levy on July 1, Denmark will on the same day withdraw a passenger tax.

The new Swedish tax would add around €12.50 to ticket prices, according to The Copenhagen Post.

Ryanair currently flies to Aarhus and Esbjerg in Denmark, which are both a four-hour train journey from Copenhagen. It also serves Malmo in Sweden, which is only an hour from the Danish capital.

But Ryanair's Nordic chief Karl Hoegstadius said Ryanair has already decided to move one flight from Malmo to Copenhagen when the tax changes come into force and admitted the move could have an impact on its other Swedish services.

Unlike rival easyJet, Ryanair serves a large number of airports in the Nordics, including Oslo and Haugesund in Norway and Tampere in Finland.

18 March 2006


Pressure will grow for action on aviation pollution, suggests Jeff Gazzard

The Monitor Blue Skies - March 2006

The 2003 white paper on the future of air transport set out plans for an unparalleled increase in the UK's air transport capacity, from around 200 million passengers this year to more than 476 million by the year 2030.

To be fair, the accompanying overview of the resultant environmental impacts was wide-ranging. It was also quite scary. It proved difficult to track down and find an impact that actually went down, be it noise around airports, local air quality impacts, rising numbers of car-dependent passengers and airport and airline staff, habitat loss, the demolition of listed buildings, severe community disruption and displacement caused by new runway construction, or the worrying and increasing contribution to climate-change from aircraft exhaust emissions at altitude.

The white paper made clear that all of this got worse. But there was reassuring news that carbon monoxide would be appreciably less, due to better aircraft engine technology. So that's okay then.

Lest any reader thinks this is the usual environmentalist grudge match at losing heavily yet again to an industry with a symbiotic relationship with its client ministry, the Department for Transport, here's how the white paper was greeted by the government's own environment protection advisory body, the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution.

In a December 2003 press release, Sir Tom Blundell,  RCEP chairman, explained: "The Royal Commission is not opposed to cheap air travel, and has no intention of suggesting that people should not have affordable access to their holiday destinations."

"However, the levels of growth predicted in the aviation white paper are simply not environmentally sustainable, and the government needs now to start moderating demand, both by increasing the cost of air transport to a fair and equitable level, and by encouraging affordable and environmentally more benign forms of transport."

The comments are strong stuff, but mirrored in similar language and critical tone by the Environment Agency and the Sustainable Development Commission, both at the time and since.

What happened next? Precisely nothing. The government airily waved off its critics, whether sandal-wearing or suited, community-based or with access to the corridors of power, with an oft-heard 'Its the economy, stupid' mantra.

But this year the government has promised to review the progress of the air transport white paper, so now might well be the time to re-open the debate. Road transport policy is heading in the direction of road congestion-charging with the government's blessing. If you want to drive into central London tomorrow, it will cost you £8. This is demand-management.

So instead of hoping that a rather large and quite noticeable increase in air transport-related pollution might go away, why not look at a fair, reasonable and easy-to-introduce 'congestion charge of the skies'?

The sums were done by think tanks Infras and IWW. The mechanism would be a distance-related variant of the current air passenger duty. The amount on a ticket? The princely sum of 3.6 pence a kilometre. Of course, there's a catch - think of the distance you last flew. A low-cost airline trip from Luton to Glasgow, approximately 1,000 kilometres, would cost an extra £36. Travellers heading to Australia can do their own sums.

Now this would have an impact on demand; frankly, the only realistic way to reduce air transport's negative environmental impacts. Instead of annual air transport growth of three to four per cent, the introduction of equitable environmental economics to a sector that pays zero tax on its fuel would see growth cut by half to one to two per cent annually in the future.

We know there is some good news, as better aircraft technology and air traffic-management systems will make flying less damaging by about the same figure; one to two per cent more efficient each year. So our demand-management policy proposal would see growth in balance with technology gains and around 300 million passengers by 2030 needing no new runways. Is anybody listening? Let's hope the one-every-90-seconds queue of planes landing at Heathrow via Westminster are in super-quiet mode.

Jeff Gazard is a member of the Aviation Environment Federation.

18 March 2006


Daniel Forman asks whether proposals for airport expansion
are really sustainable

The Monitor Blue Skies - March 2006

If achieving economic growth without fuelling inflation was the greatest challenge for governments in the late 20th century, then doing so without fuelling carbon emissions may be the early 21st century equivalent.

Striking a balance between the two is set to vex ministers for decades and even more than fighting inflation it is something that can only be achieved on an international basis, pollution being something that respects borders even less than economics.

Nowhere is this problem crystallised more clearly than in the aviation industry. The economy depends on international travel like never before, and the demand for more capacity is all but irresistible.

But critics say that no mode of transport is more damaging to the environment than flight. If carbon reduction targets are to be met - and the consensus is that the future health of the planet makes them a bare minimum - it will have to be curbed.

In the UK, the government recognises the dilemma acutely. In a speech last year to a seminar on air transport sustainability, then minister Charlotte Atkins said: 'It is absolutely crucial that we balance the benefits of expansion against the environmental impact of air travel.

That impact includes growing aircraft emissions and their contribution to air pollution and climate change. It includes noise. And it includes the physical expansion of airports to accommodate growth. This is why we remain committed to ensuring that aviation meets the external costs it imposes, over time.

Ministers remain committed to a new runway at London Stansted and consulting on one for London Heathrow, while London Luton Airport is developing plans to triple in size by 2030 and deliver a new full-length runway in time for the 2012 Olympics. The government also wants to develop more terminal capacity at regional airports as the budget airline boom continues in response to demand for cheap international travel.

Can this be done sustainably? The Department for Transport thinks so. Any new runway at Heathrow will require progress on developing road pricing around the airport, bringing in extra revenue to counter one of the biggest associated environmental costs of aviation, traffic.

And ministers are working on bringing airlines into the European emissions trading scheme. Trading requires companies to effectively buy emissions from each other, working across borders and incentivising carbon efficiency.

The international nature of the industry means we must tackle issues like noise and emissions in collaboration with other countries, Atkins says. "We reserve the right to act bilaterally or on our own if international progress on emissions trading is too slow."

That may well prove to be the case, with America threatening to take the EU to the World Trade Organization if it feels its economic interests are being impeded. But bilateral and unilateral action has its drawbacks. Increasing the costs of travel at home impedes the domestic economy, thereby inflicting a double blow as it gives a boost to competitors.

Other solutions that have been advanced include carbon offsetting. This voluntary system allows passengers or airlines to make an environmental contribution, such as paying for the planting of new trees, equivalent to the damage done by their flight. The idea could be made compulsory, but it does not actually reduce the amount of pollution being produced in the first place.

The growth in business travel could eventually be slowed by the globalisation of communications, with video conferencing replacing some face-to-face meetings and electronic documents replacing post.

Similarly, a drive to encourage domestic holidays could have some impact on the leisure travel market. But at best these are likely to be drops in the ocean compared to the inexorable rise of the international trade in goods and demand for foreign travel.

Therefore the government, and, as it recognises, its international counterparts, will probably have to bite the bullet and accept that they may be reaching the limits of sustainability, if indeed they have not already passed them. Taxes will have to rise, greener aeroplane technologies found and, most importantly perhaps, consensus reached that growth will have to be limited.

14 March 2006


The Andrew Davidson Interview: Tower to Spain: no permission to land

Business Times Online - 12 March 2006

Mike Clasper, BAA chief, admits he was caught on the hop by Ferrovial's plans for a £9bn takeover bid. Now he is preparing to stop the Spaniards

BY any definition, Mike Clasper must be under pressure right now.

"Pressure?" says the 52-year-old BAA boss with an amiable grin. "That wouldn't be the word I'd use. It's challenging, and there's certainly lots to do, but it's exciting, yunno?" We certainly do. The media and markets have been all of a flutter for four weeks, since Spain's Ferrovial revealed that it intended to bid for BAA, the world's largest airport operator. BAA's share price has shot up more than 20%. And now another consortium led by the Australian investment bank Macquarie, is planning to join the party.

But where's the Spanish bid? It's coming, we are told, once Ferrovial has put together its bidding consortium. That has given Clasper, 23 years at Procter & Gamble (P&G) before he joined BAA and no stranger to rigorous planning and preparation, plenty of time to work out his defence.

Is he edgy? Well, sitting in his second-floor office near London's Victoria station, he doesn't look it. Jacket off, tousled and burly, the Sunderland-born chief executive exudes a blokeish charm that just about covers his aggressive ambition.

Both have been in evidence in his three years at the top of BAA, which he has driven hard while attempting to rebuild some fractured relationships. Many airlines dislike BAA's stranglehold on the key southeast airports - it operates Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted plus four other British sites. They also mistrust its close alliance with government interests, a legacy of its previous status as a state-owned operation privatised in 1987.

Many passengers, too, are disappointed with the increasingly shoddy feel of Heathrow and the congestion clogging many large British airports.

Clasper, like every BAA boss, can respond that he is hemmed in by conflicting interests: government strategy, planning issues, competition rules, air-travel growth. And he is still building Heathrow's new Terminal 5, and seeking permission to build another runway and terminal at Stansted. As for airlines and passengers, he describes BAA's relationship with them as analogous to P&G's with supermarkets and consumers.

"Only I'm not sure the supermarkets ever accused P&G of being an 'over-charging rapist', which is what Michael O'Leary called me." He laughs. The Ryanair boss, he says, is sometimes a law unto himself.

Then, just as BAA was celebrating its successful £1.2 billion bid to buy Budapest airport, up pops Ferrovial.

The Spanish firm is expected to announce a bid of more than £9 billion for BAA soon. Ironically, it was one of the competitors BAA beat in the auction for Budapest airport. What's going on - if you can't beat them, buy them? "Yunno, I think they are motivated by admiration," jokes Clasper in his northeastern brogue. "In Budapest, the Hungarian government ranked all the bidders financially and in technical skills, and we came first in every category. Ferrovial was a fair way down the list. So it must be admiration."

But the bid is bad timing for BAA - it is in the middle of a regulatory review from the Civil Aviation Authority that will determine how much profit it can make from its key British airports in future.

And doesn't it rankle that Ferrovial, with a market value of just over £6 billion, is smaller than BAA (£7.1 billion before the bid)? Clasper chooses his words carefully. "Ferrovial has a tremendous reputation in Spain. I don't know how that has been developed. I presume because it is very well run.

"It's a family company that was created by the father of the current chief executive, and they are ambitious. They want to be the leading airport company in the world."

That, he says, is as much as he knows. There has been zero communication between the two companies, apart from a polite phone call between their chairmen. Clasper's job, however, is now infinitely more complicated.

Is it true that his team never saw it coming? Like many others, they thought BAA was simply too big, or too involved with government, to be bid for? "Of course we were caught by surprise," he says, "and we haven't even had the bid yet... But then the British market is totally open. There is no government golden share in BAA any more, so perhaps it's not that surprising in hindsight."

Clasper, the son of a builder, is an engineer by training but a marketer by experience. He will be drawing on all of that to develop defensive options against Ferrovial, and any other bidders. These options could include trading assets with Ferrovial to persuade it to go away, selling BAA's airports in Scotland to return cash to shareholders, and emphasising the damage any takeover might do to BAA's investment in Heathrow. Or so the speculation goes.

Clasper's eyes just twinkle when I list the possibilities. "I would love to have a conversation with you about all that, but the lawyers tell me I can't comment right now - for legal reasons, not because I am an awkward bugger."

Would he be happier if his key customers were lined up behind him? Some airlines seem to have welcomed the bid, seeing this as an opportunity to break up BAA's "monopoly" in southeast England.

"I think you would always like your customers saying good things about your service," says Clasper, wrinkling his pudgy face. "But in this case, some might feel there are strategic advantages to be gained."

But don't, he adds, make the mistake of thinking they are right in using the word "monopoly". He runs through the characteristics of monopolies - uncompetitive prices, lack of investment in assets, operational inefficiency, little innovation, poor service - and dismisses each in regard to BAA with a flurry of statistics and examples, pushing me to agree.

Others who have worked with him outside BAA suspect that is the way he will go with his bid defence, working up arguments for investors, regulators and government alike, and demanding commitment in his characteristically blunt style.

For Clasper is not shy in putting himself forward, as you would expect from a Brit who rose far in the American-owned P&G, though he has deft people skills, too. "If Mike is going to bulldoze you," says one associate, "he will tell you he is going to do it first."

That has been exactly what BAA needed, according to another Clasper contact. "The BAA he inherited still had a number of the attributes of an organisation run by civil servants," says John Gummer, the former Conservative minister. "His clarity and forcefulness are important."

Clasper will also be driven by doing "what's right". That was a key motivator in his P&G career, where he rose to become president of global homecare and won a CBE for work he did to mitigate the polluting effects of detergent.

"Mike's very bright. He has a forensic mind," says Rita Clifton, chairman of Interbrand, the global branding consultancy. "He will want facts and data and he will assemble a business case in the way he has been trained to do. But at the end of the day he will find a course of action that's doing the right thing."

Would he stay if the Ferrovial bid was successful? Clasper raises his hands in exasperation. "I can't answer that, can I?" he says. Beneath the jovial banter, there must be a welter of emotions whirling.

Before we part, he says he does want to emphasise one thing: the company's commitment to turn Heathrow into a truly world-class airport.

"I recognise the Heathrow experience is not what it should be for passengers and airlines, but that's because we are pushing 67m people through space designed for 45m. It's not just about Terminal 5. We want to rebuild the central terminal, too, and redesign the airfield so we can get people on and off the planes as quickly as possible."

What is he saying? Is he apologising? Or is he claiming that Ferrovial might baulk at such a commitment? Clasper won't expand. He is off to Wilton's for lunch with a stockbroker. At a time like this, he needs to make sure everyone is onside.

Vital statistics
Born: April 21, 1953
Marital status: married, with three children
School: Bede Grammar, Sunderland
University: St John's College, Cambridge
First job: graduate trainee at British Rail
Salary package: £936,000
Homes: Hemel Hempstead and Westminster, central London
Car: blue Chrysler Voyager
Favourite book: Rebus series
Favourite music: Cream
Favourite film: Return of Jedi
Favourite gadget: corkscrew
Last holiday: Rioja, Spain
Interests: sport, theatre, art

Mike Clasper's working day
THE BAA chief executive wakes at his Westminster flat at 6.30 most mornings. Mike Clasper will have a poached egg for breakfast - "Unless I'm starting a meeting at the Goring hotel. Then I'll have lamb kidneys."

An average day might include a leadership meeting at the London head office, or a trip to Heathrow, walking the terminals. He will frequently meet regulators and politicians, too.

At present more than half his working day is given over to planning BAA's response to Ferrovial's likely bid. "Lots of people haven't had a well-defined view of what we are. This is a huge opportunity to get our ambitions firmly planted in the minds of shareholders and others. And the good news is that our core investors are very confident in the strategy and the team."

MIKE CLASPER has a passion for the theatre, dating back to his time working in Newcastle for Procter & Gamble. "Coming back to London from Brussels has been a dream. Even during all this bid stuff I am still going. I saw David Suchet at the National last week. Next week, subject to the Spaniards, I'm going to see Honour at the Wyndham's."

He also collects contemporary art and will pay up to £5,000 for a piece. "I'm just a poor chief executive. I don't have any Van Goghs."

Sport is his main hobby. "I play tennis and golf and have helped to coach rugby in the past," he says. "My tennis style? Aggressive. Big serve, then volley into the corner, other guy doesn't even see it - it just doesn't happen often enough."

He supports Sunderland FC, too, but suggests the least said about that, the better.

OUR COMMENT: No views on climate change?

Pat Dale

14 March 2006


Air travellers and the future of the planet

Letters to the Editor - The Times - 13 March 2006

Sir, Anatole Kaletsky‚s speculation about the motives of campaigners seeking to reduce air travel is wide of the mark („Workers of the world unite! We have nothing to lose but our airline tickets, Mar 9). He claims that we have a hidden agenda in wanting to reduce air travel simply because we see it as "an indulgence of the prosperous classes" but our objection to the Government‚s aggressive plans to expand aviation is rooted in the effects they will have on people and the planet.

At busy airports such as Heathrow over half a million people live under the flight paths, often having to put up with planes from 4.30am and then at 90-second intervals through the day. Ironically, many of these residents belong to the prosperous classes of which Kaletsky maintains we are so contemptuous.

He says that air travel would create 5 per cent of global emissions by 2050, but there is a serious debate about the accuracy of this figure, with many experts putting the figure as high as 15 per cent. If the noise and emissions problems could be solved, then the current concern about aviation would subside. But it is acknowledged by aviation experts that the projected growth in aviation will more than outweigh any improvements in noise and pollution which technology may bring. That is the reason why we believe there is no alternative but to lobby to curb the growth in aviation.

Chairman, HACAN ClearSkies
(representing residents under the Heathrow flight paths)
London SW9

Sir, Budget air travel, the fastest growing sector in aviation, is contributing disproportionately to carbon emissions. A small additional tax might not deter a club-class business traveller but it is likely to put a different complexion on a penny flight to Prague. At Stansted Airport, where over 90 per cent of traffic comprises low-cost flights, a tax on flying would have a considerable dampening effect.

Questioning the need to fly as often as we do is not about class war but a responsible step that we can all take. Emissions trading, as an alternative solution, is merely a pass-the- parcel game that the aviation industry can afford to play because it receives enormous subsidies by escaping tax and VAT on fuel.

Little Hadham, Herts

Sir, The big increase in air travel and, thereby, carbon emissions is caused not by passengers flying club class across the Atlantic but by countless millions of others taking low-cost flights on budget airlines to destinations they would not otherwise have visited.

As for Mr Kaletsky‚s argument that aircraft emissions make up only a tiny proportion of the total ˜ yes, this is true, but because those emissions occur at 30,000ft and above, their impact on the environment is proportionately that much greater.

Bringing aviation into a carbon trading system is the only sane way to tackle the problem. The trick, as ever, will be persuading everyone else to join in.

Hove, E Sussex

Sir, Anatole Kaletsky states that "an additional £9 per ticket fuel tax would achieve absolutely no carbon reduction, since it would not be remotely sufficient to deter people from flying". This inelasticity of the price of airline travel makes it a superb mechanism by which to raise money for projects to reduce atmospheric CO2 levels, much like the voluntary practice British Airways suggests on its website. Airlines would, as Mr Kaletsky points out, carry on developing more fuel-efficient technology regardless, and the tax revenues raised could go to planting trees, energy-efficiency programmes in rural India and the like.

Department of Political Science
University of British Columbia

Sir, As a frequent traveller between London and Glasgow, I now forsake the plane for the train. I do this for the green reason, not as "a way of expressing contempt for the rich and privileged", of whom I am one.


14 March 2006


Acid seas threaten to make British shellfish extinct

Jonathan Leake, Environment Editor - Times Online - 12 March 2006

SHELLFISH, crabs, lobsters and a host of other familiar species could become extinct around Britain and Europe because our seas are becoming steadily more acidic.

An official report is to warn that carbon dioxide generated by human activity, already linked to climate change, is also sharply altering the chemistry of the oceans. The gas forms carbonic acid when it dissolves into sea water. Some species, such as corals and certain plankton, are so sensitive to the rising acidity that they could be in rapid decline within decades. Others, such as crabs, mussels and lobsters, are more resistant, but they too will be in danger by the end of the century. All the affected organisms build their shells or skeletons from calcium carbonate, a mineral they extract from sea water but which is attacked by carbonic acid.

The report is being published tomorrow by Ospar, the inter-governmental organisation set up by northern European countries, including Britain, to monitor the state of the North Sea and North Atlantic.

One of its authors, Carol Turley, of Plymouth Marine laboratory, said: "This issue is emerging as one of the most serious environmental threats humanity has faced. The oceans are acidifying very rapidly and many marine organisms are at risk."

Turley and her colleagues have carried out experiments measuring how marine organisms cope when sea water becomes more acidic. They tried growing a range of plankton and animal species in water that had been slightly acidified with extra carbon dioxide.

Although the findings are not yet formally published, she said: "We had some very alarming results. Just a small change in acidity saw some of these creatures unable to grow or reproduce properly."

The acidification of the oceans is directly linked to the 23 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted annually by human activities such as power generation, car use and air travel. About half of these emissions are soaked up by the oceans - a reaction that has so far benefited the planet by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and so slowing climate change.

About 10 years ago, however, scientists noticed hints that the oceans could no longer cope. Measurements of pH - the basic measurement of acidity - showed it was falling sharply, meaning the oceans were becoming more acidic.

John Raven, professor of biology at Dundee University, chaired a Royal Society inquiry into ocean acidification. It concluded that a marine catastrophe could be looming.

"The pH of the oceans has fallen by 0.1 units so far and could fall by 0.5 units by 2100," said Raven. "This pH would be lower than for hundreds of millions of years and the rate of change is so fast that marine life may be unable to adapt."

A change of 0.1 units sounds small but represents a huge shift in ocean chemistry. Crucially, it represents a 30% decrease in the amount of dissolved carbonate - which marine creatures must extract from water to build their shells.

The further carbonate levels fall, the more sea creatures struggle first to build their shells and then to stop them dissolving back into the sea.

Turley's work was aimed at pinpointing how this effect would impact marine life around Britain and Europe. The work was part-funded by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, and the Department for Trade and Industry.

One of the biggest questions is how rising acidity will affect plankton species because these are an essential component of the marine food chain.

If plankton levels fell, or there were a sharp change in the types of species, then the fish which feed on them and marine mammals would also be affected.

Acidification can affect other processes besides shell formation - such as altering the amount of oxygen dissolved in water and changing the pH levels in the cells of sea creatures. The Ospar report will warn that fast-swimming creatures such as squid and some fish could find it impossible to extract enough oxygen to survive.

The scale of the disaster that could be caused by ocean acidification is only just becoming clear. Scientists working on tropical coral reefs have predicted that they will start dissolving by 2050 and eventually face extinction.

More research confirming such findings is to be published at conferences shortly, including a paper by Toby Tyrrell of the National Oceanography centre at Southampton University.

He warned that crabs, lobsters, mussels and many other familiar species faced extinction unless humanity reduced its carbon emissions. He said: "There is a high probability that within 300 years there will be no life based on calcium carbonate left in the oceans."


Plan for high-speed trains is axed
No fast TGV-style service for Britain, as Darling kills off
prospect of brand new line from London to the North

Christian Wolmar - The Independent - 12 March 2006

The prospect of Britain getting high-speed TGV-style trains like France and Germany will be killed off this week by the Secretary of State for Transport, Alistair Darling.

Mr Darling will tell a conference of industry leaders in a keynote speech that Britain is simply not big enough to have a high-speed line as well as the existing rail and motorway links, and instead will suggest improvements to existing services as part of a 30-year plan for the railways. In its manifesto for the last election, Labour had committed to consider building a brand new high-speed line between London and the North using a new generation of trains that would slash journey times and reduce the demand for polluting domestic air travel.

Instead, Mr Darling will say, main lines such as the East Coast and Great Western will be improved to take 200kmph trains so that all major towns in England will be reachable for a business meeting from London without the need for an overnight stay. High-speed trains in France and Germany already run at 300kmph, whereas the highest speeds in the UK are no faster than the steam age. Mr Darling will also suggest that double-decker trains may be introduced on overcrowded lines.

Ironically, the death knell for the TGV idea comes from the former BA chief Rod Eddington, who has been brought in by Mr Darling to advise on Britain's transport infrastructure. Mr Eddington's report is set to pour cold water on the idea as unworkable, pointing to problems such as cost and the difficulties of finding a route, particularly in the crowded South-east and to the centre of London.

The scrapping of a TGV-style vision will be a U-turn for Mr Darling who privately has been supportive of the idea. But the Treasury has made it clear that the prospect of spending £20bn or more on a major infrastructure scheme is a non-starter, even though the rail industry is convinced much of the scheme could be funded privately. Industry insiders are also sceptical of the idea for double-decker trains, as they would require expensive adaptations to bridges and tunnels. Because Britain was the first to build railways in the early 19th century, its loading gauge is smaller than on the Continent and in North America.

Mr Darling will disguise the U-turn by stressing that the Government is committed to a 30-year strategy of improving the railways. However, this will include no new major projects and, instead, will concentrate on small-scale enhancements to the existing network and improving line speeds by modernising the track and signalling.

Rail industry sources argue that the 40 per cent growth in railway usage over the past decade, which shows no sign of slowing down, means that the existing network simply cannot cope and that the high-speed line is necessary just to provide extra capacity. Adrian Lyons, director general of the Railway Forum, said: "Just tarting up the network is not enough. It means there will be greater demand for domestic air travel and a greater need for new runways and airports, which are far more environmentally damaging than railways." Labour's plans for road pricing would also increase demand for rail travel.

The scrapping of the scheme will be pounced on by the Opposition, which has been hounding Labour over a series of schemes that have been scrapped or delayed. These include tram projects in Leeds, Liverpool and Portsmouth, and Thameslink 2000, currently the only mainline link through central London, which is supposed to relieve congestion on the network's most crowded commuter line.

Chris Grayling, the Tory transport spokesman, said: "The trouble is that the Government keeps on making pronouncements and not following them through. They have broken promise after promise. They launched the idea of a high-speed line in a blaze of publicity and are now quietly dropping it. Where is the vision?"

14 March 2006


CSP study shows some exceed EU limits by up to 75 per cent

Press Notice - Chartered Society of Physiotherapists - 13 March 2006

Levels of a toxic atmospheric pollutant exceed EU limits at most airports in England, according to a new report published today by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP).

Over two thirds (16 out of 23) of the airports included in the CSP's study recorded dangerously high levels of nitrogen dioxide - a noxious gas that irritates the airways of the lungs and causes breathing difficulties.

The EU says nitrogen dioxide levels need to stay below 40 micrograms per cubic metre of air (mcg/m3) to be safe, but airports in Newcastle, Birmingham and London (Heathrow and Gatwick) exceed this recommendation by up to 75 per cent.

Readings at airports in Manchester, Liverpool, Blackpool, Sheffield, Humberside, London (City), Southampton, Exeter and Gloucester are up to 50 per cent higher than the EU target.

Respiratory physiotherapists say the consequences of being exposed to the gas can be especially severe among people with existing lung conditions, like asthma, bronchitis and emphysema.

CSP spokesperson, Professor Grahame Pope, says:

"The effects of airport emissions on air quality and public health are of serious concern to physiotherapists."

"It's not just nitrogen dioxide polluting the environment around airports; our study reveals high ozone (see note 4) concentrations at some sites too."

"There's no doubt that aircraft contribute to the problem, but it should be noted that cars, buses and taxis ferrying passengers to and from these sites are dominant sources of pollution."

"With cheap flights making air travel more affordable, several airports want to expand capacity. We would urge the government to consider ways of balancing passenger convenience with improving public health when looking at these proposals."

Table 1 shows latest readings for levels of nitrogen dioxide in the air surrounding airports (see below). Scores over 4 indicate the airport's nitrogen dioxide levels exceed the EU limit of 40µg/m3. For more info on data source, see note 2.

Table 2 explains the scoring system used in Table 1 and highlights how much nitrogen dioxide is needed to arrive at a score between 1 and 10. An airport recording a score of 7, for example, has levels of nitrogen dioxide between 60-70 (µg/m3).

Data source: Ambient Air Quality: Scores of Nitrogen Dioxide concentrations at background and roadside locations, 2003 (January-December).
Airport roadside NO2 score
Newcastle International Airport  7
Birmingham International Airport  7
London Heathrow Airport  7
London Gatwick Airport  7
Manchester Airport  6
Liverpool Airport  6
Blackpool Airport 6
Sheffield City Airport  6
Humberside International Airport  6
London City Airport  6
Southampton International Airport  6
Exeter Airport  6
Gloucestershire Airport  6
Teesside International Airport  5
Norwich Airport  5
Plymouth City Airport  5
Leeds Bradford International Airport  4
London Luton Airport  4
Cambridge Airport  4
Ipswich Airport  4
London Biggin Hill Airport  4
Shoreham Airport  4
Isle of Wight (Sandown) Airport  3

Score% of EU limit valueNitrogen Dioxide concentration (µg/m3)


Notes to editors

1. For more information please call the CSP press office on 020 7306 6616/6628/6163 or mobiles 07786 332 197, 07795 564 240, 07900 160 349

2. DATA SOURCE - NITROGEN DIOXIDE Title: Ambient Air Quality: Scores of Nitrogen Dioxide concentrations at background and roadside locations, 2003 (January-December). The geography used is the middle layer super output areas, which have been mapped to the locations of airports. The data supplier is the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the data was taken from National Statistics.

The dataset used provides scores of annual mean nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentration for 2003 at background and roadside locations in the UK. The data are collected by Netcen on behalf of Defra and the Devolved Administrations. The scores in this dataset are calculated by comparing annual mean nitrogen dioxide concentrations for 2003 in MSOAs with the EU Limit Value of 40 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3) which comes into force in 2010. The scores reported in this dataset are calculated from a modelled annual mean concentration (an average over the whole year) in micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3).

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is an oxide of nitrogen, and is associated with adverse effects upon human health. NO2 may have both acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) effects on health, particularly in people with asthma. There is evidence to show that long-term exposure to NO2 may affect lung function and that exposure to NO2 enhances the response to allergens in sensitized individuals.

3. NO2 levels were not available for the following airports: East Midlands International, London Southend, Stansted, Manston, Bristol International, Land's End, Newquay (Cornwall), St. Mary's, Bournemouth International, Cardiff International

4. Of 33 airports in England and Wales, all but two (Sheffield City and London Heathrow) have ozone levels which exceed the Air Quality Strategy's objective of having no greater than 10 days with running 8-hour mean ozone concentrations greater than 100 µg/m3. To see the ozone results, click on the document link below.

5. Respiratory physios treat a range of conditions, including those that come under the umbrella term of 'Obstructive Airways Disease' such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Asthma and Bronchiectasis. To find out more about the conditions respiratory physios treat, the effects pollution can have on their patients and the type of intervention provided, please call the CSP press office on the numbers below to set up an interview with an ACPRC member.

6. The GB union movement signed up to tackling poor air quality at the TUC's 2005 annual congress.

7. The CSP is the professional, educational and trade union body for the country's 47,000 chartered physiotherapists, physiotherapy students and assistants. For previous releases visit www.csp.org.uk

OUR COMMENT: These measurements were taken at roadside locations in urban areas which is probably why Stansted was not included in the list as it is still "the airport in the countryside". However, as the number of flights increase, air quality will deteriorate - this is inevitable and cannot be "mitigated against", except by designing an emission free aircraft. So, all the more reason not to expand! Also, though levels for humans may not be so high round our airport as to breach the safe levels for humans, the lower levels recommended for vegetation are suspect and Hatfield Forest is at risk.

Pat Dale


"Most of the airports were above EU recommendations"

BBC Online - 13 March 2006

Birmingham International Airport has dismissed claims it does not meet EU-recommended limits on the pollutant gas nitrogen dioxide as "misleading".

Birmingham was named as one of the worst offenders in a report from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy.

Its report found it exceeded EU levels of nitrogen dioxide by up to 75%.

But airport bosses said the study was conducted by the side of the M42, where 90% of the traffic had nothing to do with the airport.

The airport said it has had a monitoring site on the airfield since 1995 which is overseen by both Solihull and Birmingham councils - the nitrogen dioxide levels had never exceeded the recommended maximum.

John Morris, head of corporate and community affairs at the airport said: "Using a survey station plonked on top of the M42, when we have an independently-verified station on site, is going to give misleading results so far as the airport activity is concerned."

OUR COMMENT: The legislation is concerned with places where people live and regularly meet. The relative part played by aircraft and airport related traffic has to be separated from non airport traffic but, whoever is responsible, the pollution is still there. All airports are inevitably going to be plagued by NO2 emissions just as are motorways. Aircraft produce relatively more NO2 than cars. Irrespective of the legislation, all airports should have regular monitoring publicly displayed so that those using them know exactly what the air quality situation is. Limited exposure may not be harmful to the fit, but those with chest and heart complaints ought to be informed of the air quality situation.

Pat Dale

13 March 2006


Scientists say British greenhouse gas emissions now higher than in 1990

David Adam, Environment Correspondent - The Guardian - 10 March 2006

Britain's emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide are now higher than they were in 1990, the benchmark year used in government targets to tackle the pollution which is driving climate change.

A study by scientists at the Tyndall centre, at Manchester University, shows that soaring carbon emissions from the aviation and shipping industries have swamped attempts to reduce pollution from other UK sectors.

The analysis is the first attempt to measure total UK emissions by including those from all ships and aircraft - one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gases, yet not included in official data on emissions.

Article continues...

The news will give more ammunition to critics of the government's credibility on climate change amid mounting exasperation among scientists that politicians who acknowledge the threat of global warming are failing to take serious action to cut emissions.

Kevin Anderson, who led the study, said: "The atmosphere doesn't care where the carbon comes from, so in any rational approach you can't just conveniently forget to count some sectors."

Emissions from aircraft and ships entering and leaving Britain have more than doubled since 1990 and are expected to double again within a decade.

The study comes as ministers are poised to publish a review of climate change policies intended by 2010 to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20% on 1990 levels. But the scientists say such targets are misleading, because they do not include all sources of pollution.

Dr Anderson said: "Even if we were to meet that target, the level of carbon dioxide sent into the atmosphere could still go up because of this huge blind spot in the calculations. If aviation and shipping emissions are included, then the UK has not made any reduction in carbon dioxide emissions since 1990."

Official reports on carbon dioxide pollution do not include that from aircraft and ships using British airports and docks because it is classed as international. But Dr Anderson said to ignore this risked invalidating a government pledge to cut carbon pollution by 60% below 1990 levels by 2050, which scientists say is the only way to prevent dangerous climate change.

"If the government uses that 60% target as a basis for action then it has to say we're interested in emissions as a total from the UK," Dr Anderson said.

To include pollution from ships and aircraft, Dr Anderson and his colleague, Alice Bows, combined government statistics on carbon dioxide emissions, data on fuel use at UK airports, and figures on the number of ships using British ports.

With these forms of transport included, they calculated that UK carbon emissions in 1990 were between 171m and 175m tons. Emissions fell sharply in the early 1990s as Britain switched its power stations from coal to gas and closed down much heavy industry, but by 2004 had risen again to between 172m and 177m tons. Without shipping and aviation included, emissions fell by 4% over the same period, from 161m to 155m tons.

Elliot Morley, the minister for climate change, said: "We know that aviation emissions have risen and they've always been outside the calculation. But you've got to be careful that you don't use them as an excuse for not taking action in other areas." Shipping could join aviation in European schemes to curb pollution by trading emissions, he suggested.

13 March 2006


Environment Daily 2056 - 10 March 2006

Including aviation in the EU's emission trading scheme (ETS) might prompt a big increase in the price of carbon allowances, according to a new analysis of the challenges facing the scheme published this week. The finding contradicts suggestions made in a report for the British government last month that aviation's effect on the scheme would be "insignificant".

According to an industry task force led by Brussels think-tank Ceps the "price effect" of incorporating aviation in the cap-and-trade scheme "could be considerable". This is because airlines are "almost certain" to be net buyers of allowances due to the higher cost of controlling emissions from aircraft compared with other industrial sectors. Airlines are likely to demand 1-2% of the scheme's allowances, Ceps says. Prices could be raised even further if aviation's non-carbon climate impacts are accounted for in the scheme.

Last year the European commission aired initial plans to bring aviation into the ETS, without setting a date for the sector's entry Ceps says: inclusion from the start of the 2008-12 second phase would be a "considerable challenge", but later inclusion during the second phase could lead to "perverse incentives" for airlines to exaggerate their emissions before joining.

Elsewhere the report criticises EU member states who have still to allocate emission allowances to firms more than a year after the scheme began. Seven governments have yet to open their national trading registries. The result has been rising carbon allowance prices because firms with allowances to sell are not yet able to reach the market, Ceps says. The report complements an analysis from the task force released last year.

13 March 2006


Friends of the Earth - Press Notice - 13 March 2006

UK Taxpayers are effectively subsidising airlines to the tune of £300 per person every year, new research by Friends of the Earth reveals today [1].

The UK airline industry receives an effective subsidy of £9.2 billion a year [2] because airlines pay no tax on fuel used, virtually no VAT and benefit from duty free. Because of this, other taxes like income tax and national insurance have to be higher. This effective subsidy makes it possible for low cost airlines to offer such cheap fares.

Friends of the Earth is calling on the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, to increase Air Passenger Duty (APD) in this month's Budget to start to address the impact of increasing passenger numbers on climate change. Aviation is the fastest growing source of carbon dioxide, the principle gas that causes climate change. UK aviation emissions grew by 12 per cent in 2004 alone [3]. The call is part of Friends of the Earth's climate campaign, The Big Ask [4]

The environmental campaign group says that the Chancellor must increase Air Passenger Duty (APD) by £10 as an interim measure pending the introduction of other environmental taxes. This would raise an additional £900million per year and stop the current real-terms fall in the cost of flying and slow down growth in the number of air passengers. Despite a number of promises to make aviation pay for its environmental impacts, APD has actually been cut under Gordon Brown [5].

Friends of the Earth's Aviation Campaigner Richard Dyer said: "Each UK taxpayer is effectively subsidising the aviation industry by £300 a year. It's little wonder that air fares are so cheap. The Chancellor must put an end to these unfair and damaging tax breaks, and take action to make airlines pay for the impact that their activities are having on our climate. Increasing Air Passenger Duty in the Budget would be a welcome first step to reducing the growth in flights which threaten environmental disaster."

Passenger numbers using UK airports rose by eight per cent in 2004 to 217 million. Since 1987, passenger numbers have doubled at London airports and tripled at regional airports. The Government forecasts that passenger numbers could more than double again by 2030 [6]

Aviation – UK domestic flights and international departures from the UK - is responsible for around 6 per cent of the country's total carbon dioxide emissions.

Last year the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change research published a report [7] warning that all householders, motorists and businesses will have to reduce their carbon dioxide pollution to zero if the growing aviation industry is to be incorporated into Government climate change targets for 2050.

Airlines claim that increasing the cost of flying would stop poorer people flying. However three-quarters of people using budget airlines are in social groups A, B and C – the better-off in society, so raising APD is progressive taxation [8].


[1] Average calculated thus: £9.2billion effective subsidy divided by no. of UK tax payers, 29million

[2] Calculation of the effective subsidy:

    No tax on fuel: the Treasury stated in 2002 that if airlines paid duty on aviation fuel at the same rate as that paid on petrol – then 45.8 pence per litre – this would raise £5.7 billion a year. Tax on petrol has since risen slightly to 47.1 pence per litre
    Very little VAT: airlines pay no VAT on purchase or servicing of aircraft, fuel, baggage handling, meals etc. Nor is there any VAT on airline tickets. Charging VAT on all flights leaving UK airports would rise around £4 billion a year
    Duty free: although abolished within the EU, duty free on flights outside Europe remains, and costs the Government around £0.4 billion a year Air Passenger Duty: this brings in £0.9 billion a year

    No tax on fuel £5.7 billion
    Virtually no VAT £4.0 billion
    Duty free £0.4 billion
    Deduct Air Passenger Duty £0.9 billion

    £9.2 billion

[3] DEFRA figures

[4] As part of it's the Big Ask campaign, Friends of the Earth is calling for a new law that would require the Government to cut UK carbon dioxide emissions by three per cent every year. The measure has the support of the majority of MPs in the House of Commons. More info www.thebigask.com

[5] Most rates of APD have remained the same under Labour (thus falling in real terms) the rate for European economy class flights was cut from £10 to £5 in 2000

[6] info. from CAA presser 25/04/05

[7] http://www.tyndall.ac.uk/media/press_releases/tyndallpr21sep.pdf

[8] 'The Sky's the limit' – IPPR 2003

10 March 2006


Twelve countries back airline tax for development aid

Airline News - 3 March 2006

93 countries met in Paris on Wednesday and 12 of them decided to back a French proposal for a tax on airline tickets to support international development aid.

The plan is now being endorsed by the UK, Norway, Cyprus, Luxembourg and eight developing countries (Brasil, Chili, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Jordan, Madagascar, Mauritius, Nicaragua).

The French airline ticket tax will take effect in July.

European airlines are opposed to the idea and call it "fundamentally misguided". Green organisations say it will benefit the environment.

10 March 2006


Environment Daily 2054 - 8 March 2006

Five oil and car companies are calling for EU legislation to promote non-oil transport fuels that they say could slash air pollution and eventually help cut greenhouse gas emissions. EU industry and energy commissioners Günter Verheugen and Andris Piebalgs welcomed the initiative on Tuesday.

The Alliance for synthetic fuels in Europe (Afse) wants EU-level targets and tax incentives to increase the penetration of petrol and diesel made from natural gas and biomass rather than oil.

Renault, DaimlerChrysler, Volkswagen, Shell and SasolChevron say the commercial development of commercial-level gas-to-liquid (GTL) and biomass-to-liquid (BTL) processes is "the single most important breakthrough on the European fuels scene". Both fuels can be used on their own or blended with oil-derived equivalents.

GTL and BTL would cut engine emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) by up to 45%, particulate emissions by up to 40% and could halve emissions of hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide. Both fuels are sulphur free. Boosting synthetic fuel use would enable "good progress" towards recently proposed Euro 5 emission targets, Afse says.

Using GTL fuels in current car engines would not cut carbon dioxide emissions. However, BTL fuels offer double the carbon dioxide savings promised by first-generation biofuels such as biodiesel. Moreover, dedicated engines running pure synthetic fuels of either type would cut carbon emissions.

OUR COMMENT: What progress for aircraft?

Pat Dale

10 March 2006


Environment Daily 2055 - 9 March 2006

Environment ministers gave cautious support to the EU's Cafe air quality plan on Thursday. Gathered at an environment council meeting in Brussels, they described emission targets proposed by the European commission for 2020 as "an appropriate basis for further considerations".

Following the debate, EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas argued that "Europe will now be able to close the gap with other countries that already have higher [air quality] protection such as the United States."

Ministers called on the commission to come forward with further measures to reduce emissions, including the introduction of "Euro 6" norms for heavy goods vehicles. They demanded more action to reduce pollution from shipping and stationary combustion sources. Studies on the possibility of cutting emissions in agriculture should also be carried out, the environment council agreed.

Kerstin Meyer from green group EEB welcomed ministers' call for more action on air pollution but argued that member states should make sure that EU air quality law is properly implemented first.

In a statement, the council stressed the need for member states for having more flexibility to meet current EU air quality standards, echoing demands made at a previous meeting. It argued that their difficulties in complying with EU law should be taken into account by the commission when revising the national ceilings directive.

10 March 2006


Swedes encouraged to tap EU carbon Market

Environment Daily 2055 - 9 March 2006

In what appears to be a unique experiment, Swedish consumers are being encouraged to help buy up carbon allowances issued under the EU emission trading scheme. The Swedish society for nature conservation (SNF) reports growing interest in the project, which it launched in December.

SNF has so far purchased allowances worth 1,500 tonnes of CO2 emissions. Consumers can buy certificates for the allowances at SKr350 (€37) per tonne. SNF remains their formal owner but commits not to resell them into the emission trading system.

Ylva Rylander of SNF reports lively interest. In December, certificates were popular Christmas presents. Members of the public, a local authority and several companies not part of the EU emission trading scheme have bought allowances.

At its current scale the project is much too small to have a significant effect on allowance prices. Nevertheless, its popularity shows that consumers want to make a difference in practical ways, the group says.

10 March 2006


Walden Local - 8 March 2006

Local Liberal Democrats were in Harrogate over the weekend for their party's spring conference and heard their Secretary of State for Transport renew their commitment to oppose the building of any more runways in the South-East, including Stansted.

Said Tom Brake MP: "As a party we accepted the Kyoto target of a 60% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050. We need to demonstrate how aviation can help reach that target and to show how we will apply the 'polluter pays' principle."

Cllr Mark Gaylor, Lib Dem Leader of Uttlesford District Council, told the party conference that Uttlesford Lib Dems were at the forefront of the Party's campaign against government aviation policy.

"BAA Stansted is currently consulting on options for a second runway at the airport and we are campaigning hard against what would be an environmental catastrophe for our area. But our campaign is not just a NIMBY campaign, it is a campaign for the future of our planet."

"We have heard words from the government about tackling climate change but we have seen little action. Growth in air travel is incompatible with the government's carbon emissions reduction obligations yet they continue to push for more runways to send more and more carbon polluting aeroplanes into the sky."

10 March 2006


John Bowker, Deputy City Editor - The Scotsman - 6 March 2006

ROYAL Bank of Scotland has emerged as one of the key financial backers of Spanish giant Ferrovial's forth-coming attempt to take over BAA - the owner of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen airports.

The Edinburgh-based giant is understood to have been named joint leader of the funding consortium alongside CitiGroup - the world's biggest bank. Ferrovial is putting together a potential £9 billion cash bid for the blue-chip company, in what would be one of the most controversial foreign takeovers in UK corporate history.

The firm has yet publicly to reveal the make-up of its financial consortium, although Singapore investment vehicle Temasek and various Canadian pension funds also have been linked to the swoop. RBS would not comment on the revelation, dismissing it as "speculation".

Ferrovial admitted last month that it was in the "fledgling stages" of preparing a bid, and last Thursday it began to circulate that an offer could be forthcoming as early as this week.

Robert Waugh, head of UK equities at Scottish Widows, has said that, as the operator's biggest shareholder, he would not be happy with less than 900p-a-share, although the group was trading at 630p before word broke of the Spanish interest.

Analysts at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein have since re-valued the "sum of the parts" worth of the business at 786p-a-share, adding that the price should hold at that level even if Ferrovial walks away.

A takeover of BAA would be politically sensitive as the company runs regulated airports Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted - seen as vital to British national security. The group's Scottish airports - which observers have suggested could be sold if Ferrovial wins the battle - are not regulated.

6 March 2006


Guide owners join to discourage 'casual flying'
Books to carry warnings on global warming

Patrick Barkham - The Guardian - 4 March 2006

They are the gurus of globetrotting, the men who built publishing empires from their adventures and write guidebooks encouraging millions to venture further afield than ever before. Now the founders of the Rough Guides and Lonely Planet books, troubled that they have helped spread a casual attitude towards air travel that could trigger devastating climate change, are uniting to urge travellers to fly less.

Mark Ellingham, the founder of Rough Guides, and Tony Wheeler, who created Lonely Planet after taking the hippie trail across Asia, want fellow travellers to 'fly less and stay longer' and donate money to carbon off-setting schemes. From next month, warnings will appear in all new editions of their guides about the impact of flying on global warming alongside alternative ways of reaching certain destinations.

But the founders of the UK's two biggest travel publishers are refusing to give up flying and admit they are not paragons of environmental virtue. Asked if he felt guilty about the hundreds of flights he has undertaken, Mr Wheeler - visiting London on a business trip from Australia - said: "Absolutely. I'm the worst example of it. I'm not going to stop but every time I jump on a plane I think, 'oh no, I'm doing it again'."

Lonely Planet began when Mr Wheeler and his wife Maureen, travelled - from London to Australia in the 1970s, cobbling together a guide on the way. Six million copies of more than 600 different LP guidebooks are sold each year, inspiring backpackers and middle-class tourists to take long-haul flights to exotic destinations.

Both men have also pledged to donate money to the charity Climate Care to off-set the carbon emissions of their 650 staff who fly around the world every year compiling and updating their travel books.

In Rough Guides, the warnings will come under the "getting there" sections of all new editions and will emphasise alternative ways to travel. The guide to Paris, for example, will recommend taking the train.

The men accept it is less easy to take an alternative route to Peru, but instead preach that travellers should spend longer in one place and cut out frivolous weekend hops. A Rough Guide to Climate Change will join more than 200 Rough Guide travel books later this year.

Mr Ellingham, who produced the first Rough Guide with student friends in 1982 after travelling round Greece, recognised their advice could look hypocritical. "Like so much in life it's a contradiction but we are uniquely well placed to address travellers," he said. "We've got a responsibility to make people aware of the information about climate change so people have a less casual attitude towards flying. We want to show that two companies that are direct rivals feel this is an issue important enough to coordinate and cooperate on."

While air travel is predicted to increases threefold in the next 20 years, Mr Ellingham denied his company had encouraged the surge in flying. "I'm not sure we could or should claim any responsibility for increasing travel or tourism. Were Rough Guides and the Lonely Planet to disappear overnight would people travel less? Not really."

The guides will not tell travellers how many holiday flights each year are acceptable. "It's even more hypocritical to try to preach to people and say you should only fly this much", said Mr Ellingham.

The Rough Guides founder said he had reduced his air travel and would personally support a moratorium on airport expansion, as well as increased arrival and departure taxes. "I wouldn't promote myself as a paragon of virtue in that I'm certainly cutting down on casual travel. If someone invited me to a stag party in Prague I wouldn't go - what's wrong with Bournemouth?".

Both men recognised that carbon offsetting schemes were not a perfect solution but argued that they demonstrated the people were increasingly aware of the pollution they were causing and were "better than doing nothing".

They do not mind if their advice discourages people from travelling and hits sales of their books. "I'd rather customers bought one book today than no books tomorrow," said Mr Wheeler. "If we do real damage to our planet we're not going to be able to travel anywhere. We want our kids to be able to travel as well."

ChinaCost of return flight in emissions1.8 tonnes of CO2
IndiaCost of return flight in emissions1.5 tonnes CO2
ThailandCost of return flight in emissions2.1 tonnes CO2
Puerto RicoCost of return flight in emissions1.5 tonnes CO2
MoroccoCost of return flight in emissions0.8 tonnes CO2

5 March 2006


EasyJet makes green claims as it heads to Africa and Turkey

Andrew Clark, Transport Correspondent - The Guardian - 2 March 2006

EasyJet is an "environmentally friendly" airline, according to the new chief executive, Andy Harrison, who has used his first public comments to make a play for travellers who care about the world's future.

Britain's biggest budget airline announced its first routes outside Europe yesterday with flights to Istanbul and Marrakech. The routes were negotiated under bilateral treaties that require easyJet to remain in British ownership - a potential problem for any takeover bid from Iceland's FL Group, which owns a 16% stake.

In an interview with the Guardian, Mr Harrison claimed that the airline was far more green conscious than its rivals - and had a dig at British Airways and its Irish competitor, Ryanair. "If you're going to travel short haul, do it in the most environmentally friendly way, which means new aircraft and full aircraft," said Mr Harrison. "The low-cost model is more environmentally friendly than people who fly 15-year-old aircraft half full."

He pointed to BA as a carrier that tended to be less green because it used older aircraft and added: "I've got kids. I want them to live happily in the world. EasyJet is a responsible company."

Mr Harrison said easyJet would back an emissions trading scheme throughout Europe but would oppose a tax on aviation fuel as a "distortion to the market". His tone was significantly different from that of Ryanair's boss, Michael O'Leary, who last year said that he had no sympathy for "environmental whingers" and suggested that they should sell their cars.

A former boss of the RAC, Mr Harrison has set a target of doubling easyJet's profit per passenger to £4 within three years. He said easyJet had a conscious policy of treating passengers with respect and he criticised the service on offer from Ryanair's large contingent of east European crew. "Our staff care for people. Have a look and see - are the crew smiling?" asked Mr Harrison. "When you fly Ryanair, first of all, can you understand them and then are they happy?"

His comments on the environment drew a frosty response from the green lobby, which argues that aviation accounts for between 7% and 11% of Britain's harmful carbon dioxide emissions - a proportion which is rising. Jeff Gazzard, director of the GreenSkies Alliance, said easyJet's planes were "not benign by any measure". "We know airline executives are paid to have their heads in the skies. Andy Harrison's facile statements show his head is further into the clouds than most."

EasyJet will start daily flights between Gatwick and Marrakech on July 4, while daily flights between Luton and Istanbul begin on June 29. One-way fares to Marrakech and Istanbul will start at £30.99. EasyJet will also start a four-times-a-week service between Luton and the Croatian city of Rijeka on June 30.


Alistair Osborne - Daily Telegraph - 2 March 2006

Easyjet, famous for flying masses of holidaymakers, is to make a big push for more business travellers in an attempt to double the amount of profit it makes per passenger, the company has announced. Giving his first interview since taking the controls three months ago, the company's new chief executive, Andy Harrison, said the low-fare airline would shortly launch a trial offering business passengers priority seating for an extra £5 charge.

Mr Harrison, 48, said: "The main area our shareholders want us to focus on is improving our returns. We make £2 profit per passenger. We've got a target to increase that to £4. Ryanair make £5."

Easyjet's top 50 managers are incentivised to hit the target by September 2008. Easyjet will fly around 35m passengers this year, with an estimated 10pc to 20pc of passengers travelling on business, depending on the flight. Raising this figure by just five percentage points would make a big difference, Mr Harrison said.

"We have a proposition which is particularly good for the business customer. We fly to a lot more primary airports than Ryanair do. We don't have any carry on luggage weight limits. We need to get out and market ourselves a bit more."

"Business customers tend to book a bit later, tend to pay a bit more. If we can shift the mix more towards the business customer that alone will have a big impact on revenues."

The introduction of online check-ins will help, but Easyjet will also test later this month whether businessmen will pay a little extra to board the plane first and choose their seat. The trial will be on the Luton-Edinburgh route.

"One thing we should be doing is letting the finance directors of those businesses within a 10-mile radius of Luton, Stansted and Gatwick know what we can offer them," Mr Harrison said.

He denied the drive for more business passengers was a shift away from Easyjet's "no-frills" roots, and he ruled out introducing a business-class cabin in the airline's aircraft. A frequent flyer programme was "a possibility but we have no active plans to do that", he said.

The other big challenge, he said, was managing the growth of the business, with the number of aircraft Easyjet flies expected to grow by more than a third in two years, from 110 today to 150 by 2008.

In a move outside its EU stronghold, Easyjet yesterday announced new routes to Marrakech in Morocco, the Turkish city of Istanbul and Rijeka, Croatia's third largest city. Flights begin late June and early July.

A big chunk of the route expansion would be in eastern Europe, Mr Harrison said, with the company believing that some other North African destinations, such as Egypt, were too far for Easyjet's short-haul model.

Mr Harrison said he was treating Iceland's FL Group, which has built a 16pc stake in Easyjet amid mounting bid talk, "like any other shareholder". Asked if there was any logic to putting FL's Scandinavian carrier, Sterling Airways, together with Easyjet, he said: "I can't see any". Mr Harrison said his focus was "organic growth".

He called for a break up of BAA's London monopoly, calling it "inefficient", and said he hoped the Spanish company Ferrovial's putative bid would prompt the British airports operator to rethink its plans for a £2.7bn second runway at Stansted. Mr Harrison said: "Our view is they are spending a lot of money on something the airport's two main customers [Easyjet and Ryanair] don't want. I would hope any bid forces them to reconsider their investment proposals."

He could not resist a crack at Ryanair, saying Easyjet's philosophy was "low fares with care. Ryanair seem to make a virtue out of being aggressive with people." Asked if he was having fun in his new job, Mr Harrison, who has a private pilot's licence, said: "I'd never quite use the word with these jobs. It's interesting, challenging, exciting. Fun's probably not the right adjective."


Kevin Done, Aerospace Correspondent - Financial Times - 2 March 2006

After only three months as chief executive of EasyJet, Andrew Harrison is pushing out the boundaries of Europe's second-biggest low cost airline with the launch of its first routes to Morocco, Turkey and Croatia.

The extension of the low fare airline model from the UK to more far-flung destinations will support EasyJet's steady growth in capacity and passenger numbers by about 15 per cent a year. But investors will draw more comfort from Mr Harrison's commitment to improving profitability.

EasyJet's profit margins lag behind those of Ryanair, its Irish rival, and Mr Harrison, the former chief executive of RAC until its takeover last year by Aviva, the leading UK insurance group, said yesterday he was determined to narrow the gap.

Mr Harrison said: "We now make £2 profit per passenger. That is a relatively low profit margin, but the goal is £4 per passenger in the next three years. Ryanair makes £5 per passenger. It sells more heavily on their flights. It manages costs very tightly. There's no one thing that makes them that much more profitable. We will improve our revenues and our costs."

Mr Harrison, who last December replaced Ray Webster, the New Zealander who led the airline's operations for most of its first decade, believes that EasyJet can raise its yields (average fare levels) by attracting a growing share of business passengers, who tend to book later and pay correspondingly higher fares. "The opportunity is there to market ourselves better, in particular to small and medium-sized businesses."

He said the EasyJet business model, with its greater emphasis than Ryanair on flying to primary airports, offering greater convenience and high frequency schedules, would be key to attracting more business traffic.

The main competition would be against the legacy network carriers, British Airways, Lufthansa, Air France and Alitalia, rather than against Ryanair, and EasyJet would be concentrating its expansion increasingly on a series of bases across continental Europe. It already has bases at Berlin and Dortmund in Germany, Basle and Geneva in Switzerland, and at Paris Orly, and its latest base at Milan Malpensa opens this month.

Yesterday EasyJet announced a move into new markets with the launch in the summer of daily services from Gatwick to Marrakesh and Luton to Istanbul, and four services a week from Luton to Rijeka in Croatia and from Basle to Istanbul.

Mr Harrison sought to play down any speculation about a takeover bid for EasyJet from FL Group, the Icelandic investor that has already built up a 16 per cent stake in EasyJet, and said there were "no significant synergies" between EasyJet and Sterling, FL Group's Copenhagen-based low-cost carrier.

He had met Hannes Smarason, FL Group chief executive, in January at EasyJet's Luton headquarters, but only "in the same way as any other large shareholders. It was a routine meeting. They are all curious to see what the new CEO is like."

Mr Harrison also welcomed the prospect of a takeover bid for BAA from Ferrovial, the Spanish construction, infrastructure and services group, arguing it could lead to a possible break-up of the BAA London airport monopoly.

EasyJet is the second largest operator at both Gatwick and Stansted airports, where it controls respectively 14 and 20 per cent of the take-off and landing slots.

"EasyJet and Ryanair are the biggest operators at Stansted, and we are both vehemently opposed to BAA's business plans there. Where is the sense in that? Competition produces efficiency and that produces benefits for shareholders and customers."

5 March 2006


Chirac hoping for support from other countries

Accountancy Age - 1 March 2006

From 1 July, airline passengers flying out of France will be charged an airline ticket tax ranging from 1 euro (78p) for economy tickets within Europe to as much as 40 euros (£27.20) for first-class transcontinental flights.

The money will be used to fund medical aid and the French government is hoping to raise as much as 200m euros (£136m) from the new tariff.

At the same time French president Jacques Chirac is expecting support from as many as 10 countries for international tax on airline tickets during a development conference that opens in Paris this week.

The plan is opposed by airlines and some countries that are dependent on tourism.

The UK has given symbolic rather substantiative support to the French plans by relabelling part of the revenue from an existing air travel tax as dedicated to development aid, while Germany has said it is undecided on whether to pledge to introduce a ticket tax, the FT reported.

OUR COMMENT: The motives for the tax, while worthy ones, are not environmental. However, it may help towards reducing unnecessary air travel, though the sums are very small .for the European flights.

Pat Dale

5 March 2006


Conference reflects on booming carbon markets

Environment Daily 2050 - 2 March 2006

The European emissions trading scheme (ETS) grew rapidly through its first year of operation to represent almost half of the 799 million tonnes of carbon traded on the global market in 2005, according to a report presented at a major conference in Copenhagen on Tuesday.

The annual carbon market conference, organised by analysts Point Carbon, this year attracted twelve thousand delegates compared with around two hundred in 2004, reflecting the sector's rapid growth.

Point Carbon's report shows that demand for Kyoto clean development mechanism (CDM) credits, which was initially low, has increased significantly since the introduction of the EU emissions trading scheme.

In terms of volume, CDM credits are the biggest contributor of emission reductions achieved through the market, which means they are likely to survive even if there is no successor agreement to the Kyoto protocol, the report says.

However, Christiaan Vrolijk from IT Power told the conference that CDM credits might not provide more than 400 million tonnes of carbon reductions per year. He argued that they would soon have to compete with options such as Kyoto joint implementation schemes in Russia and internal abatement by companies, which are expected to increase in phase two of the emissions trading scheme.

According to the results of a stakeholder survey included in the report, internal abatement is already the main strategy chosen by half of the companies subjected to an emission cap under the scheme. Only the EU power and heat industry prefers to meet targets through other means, including purchase of CDM credits.

During a debate on global climate policies post-2012, some delegates argued that setting international industry-specific targets would be an efficient way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions globally while involving developing countries in a way that is fair.

Artur Runge-Metzger, an official with the European commission, said other options might include a global agreement on tropical deforestation. "Montreal has opened the way to discussions on different paths," he said. However, a Japanese official argued that it was "too early" to discuss the future climate framework. The atmosphere at the UNFCCC is not mature enough yet," he said.

5 March 2006


Environment Daily 2050 - 2 March 2006

Twelve countries in Paris on Wednesday backed a plan for a tax on airline tickets to help increase international development aid.

Championed by France the idea is now also being supported by the UK, Norway, Cyprus, Luxembourg and eight developing countries.

A French airline ticket tax will take effect in July. European airlines called the development "fundamentally misguided".

Green groups said it would benefit the environment.

5 March 2006


Love Affair: environmentalists and politicians warm to their task for the Stop Climate Chaos speed dating session in Westminster Central Hall

John Vidal - The Guardian - 2 March 2006

A different form of carbon dating - MPs take their turn to woo green activists

It was billed as speed dating for political ideas. Four hundred activists from green groups sitting at 50 tables in Methodist Central Hall, London, as 80 MPs rushed from one to another selling their ideas about how to tackle climate change.

Who would fall for the ideas of David Cameron, take a fancy to Chris Hune's? Did heart beats still for spurned environment minister Michael Meacher or Elliot Morley?

Mr Cameron, wearing a large No. 41 sticker, swept in: "I am sorry I couldn't ride my bike to the House this morning but I was doing the Today programme." The environmentalists, who have fruitlessly courted political parties for years, barely twitched. But there was a frisson when the Tory leader proposed "taking politics out of climate change", and a different kind of political union.

"Climate change needs everyone to take responsibility. We need cross-party agreement. The parties need to agree not to fight one another. We need year-by-year targets to cut emissions. We want a climate audit office, it would be like the monetary policy committee reporting to the public every year how the government is doing." He wanted a serious relationship. "Lets marry technology with year-by-year targets. We want decentralised energy. Climate change goes well beyond the life of any one government", he said, before being rushed off.

In seconds the whispers started. "We're not going to bed with Cameron, but I am attracted by what he said. At least we'd be able to hold him to account. Could this relationship go further?" pondered Tony Juniper, head of Friends of the Earth.

Next was Sir Menzies Campbell, putatuve Lib Dem leader. "No, I left my Jaguar in an East Lothian barn" he apologised, fishing out an expensive pen tp write down ideas and offering solutions such as contraction and convergence. Suitors nearly swooned when he said he abhorred nuclear power, wanted a carbon budget and said annual carbon emission cuts would help, not hinder the economy.

"You are all young, but when I was growing up we all suffered from pea-souper smogs; and along came the Clean Air Act, which everyone said would destroy industry and collapse the country. It did not. Things are changing. You turn on your television and now see the ice-cap melting."

On Table 26, Mr Meacher mulled over the real problems. "How do you discourage low-cost flights? You can tax fuel, but the US would be against it. You can put up the price of a ticket, but then the rich would be able to pay and the ordinary person would be left out. The best way is a carbon budget."

No romance blossomed on Table 24. "We had Nick Hurd. He knew far more than the last chap, someone who works in Cameron's office. He did not have the knowledge, nor the information, nor even the inclination."

Mr Huhne? "He had a voice like polished rock. He didn't listen to a word we said." But others liked him. "He said all the right things. He supports a carbon budget, which is great", said a woman from Christian Aid.

Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett and two ministers arrived. "She was very impressive. She really gave us an idea how difficult this thing is to tackle." Mrs Beckett played hard to get: "People of course want government to do more, but I do not feel it would be right for us to sign up to a rigid figure. But we are willing to explore the idea of a carbon budget, and we recognise performance is important."

1 March 2006


The powers to fight global warming

Readers' Letters - The Guardian - 27 February 2006

Your story on the draft EU/US air transport agreement, curbing UK and EU powers to fight global warming and restricting night flights (Open skies air treaty threat, February 20), is incorrect in a number of important respects. Your article claims EU member states would be required by article 14 "to agree with each other and with the US before taking measures to tackle noise or pollution from airlines". It also states that "Britain could lose its ability to impose environmental taxes, restrictions and safeguards on airlines".

Nothing in the draft agreement will preclude the EU from taking environmental measures in aviation policy. The draft agreement does not place either the EU or the US under any obligation to agree with the other in advance of taking environmental measures, and nothing in the text would curtail the existing powers of national governments in relation to environmental matters. The European commission will later this year, for instance, make a proposal to include aviation in the emissions trading scheme to combat global warming.

The article also states that levies imposed by national governments would be made impossible without prior transatlantic agreement. This is incorrect. The draft agreement would not prevent levies such as the UK's air passenger duty which already exists. It is also not correct to state that the treaty will be subject to a vote requiring the consent of 65% of member states. That refers to a voting rule proposed in the draft EU constitution which was recently rejected by referenda in France and the Netherlands.

Stefaan De Rynck
European commission spokesman for transport policy

1 March 2006


March 1st - London demonstration on Climate Change - Organised by "Stop Climate Chaos" an umbrella organisation of many concerned organisations

Stop Climate Chaos Press Release - 28 February 2006


Stop Climate Chaos met this morning with the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and told him that current UK policies fall far short of the necessary action to avert disaster. Tony Blair summarised the Government's current policies on climate change in the meeting and in an open letter to the coalition, of which Friends of the Earth is a founder member.

During the meeting, which also included Chancellor Gordon Brown, Secretary of State for the Environment Margaret Beckett and Secretary of State for International Development Hilary Benn, Tony Blair announced that the long-overdue Climate Change Programme Review would be published next month. Stop Climate Chaos looks forward to the Review but says it can accept nothing less than a big, bold plan to reduce UK carbon emissions. In particular, the coalition calls on the Government to establish a UK Carbon Budget to deliver an average reduction in total UK carbon emissions of 3% per year.

Stop Climate Chaos was surprised that Tony Blair failed to mention in the letter that the global temperature rise must be kept below the widely accepted danger threshold of 2°C (already an agreed EU target), and that this will require global greenhouse gas emissions to be on a permanent downward path by 2015. The coalition called on the Prime Minister to do all he can on the international stage to cap global warming at 2°C.

Regarding the increasingly damaging impacts that climate change is having on people living in poor countries, Stop Climate Chaos reminded the Prime Minister that the UK has unfulfilled pledges to make funds available to help poor countries cope with and adapt to climate change.

Worryingly the Prime Minister appears, yet again, to be sidelining the Kyoto process for dealing with climate change. We strongly believe this process should be supported as the most viable mechanism for delivering international agreement to reduce global green gas emissions.

Stop Climate Chaos will report back on the meeting at Number 10 to supporters gathering at a 'Carbon Dating' event happening on Wednesday 1st which Leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Menzies Campbell and Margaret Beckett are all intending to attend. This is just the beginning of what will be a massive, unmissable public campaign.

Ashok Sinha, Stop Climate Chaos Director, says "We told the Prime Minister that urgent and comprehensive action is needed to avert climate chaos. This must begin by setting an annual carbon budget for the UK to drive down emissions in every sector."

1 March 2006


Amanda Brown and Joe Churcher - PA Political Staff - 1 March 2006

Prime Minister Tony Blair today admitted there was "a long way to go'' in tackling the key issues surrounding climate change. But he agreed the way forward was now "somewhat clearer'' after a Downing Street meeting with "Stop Climate Chaos'', an umbrella group of green campaigners.

The group, which includes Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, is campaigning for a bigger lead from Government on the threat of changing weather patterns due to an imbalance of polluting greenhouse gases.

Chancellor Gordon Brown, Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett and International Development Secretary Hilary Benn also attended the talks.

Mr Blair, who pledged to work hard with other European leaders to extend the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) beyond 2012, called today for a stronger European strategy in this area. He said the ETS must be more robust and he hoped there would be agreement on a range of new measures to increase energy efficiency.

Opening the meeting, Mr Blair said he hoped the SCC campaign would be as successful as the Make Poverty History coalition was last year. He highlighted the progress made at the G8 summit in Gleneagles last year and praised the work of Mrs Beckett at climate change talks in Montreal last autumn.

It was now time to "move this dialogue on to the next stage,'' he said, to create a new framework incorporating fresh targets. Developing economies such as China and India had to be part of any agreement, he warned, adding: "If they are not, it's going to be problematic for us all.''

As well as work to extend the emissions trading scheme beyond 2012, Mr Blair highlighted European discussions about overall energy policy. Apart from considering security of supply, they must also "make sure we are trying to grow our economies in a sustainable way,'' he said.

Britain was set to be in a minority of European states meeting its Kyoto commitments, he pointed out. "There is no one level of action that is sufficient. We need it in an international level, a European level and down on the ground at the individual level also,'' he said.

"We've got a long way to go... but the pathway is a lot clearer.''

In a letter to Stop Climate Chaos Mr Blair said: "Across the world too we need to provide a clear, early signal to the private sector that there will be carbon markets after 2012."

"For we now all recognise the vital role of technology in finding a sustainable solution to climate change which is one where cutting carbon emissions goes hand in hand with continued prosperity."

"This needs a new understanding of the economic, technological and business opportunities from a low carbon, energy efficient path.''

Mr Blair said he was pleased that a new coalition group has been formed to fight for action on the issue and that the cost of inaction is clear. Almost every day, there was new evidence of how the climate was becoming more extreme with consequent impacts on people and the environment, he said.

Ashok Sinha, of Stop Climate Chaos said afterwards: "We told him we are looking for urgent and effective action on climate change and government policies as they currently stand, don't deliver that."

"We said he could make a start by implementing a carbon budget in the UK to drive down emissions from all sections of the economy."

"We were encouraged that we were able to open a dialogue with the Prime Minister. But it's not about talking and warm words, it's about concrete action."

"We will be happy to engage with that dialogue so long as it leads to urgent, effective and comprehensive action to address climate change.''

Shadow Environment Secretary Peter Ainsworth, commenting on the Prime Minister's letter to the SCC coalition, said: "Tony Blair today used 1,300 words to avoid saying something very simple: under his government, Britain's carbon emissions are rising, not falling.''

Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Norman Baker said his party had responded to Mr Blair's letter by re-releasing its six point "dossier of shame'', aimed at the Government's record on tackling climate change.

Mr Baker said: "As our dossier shows, Labour's record on climate change is a shameful one."

"Carbon dioxide emissions are rising. The Government is clearly in reverse gear when it comes to tackling climate change. Tony Blair may have talked big on the international stage on climate change, but the record of his Labour Government appears to be one of complete failure."

"I call on Labour again to enter into a cross party dialogue to reach political consensus on how we can achieve the real carbon dioxide reductions needed.''


ENDS conference examines next steps for ETS

Environment Daily 2046 - 24 February 2006

The EU emissions trading scheme (ETS) is already stimulating companies to invest in reducing carbon, an ENDS conference in London heard on Thursday. Officials and industry representatives agreed there was a need for national policies on allowance allocations and verification to be harmonised.

British Sugar, which has plants in Poland and the UK, is considering a plan to spend UK£10m (E14.7m) on energy-saving projects justified on the basis of carbon allowance savings, a company official told the conference. Power firm RWE has also justified efficiency improvements based on the scheme, delegates heard.

During a debate on emissions verification and new entrants, European commission official Peter Zapfel said there was no consensus on how to harmonise allocation methodologies. "Most companies dislike auctioning, but others like it."

Arnoud Walrecht of the Dutch economics ministry said the Netherlands had considered dealing with the problem of windfall profits in the power sector by auctioning part of its allocation in the trading scheme's second phase. Dutch allocation rules for phase II are to be published in the next two weeks.

UK officials explained that their draft phase II allocation plan, originally planned for December, was now expected in April. Jill Duggan of the UK environment ministry said there were "advantages in auctioning a portion of allowances in phase II, not least in gaining experience."

Member states should "try to be on time rather than try to be late" in delivering allocation plans for phase II, warned Peter Zapfel. He added that Commission would stick to its policy of not accepting ex-post adjustments to national allocation plans.

Kate Hampton of investment bank Climate Change Capital told delegates that the trading scheme was creating an advantage for EU companies by giving access to cheap credits under the Kyoto protocol's clean development mechanism. Other countries, including the USA, were missing the opportunity to acquire low-cost carbon reduction opportunities, she said.

The conference was organised by Environment Daily's sister publication, the ENDS Report.

1 March 2006


Environment Daily 2046 - 24 February 2006

Parliamentarians from the G8 group of industrialised countries plus India, China, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Spain and Australia have started a three-year project to explore the possible shape of a post-2012 global climate change agreement. The initiative was launched in London on Friday.

Run by "green" parliamentarians network Globe and a group called Alliance of communicators for sustainable development, or COM+, the forum also includes representatives of business and international organisations.

It will shadow the G8 inter-governmental post-2012 climate change dialogue launched last summer at a summit in the UK British prime minister Tony Blair, who orchestrated the G8 process, said the new initiative would make a "valuable" contribution. German environment minister Sigmar Gabriel said he hoped it would help create a "basis for a consensus on climate negotiations".

The forum will hold at least two annual meetings, as well as specific country conferences in China, India and the USA. An international advisory board has been set up that will meet twice a year.

In a related development, Dutch environmental assessment agency MNP has released a study exploring a post-2012 global emissions framework that would be both environmentally effective and fair. Prepared by researchers from industrialised and developing countries, the study concludes that industrialised countries might have to cut emissions by up to 35% by 2020. Even in this case, many developing countries would have to take on quantitative obligations by 2030.

26 February 2006


The latest from the Public Inquiry looking into the Draft East of England Plan

Eleanor Scotchbrook - Herts & Essex Observer - 23 February 2006

Mass building plans for the west of Sawbridgeworth have suffered a major set-back after it was revealed that there is not enough water to supply further development.

Experts from Thames Water and the Environment Agency told the examination in public on Wednesday last week not only was there no water available, but there was currently no technological solution to the problem and no funding.

The agency also highlighted that there was no additional capacity at existing sewage treatment works, including Rye Meads, and that local rivers already receive significant discharge of treated affluent from other settlements.

The claims back concerns raised by Friends of the Earth (FOE) that the proposed scale of development to the North of Harlow around High Wych, Eastwick and Gilston is not sustainable. The inquiry chairman has now asked the government and relevant agencies to prepare an urgent report on possible ways forward on the water and sewerage issues.

Mary Edwards, regional campaigns coordinator for FOE, said: "It has always been clear that these proposals do not make sense. Now the experts have revealed the true extent of this problem - and said that no ready solution exists. If John Prescott's department has made such a mistake for the Harlow area, we have to ask if they have made the same mistake on the other areas proposed for large scale development."

OUR COMMENT: Exactly the same considerations apply to the developments proposed for Bishop's Stortford and the A120 corridor and these points were made the next day when Stansted and the A120 corridor were discussed. The immediate question is: What about the water supply and sewage disposal for any expansion of Stansted airport? BAA have calculated that they will require, for 35 mppa, annually, over 1 million cubic metres of water, 400,000 more than today. An awful lot of water! - and more sewage too!

The subject of the expansion of the airport was also discussed - BAA and the government office wanted to see the inclusion of a policy approving a second runway in the plan. This was opposed by all the Councils, by the environment groups and by SSE. It is also regarded as unsustainable in the Sustainability Appraisal of the Plan itself. The fact that BAA has not yet produced any figures relating to R2 was raised and also the latest government White Paper "Securing the Future" which requires all developments to be within environmental limits. That includes not only water supplies but also the effects of a massive increase in flights on climate change at a time when all other sections of UK life are being exhorted to cut down on energy use.

The discussions also included arguments for and against commercial development along the A120 which some saw as being promoted by the growth of Stansted airport, and claimed that this would be to the economic benefit of the local community. It was, however, pointed out that the existing routes from Stansted serve only a very few European business centres and the predicted employment effects of an expanded Stansted are very modest, even those made by BAA. The advantages that Stansted can offer to business cannot compare with other major airports as it is not and will not become the home of the national carrier and neither is it likely to become a significant hub airport (this was ruled out in the aviation White Paper as being unrealistic). Stansted is likely to continue as a primarily recreational airport plus some extra flights that cannot be accommodated at the other London airports. Its role as an economic driver will therefore be limited.

It is therefore unlikely to stimulate more than a natural pace of growth along the A120 corridor enabling the area to retain its unspoilt countryside. There appeared to be general agreement that any additional houses in Uttlesford should be left to the local Planning authority to arrange through the new Local Development Framework and not be sited at or near Great Dunmow. We hope that the chair was impressed with the arguments. With regard to Bishop's Stortford, the consultants who had drawn up a Master Plan for expansion themselves advised that no development should proceed unless the traffic problems in the town centre and the difficulties of establishing a safe access to the chosen site could be solved. This is unlikely in the foreseeable future and the water supply and sewage disposal problems have also to be solved, so we hope that there will also be second thoughts about a further expansion of Bishop's Stortford.

Pat Dale

26 February 2006


Kevin Done - Financial Times - 25 February 2006

The Civil Aviation Authority, the economic regulator for the four leading UK airports, yesterday fired a warning shot across the bows of both the potential bidders for BAA and the group itself, ahead of a looming take-over battle for the world's biggest airports operator.

The CAA statement, issued ahead of an expected cash offer for BAA from a consortium led by Ferrovial, the Spanish construction services and infrastructure group, raised concerns both about highly leveraged bids that could leave BAA with an excessive debt burden, and also about expensive defence moves by BAA.

The CAA is the price regulator for BAA's three London airports, Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, along with Manchester. It is anxious that a highly leveraged take-over could undermine BAA's ability to maintain its present high level of capital expenditure.

BAA is seeking to modernise the UK's creaking airport infrastructure, in particular in the highly congested south-east of England, and to raise the capacity to cope with high forecast growth it is planning to spend £7.1bn in the next seven years just on its London airports. This includes two new terminals at Heathrow and the first phase of a doubling of capacity at Stansted including a second runway and terminal.

The CAA warned that it would set caps on airport charges to meet its statutory duties, which include the encouragement of investment in new facilities, and "not in order to accommodate any particular financing arrangements adopted". The CAA said that it was "particularly important that airport operators should recognise the significant investment required to upgrade airports and to provide more capacity in the south-east."

The regulator is at the start of its latest review of the price cap regime, and new caps must be set around the end of 2007 to come into operation for five years from April 2008.

The CAA warned potential bidders that, as part of the process it was required to ask the UK's Competition Commission whether an airport group "has pursued a course of conduct that operates or might be expected to operate against the public interest."

Analysts estimate a bid could value BAA, including debt of £5.25bn , at £14 to 15bn. BAA shares closed yesterday up 0.4% at 819p and up from 655p before Ferrovial announced its interest two weeks ago.

26 February 2006


Council ready for Airport challenge

Walden Local - 22 February 2006

Uttlesford District Council have set aside about £400,000 in a special fighting fund to deal with the challenge of a possible second runway at Stansted airport. At their meeting on Thursday Councillors agreed to add to the reserves they have for the preservation of the character of the district.

Leader of the Council, Cllr Mark Gaylor said: "We're expecting an application for the maximum use of the existing runway from BAA Stansted as soon as April so we wanted to emphasise the work we're doing to protect the district. Others in this debate may have deeper pockets, but nobody should doubt our resolve. We have appointed world renowned consultancy S H and E to assess the robustness of BAA's forecasts and to guide us in aviation policy."

"We know the community and how important our way of life is to all of us. By bringing in consultants we have the best aviation policy knowledge possible - we know the people, they know the industry. We also have on board external expertise in noise pollution and will be able to call on colleagues in other public bodies for their guidance on issues such as health, biodiversity and traffic forecasts."

"We have insisted that BAA accepts responsibility for the impact of the airport on local services such as public rail transport and ensures that local services are not downgraded to accommodate the demands of airport-related growth. This has resulted in One adjusting its timetable to allow more trains to call at Stansted Mountfichet. BAA's consultation continues until March 24th and we will be doing all we can to remind the people of Uttlesford to make their views known."

26 February 2006


MP takes up air pollution battle

Sarah Hall - Norwich Evening News - 23 February 2006

Health concerns raised by families living near Norwich International airport about pollution have been taken up with the Government.

Hellesdon families believe high levels of kerosene fumes from aircraft are causing respiratory problems and a new survey seeks to establish the impact of the airport.

Airport bosses said they meet strict air quality measures and have better readings than the centre of Norwich, but MP Dr Ian Gibson has tabled questions to the Department of the Environment over the possible health hazards. He said: "There is no doubt the smell of kerosene is making people feel ill. It could also be contributing to respiratory problems."

Susan Collins, 55, is a non-smoker who has lived in Hellesdon all her life. Her Bush Road bungalow is close to the airport and she has suffered with breathing problems for the past few years. She has also recently had pneumonia, along with her daughter and granddaughter, who spend a lot of time at her home.

"I am convinced this is linked to the fumes that come from the airport," Mrs Collins said.

"In the past 18 months the smell from of kerosene has got so bad I have had to come inside from the garden and I started to get respiratory problems."

Pat Gowen, 73, of Heath Crescent, Hellesdon, is a Friends of the Earth representative and member of the joint airport consultative committee. He said: "There are things that could be done to limit the fumes, such as turning off the engines when they are stationary. The more people who respond to the survey the more we get an idea of what the impact is."

Richard Jenner, managing director of the airport, said: "We have air quality monitors placed by the council which have never demonstrated any problems. The air quality out here is better than the city centre. It is an airport and there are bound to be smells from fuel but I am not aware of any health risk posed by aircraft."

The number of flights to and from the airport five years ago was about 70 a week and will rise this summer to 200.

26 February 2006


Groups lobby UK over emission trading row

Environment Daily 2045 - 23 February 2006

Business and environmental groups are pulling the UK government in opposite directions after Wednesday's EU rejection of its national emission trading plan.

Britain's main business association urged the government to challenge the "flawed" decision, which it said would cost Britain UK£350m (E514m). Green group WWF insisted the government back down gracefully.

UK power firms are making at least UK£800m per year in windfall profits from the emission trading scheme and should not be allowed even more emission allowances, it added. See press releases from CBI and WWF.

24 February 2006


UK emission trading plan sent packing again

Environment Daily 2044 - 22 February 2006

The European commission rejected revised British plans for the 2005-7 phase of the EU emission trading scheme for a second time on Wednesday. The UK government declared itself "surprised and disappointed", accused the commission of "hiding behind procedure" and hinted that it might appeal once more to the European courts.

At the centre of the dispute is request made by Britain in 2004 to distribute slightly more carbon dioxide allowances in the 2005-7 phase of the scheme than initially notified. The commission rejected the change in 2005. The UK launched legal proceedings before the European court of first instance and won.

The commission now accepts that its initial reasoning was flawed, but insists that the British revision was submitted too late to be considered. The court ruling requires consideration of amendments notified up to the deadline by which member states must take their "final allocation decision", it said. The UK missed this 30 September 2004 deadline by over a month.

The UK environment ministry complained that the commission only started citing the deadline after Britain launched last year's court case. Furthermore, the European court ruled last year that the commission was "not entitled" to claim that the deadline was a definite cut-off for proposal of amendments.

"There is an important point of principle here," it said in a statement. "Market-based instruments will only work properly if the commission acts in accordance with the substantive provisions of the directive and doesn't hide behind procedure. This episode has already damaged business confidence in the scheme in the UK."

The possibility of renewed hostilities over the issue will cloud preparations for the emission trading scheme's second phase, due to run 2008-12. Member states are required to submit their national allocation plans (Naps) by 30 June, the commission noted on Wednesday.


Saeed Shah - The Independent - 22 February 2006

The European Commission is poised to reject the UK's attempt to increase its allocation of carbon dioxide emissions, despite the last-minute intervention of Peter Mandelson.

The British Government has been fighting to add 20 million tonnes to the amount of carbon dioxide that UK industry is allowed to emit each year. It won a court case in November, which forced Brussels to look again at the issue.

Last week Mr Mandelson, Europe's trade commissioner, intervened on Britain's side, but he has been seen off by his environment counterpart, Stavros Dimas. It is understood that Mr Mandelson found himself "completely isolated" on the issue among Europe's commissioners.

Brussels will declare today that it is sticking by its decision to give Britain a quota of 736 million tonnes, rather than the 756 million it sought. The allowances can be bought and sold on Europe's emissions trading system, designed to help the region meet its obligations under the Kyoto protocol on global warming. A spokeswoman for Mr Mandelson said: "It is regrettable that this is to happen, especially as the UK was a key supporter of the [emissions trading] scheme."

The British Government will now be forced to start a new legal challenge, if it is to continue to pursue the extra allowances.

David Porter, the chief executive of the Association of Electricity Producers, said: "The generating industry will take this [loss] very seriously. You're looking at perhaps £350m-worth of allowances.

It is thought that for individual electricity generators the difference between the two quota figures means a financial hit as big as £50m.

The dispute between the UK and Brussels over the allocation arose last year when the British Government initially asked the Commission for a national allowance of 736 million tonnes, saying it was a provisional figure. The UK, under heavy lobbying from business, then changed its mind and went for 756 million tonnes. But it made the request for the higher figure after the deadline for making submissions had passed, and Brussels would not review the case.

Europe's Court of First Instance ruled in Novemberthat Brussels was wrong not to consider the proposed increase and the Commission had to look at Britain's case. Officials have now completed that process and decided to reject the request for a greater allocation.

Mr Mandelson was able only to delay the decision, after he told fellow commissioners that Britain had made its original submission as a provisional one, in good faith. It is understood that Mr Mandelson, the former trade and industry secretary in the British government, felt that the UK "had been hard done by".

Ironically, some European countries, including Greece, Mr Dimas's home nation, missed the deadline for making any kind of submissions and they have still not finalised their national allocation plans.

24 February 2006


Readers' Letters - Herts & Essex Observer - 23 February 2006

The channel 4 programme "Ryanair caught napping" painted a frightening picture. The company's lack of concern for passengers is well-known.

But the apparent corporate culture with no concern for safety or security was really frightening – a culture that is allowed to exist by BAA Stansted. The impression left by the programme was epitomised by one particular quote by a stewardess: "If you pay a penny for your ticket you don't expect a life-jacket under your seat."

We will keep our video copy of the programme handy for anyone who asks to leave their car on our drive while they go on holiday!

At the last south-west area panel meeting, Uttlesford councillors and officers failed to give reassurance that they are making adequate preparation for the tsunami which is in danger of overwhelming them when BAA submits it's application for full use of Stansted Airport's runway.

I suspect that neither has any meaningful experience of an application on such a scale – except perhaps when UDC caved in to BAA's application for 25 mppa in exchange for some weak section 106 agreements.

A complex application, complete with expert reports by consultants on the anticipated impacts on environment, health, noise, water, surface access, flight paths etc. will be landing on UDC's desks. Analysis and assessment requires people with time and with experience of major planning applications.

At the meeting, UDC would not be drawn on the question of its budget for handling the application. Arrangements and budgets for the for the provision of such advice should already be in hand.

Please UDC, convince the electorate that you cannot handle BAA without help and that you have engaged the best professional help that is available.

Ken McDonald

21 February 2006


Draft pact curbs UK power to fight global warming
Restricting night flights would need US approval

Andrew Clark, Transport Correspondent - The Guardian - 20 February 2006

Britain could lose its ability to impose environmental taxes, restrictions and safeguards on airlines, under a draft treaty between the EU and the US which curtails the powers of national governments. The draft treaty, meant to liberalise aviation, includes a little noticed clause requiring EU states to agree with each other and with the US before taking measures to tackle noise or pollution from airlines.

The text of the draft "open skies" treaty, obtained by the Guardian, is likely to alarm environmental activists who argue that the seemingly unstoppable growth in air travel is among the main contributory factors to global warming. Aviation emissions rose by 12% last year and now account for about 11% of Britain's greenhouse gas emissions - the fastest growing sector. The government's chief scientific adviser, Sir David King, has described global warming as a bigger threat to the world than global terrorism.

The revelations come amid campaigns by protesters to halt expansion plans at several British airports, including Heathrow and Stansted.

Article 14 of the draft treaty encompasses any environmental measures which could have possible "adverse effects" on the free traffic of aircraft. The clause states that any disagreement between countries must be referred to a committee comprising governments, airports and airlines. If this fails to produce consensus, the issue is referred to a three person international arbitration panel.

Industry sources say that US negotiators insisted on the clauses inclusion. America has vigorously opposed taxes on aviation fuel or a proposed emissions trading scheme because of fears that any extra expense would cost jobs and push several of its airlines out of business. Whitehall insiders say that the Transport secretary, Alistair Darling, wants the article changed. A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: "We wouldn't sign anything that meant we couldn't implement an emissions trading scheme."

The treaty however, will be subject to a vote by EU member states requiring 65% countries to approve it. Britain will have no veto, although a senior EU official offered a cautious response yesterday: "This a draft, there is a lot that is not satisfactory to the European Commission and there is plenty of time to amend it."

The number of people passing through Britain's airports has soared by 76% over a decade to 215 million in 2004. Some activists have suggested levying a fee on every airline ticket tailoring the charge according to the emissions of the flight. The proposed treaty would make any such levy impossible, without transatlantic agreement.

The wording of the text is so broad that even future curbs on night flights at UK airports could become difficult to implement without US approval, because of the impact on flights from America.

Steve Hounsham, spokesperson for the green group Transport 2000 said: "If this goes through we'll have sold out to America's airlines."

Talks towards "open skies" have been motivated by a desire to throw open routes in America and Europe to foreign airlines. Under the proposed deal, any American airline would be able to operate flights between European cities. Any operator would be able to fly from Heathrow to the US - a privilege presently reserved for four carriers, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, United and American Airlines. In return Europe wants the US todrop a law preventing foreigners from owning more than a 25% share in any of its airlines.

OUR COMMENT: Airlines already escape far too many environmental controls that other sectors are subject to and are necessary for our health and well being as well as polluting the future. Let us hope that Alistair Darling is intending to refuse to accept such a monstrous treaty provision. Write and remind him of the consequences of inaction.

Pat Dale

19 February 2006


Calls for airport monopoly to end after takeover bid

Herts & Essex Observer - 16 February 2006

STANSTED Airport's two big customers - Ryanair and easyJet - believe the BAA monopoly should be broken up. They were reacting to the shock news last week that a Spanish company is considering making a bid for BAA.

While the airport operator - privatised in 1987, but described as "a private company with some public duties" - was sending out 'hands-off' messages, the low-cost carrier bosses were saying the opposite.

Ryanair's chief executive Michael O'Leary said the end of BAA's "unhealthy domination" would be excellent news for airlines and passengers.

EasyJet's owner Stelios Ioannou said he opposed any takeover, but said Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted should not belong to the same company. Competition would keep airport fees low for the consumer, he said.

No bid has been formally made to the board by Spanish construction and infrastructure giant Grupo Ferrovial and a spokesman for BAA said it strongly advised its shareholders not to take any action.

He added: "The board is confident about the future of its business. It believes BAA is well placed to continue to generate significant shareholder value from (our) growing portfolio of assets."

One of its top shareholders, Scottish Widows, has said it would not sell for less than 900p a share - valuing BAA at £9.5bn.

It is understood that some Stansted Airport workers who own shares were cashing in on the sudden 20 per cent price rise on Tuesday and Wednesday last week. Shares closed at 779p on Friday, up from 642p on Monday.

Industry analysts are talking about a break up of BAA, with some bankers thinking Ferrovial might sell Stansted or Gatwick.

The Government sold its BAA "golden share" - which prevented any takeover bid - two months before it published its Aviation White Paper; a cornerstone of which is the company delivering a second runway at Stansted.

19 February 2006


World greenhouse emissions "must end by 2200"

Environment Daily 2040 - 16 February 2006

Global greenhouse gas emissions must end completely within 200 years if climate warming is to be kept within the 2ºC range advocated by the EU, British scientists announced on Thursday.

Unveiling the first study to "comprehensively examine" the impact of climate change beyond 2100, the UK environment agency and the Tyndall climate research centre said only this extreme emission control scenario would avoid catastrophic flooding caused by melting of the Greenland ice sheet.

Under the most pessimistic scenario temperatures would increase by up to 15ºC and sea levels would rise over 11 metres over the next millennium.

See full report.


Dimas defends EU carbon trading scheme

Environment Daily 2041 - 17 February 2006

Environment commissioner Stavros Dimas has dismissed arguments advanced by industry players such as EU chemical industry association Cefic that carbon emission trading has created "additional unfair pressures" on energy markets.

Attempts to blame it for high power prices are "misguided", Mr Dimas said on Thursday at a Brussels conference on the preliminary findings of a European commission inquiry into the energy sector. Led by EU competition commissioner Neelie Kroes, the probe has found a lack of transparency in energy markets.

Mr Dimas said environmental schemes such as emission trading could in fact enhance competition in energy markets by boosting energy efficiency and encouraging cleaner technology in the power sector. "The allowance market created by the European emissions trading scheme and the liberalisation of the electricity and gas markets are complementary policies", he said.


Environment Daily 2040 - 16 February 2006

The EU must carry out a full scientific and economic impact assessment before adding the aviation sector to the EU's carbon emission trading scheme (ETS), European business group Unice said on Wednesday.

Responding to European commission proposals floated last year , Unice urged the EU to take a "cautious approach" ensuring that the sector does not drive up the price of carbon allowances and electricity by becoming a net buyer under the scheme.

In a position paper the lobby group said the EU might not need to resort to emissions trading to curb the airline industry's environmental effects. "The impacts of the aviation sector on global climate change can be reduced directly through the adoption of improved fuel and aircraft efficiency," it said.

Earlier this year a UK study predicted that including aviation in the EU trading scheme would have only a marginal impact on carbon allowance prices.


Mandelson delays UK emission cap decision

Environment Daily 2041- 17 February 2006

EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson has intervened to block an expected rejection by the European Commission of a UK request to increase its overall carbon allowance for 2005-7 under the European emission trading scheme (ETS).

A draft decision turning down the request was scheduled for approval by written procedure on Friday but commission sources say Mr Mandelson's office exercised its right to have the issue raised at next Wednesday's weekly meeting of commissioners.

The move is unlikely to result in more than postponement of the rejection since all other commission departments had given their consent to the draft, tabled by environment commissioner Stavros Dimas.

The UK won the right to a decision last year after the commission originally ruled that its request had arrived too late for consideration. It wants to add 20m tonnes to its current allocation of 736m tonnes over three years.

OUR COMMENT: This UK request is not consistent either with policy statements or with the declared intention of pressing to include aviation in the trading scheme. Meantime risks are hotting up - see below.

Pat Dale


De Havilland News - 16 February 2006

Greenland's glaciers are dumping almost twice as much ice in the Atlantic Ocean over the past few years, scientists claim.

Writing in Science magazine, a group of American researchers claim that the glaciers are moving faster, apparently as a result of rising surface air temperatures, and estimates on the amount of ice contributing to rising sea levels might be too low.

The increases in velocity from outlet glaciers in the southern half of Greenland should be incorporated into estimates of the overall levels of ice being lost in the sea, the researchers claim.

Eric Rignot from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, said: "The behaviour of the glaciers that dump ice into the sea is the most important aspect of understanding how an ice sheet will evolve in a changing climate."

"It takes a long time to build and melt an ice sheet, but glaciers can react quickly to temperature changes."

The authors calculate that Greenland contributes about 0.5 millimetres per year to global sea level rise of around three millimetres per year, with recent increases in glacier speed on Greenland responsible for more than two-thirds of the country's contribution to sea level rise.

Overall air temperature in southeast Greenland has risen sharply in the past 20 years, increasing the amount of melt water serving as a lubricant to glaciers and causing them to flow faster.

The authors have used data from satellites to generate a glacier velocity map for Greenland over the past ten years, combining it with ice thickness to build a clear picture of ice loss. The scientists from the non-profit American Association for the Advancement of Science announced the findings at the organisation's annual meeting in St Louis yesterday. The vast Greenland ice sheet is 1.7 million square kilometres, up to three kilometres thick and a little smaller than Mexico.

Environmental experts are warning that levels of greenhouse gases are at their highest in around 650,000 years and lobbyists are urging countries to meet their obligations under the Kyoto treaty to reduce emissions and tackle climate change.

A report published this week by Friends of the Earth claims that governments are failing to take the necessary action to deliver on the Kyoto Protocol, just one year after the landmark environmental treaty came into force. The document also suggests that emission targets do not go far enough to reduce global risks caused by climate change.

New research from the Environment Agency also highlights the severity of climate change and the threats posed unless emissions are drastically reduced. Temperatures are increasing by up to 15C and seas are rising by as much as 11.4 metres, raising the risk of flooding in the UK, the survey warns.

15 February 2006


Partners line up to bid for BAA. Singapore government and Canadian fund manager seek role in Ferrovial consortium. Offer could value airport group at £15bn

Lina Saigol and Kevin Done in London & Mark Mulligan and Leslie Crawford in Madrid - Financial Times - 16 February 2006

The Singapore Government and Caisse de depot et Placement at Quebec, a Canadian fund manager, are understood to have approached Spain's Ferrovial about a bid for BAA, which could be valued at £15bn including debt.

The Spanish construction and services group and its partners are thought to be finalising the structure and shareholding of the consortium, which is expected to be domiciled in the UK. A formal bid for BAA, the world's largest private airport operator, could come before February 27th, when Ferrovial is due to report its annual results.

Analysts estimate that the bid would value BAA, including debt of £5.25bn, at £14-15bn. Ferrovial had a stock value yesterday of £6bn compared with BAA's £8.4bn.

Ferrovial, which declined to comment, was last week forced to declare by the UK's Takeover panel to make a statement, prompted by a sharp rise in BAA's share price, to say it was "considering" an offer for the airports group. People close to the situation warned there was no certainty that a bid would emerge. However, one Madrid-based analyst said: "If they weren't close to launching an offer, they would have retired gracefully when they had the chance."

Ferrovial, which is 58% controlled by the founding Del Pino family already has a strong presence in the UK, where it owns Belfast City airport and holds a stake of 50% in Bristol airport, the latter in partnership with Australia's Macquarie group. Macquarie, which also works with Ferrovial in toll roads in the US and Canada, said last week it had "not been approached to become a member of any such consortium" bidding for BAA, which operates 7 airports on the UK including Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.

Two weeks ago Ferrovial acquired Owen Williams, a support services company.

Several of BAA's leading institutional shareholders have been increasing stakes in the group since Ferrovial's announcement last Wednesday. Schroder Investment Management has become the largest single shareholder, with 4.82%, while Invesco Asset Management also has more than 4%.

Scottish Widows Investment Partnership, which raised its stake from 3.1% to 3.4% said at the weekend it would consider a bid of above 900p per share from Ferrovial based on BAA's "fair value". BAA closed at 779p, down 11/2p but higher than the 655p at which it closed on last Tuesday, the day before Ferrovial's announcement.


BAA: the Government will decide

Jeremy Warner's Outlook - The Independent - 14 February 2006

The Spanish are coming, but will the Government let them? BAA has been a privately owned company for many years now, yet despite the fact that the Government has long since abandoned itsgolden share, the company remains for the purposes of public transport policy a 100 per cent owned subsidiary of the Department of Transport - Ministers pronounce, and within reason, BAA delivers.

Could Grupo Ferrovial be expected to deliver in quite the same way? No owner of BAA would want to do anything else if it were in their interests, but the trade off would plainly be a different one. A different capital structure and a different management with unknown priorities would change the relationship fundamentally.

The key issue on the immediate horizon is the construction of another runway to serve London and the South-east. For environmental reasons, the Government has decided to locate this as a second runway at Stansted. Yet how to pay for it remains largely unresolved.

The low-cost airlines that provide Stansted with the bulk of its traffic are determined that it shouldn't be paid for by them. Higher landing charges would wreak havoc with their low cost business models.

The full service airlines that inhabit Heathrow are equally determined that a second runway at Stansted shouldn't be paid for by them through cross subsidy. It's easy to see why. This is how Stansted's first runway was financed, creating a vast new source of essentially uneconomic capacity which helped underpin the expansion of the low cost operators and undermine the full service airlines. Even today, Stansted fails to pay for its true cost of capital.

Since then, the rules have changed, so that each airport is judged by the regulator on a standalone basis in determining what charges it can levy. In theory, there is no opportunity for cross subsidy, though in practice, the fact that BAA also owns the highly profitable Heathrow still makes it that much easier to tolerate building another slug of uneconomic capacity at Stansted. History looks destined to repeat itself.

All this makes the response we've so far seen from the low cost operators seem an odd one. Stelios Haji-Ioannou, founder of easyJet, says he's against a Spanish takeover of BAA not because he believes Grupo Ferrovial might break BAA up, but because Ferrovial, which already controls Bristol and Belfast airports, would give the combined group an even greater hold over UK aviation than BAA already enjoys.

Well possibly, but if the construction of more capacity at Stansted is paid for by leveraging the company's market power at Heathrow and elsewhere, then surely that's a better outcome for the low cost operators than that they pay for it themselves?

In a perfect world, there would be lots of competition in the provision of landing space. In the real world, no infrastructure project of such magnitude and environmental impact gets built unless the Government orders it. Ultimately, it will be the Government that decides how it is financed too.

These are deep and treacherous waters that BAA's chief executive, Mike Clasper has to navigate. Who knows, the Spanish might be even better at it, but it doesn't seem very likely. The risk to them that public policy might suddenly become less accommodative also makes it seem unlikely they'll be persuaded to pay the 900p a share the City demands.


If the airports operator seeks to defend itself against a potential hostile Spanish bid, it could undermine its own business plan. Edward Simpkins explains its dilemma

Sunday Telegraph - 12 February 2006

The shock news of a potential hostile bid for BAA could not have come at a worse time for the owner of the UK's major airports, including Heathrow, Stansted, Gatwick and both main airports in Scotland.

With a market value of £8bn, BAA has long considered itself too big a beast to be tackled by predators. Even its ultra-cautious lending banks were of the same opinion and didn't include a change of ownership provision in the terms of a recent £2bn debt placement. But, as last week's events prove, they were all wrong.

Ferrovial, a Spanish infrastructure group, which is perhaps best known in the UK for its stake in the London Underground and for buying Amey after the outsourcing group got into difficulties over a number of PFI contracts, was forced by UK market regulators to reveal that it was considering making an offer for BAA.

The Spanish group has yet to make initial contact with BAA or to finalise its plans to pull together a consortium of equity and debt providers to come up with the estimated £9bn it could have to pay for the formerly state-owned company.

But the prospect of a bid puts BAA into a very difficult position. The company is heavily regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which every five years reviews BAA's activities and sets a level of return it is allowed to make from its airports. Anything that BAA makes above that level it keeps.

That review process started again in December and the game for BAA is to play down the profits it is making, to claim that it has already cut its costs to the bone, that it is operating as efficiently as possible and that it desperately needs to be allowed to increase charges to airlines to make ends meet and to fund airport improvements.

But when a company is defending itself against a hostile bid it normally seeks to make exactly the opposite case to its shareholders. If BAA were a normal company it would point to the reserves of hidden value in the business, the untapped sources of cost savings available and the years of bumper profits that lie ahead as it seeks to convince its shareholders not to sell.

The bind for BAA is that if it is successful in persuading shareholders that there is more value in the business than had been recognised, then the CAA is certain to use whatever the company says in considering its regulatory settlement.

"BAA is likely to be torn in any defence it mounts," say analysts at Goldman Sachs, the investment bank. "It can't say too much about how it thinks it can do better than the regulator expects. . . Nor can it effect aggressive cost-cutting ahead of the next review period as this would leave no juice for post-2008."

Mike Clasper, the chief executive of BAA, and Marcus Agius, the chairman, who also heads Lazard, the investment bank, held a crisis meeting on Thursday to decide on a response to the potential bid. The pair are thought likely to steer a delicate line between making claims to which the regulator will then hold them and underselling the business. People familiar with the thinking at BAA say the plan is to simply claim that the market has undervalued the business.

"London is the biggest and most profitable aviation market in the world," says one executive. "It is a hugely wealthy city full of people who like to travel, and about 123m people a year fly through London's airports."

BAA is the world's largest airports owner and operator and it has unique assets, including the busiest international airport in the world. "You have to consider the strategic value of the assets that BAA has got," says the executive. "Heathrow simply cannot be reproduced. BAA is the biggest in this market, it has got a fantastically strong strategic position and the market has significantly undervalued the company."

He points out that demand for flights is rising at about 3 per cent per year but that Heathrow is already full, that Gatwick squeezes more passengers down a single runway than any other airport in the world and is for all practical purposes pretty full. Meanwhile, Stansted is full at peak times and is filling up at off-peak times too. But the question of how to provide for the expected growth in air travel raises a fascinating issue about the relationship between BAA and the Government.

Last year, the Government issued a controversial white paper on the future of aviation in the South East which tackled the highly charged question of where new runway and terminal capacity should be sited over the coming decades.

The policy statement concluded that although BAA and many airlines want Heathrow to be expanded with a new runway and a sixth terminal, the white paper said a new one would have to be built at Stansted first.

However, there are questions as to whether that plan, which the Government estimates will cost £3.7bn, is viable.

"There is huge doubt as to whether this makes financial sense," says Brian Ross of the Stop Stansted Expansion campaign. "The question that gets put to BAA management is: 'Hang on, in 1987 you were privatised, your job is no longer to do the Government's bidding and build infrastructure for UK plc. Your job is to earn maximum returns for shareholders'. BAA management has always demonstrated a degree of confusion about that and argue that they have a sort of national public duty as well as a duty to shareholders," he adds. "A Spanish company won't have any confusion whatsoever. They will be absolutely clearly focused. Their job is to sweat assets, earn money and generate a return for shareholders."

BAA says it can deliver the first phase of the Stansted expansion for £2.2bn but that it all depends on the regulatory settlement as already it has a planned capital expenditure programme of about £6bn for the next 10 years. The argument is whether BAA can use the profits from Heathrow and Gatwick to fund expansion at Stansted. Currently, that is not allowed and BAA's customers, the airlines, are dead set against any change.

BA doesn't see why it should pay for Ryanair to get new facilities at Stansted. Meanwhile, Ryanair, fearing the higher landing charges it can look forward to, has described BAA's plans as a "gold-plated Taj Mahal".

In a statement in December, the CAA made its position clear. "The CAA is proposing to retain two important elements of the existing regulatory regime, namely the regulation of each of BAA's airports on a stand-alone basis and continuing to set the next caps on airport charges using a single till approach."

That appears to rule out any prospect of cross-subsidy between airports and also means that BAA has no more value as a whole than if it were broken up, raising the prospect, according to some analysts, that BAA could offer to sell some of its non-core assets to Ferrovial in exchange for dropping the bid.

"At the moment we are analysing BAA as a complete company," says a spokesman for Ferrovial. "We are not analysing any of the alternatives, but in the future I don't know what might happen."

Three years ago, the European Commission forced the Government to sell its golden share in BAA, a holding that would have prevented a takeover.

"We believe the Government wants more airport capacity in the South East of England and would take a dim view of any threats to that happening," say the Goldman Sachs analysts. "We believe that if the UK Government doesn't like any proposed deal then it can find ways to block it."

But whether the Government will have the nerve to do so after condemning the outbreak of protectionism in Europe in recent weeks remains to be seen.

15 February 2006


Global warming: passing the 'tipping point'

Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor - The Independent - 11 February 2006

Our special investigation reveals that critical rise in world temperatures is now unavoidable

A crucial global warming "tipping point" for the Earth, highlighted only last week by the British Government, has already been passed, with devastating consequences. Research commissioned by The Independent reveals that the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has now crossed a threshold, set down by scientists from around the world at a conference in Britain last year, beyond which really dangerous climate change is likely to be unstoppable.

The implication is that some of global warming's worst predicted effects, from destruction of ecosystems to increased hunger and water shortages for billions of people, cannot now be avoided, whatever we do. It gives considerable force to the contention by the green guru Professor James Lovelock, put forward last month in The Independent, that climate change is now past the point of no return.

The danger point we are now firmly on course for is a rise in global mean temperatures to 2 degrees above the level before the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century.

At the moment, global mean temperatures have risen to about 0.6 degrees above the pre-industrial era - and worrying signs of climate change, such as the rapid melting of the Arctic ice in summer, are already increasingly evident. But a rise to 2 degrees would be far more serious.

By that point it is likely that the Greenland ice sheet will already have begun irreversible melting, threatening the world with a sea-level rise of several metres. Agricultural yields will have started to fall, not only in Africa but also in Europe, the US and Russia, putting up to 200 million more people at risk from hunger, and up to 2.8 billion additional people at risk of water shortages for both drinking and irrigation.

The Government's conference on Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change, held at the UK Met Office in Exeter a year ago, highlighted a clear threshold in the accumulation of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, which should not be surpassed if the 2 degree point was to be avoided with "relatively high certainty".

This was for the concentration of CO2 and other gases such as methane and nitrous oxide, taken together in their global warming effect, to stay below 400ppm (parts per million) in CO2 terms - or in the jargon, the "equivalent concentration" of CO2 should remain below that level.

The warning was highlighted in the official report of the Exeter conference, published last week. However, an investigation by The Independent has established that the CO2 equivalent concentration, largely unnoticed by the scientific and political communities, has now risen beyond this threshold.

This number is not a familiar one even among climate researchers, and is not readily available. For example, when we put the question to a very senior climate scientist, he said: "I would think it's definitely over 400 - probably about 420."

So we asked one of the world's leading experts on the effects of greenhouse gases on climate, Professor Keith Shine, head of the meteorology department at the University of Reading, to calculate it precisely. Using the latest available figures (for 2004), his calculations show the equivalent concentration of C02, taking in the effects of methane and nitrous oxide at 2004 levels, is now 425ppm. This is made up of CO2 itself, at 379ppm; the global warming effect of the methane in the atmosphere, equivalent to another 40ppm of CO2; and the effect of nitrous oxide, equivalent to another 6ppm of CO2.

The tipping point warned about last week by the Government is already behind us.

"The passing of this threshold is of the most enormous significance," said Tom Burke, a former government adviser on the green issues, now visiting professor at Imperial College London. "It means we have actually entered a new era - the era of dangerous climate change. We have passed the point where we can be confident of staying below the 2 degree rise set as the threshold for danger. What this tells us is that we have already reached the point where our children can no longer count on a safe climate."

The scientist who chaired the Exeter conference, Dennis Tirpak, head of the climate change unit of the OECD in Paris, was even more direct. He said: "This means we will hit 2 degrees [as a global mean temperature rise]."

Professor Burke added: "We have very little time to act now. Governments must stop talking and start spending. We already have the technology to allow us to meet our growing need for energy while keeping a stable climate. We must deploy it now. Doing so will cost less than the Iraq war so we know we can afford it."

The 400ppm threshold is based on a paper given at Exeter by Malte Meinhausen of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. Dr Meinhausen reviewed a dozen studies of the probability of exceeding the 2 degrees threshold at different CO2 equivalent levels. Taken together they show that only by remaining above 400 is there a very high chance of not doing so.

Some scientists have been reluctant to talk about the overall global warming effect of all the greenhouses gases taken together, because there is another consideration - the fact that the "aerosol", or band of dust in the atmosphere from industrial pollution, actually reduces the warming.

As Professor Shine stresses, there is enormous uncertainty about the degree to which this is happening, so making calculation of the overall warming effect problematic. However, as James Lovelock points out - and Professor Shine and other scientists accept - in the event of an industrial downturn, the aerosol could fall out of the atmosphere in a matter of weeks, and then the effect of all the greenhouse gases taken together would suddenly be fully felt.

15 February 2006


Charles Starmer-Smith - The Telegraph - 11 February 2006

The future of low-cost air travel is threatened by European Union plans to make airlines pay for their carbon emissions, according to a report published this week by the House of Lords EU committee.

The report suggests that passengers will face higher air fares under the EU's emissions trading scheme, which allows airlines to buy carbon dioxide allocations. The scheme was endorsed by EU environment ministers in December and is due to be implemented by 2008.

According to EU estimates, the cost of buying these permits would cause return fares to increase by about £6. But the House of Lords report suggests that the impact of the scheme would bring far greater fare rises.

"Aviation emissions will have an impact on prices of air travel both for consumers and air freight companies. It is simply not realistic for the EU to claim that the impact on prices will be negligible," said Lord Woolmer, the chairman of the EU transport committee.

At present, aircraft account for about five per cent of carbon dioxide emissions, but air travel is forecast to double within 25 years. Environmentalists argue that greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft have increased by 73 per cent since 1990 and are on course to grow by 150 per cent by 2012.

Most airlines have been co-operative over carbon emissions. Last year, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, EasyJet, First Choice and Flybe formed the Sustainable Aviation Group, whose members take voluntary measures to minimise noise, pollution and emissions.

Ryanair's chief executive, Michael O'Leary, has refused to support such efforts, advising those concerned about the environment to "sell your car and walk".

The EU scheme has also attracted criticism in the United States. The US Federal Aviation Administration says the EU must limit its remit to flights departing and landing within the EU and not those crossing the Atlantic or it will be in breach of the 1944 Chicago Convention, which exempts airlines from paying tax on international flights.

15 February 2006


Britain set for spat with EC over carbon dioxide emissions

David Gow in Brussels - The Guardian - 14 February 2006

Britain, a self-styled global leader in combating climate change, is set for a new legal showdown with the European commission over government plans to allow businesses to pump out more greenhouse gases under the EU's carbon emissions trading scheme.

The commission will later this week reject the government's plan to increase the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted by factories and power stations by 20m tonnes - despite a ruling last November by the Court of First Instance, Europe's second-highest court, that Britain had the right to press for looser limits.

The UK is a strong supporter of the emissions trading scheme (ETS), which took effect on January 1 2005 and is the cornerstone of Europe's battle against global warming. In its first year the ETS saw 230m tonnes of CO2 traded worth up to €4bn (£2.7bn).

The government, under heavy pressure from business, especially the CBI, amended its initial national allocation plan in November 2004 - or several weeks after the commission approved the bulk of its plan to limit UK emissions to 736m tonnes for the period 2005-07. But the commission's latest decision - a draft of which has been seen by the Guardian - says the government's request for a revised plan came too late and missed the September 30 2004 deadline.

"If a member state fails to organise such due process and thereby misses the deadline of September 30 2004, it is justified to limit the margin of manoeuvre for the member state in order to ensure the community interest in the functioning of the scheme," states the document, which is to be approved by the full commission.

Sources said: "We are acting on procedural grounds by saying that the UK request for amendments is not admissible. The UK will reject our ruling and there will be another court case in this prolonged cat-and-mouse game.

Brussels accepts that Britain, which has to cut its greenhouse gases by 12.5% under the target for 2012 set by the Kyoto Protocol, has been exemplary in reducing CO2 and using the ETS In 2003, the latest year for which statistics are available, it had cut greenhouse gas emissions by 13.3% - though recent evidence points to a failure to hit its more ambitious target. Italy is only now entering the ETS - more than a year late.

15 February 2006


Spain to penalise most polluting vehicles

Environment Daily 2038 - 14 February 2006

Spanish environment minister Cristina Narbona announced on Monday that the government plans this year to introduce fiscal measures to discourage the purchase of diesel-engined cars, SUVs and other heavily-polluting private vehicles.

No details have been released but Spanish daily El Pais quotes official sources as saying that the vehicle tax on medium-sized engines would be raised from 7% to 12%, removing the current fiscal incentives for diesel, and that a special 17% rate would be levied on engines over 2.5 litres.

The initiative comes at a time when Spain is struggling to hit Kyoto targets for greenhouse gas emissions and the government has acknowledged that all major cities breach European air quality legislation (ED 21/12/05 www.environmentdaily.com/20085).

In a related development, Madrid city council last week announced that, from 2008, heavily-polluting vehicles - generally those over 15 years old - will be excluded from the historic city centre in an attempt to reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions by 13%. Opposition parties and environmental groups called the €500m plan insufficient, especially in the light of the council's current €5bn motorway expansion scheme.

OUR COMMENT: Would they also consider taxing aircraft engines?

Pat Dale

12 February 2006


Tories query Stansted expansion plans

Christopher Adams, Political Correspondent - Financial Times - 11 February 2006

The Conservative Party is to challenge the government's plans to expand airports in south-east England, and is questioning the need for rapid growth in air travel.

Chris Grayling, shadow transport secretary, has raised particular concerns over the plan for a new runway at Stansted airport, a central plank of Labour's strategy for aviation, suggesting it was economically unviable.

His comments to the Financial Times are the latest example of Conservative attempts under David Cameron to broaden the Party's appeal by stressing its environmental and social credentials.

Questions over the government's strategy for air transport have been raised again as BAA, the airport operator, prepares its defences against a possible takeover bid from Ferrovial the Spanish infrastructure, construction and services company.

Environmental groups have argued that a successful bid would make BAA's controversial £2.7bn project to build a second runway at Stansted less likely to go ahead. They believe a new management could take the view that it is financially unviable. Mr Grayling said he was concerned about Stansted's expansion relying on cross-subsidy from Heathrow.

"I am anxious about a plan for a significant expansion of an existing airport which doesn't stand on its own two feet economically and which needs cross-subsidy from our main international hub to be viable." he said.

Mr Grayling added: "One of the things we will do in our policy work over the next couple of years is look at how to balance the real role aviation plays in our economic future, while at the same time recognising there are real environmental issues. That may require a sceptical view of a future where we've got aviation growth that rises up at a very rapid rate. There is a question about how far we can sustain, for environmental reasons, massive aviation growth."

Mr Grayling predicted that a takeover battle for BAA would be bound to push the issue of Stansted's planned expansion up the political agenda. "Is it prudent to expand an airport, which has environmental consequences, when there is clearly no economic case to do so?" he asked.

However, Mr Grayling's comments surprised senior Labour MPs. One former transport minister said they did not make political sense. "That would be a real flip flop if they came out against airports because the whole business community is clamouring for this. It affects inward investment."

The CBI said it was in favour of expanding the south-east hub, but declined to comment on Tory policy, saying it was still evolving.

Michael Roberts, director of business environment at the employer's organisation, said: "Our view is that Stansted, as part of total runway capacity in the south-east, is one of the areas where we need to see airport expansion."

OUR COMMENT: Wise words by Mr Grayling. It is time that the mantras about the need of the UK economy for more and more airport capacity are independently examined. The big increase in demand has been in the low cost tourist section. Is there any evidence that business interests are being squeezed out? The tourist industry itself may make profits but UK plc balance of payments makes a big loss, hardly "inward investment".

Pat Dale

12 February 2006


BAA sets £1.95bn barrier to takeover bidders

Ivar Simenson - Financial Times - 10 February 2006

Ferrovial's prospects of buying BAA suffered a blow yesterday after the immediate cost of taking over the UK airport operator looked set to rise by £1.95bn. BAA changed the terms on £1.95bn worth of bonds the company issued last week, which meant the debt would have to be repaid straight away in case of a leveraged takeover.

Ferrovial, the Spanish construction company, said on Wednesday it was considering making a cash offer for BAA. The surprise announcement sent BAA shares up 15%. A cash bid by Ferrovial, which has a significantly smaller market value than BAA, would probably be highly leveraged, which could affect existing creditors.

BAA sold £1.95bn of bonds denominated in euros and sterling last week. The bonds were sold without any covenants protecting investors from a takeover, because BAA was not seen as a likely takeover target.

However, because the bonds do not officially settle until February 15th, the terms could still be changed. BAA responded yesterday to demands from bondholders and inserted a change-of-control clause. The clause states that the company will have to repay the bonds if a takeover leads to a downgrade of BAA below investment grade.

BAA is currently rated baa1 by Moody's Investors Service, and A by Standard & Poor's, three and five notches respectively above speculative grade. Credit analysts at BNP Paribas said a cash bid of about £9bn for BAA would probably give the company a rating of about B – well into speculative grade territory.

Bondholders said they were happy with the change but added that it did not prevent a bid from emerging. Some analysts suggested a prospective bidder could try to find ways of deferring repayment of the bonds by making creative use of the company's structure, distinguishing between the company and the holding entity.

BAA's shares slipped 1/2p to 779p.

12 February 2006


Ten years to prevent catastrophe

Michael Meacher - Times Online - 10 February 2006

The atmosphere at last night's Intelligence Squared/Times debate was full of foreboding

KATRINA MADE the Bush Administration take climate change seriously. Fortunately we have had no Katrina-like episode in this country, but the warnings are plain to see.

In recent months scientists across the world have reported compelling evidence that we face dramatic melting of Arctic sea ice, a shutdown of global ocean circulation systems in the North Atlantic, huge methane releases from melting permafrost in Siberia and Alaska, more violent hurricanes worldwide, and "mega-droughts" from northern China to the American West. Already the World Health Organisation estimates that 160,000 people die each year from the impacts of climate change, notably malaria, dysentery and malnutrition.

Some may dismiss this as remote from Britain, unlikely to affect us and anyway a risk only in the distant future. They are wrong. George Bush's leading climate modeller, Jim Hansen, said a month ago that we have "at most ten years" to make the drastic cuts in emissions that might head off climatic catastrophe.

Nor, in one highly interconnected world, are these convulsions irrelevant to us. Rising sea levels, desertification and shrinking freshwater supplies will create up to 50 million environmental refugees by the end of this decade, according to the UN. If the ocean "pumps" around Greenland falter, northern European temperatures would plummet to those of Siberia.

The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine estimates that of ten of the world 's most dangerous vector-borne diseases, nine will increase their coverage because of climate change. As the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets melt, rising sea levels will threaten coastal cities worldwide (including London), as well as nuclear power stations and chemical waste dumps sited in coastal areas. Food supplies worldwide will be disrupted by intensifying droughts, and industrial agriculture will be particularly vulnerable to a surge in pathogens and pests from warmer temperatures.

Yet climate disaster is still only in its very early stages: this is not a linear but a dynamic process of intensification. Indeed, at certain "tipping points", emissions of greenhouse gases could leap unpredictably. The impact of this on human civilisation is at this stage unknowable.

So is all this irreversible? Some is, but far the greater part is still to come and can be slowed and, over time, halted. But it requires more urgent and radical change in our transportation, economic systems and lifestyles than governments or industries anywhere have yet seriously contemplated.

What then is to be done? If climate change is driven primarily by the burning of fossil fuels, the world must diversify quickly into renewable sources of energy - wind power, biomass, wave and tidal power and solar energy. Carbon capture and storage may be an option, but no clean coal-technology prototype has yet been built.

But are renewables a feasible option? Europe's offshore wind potential in waters up to 30m deep could theoretically supply all of the Continent's power. China has so much wind energy that it could double its electricity generation by using it. The US Department of Energy estimates that just three states - North Dakota, South Dakota and Texas - have enough wind energy to meet America's entire electricity requirements.

Equally, in the field of transport, while gas may provide a transitional feedstock to make hydrogen for fuel celldriven vehicles, a cost-competitive technology should be developed as rapidly as possible to make hydrogen from renewables.

All countries have to be involved in a global solution. The Kyoto Protocol aimed to get the 35 main industrialised countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 5 per cent by 2010, compared with 1990. If the world - 185 countries - is to achieve what the scientists say is necessary, a cut of 60 per cent by 2050, China, India, and the other big developing countries must sign up to significant action (even if not immediately to Kyoto targets) to reduce carbon emissions within limited timescales. Of course the US, the biggest polluter, must also be brought in at the earliest time.

Air travel - the single fastest rising cause of greenhouse-gas emissions - should now be urgently incorporated into Kyoto and given emission-reduction targets like other industries. The EU emissions trading system for the main industrial sectors should be progressively tightened.

But energy conservation is just as important for domestic households as for industry, since the waste of energy by both sectors is enormous. Higher standards should be laid down in building regulations, as in Sweden, and bigger incentives given to families to switch to renewables, both solar thermal panels and microgeneration, for water heating and house warming, as in Germany. If the energy-efficiency rating of a house had to be provided as part of a vendor's pack at a house sale, it would provide all house owners with a powerful incentive to upgrade their insulation.

People need much bigger incenstives to use smaller engine cars and to make fewer car journeys. Above all, if a cap and trade system were applied to households as well as to industries, it would provide a market mechanism to guide individual choice while cutting domestic carbon emissions overall. Nothing less meets the challenge that confronts us all.

The author is a former Environment Minister. This is an edited version of his speech at yesterday's Intelligence Squared/Times debate on global warming.

12 February 2006


Ryanair uses website to limit damage ahead of TV claims

Kevin Done - Financial Times - 11 February 2006

Ryanair has sought to limit the potential damage to its reputation resulting from the planned screening on Monday of a television documentary that claims to expose security lapses, exhausted crew, and dirty aircraft at Europe's biggest low cost airline.

Channel four said that its Dispatches programme had conducted an undercover operation into the way in which Ryanair operated, using two reporters, who had spent five months secretly filming the airline's training programme and flights as members of the cabin crew.

It said "What they found may make you think twice about flying Ryanair again. The undercover footage reveals what takes place behind the scenes: security lapses, dirty aircraft, pilots complaining about the hours they have to fly and exhausted cabin crew."

In a damage limitation exercise Ryanair published on its website the full correspondence between itself and Steve Boulton productions, the company producing the programme, "Ryanair: Caught napping".

Michael O'Leary, Ryanair's chief executive said twenty allegations had been made as a product of five months of secret filming. The company had found no substance in any of the allegations, replied to all the claims and copied all the correspondence at every stage to the aviation safety authorities - the Irish Aviation Authority and the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

Mr O'Leary said he had offered the programme a live or an unedited pre-recorded interview to respond to the allegations but the offer had been refused. Channel four said the programme had offered an edited interview but Ryanair had turned this down. Instead it would broadcast an edited statement from the airline "To reflect accurately its position."

Ryanair said that the Dispatches programme had made "a series of untrue unsubstantiated claims which they have failed to support with any evidence". If there had been any "isolated breaches" of its policies and procedures, these would be fully investigated.

OUR COMMENT: No comment! Let's watch the programme and make up our own minds as to whether this is skilled editing or genuine undesirable conditions.

Pat Dale

11 February 2006


Foreign airport bidder cleared for take-off

Leader - Financial Times - 10 February 2006

Ferrovial has yet to make a bid for BAA and there is still no certainty that the Spanish construction and services group will make an offer for the airports operator. But the possibility of a bid yet again raises questions over the ownership of strategically important British assets such as London's three main airports.

In this particular case, the answer is that foreign ownership should present no serious public policy challenge, because BAA is so closely regulated over its stewardship of Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.

Recent months have seen a series of bids from foreign companies for British targets such as O2, the mobile telephone operator, Pilkington, the glass-maker and P&O, the ports and ferries group. None of these has raised fundamental strategic issues for an economy that has traditionally been open to foreign ownership of important businesses - in manufacturing, utilities and services.

There is resistance in only a few cases, such as the putative bid for Centrica by Gazprom which raised worries over competition and security of supply if the Kremlin-controlled gas giant took over Britain's leading gas retailer. However, foreign ownership of the three London airports will raise equally important concerns.

Heathrow, the world's busiest international airport, plays a vital role in maintaining London's status as a global financial centre. Since it is already capacity-constrained, plans to expand it must be complemented by growth in other airports in the south-east, including Gatwick and Stansted. Managing such expansion is a complex matter, with competing claims from passengers, airlines, residents and environmentalists.

In practice, the owner of the three London airports is far from free to act without constraint. The Civil Aviation Authority, which regulates the three, has far-reaching powers over their charges. In setting those charges, it forms judgments about the operator's costs, investment plans, efficiency and service standards that give it an effective veto where it is unhappy.

Ferrovial will need to understand this regulatory framework in formulating any bid it decides to make. The position is particularly murky now, since the CAA is in the middle of consultation over the framework for the three airports over the next five-year period beginning in 2008. Nor can it be assumed that CAA's proposals to continue with the current regime will go unchallenged.

Stansted's main airlines are challenging BAA's costly plan to build the second runway the government wants. A change of ownership might make it easier for the operator's critics to reopen issues such as control of all three airports by a single group. The importance of the London airports means they cannot be seen simply as utilities providing a predictable stream of income. This is no reason to bar any bidder - domestic or foreign - but it is a factor that those considering such a bid would do well to grasp.


Christopher Adams and Kevin Done - Financial Times, Companies & Markets - 10 February 2006

Ferrovial, the Spanish infrastructure, services and construction group, which is considering a cash bid for BAA, the UK airports group, could face private pressure from the UK government to back a massive expansion of runway capacity in the south-east of England.

Though the government is expected to steer clear of any public intervention should the Spanish group launch a bid, ministers would want to see a clear commitment from any potential buyer to the options for developing Stansted and Heathrow that are at the heart of its 2003 aviation white paper. Government insiders said that the white paper formed a key part of Labour's election manifesto last year and that any future owner of BAA would be expected to share its aims.

This view could act as a deterrent to Ferrovial, or any other bidder, were they seeking to break up the airports operator and dispose of its significant assets or scale down expansion plans.

The Department for Transport is relaxed about the potential takeover, regarding Ferrovial, which already has a 50 per cent stake in Bristol airport and owns Belfast City airport, as well managed. And the possibility of BAA becoming foreign-owned is not a concern in itself.

But a prospectus that placed insufficient emphasis on investing in new runways could give cause for concern - though ministers would probably voice this privately rather than make any public statement.

As long as Ferrovial abides by competition law, there is nothing the government could do to block a takeover. It has already disposed of its golden share in BAA. But BAA's London airports business is highly regulated, with the UK aviation authority setting five-year price caps aimed at incentivising the group to make "reasonable" investments to expand capacity.

The BAA share price rose a further 27p, or 3.6 per cent, yesterday to close at 779p as some leading investors built up their stakes in the group. This increase lifts the company's market capitalisation to £8.39bn. The share price closed just below its record high of 783p reached in 1999, marking a 19 per cent rise in the last two days since Ferrovial disclosed that it was considering making a cash offer, probably in a consortium.

Macquarie Airports (MAp), the Australian-listed infrastructure fund that has co-operated with Ferrovial in other ventures including Bristol airport, said yesterday that it had "not been approached to become a member of any such consortium".

Opponents of BAA's controversial £2.7bn project to build a second runway at Stansted airport welcomed a possible takeover of BAA by Ferrovial in the belief that it would either delay or halt the scheme, which they have long claimed would be financially unviable. "The management of BAA believes that it is its job to deliver government policy as opposed to maximising shareholder value," said Brian Ross, financial adviser to the Stop Stansted Expansion campaign.

Figures released yesterday by ACI Europe, the airports trade association, highlighted the level of congestion already being suffered at Heathrow, Europe's leading airport and the main profit engine of the BAA group. It had the lowest growth last year of any of the top 30 airports in Europe, with an increase in passenger numbers of only 0.8 per cent to 67.9m compared with increases of 4.9 per cent to 53.8m at Paris Charles de Gaulle and of 2.2 per cent to 52.2m at Frankfurt, its main rivals.

11 February 2006



7 February 2006

Heathrow (Sustainable Development)

Mr. Randall: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what progress is being made on the Project for the Sustainable Development of Heathrow; and when he expects the project to report.

Ms Buck: The work continues, to programme the technical review of Current air quality around Heathrow and the approach to future assessment is largely complete. We expect to publish a full report on this shortly, following peer review. This will put us in a stronger position to re- assess the likely position at Heathrow under different scenarios in future years.

We are continuing to examine measures to address surface access and Noise in the event of further development, including a short third runway and the possible introduction of mixed mode.

Details of the work programme are on the Department for Transport's Website and further papers will be published on the website as work progresses, in accordance with the Department's publication scheme. We expect to be reaching some conclusions later this year.

Transport Demand Research

Mr. Greg Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what Research he has (a) conducted and (b) evaluated on the relationship between Economic growth and (i) rail passenger demand, (ii) demand for air travel and (iii) road investment programmes; and if he will make a statement.

Ms Buck: The Department has not conducted or evaluated specific Research into the relationship between economic growth and rail passenger demand as estimates are made by the rail industry. These estimates are, however, used in the Department's National Transport Model, information on which can be found on the DfT website at: www.dft.gov.uk/stellent/groups/dft_econappr/documents/page/dft_econa ppr_610556.pdf

In May 2000, the Department published "Air Traffic Forecasts for the United Kingdom 2000". This internal piece of work provided forecasts over The period to 2020 and used econometric methods to assess the contribution of factors, including economic growth, to determine air traffic growth. This can be found at: www.dft.gov.uk/stellent/groups/dft_aviation/documents/downloadable/dft_aviation_611147.pdf

OUR COMMENT: No research into the economic advantages of rail travel and no review of the questionable figures for aviation now 6 years old! Don't the DfT give any thought to encouraging a reduction in oil consumption?

Pat Dale

9 February 2006


Ferrovial Says It May Make an Offer for UK's BAA

Bloomberg Online - 8 February 2006

Grupo Ferrovial SA, Spain's second- biggest builder, said it's considering making an offer for BAA Plc, the world's largest airport operator.

Shares in BAA surged as much as 146 pence, or 22 percent, to 801 pence and were up 17 percent at 10:06 a.m. in London, giving the company a market value of 8.2 billion pounds ($14.31 billion).

Ferrovial is using cash gleaned from a Spanish building boom to expand in businesses such as toll roads, which provide wider profit margins and steadier returns. BAA, which operates London's Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports, generated operating profit of 412 million pounds in the first half.

An offer "would be in cash and would be likely to be as part of a consortium,'' Ferrovial said in a Regulatory News Service statement.

Based in Madrid, Ferrovial has invested about 5 billion euros ($6 billion) since 1997 and earlier this year added the Chicago Skyway toll bridge to its highway unit. Shares in Ferrovial fell as much as 3.25 euros, or 5.1 percent, to 60.10 euros and were trading down 3.3 percent at 2.10 euros as of 11:05 a.m. in Madrid.


Graeme Evans - Independent Online - 8 February 2006

A Spanish infrastructure company today said it was planning a possible takeover of BAA - the owner of seven UK airports, including Heathrow. Grupo Ferrovial, which owns construction company Amey, said no approach had yet been made.

BAA shares jumped by as much as 20% following the surprise statement from Ferrovial, which already has a 50% stake in Bristol airport and complete ownership of Belfast City airport. The UK company, which is valued at more than £8 billion based on today's share price rise, also owns and operates Gatwick, Stansted, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Southampton airports.

Ferrovial issued its statement in response to recent movements in the BAA share price.

It said: "Ferrovial's considerations are at a preliminary stage and there is no certainty that any offer will be made. No approach has yet been made to the board of BAA."

The company is one of Europe's leading construction, services and infrastructure groups, with more than 68,000 employees and a presence in 40 countries. It has annual revenues of more than seven billion euros (£4.8bn).


Airports operator prepares to fend off potential Ferrovial move

Kevin Done and Mark Mulligan - Financial Times - 9 February 2006

Group's shares jump 15% on takeover prospect

BAA was last night preparing its defences against an audacious potential takeover bid from Ferrovial, a Spanish construction and services group. Shares in BAA, the world's biggest airport operator, jumped 15% to 7521/2p , its highest level for more than 6 years. Its market capitalisation jumped by 1 billion pounds to reach 8.1 billion pounds.

The BAA group includes the three main London airports, Heathrow, Europe's busiest airport by passenger numbers, Gatwick and Stansted – as well as four other airports in the UK and substantial interests abroad, including Budapest airport, Naples airport and stakes in several Australian airports including Melbourne.

BAA's protection from takeover, a golden share taken by the UK government at privatisation in 1987, was removed two years ago. The special share, which had given the government a veto over certain changes in the company's ownership and structure, in particular over the control over London's airports, was removed to comply with a ruling by the European Court of Justice.

Any bid for BAA will be a highly sensitive issue, as the airports group is seen by UK ministers as the key vehicle for delivering the government's ambitious plan for a big expansion of UK airports capacity, in particular in the south-east of England.

BAA is already spending 4.2billion pounds on a fifth terminal at Heathrow, due to open in March 2008, and is preparing a highly controversial 2.7billion project to double the size of Stansted.

The UK Transport Department said: "The government will follow events closely but this market activity is a commercial matter for the companies involved and their shareholders." There have been periodic calls from some airlines and MPs to break up the BAA London airports monopoly but these have always been firmly rejected by ministers.

London Luton, the capital's fourth airport, is already under Spanish ownership following the takeover in late 2004 of TBI, the UK airports group, by Abertis, a Spanish infrastructure group. Spanish interests have also been entering other sectors in the UK, including banking and telecommunications.

The three London airports, chiefly Heathrow, account for the lion's share of BAA profits and are subject to economic regulation and a price cap regime set by the Civil Aviation Authority. Ferrovial said it was "currently considering" making an offer for the entire issued capital of BAA. Any offer would be in cash and the Spanish group is likely to be part of a consortium.

Analysts reckon the Spanish construction and services group, with a market value of about 9billion Euros, would be unable to launch a bid on its own Ferrovial is already a partner with Australia's acquisitive Macquarie bank in two airports, Sydney and Bristol. Macquarie refused to comment on its potential role in a bid for BAA.

Ferrovial said that its considerations were at a "preliminary stage" and there was "no certainty" any offer would be made. It said that no approach had yet been made to the BAA board. It is being advised by citigroup. BAA "strongly" advise shareholders "not to take any action at this time". It said the BAA board believed it was "well placed to continue to generate shareholder value" from its portfolio of assets. Ferrovial shares closed up 6% at an all-time high of 67 Euros.

BAA warned yesterday that passengers flying from Heathrow should expect extra delays after the introduction of new security measures.

Ferrovial has also bought Amey, the group that runs and maintains three London underground lines, and more recently, Owen Williams, a support services group. It is the sole operator of Belfast airport.


Takeover would be one-way traffic

The Guardian Notebook - 9 February 2006

The purchase of airports operator BAA by Ferrovial of Spain would mean foreign ownership of another set of strategic assets and raises more questions about whether such deals are in the UK's best interests.

The tussle for P & O - where a purchase by PSA could give Singapore a stranglehold on sea container movements - has prompted similar concerns in the ports industry. The government's flotation of defence research business QinetiQ touches on similar points, as does speculation that Russia's Gazprom will bid for Centrica, the owner of British Gas.

With Britain at the forefront of Public Private Partnerships in schools, hospitals and prisons, it is time to ask a wider question about where the role of the state ends and commerce begins.

BAA is pretty much a privatised monopoly with control over Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports together with Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Ferrovial wants not just the licences to operate these facilities, but the land. If the Spanish decided to sell land at Heathrow to Tesco rather than develop the airport it could do so. That might please local homeowners but would not serve the interests of the wider community. Equally, if another runway was proposed, would protesters find it easier to lobby a company based in London or Madrid?

Stansted protesters, please note.

It is also worth noting that BAA could not bid for Spanish airports as all are state run. Opportunities to snap up airport assets elsewhere are also limited. Many European airports are owned by regional governments. In the US it is illegal for airports to make a profit.

The Office of Fair Trading would look at any BAA/Ferrovial deal on competition grounds. Alternatively the Department of Trade and Industry could block it for public interest reasons, citing national security. All of this should be considered closely.

OUR COMMENT: Stansted protesters will certainly note. The author seems to assume that all airport expansion is beneficial to the UK plc, a proposition that has yet to be proven. Also, it is the Government's expansion policy that fuels BAA's expensive ambitions.

Pat Dale

9 February 2006


Warning on EU aviation emission trading Plan

Environment Daily 2035 - 9 February 2006

The EU lacks a long-term strategy to safeguard the aviation sector while cutting its climate emissions, according to committee of Britain's upper parliamentary chamber, the House of Lords.

Plans to impose carbon caps on airlines through the EU emission trading scheme might cripple the sector and hit the wider EU economy, especially if other world regions do not follow suit, the committee says in a report released on Thursday.

"The effects on competitiveness... of the EU going it alone have not been sufficiently thought through," it warns.

See report www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200506/ldselect/ldeucom/107/107.pdf.

8 February 2006


Top science adviser sounds death knell for theory that insists growth is good

Larry Elliott, Economics Editor - The Guardian - 6 February 2006

The old economics is dead. Its death knell was sounded last week, not by a practitioner of the dismal science but by Tony Blair's chief scientific adviser. Sir David King said concentrations of greenhouse gases were already at a level where the warning signs were flashing red: a comment that starkly illustrates the impending clash between economic orthodoxy and environmental sustainability.

Economics is a discipline in which the factors of production - capital and labour - are supposed to be harnessed to maximise production at the cheapest price. By this yardstick, an economy is doing twice as well if it is growing at 4% rather than 2% and disastrously badly if consumers are not in the shops from dawn till dusk. Globalisation is seen as the ultimate form of a market economy, according to the prevailing model, because a more efficient use of the factors of production leads to lower prices and therefore permits higher levels of consumption. In a globalised world, you're only as good as your last GDP number.

But think about it for a minute. Concerns are frequently being raised about the fact that many developed countries are about to see - or are already seeing - a decline in their populations. This will have an impact on their trend rate of growth, which is a function of population and productivity. Stories about falling population are always couched in terms of demographic time bombs, suggesting that they are clearly a bad thing. But fewer people in Germany, Italy or Japan will mean more space, less pressure on resources and a more pleasant life.

Take another example. Globalisation has meant clothes in the UK are cheap. The inflation figures show that women's outerwear is less expensive now than it was in the late 1980s. And we're not talking about the inflation-adjusted price either; the average sterling price of a skirt or a dress is lower than it was two decades ago.

There's no longer the need to wear a top several times to get your money's worth: they can be worn once and tossed in the bin. Likewise, stores now sell jeans at below £5 a pair and market them to manual workers on the basis that if they get them filthy in the course of a week they can simply throw them away and buy anew. According to the present model of economics, this is progress, just as it is to be welcomed that flights as low as £2.50 mean stag and hen weekends in Tallinn or Prague.

But are these developments really positive? Orthodox economics says they are, because they raise the real incomes of consumers. But, according to Sir David's analysis, they are potentially very bad indeed. Currently, greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere are around 380 parts per million, compared with around 220 ppm during the last ice age. Climatologists estimate that 400ppm - or thereabouts - is the tipping point and if we push concentrations much above that the process of climate change could become irreversible.


Sir David says climate change is a threat to our civilisation, and he's right about that. There is no cast-iron guarantee that societies - no matter how smart or technologically advanced - persist. Think of the Romans in the last days before the collapse of the empire ushered in the Dark Ages. But Sir David thinks it is unrealistic to limit concentrations to the levels that scientists say would be safe. He thinks about 550 ppm is the limit and, sadly, given the current configuration of politics - domestically and globally - he is probably right about that too.

One problem is that as individuals we lack the incentives to do the sensible thing. If you are seduced by the idea of a cut-price flight, you get 100% of the benefit but only assume a tiny fraction of the cost to the environment. Another problem is that we lack the institutional framework for coping with climate change; instead, we have national governments fearful of doing anything that would damage international competitiveness. A more damaging mindset you could not hope to find, since it sends out the clear message that action on the environment comes a long way second to policies that foster growth.

The attempt in Britain to have our cake and eat it will mean - almost inevitably - that the government goes ahead with its plan to build more nuclear power stations. The expertise of John Browne, the chief executive of BP, is interesting here, though. Browne says that building enough capacity to deliver seven gigawatts of energy could put a ceiling on emissions at around 500 ppm. That doesn't sound much, but one gigawatt is the equivalent of 700 nuclear power stations. That's a heck of a lot of nukes, and by the time we've built them rising sea levels may mean they're a few feet under water. At the very best, it will mean that the lights stay on in the UK as darkness descends in the rest of the world.

Nor will the technical solution to climate change be feasible unless governments use their power to change behaviour. That means tougher building regulations, emission controls that force car manufacturers to get serious about vehicles that don't run on petrol, a range of new economic indicators that look beyond traditional methods of assessing growth, subsidies for environmental industries. The argument that business would not be able to cope with curbs on greenhouse gases is a fallacy; the longevity of capitalism is due almost entirely to its ability to adapt to any regime. What business lacks now is a clear steer; it has the expertise.

Peet Osta, the author of The Winds of Change: Climate, Weather and the Destruction of Civilisations, puts it this way: "Once government at all levels commits to purchasing clean technologies, making efficiency improvements, and using alternative energy where possible, this massive spending would provide economies of scale that would help speed the commercialisation of new technologies as well as prepare society for the shift away from fossil fuels. Such proposals have been on the table since the early 1960s. By not taking action on greenhouse emissions, we are betting our wellbeing that climate change poses little threat. If we are wrong, we will meet our fate."


Governments are almost certainly wrong to believe that action on climate change means economic stagnation. On the contrary, it would probably lead to an unleashing of a new clean industrial revolution based on green technology. They are also wrong to believe that the Kyoto process - rather than a new, comprehensive global solution - is the way to cut carbon emissions in any meaningful way.

If the initiative does not come from governments, it may eventually come from business itself. In particular, the insurance industry sees itself facing ruin if climate change leads to more hurricanes on the scale of Katrina. The executives of companies in the US have what is known as directors' -and officers' - insurance, which indemnifies them against lawsuits arising from their companies' actions. But they are going to be very wary indeed about writing insurance for companies that are at risk from lawsuits arising from climate change.

Exxon Mobil looks vulnerable in this respect. It accounts for around 1% of carbon emissions globally but has lobbied long and hard against efforts to combat greenhouse gas emissions. Christopher Walker, head of the greenhouse gas risk solutions unit at Swiss Re, says his company may be forced to approach Exxon Mobil and say: "Since you don't think climate change is a problem, and you're betting your stockholders' assets on that, we're sure you won't mind if we exclude climate-related lawsuits from your D&O insurance." That sort of talk, you can be sure, tends to concentrate minds in the boardroom.

8 February 2006


Cutting air travel 'unrealistic'

BBC Online - 7 February 2006

Aviation is blamed for causing much of the UK's pollution
Tony Blair says it is unrealistic to think the tax system can be used to reduce air travel in the UK.

The prime minister said it would take a "fairly hefty whack" for people to cut back on flights in the UK and abroad. He told the Commons liaison committee that it would be hard to sell, and said he would not be keen on such a move. Instead, he said, the best way to tackle climate change was to invest in more environmentally friendly aircraft and to invest in other new technology.

Investment needed

It had been put to Mr Blair that the rise in aircraft emissions were threatening the overall plans to cut back on greenhouse gases. Mr Blair told the MPs that the world would be in "serious trouble" unless there was a new agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions. He said it was vital to come up with a framework for when the Kyoto Protocol comes to an end in 2012.

Mr Blair said he thought that with a "significant uplift" in investment in new and alternative environmentally-friendly technologies the emissions savings could be found fairly quickly.

If you really wanted to impede air travel or to cut it back significantly through some taxation mechanism, it would have to be a fairly hefty whack.

He said emissions targets would have to form a part of a future agreement on climate change. It was understandable that the US was very wary of having targets imposed on it, and instead wanted to concentrate on the use of clean technology - on which it spends more than any other country - he said.

However, there were "real signs of change" in the US on the issue, he said.

But on air travel, the prime minister conceded: "It is unrealistic to think that you will get some restriction on air travel at an international level. "The best way to go is to recognise that is a reality and see how you can develop the technology that is able to reduce the harmful emissions."

'Not good enough'

Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth, said he was pleased Mr Blair was calling for an international framework on climate change, backed by clear targets. But he added: "He should not, however, put too much faith in empty speeches from the American President to galvanise global agreement. "If the prime minister wants to see international action then he must lead by cutting UK emissions."

Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrats environment spokesman, accused Mr Blair of "throwing in the towel" over climate change. "Emissions from aviation represent the greatest challenge in tackling climate change - for the prime minister to wash his hands in this way is simply unbelievable," he said. "If aviation continues to grow as projected, the increase in emissions from this sector will cancel out all planned cuts from all other sectors."

8 February 2006


'Protect our communities' from Heathrow flight paths

Jon Land - 24dash 0nline - 3 February 2006

Another aeroplane takes off

Hounslow Council has told MPs that there needs to be a better system to protect communities living under the flight paths of the UK's busiest airport from noise and pollution. The call came from the council's lead member for aviation issues, Councillor Ruth Cadbury, who gave evidence at the Transport Select Committee hearing.

She said: "For people living in Hounslow, the noise disturbance from Heathrow is now almost continuous and air pollution exceeds European standards. Unfortunately, the regulatory framework for aviation does not consider the needs of residents living near airports. The CAA should have a stronger regulatory function, and also oversee a statutory home insulation scheme."

"Our residents also need airports and airlines to take responsibility for the cost of protecting communities like ours. This could be achieved simply by introducing a 'polluter pays' principle with funds for mitigation collected through a levy and administered through the CAA."

In 2003, the Transport Select Committee highlighted the need for the Government and the industry to be committed to minimising 'real' environmental impacts. The committee also recommended that the funds from environmental fines should be used to benefit affected communities.

Councillor Cadbury told the Select Committee that there has been little in the way of progress on these matters and the voluntary mitigation schemes that are currently in place are inadequate.

According to the council, many homes in Hounslow are lacking adequate insulation and ventilation and the cost of upgrading the borough's school buildings to protect children from the negative impact of aircraft noise is around £100 million. The imminent increase in night flights that appears to fly in the face of Government promises to "bear down" on night noise is also a major concern.

The council says it acknowledges the economic contribution that Heathrow makes to the local economy, but believes the airport has reached the limits of its sustainable development. The authority says its primary concern is to secure adequate mitigation for those who already affected by the airport as well as those who may be affected by any further developments.

As part of the council's ongoing campaign to 'give Hounslow what Hounslow needs', Councillor Cadbury is inviting the Committee to visit the borough and experience at first hand the problems faced by Hounslow residents on a daily basis.

8 February 2006


'Red alert' over Heathrow

Barrie Clement - The Independent - 5 February 2006

Heathrow has slipped further down the rankings of European airports with the opening of two new full-length runways in Madrid today.

Airlines and unions have joined forces to issue a "red alert" to ministers, arguing that the west London complex is in desperate need of expansion if Britain is to retain its economic competitiveness. A government White Paper has proposed a third short runway for Heathrow, provided it can meet European targets for emissions.

The £3.5bn expansion at Madrid Barajas will increase its capacity by half to 120 take-offs and landings an hour - similar to Paris Charles de Gaulle - compared with Heathrow's current maximum of 85. Frankfurt and Schiphol also have plans to expand to 120 flights an hour.

Future Heathrow, a pressure group backed by a wide range of business interests, points out that the four runways at Barajas will be able to handle 70 million passengers a year, compared with Heathrow's 67 million.

Lord Soley, the campaign director for Future Heathrow, said the airport was "relentlessly" sliding down the league table. "The opening of two new runways at Madrid represents a red alert for the UK. We are being left behind in a critical component of national economic competitiveness.

"Having a high-capacity hub airport providing worldwide transport links is a prerequisite for economic success in the 21st century. Spain has realised that - just as France, Germany and the Netherlands have realised it by building new runways for their national hubs.

"Too many people assume that because Heathrow has been Britain's biggest passenger airport for years, it is guaranteed a place in the elite. This view could not be more wrong." The pre-eminence of London's docks was taken for granted in the 1960s, but by 1980 they had all closed with the loss of 50,000 jobs, added Lord Soley. "I do not want a repeat in west London."

John Stewart, the chairman of Hacan ClearSkies, which is fighting expansion at Heathrow, said the Madrid runways were irrelevant. "This is the one European airport that is not a rival to Heathrow because of the close alliance between BA and Iberia, which is based at Madrid."

8 February 2006


Stansted Airport - passengers v. commuters

Barrie Clement - The Independent - 5 February 2006

The following Q&A took place within a Commons Debate last Wednesday (1 Feb) on the Government's 10 year Transport Plan:

Mr. Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con): I am sorry to ambush the right hon. Gentleman, but we have some capacity problems on the Broxbourne to Cheshunt line, which we share with the Stansted Express. Would it be possible for me to write to the Secretary of State and perhaps have a meeting with him or one of his Ministers to discuss ways of getting extra capacity on that line without any additional cost to the public purse - perhaps by getting BAA to make a slightly largely contribution, and possibly letting us share some of its Stansted Express trains?

Mr. Darling: If the hon. Gentleman wrote, I am sure that the Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Halton (Derek Twigg), would be happy to meet him. If the hon. Gentleman can persuade BAA to pay for increased capacity as far south as Cheshunt into Liverpool street, I will happily join him, although I am not sure that BAA will accept that proposition - at least, not without some persuasion. However, the hon. Gentleman is right. That is a case of a railway line on which there has been a huge increase in the number of passengers. With the additional housing that we know about, never mind the housing that is coming, plus the developments at Stansted airport, capacity is one of the big issues that need to be addressed. I shall return to how we do that.

8 February 2006


Profits up at Ryanair

Caroline Muspratt - Daily Telegraph - 6 February 2006

Budget airline operator Ryanair said net profits rose 6pc in the third quarter, as passenger traffic grew by 26pc. The company said yields were almost flat, as expected, and that it was still on track to meet full year profit forecasts.

Michael O'Leary, chief executive, said: "Ryanair's lowest fair model, yet again, delivered increased profits and passenger growth for the quarter despite the intense competition and the drag on profitability of very high fuel prices."

He added: "As anticipated, yields were flat during the quarter despite a 27pc increase in seat capacity and continued intense price competition across the route network."

Ryanair said adjusted profits after tax rose 6pc to €36.8m (£25.1m) in the third quarter to December, while sales rose 27pc to €370.7m. Fuel costs rose 59pc in the quarter, hitting margins. Mr O'Leary said: "We continue to focus aggressively on costs and anticipate that the cost reductions will continue to partially offset the significantly higher oil prices."

Ryanair said its new routes and bases at Luton, Liverpool and Pisa had performed well though performance at Shannon was lower than originally expected. It also underlined its continued opposition to what Mr O'Leary called the £4billion "marble palace" proposed by airports operator BAA at Stansted. He said: "All the main airlines support a second runway, but believe that this should be delivered at a cost of £1billion or less." He called the £4billion budget "a monumental waste of passengers' money" and called the Civil Aviation Authority "a weak regulator whose bark is even more ineffectual than its toothless bite."

Ryanair recently said it would charge passengers £2.50 to check in luggage, in an effort to encourage more customers to travel with hand baggage only.

Mr O'Leary said: "We remain cautious in our outlook for the remainder of the fourth quarter. We expect to achieve significant increases in passenger volumes but also anticipate that yields in Q4 will fall, reflecting our large capacity growth in this weakest winter quarter as well as the impact of Easter falling in April."

He said yields would be towards the middle of the 5pc-10pc fall already indicated and that net profit guidance for the full year was unchanged. The shares fell 10 cents to €7.62 in early trading.

4 February 2006


Sinead Holland - Herts & Essex Observer - 2 February 2006

A second runway at Stansted would be an "environmental catastrophe" according to watchdogs.

Stansted Airport Consultative Committee members voted to ignore the advice of their chairman Maurice Le Fleming and condemn the G2 project. They overturned a report compiled following a meeting of their own special sub-committee, which considered BAA's options for a new runway as part of a pre-enquiry consultation process.

While Mr Le Fleming acknowledged that many organisations and interests represented on STACC were fundamentally opposed to any second runway, he said they could make separate representations. But the best way forward for the committee, he suggested, was on the basis that, if the proposals went ahead, members should say what they wish to see.

It should not be construed that the committee was supporting any proposals to provide a second runway in principle. However, he warned members that an absolute rejection of all proposals could cause problems when the public inquiry was held.

.However, Uttlesford District Council chairman, Councillor Peter Wilcock, who tabled the successful alternative consultation response at last week's meeting, said: " It's like being asked to choose between death by firing squad and a lethal injection."

He said the initial response did not reflect the strength of feeling of members. "We are fundamentally opposed to the second runway."

Mr Fleming pointed out that the watchdog was made up of business groups as well as community organisations and had, therefore, always tried to avoid polarising views.

But Herts County Council representative and Bishop's Stortford Councillor Bernard Engel replied that appearing to sanction any of the options offered by BAA could put him and many others in direct contravention of his own Authority's policies and he could not be party to that.

BAA will now consider all the responses to its G2 consultation document before submitting a planning application.

4 February 2006


No consolation to today's passengers

Readers' Letters - Herts & Essex Observer - 2 February 2006

I am writing in response to the letter from Mr Philips ("Commuters must pay for a good rail service") regarding the service provided by 'One' Railway.

Commuters are not simply 'rail bashing' - there are a number of serious issues which cannot be ignored and affect many local people in their journeys to work and school.

Mr Philips is, of course, entitled to his opinion, but in my experience as a commuter (which he is not), the service we have been experiencing since the timetable change in December is unacceptable.

It may have improved "in general" over a period of 50 years, but this is of little consequence to me or my fellow commuters in Stansted, Elsenham and Newport.

The service, in real terms, has not improved. There are more trains serving Bishop's Stortford and Harlow but this does not provide any benefit to commuters using the smaller stations up and down the line.

Our trains are less frequent and less reliable, commuters are asking 'One' Railway to provide a better standard of service in terms of frequency and reliability. We are not 'bashing' the railways.

Emma Walker

OUR COMMENT: We learn that 'One' Railway has now agreed that certain peak hour Stansted Express trains will now stop at Stansted Mountfitchet as well as Harlow or Bishop's Stortford. We say again, how long will this last if airport passenger numbers increase? And, what about the rest of the commuters left with an inferior service?

Pat Dale

4 February 2006


Germany to tighten airport noise limits

Environment Daily 2029 - 1 February 2006

Germany's federal cabinet has proposed further limits on aircraft noise affecting people who live and work near airports.

The most important change is a lowering of decibel thresholds for required noise protection infrastructure.

This applies to both day and night flights. Citing environment ministry estimates, German press reports had previously put a high cost of implementing the law.

The draft law now goes for parliamentary scrutiny.

4 February 2006


Tom Chesshyre - Times Online - 4 February 2006

Britain's leading air passenger watchdog claims that Ryanair is misleading the public over its pricing, after analysing the airline's decision to introduce charges for checked-in luggage from March 16.

Ryanair will add £2.50 for each item of checked-in luggage when passengers book over the internet, and £5 per piece of checked-in luggage for tickets bought at airports. People carrying only hand luggage will be able to check in over the internet, avoiding check-in desk queues.

The new charges join Government taxes, Passenger Service Charges (PSC), insurance, a wheelchair levy, and handling fees for credit and debit cards that Ryanair adds to its lead-in published fares.

The airline says that the charges will mean lower published fares for passengers, with only those who check in luggage facing the additional costs.

But the Air Transport Users' Council says that the practice of separating "overheads" such as taxes, airport charges (PSCs) and the wheelchair levy makes it difficult for passengers to know the real cost of fares.

"Ryanair say they are decreasing fares overall, but what proof have we got? There are plenty of taxes and other add-ons already — and now we've got baggage charges. All these charges are effectively overheads. They should be included in published prices."

He said British Airways and Virgin advertise prices with all taxes and charges included, but low-cost airlines have been reluctant to follow suit. Flybe, another budget carrier, introduced similar luggage charges — £2 on-line and £4 for tickets bought at airports — last December.

A Times Travel look at the cost of a flight from Stansted to Szczecin in Poland earlier this week showed that the return fare costs 5 pence each way for a flight on February 20 returning February 25. However, added to this was a £5 government outbound tax, a £6.70 passenger service charge, a £3.13 outbound insurance fee, a 35p outbound wheelchair levy, a £5.15 inbound government tax, a £3.13 inbound insurance fee, and a 35p inbound wheelchair levy. This is £23.91. With a £1.75 each-way credit card handling fee, it comes to £27.41. With the on-line checked-in luggage fees, it amounts to £32.41. This is 324 times the advertised fare.

Peter Sherrard, spokesman for Ryanair, said: "We will make € 30 million (£20.4 million) savings a year as there will be less use of check-in desks. We anticipate the percentage of people with hand-luggage only to increase from 25 per cent to 40 per cent.The savings can be passed on as cheap overall prices. We have never had complaints about our prices."

He said that checked-in luggage allowances will increase from 15kg to 20kg from March 16, while the hand luggage limit will stay at 10kg.

"There's no way that we can prove we're reducing prices (because of Ryanair's 'fluid pricing' policy). But it is in our interest to improve our competitiveness."

OUR COMMENT: So, low cost is ceasing to be quite so cheap. Add on the costs of environmental damage, all those CO2 emissions (next years storms?) and the holiday charges when you arrive at your destination, why not try the UK?

Pat Dale

4 February 2006


Oxford to Cambridge flights resume

Maeve Kennedy - The Guardian - 1 February 2006

The plane, a smart little Piper Chieftain, was a sad disappointment: the first scheduled flight from Oxford to Cambridge since the 1930s should have involved a collection of canvas and gutta percha , held together with elastic bands and bicycle tyre latches, pushed down the runway by dons losing their mortar boards in the tailwind.

The pristine modern aircraft took off in the foggy dawn 20 minutes late and landed at Cambridge 10 minutes after it should have started the return leg - but the first passenger grinned down at the traffic-choked motorway and felt smug.

It's only 65 miles as the crow flies between the two university cities, but it has been a remarkably tricky journey for anyone except crows. By rail it's into London and back out again - by road, a cross-country wiggle between motorways. Nick Rowley, chief executive of Sky commuter, organised a race. He took 25 minutes by plane, the rail passenger took just under 3 hours, and a Lotus car driver half an hour longer.

"There isn't a great heaving mass of people" Mr Rowley said, "but there are hundreds every week who have to get between Oxford and Cambridge on business. We just have to persuade 50 of them a day to travel by plane."

The service is believed to be the shortest scheduled route in Britain. Mr Rowley, whose company has operated charter flights and air taxis for years, is confident that Sky commuter's two scheduled flights per day for 5 days a week are here for the long-haul.

The route is not the most scenic in the world. The dreaming spires stay well out of sight, but on a clear day at the Oxford end the imposing hulk of the Duke of Marlborough's Blenheim Palace can just be seen in the distance.

"We don't fly over the duke" Mr Rowley said. "Otherwise he gives me a phone call - personally."

OUR COMMENT: We suggest that everyone under his unnecessary flight path telephones him and complains. What about the coach companies? There is a regular service anyway, but if the demand is there, why not a fast service? The Lotus must have been unlucky.

Pat Dale

1 February 2006


While the rest of us snap up £1.99 flights to Rome, a small but growing band of conscientious objectors are making a stand by refusing to fly. Is this the beginning of the budget travel backlash, asks Tom Robbins

The Observer - 29 January 2006

Michael Gibson's new year's resolution was a tough one, but nothing to do with giving up cigarettes, alcohol or junk food. He has decided to stop flying. "I just realised that all my other efforts to be green - recycling, insulating the house, not driving a giant 4x4 - would be totally wiped out by a couple of holidays by air," said Gibson, 32, from Manchester. He's not alone. Suddenly and spontaneously, growing numbers of travellers are deciding they must give up, or at least cut back on, their far-flung weekend city breaks and long-haul holidays in the sun.

Melissa Henry, a marketing director from Bristol, quit flying a year ago. "How could I look my four-year-old daughter in the eye in 20 years' time and say 'There was something I could have done but I chose not to'?" she said. "For too long, I was saying 'they must do something about it', then suddenly I realised I can't expect others to change if I'm not prepared to change myself."

And it's not just the hardcore eco-warriors who are taking a stand. Last week, one of Britain's most influential travellers told Escape he had decided to cut down on flying. Mark Ellingham, founder of Rough Guides, the travel publishing company that played a key role in encouraging the independent travel boom of the last 20 years, said he would be limiting his trips by plane, and taking his summer holiday in Britain.

"Being in the travel business, I've taken more than the average number of flights, and was used to casually flying off to Naples for the weekend or whatever," he said. "So I've taken the decision that I should reduce the number of flights I'm taking and take at least part of my holiday in places that you can drive to or take a train."

Ellingham has just commissioned the Rough Guide to Climate Change and from this summer all Rough Guides will have a section warning readers about the negative effects of flying. "Of course it's a contradiction, but we are in the unique position of being able to put information about climate change across in exactly the right context."

What about the danger of damaging his own business, which sells thousands of guidebooks to weekend city break fans? His response is stark: "If that happens, so be it."

The arguments against flying are compelling. One return flight to Florida produces the equivalent carbon dioxide to a year's motoring. A return flight to Australia equals the emissions of three average cars for a year. Fly from London to Edinburgh for the weekend and you produce 193kg of CO2, eight times the 23.8kg you produce by taking the train. Moreover, the pollution is released at an altitude where its effect on climate change is more than double that on the ground.

More frightening is the boom in the number of people flying, fuelled by cheap flights with carriers such as Ryanair and Easyjet. In 1970, British airports were used by 32 million people. In 2004, the figure was 216 million. In 2030, according to government forecasts, it will be around 500 million. The trouble is that the people most likely to be aware of these figures, are the ones who probably enjoy popping over to Europe for a weekend. It makes for a large amount of guilt, and a lot of denial.

"Most people seem to say 'I should cut back, but I'm not ready to yet'," said Sarah Delfont, an oncology support specialist from Devon, who stopped flying last year. "It's not an easy decision."

Now, it seems, we are on the cusp of the guilt turning into action. Next month sees the launch of the first formal campaign to limit flying. Flight Pledge, will focus on a website (www.flightpledge.org.uk ) on which people can commit to cutting back on flying. There's a choice of a gold pledge - a promise to take no flights in the coming year - or silver, representing a maximum of two short-haul or one long-haul flight. The idea, says John Valentine, its creator, is to collect enough signatories to press the European Union into taxing aviation fuel, thus increasing air fares and stifling the growth in air travel.

But aren't there less drastic ways of addressing climate change without giving up air travel? What about carbon offsetting, where you pay a small fee per flight which goes towards tree-planting or energy saving schemes? To make your return flight to Rome carbon neutral costs just £5. A small price to pay for a clear conscience.

"It's a way of assuaging middle-class guilt," says Liz Postlethwaite, 28, a community arts worker in Manchester who gave up flying more than a year ago. "At the end of the day the carbon is being placed in the environment regardless of the offsetting and, if we are honest about it, the only way we can stop that happening is by reducing the number of flights we take."

Objectively, offsetting is clearly better than nothing and has already funded some impressive schemes around the world, although environmentalists are beginning to turn against it. Friends of the Earth argues that tree-planting schemes are not reliable because it is hard to guarantee how long the trees will live. "If there's a fire or they're cut down, you've lost your offset but you've already done the damage," said Richard Dyer, the group's aviation campaigner.

Campaigners say energy-saving schemes, such as funding solar panels, or low-energy lightbulbs, are laudable, but should be done anyway rather than simply to offset pollution from flights.

This is bad news for the travel industry, which has latched onto offsetting like a drowning man to a life raft. 'Sustainable travel' is one of the tourism industry's favourite phrases, but there is simply no way to reconcile a business encouraging people to fly as often and far as possible, with concerns about the effects on the environment.

The Association of British Travel Agents sets the tone for the industry. It backs offsetting, and pays for its annual conference, which takes place abroad, to be made carbon neutral. At the same time, it is lobbying the government to increase runway space in Britain.

"We need more runways to cater for increased demand," said Sean Tipton, an Abta spokesman. "I know environmentalists are calling for a tax on flying, but that would bring about a return to the Fifties when only the well-off could fly."

There is a positive side to this story, however. Many of those who have given up flying are finding that, far from it being a sacrifice, they actually enjoy travelling more.

"We've had some superb holidays as a result of not flying," says Alex Smith from Balham, south London. "Leaving Madrid on the overnight train to Paris, and having a superb meal and glass of wine in the dining car while watching the sun set over the mountains cannot be beaten as a way to finish a holiday."

Nor is it a bar to long-distance travel. Sarah Delfont's 22-year-old Joe has also quit flying, but that won't stop him setting out in a fortnight's time on a backpacking trip to Thailand - by train. The route, involving the Trans-Siberian railway, will take far longer than a direct flight to Bangkok and probably cost more, but it promises to be much more of an adventure.

Exactly how many people are cutting back on flying is impossible to know. But it seems likely that 2006 will be the year in which the issue finally enters the mainstream. Already there has been a flurry of headlines when members of Transport 2000, the group which campaigns for more train and bus use, raised concerns about whether Michael Palin should continue as their chairman, because of the vast amount of air miles he clocks up on his travels.

The crunch is likely to be the government decision, expected later this year, on whether to allow a third runway at Heathrow. Much as we might like it to, it seems the backlash against bargain flights is not going to go away.

1 February 2006


The Worst Scenario
Curbing climate change 'unlikely'

Richard Black, Environment Correspondent - BBC News - 30 January 2006

Rising concentrations of greenhouse gases may have more serious impacts than previously believed, a major new scientific report has said.

The report, published by the UK government, says there is only a small chance of greenhouse gas emissions being kept below "dangerous" levels. It fears the Greenland ice sheet is likely to melt, leading sea levels to rise by seven metres over 1,000 years.

The poorest countries will be most vulnerable to these effects, it adds. The report, "Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change", collates evidence presented by scientists at a conference hosted by the UK Meteorological Office in February 2005.

The conference set two principal objectives: to ask what level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is too much, and what are the options for avoiding such levels?

In the report's foreword, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair writes: "It is clear from the work presented that the risks of climate change may well be greater than we thought. It is now plain that the emission of greenhouse gases, associated with industrialisation and economic growth from a world population that has increased six-fold in 200 years, is causing global warming at a rate that is unsustainable."

Vulnerable ecosystems

One collection of scientific papers sets out the impacts associated with various levels of temperature increase.

"Above a one degree Celsius increase, risks increase significantly, often rapidly for vulnerable ecosystems and species," concludes Bill Hare from the Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research in Germany, who produced an overview of more than 70 studies of impacts on water resources, agriculture and wildlife.

"In the one to two degree range, risks across the board increase significantly, and at a regional level are often substantial," he writes.

"Above two degrees the risks increase very substantially, involving potentially large numbers of extinctions or even ecosystem collapses, major increases in hunger and water shortage risks as well as socio-economic damages, particularly in developing countries."

The European Union has adopted a target of preventing a rise in global average temperature of more than two Celsius. That, according to the report, might be too high, with two degrees being enough to trigger melting of the Greenland ice sheet.

This would have a major impact on sea levels globally, though it would take up to 1,000 years to see the full predicted rise of seven metres.

Unfeasible targets

A key task undertaken by some scientists contributing to the report was to calculate which greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere would be enough to cause these "dangerous" temperature increases.

Currently, the atmosphere contains about 380 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas, compared to levels before the industrial revolution of about 275ppm.

"For achieving the two Celsius target with a probability of more than 60%, greenhouse gas concentrations need to be stabilised at 450 ppm CO2-equivalent or below," conclude Michel den Elzen from the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and Malte Meinshausen of the US National Center for Atmospheric Research.

"A stabilisation at 450 ppm CO2-equivalent requires global emissions to peak around 2015, followed by substantial overall reductions in the order of 30%-40% compared to 1990 levels in 2050."

A rise of two Celsius, researchers conclude, will be enough to cause:

    * Decreasing crop yields in the developing and developed world
    * Tripling of poor harvests in Europe and Russia
    * Large-scale displacement of people in north Africa from desertification
    * Up to 2.8bn people at risk of water shortage
    * 97% loss of coral reefs
    * Total loss of summer Arctic sea ice causing extinction of the polar bear and the walrus
    * Spread of malaria in Africa and north America

Technological hope

On the other question asked at the 2005 conference - what are the options for avoiding dangerous concentrations in greenhouse gas emissions - the report is more equivocal.

Technological options do exist, it concludes, such as ways to increase energy efficiency, renewable energy sources, and "clean coal" processes. Financial mechanisms which can increase their uptake, such as emissions trading, are also in existence.

The big issue is how quickly they will be adopted, and by what proportion of governments.

"For all stabilisation strategies, the biggest problem does not seem to be the technologies or the costs, but overcoming the many political, social and behavioural barriers to implementing mitigation options," conclude Bert Metz and Detlef van Vuuren of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.

"There is a multitude of potential obstacles, ranging from lack of awareness, vested interests, prices not reflecting environmental impacts, cultural and behavioural barriers to change and, in the case of spreading technologies to developing countries, the lack of an effective enabling environment for new investments."

1 February 2006


Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor - The Independent - 30 January 2006

Tony Blair has admitted that the risks of climate change may be more serious than previously thought. The Prime Minister's concern is revealed today in a book that contains compelling evidence from some of the world's leading scientists of the growing threat to the planet.

Reassessments of major risks to the Earth, such as the melting of the great land-based ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, which would raise sea levels disastrously, or the slowing down of the Gulf Stream, which would plunge Britain into a new ice age, show that they may be triggered by temperature rises well within those already predicted for the coming century.

The fresh appraisals indicate that the situation is far more dangerous than that set out in the last report of the main scientific body monitoring global warming, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

That study, the IPCC's third assessment report, known to scientists as the TAR, said there was "new and stronger evidence" that much of the warming already observed in recent decades had been caused by human activities, such as the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases from power stations and motor vehicles. Most ominously, it predicted a global mean temperature rise of between 1.6C and 5.8C by the end of the century.

However, the TAR was published in 2001, which with climate change is now a relatively long time ago - both in terms of the understanding of the science of global warming, and of the speed with which climate-related events, such as extreme heatwaves and the melting of the Arctic sea ice, now seem to be occurring.

The next IPCC study, the fourth assessment report, is not due until 2007. So in the meantime, the British Government has sponsored a project to bring the science of global warming up to date, taking in all the latest developments, based on a conference held at the headquarters of the UK Meteorological Office in Exeter last year.

Today the records of the conference are being published in a book entitled Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change - and Tony Blair says in the foreword: "It is clear from the work presented that the risks of climate change may well be greater than we thought."

The book publishes the Exeter conference's remarkable and menacing findings. These included the unexpected announcement from the head of the British Antarctic Survey, Professor Chris Rapley, that the huge West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be starting to disintegrate - an event which alone would raise sea levels around the world by 16ft.

The last IPCC report - the TAR - dismissed worries about the ice sheet's stability. Professor Rapley, reporting that ice was now flowing into the sea from it at enormous rates, said that that judgement had to be revised. "The last IPCC report characterised Antarctica as a slumbering giant in terms of climate change," he said. "I would say it is now an awakened giant. There is real concern."

Another new concern raised at the conference was the acidification of the oceans, caused by the same greenhouse gas responsible for global warming. The huge volumes of carbon dioxide produced by industry and transport are not only raising temperatures, but turning the world's oceans acid as the CO2 is dissolved in seawater, and putting an enormous array of marine life at risk.

Ocean acidification may wipe out much of the microscopic plankton at the base of the marine food web, and have a knock-on effect up through shellfish to major human food species such as cod. It is already having a serious impact on organisms such as coral, and putting a question-mark against the future of coral reefs.

The Exeter conference report itself makes no bones about the seriousness of the situation. It says: "Compared with the TAR, there is greater clarity and reduced uncertainty about the impacts of climate change across a wide range of systems, sectors and societies. In many cases the risks are more serious than previously thought."

It goes on: "A number of critical temperature levels and rates of change relative to pre-industrial times were noted. These vary for the globe, specific regions and sensitive ecosystems. For example a regional increase above present levels of 2.7C may be a threshold that triggers melting of the Greenland ice-cap, while an increase in global temperatures of about 1C is likely to lead to extensive coral bleaching.

It warned of increasing damage if temperatures rose about 1C to 3C above current levels. Serious risk of large-scale irreversible system disruption, such as reversal of the land carbon sink and possible destabilisation of the Antarctic ice sheets, is more likely above 3C. "Such levels are well within the range of climate change projections for the century."

Referring to the possible collapse of the Gulf Stream, the report says: "While a clear temperature threshold has not been identified for shutdown of the Atlantic thermohaline circulation, studies were presented suggesting that a shutdown becomes more likely with increasing temperature."

1 February 2006


Patrick Wintour, Chief Political Correspondent - The Guardian - 31 January 2006

The government's strategy to cut carbon dioxide emissions in the battle against climate change has been paralysed for seven months by a dispute between two Whitehall departments.

Labour has pledged in three successive manifestos that by 2010 it will cut the UK's CO2 emissions by 20% below 1990 levels. The promise has reached almost totemic status in the party.

But publication of a programme to meet the targets has been held up, with the Department of Trade and Industry arguing that emissions have risen at such a rate over the past two years that it is unlikely Britain can meet the target. The DTI's latest projections show that, on current measures, CO2 will have been reduced to "only around 10% below 1990 levels by 2010".

But the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, armed with less statistical and economic modelling firepower than the DTI, is contesting the figures, and insists the target can still be met by vigorous action.

Ministers are frustrated by the delay since the postponements reduce the government's chance of meeting its 2010 target. They fear that the UK's claim to international leadership on climate change is being undermined.

In an attempt to step up pressure on No 10, ministers warn that David Cameron, the Tory leader, is putting the environment at the heart of his repositioning of his party. Mr Blair has taken a strong position on climate change, but privately believes Mr Cameron's promise to cut carbon emissions year on year is unrealisable.

The inability of two key Whitehall departments to agree on the way ahead in such a crucial area of policy comes amid renewed warnings that the dangers posed by climate change are more serious than previously thought. The environment secretary, Margaret Beckett, yesterday published the findings of a study initially prepared by international scientists for a conference convened by the government as president of the G8 last February.

It includes evidence from the head of the British Antarctic Survey, Professor Chris Rapley, that the west Antarctic ice sheet may be starting to disintegrate. Scientists believe that would raise sea levels around the world by 16ft (5 metres), with disastrous consequences around the world.

The government announced its review into its UK domestic climate change programme in September 2004, admitting it was not on course to meet the commitment to cut CO2 by 20% by 2010. A consultation document was published in December 2004 and most of the consultancy work completed last spring. The review, originally to be published last summer, is now due "early this year".

But Mrs Beckett, under pressure from an all-party alliance on climate change, was unable yesterday to say precisely when it would be published. The government is still likely to fulfil a separate but less ambitious pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5% by 2008-12, which would meet its commitment under the Kyoto protocol.

It is understood there have been technical disputes in Whitehall about measuring carbon emissions, including the true base level of emissions in 1990. The review is also being held up by uncertainties over the contribution Britain can make to the second round of the EU carbon trading emissions scheme, due to start in 2008 and end in 2012.

Each EU country is to send the EU commission details of how it intends to meet a national allocation plan by this summer. The plan fixes the total amount of CO2 that can be emitted by all the installations in each country covered by the scheme, as well as the number of emission allowances allocated to each individual installation.

In the domestic climate change programme, ministers have been looking at a range of options including tougher building regulations, higher vehicle excise duty on polluting cars and cuts in council tax to give incentives for domestic energy efficiency.

The options are limited as businesses have already cut emissions, but carbon emissions from transport are projected to have gone up by 16% between 1990 and 2010, even though average fuel efficiency has also risen. More nuclear power, the subject of a separate government review, could not contribute to the 2010 target since no new stations could come on stream so quickly.

The Liberal Democrat environment spokesman, Norman Baker, said last night: "There is a genuine problem about measuring carbon emissions in a credible way but I fear there are some in government, especially in the DTI and in No 10, that are quite happy to postpone decisions on climate change. The longer the delay the more difficult it is to meet the target. They are quite happy to talk about the importance of climate change, but not to take any action if it means they are going to lose votes."

For the Tories, Peter Ainsworth, the shadow environment secretary, said: "Every day the news on climate change gets worse, but the UK's contribution to the problem keeps going up. How many more warnings does the government need before it takes effective action to cut emissions? The science is clear, now we've actually got to do something about it. I urge the government to restate its absolute commitment to cutting emissions by 20% by 2010 and 60% by 2050, and to give us a firm date for the delayed climate change programme review.

"Britain is capable of playing a major role in helping to achieve a more stable and secure planet but we must put our own house in order first."

This argument between two government departments will come as no surprise. But equally unsurprising is the omission from this account of the third department - the real rogue department - the Department of Transport, which is responsible for the fastest growing sector of emissions. It is hiding away, keeping very quiet, led by its news-suppressing Secretary of State Alistair Darling, doing or publishing little work on how it intends to meet its emissions responsibilities. Climate change targets were applied summer 2004, since when nothing has been produced on how it will implement it; and no work published on the output from its claimed (and fictional) response to aviation emissions. Its omission from this article is symptomatic of our failure to turn up the heat on the DfT, and it's about time we did.
(name & address supplied)

1 February 2006


Ireland claims first carbon permit auction

Environment Daily 2028 - 31 January 2006

The Irish government has announced the sale of a small number of carbon permits under the EU's greenhouse gas emission trading scheme (ETS). Dublin says its initiative is the first auction of allowances under the ETS, which began a year ago. The revenue will be used to fund national administration of the ETS.

Any firm registered under the ETS in any member state will be eligible to bid for a total of 250,000 allowances, equivalent to the same number of tonnes of CO2 emissions. If sold at the current market rate of around 25 euros, the auction will yield €6.25m.

Under the ETS directive member states can auction up to 5% of their allowance allocation in 2005-7 and 10% in 2008-12. During consultations on the law governments heavily favoured auctioning because of its revenue potential. Environmentalists also backed auctioning as the fairest allocation method.

In contrast, most firms have opposed auctioning, characterising it as an extra tax. In practice, despite the possibilities opened by the law, member states have been reluctant to auction allowances so as not to harm domestic businesses competing with those in other member states. Permits have overwhelmingly been "grandfathered" - handed out for free on the basis of past emissions.

In its national allocation plan Ireland decided to auction 0.75% of its 2005-7 allocation of 67m permits. The first tranche put on sale last week represents about half of that total.

1 February 2006


Eco warriors find legal way to ground the 4x4 motorist

John-Paul Flintoff - Sunday Times - 29 January 2006

ECO-VIGILANTES across northern Europe are fighting the growing popularity of 4x4s - by letting air out of their tyres.

They seem to be getting away with it. Having studied the law, the environmentalists concluded that it was legal if the vehicles sustained no damage. Some claim to have let tyres down in front of police officers.

The movement began in Paris late last year and has since spread to other cities in France, Belgium and Holland. Protesters in Italy, Spain and Germany have shown interest in starting similar campaigns.

Now British environmentalists, who adopt a gentler approach, are worried that deflating may become a popular tactic in the UK, alienating mainstream supporters.

The Association des Constructeurs Européens d'Automobiles, Europe's leading motor trade association, says the number of 4x4s in the European Union more than doubled between 1998 and the end of 2004.

The continental groups compete to see who can let down the most tyres in a night. In December 14 Belgians deflated the tyres of 137 off-roaders. The most difficult part of the task is to let air out slowly, so the vehicle's alarm does not go off. To avoid the possibility of owners driving off with flat tyres and putting lives in danger, campaigners leave documents on windows explaining what they have done.

A spokesman for a Paris group, who calls himself Sub-Adjutant Marrant (Joker), argues that drivers of 4x4s do not care that their vehicles emit disproportionate amounts of carbon dioxide, and that politicians are scared of the car lobby. "We emphasise the comic, the burlesque side," he said. "It would be hard to take us to court. We don't slash tyres; we deflate them. Air doesn't cost anything."

Not everyone is so confident. Protesters in another French city were caught last weekend by the owner of a Mercedes 4x4, who had them arrested. Not content with letting the air out, these campaigners had also smeared mud over the vehicle, to emphasise that it was designed for rural use.

"I spent a few hours at the police station," said a young member of the group, anxious not to be identified. "I am very afraid of what will happen."

Protesters in Britain have urged a different approach. "Before the groups in France did this for the first time," said Sian Berry, of the British Alliance Against Urban 4x4s, "they got in touch with us. They said they'd had a brilliant idea."

"Our initial reaction was that it's quite amusing, and clever to have established that they aren't breaking the law. But if just one person needs to go to hospital in a hurry and their 4x4 has a flat tyre, the joke won't seem so funny. The campaign will be finished."

The British group seeks to change the minds of the vehicles' owners by placing spoof parking tickets on windscreens. These contain information about the vehicle's demerits, written in a gently teasing way. The tickets were an American idea. Earth On Empty, based in Massachusetts, claims its supporters have issued more than 1m "violation earth" tickets in 500 cities and 48 states.

Another American group put stickers on 4x4s saying: "I'm changing the climate, ask me how." But when owners found that removing these caused damage to paintwork, the group was sued, and the tactic ended.

Aggressive forms of opposition to large, fuel-guzzling vehicles in America continue to flourish, however. A website, www.fuh2.com, invites people to submit photographs of themselves "saluting" Hummers with an upraised middle finger. Thousands have obliged, including some in Britain.

OUR COMMENT: We suggest that the British reaction is the right one. No-one should take chances with people's lives.

Pat Dale

29 January 2006


NASA Online - 24 January 2006

The year 2005 may have been the warmest year in a century, according to NASA scientists studying temperature data from around the world.

Climatologists at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York City noted that the highest global annual average surface temperature in more than a century was recorded in their analysis for the 2005 calendar year.

Some other research groups that study climate change rank 2005 as the second warmest year, based on comparisons through November. The primary difference among the analyses, according to the NASA scientists, is the inclusion of the Arctic in the NASA analysis. Although there are few weather stations in the Arctic, the available data indicate that 2005 was unusually warm in the Arctic.

In order to figure out whether the Earth is cooling or warming, the scientists use temperature data from weather stations on land, satellite measurements of sea surface temperature since 1982, and data from ships for earlier years.

Previously, the warmest year of the century was 1998, when a strong El Nino, a warm water event in the eastern Pacific Ocean, added warmth to global temperatures. However, what's significant, regardless of whether 2005 is first or second warmest, is that global warmth has returned to about the level of 1998 without the help of an El Nino.

The result indicates that a strong underlying warming trend is continuing. Global warming since the middle 1970s is now about 0.6 degrees Celsius (C) or about 1 degree Fahrenheit (F). Total warming in the past century is about 0.8° C or about 1.4° F.

"The five warmest years over the last century occurred in the last eight years," said James Hansen, director of NASA GISS. They stack up as follows: the warmest was 2005, then 1998, 2002, 2003 and 2004.

Over the past 30 years, the Earth has warmed by 0.6° C or 1.08° F. Over the past 100 years, it has warmed by 0.8° C or 1.44° F.

Current warmth seems to be occurring nearly everywhere at the same time and is largest at high latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. Over the last 50 years, the largest annual and seasonal warmings have occurred in Alaska, Siberia and the Antarctic Peninsula. Most ocean areas have warmed. Because these areas are remote and far away from major cities, it is clear to climatologists that the warming is not due to the influence of pollution from urban areas.


Global warming 'to cloak Wales in ice'

Molly Watson - Western Mail - 27 January 2006

MASSIVE ice sheets will develop on high land across Wales, according to a scientist who predicts our climate will get colder, not warmer.

Despite predictions global warming will lead to a more Mediterranean-style climate, the Welsh glaciologist said environmental changes could see Wales plunged into freezing temperatures.

Previously, scientists have said climate change would lead to higher average temperatures in high latitude areas such as Britain, with rises of up to 8° C. Glaciologist Dr Bryn Hubbard believes past experience proves this will not happen.

Instead of getting warmer, temperatures will actually fall as Wales' main source of warm air, the Gulf stream, is cut off.

Dr Hubbard, a senior lecturer at the centre for glaciology at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, said the cooling will be caused by the melting of the Greenland ice cap which will flood the Atlantic with cold water, and cut off the Gulf stream.

The result for Britain and other northern latitude countries will be a dramatic cool down, ultimately leading to the possibility of glaciers forming in the Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia and even on comparatively low mountains.

Dr Hubbard said, "There was an event at the end of the last ice age when things got warmer and warmer which resulted in a lot of ice melting in North America. This ice melt was then discharged into the North Atlantic ocean which caused the Gulf stream to be cut off and prevented warm air from reaching the coast of Britain.

"We are very warm in Wales, considering our latitude, but it's down to the Gulf stream."

"There have been a lot of papers in the last couple of years detailing dramatic melting at the southern point of the Greenland ice sheet. That melt is discharging large volumes of water into the Atlantic so it's likely that, as before, this will result in fairly major cooling."

"It's difficult to pinpoint when this will happen but it could be within years or decades."

Assembly campaigner for Friends of the Earth Cymru Gordon James said he agreed with Dr Hubbard's predictions. He claims the main cause of climate change is burning fossil fuels He said, "There is a real possibility this could happen. The evidence we now have shows the impact of climate change is happening quicker than we realised. It's extremely worrying. "The message should be taken on by politicians; they need to make urgent decisions to review the situation. We need to use energy more efficiently and switch from burning fossil fuels to cleaner energy."

Dr Hubbard said the process could be reversed by monitoring carbon emissions. He said, "It's never too late to change, and you can't be drawn into a state of apathy. The answer probably lies in money, in a global system of carbon trading in conjunction with a direct tax on carbon dioxide emissions.

"There may need to be consumer-led embargoes on goods from countries which are the worst polluters, and there should be curbs on air travel, which makes such a huge contribution to total emissions of CO. Aircraft should not be flown with empty seats and there must be cleaner aircraft engines. Sports cars should be heavily taxed and consumers should rebel against things like excess packaging on goods."

29 January 2006


Call to extend emissions trading

Fiona Harvey - Financial Times - 26 January 2006

More companies should be brought within the European Union's emissions trading scheme from 2008, the bloc's environment advisory body will urge in a report to be issued today. "Emissions trading works better if the number and diversity of sources under the [scheme] is larger, and if technological requirements for individual sources [of emissions] are less stringent," the European Environment Agency (EEA) says.

The report, "Using the Market for Cost-Effective Environmental Policy", advocates tougher environmental taxes and regulation, saying only policies with "bite" succeed in achieving their environmental goals.

Jacqueline McGlade, executive director of the EEA, said: "Tougher regulation works better. We have the capacity in Europe to match our aspirations [to environmental goals] with actions."

Business groups have argued against tougher regulation on the grounds that it damaged competitiveness. But the EEA dismissed such claims: "There is no evidence that existing economic instruments [such as emissions trading, environmental taxes and liability schemes] have a major adverse effect on competitiveness at the macro and sector level."

Some individual companies had suffered adverse effects, the report noted, but this was because "some companies will be more able or willing than others to respond to the signals from taxes, charges and subsidies, or the opportunities of an emissions trading scheme".

Extending the EU's greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme, which started on January 1 2005, would be controversial. More than 11,500 companies in Europe are covered in the first stage, which runs to 2008.

Under the scheme, companies are issued with allowances to emit a certain amount of carbon dioxide, and may trade these allowances with one another on an open market. Allowances were trading at more than €25 per tonne yesterday, according to Point Carbon, an analyst company.


Simon Webb - Reuters - 27 January 2006

DAVOS (Reuters) - Europe's biggest challenge if it wants to reduce future dependency on external energy supplies is to cut oil consumption for transport, EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs told Reuters on Friday.

Piebalgs is working on proposals for a common EU energy policy and said he hopes that measures to encourage manufacturers to boost vehicle efficiency will be included.

"I think this is the biggest challenge we have," Piebalgs said. "Transport consumes a lot of oil. Even if we can't establish a legal framework for it, energy efficiency should really be a Europe-wide policy."

The international tension over Iran's nuclear ambitions, unrest in Nigeria and a row between Russia and the Ukraine over gas supplies this year have increased concern among Europe's leaders about future dependency on potentially unreliable energy suppliers. EU leaders will discuss the energy policy in March.

Piebalgs said in the long term Russia would be a reliable supplier to Europe, and that the Russia-Ukraine gas row and the Kremlin-driven demise of producer YUKOS would not dissuade European countries from investing there in the future.

"Russia is interested in being a strong player in this market, and to be a strong player you need to be reliable," he said. "Russia has always been reliable in the past and has always delivered gas on contract terms."

Piebalgs said the EU would need to encourage car manufacturers to develop and adopt new technologies to increase energy efficiency. Biofuels would help a little, but oil would continue to dominate the transport sector, he said.

The common energy policy would also need to tackle how to improve relations with external energy suppliers, diversifying supply and reforming EU internal energy markets, he said.


Policy would need to look at using investment banks, the European Development and Reconstruction Bank and financial instruments to increase European investment in the energy industries of suppliers such as Norway, Russia and North African countries.

Within Europe, investment was needed on gas interconnectors in Belgium to improve supply availability to the UK and France, he said. Another interconnector was necessary between Poland and Lithuania, he said.

New terminals to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) would help diversify supply, Piebalgs said, adding that Germany would probably need more LNG terminals. Polish Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz said on Thursday that Poland was looking at building a new LNG terminal.

Piebalgs pointed to the Nabucco pipeline project that aims to pump gas from Turkey to Austria as important for gas supply diversification. The 4.5 billion euros project plans to pump 25 billion cubic metres (bcm) per year (2.4 billion cubic feet per day).

Nabucco could bring gas supplies from Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Egypt and Syria as well as Turkey. The policy should also look at harmonising energy regulations in EU countries, he said.

Momentum is growing within Europe for the common energy policy, although members will be wary of attempts to boost the EU's executive powers.

The EU's dependence on foreign energy sources is increasing as its own supplies run out. The European Commission forecasts import dependence could grow to 70 percent of general energy consumption by 2030 and 90 percent for certain fuels like oil.

OUR COMMENT: What about aviation? Aircraft are the biggest gas guzzlers and produce the most greenhouse gases per passenger Km.

Pat Dale

29 January 2006


Press Notice - Uttlesford District Council - 25 January 2006

Journalists and photographers are welcome to attend the formal signing of the Essex Declaration at the Notley Discovery Centre, Braintree on Friday 27 January at 9am.

This landmark agreement between Uttlesford district council and Braintree District Council will see the two councils working together to address the causes and effects of climate change in our neighbouring districts.

The Essex Declaration will be signed by the leaders and chief executives of each council. Also in attendance will be members and senior officers from both authorities and a representative from the Energy Saving Trust who administer the original protocol known as the Nottingham Declaration.

29 January 2006


Parties join forces to tackle climate change

De Havilland News - 27 January 2006

Five political parties from across Britain have today signed up to a joint agreement on tackling climate change.

The Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Scottish National party (SNP), Plaid Cymru and the Democratic Unionist party (DUP) agree human activities are causing global warming, and assert that "normal politics are not delivering the action needed".

And they are calling for the creation of a new independent body that would set annual targets on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, monitor the government's progress against these targets and publish a report to parliament once a year.

However, the government has refused to sign up to the agreement, and Tony Blair has previously dismissed the idea of annual targets as "a trifle dodgy".

"To get effective action we need to suspend normal politics, find agreement wherever possible, and commit to robust long-term policies which can survive electoral cycles," said shadow environment secretary Peter Ainsworth. "I am delighted that we have been able to achieve so much cross-party consensus so far; but it is undeniably a weakness that the government has so far refused to sign up."

His Liberal Democrat counterpart, Norman Baker, explained today's agreement was to "strive to find common ground" on climate change, although he insisted differences of opinion still remained on issues such as nuclear power.

Mike Weir, the SNP's Westminster energy spokesperson, added: "Climate change is recognised as a major concern facing the entire world. "This declaration seeks to help tackle those concerns about emissions and to encourage practical moves in respect of both renewable energy and the alleviation of fuel poverty."

This idea of annual targets, enforced by an independent body, has long been pressed for by environmentalists, and Friends of the Earth director Tony Juniper described today's agreement as "an extremely important political initiative".

"By introducing a legal framework to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions every year the UK can play a major role in showing the rest of the world the way towards developing a low carbon economy," he said.

However, the government is committed to using long-term targets – it intends to cut greenhouse gases by 60 per cent by 2050 – and measures such as the climate change levy to deal with global warming, believing annual targets to be too restrictive.

During prime minister's questions last week, Tony Blair said Conservative leader David Cameron's support for annual targets was "a trifle dodgy", and "not sensible".

"I must say to him that he should think through carefully the consequences of that policy, because in some years, for all sorts of reasons, such as the weather, carbon emissions might go up, and he would then have to increase fuel taxes significantly," he said.

"He should therefore think through his opposition to us on the climate change levy, which is working, and his support for a policy that I would say is a trifle dodgy, although I understand the motives behind it."

29 January 2006


Back to the Future with a Horse and Cart

David Millward, Transport Correspondent - Daily Terlegraph - 27 January 2006

Britons could face a future in which most people travel by bicycle or horse and air travel becomes a distant memory, a Government think tank said yesterday.

The apocalyptic scenario, following an energy crisis, was one of four outlined by Foresight. The team was asked to predict how Britain and its transport infrastructure could look in 50 years' time. Underpinning all its predictions is the belief that huge changes will be needed to cope with the problems of congestion and climate change.

The scientists' vision of the renaissance of the horse and cart was based on a future in which the British banking system collapses in 2026 and the last commercial flight takes place in 2052.

As an alternative, the Foresight team saw a future of sophisticated urban colonies, with the bulk of the population living in cities - but ones which will be pleasant with plentiful rooftop parks and abundant food supplied from the adjacent rural hinterland.

Under this scenario pay as you drive road pricing would become a reality in 2015, legislation would require that all goods are repairable and Britain would meet the Kyoto greenhouse gas emissions targets by 2022.

Cities of the future would resemble the packed Asian model, rather than the American urban sprawl. Farmers' markets would be commonplace and the use of the car would decline markedly.

29 January 2006


No worries about climate change!
(but there is a snag)

Cheaper fares but pay for bags on Ryanair

Alistair Osborne, Business Editor - Daily Telegraph - 26 January 2006

Ryanair is to cut fares by nine per cent and give passengers a big incentive to ditch their heavy suitcases and carry only hand luggage on flights.

In a series of initiatives, affecting all bookings from March 16, the no-frills airline will charge passengers for checking in luggage, while those travelling light will enjoy cheaper fares and fewer airport queues.

Passengers with European Union passports and no more than 22lb (10kg) of hand luggage will be able to check in online and print off their boarding cards. They will bypass the queues at the check-in desk and go straight to the departure gate, where they will be entitled to priority boarding.

Passengers checking in luggage will pay £2.50 per bag if booked in advance on the website, and £5 per bag if it is presented unbooked at the airport.

Michael O'Leary, the Ryanair chief executive, said that, in principle, passengers carrying only hand luggage could arrive at the boarding gate only "15 minutes to 20 minutes before departure".

But they must allow enough time to get through security. Passengers who arrived at security with more than 22lb of hand luggage and were turned back would pay a £20 fine to check it into the hold.

"If you are a hand-luggage passenger, you will no longer be cross-subsidising passengers with bags. We are not just streamlining check-in, we are eliminating it." But job cuts would be "tiny" because existing employees "will be required to handle our rapid growth".

Mike Powell, an aviation analyst, said: "They are going to have to impose strict rules about baggage size. There will be teething problems."

27 January 2006


Walden Local - 25 January 2006

SSE Campaigners have called for the dismissal of RPS, the environmental consultants appointed by BAA to carry out a vital study on its expansion plans at Stansted. The pressure group claims that evidence has come to light showing that RPS has promised to give BAA the results that it wants for its Sustainability Appraisal.

A condition for approval is that BAA must demonstrate that expanding Stansted beyond the current limit of 25 mppa would be environmentally sustainable as well as meeting social and economic criteria.

Said SSE deputy chairman Norman Mead: "RPS has in effect promised to provide BAA with a Sustainability Appraisal endorsing the airport plans before starting the job. It has promised to do 'all in its power' to ensure that the airport operator can can meet its objective of building a second Stansted runway, describing its role as being focused on 'when and how to deliver the planning consent rather than if'. This astonishing pre-judgement is contained in a statement by the divisional Chairman of RPS 18 months ago."

"The matter has just come to a head as a result of RPS inviting local 'stakeholders' to participate in a workshop which is supposedly aimed at helping to decide the criteria to be used in the Sustainability Appraisal."

"What is the point of the consultants asking stakeholders for their views on how to carry out the Appraisal when they have already guaranteed BAA that they will deliver a favourable report? This makes a mockery of the statutory requirement for a Sustainability Appraisal. It is nothing more than a cynical charade and the latest example of consultants promising to dance to BAA's tune."

Said a spokesman for BAA: "RPS is one of the UK's most well-respected and professional environmental and planning consultants. We are confident that they meet the high standards of integrity and professionalism that are required of them and we have no intention of engaging an alternative consultant. It will be for the Planning Authority Uttlesford District Council to consider whether the Appraisal is a thorough, comprehensive and representative assessment. We are confident this will be the case."

Said Uttlesford Council Leader Mark Gaylor: "At our Council meeting on December 13th we set out 18 issues that we would expect BAA to deal with in their planning application.. This is just a starting point. We will go on to develop these principles into detailed criteria that will have to be addressed. We will not take evidence submitted by BAA at face value.but will be ensuring that it is examined critically. The Council is employing its own experts to ensure that we have our own independent assessment of the impact of airport growth. The Council will ensure that all issues are dealt with robustly - the application for expanded use of the existing runway will not be a walkover."

27 January 2006


Readers' Letters - Walden Local - 25 January 2006

Alan Dean is right about the BAA bias on the Liverpool Street line where a few tourists take precedence over serious commuters.

Our railways have been neglected for decades and starved of investment. BR's proud standards were sacrificed for profit and contributed indirectly to tragedies like Potters Bar. As a result ancient machinery has failed and the service often grinds to a halt. Pity BAA and G2 don't grind to a halt as they ignore the "wrong passengers".

Airports in ther UK also suffer from lack of vision, co-ordination and planning and its this short term opportunism on the part of Whitehall and stupid and unimaginative politicians which can cause catastrophe in peoples' lives.

One of these days Lord Sedgefield will be sunning himself on his free yacht while we are left to struggle with the awful consequences of noise, pollution, congestion and concrete.

J. Howarth


Now railways blame 'the wrong kind of passenger'

Walden Local - 18 January 2006

The anguish of rail commuters between Cambridge and Liverpool Street is as bad as anything in the last 30 years. This winter it is not the wrong type of snow, it is the wrong type of passenger.

One Railway, the Government and BAA Stansted are only interested in one type of passenger. These are occasional air passengers who are encouraged to hog our train track and coaches to enjoy BAA's cheap fares.

So, under 21st century economics, those who pay 20 pounds to go on foreign trips get government preference while those who pay two to three thousand pounds to get to work are treated like outcasts - even before BAA tries to expand its airport even more.

Uttlesford has said it will hold BAA to account - the battle for local services has begun!

27 January 2006


According to Government figures released this week air in the UK is gradually getting cleaner but the countryside is suffering more days of heavy pollution than the cities

Sam Bond - News Environment - 23 January 2006

Defra has published its 2005 Air Quality Sustainable Development Indicator which is based on readings taken throughout the year from monitoring equipment at sites all over the UK. They show little change in urban areas, with an average of 22 days of moderate or higher air pollution compared with 23 in 2004.

But rural areas saw a modest yet significant improvement, with an average of 41 days compared with 44 in the previous year. When given a cursory glance the figures would seem to make a suggestion that flies in the face of our concept of smog-choked cities contrasted with fresh, country air.

But a Defra spokesman said that the number of polluted days did not tell the full story. "Rural pollution is mainly caused by ozone while in the cities there are particles and sulphur dioxide that also contribute to the bad days," he said.

"While the peak levels of ozone are decreasing there is a long-term increase in average background levels. The combination of these two factors shows up on the indicator as no overall trend."

He said the weather also had a huge impact on ozone levels so a particularly warm summer or cold winter could skew the figures. Much of the ozone reaching the UK is blown in from Europe, making its control and reduction a regional matter.

"That is why we continue to be committed to Europe-wide action to tackle ozone," he said. As to why the invisible clouds of ozone were affecting our farms and fields but not built up areas, he said this was due to the complex chemical process that governed the formation and destruction of ozone in the atmosphere. "Nitrogen oxides emitted from fossil fuel combustion both create and destroy ozone," he said.

"Locally high emissions of nitrogen oxides, such as from traffic in urban areas, tend to favour ozone destruction, resulting on formation of nitrogen dioxide. This results in ozone levels generally being lower in urban areas and nitrogen dioxide levels being higher."

"Ozone levels tend to be higher in rural areas where there are less local emissions of nitrogen dioxides to destroy any ozone that has formed in the atmosphere."

The air quality data is one of 68 indicators used by the Government to see how Britain is performing against its Sustainable Development Strategy. It presents trends for annual levels of particulate and ozone pollution, the two pollutants thought to have the greatest health impacts, as well as the number of days on which levels of any one of five pollutants were moderate or higher.

Local Environment Minister Ben Bradshaw welcomed the figures, but stressed that more work is needed. He said: "Air pollution affects people's health and their quality of life. In general we continue to make progress but more needs to be done to tackle pollutant concentrations, particularly nitrogen dioxide, particles and ozone."

"International, national and local action to tackle air pollution is working, and we are reviewing our Air Quality Strategy to find potential extra measures to generate health benefits and move us closer to meeting our objectives."

"Local authorities have an important role to play in helping the government cut pollution and make our air cleaner, and many of them are implementing measures or developing action plans."

"However, a number of authorities in England have fallen behind the rest. Local people have a right to expect their councils to do whatever they can to ensure cleaner air."

OUR COMMENT: Ozone cannot always be blamed in rural areas. Defra should have included aircraft as a major source of NO2 in areas where there is an airport. Our airport is in the countryside, and very near the very special Hatfield Forest, where there are fears that damage is already affecting trees that have survived for hundreds of years.

Pat Dale

27 January 2006


BAA blasts campaign

Daniel Barden - Bishop's Stortford Citizen - 19 January 2006

THE British Airports Authority has launched a stinging attack on campaigners intent on sabotaging plans for a second runway at Stansted Airport, saying they are creating confusion. Since last December BAA has sent out almost 200,000 consultation documents to local residents on the four short-listed locations for a second runway and the seven different ways of operating them.

The process alarmed members of Stop Stansted Expansion, who held a question and answer meeting at the Rhodes Centre, Bishop's Stortford, last week. At the meeting Stop Stansted Expansion officials claimed the consultation process was "superficial, inadequate and unacceptable".

But BAA Stansted communications director Mark Pendlington said Stop Stansted Expansion only create confusion. He added: "Stop Stansted Expansion continue to miss the point about our consultation on the second runway development, and in doing so risk misleading the wider public about how they can have their say on all of the issues involved."

"Our simple and uncomplicated message is this: we want to work with the local community to decide the location of the second runway and as we finding out on a day to day basis, the rhetoric is being ignored and the public is interested and engaged."

"Every aspect of our proposals will have to stand up to rigorous scrutiny throughout the planning process. It will be a fair and open process, and thanks to thousands of local people, it has got off to a tremendous start."

If given the go ahead, the plans could see passenger numbers travelling through the airport each year soar from 22million to 76m - but Stop Stansted Expansion are concerned about the affects it might have on the local area, including the increase in noise, pollution and strain on infrastructure.

The meeting heard the development plans labelled as the runway "that nobody wants".

However Mr Pendlington said: "If Stop Stansted Expansion has it's head in the sand, the wider public does not. Some oppose the second runway outright, many others have comments and ideas to pass on - but everyone we speak to realises that to revisit the debates of the past is futile."

OUR COMMENT: "Debates of the past"? What nonsense, this is THE debate of the future, a debate about peoples' future lives. The differences between the sites "on offer" are marginal as far as residents are concerned - all bring more pollution and more noise, traffic and concrete, and too many people lose their homes to the bulldozers. There is nothing misleading about stating those facts!

Pat Dale

24 January 2006


The Guardian - 24 January 2006

Britain has come 5th - up from 65th last year - in an environmental league table produced by a team of international scientists and researchers from Yale and Columbia universities that will be presented to the World Economic Forum this week.

The list of 133 countries is decided by how well they tackled 16 global and domestic problems and met their own and international targets.

The UK came very high on environmental health, but did not score well on greenhouse gas emissions or air quality.

New Zealand came top, followed by Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic, with the United States in 28th place.

24 January 2006


Mark Milner - The Guardian - 24 January 2006

The government yesterday launched a debate over energy policy which critics feel could herald the construction of a new generation of nuclear power stations.

Launching the public consultation on Britain's future energy policy, the trade and industry Secretary Alan Johnson, warned that the combination of climate change, declining oil and gas consumption from the North Sea, and the expected reduction in electricity output from existing nuclear and coal-fired power stations meant "doing nothing was not an option".

The government was starting with "an open mind" about the outcome, but the review aimed to produce clear recommendations that would secure Britain's energy supply for a generation. The review team, lead by energy minister Malcolm Wicks, is expected to report in early summer and new proposals on energy policy will be put forward next year.

The review would look at what more could be done to meet UK's targets on carbon emissions, dependence on imports of gas, the implications of building new nuclear power plants and ensuring every home was adequately and affordably heated, said Mr Johnson. The consultation was a "wake up call".

The Lib-Dem environment spokesman, Norman Baker, criticised the review, calling it "a retrospective way of justifying the Prime Minister's wish to build a new generation of nuclear power stations".

Mr Johnson said that the recent dispute between Russia and the Ukraine had highlighted concerns about security of supply at a time when Britain was increasingly reliant on energy imports. By 2020 coal and nuclear power stations, which provide about 30% of Britain's electricity would have closed and the energy industry would need a clear investment framework.

Mr Wicks said individual households had a role, as 30% of energy was used in homes. "The plasma TV generation is increasingly packing its homes with consumer electronics often left needlessly on standby. This squanders more than 740 million pounds worth of energy use".

OUR COMMENT: "Doing Nothing is not an option" – Familiar phrase? Yes, Alistair Darling when announcing the Aviation White Paper and trying to justify his massive programme of airport expansion. Here we are 3 years later, yet another energy review, awaiting both a review of climate change policies long overdue (but by a different department) and a long awaited report on how the present accumulation of radioactive waste can be safely disposed of. Successive governments have known that oil and gas from the North Sea was limited and predictions of oil reserves elsewhere in the world have repeatedly reminded that supplies are limited. Yet the DfT continues to support increasing air travel and fails to effectively support road traffic reduction measures.

Whatever the pros and cons of nuclear energy (and no figures are readily available for greenhouse gas emissions from mining and producing nuclear fuel) it is massively expensive and dependent on very extensive health protection and security measures. Simple measures like sacrificing a few air holidays and car miles are ignored or dismissed as antisocial or uneconomic. Even when promoting home energy conservation, the responsibility is put on the home owner, not on the house builder. The proposed sustainable Buildings Code of Practice, long overdue, is to be voluntary!

Pat Dale

24 January 2006


Coal may shore-up UK power shortfall

Ceri Radford - The Telegraph Online - 23 January 2006

E.ON has earmarked £540m to build Britain's first power station fired by "clean coal" technology as growing concerns over the country's energy supplies from abroad spur efforts to boost domestic power generation.

A spokesman for E.ON, the German parent company of energy supplier Powergen, said it was pressing ahead with a feasibility study for the plant, which would potentially be built on the east coast of England. "It's hard to give a timeframe but we are carrying out the study at the moment. The power station would be the first of its kind," a spokesman said.

Coal already accounts for around a third of UK energy production. Coal may have a tarnished image but E.ON hopes its new plant will harness a technique known as "carbon capture" that extracts harmful carbon dioxide from burning coal and pipes it back into the ground.

The European energy giant launched a study into the technology last November, and hopes to gain government funding to put it into practice at the new plant. "A new generation of clean coal-fired power stations could offer security of supply, a new market for UK-mined coal and also a huge reduction in our CO2 emissions," said Dr Paul Golby, chief executive of E.ON UK.

Ahead of today's widely anticipated report on the Government's energy review, the Department of Trade and Industry confirmed coal would be very much on the agenda. "This is what we're going to be looking at - clean coal is going to be part of the consultation," a spokesman said.

E.ON uses a mixture of UK-mined and imported coal at its three existing coal-fired plants in Britain, with the new station likely to do the same. Though Britain sits atop vast seams of coal amounting to an estimated 200billion tons, only a tiny portion of this can be economically excavated.

The eight deep mines currently in operation produce about 20m tons a year, but analysts say that this will run out within about a decade if the current sites are not expanded or new ones opened up.

"I think the Government has got itself into such a state with its energy policy that raising coal production is about its only 'get out of jail free' card, or there won't be enough domestic energy supply left," said Charles Kernot, an analyst at Seymour Pierce.

24 January 2006


Environment Daily 2022 - 23 January 2006

The UK government on Monday launched a three-month consultation into future energy policy. Announced by Tony Blair in November, the initiative is widely expected to lead to a decision to build new nuclear power stations.

Speaking at the launch, industry minister Alan Johnson said the consultation will provide input on whether to "open or close the door" to new reactors. Although he said there is no "simple single option", Mr Johnson stressed that gas and renewables alone cannot replace all nuclear and coal capacity due to be decommissioned by 2020.

Another option is to develop clean coal technology, which Mr Johnson said "is going to be a much greater aspect of this review than it has been in previous ones". The consultation's prime focus is on supply security. By 2020 gas imports could represent up to 80% of UK supplies. However it also starts a debate on energy demand, climate change commitments and carbon capture and storage.

24 January 2006


Directions: Ryanair's flights of fancy

Chris Haslam - Times Online - 22 January 2006

Ryanair has admitted that it is being forced to cancel flights due to insufficient passenger numbers and overworked pilots.

The no-frills airline, which has been rapidly expanding its routes to relatively unknown provincial cities such as Szczecin, Rzeszow and Brno, told The Sunday Times that "a small number of flights" won't be flying in January, February and March due to "low demand for travel in the immediate post-Christmas period" and "pilot flight-hour restrictions".

Ryanair, which has already announced the scrapping of more than 1,000 flights in the next few months due to the late delivery of four new aircraft, has warned bargain-hunting travellers that cancellations are most likely "during less busy midweek days such as Tuesday and Wednesday".

Last Wednesday, a London investment bank issued an alert to investors regarding the number of Ryanair flight cancellations; the airline responded that all its Wednesday early-morning London flights had departed "as normal and on time".

This was disputed by staff at Luton airport, who posted reports on aviation-industry internet chat rooms that Ryanair aircraft were stuck on the Luton tarmac. Screens at Stansted also showed more than 50 flights cancelled throughout the day, and planes were reported sitting idle at Liverpool, Bergamo, Rome and Brussels airports.

"A critical staff shortage and too few passengers are the real reasons," said a Ryanair insider. "Cancellation is the only sensible option."

Ryanair has said that anyone whose flight has been cancelled has had several weeks' notice and been offered alternative flights.

20 January 2006


Ryanair chief rounds on UK aviation watchdog

Breaking News Online - 18 January 2006

The UK's main aviation regulation body is "incompetent" and introduces measures that tax passengers, Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary told MPs today.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had been an abject failure as a regulator, Mr O'Leary told the UK's House of Commons Transport Committee. "Why, after years of regulation by the CAA, are British passengers paying the highest airport charges in Europe?" asked Mr O'Leary.

He was also critical of airport operator, BAA and of National Air Traffic Services (Nats) which runs the UK's air traffic control operation. Mr O'Leary said the CAA's "bail out" of Nats when it ran into financial difficulty after privatisation was "a tax on passengers".

It was also a "tax on passengers" when the CAA suggested that a £1 levy be put on air tickets to further protect passengers should airlines fail. This proposal has been turned down by the British government.

Mr O'Leary said: "BAA airports charge the highest charges in Europe and these are passed on to customers."

The Transport Committee's chairman, Gwyneth Dunwoody, replied: "Is this not capitalism?" Mr O'Leary said: "No, capitalism is underpinned by competition. The incompetence of the CAA has resulted in higher charges by airlines. We now have one of the most competitive and efficient airline operations in Britain but the least competitive and least efficient system in terms of CAA - regulated airport and Nats."

Mr O'Leary described BAA's spending plans at Stansted airport in Essex as "ludicrous" and that BAA regarded low-cost carriers such as Ryanair and EasyJet as "the crazy boys".

Mr O'Leary said that he had learned that Stansted's traffic forecasts for the next 30 years had been produced by a BAA middle manager who had not consulted airlines.

Mr O'Leary went on: "Airports talk about their care for customers while they try to ram up the charges." Mr O'Leary was giving evidence as part of the Transport Committee's investigation into the work of the CAA.

20 January 2006


Press Release by Eurocontrol - 18 January 2006

London, UK – With the number of flights predicted to grow by around 3% in Europe in 2006 and to reach 16 million a year by 2020, much more effort is needed, in particular in the area of airport capacity, to prevent an increase in delays and to maintain Europe's excellent safety record, EUROCONTROL, the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation said here today.

Between 1999 and 2005, air traffic capacity in Europe, or the number of flights that air traffic controllers can handle, grew by 44%, while the number of flights grew by 14%. By 2020, Europe is expected to see a doubling in air traffic – up to 16 million flights a year, carrying over 1.5 billion passengers.

In 2005, delays caused by air traffic control in Europe were maintained at low levels, with an average of 1.9 minutes per flight. However, the air traffic control system will need to change substantially if it is to cope safely and efficiently with the predicted levels of traffic growth.

One of the major challenges for ensuring that delays remain low in the future lies with ensuring that airports will have the capacity they require to deal with the increased number of flights. Airports are constrained in their ability to produce this capacity by physical site and infrastructure limitations, environmental issues and physical constraints related to surrounding airspace and geography.

Even if the capacity of the airport network increases by 60%, by 2025, a potential 3.7 million flights per annum will not be accommodated. As a result, more than 60 airports will be congested and the top 20 European airports will be saturated at least eight to ten hours a day. This is explained by the fact that 75% of European airports see no possibility for building new runways in the next 20 years.

"In order to handle safely and efficiently the levels of traffic we will face in 2020, we need to begin working now to build a pan-European network of air navigation services, airports, airlines and airspace users whose evolution is planned and designed to meet traffic loads," said Víctor M. Aguado, Director General of EUROCONTROL. "This network must be customer-focused, with a strong pan-European approach and the necessary regulations."

A pan-European perspective will be particularly important given that different parts of Europe will face differing levels of traffic growth. The EUROCONTROL short-term forecast finds that Slovakia will grow at around 17% in 2006 and Poland at around 11% while the UK will grow at 3.1%, Germany at 3% and France at 2.4%.

With this growth comes an increase in the number of passengers – expected to reach average of 2.5 million per day in summer 2006 - equivalent to the population of Manchester or Warsaw. In 2005, the UK had the largest number of low-cost carrier flights in Europe, with over 46,000. This is more than 28% of the European total.

OUR COMMENT: Haven't they heard of Climate Change? There is actually a limit in the number of people who choose to fly. It is clear that UK citizens are in the majority for the simple reason that they can get the cheapest fares. We therefore are the biggest contributors to aviation greenhouse gases produced in Europe. Yet we are supposed to be leading the world on reducing greenhouse gases! It does not add up.

Pat Dale


Aviation industry unites in drive for expansion

Environment Daily 2019 - 18 January 2006

European airport capacity must grow in order to face the predicted doubling of air traffic by 2020, the aviation industry said on Wednesday. Airports trade association ACI Europe and navigation service Eurocontrol were presenting a joint vision for the sector at a press conference in London.

The two organisations called for an industry-wide partnership to "meet the environmental and financing challenges" posed by the sector's expansion. Air transport is currently growing in Europe at about 3% per year.

Aviation is increasingly in the environmental policy spotlight as a result of its rapid growth. Last autumn the European commission proposed bringing the sector into the EU's emission trading scheme to reduce its climate change impacts.

European airports support this move, and on Wednesday, ACI Europe director Roy Griffins called for the industry to be given a "tight cap" on emissions when it joins the trading system. Reducing air emissions is a "difficult but imperative" challenge if the sector wants to get permission from the regulator to grow, he said.

Eurocontrol stressed that developing more efficient air traffic control systems could also help reduce emissions.

OUR COMMENT: The position of the cap is the vital question. Would it, should it, allow any expansion? If not, then why expand airports? If it does, then what is the view of the rest of industry, many of whom are struggling to reduce their emissions?

Pat Dale

17 January 2006


Global warming to speed up as carbon levels show sharp rise

Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor - The Independent on Sunday - 15 January 2006

Global warming is set to accelerate alarmingly because of a sharp jump in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Preliminary figures, exclusively obtained by The Independent on Sunday, show that levels of the gas - the main cause of climate change - have risen abruptly in the past four years. Scientists fear that warming is entering a new phase, and may accelerate further.

But a summit of the most polluting countries, convened by the Bush administration, last week refused to set targets for reducing their carbon dioxide emissions. Set up in competition to the Kyoto Protocol, the summit, held in Sydney and attended by Australia, China, India, Japan and South Korea as well as the United States, instead pledged to develop cleaner technologies - which some experts believe will not arrive in time.

The climb in carbon dioxide content showed up in readings from the US government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, taken at the summit of Mauna Loa, Hawaii. The measurements have been taken regularly since 1958 in the 11,400ft peak's pristine conditions, 2,000 miles from the nearest landmass and protected by unusual climatic conditions from the pollution of Hawaii, two miles below.

Through most of the past half-century, levels of the gas rose by an average of 1.3 parts per million a year; in the late 1990s, this figure rose to 1.6 ppm, and again to 2ppm in 2002 and 2003. But unpublished figures for the first 10 months of this year show a rise of 2.2ppm.

Scientists believe this may be the first evidence that climate change is starting to produce itself, as rising temperatures so alter natural systems that the Earth itself releases more gas, driving the thermometer ever higher.

17 January 2006


Environmentalists must use their anger at the government's betrayal
on global warming to mobilise the mainstream

Madeleine Bunting - The Guardian - 16 January 2006

A debate is being conducted across at least four government departments that will have momentous consequences. What is being thrashed out is the level of the proposed cap on the UK's carbon emissions as part of the European Union's carbon emissions trading scheme - the central plank of the EU's commitment to Kyoto. It's the crunch moment for this government's commitment to doing anything effective on climate change. Forget all the nice speeches. This technical decision is the key signal of whether it's "business as usual" or if Tony Blair is finally ready to start handing out the kind of medicine needed if Kyoto is to mean anything.

On this proposed cap on emissions hinges another important Whitehall pronouncement that has been awaited for nearly a year - now due in March. The climate change programme review is supposed to spell out how 20% emission cuts will be achieved by 2010. This has been the subject of no less than three manifesto commitments and was once regarded as the keystone of Labour's environmental credentials. Given that emissions have been rising since 1997, nothing shows up Labour's shabby green credentials more starkly than the impossibility of it now fulfilling this pledge.

It is on climate change that Labour has chalked up its worst record since it came to power. Tony Blair may have been good on the rhetoric in the run-up to the G8 last year (though his wobbles on Kyoto did huge damage) but the domestic front has been an abysmal failure of broken promises and backtracking. "Betrayal" doesn't quite convey the intensity of the environmental movement's shock at how, despite all the evidence of the urgency of tackling climate change piled up by scientists over 2005, the government has succeeded in doing very little other than reigniting an old (and many can reasonably argue, irrelevant) debate about the nuclear option.

But the anger and frustration is only intensified by the fact that, frankly, outside a few well-informed environmental activists, nobody is much bothered. The environment was virtually invisible in the 2005 election. Even more galling, environmentalists saw the hundreds of thousands of development campaigners pouring on to the streets of Edinburgh and the millions who watched Live8 and asked themselves: why can't we match that?

Looked at objectively it makes no sense. Climate change will dwarf the damage the common agricultural policy subsidies wreak on African farmers; it is already costing at least 150,000 lives a year as warmer temperatures encourage disease, and erratic rainfall will starve millions in coming years. Here is an issue that makes all the aid and debt deals of 2005 look like an afternoon parlour game. Yet such was the momentum of the Make Poverty History campaign that climate change slipped off the public radar and environmental groups felt they couldn't compete.

But with Make Poverty History itself now history, there's a frantic scramble. The environmental movement has got to get its act together fast. There's a sense of almost desperate urgency: it needs mass mobilisation in the next two years if the 2009 post-Kyoto targets are to be as bold as they must be. There are only 10 years left if emissions are to start falling after 2015, as they must if we are to keep below the vital benchmark of a two-degree increase in temperature (or face catastrophic mayhem).

There's general agreement that without mass mobilisation, the politicians drift along, saying the right things and doing precisely the opposite (such as expanding Heathrow and building homes and roads without any regard for how they boost emissions). But how to effect that mass mobilisation, even the question of whether such action on climate change is possible, is splitting necessary allies and fragmenting scarce energies among environmentalists.

Reverberating across the Atlantic is a passionate debate in the US, triggered in 2004 by Adam Werbach, a former head of the environmental group the Sierra Club, who claimed that environmentalism was failing. Jonathan Porritt, in his recent book, Capitalism: As if the World Matters, mounts a coruscating attack on the UK environment movement for its lack of effectiveness: it's "too narrow, too technical, too anti-business, too depressing, often too dowdy and too heard-it-all-before" runs his charge sheet. "There is a risk of the movement failing," he concludes in an interview.

Many accept that the movement is moving into a new, more difficult phase. The first 30 years were the easy bit, argues Tom Burke, a long-time environmentalist. Campaigns on specific issues such as clean air or water or cuddly animals had clear enemies and, crucially, generated more winners than losers. The second phase is much tougher because on climate change the campaign has to be to change our own behaviour: we are the enemies and we will be the losers. "No to low-cost flights to Ibiza" is never going to be a popular rallying cry.

That leads to a division of opinion on strategy. Most of the environmental groups have joined a coalition in imitation of Make Poverty History - Stop Climate Chaos - launched in September, and the hope is that it can begin to get people on to streets in the numbers needed to make Westminster take stock, but it has singularly failed to make much impact as yet.

Some argue that demonstrations are a waste of time; they only work in so far as they give committed politicians some extra muscle, but they don't achieve the political Damascene conversion needed. So there is discussion about how to bring the weight of the huge (and largely passive) supporter bases to bear in other ways. Sell them clean energy? Get them, probably the most sympathetic element of public opinion, to sign up to lifestyle changes? Big giants such as the RSPB, with its million-plus members, or the World Wildlife Fund could then begin to wield some real clout.

Finally, there is the apocalypse contingent. They've lost all patience with the public and political apathy. They're banking on a kind of global electrical convulsion therapy. Only when people begin to clock that fossil fuels are running out, prices are rising sharply and economies are collapsing - Jeremy Leggett's book Half Gone suggests this could be as soon as 2008 - will the realisation dawn that we need to invest billions in renewable energies. In the meantime, runs this argument, the biggest breakthroughs are being made by corporations whose future earnings depend on it, such as BP and its investment in renewables. Leggett argues that the brightest moment of 2005 was when the chief executive of Wal-Mart astonished corporate America by announcing its decision to make a 20% cut in emissions from all its stores worldwide within seven years and to favour suppliers who did likewise.

Are environmentalists failing? They are certainly failing to mobilise anything like the political will and public engagement to deal with the issue of climate change. It's time they got their act together - and so did we. We need brilliant campaigning of the kind that got an obscure financial issue such as third world debt into the mainstream political agenda in the 90s.

17 January 2006


The Independent - 16 January 2006

Thirty years ago, the scientist James Lovelock worked out that the Earth possessed a planetary-scale control system which kept the environment fit for life. He called it Gaia, and the theory has become widely accepted. Now, he believes mankind's abuse of the environment is making that mechanism work against us. His astonishing conclusion - that climate change is already insoluble, and life on Earth will never be the same again.

Extract from commentary by:
Michael McCarthy Environment Editor

The world has already passed the point of no return for climate change, And civilisation as we know it is now unlikely to survive, according to James Lovelock, the scientist and green guru who conceived the idea of Gaia - the Earth which keeps itself fit for life.

In a profoundly pessimistic new assessment, published in today's Independent, Professor Lovelock suggests that efforts to counter global warming cannot succeed, and that, in effect, it is already too late.

The world and human society face disaster to a worse extent, and on a Faster timescale, than almost anybody realises, he believes. He writes: " Before this century is over, billions of us will die, and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable."

In making such a statement, far gloomier than any yet made by a scientist of comparable international standing, Professor Lovelock accepts he is going out on a limb.

But as the man who conceived the first wholly new way of looking at life on Earth since Charles Darwin, he feels his own analysis what is happening leaves him no choice.

He believes that it is the self-regulating mechanism of Gaia itself - increasingly accepted by other scientists worldwide, although they prefer to term it the Earth System - which, perversely, will ensure that the warming cannot be mastered.


Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor - The Independent - 17 January 2006

Leading British greens have taken a divided view of the prediction by the environmental scientist James Lovelock, featured in The Independent yesterday, that the Earth has passed the point of no return for global warming.

Some fully shared his concern for the speed at which global warming appears to be proceeding, and gave credit to his scientific expertise, while finding themselves unable - or unwilling - to agree with the awesome proposition that it may already be too late to stop it.

"If any of us back up behind that idea we might just as well slit our wrists," said Aubrey Meyer, the director of the Global Commons Institute, which campaigns hard for an approach to limiting greenhouse gas emissions known as Contraction and Convergence, based on moving to equal emissions entitlements per person everywhere around the globe.

"But what [Professor] Lovelock is predicting will come true if we carry on as we are. To stabilise the rising concentrations, emissions must contract to nearly zero within... 50 years."

Tony Juniper, the executive director of Friends of the Earth, said Professor Lovelock was right to sound the alarm. "But he's premature in writing humanity's obituary," he said. "There's still a narrow window of opportunity, and the priority must be to campaign for changes to make the most of that, not to assume that all is lost. "Assuming there's nothing to be gained means we're very likely to fail."

Professor Lovelock bases his predictions of disaster on the hypothesis that the Earth has for billions of years had a planetary-scale control system which keeps it fit for life - three decades ago he christened it Gaia.

The Gaia system, founded on the interaction of life-forms with their environment, is made up of feedback mechanisms that have previously acted in a benign way for humans. But because of the way the environment has been damaged by us, Professor Lovelock says, it may start to act in a way harmful to humanity and amplify global warming to such an extent that it is impossible to control.

Britain's most famous environmentalist last night declined to dismiss the too-late warning out of hand.

"If there was one scientist you would listen to on a proposition of that kind, it would be Jim Lovelock," said Jonathon Porritt, now head of the Government's Sustainable Development Commission. " Is he right? I simply don't know. I'm not enough of a scientist to make a judgement. With many people you would be tempted to dismiss the idea, but Jim is different."

Stephen Tindale, Greenpeace's executive director, also thought the man who conceived of Gaia might not be wrong. "The Earth may be doomed," he said. "Certainly the news from the natural world over the last year has been unremittingly bad: the oceans acidifying and less able to absorb carbon; the permafrost melting and giving up its methane... All these things suggest that the positive feedbacks may have kicked in; we may have crossed the threshold. But we can't be certain, and so we can't give up the fight. While there is hope that catastrophe can be averted, we have a moral duty to keep trying.

"I believe that if governments take emergency action, climate change can still be controlled. So let's get on with it - and pray that we aren't too late."

Peter Melchett, the policy director of the Soil Association, shared a key concern of Professor Lovelock. "Right from the beginning there's a been a real worry that we would hit some point where the feedback mechanisms would all work against us," he said.

"But as to climate change being already unstoppable, I don't know, and I don't think Jim Lovelock knows either. There are still uncertainties about it all, and personally and instinctively I remain optimistic about the human race's ability to change direction... It's our political and, shall we say, our psychological ability that's in doubt."

Mark Lynas, the author of High Tide - News from a Warming World, a travelogue showing places where global warming is already in evidence, said civilisational collapse was no longer just a scary possibility. "It's the most likely outcome if coal, oil and gas use continue to rise," he said.

"Either we implement a radical programme to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, or we need to start taking measures to prepare for post-collapse survival in the few areas which will remain habitable by the end of this century. The choice is ours."

"Lovelock telling us it's already too late should not be seen as an excuse for fatalism... But his statements should be a reality check."

17 January 2006


Scotland faces thousands of deaths from heatwaves

Jenifer Johnston - Scottish Sunday Herald - 15 January 2006

CLIMATE change will bring thousands of deaths to Scotland later this century unless urgent changes are made now to prepare for rising temperatures.

Professor Paul Wilkinson of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is to warn at a conference next month that in less than half a century the UK will endure the kind of heatwaves that killed tens of thousands across Europe in 2003.

The Healthy Environment Network conference in Stirling will bring together officials from diverse fields such as sustainable development and health protection to outline the possible outcomes of a hotter, wetter Scotland and the impact of climate change on health.

Wilkinson said: "The effect of climate change we are most likely to worry about is heatwaves, of the kind that killed 35,000 across Europe in 2003. That sort of event will become quite common by 2050 – I think across the UK we can certainly expect that kind of event every year or every two years. We are going to have to learn to cope with events of that kind, and there is the potential for thousands of deaths."

More than 14,000 of the deaths were in France, where mortuaries and funeral homes struggled to cope with the huge numbers of those who had died in the heat, with health services in Germany, Spain, Switzerland and Portugal - where temperatures reached 47.3°C (117°F) - similarly stretched. Thousands suffered from heat exhaustion, dehydration and breathing problems.

Wilkinson said the NHS and indi viduals would have to adapt to high temperatures in summer and called for urgent action. "A hotter environment may also cause adverse health events in terms of air quality and air pollution," he said. "We are playing a dangerous game in terms of potentially damaging sensitive ecosystems. "

Other factors described by Wilkinson were "adverse and extreme weather such as storms and flooding, vector-borne disease such as malaria and changing patterns of infectious disease".

In its analysis of climate change, the Met Office predicts that, after 2050, summers like 2003 are likely to pass as "unusually cool".

Dr William Bird, clinical director of the Met Office health forecasting unit, agreed that heatwaves pose a "serious threat" to health in the UK. He said: "By 2080 we are going to view summers like 2003 as normal weather; annual temperatures will really rocket. "

Bird called for changes to building design to be made to withstand future heatwaves. He said: "A lot of people who died in France in 2003 were in high-rise flats, as the cool air that sits on the ground at night did not rise because of the extremely hot temperatures. Town planners might want to think about that."

He added that public buildings such as schools and hospitals will need air conditioning, and that the trend towards home insulation "is not going to help".

Green Party MSP Mark Ruskell said he welcomed the conference taking place, and warned that "public health concerns are as important as environmental aspects of climate change ". Ruskell is awaiting the Executive's climate change strategy, expec ted next month, before deciding whether to proceed with a bill that would outline climate change targets for Scotland. Wilkinson also predicted that summer deaths would be offset by warmer winters, and that climate change may bring some benefits to health.

"There will be a compensation in that the numbers of people dying in the cold weather of winter, especially in places like Scotland, will decrease as overall temperatures rise. Also, if we need to stop relying on oil and develop clean energy, air quality would improve. If we have to stop relying on cars, more people will walk, so although there are negative factors regarding health and climate change there may be some positives as well."

17 January 2006


Make green message cool, activists told

James Randerson, Science Correspondent - The Guardian - 16 January 2006

The green movement needs to rebrand itself because people are being put off by its "sackcloth and ashes" image, according to a report backed by major environmental groups.

The report argues that to appeal beyond its core audience the movement must become cool. "Selling sacrifice will never, ever work," said Stephen Hounsham of Transport 2000. Most people are either scared off by threats of impending doom or dismiss the solutions as "do-gooding", he said.

"We do adopt a position of sitting on a high pedestal and issuing commands," he said. "If there is one thing that puts people's backs up it someone telling them how to live their lives."

The report tapped the opinions of 60 "green thinkers". It also includes a survey of 600 people about green attitudes and 400 people on their actions over the last six months.

When asked for a green role model 63% of people could not come up with a name. Alan Titchmarsh, David Bellamy, David Attenborough and John Craven were mentioned by the remaining 37%. One person suggested Wayne Rooney. More than 80% said they recycled rubbish, 54% had refused plastic bags in shops and 61% bought organic food. But only 19% said they avoided buying fish from threatened stocks such as cod, 11% avoided air travel and 12% decided to do without a car.

Mr Hounsham acknowledged that car use and flying would be the hardest behaviours to alter, but said the green movement must learn from advertisers. "We've got to become more normal and speak to the people as if we are like them," he said. "We've got to work towards inspiring people so they want to do these things."

"Neither morality nor self interest is enough if it is not cool," said environment minister Lord Whitty. "The challenge for opinion leaders, marketing experts and designers is to make green behaviour, green products and green services fashionable."

OUR COMMENT: Lord Whitty should know better. It is government policy that at the moment is making matters worse. How can he expect the public to change their style of living when his government is actively supporting so many activities that aggravate climate change and failing to encourage emission reductions through tax measures. Does he regard airport expansion as a green policy?

Pat Dale

17 January 2006


Critics of TV traveller's emission-filled globe-trotting say
he should quit green transport pressure group

Anthony Barnes - The Independent on Sunday - 15 January 2006

Globetrotting broadcaster Michael Palin yesterday said he would stand aside as figurehead of an environmental group if there were genuine concerns that his position was incompatible with his career.

Palin, the president of sustainable travel campaigners Transport 2000, is reported to have caused disquiet within the group that he set a "poor example" by flying around the world for his epic BBC programmes, and has become the subject of a whispering campaign among some members.

But Palin told The Independent on Sunday yesterday: "If Transport 2000 have people that want me to step down that's fine with me. I have never attempted to pretend that I don't take long plane journeys and I have written about it in Transport 2000's newsletter. Yes, I obviously am generating a lot of carbon emissions, but with the programmes I make I am bringing the world closer to a lot of people."

"It is more of an honorary title than an actual job and I'm not in day-to-day contact with the group although I do have good and regular contacts with the director, Stephen Joseph. But I have heard nothing from him or anyone else from Transport 2000 about this."

"The story doesn't really seem to be substantiated. I don't have any particular problem with Transport 2000. It's up to them entirely if they want to approach me about this."

In the past 18 years - beginning with his real-life effort to follow the journey taken in Jules Verne's classic Around the World in 80 Days - Palin has made six series using various modes of transport. However, his use of jet aircraft is a common factor in each of the journeys and during his last TV adventure, making the series Himalaya, he is said to have made seven return trips between the UK and Asia.

His trips to far-flung destinations have spurred others on to follow in his footsteps over the years and travel agents talk of the "Palin effect" which occurs when bookings surge after the presenter visits a new location.

But it has been claimed that his high-profile use of long-distance flights goes against the aims of Transport 2000. The body aims to reduce the environmental and social effects of transport by encouraging less reliance on cars, lorries and planes and further use of rail, buses, trams, cycling and walking. There were suggestions last year that Palin would discontinue his round the world travels, but dismissed these by saying: "The truth is that I could no more stop travelling than I could stop drawing breath."

The former Monty Python star, 62, has also become a best-selling author with his written accounts of the journeys he first began to undertake in 1988. He is now in the preparatory stages of his next series which may concentrate on European travel, although no firm decisions have been made.

Transport 2000 yesterday moved to reassure Palin that it was happy with his position as the group's figurehead. Mr Joseph said: "Michael Palin brings popular appeal, wisdom and a sense of proportion to the transport problems we as a society face today."

"Criticisms of the travelling he does as part of his job miss the point. After all, you can't make a travel series in a London studio unless you want it to turn out as an Ealing comedy. The real issue is that the issue of the environmental damage being done by aviation is something we must all address and Michael does brilliant work to bring this to people's attention. He has always rightly focused on the need for solutions to transport problems and flying is no exception."

Flight Log: Air miles of a former 'Python'

In the past two years, Michael Palin has made seven return trips from Britain to the Himalayas, flown to Australia and New Zealand, travelled to San Francisco and New York in the United States and gone to China and Tibet. He has also managed to fit in return flights to Italy and to Spain.

The average jumbo jet pumps one ton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere for every passenger it carries from London to New York. In the past 17 years, Palin has made six television travel series, including Pole to Pole, Full Circle, Sahara and Himalaya.

The former Python's travels have seen him fly more than 250,000 miles. It is estimated that Palin's journeys have, between them, created more than 44 tons of carbon dioxide.

OUR COMMENT: Rather than resign from Transport 2000 it might be better if he offered a wider range of travel experiences and explored the possibilities of rail and the exploration of nearby little known areas. He is clearly a fashion setter and so could have a better influence on holiday trends.

Pat Dale

17 January 2006


Asia-Pacific partnership holds first Meeting

Environment Daily 2017 - 16 January 2006

The Asian-Pacific partnership on clean development and climate change concluded its first meeting in Sydney, Australia, on 12 January.

The six-nation group adopted a communiqué and charter for future cooperation, plus a work programme including the creation of task forces on cleaner fossil energy, steel, aluminium, cement, coal mining, and buildings and appliances.

The partnership was launched last July Its members - Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea and the USA - account for half of global greenhouse gas emissions.

See meeting details at www.dfat.gov.au/environment/climate/ap6

14 January 2006


EU court backs air passenger compensation rules

Jeff Mason - Reuters Online - 10 January 2006

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union's top court on Tuesday upheld new rules requiring compensation for air passengers stranded by delays or cancelled flights, dismissing a challenge by airlines, which argued the rules went too far.

The rules force airlines flying into or out of the 25-country EU to compensate passengers for overbooking, long delays or cancellations with food, lodging, and, in some cases, hundreds of euros.

Airlines had complained about the rules, which took effect last year, saying they could add $700 million (400 million pounds) of extra costs a year to the airline industry and unfairly penalised carriers for conditions that were sometimes out of their control.

"The regulation on compensation and assistance for air passengers is valid," the European Court of Justice said in a statement.

Lawmakers and the European Commission, which authored the rules, welcomed the court's decision. But airlines said it would hamper the industry and end up hurting consumers.

"It's good news for air passengers that now enjoy strengthened rights compared with the ones that they had in previous European legislation," Commission spokesman Ferran Tarradellas Espuny told a regular briefing.

"The ruling today by the Court of Justice is going to ensure that the legislation is properly implemented by the member states and by the airlines and national authorities."


The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents airlines' interests, said the decision was a "missed opportunity" to strike down a regulation that hurts Europe. "It's a shame that governments are intent on micromanaging the industry in an area where good commercial forces would do much better," spokesman Anthony Concil said.

"It doesn't support the interest of consumers. At the end of the day, they are adding $700 million worth of costs to the industry that will have to be recouped in some way."

Under the rules, airlines must pay passengers up to 600 euros (410 pounds) if they are denied a seat because of overbooking. In some cases, carriers must give flyers a refund and a trip back to their point of departure.

The rules apply to all flights to and from the EU. "The ruling itself is not a surprise. The main issue will be how well airlines use the various clauses in the rules to avoid paying compensation," said Nick van den Brul, analyst at Exane BNP Paribas in London.

"I have spoken to one airline which said they see their potential losses from such payments at a maximum of 3 million pounds," he said.

The attempt to block the implementation of the new rules was filed by IATA and the European Low Fares Airline Association, both of which represent airlines' interests. The two groups filed their case in Britain and the High Court referred the case to the European Court of Justice because the complaint essentially called the whole set of EU rules into question.

Some airlines are also wary of other EU policies in the pipeline. The European Commission has said aviation will likely join its emissions trading system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

14 January 2006


Airlines have been fined GBP125,000
because their planes have been too noisy

Leicester Mercury - 10 January 2006

Environmental officers at Nottingham East Midlands Airport (Nema) have set up a network of four sound monitoring stations, in surrounding villages, which sample aircraft noise levels for night flights.

They are now looking to set up another site in Castle Donington, the village nearest to the airport. Any planes recorded by the equipment in excess of 85 decibels result in a GBP500 fine for the airline with an additional GBP150 for every decibel over the limit. An airport spokesman today revealed 114 fines had been issued since the penalty scheme began in July 2002.

He said: "We are conscious of the impact aircraft noise can have on the communities surrounding us and that is why we run the fines system. We already have four sites including one at Sutton Bonnington, another we installed in Kegworth in March and two others in Nottinghamshire."

"We are adding Castle Donington, subject to planning permission, and we have mobile monitoring equipment which can be taken to wherever residents feel there is a problem.We think the fines system is an effective way of reminding the airlines to keep noise levels to a minimum."

The largest fine issued to date has been GBP4,000. It was handed to Swift Air in November 2002 and the company no longer operates from the airport.

All the proceeds of the fines go into a community fund and are then distributed to good causes. Anti-noise campaigners welcomed the proposals to expand the monitoring.

Peggy Beddoe, of Castle Donington, a member of People Against Intrusive Noise (Pain), said: "We have been asking for around three years for the airport to start monitoring noise here so I'm happy they are going to start doing it. It will, however, only be worthwhile if the information is then used and serious fines are given out. Frankly, the problem of noise here is terrible."

Her husband, Peter, described the GBP125,000 of fines handed out over three and a half years as "peanuts". He said: "Bearing in mind we have noise from some of the older planes that can knock you out of bed at night I would have thought there would have been many more fines."

"It also doesn't seem to be much of a deterrent to give a GBP500 fine to an airline because it can be afforded with ease. We need far more of these monitoring stations. Manchester Airport is absolutely ringed with them and this airport should be too. They are both after all owned by the same company."

Kegworth resident and Pain member Fred Thompson said: "We are getting 60 air movements every night. This includes old planes with very loud engines. Fines are not persuading the airlines and they are not making the airport a better neighbour."

OUR COMMENT: A 85 dB noise level from an overflying plane, especially at night, is still a very disturbing noise and would wake most people up! It is generally agreed that 70dB will interfere with conversation. However, at least some action is being taken. Banning the noisier planes especially at night is another option. It remains to be seen what the new night noise regulations offer for Stansted residents, as well as the threat of an increase in noise levels from the proposed airport expansion.

Pat Dale

14 January 2006


Travellers give their verdict

Herts & Essex Observer - 12 January 2006

Cramped conditions, outdates rolling stock, rising prices and resentment of Stansted Airport were top of commuters' complaints on the 7.04am from Great Chesterford.

Brian Bonney, 59, was among those who boarded the train with the Observer at Great Chesterford. Mr Bonney, who works for an examination Board and lives in Linton, said: "I'm certainly losing out thanks to the new timetable. I'm having to get up earlier to get to the office at the same time as I was and conversely, if I'm going to get home at my expected time I have to leave the office earlier."

John Roberts, 53, who boarded at Audley End, was not unhappy about the timetable, provided the trains ran to schedule, but was more concerned about the lack of investment in rolling stock. "Just look at the seats, if you lean back on 90% of these the seats will come out, and (gesturing at a seat strewn with crimbs) if you're wearing a suit who is going to want to sit on that?"

Mr Roberts who works in IT services and lives in Saffron Walden, used to drive to Stansted Airport and catch the Stansted Express, but said "They are actually deterring people from parking there and changing to rail. The cost has gone up from 7-8 pounds a day to 15-20."

Ian Fairall, a lawyer who boarded at his home town of Newport, was upset that commuters from Bishop's Stortford were enjoying a bumper service while others suffered. He said: "Anyone north of Bishop's Stortford seems to be discriminated against." Mr Fairall, 38, was also critical of the fare increases and said: "You have to be earning a fair amount to even consider commuting into London."

Stephen Inkley, 45, a fund manager from Henham, who was travelling from Elsenham, was content with the timetable, but was frustrated with the delays that had become commonplace. He said: "It isn't too much of an inconvenience in terms of the time it takes. It's only added 5 minutes to the journey. If only it would run on schedule."

David Hedge, a 56 year old admin manager, who travels from Stansted Mouintfichet and also lives in the village, said: "I used to get the 7.36am and now it's the 7.22am and I used to get the 5.49pm home and now it's the 6.12pm. They have stolen half an hour of my day." He was equally unhappy with services to and from Stansted Airport from the village and said "A lot of flights leave between 6.30 and 7.30am and return as late as after 1 0.30pm. Yet the first stopping train is 6.30am and the last back leaves at 11.30pm".

Duncan Row, a 35 year old asset manager from Elsenham, felt more attention should be paid to satisfying commuters than airport passengers and said: "No other industry would treat its regular customers on an inferior basis to one off customers."

Michael Whitehead, a 63 year old stockbroker from Leaden Roding, commutes from Sawbridgeworth. He said, since the introduction of the new timetable he sometimes struggled to get a seat on the 8.40am service from the town. However, he did not want to be excessively critical of the new service and said: "I wouldn't say this has been a disaster from here, but I have noticed that further down the line people don't get seats whereas they did before."

OUR COMMENT: The fact remains that the number of trains on the Stansted Express service has increased, and a slow service to Stratford has been introduced. Since then all trains from Cambridge to Liverpool Street are stopping trains and so most journeys are longer. Many have been only 4 carriages long and have been old and dirty. At peak time even 8 carriages become crowded. Also, schedules cannot be relied on. We are told that there are not enough drivers so that regular overtime, even if not compulsory, is necessary, which of course may have safety implications if normal rest periods have to be sacrificed for any length of time. The Stansted Express service takes priority. However, commuters from Bishop's Stortford and Harlow do have the option of using the two Stansted Express trains an hour that stop at one of these stations. We ask, how long will that last if passenger numbers increase over 25 mppa?

Pat Dale

10 January 2006


Having overseen the takeoff of BAA Scotland,
Donal Dowds must now sort out Stansted

John Penman - The Times Online - 8 January 2006

SITTING in Donal Dowds's office near Glasgow airport, you cannot hear the jets taking off just a few yards away.

As you would expect, BAA's offices are pretty well soundproofed, but what comes through crystal clear are the names of the airlines heading for the skies above Scotland's largest city. Emirates, Continental, Globespan, Zoom and US Airways are just some of the operators who weren't there 12 years ago when Dowds took over as boss of BAA's Scottish airports.

Back when Glasgow was the dominant Scottish airport and Edinburgh's growth was tiny, direct routes out of Scotland were few and far between as big airlines funnelled passengers into Heathrow.

Now Edinburgh is within a few thousand passengers of overtaking Glasgow and you can fly direct to a growing number of destinations in Europe, the Middle East and the USA from both cities. It is the single biggest change in Dowds's time as managing director of BAA Scotland, and as he prepares to head off for a new challenge, it is the one he is most proud of.

"In those days, you could not fly across the Atlantic unless it was in a 747 with 400 seats, and that was a difficult sell in Scotland," he recalled.

"So you got one or two services a week, which meant business people and even foreign visitors found it difficult to access Scotland. But twin-engine, long-haul jets made smaller markets viable. Now not only do we have transatlantic services but daily and twice-daily services with competition. It's a remarkable change that's happened very quickly."

Dowds is facing up to his own remarkable change. When we speak, he is days away from taking up his new post as head of the planning and supply chain for BAA UK, a job that will plunge him into the controversy over Stansted's second runway. The role will require all the experience, charm and patience that have made him one of Scotland's best-known business figures.

The past few years have been rewarding for BAA. The number of routes opened up directly from Scotland has increased thanks to financial support from BAA and the Scottish executive through the route development fund.

But although Dowds thinks the fund is one of the executive's success stories, he warns it only works if the route is viable long term without support. "We don't approve every application that comes across this desk. I reject more than we approve because it has to be viable," he said.

"This support will disappear at some point because it would be illegal to maintain it in perpetuity. We found a way through a thorny state aid dilemma which enables us to support in those early years, because we know planes won't be full in the first day or even the first year. But if they cannot see a way to making it work then there's no point."

Some, from large carriers to low-cost operators, may feel that the fund is selective, but Dowds disputes this. "BA and BMI might say these guys seem to be getting deals that we aren't, but the truth is they are available to everyone because we have to make it available to everyone," he said. "The truth is some of these airlines have a strategy that its hub is Heathrow and it is going to service Scotland through that hub."

"Others, such as Globespan, have a strategy that it is based in Scotland and is going to use Scotland as a launching pad for services into Europe. Ryanair and EasyJet are in there too, but Ryanair have got access to Prestwick at unbelievable prices and its key strategy is to use Stansted and Dublin as key airports, while EasyJet is using Stansted, Luton and Gatwick Scotland is not the launching point for them the way it is for Globespan and other European carriers."

Dowds dismisses suggestions that BAA has actually been a barrier to route development because it wants to push traffic into its London airports. "We make less money using up slots that could have 400-seater aircraft. We would make more money if we use every slot at Heathrow with the biggest aircraft, ideally long-haul services with some regional connect to support those. And we then want to have direct international services to maximum potential possible out of our regional airports."

The Emirates service to Dubai has been a notable winner, the airline's most successful European launch to date with passengers using it to head to the Far East as well. Dowds thinks more growth will come.

"I think there will be a significant increase, especially in terms of the new countries in the EU. We've just had more Polish services and BAA has just bought Budapest, so there could be more Hungarian connections," he said.

The one big issue he regrets not having cleared up is the dispute between BAA and the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS) over its Ingliston showground. BAA needs the land for Edinburgh's aggressive expansion plans and the RHASS has fought a tough action to fend it off.

Dowds feels the issue is coming to a head. "We are talking now about price. I think they have got their heads round the fact that the airport's growth is such and land take is such that they are going to find it difficult to co-exist, much as they would like to. They are starting to talk about alternative locations and price. In terms of timing, we have less pressure as it won't be needed for 10-12 years. The RHASS don't like it, but I think they understand it. "

If dealing with RHASS was tough, Dowds now has to sell Stansted's expansion. "I am looking forward to it. It clearly is a big national issue," he said. "Stansted is one of the key London airports and has been identified as the way that London will grow rapidly. Other airports will have limited ability to meet that need."

10 January 2006


BA changes course with cheap flights to Europe

Alistair Osborne, Business Editor - Daily Telegraph - 7 January 2006

British Airways will next week launch a major challenge to the no-frills carriers with a radical overhaul of its regional network, which will see fares to Europe slashed to as little as £25 one-way.

In a significant strategic move by new chief executive Willie Walsh, the airline will rebrand its loss-making BA CitiExpress network, flying from 14 UK regional airports, and introduce a single-class cabin throughout the aircraft.

The Club Europe cabin for business travellers will be axed on all short-haul European flights to and from BA's regional airports. Only European flights to and from Heathrow and Gatwick will retain the more upmarket Club Europe cabin. BA will continue serving food on all flights. Restructuring the regional operations - whose biggest bases are Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Bristol - will not involve any route closures or job cuts among the 2,000 staff.

Instead, Mr Walsh believes he can turn round the business, which is losing around £30m a year, by slashing fares by about a third and directly targeting passengers currently being carried by Ryanair, Easyjet, FlyBe and Jet2. Mr Walsh, who took over in October, is targeting a return to profitability at the regional business within two years.

He admitted in November that the regional network needed to become far more competitive. Speaking in India, where BA had just launched a new service to Bangalore, Mr Walsh said the regional business was under review.

"CitiExpress has been something of a challenge for us and we intend to announce a restructuring in the new year," he said, declining to reveal any details. "The financial performance of this business has not been good enough. All parts of the business must contribute to us reaching the target of a 10pc operating profit margin."

The regional business uses a 50-strong mixed fleet of BAe146, Dash 8-300, Embraer 145, and RJ100 jets, but has been struggling for some time in the face of a fierce assault from the no-frills carriers.

BA has already closed its operations at Belfast, Plymouth, Leeds-Bradford and Cardiff airports and announced it is pulling out of a number of routes from Manchester, including Cork, Nice, Pisa, Rome, Venice and Stuttgart.

News that Mr Walsh, a renowned cost-cutter, has no current plans to axe jobs or further routes will come as some relief to staff at the regional business. Analysts said Mr Walsh's strategy showed he believed the short-haul European network was two distinct segments.

In London and the M25 belt there were enough business travellers flying from Heathrow and Gatwick willing to pay for the Club Europe cabin; elsewhere, the regional business was dominated by more price-conscious leisure travellers.

BA will make thousands more fares available at prices to rival the no-frills carriers, with a view to driving up passenger volumes. The move is timed to capitalise on the increasingly uncompetitive rail fares in the UK domestic market, where price rises on many routes are outstripping inflation.

BA's regional network is one of a number of headaches for Mr Walsh, who is determined to tackle the issues that prevent the airline hitting its target operating margins. Mr Walsh, who is already grappling with fuel costs, has started talks with the unions over the airline's £1.4billion post-tax pension deficit.

He has also made it clear the airline must "re-energise our efforts to deliver a competitive cost base" and has started at the top with plans to axe almost 600 management jobs.

BA declined to comment.

10 January 2006


Last week the Institute for Public Policy Research published its assessment of the progress of the EU countries in their efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases

Press Release - 4 January 2006

"We are nearing the point of no return on climate change. We have very little time left to start reducing global greenhouse gas emissions before irreparable damage is done. It is vital that EU countries keep their promises to cut pollution. They must take action now to get back on the Kyoto track, including energy saving and investment in renewable energy. In the new year, EU countries will need to adopt tougher limits on emissions from power stations and heavy industry, in the second phase of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme."

Key messages from the report
Available on www.ippr.org.uk

Greenhouse gas emissions in the pre-2004 EU Member States (EU-15) in 2003 were 1.7% below base-year level. This means the EU-15 was little more than a fifth of the way towards achieving the 8% emissions reduction from base-year levels required by 2008–2012 under the Kyoto Protocol.

Latest projections for 2010 show that existing domestic policies and measures by Member States to reduce emissions are not sufficient for the EU-15 to reach its Kyoto target. Even with planned additional domestic policies and measures, the target will not be reached. The target will only be attained when Kyoto mechanisms are fully taken into account.

Existing domestic policies and measures will reduce total EU-15 greenhouse gas emissions by only 1.6% from base-year levels by 2010. When the additional domestic policies and measures being planned by Member States are taken into account, an EU-15 emissions reduction of 6.8% is projected. However, this relies on several Member States cutting emissions by more than is required to meet their national targets, which cannot be taken for granted.

The projected use of Kyoto mechanisms by nine Member States will reduce emissions by 2010 by a further 2.5%. This would bring emissions down to 9.3% below the EU-15 base-year level and allow the EU-Kyoto target to be reached.

Sweden and the United Kingdom project that existing domestic policies and measures will be sufficient to meet their burden-sharing targets and they may even over-deliver. Luxembourg projects that it will meet its target with a combination of domestic policies, and measures, and emission allowances from the use of Kyoto mechanisms.

France, Germany and Greece project that they will reach their targets if currently planned additional policies and measures are implemented. With additional domestic policies and measures, and the use of Kyoto mechanisms Austria, Belgium, Finland and the Netherlands project that they will reach their Kyoto targets.

The other five EU-15 Member States (Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain), do not project that they will meet their targets, even with additional domestic policies and measures or the use of Kyoto mechanisms.

Nine countries have allocated financial resources for using the Kyoto mechanisms with a total amount of about EUR 2,730 million for the whole 5-year Kyoto Protocol commitment period. The same countries and France have started to prepare legal and operational frameworks and bilateral agreements for using the Kyoto mechanisms.

From 1990 to 2003 EU-15 greenhouse gas emissions decreased from most sectors (energy supply, industry, agriculture and waste management). However, emissions from transport increased by nearly 24% during the same period.

Domestic policies and measures in EU-15 Member States that are projected to contribute most to achieving the targets include the EU emission trading scheme, promotion of electricity from renewable energy, promotion of combined heat and power (CHP), improvements in energy performance of buildings and energy efficiency in large industrial installations, and promotion of the use of energy-efficient appliances.

However, current trends suggests that the EU-25 renewable electricity target (21% of gross electricity consumption) and the indicative EU target for CHP (18% share in total electricity production) for 2010 are unlikely to be met. Other key policies and measures include promotion of biofuels in transport and reducing the average carbon dioxide emissions of new passenger cars, recovery of gases from landfills and reduction of fluorinated gases.

Emissions have declined substantially in almost all new Member States. In 2003 emissions were 32% below the base-year level, mainly due to the introduction of market economies and the consequent restructuring or closure of heavily polluting and energy-intensive industries.

Greenhouse gas emissions from transport decreased by 5% between 1990 and 1995 but increased afterwards. In 2003 they exceeded 1990 levels by 24%.

Seven new Member States project that they will meet or even over-achieve their Kyoto targets by 2010 with existing domestic policies and measures. However, in most countries emissions will increase between 2003 and 2010. Slovenia projects that it will meet its Kyoto target with additional policies and measures including CO2 removals from land use change and forestry.

The EU-25 emissions trading scheme started in January 2005, and has created a market for carbon dioxide allowances. It encourages emission reductions to be made where it is most economically efficient. In the first period of the EU emissions trading scheme from 2005 to 2007, the total number of allowances in EU-25 is 3.5% above the emissions of the trading sector in 2003.

Thus, they allow for some increase in emissions from the trading sector. However, the total number of allowances in EU-25 is as a yearly average of 3.4% below the projected emissions of the trading sector from 2005 to 2007.

6 January 2006


A policy that pretends we can all fly on the cheap is a policy that won't fly

Camilla Cavendish - The Times - 5 January 2006

WHAT NEXT in the heady scramble for eco-respectability? Will we see John Prescott on a bike? Cherie turning down the thermostat and sporting a woolly jumper? Peter Hain's pioneering solar panels narrowly trumped David Cameron's personal windmill this week (will he get planning permission?)

But they cannot disguise that Labour is still flunking the true test of eco-manliness. If Gordon Brown taxed aircraft fuel at the same rate as petrol for cars, he would raise a cool £9 billion for the Exchequer. But the Chancellor, who is merciless towards the most piddling tax evaders, will not bust Britain's biggest tax avoidance scam. He smiles on airlines that pay no VAT, fuel duty or climate-change levy. He wants a new runway at Heathrow and is funding a study to help BAA to get over the pollution hurdles.

The old economic justifications for special treatment are looking threadbare. The air industry is a medium-sized one whose jobs are heavily subsidised; a fair tax policy would reduce growth but not stifle it. The difficulty of negotiating international tax agreements is real, but not as insurmountable as it is convenient for politicians to pretend. Perhaps this is why a new justification is now doing the rounds in Whitehall: "flight poverty". This is the grinding hardship that could befall people if - horrors - their return trip to Malaga started to reflect anything like its real cost in terms of pollution and global warming. Wow. Paying more to get plastered in Prague hardly ranks with Beveridge's five great social evils.

Why is a Labour Government flapping about "flight poverty", when it could be fighting real poverty? Nine billion pounds - a figure calculated by the former Treasury adviser Brendon Sewill and widely accepted - is serious cash that Government could target at the most needy, not waste in bribes to people used to cheap holidays. Ryanair's revenues last year apparently included almost two million flights that were booked by passengers who never showed up: they 'd bought tickets on the off chance, then changed their mind. It's hard to argue that such flighty customers would be victimised by a fair tax policy.

Why should such an activity with such serious consequences be so casual, so mindless? Low fares are the new opiate of the masses. We convince ourselves that only a change of scene can refresh our stressed-out lives. We believe that the purest detox entails flying further, staying longer jammed in these tin cans licensed for use on humans. But it is the most toxic detox imaginable. A BAA survey two years ago showed that half the British public are concerned about the local pollution and global warming that flying causes. They think the polluters should pay. But the Government is stuck in an old groove.

Despite the best efforts of airline manufacturers, aircraft are particularly toxic because of something called radiative forcing. While flying to Australia and back generates about the same CO2 emissions per person as heating, lighting and cooking in an average house for a year, it creates at least three times as much climate damage, according to the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution.

The Government itself admits that aviation emissions could amount to about a quarter of the UK's total contribution to global warming in 25 years' time, as other industries clean up their act. Between 1990 and 2003 greenhouse gas emissions from British industry fell in line with the Government's Kyoto targets.

But greenhouse gas emissions from air transport rose by more than 85 per cent, according to the Office for National Statistics. Yet ministers are still actively promoting huge growth in air travel, from 200 million passengers a year to 470 million a year in 25 years' time, by promoting airport expansion. No matter that about 70 per cent of travellers to Heathrow are transfer passengers, many never setting foot on UK soil: they are all potential customers for BAA's hungry monopoly. No matter that those who live around airports are locked into homes blighted by noise and pollution. Their disadvantage apparently cannot compare with that of those who might be deprived of a cut-price trip.

This cannot go on. But the reality check will come from an unexpected source. In 2008 an EU directive will come into force that will set tight new limits on nitrous oxide emissions, limits that are almost bound to be exceeded in the Heathrow area by any new runway. The Government is well aware of this: it has a team of seven civil servants in the Department for Transport beavering away to find solutions. One option, incredibly, is to reduce car emissions by sinking part of the M4 into a £2 billion tunnel. Another is to knock down 7,000 homes. If the EU law is trying to stop people being choked by fumes, then move them! Anything, it seems, is better than daring to face the reality that the cheap flight boom must end. One wonders how much longer ministers can stick their heads in the sand.

The lobbying skills of the air industry make Tesco look tinpot. It has convinced ministers that emissions trading is the way forward. Yet this will have negligible effect on global warming compared with what the Department for Transport's computer model shows would happen if air travel paid the same rate of tax as car travel. That simple calculation suggests that air travel growth would slow to 2 per cent a year, and that no new runways would be needed. This is not emasculating business; it is fair, realistic and responsible.

Will the newly green Tories be prepared to stand up to the air industry, or will they merely tilt at windmills? Their green policies will be flights of fancy unless they get a grip on this. A policy that started by trying to please voters will not be complete until it taxes them.

6 January 2006


High Fliers on holiday breaks fueling demand for air travel

Eleanor Scotchbrook - Herts & Essex Observer - 5 January 2006

The demand for air travel is being fuelled by high-fliers jetting off on leisure breaks rather than business trips, according to the latest figures.

New research by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) suggests the need for extra runways is being driven by high earners with an average annual income of over 50,000 pounds, taking cheap leisure flights and not to support UK business as the government has suggested.

Campaign group Stop Stansted Expansion said this week that the research totally undermined the government's justifications for building more runways at Stansted to meet the needs of UK business.

The CAA's Passenger Survey 2004 report shows that passengers using Stansted airport in 2004 had an average income of £51,074 compared to £47,223 in 2003, and that 5 out of 6 passengers were travelling for leisure purposes.

SSE economics adviser Brian Ross said the figures "destroy the myth" that this government was encouraging the boom in air travel to meet the demand from business users. "Sooner or later this government must come to its senses and stop showering this industry with countless tax breaks, exemptions and subsidies and stop trying to concrete over our countryside to accommodate it", he added.

Meanwhile, the CAA has also said airport operator BAA will not be allowed to cross subsidise the costs of a new runway at Stansted by imposing higher charges on airlines elsewhere. However it has indicated that it might be allowed to charge airlines more during the construction of a new runway provided the money is repaid in later years.

BAA estimates the cost of the project to be 2.7 billion pounds and says that the first phase of the scheme which will enable Stansted to increase its capacity from 25 mppa to 35 mppa should be ready by 2013.


BAA 'creating a market that doesn't exist'

Readers' Letters - Saffron Walden Local - 5 January 2006

I recently travelled to France on Ryanair for 1p. I did this because I was offered it. The total cost to and from Stansted was 20 pounds. On my return journey I was offered an even better deal – next time I could travel for FREE.

BAA claims that the airport needs to expand to cope with the increasing demand for air travel. If that is the case why do I get all these cheap offers? BAA and their collaborators are creating a market that wouldn't exist if normal fares had to be paid. What will happen to these cheap deals if they bulldoze through their second runway?

Most of the people on the flight to France were, like me, travelling to their second home. I can see why local people are so angry that their quality of life is threatened by such a situation. In the meantime can you blame me for taking advantage of it?

Name & address supplied, Suffolk

OUR COMMENT: No, we don't blame you - it's a crazy situation, and a dangerous one for all of us with climate change already on the way.

Pat Dale

6 January 2006


James Goffin - The Dunmow Broadcaster - 5 January 2006

SENIOR business figures have pledged their support for the controversial second runway proposal at Stansted Airport.

Following its announcement of its short-list of options for the location of a new runway, BAA Stansted says it has received "huge" support for the expansion.

A spokesman said: "After two years of intense activity we launched a three-month public consultation on our proposals and immediately business and community leaders, as well as airlines, rallied in support of the need for a successful two-runway airport at Stansted."

Supporters of the expansion project include David Marlow, chief executive of the East of England Development Agency, Alison Webster, director of the Learning and Skills Council for Essex, John Bridge (pictured right), chief executive of the Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce, and Sir Digby Jones, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry.

Mr Bridge said: "We believe the development of Stansted and the provision of a second runway are vital to the vibrant economic development of the eastern region."

However, there is also significant opposition to the project.

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) will be holding a public meeting next Thursday (January 12), at Bishop's Stortford's Rhodes Centre. It is expected to be attended by MPs and senior councillors from across the region and will give members of the public an opportunity to ask questions and express their views on BAA Stansted's proposals.

SSE has labelled the proposed expansion "an environmental catastrophe" and SSE campaign director, Carol Barbone, has accused BAA of being "deceitful, trying to hoodwink people into thinking that the expansion wouldn't make much difference to their lives" by issuing consultation packs that fail to include details of new flight paths, road and rail schemes and health and environmental impacts.

Her comments were slammed by BAA communications director, Mark Pendlington, who said that Mrs Barbone was "deliberately setting out to manipulate public opinion about BAA's consultation on plans for a second runway".

OUR COMMENT: If these businesses are so keen for more expansion, why do local businesses not use Stansted more often?

Pat Dale

6 January 2006


Will the gamble on emissions trading pay off for aviation?

Flight International - 3 January 2006

Twelve months ago Europe embarked on an ambitious gamble in the field of environmental protection. In January 2005 the European Union greenhouse gas emission trading scheme (ETS) started, becoming the largest multinational, multi-sector scheme in the world.

Under the EU's ETS, heavy industry is set a pollution quota and companies have to buy additional credits from other firms if they exceed this target. Crucially, the scheme excluded aviation, due to legal interpretations of international treaties in 2000, when the original drafting took place. This exemption angered green groups, who long ago adopted air transport as a bête noire, alleging that it contributes more to the radiative forcing effect of greenhouse gases than any other form of pollution, due to the altitude at which such fumes are emitted. Such was the head of steam generated that in 2005 European governments felt secure enough to vote in November to include aviation in the next phase of the EU ETS.

This is where the fun starts. The experience of the aerospace industry this year shows that even a well-defined scheme can run into serious difficulties. The Society of British Aerospace Companies has taken the UK environment ministry to task for failing to follow its own methodology when setting emissions targets for the aerospace sector, potentially lumbering the UK industry with £1 million ($1.7 million) extra in costs. The debacle, which will rumble on during 2006, illustrates the difficulty in calculating existing pollution, from which to set a quota.

However, calculating emissions from moving aircraft flying on variable routes and using multinational airspace will make existing ETS allocations look like child's play, say aviation lawyers studying the initial European Commission draft communication on its intention to include aviation in the scheme.

Fine print

The EC has pulled together a group of interested parties such as national governments, airlines, airports, manufacturers, green groups and existing participants in the ETS to form a working group looking into the details. The issues they have to tackle in the first six months of 2006 include how to forecast average fuel consumption for specific routes and devise a formula for charging foreign airlines or European ones flying outside the EU.

The results of the working group will be published mid-year and a legislative proposal will follow, which will then be debated by national governments before passing into law some time in 2008-9, the EC now concedes, missing the 2007 start of the next phase of the ETS.

On other environmental issues, 2006 looks set to be quieter than 2005, with the International Civil Aviation Organisation's committee on aviation environmental protection (CAEP) only meeting in closed session before delivering its guidance on emissions levies at the next ICAO regular session in 2007. Heated debate is expected in CAEP, with opposition to any scheme expected to be fierce from conservative states such as the USA and Australia and oil-producing countries such as Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.

But ICAO did vote through new maximum levels for oxides of nitrogen (NOx) in March 2005, which are 12% more stringent than the 1999 levels, so the industry will have to grapple with the implications of the new NOx quota, which enter into force in 2008. Many European countries are considering even tougher local levels on NOx, not least since the gas is primarily a local air-quality issue. This year will see NOx levels at EU airports reduced, so expect to see greater use of ground electrical power replacing auxiliary power units; changes to taxiing; and possibly a promotion of public transport at airports to reduce the automotive contribution to NOx as airports struggle to meet the targets.

ICAO also has a role to play this year, enshrined in the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, to provide leadership on environmental matters related to civil aviation. The protocol came into force in February 2005 following the ratification by Russia, although the largest notable exception to the protocol is the USA, whose government doubts the certainty of scientific arguments linking carbon dioxide emissions and global warming.

Balanced approach

There will also be further legal cases this year on aircraft noise, the oldest environmental problem facing aviation. In Europe, airports have to apply a "balanced approach" to land use planning and airline operational practices before imposing limits. Several European airport operators will see their noise bans challenged through local courts having to assess whether this approach was followed, but expect few further legislative changes.

But all eyes will be on how the emissions trading scheme incorporates aviation, as many cite the environment as one area where Europe really can take the lead and show the rest of the world the way.

6 January 2006


Lift-off for Swedish air travel tax

Environment Daily 2009 - 4 January 2006

Sweden is to levy an environmental tax on air tickets from 1 January 2007, the finance ministry announced on 22 December.

The tax will vary from SKr96 (€10) to SKr430 depending on flight class and destination. This is substantially higher than the SKr50-100 proposed in Sweden's 2006 budget because flights from some remote Swedish airports will be partially or wholly exempt, a finance ministry spokesman told Environment Daily.

The Association of European airlines called the announcement counterproductive given moves to bring aviation into the EU carbon emission trading scheme.

5 January 2006


Constable country sees off intruders into its airspace

David Millward and Charles Clover - The Telegraph - 2 January 2006

Future flight paths over areas of outstanding natural beauty and national parks will face tighter controls after campaigners forced the Civil Aviation Authority to rethink its use of airspace above Constable country.

A High Court agreement between the CAA and the Dedham Vale Society could see the wide-ranging discretion enjoyed by air traffic controllers curbed throughout the country.

It comes as the aviation industry struggles to cope with the rise in demand for air travel fuelled by the growth in no-frills airlines.

In the action brought by the society, the High Court was told the National Air Traffic Services (Nats) had, during public consultations, proposed a new flight path taking most aircraft to the north of Dedham Vale, on the Suffolk-Essex border, for descent to Stansted and Luton.

In reality its controllers consistently allowed pilots to cut corners, despite the assurances given by the CAA when it approved the flight paths.

They created a new de-facto flight path far removed from the one that had been agreed, flying the full length of Dedham Vale, an area of outstanding natural beauty.

Tom Hill, a barrister specialising in environmental law, suddenly found large numbers of aircraft over his house for the first time.

"It became obvious that something had gone wrong when I contacted Suffolk and Babergh councils," he said. "Neither could explain what was happening over my home and the adjoining areas of outstanding natural beauty."

Backed by the 800 conservationists of the Dedham Vale Society, Mr Hill sought judicial review of what the CAA and Nats had done.

The case was stayed - not brought to a judgment - after the two bodies agreed to carry out a wide-ranging review of airspace over East Anglia.

During the hearing, the CAA accepted that it should in future take into account where aircraft will fly in practice when drawing up flight paths.

Mr Justice Newman said the society had acted in the public interest.

Although the case centred on Dedham Vale, the implications are seen as far more wide-ranging. Conservationists believe they could give hope for those, for example, living in areas of outstanding natural beauty near Gatwick, such as the South Downs.

Though it may be impossible to remove aircraft altogether, it could mean greater use of space over busy road corridors, where tranquillity is already sacrificed.

A CAA spokesman said: "The settlement will ensure that proper regard is given to environmental matters when the CAA, acting in accordance with its statutory duties, considers future airspace change proposals."

Wilfred Tolhurst, the chairman of the Dedham Vale Society, said he was "delighted", but Lesley Ford-Platt, the mayor of Sudbury, had reservations.

She said she hoped the decision would not lead to more flights over densely populated areas.

5 January 2006


US forces Brussels into rethink on aircraft emissions

Ben Webster, Transport Correspondent - Times Online - 3 January 2006

THE European Commission is being forced to consider scaling back its scheme for targeting aircraft emissions after the United States threatened to take legal action to block it.

The Commission proposed in September that all airlines operating in the European Union should be forced to offset their greenhouse gas emissions by buying permits to pollute.

The emissions trading scheme, which was endorsed by EU environment ministers on December 2, would have covered all aircraft departing from EU airports, including American carriers heading across the Atlantic. The Commission estimated that the scheme would increase the average fare by up to €9 (£6).

It said that urgent action was needed because greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft had risen by 73 per cent since 1990 and were on course to grow by 150 per cent by 2012.

However, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says that it has "serious and fundamental questions" about the scheme and is demanding that it is limited to flights departing and landing within the EU.

The FAA claimed that the scheme would breach the 1944 Chicago Convention, which exempts airlines from paying tax on international flights.

Sharon Pinkerton, the FAA's assistant administrator, said: "The issue of whether or not US airlines can be included in any European trading scheme raises legal issues that we think must be resolved." She also questioned whether greenhouse gases were as a big a problem as the Commission had suggested. "We think there are fundamental issues of science that still remain unresolved," she said.

The Commission previously had rejected the option of including only flights within the EU in the scheme because they account for less than 40 per cent of emissions from all EU departures. Now the Commission has conceded that it may have to back down. It has appointed a working group to produce a workable plan by the end of April.

The minutes of the group's first meeting reveal that it is considering three options: covering only flights within the EU, all EU departures or all EU arrivals and departures.

Several members of the group, which includes industry representatives and Commission officials, argued that the intra-EU option was the only one with any chance of being implemented by the target date of 2008.

The minutes record that some members thought that "it might be better to introduce a narrower scheme earlier and then expand it at a later stage".

British Airways, which is a strong advocate of emissions trading and is represented on the working group by the Association of European Airlines (AEA), said that the intra-EU option was the best way forward. A spokesman said: "If non-EU carriers are forced to trade their emissions, it could lead to retaliation against EU carriers. Foreign countries could impose penalties on us. There is no international agreement on emissions trading, but a successful intra-EU scheme could be a catalyst and lead to the concept being adopted globally."

Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus, the AEA's secretary-general, said that the intra-EU option might be easier to implement, but it could put EU airlines at a competitive disadvantage. "EU carriers would have an extra cost which the Americans and others would not have to bear," he said. "The ideal would be a global scheme — and at least the Americans are now willing to discuss emissions trading after being flatly opposed to it two years ago."

The Green Skies Alliance, a coalition of European environmental groups, said that the Commission should not allow itself to be bullied by the US. Jeff Gazzard, co-ordinator of the alliance, said: "The US tactics are to undermine the whole emissions trading scheme by threatening to park jumbo jets full of lawyers outside EC offices in Brussels."

5 January 2006


No holds barred in campaign to stop Heathrow runway

Oliver Duff - The Independent - 2 January 2006

The most bitter environmental battle for a decade is set to break out over plans to build a third runway at Heathrow, with experienced campaigners saying they will join locals in taking "whatever extreme action is needed" to stop construction.

Under current proposals, the west London village of Sipson would be entirely demolished - a successful primary school, shops and 700 homes all destined for the wrecker's ball. The destruction to be caused by increased air pollution, aircraft noise and re-routed roads has not been factored in yet, but could affect 34,000 people, campaigners claim. The Government will make a decision on the project in the autumn. The Chancellor, Gordon Brown, and BAA, which runs British airports, want the green light.

In recent months, however, an unlikely alliance of pensioners and environmental activists has emerged, determined to stop Heathrow's expansion by any means available.

Radical environmentalists who cut their teeth on the Newbury bypass protests of the 1990s, when they concreted themselves in countryside tunnels and lived in trees destined for the chop, say they will help villagers. "We were there with Swampy and at Manchester airport," said an activist from the group Earth First!. "We've climbed cranes and chained ourselves to bulldozers. We've trashed fields of GM crops.

"We are willing to help Sipson because BAA and the Government are planning to wipe the established community off the map to create a climate crime scene." The homes of aviation executives were "legitimate targets", he said.

Radical activists' assistance will include "non-violent direct action training" to teach residents how to resist arrest and "lock on" to machinery and each other using chains and pipes. About 50 residents are said to have already signed up to a motor blockade of Heathrow's entrance roads. "We want this to be decided legally," said Linda McCutcheon, 60, who has lived in Sipson for 39 years. "But if the Government says yes to the plans, people are so desperate and frustrated that anything will go. I will be there. We will block roads around Heathrow. We will sit in tunnels and in front of diggers."

Her husband Terry, 71, a retired bank manager, said: "You only need to drive three or four cars into the tunnel, lock the door and walk away and it stops them." Geraldine Nicholson, 36, a mother of three young boys who also organises the No Third Runway Action Group, said she would do "whatever it takes to stop them knocking down the kids' school and ruining our lives". The runway would be 150 metres from her front door, she said, bringing unbearable noise and clouds of poisonous nitrogen dioxide pollution.

Heathrow is already the world's busiest international airport. The number of flights would go up from the current limit of 480,000 a year to 655,000 - 1,800 a day. BAA denied during its application for a fifth terminal (currently under construction) that it wanted a third runway and sixth terminal, but now says that one is needed to have any chance of meeting the government's target of boosting UK airport passengers from 200 million to 500 million by 2030.

It says that a third runway would protect 20,000 jobs and generate £6bn for the economy, and would prefer expanding Heathrow ahead of Stansted airport in Essex. It says that it is too early to say for sure how many people will be affected, but denies that the figure is as high as campaigners claim.

Crucially, the plans are thought to have the backing of Mr Brown, who has launched a study aimed at "identifying solutions that would allow" the runway to be built.

The most bitter environmental battle for a decade is set to break out over plans to build a third runway at Heathrow, with experienced campaigners saying they will join locals in taking "whatever extreme action is needed" to stop construction.

Under current proposals, the west London village of Sipson would be entirely demolished - a successful primary school, shops and 700 homes all destined for the wrecker's ball. The destruction to be caused by increased air pollution, aircraft noise and re-routed roads has not been factored in yet, but could affect 34,000 people, campaigners claim. The Government will make a decision on the project in the autumn. The Chancellor, Gordon Brown, and BAA, which runs British airports, want the green light.

In recent months, however, an unlikely alliance of pensioners and environmental activists has emerged, determined to stop Heathrow's expansion by any means available.

Radical environmentalists who cut their teeth on the Newbury bypass protests of the 1990s, when they concreted themselves in countryside tunnels and lived in trees destined for the chop, say they will help villagers. "We were there with Swampy and at Manchester airport," said an activist from the group Earth First!. "We've climbed cranes and chained ourselves to bulldozers. We've trashed fields of GM crops.

"We are willing to help Sipson because BAA and the Government are planning to wipe the established community off the map to create a climate crime scene." The homes of aviation executives were "legitimate targets", he said.

Radical activists' assistance will include "non-violent direct action training" to teach residents how to resist arrest and "lock on" to machinery and each other using chains and pipes. About 50 residents are said to have already signed up to a motor blockade of Heathrow's entrance roads. "We want this to be decided legally," said Linda McCutcheon, 60, who has lived in Sipson for 39 years. "But if the Government says yes to the plans, people are so desperate and frustrated that anything will go. I will be there. We will block roads around Heathrow. We will sit in tunnels and in front of diggers."

Her husband Terry, 71, a retired bank manager, said: "You only need to drive three or four cars into the tunnel, lock the door and walk away and it stops them." Geraldine Nicholson, 36, a mother of three young boys who also organises the No Third Runway Action Group, said she would do "whatever it takes to stop them knocking down the kids' school and ruining our lives". The runway would be 150 metres from her front door, she said, bringing unbearable noise and clouds of poisonous nitrogen dioxide pollution.

Heathrow is already the world's busiest international airport. The number of flights would go up from the current limit of 480,000 a year to 655,000 - 1,800 a day. BAA denied during its application for a fifth terminal (currently under construction) that it wanted a third runway and sixth terminal, but now says that one is needed to have any chance of meeting the government's target of boosting UK airport passengers from 200 million to 500 million by 2030.

It says that a third runway would protect 20,000 jobs and generate £6bn for the economy, and would prefer expanding Heathrow ahead of Stansted airport in Essex. It says that it is too early to say for sure how many people will be affected, but denies that the figure is as high as campaigners claim.

Crucially, the plans are thought to have the backing of Mr Brown, who has launched a study aimed at "identifying solutions that would allow" the runway to be built.

5 January 2006


Public awareness of climate change is rising. Will 2006 be the year when politicians finally decide to take the issue seriously?

Mark Lynas - The Independent - 1 January 2006

2005 was the year in which concerns about the stability of the climate regularly made the headlines; 2006 may be the year when demands to do something about it finally become irresistible.

The past 12 months have seen big changes in the political - as well as the actual - climate. Perhaps the Rubicon was crossed when David Cameron was seen with Zac Goldsmith, editor of The Ecologist, discussing the ins and outs of global warming. Once the party of big business and anti-regulation, the Tories seem set to outflank a struggling Labour on the issue.

What is so surprising is not just the shifting of the ideological landscape that this implies, but the fact that everyone agrees that it matters. Even as recently as the May general election, climate change barely made a headline. Now Cameron's re-invigorated Tories clearly see it as a vote-winner. Tony Blair, who did so much to put climate on the agenda, but then failed to deliver serious policies to address it, could lose out as a result.

The worldwide day of action on climate change, which took place on 3 December, was a sign of things to come. The London march - which The Independent on Sunday supported - attracted more than 10,000 people, small in comparison with the anti-war protests, but still an order of magnitude greater than anything that preceded it. Just as notable was the fact that protest marches were not limited to countries with established high-profile campaigns on the issue. From Seoul to Istanbul, people turned out as never before - often for the first such demonstration in their country.

The challenge of 2006 will be to translate this increased profile and popular mobilisation into serious pressure on politicians. Still smarting from the backward-looking fuel protests in 2000, UK ministers operate on the principle that any action on climate will, by definition, be unpopular. Hence the continued pandering to motorists, and the refusal to confront the continued growth of air travel, the most climate-unfriendly of all means of transport. Since Labour came to power in 1997, the real cost of motoring has fallen by 7 per cent, while bus fares have risen by 11 per cent and rail fares by 4 per cent. The number of cars on the road continues to grow inexorably.

Overall, UK greenhouse gas emissions are 6 per cent higher. Almost all the progress towards meeting our Kyoto targets has come about thanks to the historical accident of Margaret Thatcher and John Major's programme of closing coal-fired power stations in favour of gas - not something for which Tony Blair can claim credit.

Worse, the Government has caved in to the car lobby and begun to spend colossal amounts on road building. According to the transport campaign group Road Block, more than £3bn will be spent on widening the M1 to eight lanes, while another £1.5bn will be spent on widening the M25 to a Los Angeles-style 12 lanes. Spending on these two roads alone greatly exceedsthe amount the Government invests in its entire climate change programme, including its measly support for wind power and other renewables. These outdated priorities still permeate government thinking. In the Highways Agency press release about the M25, the Transport minister Stephen Ladyman sounded 20 years out of date. "New lanes will help to improve traffic flows," he said, despite all the evidence that building new roads simply encourages traffic growth and worsens the problems of congestion and pollution. The bulldozers will begin moving on both mega-projects in 2006.

Again, the challenge to climate campaigners is clear: the Government must no longer be able to hide behind climate-friendly rhetoric while entrenching patterns of social behaviour that make tackling global warming ever more intractable.

The Government is fond of reviews. It allows difficult decisions to be postponed indefinitely while placating demands for action with warm-sounding soundbites. Climate change is no different. Early in 2006, Margaret Beckett's long-delayed Climate Change Programme Review is due to report, while Gordon Brown's Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change will hand down its lofty decisions in the autumn. Ominously, its terms of reference include indecipherable expressions such as: "... examine the impact and effectiveness of national and international policies and arrangements in reducing net emissions in a cost-effective way and promoting a dynamic, equitable and sustainable global economy, including distributional effects and impacts on incentives for investment in cleaner technologies". Such gobbledegook, in which Mr Brown seems to specialise, gives little hope that the review might come up with anything even vaguely practical.

Ms Beckett's review was launched at the end of 2004 as a way - cynics might say - of distracting attention from the fact that the UK will miss its target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 2010 by 20 per cent. Environmental NGOs (non-governmental organisations) and other "stakeholders" were invited to contribute suggestions, in theory showing how inclusive the Government is, but in practice simply adding to the raft of piecemeal and contradictory measures that already make up the climate change programme. More radical steps - such as the environmental writer and thinker Mayer Hillman's proposal for carbon rationing - remain in the political wilderness.

The most controversial review of all, however, is the Energy Review, led by the Energy minister Malcolm Wicks and also due to report some time this year. Despite Mr Wicks's protestations to the contrary, there is widespread agreement that the review is little more than a Trojan horse for the building of a new round of nuclear power stations - not least because of Mr Blair's heavy hints on the issue before the review was announced. Nuclear is now justified on the basis that it generates carbon-free electricity, perhaps the only persuasive argument for taking it seriously, given the multiple other drawbacks varying from radioactive waste to the sheer expense.

But perhaps the most worrying development in the renewed nuclear debate is its vitriolic nastiness. Exchanges between environmental groups and pro-nuclear advocates already resemble trench warfare, with each side betraying an almost religious commitment to its cause. Clearly, any affirmative decision on a new generation of nuclear power stations will split the climate change movement down the middle - with followers of the environmentalist James Lovelock and thoughtful pro-nuclear Tories such as John Gummer on one side, and the more established greens on the other. These are people who desperately need to be working together in a truly broad-based coalition, rather than aiming daggers at each other over which low-carbon technology they prefer. Moreover, in setting up the Energy Review, Mr Blair seems to have got things back to front.

Rather than settling on a target for cuts to greenhouse gas emissions and then trying to figure out how to meet it, he has done the opposite, asking the hapless Mr Wicks to decide between nuclear, wind, coal and gas without giving him any clear idea where we are supposed to be ending up. The only long-term climate target the Government has identified is its vague aspiration to see carbon cuts of 60 per cent by 2050, a target so far off that no minister will lose sleep over failing to meet it.

Margaret Beckett does deserve some credit, however, for helping to steer the Montreal climate talks to a successful conclusion. As a result, a new round of talks will be launched in May to begin tackling the thorny issue of how to involve developing countries in the Kyoto agreement.

Under Kyoto's Phase 1, only industrialised countries took on targets to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions (which many will not meet, but that is another story) in recognition of the fact that, on a historical and per capita basis, the rich world has done the most to create the problem. But with the economies of India and China, in particular, growing at breakneck speed, their emissions too are soaring. Both countries have refused to contemplate mandatory targets, but an agreement just to talk at all is more than many observers were expecting.

One proposal likely to be on the table is "contraction and convergence", a kind of international rationing system where, as the global budget of fossil fuel emissions contracts towards sustainable levels, countries converge to per-capita emissions equality within it. Because all countries would be included in the framework, it would deal with the US objection that developing countries are excluded from taking on targets. And because developing countries will still be allowed to grow until equality is reached, it also addresses the concern of poor countries that they should not remain frozen in poverty as the price for tackling global warming. Colin Challen MP, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Climate Change, has introduced a Contraction and Convergence Bill to the Commons. No doubt some government lackey will talk it out as soon as he or she gets the chance - something else to keep an eye out for in 2006.

Montreal was also successful in cementing America's near-total diplomatic isolation on the climate change issue. When the US delegation staged a petulant walk-out during the final hours of the conference, it expected half the world to follow. No one did. Instead of shutting down Montreal, the Americans were shamed not only into returning to the conference floor, but also into agreeing to further negotiations this year.

There are also indications that the US will not be able to evade legal culpability for its emissions for much longer. The Inuit indigenous inhabitants of the Arctic have taken a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, accusing the US of destroying their lifestyle and future through climate change - dramatic signs of which are already evident across the Arctic region. If the commission rules in favour of the Inuit, the US could find itself in the dock at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. However, both agencies work within the framework of the American Convention on Human Rights, which the US has taken the precaution of not ratifying.

So, although a judgment against it would be largely symbolic, the legal action does raise the spectre of future damages claims against the US and its corporations - like those faced by tobacco companies - from people around the world who have suffered hardships as a result of global warming; damages claims which could eventually run into billions of dollars. The tiny Pacific island state of Tuvalu, which has already considered legal action, will be watching carefully. In Tuvalu's case, its physical existence is called into question by rising sea levels - and damages claims for the annihilation of an entire country could prove to be very expensive indeed.

Any legal movement by Tuvalu will also be given added weight by reports of other island peoples already being forced out of their homes by rising tides. In Vanuatu, 100 villagers have been moved inland due to high tides and coastal erosion, while in Papua New Guinea's Cartaret Islands, more than 2,000 people are likely to be evacuated to neighbouring Bougainville during 2006 because of similar flooding problems.

Another lesson of 2005 is that scientists can be wrong about climate change - though not in a way that provides any comfort to the dwindling band of sceptics. For several years, the consensus had been that the melting of the Greenland ice sheet would be a slow process, taking centuries or even millennia. But as Ian Howat, a Greenland expert, explains: "Current models treat the ice sheet like it's just an ice cube sitting up there melting, and we're finding out it's not that simple." Instead, thinning glaciers have been speeding up on the edges of Greenland, dumping more and more melting ice into the sea. Howat estimates that the changing dynamics could "easily cut in half the time it will take to destroy the Greenland ice sheet", suggesting that sea-level rise predictions for this century may well have been underestimated.

Increased melt from Greenland and the rapid disappearance of northern polar sea ice - which also surprised scientists by its extent in 2005 - both freshen the surface waters of the north Atlantic, where sinking cold water is the key driver of the Atlantic circulation, which includes the Gulf Stream. Computer models have long predicted that this freshwater "lid" on the Gulf Stream could cool down Scandinavia and Western Europe by several degrees, the apparently far-fetched scenario behind the disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow. On its release, scientists queued up to rubbish its apparent abuse of greenhouse physics. But just a few weeks ago, evidence emerged that the Atlantic circulation is actually slowing down - several decades before anyone predicted. Although it is not yet enough to plunge the British Isles into a new ice age, a recent study suggests that further weakening of the Gulf Stream could lead to average winters becoming like 1962/63, when 10ft snowdrifts buried half the country for weeks on end.

Perhaps the biggest climate surprise of all during the past year was the destruction of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina. Meteorologists had warned for months that the Atlantic was likely to spawn an unusual number of severe storms (a prediction that has been repeated for 2006's hurricane season, which begins in June), but no one could have predicted the worst-case scenario of a near-direct hit by a category four monster on America's most vulnerable city.

Although greenhouse warming undoubtedly gave a boost to Katrina and the other hurricanes that formed this year, this will not help anyone predict where the next storm will be. A warming globe changes the climatological baseline, and it is next to impossible to predict where the next big flood, drought or storm will appear. Even as we shed guilty tears over the faraway victims of global warming, we could be next in the firing line. Who knows? Happy New Year.

Mark Lynas is the author of 'High Tide: How Climate Crisis is Engulfing our Planet', published by HarperPerennial. He is working on a book of climate projections for the 21st century, called 'Six Degrees'. www.marklynas.org

2 January 2006


Government starts countdown to building third runway
Mass campaign planned as eviction threat looms

Juliette Jowit and Gaby Hinsliff - The Observer - 1 January 2006

The bitterest environmental battle of a generation is set to erupt over government plans to give the go-ahead for a massive expansion of Heathrow airport.

Thousands could be forced to leave their homes, say campaigners who have pledged to block construction by all possible means.

Plans to build a third runway at what is already the world's busiest international airport were thought to have been frustrated because of the threat of air pollution from more flights.

But Chancellor Gordon Brown has indicated his determination to find a way round the problem, launching a new study aimed at 'identifying solutions that would allow' the runway to be built. The move reflects Brown's wider fears that the economy may suffer from years of wrangling over new ports, airports and roads.

The news has horrified green groups and local organisations. Yesterday they warned that giving the green light to Heathrow would trigger a huge backlash, not only from residents under the flight path but from the wider environmental movement.

John McDonnell, the Labour MP for the Hayes and Harlington constituency which lies next to the airport, met the aviation minister Karen Buck shortly before Christmas.

He confirmed that the government wanted to press ahead: "The industry and government are doing everything they possibly can by way of trying to create an atmosphere of inevitability about Heathrow."

However, he warned they were not understanding the difficulty of the task: "No matter what ministers want, they can't get round the science of air pollution. And they have underestimated the potential of an environmental campaign. My neighbouring Conservative MP, John Randall, has threatened to lie down in front of the bulldozers. We're getting Tory Swampys [green activists] on this."

McDonnell claimed thousands of people could be forced to leave their homes because the airport extension would render them unlivable. However, other studies suggest the number of affected houses could be as low as several hundred.

Industry chiefs argue the British economy will lose billions of pounds if an over-congested Heathrow loses traffic to European rivals and businesses shun the UK to be nearer better international links.

In its aviation 2003 white paper, the government said Heathrow's expansion would be blocked or delayed for at least 10 to 15 years because of difficulties over noise and pollution. Instead, they recommended a new runway at Stansted airport in Essex.

However, in comments buried deep in his recent pre-Budget Report, which have only just emerged, the Chancellor stressed the economic importance of Heathrow's 'unique role in supporting economic growth across the country'.

And he detailed plans for 'extensive' modelling work to 'understand the nature and extent' of air quality problems at Heathrow, adding:

'This work is aimed at identifying solutions that would allow construction of a third runway to take place within relevant air quality limits.' Brown is known to want to speed up the planning process for major projects such as airports with more decisions taken on 'national and strategic' grounds - such as economic benefit - rather than becoming buried in years of local argument.

Ministers are also likely to get strong backing for Heathrow from a transport review by former BA airline chief executive Rod Eddington, expected this spring to recommend streamlining the planning process.

Campaigners said Brown's comments were a significant shift in favour of a third runway, reflecting both new research suggesting aircraft pollution was not as bad as feared and growing concerns that the airport operator, BAA, could not raise money to expand Stansted.

"While the focus is on Stansted, almost coming up on the inside track unnoticed is all this work on Heathrow," said John Stewart, chairman of anti-expansion campaign group Hacan ClearSkies. "[Brown] is not going to say something if he doesn't think it's going to happen."

Tony Bosworth, of Friends of the Earth, warned the environmental impact would be the biggest since the controversial road schemes at Twyford Down and Newbury in the Nineties: "It will be a huge cause célèbre for the environmental movement."

Lord Soley, a former west London Labour MP and campaign director for the pro-expansion group Future Heathrow, said both the Chancellor and Prime Minister supported the case for Heathrow, adding: "Tony and Gordon recognise the way the world economy is changing and the idea we have got to be at the cutting edge of technology in Europe. That means we can't allow one of the key high-tech industries, airports and aircraft, to fall behind."

A Treasury source said Brown saw a strong case for making airport expansion in the UK easier but added: "People are waiting for Eddington's review before there is any movement." Final options for Heathrow will not be put to ministers until this autumn. The shift has prompted speculation that the government is retreating over the idea of developing Stansted.


Massive expansion of Heathrow is being prepared,
say government documents

Robin Stummer - The Independent - 1 January 2006

The Government is pressing ahead with preparations for a massive expansion of Heathrow airport - ignoring fears over noise and pollution, the demolition of hundreds of homes and the forced removal of thousands of local people.

In a move that environmental groups and local campaigners warn will lead to their most bitter struggle yet with the Government, The Observer is reporting that the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, is investigating ways to push through proposals for a new, third runway at Heathrow.

In 2003, the Government acknowledged in a White Paper that such an expansion would be extremely problematic, with environmental concerns leading to a delay of up to 15 years. Instead, Stansted airport in Essex became the preferred site for a new runway - a plan that itself would have led to the partial destruction of several villages.

However, Mr Brown is now understood to be refocusing on Heathrow, advocating in his recent pre-Budget report a detailed programme of "modelling work" to "understand the nature" of air quality at the airport. This work, he states in the fine print of the report, "is aimed at identifying solutions that would allow construction of a third runway".

The plans could double passenger numbers at Heathrow from the present 68 million a year.

Campaigners predict a furore if any attempt is made to expand Heathrow. "It will be a huge cause célèbre for the environmental movement," said Tony Bosworth, transport campaigner for Friends of the Earth.

The Government is pressing ahead with preparations for a massive expansion of Heathrow airport - ignoring fears over noise and pollution, the demolition of hundreds of homes and the forced removal of thousands of local people.

In a move that environmental groups and local campaigners warn will lead to their most bitter struggle yet with the Government, The Observer is reporting that the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, is investigating ways to push through proposals for a new, third runway at Heathrow.

OUR COMMENT: Don't the press realise that the protests would be just as massive at Stansted? And, of course, everyone concerned about the future of the planet from climate change, is against any additional runway in the south-east. So are residents in Europe, who too do not want more runways at their airports.

Pat Dale

2 January 2006


Transport planning shake-up looms

Evening Standard - 31 December 2005

A shake-up of the planning process which often delays major transport projects for years is expected to be proposed by the Government's special transport adviser.

Former British Airways' chief executive Sir Rod Eddington is due to complete a report for the Transport Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer by the middle of 2006.

A few weeks ago Sir Rod told the House of Commons Transport Committee that he - and transport stakeholders he had consulted - believed the current planning process to be over-complicated, too long and too expensive.

He cited a case where a planning inquiry had dragged on for years and cost millions of pounds - only for the project eventually to be turned down.

Terminal 5, into which BA is to move in March 2008, has only been built after a record-breaking public inquiry lasting four years - the type of process Sir Rod is keen to confine to history.

Sir Rod is currently touring the country questioning what is needed for transport in the long term, and what effect transport decisions have on the UK's productivity, stability and growth.

He has insisted he is very much his own man and that he has started with "a blank sheet of paper".

He says there is no pressure on him from the Government to come up with what they want to hear.

Sir Rod is being assisted by a group of civil servants, and has also enlisted the help of a number of leading academics, including Stephen Glaister, professor of transport and infrastructure at Imperial College London.

So far Sir Rod has found that congestion is the biggest problem. He has also discovered that most people involved in transport believe that some form of system to manage demand - such as road pricing or congestion charging - is inevitable.

SSE Recent News
News Archive