There has been a lot of discussion about how we will and should come out of the pandemic. Many people have come to realise that there are more important things than growing the economy and competing with each other. There has also been a realisation of how essential governments are in protecting lives and livelihoods. And how drastic action is possible, if there is the political will.
Now many people are seeing that a better world is possible. They do not want to return to a world of massive inequality and catastrophic climate change – the direction of travel that the current economic model of the UK and other countries was taking us. That is why there are now worldwide campaigns such ‘Build Back Better’ and ‘Just Recovery’.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in civil aviation, the great majority of which is leisure travel for affluent people.
Aviation is becoming the biggest threat to our climate and our future. All around the world de-carbonisation is being undertaken, with solar power, wind power, electric cars and so on. Meanwhile, the aviation industry is doing virtually nothing to help the cause. By itself, aviation is set to wreck the worlds ‘Zero Carbon‘ target.
Instead of working with society, the aviation industry has mounted a campaign of ‘greenwash’ – stories about how electric planes, biofuels and ‘offsets’ (planting trees, restoring a peat bog, etc) will somehow overcome the problem of aircraft emissions. Backed up, as always, by misleading claims about the economic benefits of air travel in order to justify evermore growth.
As if this were not bad enough, the aviation industry is calling for taxpayer bailouts without any conditions requiring it to act responsibly and to protect people and the environment. It is taking legal action to prevent the Paris Accord on climate change being applied and to stop quarantining of people coming into the UK. (See previous blogs.)
Friends of the Earth and other environmental campaign groups have written a briefing: Building back better for aviation. We hope you agree with what it says and will add your support.
Friends of the Earth and others won a landmark court case in February 2020 on the grounds of climate change, but Heathrow has shamefully appealed the decision.
The Appeal Court judges ruled that the National Policy Statement (NPS) – which promotes a third runway at Heathrow – was unlawful. The NPS is unlawful because it has failed to take proper account of the UK’s commitments on climate change, specifically the commitment made under the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rises to well below 2 degrees.
However, Heathrow Airport has now (7th May) been given permission by the Supreme Court to challenge this Court of Appeal’s decision. The Government indicated at the time that it would not be appealing the judgment, leaving Heathrow to bring the challenge alone.
At a time when the catastrophic climate change is now recognised as a massive threat to us all and to our planet, the appeal from Heathrow is shocking. It seems that Heathrow and the aviation industry have no real intent to address the issue of climate change. Heathrow’s response is to issue misleading statements about how the problem can be solved by alternative fuels, planting trees or using electric planes – which it can’t. Meanwhile, trying to sabotage action on climate change through the courts.
Heathrow Airport and their CEO, John Holland-Kaye, need to search their collective conscience. They will rightly be branded as public enemies and climate criminals if they continue this reckless approach to our climate and our future.
During one of the biggest health and economic crises of our time, polluting airlines in the UK are asking for huge government bailouts. They want taxpayers’ money – our money – to keep them going.
You may have already seen it in the news, billionaire Richard Branson hasn’t paid UK tax for 14 years but he’s asking for a £500 million taxpayer bailout for his airline – Virgin Atlantic.
Meanwhile, EasyJet is set to receive £600 million in government loans – while refusing to cancel a £170 million payout made to shareholders just weeks ago.
Airlines like this want taxpayer money with no-strings-attached, no promises to clean up their businesses or protect the climate, and no commitments to put their employees before shareholders and bonuses.
If we want to build a safer, greener and more resilient world after the health crisis is over, the airline industry needs to change.
So, I’ve added my name to an open letter to the UK Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, saying that if he gives airlines a bailout, then they must protect their workers and massively reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
Will you join me and thousands of others so he pays attention?
The government keeps saying it is guided by the science when it comes to coronavirus. So why does it ignores the science, evidence and logic when it comes to aviation and climate change? See latest revelation.
The government has launched a consultation on transport and climate change.
While it seems surprisingly ambitious on road traffic, it totally fudges the issue of aviation. This is obvious when you see statements such as “We will lead the development of sustainable biofuels, hybrid and electric aircraft to lessen and remove the impact of aviation on the environment and by 2050…”
None of the experts, including the government’s own Committee on Climate Change (CCC), believe that these cannot make more than a small contribution to reaching the ‘Net Zero’ target of CO2 emissions by 2050.
Is the government already demonstrating it is not serious about Net Zero?
Statements such as “Aviation, at present, is a relatively small contributor to domestic UK GHG emissions” are misleading. The vast majority of aviation emissions are international, that is the UK to foreign countries and vv. The government is trying, as always, to pretend that international aviation emissions ‘don’t count’.
The government may hope that no-one will notice because of the coronavirus crisis. They are wrong! We must not and will not allow government to back away from action on the far greater threat of climate change.
What a nerve! Airlines, more than any other, spread diseases like Coronavirus (Covid-19) round the world. They should be paying us to sort out the pandemic! In accordance with the ‘Polluter Pay Principle’.
The airlines claim they are essential to the economy. But the great majority of flights are just affluent people jetting off on holiday. Less than 20% of passenger flights (and declining) are business.
And remember – the airlines already enjoy a tax dodge worth £10 billion pa for tax free fuel.
With the slump in demand, some airlines and airports might go bust. But how much does that really matter? When the pandemic is over and demand for air travel bounces back, all the planes and runways will still be there, ready to be picked up and used by the surviving airlines.
Governments around the world have are making huge efforts and imposing colossal economic costs in order to minimise the impact of Coronavirus. How is it that those same governments are doing virtually nothing to avert a far greater threat than Coronovirus – Climate Change.
The Court of Appeal has found in favour of the campaigners – including Friends of the Earth – who took the government to court over the third runway. The key argument was that the government in its National Policy Statement (NPS) had failed to take into account the ‘Paris Agreement’. The Paris Agreement is an international agreement, signed by UK, to reduce CO2 emissions to zero by 2050 and thereby prevent catastrophic climate change.
Lots has appeared in the press and the airwaves, so no need to repeat here. But interesting to see that even the Financial Times sees this as a landmark: “The decision is not just a setback for Heathrow’s backers. It also holds implications for future infrastructure projects: the government will have to consider such proposals in light of its climate pledges, or risk being open to legal challenge. It is a landmark moment, one that brings a much-needed dose of reality to Britain’s commitment to reduce its carbon emissions to almost net zero by 2050.”
This judgment DOES NOT mean that a third runway is of itself unlawful or must be cancelled. It simply means that the NPS has to be revised to take account of the Paris Agreement. However, this has very important implications:
a) Boris Johnson is thought to be unenthusiastic about a third runway. This judgment gives him the opportunity and ‘political space’ to remove government support for Heathrow expansion.
b) it is huge precedent in the fight against climate change. The court said, in effect, that if the government signs an agreement on climate change, it is obliged to actually take account of it when developing plans and policies on carbon-emitting projects.
More and more people now realise that massive increases in flying and a third runway at Heathrow are inconsistent with the UK’s and worldwide climate targets.
The government’s own Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has been saying for a while that if aviation were to grow at the rate the government forecasts – and indeed is promoting – then it will be impossible to meet the Net Zero target by 2050. [More] Let alone by 2030, the date which most scientists and analysts think is necessary.
The response of government has been twofold. Firstly, to simply say that emissions from aircraft flying to and from the UK ‘don’t count’ because they are “international”. Secondly, to mislead the public.
On 20/1/20, a group of scientists called out government minister Matt Hancock who said that “flying has already been decarbonised”, an outright lie. [Letter from scientists]
Heathrow has joined the government’s campaign of mis-information. Hundreds of thousands of glossy leaflets have been delivered to households “How Heathrow can expand and tackle climate”. It claims that sustainable fuels, offsets and electric planes will solve the problem. They won’t.
Now a group of scientists from 6 universities, led by Professor Julian Allwood at Cambridge University, has produced a report which again rebuts these false claims.
“The UK aviation industry this week promised to bring its net carbon emissions down to zero by 2050 while growing by 70 per cent, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson boldly predicted that “viable electric planes” would be available in just a few years.
But past experience with innovation in aviation suggests that such ambitious targets are unrealistic and distracting. The only way the UK can get to net zero emission aviation by 2050 is by having a substantial period of no aviation at all. Let’s stop placing impossible hopes on breakthrough technologies, and try to hit emissions targets with today’s technologies.” [Report]
Huge areas devastated, people killed, an estimated billion animals die and what’s the response of Australia’s appalling prime minister, Scott Morrison? The New York Times tells us: “Why Australia is burning: As firefighters battle flames across the country, Australia’s prime minister is fighting to keep climate change out of the conversation.”
Hard to imagine, but his deputy Michael McCormack, is even worse. A climate denier, he characterised people talking about climate change as “inner-city raving lunatics”.
Australia’s leaders are appalling, but Britain’s leaders are little better. Their response to the climate emergency is to brand the group campaigning for action on climate change – Extinction Rebellion – as terrorists!
As the Independent says “Priti Patel’s [Home Secretary] listing of Extinction Rebellion as a terror threat is as alarming as it is comical.”