Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Meanwhile, look what's just flown into my in-box

Bearing in mind one tends to read these 'newest first', I do often ask for a little backflip for context, as in this case.

Because, just as I was helping put the boot into airport expansion (and an increase in our flying culture in general), look what cropped up (an emailed press release, and while I'm sure there is a URL I can't be fagged in this heat to go and find it, sorry):

From the office of the South-East England’s Green MEP Caroline Lucas


July 4th,




AIRLINES have been left reeling after a vote in the European Parliament
called for a raft of measures to tackle their growing contribution to
climate change.

Euro-MPs in Strasbourg voted by 439 to 74 to adopt proposals drafted by
Green Party MEP Caroline Lucas to introduce a range of measures including an
airlines-only CO2 Emissions Trading Scheme and emissions charges to tackle
their non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions. There were 102 abstentions.

Dr Lucas told fellow MEPs the EU must take action to curb airlines’
greenhouse gas emissions if we are to stand any chance of avoiding
devastating climate change: “Doing nothing just isn’t an option”.

"The aviation sector is growing fast – aircraft movements are predicted to
double by 2020 and triple by 2030 - and technological efficiency gains just
aren't enough to counteract the massive increases in emissions that this
will generate.

“We simply have no choice but to clip the airlines' wings and force them to
reduce their impact on the climate, if we are to stand any chance of cutting
our emissions by the level that’s needed to halt the deadly march of climate

"Airlines currently enjoy a complex array of tax breaks and hidden subsidies
- worth more than £9 billion in the UK alone - which are long outdated and
totally incompatible with global climate goals. International progress on
removing these and getting the industry to pay its way has been pitifully
slow, which is why we must ensure the EU really paves the way for global
action by introducing the most effective legislation possible.

 “Emissions trading has the potential to play a role in reducing the climate
change impact of aviation - but only if it is accompanied by other measures
to tackle the fact that aircraft emissions are two to four times more potent
than those from other industries (because of the altitude at which they are
emitted, and the effects of non-CO2 emissions like condensation trails and
nitrogen oxides) – and, crucially, only if it doesn’t allow airlines to
carry on business as usual by gobbling up the emission rights of other

MEPs have been intensively lobbied by the airlines in recent weeks – with
most calling for air travel to be included in the EU’s existing Emissions
Trading Scheme: a measure which will do little to deter airlines’ future
emissions growth. Even Andrew Sentance, BA’s head of environmental affairs,
openly admitted as much last week.

Dr Lucas’s report will now form the Parliament’s submission to the EU
Commission’s forthcoming legislative proposals – which could be on the EU
statute book by 2008.

“At a time when few now deny the urgency of addressing climate change, the
rapid growth in flying threatens to throw all efforts to reduce dangerous
emissions off course,” added Dr Lucas, who is also an MEP for South-East
England and Green Party Principal Speaker.

“We must work together to find ways of making the aviation industry reduce
its social and environmental impact, rather than draining tax payers’ cash
as it continues to generate pollution, noise, congestion – and climate

Moves are afoot, one suspects.

Plane and (not so) simple.

Gollygosh. Two in one day. Another I can't really fault in message and tone, and am happy to endorse. Interesting however to note this one requires your address to be valid, whilst the previous one did not. I wonder who was right?

Aviation is the fastest-growing contributor to climate change. As part of Airportwatch, Friends of the Earth is calling on the Government to rethink its aviation policy - you can make a difference by emailing the Secretary of State for Transport at http://www.rethink.airportwatch.org.uk/ You can also lessen your environmental impact by holidaying in the UK or finding alternative ways to travel at http://www.seat61.com (includes destinations in the UK, Europe and beyond).

And of course, I did have a few tweaks of my own. It is hardly credible that 'we' do all this and end up at the mercy of economies not so moved:

To: Douglas Alexander, Secretary of State for Transport

Dear Mr Alexander,
Re: 2006 Aviation White Paper Review
As you will gather, I am using the template provided by airportwatch, to which I was directed by Friends of the Earth.
I have to take as fact their assertion that The Government’s 2003 Aviation White Paper was widely condemned as unsustainable, even by its own environment and sustainability advisers. And aspects of its methodology have been repeatedly questioned but never addressed. I note the problems with current aviation policy, which include:
Climate Change
It allows a huge increase in CO2 emissions from aviation, making it all but impossible for the Government to meet its long-term climate change targets.
It means worsening noise levels, day and night, for more people because the increase in the number of planes will more than offset any improvements in the noise of individual aircraft.
Countryside and Heritage Under Threat
It will threaten the character, diversity and tranquility of the countryside and sacrifices an unacceptable number of historic listed buildings
Impact of Oil Prices on long-term passenger forecasts
Current forecasts underpinning the White Paper do not take sufficient account of rising oil prices.
The programme of airport expansion was justified by a flawed assessment of the economic benefits of aviation, funded by your Department and the industry working in tandem. It failed to address the tax breaks the aviation industry enjoys through tax-free fuel and exemption from VAT, which cost the economy at least £9 billion a year in lost revenue.
In 2006 the Government has a unique opportunity to review its policy. Yet so far it has talked of producing only a ‘progress report’. Given the problems outlined above, nothing less than a fundamental policy rethink will do. Please write to assure me that you will:
1.  Rein back expansion so it is consistent with your target of a 60% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
2.  Recognise the limits rising oil prices will put on demand for air travel as we head towards $100 per barrel
3.  Remove the tax-breaks the aviation industry enjoys*
4.  Reassess air freight which currently pays no tax whatsoever *
5.  Reduce both the day and night time noise suffered by local communities, as well as the numbers of people affected
6.  Respect the country’s biodiversity and heritage including ancient woodlands and listed buildings
7.  Revisit (with all that word entails) rail as an alternative to short-haul flights
8.  Revise the economic assessment of the aviation industry
9.  Review your unsustainable expansion plans for the UK air transport industry by taking immediate urgent action on all the points above
10. Rethink the "predict & provide" approach put forward in the White Paper.
*I am encouraged that this template does try and offer workable solutions without being impossibly idealistic. However I do also recognise that there are economic imperatives nationally, within the EU and amongst the major economies that do make unilateral actions problematic. However these cannot be used as excuses for inaction or procrastination.
Personally, all I need to do is look up at the sky over Ross on Wye to see how much the current level of air travel must be leaving its mark on the climate. Any more planes in the air can only be a very serious retrograde step, and adding more airports is like adding more bars to the high street whilst talking about the consequences of our drinking culture.
I look forward to your reply.


I don't always agree with everything e-activist organisations get up to, but the FoE scores more often than most, as with this, which I was happy to support and would encourage readers of this blog to do so, too:

Almost all changes in waste policy in the UK rely on European Union laws. The EU is currently discussing a revision of waste laws, with both EU Member States and the European Parliament voting to decide what changes. Friends of the Earth wants to persuade the UK Government to push for improvements. Email Ian Pearson MP, the UK Minister for the Environment, to push for more waste prevention and maximum recycling - visit http://www.foe.co.uk/campaigns/waste/press_for_change/eu/

Of course I could not resist a slight tweak, but as you'll gather should you compare, I think they got the content and tone pretty much right on:

To: Ian Pearson MP, UK Minister for the Environment ( a new one!)

Dear Mr. Pearson,

Using the FoE template as its basis, I am writing to you regarding the new EU Thematic Strategy on Waste Prevention and Recycling and the draft revision to the Waste Framework Directive.
I fully endorse the suggestion that the revised EU waste policy should be focussed firstly on the prevention or reduction of waste, and secondly on ensuring that as much waste as possible is reused, recycled and/or composted. I'd also like to encourage the notion of repair as a complementary option.
I amazed to learn that they are not already so enshrined, as they really are no-brainers, but the key changes I agree need to be in the proposed waste laws are:
1) A clear description of the waste hierarchy, ie that prevention/reduction is the best option, followed by reuse, then recycling and composting, then energy recovery, and finally landfill.
2) Creation of an effective process to ensure that waste is prevented, for example by ensuring that companies design their products to produce less waste. My own company, Junkk.com, is highly active in this area, and we are constantly amazed how much effort and expenditure goes into such as recycling which, while certainly highly important, need not be the only solution.
3) A phase out of the disposal (by incineration or landfill) of any waste that can be reused, recycled or composted.
I am pleased to note that the wording of this template provided by the FoE acknowledges certain practical situations that authorities often face, and seeks more to rearrange the order of priorities rather than dealing in idealistic absolutes.
This all makes very good sense for every party.