Friday, June 29, 2007
I would like to thank you again for the immense effort that you gone to on my behalf in tackling the government’s aviation strategy and raising the parliamentary questions. However, I am disappointed with the responses that you have received from Gillian Merron, as I am sure you must be. I can only conclude from these that the government are not seriously considering the impact of aviation on the environment.
Your first question “To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether it is the Government's policy to support the inclusion of EU aviation within the Emissions Trading Scheme,” has received the reply from Gillan Merron “The UK has taken the lead in securing aviation's inclusion into the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. This is in line with the Government's plans to tackle aviation's climate change impacts as set out in "The Future of Air Transport" White Paper.” However the Future of Air Transport White paper gives no details on the mechanism by which EU aviation would be incorporated into the scheme. It is important that we have visibility of these details and an understanding of the timescale by which aviation would be included and the reduction in CO2 emissions would be brought about by this. Without this, it starts to appear that the idea of achieving meaningful carbon reductions through carbon trading is mere talk. The transport secretary has publicly stated that the aviation industry is not taking carbon trading seriously.
Your second question “To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the aviation industry's progress towards its aim of improving fuel efficiency by 50 per cent. from 2000 to 2020,” has received the reply from Gillan Merron, “The aviation industry's sustainable aviation progress report 2006 available at www.sustainableaviation.co.uk includes information on progress towards this goal set by the Advisory Council on Aeronautics Research in Europe (ACARE).” However, I have been through this report and it does not give any meaningful update on the progress of fuel efficiency at all. It merely gives industry projections. We have no way of gauging the effectiveness of these claims or if they are simply wishful thinking. The only data this report shows is the fuel efficiency in litres per revenue tonne which is unrelated to the measurement quoted in the aviation bill. This only shows a 2.5% improvement, which is far below the governments targets suggested in the white paper.
Your third question, “To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what change there was in the aviation industry's fuel efficiency per seat between 2000 and 2005; and what assessment he has made of the implications of this trend for the possibility of meeting future targets,” has received the reply from Gillian Merron “The Government do not collect this information. The aviation industry's "Sustainable Aviation Progress Report 2006" available at www.sustainableaviation.co.uk includes a graph setting out aggregated airline fuel efficiency in litres per revenue tonne kilometre between 2000 and 2005.” It is extremely concerning that government does not capture this fundemental data especially as the industy sees its growth in carbon intensive long haul flights. As pointed out above, the fuel efficiency in litres per revene tonne only shows a 2.5% improvement and does not provide information on CO2 per passenger. Futher more, without data of this nature it is difficult to imagine how meaningful debates can ever be held over carbon trading.
Given that the minister of aviation is not able to provide even the most basic analysis of carbon emissions from the existing aviation industry, let alone be able to project future emissions after the proposed expansions and given the increased severity and risk to the planet of global warming, can you ask the further parliamentary question to the ministers for aviation and transport, “Given that the governement has no meaningful data on aviation emissions and given the conclusions of the IPCC and Stern reports why does the government not adopt a precautionary principle on airport expansion and proceed with further airport expansion only if there is unequivocal evidence that the carbon emissions will reduce and that the proposed developments do not further increase the risk of runaway global warming.”
Just to put the record straight, Cllr Jordan is only assuming the mantle of leader of the liberal democrat group and as such is leader of the opposition.
I remain in post as leader of the council.
I too would welcome a clarity in Liberal Democrat thinking on the airport and aviation matters as there seems to be a great deal of conflict and confusion between their local and national policy pronouncements and the support they give locally to the airport.
I have been trying to raise the future of the airport as one that needs a good public airing and sensible debate. So your points are both well made and timely and I hope that they go some way to promoting a positive and constructive debate.
Also see my letter to Glouceser Echo in response to Roger Daniels article.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
I read with interest the article in this week’s Gloucester Echo which reported that you are now to take over as the leader of the Cheltenham Council.
I trust that you will now use your position to live up to the promises of the Lib Dems on opposing airport expansion by withdrawing your support for the developments at Staverton Airport and showing the strength of leadership that will befit a position such as yours.
Just in case you have been too busy to keep in touch with the latest thinking of your party on airport expansion, I enclose a link to a statement from the Lib Deb Shadow Transport Secretary where he says "In the light of the Stern Review, the Government must urgently revise its plans for aviation expansion" and goes onto say "The previous White Paper's 'predict and provide' strategy for air transport was fundamentally flawed. A new approach is needed to help reduce emissions from aviation."
In case you are still in any doubt about the result of allowing this expansion to proceed, the Gloucester Echo also carried a report that Skytime has ordered 6 additional Lear Jets. These will be able to use the runway once it is extended.
As I have previously pointed out, flying Business Jets is the most carbon intensive mode of travel and Skytime's claims that it is carbon neutral by offsetting simply demonstrates a lack of understanding of the science behind the damage that they are doing. The emissions from this one development will negate the efforts that many thousands of people have made to reduce their CO2 emissions.
In case you have not noticed, much of Gloucestershire has been flooded this week whilst at the same time much of Southern Europe is baking in crippling heat. Climate Change is accelerating and the problems of today are mere foretastes of what is to come.
As your MP (Martin Horwood) has pointed out in his position as the Lib Dem Environment Spokesman, we need to be aiming at 90% cuts in CO2 emissions to provide any sort of future for our children.
I trust that you will use your new position to pursue the policies that your party has publicly committed to.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Click here to read my sad story of kind, but misguided faries or click here for recent letters to MPs, Ministers town councillors and just about anyone else I can think of as well as other interesting reports
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I would like to express my delight that your party is taking global warming seriously and considering its position on contentious issues such as airport expansion.
The extreme weather over the past couple of days in this country and elsewhere such as Pakistan, India, South East Asia and the Americas serves to indicate how seriously global warming is adversely affecting weather patterns. At present, countries around the world are being either flooded or baked. Very few countries are able to enjoy the predictability of their climates only 10 years ago. Already serious warning bells are being sounded as climate change has contributed to the world food reserves falling to their lowest ever level.
Given the evidence before our eyes and predictions of the IPCC report which indicate that we need to make 90% cuts in our CO2 emissions to avoid serious climate change, we must urgently move beyond discussions and take action. This means making fundamental changes to our lives and expectations.
As you are no doubt aware, the Fairford Air Tattoo is coming up within the next couple of weeks. In the current circumstances this frivolous event is an anachronistic throw back to the past when people were not aware of the imminent danger to the environment. The Fairford Air Tattoo will result in many thousands of tonnes of CO2 emissions from the planes, plus a significant contribution from all the unnecessary road traffic that an event of this size generates. This single event will cancel out the valiant attempts that many tens of thousands of people have made across the country to reduce their emissions. Furthermore, by allowing an event such as this to proceed unchallenged implicitly sends the message that tackling global warming is not our main priority.
Whilst there will no doubt be a vociferous group who will argue that the Fairford Airshow is essential and beneficial, there will be an equally large group who will be directly inconvenienced by the noise and congestion that the event generates.
As actions speak louder than words, I am sure that you will see the benefit of opposing further repeats of this most environmentally damaging event. I would urge you to use your position to protest against this event. If you are unprepared to challenge its future, then could you explain how you justify the environmental damage of an event such as this within your constituency?
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Thank you for your email. Gloucestershire County Council is responsible for street lighting and you may be aware that it is already piloting a change in street light operation involving the turning off of some lights during the early hours of the morning. Some pilot schemes were launched a month ago and GCC has established that the technology being used is effective and switch off between 12.00pm and 5.30pm is being achieved. GCC has just written to NTC to initiate discussion about the possibility of introducing a street lighting reduction scheme in Nailsworth. This proposal will be discussed by the Environment Committee on Monday 2 July ( Council Chamber Town Hall 7.30pm). GCC has drawn up general guidelines for reducing street lighting which include criteria which have been developed to identify streetlights where all night operation should not be changed including issues such as not compromising road safety on busier roads and retaining lighting for footpath users etc. So you will be pleased to learn I am sure that the issue of reducing street lighting is an important and current issue.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Further to our meeting this week, as requested I enclose the parliamentary question for Gillian Merron in response to her letter:-
In the government’s The Future of Air Transport Progress Report, published December 2006, it states that the aviation industry is adopting “a target to improve fuel efficiency by 50 per cent per seat kilometre in new aircraft in 2020 compared to 2000.” This target comes from Sustainable Aviation Report. However, this same report also shows that actual improvements between 2000 and 2005 were only 2.5% when based on litres/revenue tonne km. This is clearly far below the targets that the aviation strategy is based upon.
This poor performance is being aggravated by changes in the market. Both Boeing and Airbus are gearing up their production lines to build long range aircraft to cope with the expected surge in international aviation. This is reflected in the major orders that both manufactures have announced within recent weeks for long range aircraft. There is also the introduction of new transatlantic business class services which are extremely carbon intensive per passenger.
Given these market changes, the fuel use per passenger will increase which will inflate further the overall emissions and offset any efficiency improvements.
The government’s progress report also states, “We continue to pursue the inclusion of aviation emissions in the European Union (EU) emissions trading scheme (ETS) as soon as practicable, and to do so for all flights departing from EU airports, whatever their destination.”
Can the minister for aviation provide data to show the actual trend in fuel use per passenger? Can the minister for aviation also update on what progress has actually been achieved in including aviation into the ETS and details of how much carbon emission reduction will actually be delivered? Given that the Queens speech of 2006 underlines the government’s determination to tackle climate change, will the conclusions of the aviation bill and the progress report be reconsidered if the fuel use per passenger does not indicate that adequate improvements can be made and ETS does not offer adequate opportunities to offset the increased emissions?
Extract from the Sustainable Aviation report
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Thank you for obtaining a response from Gillian Merron MP on my letters to the department of transport which sought clarification on the contradictions to the government’s position on airport expansion and the critically urgent requirement to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 60%.
Ms Merron states of the Government’s policy on aviation that “We believe this strikes a balance between economic, environmental and social impacts of aviation.”
However, the governments own figures from the Environmental Audit Committee (ref HC-981-l) shown below conclude that Aviation is the fastest growing source of emissions. This is before the introduction of the proposed additional airport capacity.
Further to this Douglas Alexander when questioned by the same committee on the aviation industry’s approach to emissions control and carbon trading said,
“In terms of where we are in those negotiations, the evidence from the public statements of Lufthansa, even in the last 48 hours, evidences that the argument is not yet won within the aviation community. It is also no secret that some of our international partners are less than convinced of the merits even of a European scheme, never mind a wider scheme given the global nature of air travel"
Even in the government’s draft climate change bill the only meaningful reference to the impact of aviation is in a footnote at the bottom of page 28 which explains that if aviation is to be incorporated into the EU carbon trading scheme, it will done so by amending the targets, rather than making any meaningful attempt to actually reduce emissions.
These facts contrast with the conclusions of the Stern report and the IPCC report, which argue that 90% cuts in CO2 emissions are necessary to avoid dangerous climate change.
It is therefore clear that Gillian Merron’s statement that the policy “strikes a balance with the environmental impact of aviation” is wishful thinking that cannot be supported by any of the government’s published evidence.
In my earlier email to the DoT, I asked for clarification as to how the government justified their statement of “adopting a target to improve fuel efficiency by 50 per cent per seat kilometer in new aircraft in 2020 compared to 2000,” and what progress has actually been made against this. Ms Merron referred me to a copy of the Sustainable Aviation Report (No. 6). This is an aviation industry prepared document and thus not subject to any external scrutiny. The document states aspirations for efficiency achievements for certain new engines types and airframes. It seems that the government and industry has colluded to use this data as a measure of efficiency improvements actually being achieved for the entire current airline fleet. This is a grossly misleading distortion of the facts. The only information within Sustainable Aviation report showing past data that gives a measure of progress to the government’s and aviation industry’s aspirations in the white papers is the aggregated fuel efficiency, shown below. This graph shows an efficiency improvement of only 2.5% since 2000. A change as small as this is as likely to be noise as it is evidence of any sustainable improvement.
Thus it can be seen that even by the industry’s own figures, the improvement in fuel efficiency is far below that used as the basis for the government’s aviation policy.
If the target efficiency improvements in the government’s white paper were to be believed, the graph above would be showing an 18% improvement over the time period shown.
It should come a little surprise that the aviation figures have shown so little improvement. Recent reports in the press of empty planes flying from Heathrow to preserve slots and the introduction of new business jet services all undermine the image of an industry that claims to be concerned with the environment.
Gillian Merron also has stated in her letter that “The government is committed to a comprehensive approach, using economic instruments as an integral part of that approach to ensure that growing industries are catered for within a reducing total.” I have been trying hard to find any detailed analysis that the government has carried out to ensure that economic instruments could accommodate aviation emissions in a way that will allow the required CO2 targets to be met and what cuts other industries would be able to make to accommodate aviation. I have so far been unsuccessful. Could Ms. Merron explain what cuts she believes other industries will make to allow aviation’s expansion in accordance with government policies and what dialogue has actually been held with other industries on this? Given the facts above which show the aviation industries poor performance and the lack a response to this question from Ms Merron in my previous correspondence, am I correct to assume that there has actually been no dialogue and analysis? Does Ms Merron disagree with the Transport Secretary's statement to Environmental Audit Committee on the weakness of the concept of carbon trading for aviation?
On Gillan Merron’s last point in her letter to me “The report (14 Dec 2006) reaffirmed the government’s commitment to the strategy set out in the (Aviation) White paper,” can I assume that despite the lack of any published analysis carried out on offsetting aviation emissions, the lack of any measurable improvements and the publication of the IPCC report since the progress review that the government will continue to ignore all the warnings and proceed regardless of the environmental risks? Could Ms. Merron also explain how I should present these contradictions to my children?
David Drew MP
House of Commons
Thank you for your letter of 25 April to Douglas Alexander enclosing correspondence from Mr Kevin Lister about aviation and the environment. I have been asked to reply as Minister for Aviation.
As Mr Lister is aware, the Government's policy on aviation is set out in The Future of Air Transport White Paper. We believe this strikes a balance between the economic, environmental and social impacts of aviation.
The source of the 50% fuel saving per seat km for new aircraft entering service by 2020 compared to 2000 is work published by a European Commission funded organisation called ACARE, the Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe. This has been widely used in the UK by an industry based group called the 'Sustainable Aviation Council'. Members include experts from airframe and engine manufacturers, aircraft operators, airport operators and the air traffic control community.
Late last year they produced a progress report, using the ACARE work, with pages 16-17 presenting some details of how the 50% target will be achieved. The airframe will contribute 20-25%, the engines 15-20% and improved air traffic management 5-10%. New aircraft entering service today already benefit from improved fuel efficiency over their predecessors. But the different stakeholders are working to make further progress which should contribute to further improvements even for later variants of today's new aircraft. The progress report is available at:
Air Passenger Duty (APD), as with all taxation matters, is for the Treasury. However, we believe that the estimate of savings due to the rise in APD was derived from the assumed impact on demand. We recognise that APD plays one part in a suite of measures to tackle aviation's environmental impact and as such will contribute to a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. However APD does achieve other things too: it better ensures that the sector meets the external costs it imposes on society, and it delivers resources for the Government's spending priorities including public transport and the environment.
Mr Lister is correct in that the Government believe the best way of tackling aviation's impact is through an emissions trading scheme. As explained earlier, the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) is a major policy measure that aims to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide at least cost to industry. Participants are allocated tradeable emissions "allowances" (similar to quotas) that they can trade to help them in meeting their emissions reductions targets. This allows the aviation sector to cover its environmental costs through a combination of delivering emissions reductions within the sector itself and by purchasing reductions that can be produced more cheaply by other sectors.
There are a variety of ways in which greenhouse gas emissions might be reduced across the economy. More information can be found about the sectors already included in the EU ETS on the Defra website at www.defra.gov.uk. The Government is committed to a comprehensive approach, using economic instruments as an integral part of that approach to ensure that growing industries are catered for within a reducing total.
Finally, Mr Lister asked if the Government was reconsidering its aviation policy. A report on the progress on the White Paper was published on 14 December 2006, in which we set out our progress on implementing our policy commitments, including on environmental measures. This report reaffirmed the Government's commitment to the strategy set out in the White paper.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
I watched the adjournment debate on climate change with interest last night. May I congratulate you on the question you raised during Martin Horwood's speech on the introduction of individual carbon rationing. Martin's speech gave an excellent synopsis as to why we need to be making cuts of the order of 90% in our carbon emissions to have any reasonable chance of saving the planet and thus your question was highly pertinent.
Unfortunately you never got much of an answer and this is probably because it has not been given much thought by other parties. I have to say that I had always been sceptical of the concept as well. However, given further consideration, I believe that your idea has very strong merits.
Firstly, from a technological point of view its introduction should be relatively easy. A ration card could be handled in exactly the same was that a Tesco points card is used. The only difference is that it would be illegal for a company to buy and sell selected products, such as petrol or air travel to somebody without the card, and you could only buy the products if your carbon ration had not been exceeded.
There is also the opportunity of incorporating the ration cards with the proposed personal identification cards that the government is planning to introduce.
Secondly, the benefit of the personal rationing system that you outlined is that it would penalise those people who have excessive carbon emissions, either through things such as driving large cars excessive distances or frequent flyers. The rationing system would force cuts before biting into the living standards of those who do not cause significant emissions. This is likely to result in a quick and significant carbon emissions drop because the distribution of carbon emissions is heavily skewed. This skew in the data is because nobody emits less than zero emissions, but a small number of people will produce emissions very much larger than the average. These extreme consumers of carbon have the effect of distorting and inflating the overall average. Also despite the publicity, many of these extreme consumers are not yet changing their lifestyles and are still showing little incentive to do so. Therefore these few people can negate the benefit of many others who try to cut back.
Thirdly, the personal rationing can be extended to products and services that are provided from oversees suppliers. This prevents energy intensive manufacturing processes from simply being relocated into countries that are not part of a currently proposed carbon trading schemes, e.g car manufacturing is an energy intensive business and several manufactures are now looking at relocation to developing countries that are not bound by the Kyoto targets.
Fourthly, the government's draft climate change bill discusses at great length the idea of the climate change committee. If individual carbon rationing was introduced, then a prime role of the climate change committee would be to determine the amount carbon allocation for various products and services and oversee the phasing in of the rationing concept.
Fifth, carrots could be introduced into the system, such as subsidised public travel or grants for solar heating and insulation of houses on submission of the card.
On the down side, introduction of the concept may be politically difficult as this will cause carbon cuts, unlike the current Kyoto targets which do not really result in any signficant carbon cuts. However, this can be mitigated by incorporating incentives into the processes such as identified in point 5 above. Also a growing proportion of the country wants to see action being taken, and as the climate starts changing for the worse they will become more cynical of the delays that international agreements such as Kyoto are causing.
Congratulations on your speech in tonights adjournment debate and the analysis of the CO2 targets that you outlined. You have made the point eloquently as to why we need to be pursuing target cuts in the region of 90% and why with an issue such as the future of civilisation we should be employing the precautionary principle.
Further to my previous email on Staverton airport; given that you recognise the need to achieve CO2 cuts in the order of 90%, can I now assume that you will taking the opportunity to show leadership and to use your influence to object to this carbon intensive development within your constituency.
Saturday, June 09, 2007
Staverton Airport and Martin Horwood's (MP for Cheltenham and Lib Dem Environment spokesman) opportunity for to put words into action
First of all congratulations on your excellent speech at the Climate Change meeting on Thursday. I am pleased that you recognise the importance of putting environmental survival before economic growth and your clarification that the Lib Dems are against all airport expansions.
You may remember that I caught you briefly at the end of the meeting in the foyer and asked for your opinion on the proposed expansion of Staverton Airport. You said that you understood from the management that the expansion was safety related, and said that you did not want to call them liars.
However, let me clarify:
The management has now clearly stated that their intent for this development is to expand the airport's operations with the aim of establishing scheduled routes from the Airport to other cities in this country and Northern Europe.
The management have stated that they wish to attract business jets to the airport. As you are probably aware, a large number of these "business jets" will be unnecessary pleasure flights of the ultra rich. Even if this were not the case, we should be encouraging businesses in this region to operate with the minimum carbon foot print and not try to attract them by the offer of dedicated runway facilities which will encourage the most carbon intensive mode of operation.
The airport has published their business plan and given outlines of the additional services which are expected to run. I have used this information to estimate the number of trees that are needed to offset the carbon that this will produce. It works out at approximately, 1.5 million trees.
The airport has used false arguments such as safety to justify their proposed expansion. However, it is only unsafe in its present configuration if they choose to operate larger planes from it. If it remains as a low carbon operation flying with only light private planes then there will be no elevated safety risk.
The argument made by the airport and will no doubt be made by the supporters of the expansion that because it is small, its impact on global warming will be negligible. This is nonsense and is equivalent to saying it is okay to rob the corner shop because it is small compared to the great train robbery. As was clear at the meeting, we need to find every way possible to reduce carbon emisssions and not allow any unncessary increases. In fact, because this airport is small, its economic benefit to the community will also be small and therefore it should be easy to manage with out it.
Copies of correspondence that I have sent to the airport management and the councillors of Tweksbury, Cheltenham and Gloucester are available on my blog, see;
I implore you to live up to your commitments and declaration on airport expansion and oppose this one on your doorstep.
Date: Sat, 9 Jun 2007 16:21:41 +0100 (BST)From: Kevin Lister
Subject: Street lights
In response to articles that I have written in the Nailsworth News under the title "Kevs Climate Column" a letter was sent in recently suggesting that we could reduce our CO2 emissions by switching off street lighting say after 11:00 pm.
I personally think that this is a great idea and would also allow us to appreciate the pleasures again of looking at the night sky with out the current levels of light pollution.
As you may have picked up in the press recently, the seriousness of global warming is increasing virtually by the day. The government's draft climate change bill which is currently out for public consultation is a grossly inadequate response to the magnitude of the problem that faces us. The fundamental reality is that we must all cut back on consumption as aggressively as possible. It is therefore imperative that we act in all ways that we can.
Additionally, actions always speak louder than words, and switching off the street lights is a very public way of saying that as a community we care.
Thank you for considering this proposal,