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Monday, May 23, 2011

Letter to Serious Fraud Office demanding an internal review on Birmingham Airport

Dear Sirs/ Madame,

Thank you for your response (copied below) to my previous email .

I am glad that you have “carefully reviewed all of the information,” however you have not provided a copy of your review which is what we requested under the Freedom of Information Act. All you have provided below is a reaffirmation of your previous position which was to take no action.

We understand why you do not want to take action and we understand that you will probably consider this to be a stunt that is out-with your normal experience, however this is no reason not to treat it as serious fraud.

You have asked “which aspects of my reply concern you.” I will reiterate and expand on the previous false claims that the airport has made on their web site and I ask that you explain on each one why you do not consider it to be material for instigating fraud proceedings:

False Claim 1: “Carbon Footprints, Carbon Neutrality, Emissions Trading; all part of the new language of climate change”

  • The implication of this statement is that aviation can be made Carbon Neutral. This is totally and utterly impossible. However it has been pushed forward so consistently by the aviation industry that many decision makers believe it to be true.

  • There is no evidence that Emissions Trading is going to resolve the massive build up of atmospheric CO2. The major airlines that will by key customers to Birmingham Airport's financial success are actively fighting and campaigning to be excluded from any emission trading schemes.

  • Put simply, large corporations are able to bully governments into having carbon credits granted. The aviation industry has already shown that it is willing to do likewise and if it fails, it will insist on pricing out of the market those people at the bottom of the income pile and forcing them into total poverty. This is the only outcome in the new zero sum economy that we are moving towards and this facility has been included in the European ETS scheme.

False Claim 2: In fact, aviation contributes 3.4% of the world’s CO2 emissions and these emissions will grow at 0.7% per year; less than the 2% for power generation, 1.7% for transport on average, 1.6% for industry and 1% for the residential / commercial sector.

These figures are fraudulent for the following reasons:

  • There is no reference to the non-CO2 effects of aviation such as Nitrous Oxide and vapour trails. These have at least as much global warming impact as the CO2 emissions.
  • The emission growth rate of aviation is incorrect. From EU documents, the growth rate can be calculated to be approximately 4.7% - far higher than claimed by Birmingham Airport. This leads to a doubling of CO2 emissions every 17 years – furthermore during each doubling period, the same total emissions will be produced as since the first plane flew.
  • The figures quoted by Birmingham make no reference to the total CO2 in the atmosphere increasing by 3.4% per annum, leading to a doubling of atmospheric CO2 every 20 years. As such the figures that they quote are proportions of an unsustainably increasing overall quantity. Not to refer to this in their claim is a serious omission.

False claim 3: “the industry continues to commit money and resources to find new technological and operational solutions that will reduce air travel’s contribution to the global problem.”

  • There is absolutely no evidence that new technology has lead to the slightest reduction in CO2 emissions, on the contrary aviation emissions have increased at an exponential rate since the first flight by the Wright Brothers irrespective of all the new technology developed since that date. All that happens with new technology is that more planes fly, they get larger, they fly further and they fly more frequently. No new technology in the future will reverse this trend of increasing emissions growth. In fact, Flying Matters which was the industry lobby group and whose essential remit was to peddle this single fraud has now been wound up; because its position was so untenable.

False claim 4: Most noticeably, aircraft have become 70% more fuel-efficient than they were 40 years ago.”

  • Today's planes are only now reaching the economy of slower piston planes such as the 1950s Lockheed Constellation. The comparison made with planes of 40 years ago is essentially a comparison against the first generation of jets such as the Boeing 707 and VC-10 which were sold and operated in comparatively small numbers in relation to today's current volume of planes. It is therefore a deliberately selective and intentionally misleading comparison.

False Claim 5: Birmingham is proud to be home to many green fleets including Flybe’s Q400 and Embraer 195 aircraft, and Ryanair’s 737-800 aircraft, all of which move people for less fuel burn and lower emissions per seat than the smaller and older types.

  • This is deliberately misleading as the the airport development is principally designed to attract the A380 and Boeing 747s, each of which emit thousands of tonnes of greenhouse gases per flight. They have purposely not been referenced here.
  • The statement that they are “home to green fleets” is also deliberately misleading. When faced with the urgent need to cut atmospheric greenhouse gases and to move to a zero carbon economy, there can be no such thing as a green fleet of planes. The only green plane would be one that sucks CO2 out of the atmosphere.
  • The reference to lower emissions per seat is deliberately misleading as it does not reference total emissions which is the key issue. Emissions per seat only reduces about 10% from one generation of plane to the next – thus gains from new technology result in diminishing returns. By contrast the total number of planes is increasing considerably from one generation to the next and the emissions from this increase in total numbers eclipses any efficiency improvements. As a point of comparison, the new Boeing 787 is the most successful plane at launch ever, and is being closely followed by the A350x.
  • The omission of key facts, in the way that has been done here is fraudulent as defined by the fraud act.

False Claim 6: “As a responsible business, it is important that we reduce the amount of CO2 that we produce. To achieve this, we review our energy use all the time to ensure we are being as efficient as possible. Last year, we managed to introduce electricity savings of 1.6 million kWh, enough to supply 320 homes for one year.”

  • By proceeding with this development it is clear that Birmingham Airport have no intention of reducing their CO2 emissions. A single afternoon’s operation will wipe out their claimed savings. As a corporation, their primary objective is to maximise profits. If this means increasing CO2 emissions, then they must do it. They are being fraudulent pretending that CO2 emission reduction is a key objective to them.

We restate our case, that the above fraudulent claims and deliberate omissions are made to seek gain for others, (in this case the Airport's shareholders) and cause loss to others (in this case the general population and the environment). The particular gain being sought is planning application along with securing public funds to support the road diversion. It is inconceivable that these would have been granted had the Airport been fully truthfully about its environmental impact. Just because the aviation industry and other high carbon emitting industries have operated on the basis of environmental fraud for years does not mean that they have a right to continue doing so in the future. This is unequivocally a case for criminal investigation.

Finally, the situation on climate change is rapidly moving towards the worst possible nightmare and dystopian future. Our emissions build up is exceeding the worst case predictions of the IPCC reports; the Arctic Ice Cap is melting far faster than anticipated and is likely to be gone during the summer months within the next couple of years; once it melts our climate will step change into a new and entirely unpredictable state that is unlikely to be compatible with our survival. We are left with the smallest of time frames to take the toughest of action to drive deep cuts into our CO2 budget. In these circumstances it is absolutely reprehensible for powerful corporations be allowed to abuse the “fictional person” status that they have within our legal system and act to destroy our planet. Currently the fraud act, is the only legislation that can be used to effectively stop their actions and result in the prosecutions necessary.

It has never been more important that you take this case seriously and set the precedent for environmental responsibility and the rule of law before it is too late. The consequences of inaction on your behalf are too terrible to consider.

I therefore request that an internal review is carried out as you offer. I will be delighted to offer any support that you may need for this and provide evidence as necessary.

Yours sincerely,
Kevin Lister


Our Reference: 2011-34

Thank you for your request for information about Birmingham Airport. Your request was received on 8 May 2011 and I am dealing with it under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA).

Your requested was as follows:
Under the freedom of information act, we demand to see the legal justification you have taken in making your determination not to pursue this case.

This information does not exist as there was no legal justification required to make this decision. As previously advised the SFO carefully reviewed all of the information relating to your referral. However, we were not able to find material that lead us to suspect that the most serious or complex fraud had taken place. On this basis we were unable to take any further action in relation to this matter.

We are of the view that the matters you have raised in relation to Birmingham Airport are issues which seem better pursued through the Department of Environment & Rural Affairs (DEFRA). DEFRA is the UK government department responsible for policy and regulations on the environment, food and rural affairs. I attach a link to their website.

If you have any queries about this letter, please contact me. Please remember to quote reference number 2011-34 in any future communications

If you are not happy with my reply, you may ask for a review. You must do this by writing to me within two months of the date of this letter. It would help us with the review if you could tell us which aspects of my reply concern you and why you are dissatisfied.

If you are not content with the outcome of an internal review, you may apply direct to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner will not usually consider a case unless you have exhausted the internal review procedure. His address is The Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF.

Yours sincerely

Kay Squires
Freedom of Information Officer
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