Last minute Cabinet rebellion may delay Heathrow announcement

Climate Rush 1

As MPs returned from their long winter breaks the Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon has been hard at work making sure that they don't get a say on Heathrow expansion. With 57 confirmed Labour rebels and strong opposition from the Lib Dems and Conservatives a vote on expansion would get defeated pretty heavily, so Hoon was planning to announce expansion this week: too quick for the Tories to schedule a vote.

It's a risky game. Hoon is gambling that Labour rebels - who might vote against expansion to influence an as-yet-unmade decision - won't want to side with the opposition if the decision has already been made. Unsurprisingly MPs with legitimate concerns about NOx levels, CO2 emissions, noise, increase traffic, the destruction of Sipson, etc, etc, are none best pleased by all this manipulation, and have launched a last-ditch attempt to make Hoon see sense. They've demanding reassurance that Heathrow won't be allowed to expand if it harms the environment.

The decision could be delayed until the end of the month. Hoon needs his Cabinet colleagues behind him, but what promises can he actually make? BAA won't limit capacity: it's already cramming planes into every nook and cranny. Expansion can't be done within the "strict, local, environmental limits" - as EU Environment chief Stavros Dimas warned last year. Does anyone really believe that this Government would lie to us over the consultation, turn Sipson into rubble and then turn around and ban any increase in flights because they're suddenly worried about the planet?

Cabinet split growing: MPs demand a vote on Heathrow

Airbus over houses

When Governments face rebellion in the back benches, they traditionally defer whatever is causing the problem. This buys them enough time to offer out peerages and cushy jobs to the rebels, defusing enough of the protest to win a vote when the division bell sounds. But Transport Secretary Geoff 'Buff' Hoon may live to regret delaying the Heathrow decision, because this rebellion shows no sign of dying out.

West London Labour MPs who recognise they'll get a kicking in the next election (and a fair few who would benefit from high-speed rail) are now demanding a vote in the Commons - and the Tories or Lib Dems may be able to provide one. Senior Cabinet Ministers are now openly briefing against expansion, concerned that the "strict, local environmental limits" will be broken. BAA even tried to talk up an independent board to analyse the airport's eco-impact, only to be laughed off the Today programme.

The latest plan is to scrap the runway and opt for mixed-mode; such a political option. Mixed-mode - where the airport uses both runways for take-offs and landings - is not as sexy as the destruction of an ancient village, and there would not be as many extra flights. But it's still nonsense. It really doesn't matter whether your emissions come from new runways or old ones; what matters is whether they are increasing or not. Mixed-mode will increase emissions, so it must be sent packing - along with any residual plans to build another runway.

Reach for the sky: aviation emissions in Climate Bill

Reach for the sky

The government has backed down on aviation and shipping, agreeing to include both in the Climate Change Bill's 80% emissions reduction targets. They had planned to let the industry grow as much as it liked while cracking down on other sectors, but changed their mind when faced with a major backbench rebellion.

So in theory aviation emissions will have to reduce by 80% - and, as there are no sustainable fuels in the pipeline, that should mean a lot fewer flights. The problem is that like all good Labour projects, there'll be plenty of creative accounting. This time its a cunning plan to let the UK buy other countries' emissions reductions off them, perhaps by taking a bunch of greener lightbulbs and handing them out around the world. This, frankly, is cheating.

Climate Change Committee calls for aviation in the Climate Bill



Looks like some hardcore lobbying might be paying off: the influential Climate Change Committee, which is advising the Government on its climate change targets, has just announced that it wants international aviation to be included in the Climate Change Bill.

The Government has always been opposed to this, because it's harder to meet emissions targets if you have to count things that actually pollute. It would much rather focus on all sorts of areas which can be sorted out with superficial changes - like new lightbulbs or a draught excluder. Crucially the CCC also recomended an 80% cut in emissions, which Brown all but promised to accept during his Labour Party Conference speech.

So is this a total victory for climate campaigners and people who don't want the earth to transform into a microwave dinner? Sadly not; important as the Bill is, it won't mean a thing unless the public forces Government, civil servants and corporations to act on CO2. Amid all the self-congratulation we mustn't lose sight of the urgent need to physically block any efforts to build new coal-fired power stations, roads or runways. Failure simply isn't an option.

Breaking news: of course it could never be so simple. As the smoke cleared it's become apparent that the CCC had not actually called for international aviation to be included. Instead they want international flights to be counted seperately and airlines asked very nicely if they'll reduce their emissions. If they fail to then other sectors will be expected to pick up the slack. For god's sake people, grow a backbone and stop including pathetic caveats to exempt an industry that has consistently failed to sort itself out.

Britain lobbies against EU green aviation targets



Those cheese-eating surrender monkeys in the EU are at it again! Not content with straightening our bananas and making us all speak Flemish, they're now trying to take away our God-given right to fly polluting planes everywhere. You couldn't make it up!

Luckily, those plucky chaps in Whitehall are on the case. They've been pressing the flesh, trying to persuade all those Eurocrats to exempt aviation from a general target of 20% renewable energy by 2020. But that's not all - they're also trying to make targets on clean energy in homes optional, so we don't actually have to follow them.

They're doing a great job: so far they've managed to reduce our reduction from 20% to 15% because we've historically been so crap on renewables, and are trying to persuade Brussels that nuclear energy and electricity from carbon-capture and storage coal is renewable. Three cheers for the civil servants - they're showing Jonny Foreigner what's what!

Scottish Government ignores Climate Bill consultation responses

Gamerz ignore

What if you threw a consultation and nobody came? Not a problem for the Scottish Executive, whose recent consultation into the Climate Bill garnered 21,000 responses, most demanding that international aviation be included in the emissions reductions targets. Despite what civil servant automatons claim, it's not too complicated - basically you just convert 'bunker fuel' into emissions and include it within your calculations. An A grade GCSE maths student could probably do it.

But like their British counterparts, it all got too hard for the Scottish Government. They really, really don't want to include international aviation, because then they'll either have to tackle wanton flying or miss their emissions targets. Faced with thousands of responses, the Government did something rather sneaky - they lumped all the responses together into 8 different responses (one for each NGO that got its members to respond) and promptly announced that just a third of respondents wanted aviation emissions included.

Dr. Richard Dixon, head of WWF Scotland, was understandably pretty pissed off. "When the government themselves solicited tens of thousands of responses on the smoking ban, they were delighted to count them all. However, with more than 20,000 people telling the government to do the right thing by including flying in the climate bill, it is hugely disappointing that they have gone out of their way to sideline these responses." Some faceless civil servant responded, "Difficult to assess emissions... international effort... more than one flight... can't be arsed... going to miss my flight."

Government's former scientific adviser: third runway is white elephant

Flash mob

Former scientific adviser Sir David King used to love the third runway. When taking the Government shilling he'd wax lyrical about the need to balance the economy and the environment, bleating about green planes and how hard the industry was working to green itself.

But now that his pension's been secured and with a healthy future on the lecture circuit before him, he's slammed the third runway as a "white elephant". The need to tackle climate change means "we will drive people toward land-based travel rather than air, and investments in new runways will turn out to be white elephants."

Now I'm all in favour of support from people who used to have the Government's ear - climate change is too important for to be partisan - but it infuriates me when former advisors and ministers wait until out of influence before taking sides. What's the point of opposing something when out of office if you supported it while in office - working hard to help the Government advance the very plans you're going to oppose in later life? Does seem a bit silly...

Ask Leo: what's wrong with the Emissions Trading Scheme?


The EU has finally agreed to include aviation emissions in the European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). This might look like good news - after all, it is the first and only international emissions agreement to include air transport, and indeed the only policy measure the British government has on the table to address aviation's role in causing climate change. But don't get too excited just yet - because this measure is not actually intended to reduce aviation emissions.

Instead, it is expressly intended to allow them to continue to rise, by enabling airlines to purchase credits under the scheme from other sectors who have successfully reduced their own emissions, or worse, from 'accredited' offsetting schemes in far-off lands such as China. But the extra warming impact of aviation emissions over ground-based CO2 emissions is unaccounted for in the plan. Which means that permits to pollute that are sold to airlines by, for instance, power companies, will actually lead to 2 to 5 times more global warming than if the power companies had never reduced their emissions in the first place. MEPs had proposed a way to factor this in to the scheme, but, somewhat unsurprisingly, the aviation lobby successfully got that thrown out by the Commission.

Planning Bill destroys democracy and fosters direct action

Claremont Road

On Wednesday the Planning Bill received its Third Reading, and scraped through with a majority of just 43 votes. It now goes to the House of Lords where the unelected chamber is expected to step up and tear strips off it. If anyone is wondering just what the implications of the Bill are, I suggest reading the following excerpt from John McDonnell, MP for Hayes and Harlington, as he tried to persuade Labour politicians to oppose the Government and the Bill.

"The behaviour of the House in agreeing the programme motion and conducting today’s debate has been little short of a disgrace.

"The practical implication of the Bill is that it will most probably be used in my constituency first with regard to Heathrow. Before Members walk through the Lobby tonight, they should recognise what they are doing. If they vote for the Bill and it is used at Heathrow, thousands of people will lose their homes—they will be forcibly removed from their properties. Those parents who send their children to Heathrow primary, William Byrd school and Harmondsworth school will see those schools demolished. The proposal will also mean a roadway through Cherry Lane cemetery, so we will dig up our dead as a result of the proposals for Heathrow that will be forced through under this procedure. When Members vote tonight, they should recognise the human implications as well as the pollution of the air of communities across London.

Planning. But not for climate change

Planning Bill

The Planning Bill currently making its way through Parliament is yet another kick in the teeth for British democracy. The Bill has been cooked up to allow central command to force roads, runways and nuclear power stations onto unwilling communities without having to listen to any of their bleating about it in the process.

Brown's lot like to point to wind farms when asked about the reasoning behind this obviously anti-democratic piece of legislation. But this week they demonstrated quite clearly the true motivation behind it – by voting against an amendment that would have meant Ministers had to demonstrate every major infrastructure project's role in the mitigation of climate change before granting it permission.

Since that would have been, hmm - a bit hard for the new generation of coal fired power stations and airport expansions they've got their little hearts set on, they quite sensibly threw out the amendment. In doing so, they have nailed their true colours to the mast – and none of those colours is green. It's time to dust off the D-locks and start gearing up to fight a carbon hungry development near you. Once this Bill has been passed there'll be no other way to stop it.