More flights than ever before – climate emergency?

The number of flights operating in UK airspace is expected to hit a record high on Friday as more than 9,000 planes take to the skies on the same day as schoolchildren around the world stage a climate strike.

The spike in British flights is down to a combination of factors, including the bank holiday weekend, the Monaco Grand Prix and the close of the Cannes film festival. There is also a significant rise in the number of private jets scheduled to fly to and from the French Riviera.

The previous high came at the same time a year ago, with 8,854 flights, and air traffic controllers expect the numbers to increase again next week.

The anticipated record day is taking place as more than 100 school climate demonstrations are staged in the UK as part of a global protest by schoolchildren about the climate crisis. Aviation is one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

Muna Suleiman, a climate campaigner at FoE, said: “We simply cannot allow aviation to continue expanding at this rate if we’re to have any chance of preventing further damage. It’s the richest minority taking the majority of the flights and then leaving the most disadvantaged communities to suffer the worst consequences of climate breakdown.”


Rewilding the countryside – an option to consider!

Some good points about the idea, though we think it should be done on its own merits and not as a means to allow aviation to continue as a major source of emissions!

A quarter of the UK’s land could be restored to nature, making a significant contribution towards cutting the nation’s carbon emissions to zero, under a new rewilding proposal.

The plan, published by Rewilding Britain, calls for billions of pounds in farm subsidies to be redirected towards creating native woodlands and meadows and protecting peat bogs and salt marshes. The group says wildlife would benefit, farmers would not lose money and food production need not fall.

The environment secretary, Michael Gove, is in favour of natural solutions to the climate crisis and huge losses of wildlife, and the government has pledged it will ensure “public money is spent on public goods” after the UK leaves the EU’s subsidy regime.

These ecosystems would absorb and store carbon dioxide equivalent to 10% of the UK’s annual emissions. The government’s official climate advisers reported this month that UK emissions must fall to zero by 2050. But the Committee on Climate Change said some activities, such as flying, would still cause emissions, meaning tree growing and other measures to suck CO2 from the air are vital.

Experimental Index of Private Housing Rental Prices and inflation

Comparing the IPHRP and inflation (Consumer Prices Index) figures from 2010 to March 2019 it appears that private rental prices have been slightly lower that inflation – up 19.3% compared to 21.9%.

That does not mean there are no issues regarding private renting – there are.

These include a lack of security of tenure, impact on housing availability due to competition from alternative uses – holiday lets for example, and the effect of cuts to benefits, the ‘flexible labour market’ and limited increases in earnings for many renters.

Housing rent data – which data set to use?

Ian Mulheirn, has analysed how data is used to inform or uninform what is happening to private sector rents. He illustrates that by using the wrong data sets, the impression is given that rents are rising faster than they are.

Obviously, presenting the wrong information leads to the wrong policy decisions.

Mulheirn states that although the rent figures are not as bad as commentators make out, this does not mean everything is fine. We would concur with that. Often the problems that people face are due to policies outside the housing market!

Back in August, Shelter produced a panic-inducing analysis under the title ‘Rentquake’, showing vast swathes of a map of England coloured red to indicate ‘surging’ rents. The detail shows numerous local authorities with rents apparently rising by over 30% in just six years between 2011 and 2017, with vertiginous growth in London.

Last week the IFS released a housing paper — part of its Green Budget — showing that rents have risen by almost 38% in inflation-adjusted terms since 1996, while the incomes of 25-to-34 year olds have only risen by around 19%. Surely at this point we can all conclude that rents are rising much faster than general inflation and incomes?

Mulheirn points out that both of these reports use the wrong data sets. The appropriate data set to use is ONS’s Index of Private Housing Rental Prices (IPHRP).

“IPHRP measures the changes in prices tenants face to rent residential property from private landlords. It is produced using different methodology which allows prices to be compared year-on-year”

The ONS has also done some analysis to understand how much the composition effect matters. Decomposing the growth in the VOA rent data over a five-year period, they conclude that for the rented sector in England “compositional effects are estimated to account for around 75% of the jumps in the sample average between 2010 and 2015”. They go on to explain “This is because more rental properties in more affluent areas are now included in the sample.”

Unsurprisingly then, IPHRP tells a very different story to these other data sets. As I showed here, the rent index has lagged average household income growth in every region of England since the series started. And if we compare it to the FRS rents produced by the IFS, there’s a big divergence after 2005: the latter suggests real rent growth of about 7.4% by 2016, while IPHRP shows a fall of 3.5% by 2016 — the latest data shows them down over 6% on 2005 in real terms.

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Cutting greenhouse gas emissions – but the affluent carry on flying!

The report ‘Net Zero The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming’ published by the Committee on Climate Change, (May 2019), makes both interesting reading and provides a framework for moving towards net zero emissions by 2050.

Yet there is a glaring omission in the report – the failure to address the impact of aviation on emissions.

The report operates on the premise that aviation will continue to contribute to emissions, indeed as a proportion of all emissions its share will rise. The rationale for allowing aviation to continue to emit GHGs is that there are no means of allowing flights other than to continue to use fossil fuels. We end up with the bizarre situation that by 2050, although net emissions could be zero, aviation would still be emitting 31 MtCO2e in 2050. [The 2017 figure was 36.5MtCO2e].

It is odd that a sector which is a) not exactly an essential activity, and b) mainly benefits the affluent, is privileged in such a way.

It will be harder to persuade the person asked to cut meat consumption or make less use of their car when their more affluent neighbours will continue to fly off to distant parts!

If emissions from aviation were to be cut considerably, then presumably the UK could have negative emissions by 2050!

[If the latest survey data are used (DfT, 2014a), the picture is much the same (Annex 5.2), with 52 per cent of respondents making no flights in the previous 12 months (March 2014). Income has a very strong impact on flying, with 71 per cent of those living in households with an income less than £8,319 making no flights in the previous year, and 44 per cent of those living in households with income levels over £26,000 making two or more flights a year (2014). Analysis carried out on leisure travel by UK residents found that those with either an income over £115,000 or owning a home overseas increased the number of flights by 60 per cent (to 3.4 a year), and if both conditions were met, it doubled the number of leisure flights (to over 5 per year) (CAA, 2008).

A similar picture is presented in a study that examined the distributional aspects of CO2 emissions from households in the UK for domestic fuel (about 58 per cent of the total) and transport (the remaining 42 per cent), including aviation (Gough et al., 2012). Overall, the richest 10 per cent of households produced three times the levels of CO2 of the poorest 10 per cent of households, but for transport the difference was 7–8 times overall and 10 times for aviation.

To cut greenhouse gas emissions we need to enable people to watch events without necessarily being there!

Following the news that Liverpool, Spurs, Arsenal and Chelsea all got through to the finals of Europe’s two cup competitions, Larry Elliot makes an interesting point about the unsustainability of holding finals in locations far away from where most of the fans live.

Its an issue for a lot of activities though – to cut greenhouse gas emissions we need to enable people to watch events without necessarily being there!

The final economics lesson from this year’s Champions League is one that has yet to be learned but needs to be: namely that environmental sustainability has to play a central role in decision making.

Uefa, European football’s governing body, decided before the season started that the finals of its two competitions would be held in Madrid and Baku, yet now finds that all four finalists are from England.

The result is that airlines get a windfall, as do the hotels and restaurants of Madrid and Baku, but at the cost of an enormous carbon footprint. From a climate change perspective, having Liverpool and Spurs jet off to Spain while Arsenal and Chelsea supporters make their way to Azerbaijan, is little short of disastrous. Last year, the final between Liverpool and Real Madrid was held in Kiev.

Uefa needs to be held to account for this because it is clearly unsustainable. Last year’s Champions’ League final should have been held in Paris and this year’s finals should be in London or Cardiff.

The idea that this would cause insurmountable logistical problems does not wash. In the bygone days before FA cup semi-finals were held at Wembley, neutral grounds were chosen once it was known which teams were playing each other. If Arsenal was playing Manchester United, for example, the likeliest venue was Villa Park in Birmingham.

With a bit of planning, Uefa ought to be able to adopt a similar approach. As soon as it was known that the four semi-finalists for the Champions League were Liverpool, Spurs, Ajax and Barcelona, there were two obvious choices for the final: London or Paris. Football is influential. It needs to start taking climate change seriously.

Tokenism, tinkering and failing to see the real issues!

The Government continues to pursue policies which are either irrelevant, pointless, misguided or a combination of all three.

The idea of helping volunteer groups to provide housing appears on the surface to be a good idea.

But, its pretty irrelevant in terms of the number of houses involved, the number of extra affordables will be pitiful.

It is misguided in that it fails to recognise the real issues – developers building the wrong type of houses for the wrong reasons; no limits on people buying or using houses for investment, holiday lets or holiday homes; limited rights for people in private rented accommodation; and the lack of new social housing.

Providing solutions to these issues would make a significant difference.

Oh and we don’t need 300,000 new houses each year – 180,000 at most!

Kit Malthouse, Housing Minister has announced this week that around £8.5 million will be released by the Government to help fund a new pilot affordable housing scheme across local communities. From now, volunteer groups will be entitled to make an application for between £10,000 and £50,000 to enable them to identify potential development sites, obtain technical advice and planning permission via locally led neighbourhood plans.
The pilot scheme is to be run over a three year trial period and is targeted at creating reduced price housing for families and young people in need of local housing.

Kit Malthouse said: “This funding is on top of the £26 million already available to help get neighbourhood plans over the line, which act as powerful tools for communities to be involved in the planning of their local area, providing different housing types for those who need new homes.” The Government minister added: “I fully support volunteers who are passionate about building more of the homes we need in their communities. I want to see far more people getting involved across England.”

In parts of the country where property prices are high, the demand for discounted properties built at affordable prices, enables local people to secure mortgage lending which without price cuts would be unachievable. For example, a three bed home from the Cornwall Community Land Trust was recently sold to local buyers at a discounted asking price of £160,000, compared to an average property price in the county of more than £230,000.

This latest government funding is part of the wider investment plan to deliver a target of 300,000 new build homes by the mid 2020’s.

Government gives £8.5 million to new neighbourhood affordable housing scheme