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In 2008, the House of Commons voted on the Climate Change Act. It passed almost unanimously across all parties, with just six MPs voting against. 

Ten years later, MPs have faced another significant vote: whether to increase aviation emissions by building a new runway at Heathrow. It was a clear choice between climate action or climate destruction. And MPs voted for the latter, 415 to 119 in favour.

Campaigners, while expecting a defeat, were nonetheless appalled by the scale of it, asking how avoiding catastrophic climate change could be so lightly set aside by so many. While the Conservatives faced a three-line whip, and SNP at the last minute changed their promised support to abstention, Labour MPs had a free vote. 119 of them voted for Heathrow expansion. 

Did they not understand that this would make it very unlikely we could meet our climate targets (the UK Climate Change Act, let alone the more stringent requirements of the Paris deal)? Despite government assertions to the contrary, the evidence was clear on this. The Committee on Climate Change explained that to allow aviation emissions to grow beyond the limit they had set would blow our carbon budgets. And the experts patiently pointed out that all theories of how a third runway could be built without breaching these were completely implausible or impossible. 

One problem was that campaigners and academics did not succeed in overcoming the vast sums of money poured by Heathrow Ltd into lobbying, and the support of influential union Unite, to expose the flaws in the perceived economic argument. Most MPs believed that there was a strong economic case for expansion - very far from the truth. 

But even if they were convinced that abandoning a significant pillar of our national responsibility to tackle climate change would literally pave the streets of London, Birmingham and Manchester with gold, MPs should value our climate commitments beyond this. Despite reports published just before the vote that Antarctic ice had accelerated, melting three times as fast, it is clear that the vast majority of MPs simply lack any sense of peril to human civilisation as we know it. Nor do they understand the immediacy of climate change - the deadly combination of global warming and economic injustice is already killing people around the world. If they had, they would not have voted to emit, every year, additional CO2 equivalent to that of a small country, when we are already failing to meet our climate targets.

They have surely been helped in this sense of complacency and insulation from reality by mainstream media. This almost universally framed the choice facing MPs as national economic benefit vs local air pollution - at best a vague mention of 'environmental concerns'.

So who voted which way? Credit to the eight Conservative MPs who went against their party whip and voted against, even if climate change may not have been at the top of their minds (for example Justine Greening managed to write an article - eight reasons to oppose Heathrow expansion - without mentioning climate). All were representing their constituents' concerns around Heathrow with the exception of David Amess, MP for Southend West.

Plaid Cymru all voted against. SNP abstained. Unfortunately, abstaining from climate change is not an option.

With Labour MPs having a free vote, and Labour leaders advising that a third runway did not meet their climate (or other) tests for support, those who voted for, or abstained became a depressing roll call.

Honourable mention goes to John McDonnell who spoke eloquently in debate against a third runway - unsurprisingly since he is a long-time opponent, as did Andy McDonald, shadow transport secretary. Clive Lewis wrote an excellent article urging his colleagues to vote against, and of course Caroline Lucas of the Green Party has been a voice of sanity throughout.

Constituents who urged their MPs to vote against may have felt they were ignored, but at least one MP was persuaded by his constituents - Darren Jones (Bristol North West) appears to have been persuaded by personal appeals to vote 'no'.

Been genuinely torn on #HeathrowExpansion: the economic case is unquestionable but the environmental case is unconscionable. Considered abstaining, but agree that’s pointless, so changed my mind and will vote against. Thanks for tweets, comments and emails today. pic.twitter.com/Im3vNCq0SI

— Darren Jones MP (@darrenpjones) June 25, 2018

Others who have spoken out fervently against social injustice (such as David Lammy) voted in favour of a third runway and appeared not to realise that this meant voting for not just local but global injustice affecting the poorest around the world on a massive scale.

Not all hope is lost for the third runway: it may well never be built as the councils of Wandsworth, Richmond, Hillingdon and Hammersmith and Fulham, together with Mayor of Lonodn, Sadiq Khan, and Greenpeace, are launching a judical review. And yet the future looks bleak. We have been shown how much our elected representatives value a safe and stable climate for future generations, how much they value security of livelihood, food and water for the poorest across the planet. And the answer seems to be "Not much".

Find out how your MP voted below. If you don't know who your MP is, you can find out here. MPs whose names do not appear may have deliberately abstained or been unavoidably absent - Kerry McCarthy, for example, explained on Twitter that she was away and opposed the third runway but had been 'paired'. (Pairing is an arrangement between two MPs of opposing intentions  to not vote in a particular division. This enables an MP to be absent without affecting the result of the vote as they effectively cancel each other out.)

Conservative – against

Afriyie Adam
Amess Sir David
Blackman Bob
Goldsmith Zac
Greening Justine
Hands Greg
Offord Dr Matthew
Villiers Theresa
 
Conservative – for
Adams Nigel
Afolami Bim
Aldous Peter
Allan Lucy
Allen Heidi
Andrew Stuart
Argar Edward
Atkins Victoria
Bacon Mr Richard
Badenoch Mrs Kemi
Baker Mr Steve
Baldwin Harriett
Barclay Stephen
Baron Mr John
Bebb Guto
Bellingham Sir Henry
Benyon rh Richard
Beresford Sir Paul
Berry Jake
Blunt Crispin
Boles Nick
Bone Mr Peter
Bottomley Sir Peter
Bowie Andrew
Bradley Ben
Bradley rh Karen
Brady Sir Graham
Braverman Suella
Brereton Jack
Bridgen Andrew
Brine Steve
Brokenshire rh James
Bruce Fiona
Buckland Robert
Burghart Alex
Burns Conor
Burt rh Alistair
Cairns rh Alun
Cartlidge James
Cash Sir William
Caulfield Maria
Chalk Alex
Chishti Rehman
Chope Sir Christopher
Churchill Jo
Clark Colin
Clark rh Greg
Clarke Mr Simon
Clarke rh Mr Kenneth
Cleverly James
Clifton-Brown Sir Geoffrey
Coffey Dr Thérèse
Collins Damian
Costa Alberto
Courts Robert
Cox Mr Geoffrey
Crabb rh Stephen
Crouch Tracey
Davies Chris
Davies David T. C.
Davies Glyn
Davies Mims
Davies Philip
Davis rh Mr David
Dinenage Caroline
Djanogly Mr Jonathan
Docherty Leo
Donelan Michelle
Double Steve
Dowden Oliver
Doyle-Price Jackie
Drax Richard
Duddridge James
Duguid David
Duncan Smith rh Mr Iain
Duncan rh Sir Alan
Dunne Mr Philip
Ellis Michael
Ellwood rh Mr Tobias
Eustice George
Evans Mr Nigel
Evennett rh Sir David
Fabricant Michael
Fallon rh Sir Michael
Field rh Mark
Ford Vicky
Foster Kevin
Fox rh Dr Liam
Francois rh Mr Mark
Frazer Lucy
Fysh Mr Marcus
Garnier Mark
Gauke rh Mr David
Ghani Ms Nusrat
Gibb rh Nick
Glen John
Gove rh Michael
Graham Luke
Graham Richard
Grant Bill
Grant Mrs Helen
Gray James
Grayling rh Chris
Green Chris
Green rh Damian
Grieve rh Mr Dominic
Griffiths Andrew
Gyimah Mr Sam
Hair Kirstene
Halfon rh Robert
Hall Luke
Hancock rh Matt
Harper rh Mr Mark
Harrington Richard
Harris Rebecca
Harrison Trudy
Hart Simon
Hayes rh Mr John
Heald rh Sir Oliver
Heappey James
Heaton-Harris Chris
Heaton-Jones Peter
Henderson Gordon
Herbert rh Nick
Hinds rh Damian
Hoare Simon
Hollingbery George
Hollinrake Kevin
Hollobone Mr Philip
Holloway Adam
Huddleston Nigel
Hughes Eddie
Hunt rh Mr Jeremy
Jack Mr Alister
James Margot
Javid rh Sajid
Jayawardena Mr Ranil
Jenkin Sir Bernard
Jenkyns Andrea
Jenrick Robert
Johnson Dr Caroline
Johnson Gareth
Johnson Joseph
Jones Andrew
Jones Mr Marcus
Jones rh Mr David
Kawczynski Daniel
Keegan Gillian
Kennedy Seema
Kerr Stephen
Knight Julian
Knight rh Sir Greg
Kwarteng Kwasi
Lamont John
Lancaster rh Mark
Leadsom rh Andrea
Lee Dr Phillip
Lefroy Jeremy
Letwin rh Sir Oliver
Lewer Andrew
Lewis rh Brandon
Lewis rh Dr Julian
Lidington rh Mr David
Lopez Julia
Lopresti Jack
Mackinlay Craig
Maclean Rachel
Main Mrs Anne
Mak Alan
Malthouse Kit
Mann Scott
Masterton Paul
May rh Mrs Theresa
Maynard Paul
McLoughlin rh Sir Patrick
McPartland Stephen
McVey rh Ms Esther
Mercer Johnny
Merriman Huw
Metcalfe Stephen
Miller rh Mrs Maria
Milling Amanda
Mills Nigel
Milton rh Anne
Mitchell rh Mr Andrew
Moore Damien
Mordaunt rh Penny
Morgan rh Nicky
Morris Anne Marie
Morris David
Morris James
Mundell rh David
Murray Mrs Sheryll
Murrison Dr Andrew
Neill Robert
Newton Sarah
Nokes rh Caroline
Norman Jesse
O'Brien Neil
Opperman Guy
Parish Neil
Patel rh Priti
Paterson rh Mr Owen
Pawsey Mark
Penning rh Sir Mike
Penrose John
Percy Andrew
Perry rh Claire
Philp Chris
Pincher Christopher
Poulter Dr Dan
Pow Rebecca
Prentis Victoria
Prisk Mr Mark
Pritchard Mark
Pursglove Tom
Quin Jeremy
Quince Will
Raab Dominic
Redwood rh John
Rees-Mogg Mr Jacob
Robertson Mr Laurence
Robinson Mary
Rosindell Andrew
Ross Douglas
Rowley Lee
Rudd rh Amber
Rutley David
Sandbach Antoinette
Seely Mr Bob
Selous Andrew
Shapps rh Grant
Sharma Alok
Shelbrooke Alec
Simpson rh Mr Keith
Skidmore Chris
Smith Chloe
Smith rh Julian
Smith Royston
Soames rh Sir Nicholas
Soubry rh Anna
Spelman rh Dame Caroline
Spencer Mark
Stephenson Andrew
Stevenson John
Stewart Bob
Stewart Iain
Stewart Rory
Streeter Mr Gary
Stride rh Mel
Stuart Graham
Sturdy Julian
Sunak Rishi
Swayne rh Sir Desmond
Swire rh Sir Hugo
Syms Sir Robert
Thomas Derek
Thomson Ross
Throup Maggie
Tolhurst Kelly
Tomlinson Justin
Tomlinson Michael
Tracey Craig
Tredinnick David
Trevelyan Mrs Anne-Marie
Truss rh Elizabeth
Tugendhat Tom
Vaizey rh Mr Edward
Vara Mr Shailesh
Vickers Martin
Walker Mr Charles
Walker Mr Robin
Wallace rh Mr Ben
Warburton David
Warman Matt
Watling Giles
Whately Helen
Whittaker Craig
Whittingdale rh Mr John
Wiggin Bill
Williamson rh Gavin
Wollaston Dr Sarah
Wood Mike
Wragg Mr William
Wright rh Jeremy
Zahawi Nadhim
 
Green Party – against
Lucas Caroline
 
Democratic Unionist Party – for
Campbell Mr Gregory
Dodds rh Nigel
Girvan Paul
Little Pengelly Emma
Paisley Ian
Robinson Gavin
Shannon Jim
Simpson David
Wilson rh Sammy
 
Independent – against
Hopkins Kelvin
 
Independent – for
Hermon Lady
 
Labour – against
Abbott rh Ms Diane
Abrahams Debbie
Allin-Khan Dr Rosena
Amesbury Mike
Austin Ian
Beckett rh Margaret
Benn rh Hilary
Blomfield Paul
Brown Lyn
Buck Ms Karen
Burgon Richard
Butler Dawn
Byrne rh Liam
Cadbury Ruth
Carden Dan
Clwyd rh Ann
Cooper Julie
Corbyn rh Jeremy
Cruddas Jon
Cryer John
Cunningham Mr Jim
Daby Janet
Davies Geraint
De Cordova Marsha
Debbonaire Thangam
Dent Coad Emma
Dodds Anneliese
Doughty Stephen
Dowd Peter
Drew Dr David
Duffield Rosie
Efford Clive
Evans Chris
Frith James
Gardiner Barry
Gill Preet Kaur
Godsiff Mr Roger
Goodman Helen
Greenwood Lilian
Greenwood Margaret
Griffith Nia
Grogan John
Hamilton Fabian
Hardy Emma
Hayes Helen
Hayman Sue
Huq Dr Rupa
Hussain Imran
Jones Darren
Jones Sarah
Keeley Barbara
Killen Ged
Laird Lesley
Lee Karen
Lewis Clive
Lloyd Tony
Marsden Gordon
Martin Sandy
Maskell Rachael
McDonald Andy
McDonnell rh John
Mearns Ian
Miliband rh Edward
Morgan Stephen
Morris Grahame
Nandy Lisa
Onasanya Fiona
Osamor Kate
Pearce Teresa
Pennycook Matthew
Pidcock Laura
Qureshi Yasmin
Reed Mr Steve
Reeves Ellie
Reynolds Emma
Rimmer Ms Marie
Rodda Matt
Rowley Danielle
Skinner Mr Dennis
Slaughter Andy
Sobel Alex
Starmer rh Keir
Sweeney Mr Paul
Thornberry rh Emily
Turner Karl
Vaz Valerie
Walker Thelma
Watson Tom
West Catherine
Western Matt
Whitehead Dr Alan
Williamson Chris
Yasin Mohammad
Zeichner Daniel
 
Labour – for
Ali Rushanara
Ashworth Jonathan
Bailey Mr Adrian
Barron rh Sir Kevin
Berger Luciana
Betts Mr Clive
Blackman-Woods Dr Roberta
Brabin Tracy
Bradshaw rh Mr Ben
Brennan Kevin
Brown rh Mr Nicholas
Bryant Chris
Campbell rh Mr Alan
Champion Sarah
Chapman Jenny
Coffey Ann
Cooper rh Yvette
Cooper Rosie
Coyle Neil
Crausby Sir David
Cummins Judith
Cunningham Alex
Dakin Nic
Dhesi Mr Tanmanjeet Singh
Eagle Maria
Eagle Ms Angela
Elliott Julie
Ellman Dame Louise
Elmore Chris
Esterson Bill
Farrelly Paul
Fitzpatrick Jim
Flint rh Caroline
Fovargue Yvonne
Foxcroft Vicky
Gaffney Hugh
Gapes Mike
Glindon Mary
Green Kate
Hanson rh David
Harman rh Ms Harriet
Harris Carolyn
Healey rh John
Hill Mike
Hillier Meg
Hodge rh Dame Margaret
Hodgson Mrs Sharon
Howarth rh Mr George
Jarvis Dan
Johnson Diana
Jones Gerald
Jones Graham P.
Jones rh Mr Kevan
Kane Mike
Kendall Liz
Khan Afzal
Kinnock Stephen
Kyle Peter
Lammy rh Mr David
Lavery Ian
Leslie Mr..
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Labour has set out four tests to determine whether they would support a new runway at Heathrow. With a vote imminent, this is a decision that needs to be made not just by individual MPs but by the party's leader, Jeremy Corbyn. Will he decide that the tests have not been met and whip MPs to vote against this climate disaster?

Please about the importance of this vote. Labour MPs in particular need to hear from their constituents. Ask them to call on Jeremy Corbyn to stand by these four tests - and reject Heathrow expansion.

Test 1:  Robust and convincing evidence is provided that the required increased aviation capacity will be delivered with Sir Howard Davies’ recommendation.
Test 2.  The recommended expansion in capacity can go hand-in-hand with efforts to reduce CO2 emissions from aviation and allow us to meet our legal climate change obligations.
Test 3.  Local noise and environmental impacts have been adequately considered and will be managed and minimised.
Test 4.  Benefits of expansion will be felt in every corner of the country, not just the South East of England, and that regional airports will be supported too.

For information, it may be easiest to copy and paste the text below (many MPs outside London are very ill-informed on the issues), but do introduce it with a few words about why this is important to you. What may seem to be a lot of technical details underly a huge issue of social justice and betrayal of future generations.

And don't forget your postal address

London meeting, 12 June, Why the Labour Party should vote against Heathrow expansion

Heathrow expansion fails the health test

Air pollution fail: the area around Heathrow expansion already breaches legal limits for air pollution. Heathrow claim there won’t be a single extra car journey having a 50 per cent bigger airport. No plausible explanations have been given for how this could be achieved, or how air pollution could be kept under control. Air pollution has serious health impacts, from the immediately obvious, such as eye irritation and asthma, to heart problems, lowered birth weight and stunting of children’s lung growth. 

Noise fail: According to government documents revealed only after a Freedom of Information request, the increased noise from the additional aircraft and traffic are expected to affect up to 2.2 million people. Airport noise is already a problem over larger areas than just West London - some areas are overflown by both Heathrow and London City planes. However MPs will not be given information about flight paths - these are being decided later in a completely different process. 

Aircraft noise is not 'just' irritation - it can impact mental health, and increase risk of increased blood pressure, and higher risk of heart attack, heart disease and stroke. Health is also detrimentally affected through sleep disturbance. Aircraft noise impedes the memory and learning ability of school children.

Heathrow expansion fails to help the UK as a whole

It will exacerbate the gap between the South East and poorer regions. The Airports Commission's own modelling suggests that traffic at regional airports would fall on average if a new runway was built at Heathrow.

Suppose Heathrow could be expanded with no extra car journeys... how much would the infrastructure for that cost? Even Heathrow accept it will cost £5bn, but TfL have estimated an extra £10-15bn on top of that for transport links. Ironically, as Heathrow plans were laid before Parliament, newspapers across the North of England united in anger over recent rail chaos - and more systematic neglect of public transport outside London and the South East. This is where public funding should go to help our economy.

What if something goes wrong financially? Heathrow Airport Ltd already has significant debt and is borrowing even more to build a third runway. It’s “overbid” with it’s third runway proposal. Someone has to pay for that. With the government stepping in to bail out nuclear power stations, would taxpayers have to do the same with a 'too big to fail' third runway.

The economic benefits as a whole are significantly overstated. A reassessment of the data found that according to the DfT’s own value for money criteria for transport infrastructure projects, Heathrow third runway would now be rated as either poor or low value. At best, in net present value terms, building the North West Runway at Heathrow will yield an economic benefit of £3.3 billion. At worst, in net terms there would not only be no economic benefit whatsoever, but a significant financial cost of up to £2.2 billion, to be borne either by the airport, its investors, airlines, passengers or perhaps even government.

MPs can't rely on the 'official' figures in support of Heathrow expansion being accurate. One example (that this reassessment did not consider, but which came up in the Transport Select Committee's recent report) - the carbon emissions from additional air travel from a third runway (costed at £18.5 billion) have been excluded from cost benefit analysis. The relatively small figure of £624 million relating to airport operations and passenger access was used instead - taking 96% of emissions off the balance sheet.

Airport capacity - is another runway really needed in the South East?

This has been the great unmentionable in the 'Heathrow/Gatwick' debate - the idea that additional runway capacity may not be needed in the south east of England.

AEF's report from 2016 points out that the London airports system is larger than that of any city in the world, with Luton and Stansted half empty. They state, 'If there was demand for ten times as many daily flights to China, airports in the South East could handle that tomorrow, without any additional runway capacity.' Numbers of business flights have in fact been falling.

The government is putting the cart before the horse in trying to force through Heathrow approval at least 18 months before publishing an aviation strategy. Is this because the strategy would show that Heathrow expansion is a costly white elephant, incompatible with many more important objectives such as tackling climate change?

Most importantly: Heathrow expansion fails the climate test

A new runway cannot be built and aviation emissions kept within the Committee on Climate Change's recommended cap on aviation emissions of 37.5Mt CO2. There is no way to get around this. Since none of the proposed solutions listed below are plausible, the only real alternatives on climate change are either:

1. To reduce flights from regional airports to allow expansion at Heathrow, further exacerbating regional disparities;

2. To openly backtrack on both the UK Climate Change Act and the Paris climate agreement, admitting that emissions cuts made by all other sectors of the economy will be partially cancelled out by growth in UK aviation emissions, leaving us unable to meet our commitments.

Carbon trading/offsetting is not a solution: It has a poor record for actually delivering promised emissions reductions elsewhere. And as the chair of the Committee on Climate Change, Lord Deben, has pointed out, emissions cuts will increasingly be used to deliver countries' own demanding commitments under the Paris climate agreement - where will these additional cuts come from? The obvious answer is double-counting - 'fake' emissions reductions. 

Biofuels are not the solution: The idea that sustainable biofuels would be available in sufficient quantity is very doubtful. For example, a report by Biofuelwatch argues that the only biofuel which currently appears feasible for use at scale is palm oil - and the expansion of palm oil cultivation would be far from good news for the climate.

Other technical fixes are not the solution: In the most recent figures produced by the Department for Transport, the expected future carbon emissions from aviation have been reduced, compared to those produced four years previously. There is no real explanation for this increased optimism - or what to do if it appears unfounded.

Fact. Aviation emissions can be around twice as damaging as CO2 from other sources: Aviation's climate change impact is around double what it would appear from measuring CO2 alone (from other gases emitted at altitude and the formation of contrails). To have any chance at all of offsetting its impact would therefore require doubling the CO2 removed from the atmosphere elsewhere. This is being quietly ignored by the international aviation industry and by the UK government.

Myth: the Airports Commission found that Heathrow expansion was compatible with our climate targets: In fact all the committee claimed was that this was theoretically possible - IF additional policies were implemented such as an extremely high carbon price (which the government has no intention of implementing). Thereby giving a fig leaf which has no basis in fact.

References

Health

https://www.londonair.org.uk/LondonAir/guide/HealthEffects.aspx

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/09/heathrow-third-runwa...

http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/2016/01/aef-report-finds-uks-out-of-date-...

Economics

http://neweconomics.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/NEF-Flying-Low.pdf

Capacity

https://www.aef.org.uk/uploads/Runway-Myth.pdf

Climate

Transport Select Committee Report https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmtrans/548/548.pdf (Annex I, p147)

Problems with offsetting and why an international agreement won't solve Heathrow's emissions problem: https://www.wwf.org.uk/sites/default/files/2017-05/WWF_Grounded_report_F...

http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Aviation-biofuels-repo...

http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidence... (carbon trading, and non-CO2 impacts of aviation - p3)

https://www.campaigncc.org/aviation_elephant

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Fracking is deeply unpopular, but the government seems determined that local democracy cannot be an obstacle to the industry. Today's ministerial statement by Greg Clark,Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government makes that clear.

Two consultations have been announced:

1. 'On the principle of whether non-hydraulic fracturing shale exploration development should be treated as permitted development, and in particular on the circumstances in which this might be appropriate'.

2. 'On the criteria required to trigger the inclusion of shale production projects into the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects regime.' [i.e. decided by central government alone]

What is 'non-hydraulic fracturing shale exploration development', which the government believes should be waved through, without even requiring planning permission? It would include all exploratory drilling - but it might also include any oil and gas extraction from shale that falls outside the government's strangely restrictive definition of fracking (based on the volume of fluid used). 

There are promises to get tough with local authorities that do not decide applications within 16 weeks: the Secretary of State will actively consider calling in shale applications particularly where statutory deadlines have been exceeded. Authorities who repeatedly exceed deadlines can have their decision-making powers taken away. Appeals against any refusal of planning permission for exploring and developing shale gas will be 'a priority for urgent determination'.

Compare and contrast:

The government's love affair with fracking stands in stark contrast to the almost complete ban on new onshore wind. Below are two extracts from the draft National Planning Policy framework. A recent report from the Environmental Audit Committee found funding for renewable energy had 'collapsed'. 

"A proposed wind energy development involving one or more wind turbines should not be considered acceptable unless it is in an area identified as suitable for wind energy development in the development plan; and, following consultation, it can be demonstrated that the planning impacts identified by the affected local community have been fully addressed and the proposal has their backing"

"Minerals planning authorities should recognise the benefits of on-shore oil and gas development, including unconventional hydrocarbons, for the security of energy supplies and supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy; and put in place policies to facilitate their exploration and extraction."

More about the new fracking announcement on Drill or Drop

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new planning framework out for consultation now would set in stone a dangerous double standard. However unpopular fracking applications might be, the guidance would mean planning authorities would have to 'facilitate' them. Yet they would be forced to reject wind turbines in almost all cases, even if public opinion was in favour.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) for England will determine what can be built in coming years, guiding local authorities in the preparation of development plans and decisions on planning applications. 

It could open us up to a fracking-free-for-all, while making new onshore wind almost impossible.

Can you spare 15 minutes (or even 5!) to have your say?

(Many thanks to Frack Free Ryedale for useful resources on this consultation)

How to respond

The draft text is here, and you can respond via the online form (this seems relatively straightforward, you navigate by ticking a box for the page you want to go to and clicking 'Next'). NB. it is fine to only leave comments in response to one or two questions! You can also send responses by email to planningpolicyconsultation@communities.gsi.gov.uk (don't forget to include your name and address and be clear which section you are commenting on if you do this). The deadline for responses is 11.45pm Thursday 10 May.

Chapter 14: 'Meeting the challenge of climate change'

At first glance the draft text may seem reasonable, but a key footnote tells a different story...

Footnote 40: "A proposed wind energy development involving one or more wind turbines should not be considered acceptable unless it is in an area identified as suitable for wind energy development in the development plan; and, following consultation, it can be demonstrated that the planning impacts identified by the affected local community have been fully addressed and the proposal has their backing"

This effective 'ban' on new onshore wind has existed as ministerial guidance since 2015, resulting in a 94% drop in onshore wind planning applications in England. The NPPF would set this in stone.

Have your say (Question 32) Responding in your own words is best. The main point to make is that the planning framework should be facilitating onshore wind, a clean and popular technology, not blocking it! Footnote 40 should be deleted. More key points you can make are set out below

Chapter 17: 'Facilitating the sustainable use of minerals'

Paragraph 204: "Minerals planning authorities should recognise the benefits of on-shore oil and gas development, including unconventional hydrocarbons, for the security of energy supplies and supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy; and put in place policies to facilitate their exploration and extraction."

Hmm. Spot the difference between this and the guidance relating to onshore wind...

Have your say (Question 37) Responding in your own words is best. The main point to make is that since fracking (and other 'unconventional hydrocarbons') can be damaging to the climate, local environment and health, planning authorities should not be required to facilitate their extraction, but should focus on facilitating renewable energy and low-carbon development. More key points you can make are set out below, plus a suggested response to question 38

Other issues 

If you've responded to these two chapters, then thank you! If you would like to comment on other issues such as wildlife protection and the broader sustainability framework then you might want to read the Friends of the Earth response

One final thing

Before you go, please share this page, on TwitterFacebook or by email, to enable more people to have their say and prevent a fracked up future!

Have your say on onshore wind: more information on question 32

Onshore wind is vital for a low carbon economy: It is the cheapest form of renewable energy, with costs having fallen rapidly, and is important in meeting the UK's obligations under the Climate Change Act and Paris agreement. We are off-target for these: the Committee on Climate Change notes that current policies must be strengthened to meet our obligations.

Onshore wind is popular: The latest government survey shows 76% support and just 8% opposition.

These restrictions amount to an almost complete ban: This restrictive approach already in place as ministerial guidance since 2015 has almost halted building of new onshore wind capacity (a 94% drop in onshore wind planning applications in England).

No level playing field: Local planning authorities should be free to decide each application on its merits, with local opinion considered in the same way as for other forms of development. The requirement to identify areas suitable for wind energy development in advance is an unnecessary obstacle which could result in popular projects being denied planning permission. The requirement for impacts identified to be 'fully addressed' and for proposals to have community 'backing' are not needed for any other type of development. They could imply that a vocal minority of opponents should be allowed to block projects even when their objections are not substantive. Overall they discourage planning applications to be submitted since it is not even clear what criteria must be met. The text in the footnote should be deleted.

Community energy projects should be supported, not blocked: Paragraph 151 states "Local planning authorities should support community-led initiatives for renewable and low carbon energy." It is particularly important that smaller wind energy projects are exempted from any additional requirements or obstacles or this 'support' will be meaningless.

Have your say on fracking: more information on question 37

Sustainable development contradiction: The presumption in favour of oil and gas development contradicts the principles of sustainable development set out in chapter 2 of the NPPF, which explains that economic, social and environmental objectives are all important and interdependent. Again, local planning authorities should be free to decide each application on its merits

A bridge to nowhere: The idea that onshore oil and gas development supports the transition to a low-carbon economy is not supported by the evidence. 

  • Recent research demonstrates that methane leaks during shale gas production have been significantly underestimated. If a higher, and arguable more realistic, estimate for methane emissions is used, 
  • The Committee on Climate Change say that "exploiting shale gas by fracking on a significant scale is not compatible with UK climate targets unless three tests are met." In fact, these 'tests' are unlikely to be met.

Review of evidence needed: In addition to the uncertainty over the climate impacts, in the last few years there have been hundreds of peer-reviewed papers describing the harms of fracking, particularly to human health and the environment. Other countries have reviewed this evidence and implemented moratoria or bans on fracking. It is therefore unacceptable for a presumption towards approval of fracking applications to be included in the NPPF without further review of current evidence.

It's not 'just exploration': Paragraph 204b) says planning authorities should “clearly distinguish between, and plan positively for, the three phases of development (exploration, appraisal and production)”. But it makes no sense for planning authorities to consider exploration in isolation from its logical consequences - no oil or gas company would drill an exploratory well without having the intention to move to full production if they can. This section should therefore be rewritten to instruct local authorities to take into account the whole life cycle of a well-site – exploration, appraisal, production and abandonment – when assessing planning applications for exploratory wells

Coal bed methane production has been shown in places like Queensland to have serious climate, environmental and community impacts including methane leakage, water contamination and air pollution. In fact, having seen the devastation wrought on the Queensland countryside, many other Australian states have now prohibited the practice. In the UK, the heavily faulted geology in areas mined for coal would make this process even more risky. Paragraph 204e) encouraging “the capture and use of methane from coal mines in active and abandoned coalfield areas” should be removed, or replaced by a presumption against such activities.

Fracking for plastic: The main justification given for making local authorities approve fracking planning applications is the UK's energy demand. However, INEOS, one of the major UK fracking players, is a petrochemicals company, intending to use fracked gas for plastics production. Since the reduction of plastic pollution has recently been a priority for the UK government, local authorities should not be required to 'facilitate' such applications.

Question 38: Do you think that planning policy on minerals would be better contained in a separate document?

For Question 38, we suggest you click ‘no’ 

The NPPF is based on an overall framework of sustainable development, requiring local authorities to give weight to economic, social and environmental factors. In separating the planning policy on minerals, it is likely that the social and environmental aspects of any guidance will be minimised. Taking minerals out of the NPPF could be seen as a step towards making shale gas a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, removing all control of minerals production from local authorities and placing it in the hands of government ministers.

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Climate action is heating up this summer. Check out these action groups organising across Europe

Picture above from Ende Gelände (information below drawn from their very useful newsletter!)

Climate Camp in Austria (30th May to 3rd June)

This camp will feature the Climate Games, an event where participants form small groups and engage in "flash-mobs, street-art and climbing actions" and other non-violent forms of protest. Organised by System Change, not Climate Change!, this camp will be set up near Vienna.

Harbour Games Hamburg (link in German) (23rd June)

Activists will be cycling around Ha-mburg's port and protesting at several locations. 

Climate Camp in Czech republic (28th June to 1st July)

Last year, grassroots organisation Limity jsme's camp brought together over 300 people in the north-Bohemian mining region to disrupt the activity of several nearby coal mines. This year, they are taking action once again against the Czech government's aggressive mining policies with "discussions, workshops, cultural shows and protests". The event focuses not just on mining but also on the causes of climate change and on renewable energies.

Climate Camp in Poland (18th-22nd July)

This climate camp in a mining region in the north-west of Poland (exact location TBA) emphasises its focus on the community and its bottom-up approach. Topics of discussion include labour and solidarity.

Climate Camp in Leipzig, Germany (28th July to 5th August)

This camp also aims to oppose coal mining; as well as protests and talks, it will feature the Degrowth Summer School as a guest.

Climate Games in Switzerland (3rd-14th August)

The Climate Games will be coming to the city of Basel, which contains a major oil port.

Climate Camp in Rhineland, Germany (13th-19th August)

This region has been hosting climate camps since 2010. This year, it appears the focus will be more on education and discussion than protests.

Climate Camp in the Netherlands (24th-31st August)

Code Red is organising a day of mass action against natural gas extraction in the region of Groningen. The camp will also focus on gas extraction, although the programme is yet to be announced.

Climate Camp in Hambach, Germany (25th-29th October)

Ende Gelände is aiming to protect the Hambacher Forst from coal mining by carrying out acts of mass civil disobedience.

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new planning framework out for consultation now would set in stone a dangerous double standard. However unpopular fracking applications might be, the guidance would mean planning authorities would have to 'facilitate' them. Yet they would be forced to reject wind turbines in almost all cases, even if public opinion was in favour.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) for England will determine what can be built in coming years, guiding local authorities in the preparation of development plans and decisions on planning applications. 

It could open us up to a fracking-free-for-all, while making new onshore wind almost impossible.

Can you spare 15 minutes (or even 5!) to have your say?

(Many thanks to Frack Free Ryedale for useful resources on this consultation)

How to respond

The draft text is here, and you can respond via the online form (this seems relatively straightforward, you navigate by ticking a box for the page you want to go to and clicking 'Next'). NB. it is fine to only leave comments in response to one or two questions! You can also send responses by email to planningpolicyconsultation@communities.gsi.gov.uk (don't forget to include your name and address and be clear which section you are commenting on if you do this). The deadline for responses is 11.45pm Thursday 10 May.

Chapter 14: 'Meeting the challenge of climate change'

At first glance the draft text may seem reasonable, but a key footnote tells a different story...

Footnote 40: "A proposed wind energy development involving one or more wind turbines should not be considered acceptable unless it is in an area identified as suitable for wind energy development in the development plan; and, following consultation, it can be demonstrated that the planning impacts identified by the affected local community have been fully addressed and the proposal has their backing"

This effective 'ban' on new onshore wind has existed as ministerial guidance since 2015, resulting in a 94% drop in onshore wind planning applications in England. The NPPF would set this in stone.

Have your say (Question 32) Responding in your own words is best. The main point to make is that the planning framework should be facilitating onshore wind, a clean and popular technology, not blocking it! Footnote 40 should be deleted. More key points you can make are set out below

Chapter 17: 'Facilitating the sustainable use of minerals'

Paragraph 204: "Minerals planning authorities should recognise the benefits of on-shore oil and gas development, including unconventional hydrocarbons, for the security of energy supplies and supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy; and put in place policies to facilitate their exploration and extraction."

Hmm. Spot the difference between this and the guidance relating to onshore wind...

Have your say (Question 37) Responding in your own words is best. The main point to make is that since fracking (and other 'unconventional hydrocarbons') can be damaging to the climate, local environment and health, planning authorities should not be required to facilitate their extraction, but should focus on facilitating renewable energy and low-carbon development. More key points you can make are set out below, plus a suggested response to question 38

Other issues 

If you've responded to these two chapters, then thank you! If you would like to comment on other issues such as wildlife protection and the broader sustainability framework then you might want to read the Friends of the Earth response

One final thing

Before you go, please share this page, on TwitterFacebook or by email, to enable more people to have their say and prevent a fracked up future!

Have your say on onshore wind: more information on question 32

Onshore wind is vital for a low carbon economy: It is the cheapest form of renewable energy, with costs having fallen rapidly, and is important in meeting the UK's obligations under the Climate Change Act and Paris agreement. We are off-target for these: the Committee on Climate Change notes that current policies must be strengthened to meet our obligations.

Onshore wind is popular: The latest government survey shows 76% support and just 8% opposition.

These restrictions amount to an almost complete ban: This restrictive approach already in place as ministerial guidance since 2015 has almost halted building of new onshore wind capacity (a 94% drop in onshore wind planning applications in England).

No level playing field: Local planning authorities should be free to decide each application on its merits, with local opinion considered in the same way as for other forms of development. The requirement to identify areas suitable for wind energy development in advance is an unnecessary obstacle which could result in popular projects being denied planning permission. The requirement for impacts identified to be 'fully addressed' and for proposals to have community 'backing' are not needed for any other type of development. They could imply that a vocal minority of opponents should be allowed to block projects even when their objections are not substantive. Overall they discourage planning applications to be submitted since it is not even clear what criteria must be met. The text in the footnote should be deleted.

Community energy projects should be supported, not blocked: Paragraph 151 states "Local planning authorities should support community-led initiatives for renewable and low carbon energy." It is particularly important that smaller wind energy projects are exempted from any additional requirements or obstacles or this 'support' will be meaningless.

Have your say on fracking: more information on question 37

Sustainable development contradiction: The presumption in favour of oil and gas development contradicts the principles of sustainable development set out in chapter 2 of the NPPF, which explains that economic, social and environmental objectives are all important and interdependent. Again, local planning authorities should be free to decide each application on its merits

A bridge to nowhere: The idea that onshore oil and gas development supports the transition to a low-carbon economy is not supported by the evidence. 

  • Recent research demonstrates that methane leaks during shale gas production have been significantly underestimated. If a higher, and arguable more realistic, estimate for methane emissions is used, 
  • The Committee on Climate Change say that "exploiting shale gas by fracking on a significant scale is not compatible with UK climate targets unless three tests are met." In fact, these 'tests' are unlikely to be met.

Review of evidence needed: In addition to the uncertainty over the climate impacts, in the last few years there have been hundreds of peer-reviewed papers describing the harms of fracking, particularly to human health and the environment. Other countries have reviewed this evidence and implemented moratoria or bans on fracking. It is therefore unacceptable for a presumption towards approval of fracking applications to be included in the NPPF without further review of current evidence.

It's not 'just exploration': Paragraph 204b) says planning authorities should “clearly distinguish between, and plan positively for, the three phases of development (exploration, appraisal and production)”. But it makes no sense for planning authorities to consider exploration in isolation from its logical consequences - no oil or gas company would drill an exploratory well without having the intention to move to full production if they can. This section should therefore be rewritten to instruct local authorities to take into account the whole life cycle of a well-site – exploration, appraisal, production and abandonment – when assessing planning applications for exploratory wells

Coal bed methane production has been shown in places like Queensland to have serious climate, environmental and community impacts including methane leakage, water contamination and air pollution. In fact, having seen the devastation wrought on the Queensland countryside, many other Australian states have now prohibited the practice. In the UK, the heavily faulted geology in areas mined for coal would make this process even more risky. Paragraph 204e) encouraging “the capture and use of methane from coal mines in active and abandoned coalfield areas” should be removed, or replaced by a presumption against such activities.

Fracking for plastic: The main justification given for making local authorities approve fracking planning applications is the UK's energy demand. However, INEOS, one of the major UK fracking players, is a petrochemicals company, intending to use fracked gas for plastics production. Since the reduction of plastic pollution has recently been a priority for the UK government, local authorities should not be required to 'facilitate' such applications.

Question 38: Do you think that planning policy on minerals would be better contained in a separate document?

For Question 38, we suggest you click ‘no’ 

The NPPF is based on an overall framework of sustainable development, requiring local authorities to give weight to economic, social and environmental factors. In separating the planning policy on minerals, it is likely that the social and environmental aspects of any guidance will be minimised. Taking minerals out of the NPPF could be seen as a step towards making shale gas a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, removing all control of minerals production from local authorities and placing it in the hands of government ministers.

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No More Dirty Secrets! IMO Climate Shipping Protest, London - YouTube

On Tuesday, the Campaign against Climate Change joined others outside the International Maritime Organization, at the start of crucial negotiations to determine how (and whether) shipping carbon emissions will be cut. If the shipping industry were a country, it would be sixth in the list of carbon polluters, between Germany and Japan. But because the Paris climate agreement is based on nationally determined contributions from member countries, as yet it has no specific obligations to cut carbon. If shipping emissions continued to grow, it could be 17% (almost a fifth) of the world’s total emissions by 2050.

The Marshall Islands have proposed that the IMO should aim for zero emissions by 2035 while a group of EU, Pacific countries and NGOs are arguing for at least 70% (and aiming for 100%) by 2050. But Brazil and some other countries oppose any absolute cap on carbon emissions, and others are arguing for a weak compromise deal not compatible with the Paris climate agreement.

Ship stewards welcomed delegates aboard the 'Good Ship Paris', handing out boarding cards with instructions 'for your comfort and climate safety', while on the other side of the Thames, someone had cleaned sections of the wall to reveal a message: "IMO Don't Sink Paris".

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The Transport Select Committee recently released their report on the government's plans to build a third runway at Heathrow. If you read the report in full, it is clear why this plan is completely incompatible with our climate obligations. Yet carbon budgets are given the briefest of mentions in the summary, and crucial issues tucked away in the ninth and final annex to the report, entitled 'Carbon'. Unsurprisingly, media coverage focused on those issues which were given more prominence, including air pollution, noise and public transport limitations.

But the committee's evidence-gathering can shine a light on some of the more extraordinary 'assumptions' being used by the government in its calculations around climate impact. These 'assumptions' are being used to avoid discussion of the damaging impact a third Heathrow runway would have on our climate targets, keeping MPs in the dark in the run up to this summer's Parliamentary vote on the scheme.

Assumption #1: CO2 emissions from air travel can be excluded from calculations of economic impact

The Airports Commission included an estimate of the economic damage done by additional carbon emissions from a new runway in its cost/benefit analysis. But this excluded the over 96% of emissions resulting from air travel itself. Apparently, these do not need consideration since they will be completely removed through carbon trading. The Department for Transport has revised the figures but continued to exclude emissions from air travel.

Assumption #2: Carbon trading is an effective way of compensating for the increase in aviation emissions

This assumption underlies the government's dismissal of the hefty carbon emissions from around 700 extra flights a day from economic calculations around a third runway. It is also being used to justify ignoring the Committee on Climate Change's recommendations for a cap on aviation emissions of 37.5Mt CO2. This would be a significant step - the first time since the Climate Change Act was passed that the government dismissed outright the Committee's recommended limitations for emissions.

The Committee on Climate Change has consistently warned against relying on carbon trading. Lord Deben, chair of the Committee on Climate Change, told the Transport Select Committee that carbon trading was "a very limited concept". "As we move on, nations will be doing more and more, and they will find it more and more difficult. The idea that there will be a whole lot of spare and quite cheap trading to be done seems unlikely."

Other witnesses to the committee pointed out that the European emission trading scheme has been scaled back to cover only flights travelling within the EU (and is not very efficient), while the details of the international scheme CORSIA were yet to be agreed and there were still significant questions about how effective it would be (more on the problems with CORSIA here)

Another major problem with using carbon trading for aviation is that aviation's climate change impact is around double what it appears from looking at CO2 alone (from other gases emitted and the formation of contrails). Professor Piers Forster informed the committee that once these were accounted for, the cost estimate for climate damages for flying would be doubled from £18.5 billion to over £36 billion - and carbon trading would only limit less than half of this.

Assumption #3: Biofuels could be used to reduce aviation emissions

Witnesses to the committee questioned the assumption that sustainable biofuels would be available in sufficient quantity.

This has been examined in more detail elsewhere. For example, a report by Biofuelwatch argues that the only biofuel  which currently appears feasible for use at scale is palm oil - and the expansion of palm oil cultivation would be far from good news for the climate.

Assumption #4: Other technical/regulatory fixes can further reduce emissions, allowing aviation to expand unchecked

In the most recent figures produced by the Department for Transport, the expected future carbon emissions have been reduced, compared to those produced four years previously. This is attributed to predictions that more efficient aircraft will be built sooner, and that passenger numbers per aircraft will increase. Other measures that were proposed as means of reducing emissions (without limiting demand) included incentivising the use of single-engine taxiing at UK airports and regulations to imporove the fuel efficiency of aircraft.

There was no fall-back plan explained if these were not as effective as was hoped.

While there are many environmental and economic reasons to reject the building of a third runway at Heathrow, the most important one is that it would seriously undermine our climate targets. As the world heats up, no government that claims to take climate change seriously could approve this plan. We need to make it clear that any MP voting for Heathrow expansion is voting to put the profits of BAA above the wider interests of the UK and the future of our planet.

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Fracking has a serious public relations problem. The latest government opinion poll found that just 16% support fracking, with 32% opposed. And the more heavily industry pushes, the more local communities dig their feet in. Recently, Conservative-controlled Derbyshire county council planning committee voted nine to one not to support a fracking application by Ineos - the fourth example in less than fortnight of English councils opposing onshore gas plans.

But will councils in the future have the chance to vote on fracking applications or will the decision be taken out of their hands?

The Communities and Local Government Select Committee has opened a formal inquiry: a consultation on whether guidance for local authorities taking planning decisions on fracking should be updated. And as part of this they have included the question of whether "applications for fracking should be dealt with as national infrastructure under the 2008 Planning Act".

This would allow shale gas companies to apply directly to the Planning Inspectorate, bypassing the local council. Currently the local 'mineral planning authority' with the authority to decide applications is your county council, unitary authority or metropolitan council (although their decision can be overridden by the Secretary of State as happened in Lancashire). National Parks are also mineral planning authorities.

If fracking is classed as 'nationally significant infrastructure', applications would instead be examined by an inspector and the decision made by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

While individuals can submit evidence to the Select Committee, Louise Somerville from Frack Free Somerset argues that the most useful thing campaigners can do is raise the issue with their local councils. "Let them know that their say over fracking applications is about to be taken away. And write to your local paper - all councillors read it!"

More information about the inquiry from 'Drill or Drop'.

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As a member of the Paris climate agreement, the UK has signed up to play its part in the overall aim: "Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change."

The UK's emissions targets under the Climate Change Act are to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. Emissions budgets for five year periods are determined by the Committee on Climate Change. It's extremely concerning that according the Committee we are well off track to meet the cuts we need to make by 2030, let alone 2050.

But the organisation Plan B have been asking a different question - are the targets themselves sufficient to meet the aims of the Paris climate agreement?

In fact the Committee on Climate Change themselves have agreed that the UK's current targets are less ambitious than the Paris agreement. Plan B are supporting eleven concerned citizens, aged between nine and 79 to take the government to court to revise our emissions reductions targets to make them more ambitious. They include a Rabbi, a  medical doctor, university students worried about their futures, a single mother in social housing, and a lawyer from the British Virgin Islands who witnessed the destruction of Hurricane Irma at first hand.

Supporters of the case include Professor Sir David King, the government's former Chief Scientific Advisor. It is part of a trend of citizen climate cases aiming to make governments act, and if successful would set a very important precedent.

You can find out more here including the detailed rationale behind the case as set out in the letter to Secretary of State Greg Clark.

If you would like to support the case, they have a crowdfunding page.

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