AEF Policy briefing: Should the UK build a new runway?
The Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) is producing a series of five briefings to raise awareness among policy makers of the areas of uncertainty in the Airports Commission’s work. The 1st briefing is called “Should the UK build a new runway?” and looks at whether the Airports Commission’s new runway recommendation was a foregone conclusion, highlights important uncertainties about the Commission’s claims on both economics and environmental impacts, gives an overview of the Commission’s work so far and outlines their next steps. It questions the claim there will be sufficient demand in the South East to justify one new runway by 2030 and possibly a second by 2050. AEF says passenger demand forecasts have been successively revised downwards since 2007 and all major political parties now reject the idea that demand should be met whatever the environmental cost. AEF also challenges forecasts of business travel growth, and how aviation can meet noise and carbon challenges.
AEF Policy brief: should the UK build a new runway?
2.6.2014 (Aviation Environment Federation – AEF)
The AEF is producing a series of briefings to raise awareness among policy makers of the areas of uncertainty in the Airports Commission’s work.
Our first briefing looks at whether the Airports Commission’s new runway recommendation was a foregone conclusion, highlights important uncertainties about the Commission’s claims on both economics and environmental impacts, gives an overview of the Commission’s work so far and outlines their next steps.
The rest of the briefing series – 4 more papers – will consider key questions that could remain unanswered by the Airports Commission and left for the next Government to decide, such as:
- Are the economic benefits of a runway sufficient and robust enough to justify the social and environmental costs?
- What is the benchmark for deciding whether or not the inevitable noise increases accompanying a new runway are acceptable?
- What kind of policies (such as new taxes or constraints on regional airports) would be needed to ensure a new runway wouldn’t result in an overshoot of CO2 limits?
- How important could the air pollution issue be in the decision on a new runway?
Our four additional briefings will be released over the next two months.
The first policy brief, entitled
The Airports Commission’s interim report
It came as no surprise that the Airports Commission recommended that a new runway should be built to meet future passenger demand (though the idea of an urgent
‘capacity crisis’ was laid to rest).
This should, the report recommended, be either at Heathrow – where two options
were shortlisted, a new North West runway and an option to extend the existing runway – or at Gatwick, where the shortlisted option is South of the current runway.
The option to build a new airport in the Thames Estuary, championed by London Mayor Boris Johnson, was not specifically shortlisted. Yet it is to be explored in more detail
after an apparent last-minute decision not to rule it out, despite huge anticipated costs and opposition from the RSPB (whose membership is around 3 times that of all three main
political parties combined).
Their work in phase two
The Commission’s work this year involves an assessment of each of its shortlisted options and further consideration of whether a Thames Estuary options should be taken forward (with a decision expected in September). The Commission will then publicly consult on its shortlisted options in autumn.
Much of the Commission’s work this year would help with the efficient development and publication of an Airports National Policy Statement in the next Government’s term of
office. This would cement policy support for a new runway.
While economic and environmental impacts will be assessed in relation to each of the proposals, the Commission considers that a new runway is justified irrespective of these.
Key claims in the interim report
There will be sufficient demand in the South East to justify one new runway by 2030 and possibly a second by 2050.
But passenger demand forecasts have been successively revised downwards since 2007 and all major political parties now reject the idea that demand should be met whatever the environmental cost.
A shift eastwards in global economic power is making connections to emerging economies increasingly important, requiring better connections whether hub or point-to-point.
But business flights make up a small proportion of passengers and unnecessary flights are being replaced with video-conferencing. The assumption that the UK will suffer if business travellers interchange elsewhere is open to challenge.
Airport expansions should take account of noise and climate concerns.
But the Commission has not shown how emission levels can be kept to a level compatible with the Climate Change Act, or how expansion could be compatible with health-based noise limits.
AEF’s upcoming 4 briefings
We are producing four other briefings which look at the key
issues which the Airports Commission is considering and
highlight the challenges the next Government will still need
– Our noise briefing will review the Commission’s
proposals to deal with the ‘noise problem’, and explain
why they would come into play too late to deal with the
current noise problem. We will try to answer the key
question: can a new runway be operated within
acceptable noise limits?
– Our climate briefing will demonstrate the lack of policy
recommendations for keeping aviation emissions to a
level consistent with the Climate Change Act, and show
why building a new runway would stop the growth of
regional airports in their tracks, despite spare capacity
and permissions to expand.
– Our air pollution briefing will look at how the issue could
prove to be a show stopper at Heathrow and what a new
runway could mean for local air quality at Gatwick.
– Finally, our economics briefing will question whether
the expected economic return from a new runway is
sufficient and reliable enough to justify the risks to
people and the environment.
About the AEF:
We are a policy-focussed NGO supported by individuals and community groups concerned with the environmental impacts of aviation. We work at national, EU and international levels (including participating in UN aviation talks) to secure effective regulation of the environmental impacts of aviation. We were one of only two NGOs to give oral evidence to the Commission on environmental issues.