New AEF Policy Briefing setting out how a new south east runway is not compatible with UK climate policy
The Aviation Environment Federation (AEF), a policy-focused UK NGO, is producing a series of policy briefings, to inform the airport expansion/runway debate. The issue remains whether to build a new runway, not merely where. AEF’s new briefing “AIRPORT EXPANSION AND CLIMATE CHANGE – Is a new runway compatible with climate policy?” is a concise, easy to read, document setting out the facts very clearly. A key point is that a new runway would have very significant climate implications that fall outside the remit of the Airports Commission to address. AEF explains how both the Committee on Climate Change and Airports Commission have stated that demand for flights in the UK will have to be restricted to prevent CO2 emissions from the aviation sector overshooting the level consistent with the Climate Change Act. However, neither has identified how this can be achieved if a new runway is built, leaving a policy gap. That gap would result in the UK’s climate targets being compromised. The options are to dramatically increase the cost of flying (by the UK acting alone), restrict capacity available at regional and other South East airports to below today’s levels – or better and more acceptable – make optimum use of existing airport capacity.
New AEF Policy Briefing: Is a new runway compatible with UK climate policy?
Image Credit: Adrian Underwood via Flickr
A major consideration for the next government when considering the recommendations of the Airports Commission will be whether a new South East runway should be ruled out on climate grounds. Our new policy briefing examines this concern and considers what options would be available to a future Government if a new runway is built in order to ensure that the aviation sector plays its part in meeting climate change commitments.
We are publishing our briefing at a time when high profile members of Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems have all indicated that they remain open to the possibility of an additional runway in the South East. [The LibDems have now voted, at their conference, against a new south east runway, though the leadership wanted to get an amendment to back a new Gatwick runway. David Laws, writing the LibDem manifesto for the 2015 election, has said the party will respect the views of its members, and not just dismiss them, to back Gatwick].
We believe that a new runway would have very significant climate implications that fall outside the remit of the Airports Commission to address.
The Airports Commission’s analysis has built on the work [Dec 2009 CCC] of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) in modelling the increase in demand for flights that can be accommodated while keeping aviation emissions at a level compatible with the Climate Change Act by 2050.
Both the CCC and Airports Commission have stated that demand for flights in the UK will have to be restricted to prevent carbon emissions from the aviation sector overshooting this level. However, neither has identified how this can be achieved if a new runway is built, leaving a policy gap that would, we argue, result in the UK’s climate targets being compromised.
If a new runway is built, the available policy options would be to either dramatically increase the cost of flying (by the UK acting alone) or to restrict capacity available at regional and other South East airports to below today’s levels.
Both options would be likely to be politically undeliverable.
AEF’s view, therefore, is that rather than constructing any new runways, making best use of existing airport capacity continues to be the best approach to managing future aviation demand.
This briefing on the climate change impacts of a new runway is part of our series of briefings on the work of Airports Commission which examines why the question about UK airports should be ‘whether’ and not just ‘where’ to build a new runway.
[Earlier briefing: AEF Policy Brief: should the UK build a new runway? ]
“AIRPORT EXPANSION AND CLIMATE CHANGE
Is a new runway compatible with climate policy?”
Image Credit: Adrian Underwood via Flickr
Below are two extracts from the briefing:
The Airports Commission has concluded that one new runway in the South East would be compatible with the UK’s climate commitments. But in reality new runways cannot be reconciled with legislated carbon goals unless a significant gap in the policy for reducing aviation emissions is addressed by the next government.
LIMITS TO UK AVIATION’S CO2 EMISSIONS
Under the Climate Change Act, the UK is required to reduce emissions by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050. While aviation emissions are not formally included in the five year carbon budgets, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has recommended setting aside 37.5 Mt of the UK emissions budget in 2050 for aviation, equivalent to the sector’s emissions in
2005. The Airports Commission refers to this as the emissions cap. According to the CCC, a higher level of aviation emissions would be high risk and not economically optimal.
Improved efficiency of aircraft should permit some growth in the amount of flying without aviation CO2 emissions breaching the carbon cap. The Airports Commission assumes a shift to larger aircraft would mean passenger numbers could increase by 67% and the number of aircraft movements by 38% by 2050.
THE POLICY GAP FOR AVIATION EMISSIONS
Today, aviation takes up around 6% of UK emissions and the proportion is forecast to increase. The Airports Commission’s analysis suggests that emissions may breach the aviation cap even without expanding capacity. See graph below. Building a new runway would lock in future increases in CO2 emissions through significant investment in carbon-intensive infrastructure.
AEF Policy Briefing: http://www.aef.org.uk/uploads/AEF_Briefing_Climate.pdf