Birmingham Airport expansion ‘will cancel out green policy’

8.4.2008   (Birmingham Post)

Birmingham’s ambitious plans to slash its carbon emissions will be negated by
the expansion of the city’s airport, the man spearheading the green drive has

But Councillor Paul Tilsley said it would be “economic suicide” if the growth
of Birmingham International Airport, which is part-owned by the city council,
was obstructed.

The admission from the city’s deputy leader came after environmental campaigners
said the local authority’s radical green plans did not tally with its support
for BIA.

Earlier this year, the city council unveiled radical plans to cut emissions by
60  per cent in the city by 2026.

Friends of the Earth said BIA would end up doing more than twice as much damage
to the environment as the entire city of Birmingham combined if its runway was

The airport is located in Solihull but half-owned by the seven West Midlands
metropolitan councils including Birmingham.

In January, Councillor Tilsley said in The Birmingham Post the city would be
looking to cut carbon emissions to 2.6 million tonnes (Mt) a year – 60  per cent
down on the 2008 figure.

Emissions from aviation at BIA are set to rise to 1.97  Mt by 2030, according
to predictions by engineers Arup.

But the fact that this is released at high altitude means it contributes as much
towards global warming as 5.4  Mt emitted at ground level. Coun Tilsley (Lib Dem
Sheldon) said the growth of air traffic in the UK was inevitable, and that it
would be “economic suicide” to try to restrict expansion at the airport.

He said: “People aren’t going to stop travelling, let’s live in the real world.
The reality of the situation is that for the majority of people that want to take
long haul or even short haul flights, they are having to either travel to Manchester
or London airports, and many of them won’t be using public transport.

“The reality is if we don’t provide the destinations from Birmingham that people
want to use they will go elsewhere, and them going elsewhere is adding to our
CO2 emissions footprint.

“There is competition for people’s spending money, and if people are going to
travel and if all airports are showing a year-on-year increase in passenger numbers,
if you don’t provide the services they are going to go elsewhere. It’s just logical.

“You can’t single out one airport. If passenger numbers dwindle it would be economic

He added it was unfair to focus on Birmingham City Council’s responsibility for
the airport, as it only had a stake of roughly seven  per cent in BIA. Birmingham
is one of the seven boroughs in the West Midlands that between them own a 50 per
cent stake in the airport.

Coun Tilsley added: “With the best will in the world Birmingham City Council
is in no position to stop the decision at BIA. But overall, yes we have some responsibility
for the expansion.”

The Birmingham branch of Friends of the Earth said the extra traffic brought
in by the runway expansion, combined with the fact aircraft emissions are particularly
damaging, would mean the airport’s contribution to global warming would negate
the city’s initiative.

The number of flights at BIA is set to double over the next 25 years, from the
current level of about 100,000 a year, the group said.

Campaigner Chris Williams said: “I welcome the fact that Birmingham’s politicians
can, on one hand, be sufficiently enthusiastic to plump for such challenging targets
for carbon dioxide reduction in the city.

“But it is disappointing that on the other hand, they wholeheartedly support
the extension of the airport’s runway.

“People look to pass on the blame for emissions to someone else. Birmingham is
passing off the blame to Solihull. The airport is saying it’s not all their responsibility.
Everybody’s passing the blame, but it’s got to be shared somehow.

“They can’t have it both ways. They want carbon emissions reduced on the figures
they are responsible for, but they are quite happy for the airport they aren’t
quite responsible for to be going up. They need a consistent plan.”

Birmingham Post

Birmingham Airport expansion ‘will cancel out green policy’