Jeff Gazzard: Let’s do the maths on third Heathrow runway CO2 emissions

Jeff Gazzard, in a letter in the Guardian, rejects the comment by Richard Deakin (head of NATS) last week that – and this is a literal quote – “the single biggest thing we could do to reduce CO2 in the UK is to build a third runway at Heathrow”.   Barely a credible statement. Jeff shows that the CO2 produced by aircraft stacking over London is perhaps 219,000 tonnes per year, compared to around  18 -19 million tonnes per year from planes using Heathrow.  So the stacking is about 1.16% of the total.  And a 3rd runway would perhaps generate another 7 million tonnes CO2 per year.  If so, the amount of CO2 wasted now in stacking would be about 3 – 4% of that produced by runway 3.  


Let’s do the maths on the third runway

16 April 2012

Letters to the Guardian.

By Jeff Gazzard (AEF)

Your article (Thames estuary ‘very worst spot’ for an airport, says air traffic chief, 14 April) rightly points out that there are significant air traffic management difficulties if a “Foster’s Folly” or a “Boris Island” are considered. But in it Richard Deakin, the Nats chief executive, also conceded that these might not be a showstopper, quoting him thus, “technically anything is possible”. Clearly Mr Deakin likes a challenge. So here’s another.

Mr Deakin is also quoted as saying that, from an air traffic control point of view, “the single biggest thing we could do to reduce CO2 in the UK is to build a third runway at Heathrow“. Nats’ own analysis paints a lurid picture of allegedly wasteful CO2 emissions, 600 tonnes a day, from aircraft stacking over London while waiting to land at Heathrow. These figures are increasingly used to justify a third runway. However, in 2010, Heathrow flights emitted 18.9m tonnes of CO2, so delays – which may or may not be due to stacking per se – contribute just 1.16% of the total.

Heathrow’s 480,000 movement limit is currently being handled safely and efficiently with a reasonably acceptable CO2 emissions performance when put into context – Nats, BAA and all those airlines using the airport seem to do a pretty good environmentally efficient job, in what is very congested airspace.

Those who are trying to use 219,000 tonnes of “wasted” CO2 out of a total of over 18 million as a lever for a third runway need some maths revision lessons – and quickly. A new 2,200m runway would grow capacity from today’s 480,000 annual limit to 700,000, a 46% increase in movements. Perhaps Mr Deakin could let us all know how much more CO2 this would mean in practice?
Jeffrey Gazzard
Aviation Environment Federation