NGOs set out policy proposals on UK aviation, with 6 tests, for all party manifestos
A number of the main environmental NGOs in the UK have together published their joint policy proposals for sustainable future aviation strategy for the UK. The NGOs welcome the increased recognition of the need to keep aviation expansion within UK carbon targets. However, there is concern that a new runway would represent locking into carbon-intensive infrastructure at a time when the UK urgently needs to reduce emissions. It is critically important that climate change targets continue to be respected in the context of aviation expansion. A new south east runway would mean caps on expansion of regional airports, and tightening of carbon budgets for emissions elsewhere in the economy. The document sets out six key tests for a new runway or airport expansion, relating to climate change, sustainability, society, and wildlife. The NGOs would oppose airport expansion or the construction of any new runways unless any future government ensures their six tests are passed, with the necessary policies. They are calling on all political parties to include meeting these tests in their manifestos.
As environmental groups, we welcome the fact that over the last decade, climate change and other environmental impacts have become major considerations in aviation policy. We note that the debate has moved from the threat of five potentially damaging new runways to a proposal for one. This step change has been influenced by the recognition that new runways would represent locking into carbon-intensive infrastructure at a time when the UK urgently needs to reduce emissions. It is critically important that climate change targets continue to be respected in the context of aviation expansion.
With this in mind, we highlight that building a new runway in the South East would rule out expansion elsewhere in the country and require caps on regional airports. Meanwhile, locking in higher carbon emissions from aviation would require a tightening of carbon budgets for emissions elsewhere in the economy such as carbon-intensive industry.
As environmental groups with concerns for wildlife, climate change, sustainability and society, we would oppose airport expansion or the construction of any new runways unless any future government ensures the following tests are passed. We are calling on all political parties to include the tests in their manifestos.
JOINT POLICY PROPOSALS FOR A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE AVIATION STRATEGY
Aviation policy needs to:
1. Ensure Climate change commitments are not compromised by aviation growth
– Put in place regulation to ensure UK aviation emissions will not exceed 2005 levels by 2050
– Include the UK’s international aviation emissions in the five year carbon budgets leading up to 2050
– Push for international limits on aviation emissions at least as stringent as the national aviation cap specified above
– Keep the evidence on non-CO2 impacts under review and tighten the aviation cap if required.
2. Limit the impact of aircraft noise on both health and quality of life
– Do not permit new runways at airports where aircraft noise in residential areas exceeds World Health Organisation recommended levels, or where it could threaten tranquillity or negatively impact on vulnerable species and sites
– Publish, consult and rigorously appraise evidence on potential changes to flight paths and flight frequency before any expansion decision, considering health-based impacts and the additional level of disturbance that aircraft can cause where background noise levels are low.
3. Protect public health by upholding and toughening air pollution laws around airports
Adhere to principles of the EU Directive that air quality
(i) can not be allowed to breach legal limits
(ii) must not be worsened if there is a breach and
(iii) should not be allowed to deteriorate in areas that are within legal thresholds
– Revise the air quality legal limits in the longer term to reflect WHO guideline levels and reduce air pollution around airports to these levels
4. Examine all local environmental and social impacts of airport expansion, and refuse expansion if the likely impact is unacceptable, including the following issues:
– Protected habitats and species
– Irreplaceable ancient woodland
– Water quality
– Protected sites
– Character of the countryside
– Public safety zones
5. Give preference to using existing airport capacity
– Utilise regional airports ahead of building new capacity given its associated risks and environmental impacts
6. Ensure full parliamentary scrutiny and debate
– Carry out a parliamentary debate in the main chamber about the consistency of the Airports Commission’s recommendations with the above environmental tests prior to any decision to expand.
There are further extensive notes supporting each of the above tests and policies.