Heathrow expansion dealt huge blow by Committee on Climate Change aviation carbon advice

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has advised the Government that aviation will become the biggest source of carbon in the UK by 2050 and that expansion at Heathrow leaves very little room for growth at any other airport. In the letter, CCC Chair Lord Deben states that demand for aviation will need to be reduced and policies implemented to help limit that demand. The CCC state that Government need to reassess its airport capacity strategy to ensure that the increase in air travel demand by 2050 is half what is currently predicted. They suggest that a frequent flyer levy would help to curb the demand for growth or alternatively Government could raise taxes on airlines or restrict airport capacity growth. In a direct blow to aviation industry claims of technological solutions to aviation’s carbon problem, the CCC states that zero-carbon aviation is highly unlikely to be feasible by 2050. It estimates that aviation emissions could be reduced by around just 20% through improvements to fuel efficiency, some use of low carbon fuels, and limiting demand growth. Paul McGuinness, Chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said:  “The Government must now commit to amending the Airports National Policy Statement in light of the climate emergency.”

The Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) assumed that aviation could continue to emit 37.5MtCO2 per year, and ignored the impact of a 3rd Heathrow runway on the carbon emissions of other UK airports.  The forecasts of future passenger numbers have the emissions rising to well over 40 MtCO2 per year, before magically falling back to the required level by 2050.

All that is not very out of date, and the NPS does not take into account either the Paris Agreement, or the UK commitment to be carbon-zero by 2050.

The DfT and airports like Heathrow can no longer act as if the carbon emissions do not matter, or can magically be removed.  UK policy on climate and airport infrastructure has to be updated, in the light of the recent developments on carbon emissions, and the rising awareness of the climate emergency that the world has now entered.