Letting Gatwick convert its emergency runway for full use would require capacity restrictions at other airports
Plans to bring Gatwick’s emergency runway into regular use would only be possible with a government intervention to prevent other airport expansions. This is what the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) advice indicates. The deputy director of the Aviation Environment Federation, Cait Hewitt, said: “Allowing Gatwick’s emergency runway to be used routinely as a second runway would only be possible if the government was to intervene to restrict capacity elsewhere in the UK, presumably by removing existing planning permissions – not an easy step to take” – and that the CCC advice makes it clear that “aviation can no longer be let off the hook when it comes to UK climate policy … The CCC’s advice should represent a line in the sand when it comes to airport expansion. … Airport expansion runs directly counter to the net zero agenda. It has to stop.” The Gatwick plans mean the emergency runway could be operating short-haul flights, by the end of the decade. The CCC’s advice to government on the Sixth Carbon Budget, published on 9th December 2020, advises the government that any increase in UK airport capacity would need to be matched by restrictions at other airports to ensure no ‘net increase’.
Gatwick second runway would require capacity restrictions at other airports
11 JAN, 2021
BY CATHERINE KENNEDY (New Civil Engineer)
Plans to bring Gatwick Airport’s second runway into regular use would only be possible with a government intervention to prevent other airport expansions, according to the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF).
However AEF deputy director Cait Hewitt urged caution.
Hewitt told NCE: “Allowing Gatwick’s emergency runway to be used routinely as a second runway would only be possible if the government was to intervene to restrict capacity elsewhere in the UK, presumably by removing existing planning permissions – not an easy step to take.”
Gatwick’s second runway is currently used as a taxiway and for emergencies – but under the plans, it could be operating short-haul flights by the end of the decade. Details of the expansion were first proposed in 2018’s “Master Plan” for the airport, which said that an extra runway would add 55,000 flights a year.
However the Committee on Climate Change’s Sixth Carbon Budget – released in December last year – advises the government that any increase in UK airport capacity would need to be matched by restrictions at other airports to ensure no ‘net increase’.
In August last year, the £500M expansion project of London City Airport was paused indefinitely because of the economic slump caused by Covid-19.
Gatwick will now develop the planning application for the project, with a statutory consultation due to launch in the summer.
Committee on Climate Change – recommendations to government – lots on aviation carbon changes and policies needed
The Committee on Climate Change has published its guidance for the UK government on its Sixth Carbon Budget, for the period 2033 – 37, and how to reach net-zero by 2050. There is a great deal of detail, many documents, many recommendations – with plenty on aviation. The intention is for UK aviation to be net-zero by 2050, though the CCC note there are not yet proper aviation policies by the UK government to achieve this. International aviation must be included in the Sixth Carbon budget. If the overall aviation CO2 emissions can be reduced enough, it might be possible to have 25% more air passengers in 2050 than in 2018. The amount of low-carbon fuels has been increased from the CCC’s earlier maximum realistic estimates of 5-10%, up to perhaps 25% by 2050, with “just over two-thirds of this coming from biofuels and the remainder from carbon-neutral synthetic jet fuel …” Residual CO2 emissions will need to be removed from the air, and international carbon offsets are not permitted. There is an assumption of 1.4% efficiency improvement per year, or at the most 2.1%. There “should be no net expansion of UK airport capacity unless the sector is on track to sufficiently outperform its net emissions trajectory.” The role of non-CO2 is recognised, but not included in carbon budgets; its heating effect must not increase after 2050. And lots more …
STOP AIRPORT EXPANSIONS TO HELP REACH NET ZERO EMISSIONS, SAY GOVERNMENT’S OFFICIAL CLIMATE ADVISORS
9th December, 2020
By the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) www.aef.org.uk
There should be no increase in the UK’s airport capacity if emissions from flying are to be cut to net zero by 2050, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) tells Government today in its advice on the level of the sixth carbon budget. Any increase in capacity would need to be matched by restrictions at other airports to ensure no ‘net increase’, unless the industry can outperform the challenging decarbonisation pathway the report sets out.
The Government’s stated policy position is to support airport growth, though there were signs this may have been weakening even before the Covid crisis. Earlier this year, it chose not to challenge the court’s ruling that the policy underpinning Heathrow expansion was unlawful since it had failed to take into account the Paris Agreement on climate change. Despite the Covid pandemic having led to reductions of around 80% in aviation activity, and industry analysts predicting reduced demand until the mid-2020s, several UK airports are actively pursuing expansion plans in what looks like a last-ditch effort to secure approval before tougher climate measures are introduced.
The importance of aviation emissions must not be overlooked, says CCC
Historically aviation emissions have been ‘allowed for’ in the setting of the UK’s carbon budgets, by setting aside a proportion of emissions for the sector, but not formally including them. This has allowed emissions from flying to rise without any penalties to the industry, and 2018 (the latest year for which data is available) recorded the highest ever level of CO2 from aircraft using UK airports. This policy approach is not “sufficient”, CCC says today. Emissions from international aviation and shipping must be formally included in carbon budgets, it says, with measures put in place to ensure these emissions start to fall even as airlines recover from the pandemic.
As well as limits on airport capacity, the Government should: introduce measures to limit demand for flying such as taxation; support the development of lower carbon fuels for aviation that meet ‘strict sustainability standards’; fund research on how to address aviation’s non-CO2 impacts; and ensure any emissions from aviation in 2050 are balanced by carbon removals, CCC advises.
AEF Deputy Director Cait Hewitt said:
The CCC’s advice is clear: the Government needs to call time on airport expansion. Zero carbon aviation is currently an aspiration, not a reality, and while it’s right to pursue new technologies for cutting emissions, we can’t rely on these coming through fast enough to decarbonise the sector without also reducing aviation demand.
Our analysis shows that current and planned UK airport expansions could increase aviation CO2 emissions by nearly 9MtCO2 a year in 2050 compared to a situation with no expansion.
The aviation sector has taken a huge hit from the Covid pandemic, but jobs per passenger had already been falling for many years. The Government now needs to sharpen its focus on how to build the zero carbon industries – and jobs – of the future.
Notes to editor:
 In addition to the Heathrow third runway plan, several airports (including those in the table below) have more modest plans to expand that would nevertheless require planning permission and infrastructure changes.