Campaigners call for temporarily moratorium on airport expansion until there is new UK policy on aviation carbon
There is currently no UK government policy on aviation carbon emissions, or airport expansion policy across the country. While the Committee on Climate Change says there should be no NET increase in airport capacity, it is unclear how this is to work. Meanwhile many airports are trying to push through expansion plans, to get them approved by local authorities as soon as possible. In the absence of proper UK policy, local decision are just being made by local councils, with no over-arching big picture logic. The Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) is asking for a temporary moratorium on airport expansion plan decisions. Cait Hewitt of AEF said local airport applications show “the climate impact of airport expansion is not something that can be easily determined at a local level. The government really needs to get its act together in terms of setting out how the aviation sector in the UK is going to play its part in delivering net zero … We would support a moratorium on airport expansions until the government has figured out what its policy is on aviation and net zero.” AEF research showed that if all expansion plans put forward by UK airports were to proceed, it would cause an additional 9 MtCO2 to be emitted each year by 2050.
Government urged to halt regional airport expansion after Southampton given green light to extend runway
UK’s climate advisers say there should be no new net airport expansion if country is to meet net-zero 2050 target
Bt Daisy Dunne, Climate Correspondent (The Independent) @daisydunnesci
UK’s climate advisers have said there should be no new net airport expansion if the country is to meet its target of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050
Campaigners have called for regional airport expansion to be suspended after Southampton was given the green light to extend its runway in the early hours of Saturday morning.
The decision to expand Southampton Airport’s runway was made by Eastleigh Borough Council following 19 hours of fraught deliberations.
Proponents said the expansion would create 1,000 jobs and “boost the local economy”, but climate scientists and campaigners have warned that further regional airport expansion could threaten efforts to reach the country’s goal of hitting net-zero emissions by 2050.
The decision on Southampton’s runway came just days after the government delayed plans for a major extension to Leeds Bradford Airport. The government is also currently considering whether to allow expansions to Heathrow and Manston airports.
Cait Hewitt, deputy director of the Aviation Environment Federation, an NGO campaigning on the impacts of air travel, told The Independent: “We’re seeing lots of applications for airport expansion at the moment despite the fact the industry has taken a hammering from the coronavirus pandemic.
“What these plans show is that the climate impact of airport expansion is not something that can be easily determined at a local level. The government really needs to get its act together in terms of setting out how the aviation sector in the UK is going to play its part in delivering net zero.”
At present, local authorities have been left to make decisions on individual airport expansion projects without any guidance on how to consider the cumulative impact on emissions that could occur if many airports decide to expand, she said.
Analysis by AEF found that, if all expansion plans put forward by UK airports were to proceed, it would cause an additional 9 million tons of CO2 to be emitted each year by 2050.
In a landmark report released in December, the UK’s climate advisers said there should be no new net airport expansion if the country is to meet its target of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.
AEF is calling for the government to bring in a temporary suspension on regional airport expansion until it can set out a plan for how it intends to address emissions from aviation.
“We would support a moratorium on airport expansions until the government has figured out what its policy is on aviation and net zero,” she said.
“When it comes to aviation, the government likes to talk about new technologies and new funding initiatives. But the fundamental question of how you can make aviation fit with net zero plans is one they really need to face up to this year.”
Before the pandemic, aviation accounted for about 3 per cent of global CO2 emissions – and some 7 per cent of the UK’s emissions.
Flying is a particularly “carbon intensive” form of transport for two main reasons. First, the burning of jet fuel causes the release of greenhouse gas emissions, particularly CO2. Second, aircraft also produce other climate-warming substances, such as water vapour, soot and nitrogen oxides.
Eastleigh Borough Council’s decision to allow an extension to Southampton Airport came on the same day that lawmakers in France voted to approve a ban on domestic flights on routes that could be completed by train in two and a half hours.
Greenpeace UK’s head of climate, Kate Blagojevic, called for the government to intervene in the decision to allow expansion at Southampton Airport.
“Now that Eastleigh Borough Council has decided to approve this runway expansion – the climate-wrecking consequences of which are of international significance – the government must make a swift and decisive decision to stop the plans,” she said.
“No dithering, no delays. We need a coherent strategy to reduce aviation emissions, which is compatible with our international obligations.
“We’re just months away from hosting pivotal global climate talks, yet eyebrows are already being raised at many of the government’s bewildering policy decisions on climate action recently. Our climate credibility, essential for effectively leading these critical talks, is clearly at stake. The government must claw back some dignity by making the correct decision from the off.”
The Independent approached a government spokesperson for comment.
See AEF website at
Southampton Airport runway extension plans approved by Eastleigh Council
Eastleigh Borough Council has voted (finally at 2.15am!) to agree to allow Southampton Airport to extend its runway by 164 metres. This will lead to larger planes using the airport, and thus flights to more distant destinations, more passengers and higher carbon emissions. 22 councillors voted in favour of the proposals; 13 councillors voted against the plans and 1 abstained. This followed 19 hours of debate. Opponents have fought against the plans not only due to the carbon emissions, but also the extra noise for surrounding areas, and air pollution. The standard justification for these expansions are local economic benefit, and more jobs – even though the net impact is to encourage more local people to fly abroad on holiday, spending their holiday money there. It is likely that the number of people affected by noise would go from 11,450 in 2020 to 46,050 in 2033, if the expansion happens. Officers hoped that increased home noise insulation would help, but that has no impact if windows are open, or when outdoors. There are claims of “1,000 new jobs” – based on experience at other airports, that is very unlikely indeed. The CCC advice is that there should be no net airport expansion; so if one expands, another should contract. Likely?
Climate campaigners call for halt to regional UK airports expansion, to avoid aviation CO2 growth
The Aviation Environment Federation says the UK government must intervene to stop the planned expansion of a number of small airports around the country if it is to meet legally binding environmental targets and avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis. Seven regional airports have devised plans to expand their operations, despite fierce opposition from climate scientists and local people, who argue the proposals are incompatible with UK efforts to address the climate and ecological crisis. The decision on whether to allow a new terminal at Leeds Bradford has been delayed. The AEF says the government must go further and intervene to halt the other schemes which, taken together, would release huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The expansions are against the recommendations fo the government’s climate advisors, the Committee on Climate Change, who say there should be no net airport expansion. ie. if one expands, another has to contract (there are no volunteers). The time is well overdue for government take a proper strategic overview of the climate impact of airport expansion proposals rather than leave it up to individual local authorities. There needs to be proper policy for aviation carbon, which is sadly lacking.
Plans for expansion of Leeds Bradford airport put on hold – after government direction – giving time for a decision to “call in”
The government has issued a direction to Leeds City Council, preventing councillors from granting planning permission for Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA) expansion, without special authorisation. This means the expansion of LBA is now on hold. The direction preventing councillors from granting planning permission – set out in section 31 of the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015 – will give further time to Robert Jenrick, the Communities Secretary, (MHCLG) to consider whether to formally “call in” the planning application for a public inquiry. The plans to build a new terminal building on the green belt had been given conditional approval by Leeds City Council in February, despite widespread opposition from local MPs, residents and environmental groups. Campaigners argued the expansion would make a mockery of efforts to tackle the climate crisis and undermine the government’s credibility ahead of a key climate conference later this year. The issue is of more than local importance, and a full public inquiry – chaired by a planning inspector, or lawyer – would mean all the evidence being properly considered. The inquiry would then make its recommendation to Robert Jenrick, to make the final decision.