In open letter to Ministers, campaigners say moratorium on UK airport expansion needed, due to policy vacuum on future aviation CO2 cap
In an open letter to ministers, Grant Shapps and Robert Jenrick, a large number of airport groups say the government’s aviation strategy is needed, now that the sector is included in the UK’s binding climate targets. Currently there are expansion plans at 7 airports in England: Leeds Bradford, Luton, Bristol, Southampton, Heathrow, Stansted and Manston. Gatwick is also expected to submit plans soon, to make more use of its emergency runway. The letter says the UK government must suspend all airport expansion plans until it sets out how they fit with its legally binding climate targets and the advice of its own experts, the Climate Change Committee. The CCC said, in December 2020, that there should be no net expansion of UK airport capacity “unless the sector is on track to sufficiently outperform its net emissions”. Which it is unlikely to be, in the next 20 years. The growth of the industry, that the expansions would permit, could not be accommodated with a stricter overall carbon cap. The campaigners say: “Until the government has consulted on its preferred strategy for net zero aviation, and published its policy, it is impossible to see how local authorities or the government could justify any given airport expansion as conforming to binding carbon budgets and targets.”
Campaigners say UK airport expansion plans must be suspended amid new climate goals
In letter to ministers, groups say aviation strategy needed after sector included in binding climate targets
There are expansions planned at seven airports in England: Leeds Bradford, Luton, Bristol, Southampton, Heathrow, Stansted and Manston. Gatwick is also expected to imminently submit plans.
By Matthew Taylor (The Guardian)
Mon 10 May 2021
The UK government must suspend all airport expansion plans until it sets out how they fit with its legally binding climate targets and the advice of its own experts, campaigners have warned.
In a letter to ministers, groups opposing planned expansions at eight airports around the country say the government’s recent decision to include aviation in its binding climate targets mean the expansion plans must be halted.
“Until the government has consulted on its preferred strategy for net zero aviation, and published its policy, it is impossible to see how local authorities or the government could justify any given airport expansion as conforming to binding carbon budgets and targets,” states the letter to Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, and Robert Jenrick, the communities and local government secretary.
There are expansions planned at seven airports in England: Leeds Bradford, Luton, Bristol, Southampton, Heathrow, Stansted and Manston – all of which are at various stages in the process. Campaigners are also expecting Gatwick to imminently submit plans to increase capacity.
In December, the government’s own advisers on the climate change committee said there should be no net expansion of UK airport capacity “unless the sector is on track to sufficiently outperform its net emissions”.
Ministers have the power to “call in” decisions made at a local level – a process that would allow the national and international climate ramifications of granting permission for the airport to be considered.
Campaigners say it is essential the proposals are halted until the government sets out a comprehensive aviation strategy – expected in the next couple of months.
“Existing policy does not take account of the government’s increased climate ambition for aviation,” the letter states. “Until the government has consulted on its preferred strategy for net zero aviation, and published its policy, it is impossible to see how local authorities or the government could justify any given airport expansion as conforming to binding carbon budgets and targets.”
A government spokesperson said planning decisions should be made at a local level wherever possible, adding: “The power to call in is used very selectively and when requests to call in an application are made ministers will consider the case individually, in line with our published policy.”
Aviation Environment Federation (AEF),
40 Bermondsey Street London,
0203 859 9371
The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP
Secretary of State for Transport
Department for Transport
33 Horseferry Road London,
The Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP
Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 Marsham Street London,
7 May 2021
Dear Secretaries of State,
REQUEST FOR A MORATORIUM ON AIRPORT EXPANSION (OPEN LETTER)
In December 2019 AEF and some of the community group signatories to this letter wrote to ask you to intervene to suspend the determination of all applications to increase the physical capacity of UK airports, or their approved operating caps, until noise and climate policies were in place, against which such applications could be judged. You responded by indicating that the Government’s policies supported additional airport expansion in the South East, and airports making best use of existing capacity.
Since then, however, there has been a strengthening of the Government’s ambition to address aviation’s climate change impacts, including the significant decision to include international aviation and shipping emissions in the UK’s carbon budgets and net zero legislation.
We are still awaiting publication of the Government’s net zero aviation policy. However, the Climate Change Committee has made clear that adequate airport capacity already exists to meet the future levels of demand it deems to be compatible with a balanced pathway to achieving net zero by 2050, and advises therefore that there should be no net increase in airport capacity unless the industry over-delivers emissions reductions. The inescapable logic is that any approved expansion at one airport will necessarily impact upon the existing capacity that can be permitted to be used at others around the country.
The pandemic has damaged the business capability of some airports and airlines, reducing their ability to invest, particularly in the innovation required to deliver net zero. However, it appears not to have affected airports’ appetite to pursue permission to expand. All of these expansion plans have the potential to increase greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore run contrary to the recommendations of the CCC.
We believe that there are compelling reasons for you to reconsider the introduction of a moratorium on airport expansion.
Existing policy does not take account of the Government’s increased climate ambition for aviation. Until the Government has consulted on its preferred strategy for net zero aviation, and published its policy, it is impossible to see how local authorities or the Government could justify any given airport expansion as conforming to binding carbon budgets and targets. Assessment needs to be made of the cumulative impacts of these expansions which we estimate, based on an extrapolation of DfT’s own forecasts, could add almost 9MtCO2 by 2050 if allowed to proceed.
While the planning process requires applicants to take such cumulative impacts into account, it is difficult for local authorities accurately to account for proposals that are at different stages of the planning approval process, and to assess the implications in any meaningful way.
Allowing some decisions to be determined locally at this time prejudges the outcome of the Government’s consultation on net zero aviation. We welcome the notice issued to Leeds City Council to postpone sending out a final decision letter while consideration is given to a call-in, and we hope that similar action will be taken in respect of Eastleigh Borough Council’s decision to approve the runway extension at Southampton Airport.
We welcome the Government’s readiness to challenge the aviation industry to accelerate its efforts to decarbonise through initiatives like the Jet Zero Council and inclusion in the Climate Change Act. But an uncoordinated and unplanned approach to airport expansion before appropriate policy is in place puts achievement of net zero in jeopardy. We suggest that until the Government has framed a net zero plan for the sector, including a national strategy for airport capacity which acknowledges and plans for the new carbon constraints, it would only be responsible to impose a blanket moratorium on all airport expansion planning.
Tim Johnson, Director, Aviation Environment Federation
Charles Lloyd, Aviation Communities Forum
Stephen Clarke, Bristol Airport Action Network (BAAN)
John Adams, Stop Bristol Airport Expansion (SBAEx) campaign
Hilary Burn, Chair, Parish Councils Airport Association (Bristol)
Sally Pavey, Chair, Communities Against Gatwick’s Noise and Emissions (CAGNE)
Peter Barclay, Chairman, Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign
Paul Beckford, Coordinator, Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise (HACAN)
Paul McGuinness, Chair, No Third Runway Coalition
Chris Foren, Chair, Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport
Andrew Lambourne, Luton And District Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise
Rachael Webb, People Against Airport Intrusive Noise (Luton)
Anne Marie Nixey, No Night Flights (Manston)
Jenny Dawes, campaigner against reopening Manston
Mark Bayliss, AXO Southampton
Brian Ross, Deputy Chair, Stop Stansted Expansion
Cc: Robert Courts MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Transport
Two campaign groups join call to suspend expansion of Gatwick Airport
Two campaign groups have joined the call for a suspension on the expansion of Gatwick Airport as well as other airports across the country.