NEF analysis indicates the CO2 from Gatwick expansion could cost taxpayers £8.5 billion up to 2050. 

New analysis from the New Economics Foundation has calculated the costs to society of the carbon emissions that airport expansion plans would cause. The “carbon value” used to be a bit over £70 per tonne, but in September 2021 this was increased to £124 per tonne, and it will keep rising.  So the figures airports have put forward, for the positive economic impact of their expansion are now entirely out of date.  Almost the only carbon costs the aviation industry pays is for carbon through the UK ETS, which only covers flights within the EU.  Not flights anywhere else in the world.  The Gatwick cost of emissions from departing flights is calculated by NEF  to be £9.196 billion, rather than £4.502 billion at the lower, out of date, price – for the period between 2025 – 2050. They put the forecast price paid for traded emissions at £634m. So the proportion of climate cost paid would only be 6.9% which implied cost to wider society and taxpayer at £8.562 billion.  That is the cost to society of the climate impact of the higher carbon emissions caused by more Gatwick flights. 



Aviation industry will only pay for 16% of the emissions clean-up costs of UK airport expansions

27 JANUARY 2022

NEF, the New Economics Foundation, finds a £62bn carbon giveaway as the aviation industry will only pay for 16% of climate change from eight ongoing airport expansion projects including Gatwick Airport plans to rebuild the emergency runway as a second runway.

The author of the report, Alex Chapman, found that using the updated carbon value (BEIS 2021 carbon values) would ‘wipe out the majority of the benefit claimed by Gatwick Airport’ in relation to expansion plans.

“This must now seriously question Gatwick plans for expansion and the results of the public consultation as decisions were based on flawed data according to this new report,” said CAGNE, the umbrella aviation community group for Sussex, Surrey, and Kent.  “Residents have participated in a consultation that did not tell the truth to the impact on our planet as the figures were out of date according to this report. “

“Local authorities are required to make use of the government’s updated carbon values to inform their decisions as such these findings must bring serious questions to how any elected body can support Gatwick Airport 2nd runway and how this public consultation results be seen as genuine feedback.”

The report finds that at Gatwick Airport having just conducted a public consultation on the proposed expansion presented to the public in the consultation documents out of date carbon values (BEIS 2018 carbon values) to dramatically underestimate their schemed climate cost.

In a climate emergency, any project or policy which creates new greenhouse gas emissions comes at great cost to society.  We either suffer the consequences of deeper ecological collapse, or someone, somewhere, must ‘clean up’ those gases.

Gatwick Airport figures drastically change from £4,500m on old departing emissions values compared to 2021 new departing emissions values which show £9,196m.

So, the Gatwick Airport cost of emissions from departing flights was stated at £9,196m, with the forecast price paid for traded emissions at £634m thus the proportion of climate cost paid would only be 6.9% which implied cost to wider society and taxpayer at £8,562m.

Now that the government carbon values have been updated decision to date have been made based on a grossly underestimate cost to the climate and our society says the report

There are eight airport expansion projects which are actively in legal planning procedures, ranging from projects in their early consultation such as Gatwick to projects which have been approved.

As with Gatwick, airports have been reluctant to present how much their schemes will really cost in climate damage.  Where they do, they typically only present the costs of emissions resulting from departing flights.

Alex Chapman, researcher at the New Economics Foundation, said:

“More than two years on from adopting our 2050 net-zero target, the government has finally updated its estimates of how much it will cost to clean up greenhouse gas emissions from any new infrastructure projects. The huge increase means that decisions have been made, including on eight proposed airport expansions, on the basis of grossly underestimated costs to the climate and our society.

Only 16% of the £74bn tab for cleaning up the emissions from these expansions will be covered by the aviation sector. The rest will be picked up by wider society and the taxpayer. In essence, a colossal subsidy is being passed to polluting big business, and a debt passed on to future generations. As the majority of aviation emissions are made by a small number of wealthy frequent flyers, this is the opposite of ‘levelling-up’.

In light of this new evidence all active UK airport expansions should immediately be paused, and re-evaluated in line with the new guidance. In addition, loopholes in current carbon taxes should be closed, and a Frequent Flyer Levy introduced to make sure the costs of cutting carbon emissions are passed on to the biggest polluters and the wealthiest in our society.”

See full press release at :

NEF report:

Table 2: Cumulatively, the eight ongoing UK airport expansions are expected to result in a giveaway of emissions worth £62bn.

Net present value in £millions (2025 – 2050) of emissions associated with eight airport expansions using BEIS 2021 carbon values, compared against net present value (2025 – 2050) of traded emissions using the latest BEIS (2018) traded emissions prices series.

Cost of emissions from departing flights (£m)Forecast price paid for traded emissions (£m)Proportion of climate cost paidImplied cost to wider society and taxpayer (£m)
Leeds Bradford91322024.1%693

Source: NEF analysis of Department for Transport, and planning documents submitted by Gatwick airport, Luton airport, Manston airport, Southampton airport, Leeds Bradford airport, Bristol airport. *Emissions from Stansted airport have been adjusted as described in NEF, 2021.

Table: The net present value of the departing-flight emissions from eight airport expansions underway across the UK has more than doubled following the revision to BEIS carbon values.

Old 2020 departing emissions value (£m)New 2021 departing emissions value (£m)Increase factorStatus
Heathrow24,99849,2122.0Approved by parliament and courts, awaiting application
Gatwick4,5029,1962.0Development consent order application process started
Luton2,6155,2312.0Application for first stage submitted, second stage pending
Manston2,4955,1312.1Secretary of state for transport redetermining application
Stansted*1,0912,4022.2Application approved at appeal
Southampton4219542.3Application approved by Eastleigh Borough Council
Leeds Bradford4239132.2Application approved by council but paused by secretary of state
Bristol2946452.2Awaiting outcome of planning appeal following council rejection

See earlier:

NEF report –

Realistic cost of carbon emissions likely to make airport expansion plans unviable

The government’s new higher, more realistic, carbon values – putting a cost on carbon emissions from aviation – are likely to make many airport expansion schemes non-viable. The carbon value was increased in September, in an attempt to move towards “net zero” by 2050. The anticipated economic benefits will be drastically cut, if carbon emissions (and their negative impact on society and the planet) are costed properly. The planning law is currently inadequate and ambiguous, but campaigners hope planning authorities will take greater account of the impact of emissions on the economic case of proposed projects. The New Economics Foundation has found that the economic cases for 6 of the 7 major airport expansion proposals — including Heathrow and Gatwick — use either the old carbon value, or none at all.  As yet, planning law in England does not explicitly require carbon values to be used. But the relevant planning authority can demand they are included in applications.  If the anticipated outcome of Bristol’s appeal gave a “clear line” on carbon values, it is very likely to inform other airport expansion decisions.

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Public to foot £62bn bill for climate damage from airport expansions – which the aviation sector should pay for

Analysis by Alex Chapman, working for the New Economics Foundation (NEF) has found that in allowing airports around the country to expand, the government is letting the aviation industry off the hook for £62bn of damage to the climate. The amount of carbon that airports, and mainly aircraft, emit has a negative impact on the global climate – and thus to society.  Governments can put a figure on this cost, for each tonne of emitted carbon. In September 2021 the government increased the carbon value figure from around £70 per tonne to £245 per tonne (central value) for 2021 rising to £378 per tonne by 2050. The new NEF analysis found the aviation industry will only pay for 16% of the emissions clean-up costs of the 8 airport expansions currently moving through UK planning processes (Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, Bristol, Southampton, Leeds Bradford and Manston). The higher, more realistic, price for carbon makes these expansion schemes uneconomic, if the carbon is properly paid for.  The government does not have a comprehensive mechanism for recouping these costs from the aviation industry.

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