Government remains committed to airport expansions
In its Jet Zero Strategy, which is all the UK has in place of a proper aviation policy, the government will continue to support “justified” airport expansions while – claiming it is working to “make the UK’s aviation sector net zero by 2050.” While there are no realistic means of cutting aviation CO2 emissions, at any scale, for decades to come, the DfT wants to continue to encourage more air travel. The means of purporting to cut aviation emissions, without actually cutting the amount of CO2 that comes out of jet engines, are using alternative (allegedly lower carbon) jet fuels, by carbon capture and permanent storage (that is not going to happen at any scale any time soon) and some tweaks to aircraft design. The DfT will continue to support airport expansions as it has “a role to play in realising the benefits for the UK through boosting our global connectivity and levelling up”. It believes that the existing policy frameworks for airport planning “provide a robust and balanced framework for airports to grow sustainably within our strict environmental criteria”. A true case of “sustainable growth” being a nonsensical oxymoron. The only way to limit UK aviation emissions is fewer flights, and fewer air trips. One way to assist that would be not expanding any airports.
Government remains committed to airport expansions
1 JUL, 2022
BY ROB HAKIMIAN (New Civil Engineer)
The government will continue to support “justified” airport expansions while working to make the UK’s aviation sector net zero by 2050.
In the Jet Zero Strategy: delivering net zero aviation by 2050, released this week, the Department for Transport (DfT) outlines how it will continue to grow the aviation sector while reducing emissions, with a target of net zero for domestic flights in 2040 and the entire sector by 2050. This is largely through alternative fuels, carbon capture and other in-development technologies.
It will continue to support airport expansions as it has “a role to play in realising the benefits for the UK through boosting our global connectivity and levelling up”. It believes that the existing policy frameworks for airport planning “provide a robust and balanced framework for airports to grow sustainably within our strict environmental criteria”.
Analysis carried out by the DfT reportedly supports its belief that aviation can achieve net zero without the government having to intervene to limit its growth. This is based on analysis of airport capacity assumptions consistent with the latest known expansion plans in the UK.
The DfT says that its calculations show the potential carbon emission increase can be accommodated within the planned trajectory for achieving net zero by 2050. Thus, its planning policy frameworks remain compatible with the UK’s wider climate change obligations.
All airport expansions in England will have to meet the DfT’s climate change obligations to be able to proceed. The DfT accepts that local communities and the wider public must have confidence that the impact of airport expansion have been properly considered, therefore all applicants must provide sufficient detail regarding the likely environmental and other effects. Recent cases of airport expansion plans, including Bristol and Southampton, have gained approval despite local objections.
Analysis from the New Economics Foundation think tank says that the Jet Zero strategy is only focused on reducing CO2 emissions. By allowing unlimited growth of the aviation, the government expects the number of flights to increase by a third by 2050, and non-CO2 emissions will grow alongside. Although government says that the effects of these emissions “remains uncertain”, gases that come from airplanes, such as nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide, are known to be harmful to the environment and atmosphere.
The government’s six priorities for the aviation sector, as set out in the Jet Zero strategy, are:
Improving the efficiency of the aviation system, including aircraft, airports and airspace. This will include an annual 2% fuel efficiency improvement and £3.7M to support airports to modernise their airspace.
Increasing support for sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) with a mandate that will require at least 10% of jet fuel to be made from sustainable sources by 2030. It has committed £165M from the new Advanced Fuels Fund to kickstart the domestic SAF industry.
Supporting the development of zero-emission aircraft, with the aspiration of having zero-emission routes connecting places across the UK by 2030.
Developing carbon markets and greenhouse gas removal technologies to drive decarbonisation and offset any residual emissions.
Providing consumers with better information so they can make sustainable aviation choices.
Increasing its understanding of the non-CO2 impacts of aviation, such as contrails and nitrogen oxides. It will work closely with academia and industry to monitor global developments in this area, increase its understanding, potential mitigations and explore a means of tracking these emissions.
New Economics Foundation senior researcher Alex Chapman said: “The government’s framing of its plan as delivering ‘net zero aviation’ by 2050 and ‘peak emissions’ in 2019 is highly misleading. At best, this plan will deliver peak carbon emissions in 2019, but with its plan for unlimited air travel growth, non-carbon aviation emissions will rise, and will persist all the way to 2050.
“Drawing a downward slanting line on a piece of paper and crossing your fingers is not a ‘strategy’. Instead of meaningfully reducing the demand for air travel, the government’s plan is to allow unlimited growth in one of the country’s most climate-damaging activities. This is irresponsible and dangerous. The Jet Zero strategy gambles public safety on miracle future technologies as well as risky and expensive carbon offsetting.
“Yesterday the High Court ruled that the government’s overall Net Zero Strategy doesn’t contain the policies needed to actually deliver net zero emissions. Today the government goes one step worse, announcing a plan for aviation not only devoid of policy, but which actively forecasts and then accepts hundreds of millions of tonnes of emissions. There are popular solutions out there, such as a frequent flyer levy which penalises those who fly excessively, and stopping unnecessary airport expansion- but the government has ignored them all.”