Leeds Bradford airport expansion threatens greater climate damage says report

The climate impact of four planned regional airport expansions will be between two and eight times higher than their proponents claim, according to research published by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) published this week. The report finds that these four schemes are likely to account for an increase in annual airport-level emissions of up to 3.7m tonnes of CO2 and CO2-equivalent emissions in 2035, the year of the government’s new climate target. This is equivalent to putting around 1.8m additional cars on Britain’s roads.

The report finds that applications to expand Leeds Bradford (LBA), Bristol, Southampton and Stansted airports have ignored up to £13.4bn worth of combined potential damage to the climate. This damage comes through emission at high altitude of pollutants such as carbon dioxide, aerosols, nitrogen oxides, and water vapour. The majority of this cost will fall on the shoulders of wider society, either as social damage from climate breakdown or in the cost of other parts of the country having to accelerate their emissions reductions in order to meet the UK’s climate targets.

The report finds that the four airports have not provided credible estimates to decision makers of how their expansion schemes will affect the climate crisis and the cost of this impact. As a result these airports have overstated the economic case for expansion and understated how much harm they will cause. NEF analysis has found that around 65% of these emissions costs will not be recouped by current regulations on the aviation sector such as the UK’s new Emissions Trading System.

The report recommends that, in the light of a lack of credible information in these airport expansion applications, the government should halt all active applications. It argues that any decisions on airport expansion should take into account the upcoming government aviation decarbonisation strategy, the government’s new target to cut emissions 78% by 2035, and the Committee on Climate Change’s recommendation for no net expansion in UK airports. In addition, the Department for Transport should make sure that any future airport expansion applications, including larger expansions at Gatwick, Luton and Heathrow, take into account the impact of non-CO2 emissions and the monetised cost of damage to the climate.

According to a report in yesterday’s Guardian a spokesperson for LBA  said its plans were “not about expansion, but about achieving what we already have consent to do in a more sustainable way.”

However, the report finds that the four airports’ estimates of their climate impact are not credible.

Meanwhile a petition with more than 54,000 signatures urging the Government to order a  planning inquiry into the expansion of LBH was delivered to Robert Jenrick, Communities Secretary to his London Office. The peition was organised by environmetal campaigners who want the Government to ‘call in’ the decision to expand the airport and order an inquiry.

Naomi Simpson one of the organisers told the Yorkshire Post (22 May 2021) that: “The climate crisis is real and we urgently need to cut greenhouse gases. Allowing the airport to expand would take us in completely the wrong direction.”

You can read more about the report at: https://neweconomics.org/2021/05/climate-impact-of-airport-expansions-will-be-up-to-eight-times-worse-than-previously-claimed

Source: The New Economics Foundation (NEF) a charitable think tank wholly independent of political parties.


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