Skip to content

No new runways before 2050 but more action needed to stabilise aviation emissions, says Government

25th August, 2011

PRESS RELEASE – for immediate release

Following its announcement last year that no new runways would be built at Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted, a Government document published today suggests the policy may be extended throughout the UK. The Government report was a response to a 2009 study by the Committee on Climate Change on how a target of stabilising aviation emissions at 2005 levels by 2050 could be achieved. Revised Government forecasts of air passenger demand and CO2 emissions assume that no new runways will be built during the period, with increases only in terminal capacity.

Even with no new runways anywhere in the UK, however, the forecasts suggest that on current trends, emissions from UK aviation will grow from 37.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, or MtCO2, in 2005 to around 49 MtCO2 by 2050. In order to keep emissions at or below their 2005 level – the policy set out under the last government – additional steps would be needed. The report does not at this stage endorse the 2005 target or set out a plan of action, but considers the relative costs and benefits of various steps that could be taken to reduce aviation emissions from their forecast levels. Further constraints on airport infrastructure were found in this analysis to be a more cost effective way of reducing emissions than the introduction of tighter technology standards.

Cait Hewitt, Deputy Director at the Aviation Environment Federation, said:

“AEF believes that no further airport expansion should take place until appropriate environmental limits have been defined by Government, so we very much welcome indications that the Government is focussing on how to meet environmental targets within existing airport infrastructure.

But we are concerned about how the relative costs of different options for reducing emissions have been calculated. The report suggests that in order to avoid passengers and airlines having to pay extra for the development of biofuels, for example, support would need to come the public purse. It would represent yet another subsidy for airlines, as having access to biofuels would allow them to save money under the EU emissions trading system.

AEF believes that for UK aviation to play a fair part in tackling climate change, it needs to be subject to a clear emissions target. With other sectors working towards challenging goals under the Climate Act, it is not good enough for aviation emissions to continue rising as soon as the recession is over.”



  1. More detailed comment is available in our news section. Alternatively, please contact Cait Hewitt – or 0207 248 2223.
  2. The Government is currently consulting on a substantial review of UK aviation policy, to replace the 2003 Air Transport White Paper. It has delayed reaching a conclusion on whether aviation should have a specific emissions target until publication of its draft aviation policy. Under the Climate Change Act 2008, by 2012 the Government must either include emissions from international aviation in its carbon budget or explain to Parliament why is has not done so.