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The implications of South East expansion for regional airports

14th July, 2014

The AEF will tomorrow (Tuesday 15th) launch a new report at parliament on ‘The Implications of South East Expansion for Regional Airports‘ which considers the implications in terms of airport capacity of building a new runway in the South East.

The report finds that it would be impossible to build an additional runway in the South East and keep aviation emissions consistent with meeting UK climate targets without cutting airport capacity elsewhere.

This is likely to mean constraints on the growth of regional airports. But this would conflict with Government policy to support regional airport growth and mean that demand at regional airports – currently forecast to grow by at least 200% by 2050 – would not be achievable.

Such an approach would face such stiff opposition, given cross-party support for the idea of re-balancing the economy away from London, that it would be likely to be politically undeliverable. Instead, the report argues that the most politically, economically, and socially acceptable approach to meeting climate change targets would be to make best use of existing capacity.

Division of emissions between London and regional airports today and in 2050 (if Carbon is capped). Regions are heavily constrained.

Division of emissions between London and regional airports today and in a possible 2050 scenario where Carbon is capped at recommended levels and regional airports are heavily constrained

Based on Government passenger demand forecasts, the Airports Commission’s forecasts and submissions by Heathrow Airport, the report estimates the likely emissions from a new runway. Several illustrative scenarios are then tested to see how restricting capacity in regional or London airports may help to bring down UK aviation emissions to a level compatible with the UK’s Climate Change Act. The report finds that if a new runway is built, taking drastic action such as consolidating all airport traffic into four airports or restricting regional airports to current levels of traffic would still be insufficient to meet UK aviation’s carbon “allowance” of 37.5MtCO2 per annum in 2050.

If a new runway is built, only in a scenario where all regional airports are closed that emissions reduce to below the Committee on Climate Change’s threshold. Alternatively, the threshold can be met by working within existing planning restrictions and airport capacities

Our new report, The Implications of South East Expansion for Regional Airports is available for download here.

A summary of both our report and of analysis by RSPB of the economic implications of airport expansion, prepared as an event handout, is available here.


If you would like to find out more about this issue or you have any questions, please contact Cait Hewitt on 020 7248 2223/ cait [@] aef [.] org [.] uk.

Image credit: Mira66 via Flickr