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Airport expansion would be incompatible with climate targets, AEF tells airport operators

10th November, 2014


In advance of the Airports Commission publishing its appraisals of new runway proposals on Tuesday (11th), Cait Hewitt, Deputy Director of the Aviation Environment Federation[1], warned the audience at the Airport Operators Association’s annual conference that expansion at Gatwick or Heathrow would be likely to breach national climate targets.

At the conference, shadow aviation minister Gordon Marsden confirmed Labour’s commitment to the goal of keeping UK aviation emissions at or below 2005 levels in 2050, which would frame any considerations of a new runway. This target, according to the Government advisors on climate change (the Committee on Climate Change or CCC), would permit a 60% growth in passenger numbers[2]. However, even without building a runway, the Government currently anticipates passenger growth of 95%, far above the level recommended by the CCC [3]. Building a new runway would be likely to put the sector’s target even further out of reach.

Our research published this year indicated that to meet climate targets, flying at regional airports would have to be capped at below today’s levels if a new runway is built[4].

Cait Hewitt, AEF’s Deputy Director told the audience:

“If you then want to add a new runway to the mix it seems to us that you’ll have to impose constraints elsewhere, and our analysis found that if you added a new runway to the South East, even if you then constrained all regional airports to today’s level of flying you’d still overshoot the emissions limit by 2050”

 Cait later commented:

We welcome any political parties committing to keeping aviation emissions at 2005 levels by 2050. In practice, however, a new runway would be incompatible with this climate goal without constraining regional airports to below today’s levels or massively increasing the cost of flying


Further information For more information please contact the AEF office on 020 7248 2223


[1] About the Aviation Environment Federation – We are the only national UK NGO campaigning exclusively on the environmental impacts of aviation. We recently co-ordinated the major national environmental NGOs, including Greenpeace, WWF, Friends of the Earth and RSPB in developing a manifesto for sustainable aviation, link here:

[2] Committee on Climate Change (2009) Meeting the UK aviation target – options for reducing emissions to 2050

[3] Department for Transport forecasted in 2013 that passenger numbers without building a new runway would increase by around 95% of today’s level

[4] Implications of South East airport expansion for regional airports, June 2014