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Runway recommendation under threat by Climate Committee report: Aviation Environment Federation comment

30th June, 2015


Runway recommendation under threat by Climate Committee report: Aviation Environment Federation comment

On the eve of the Airports Commission’s runway recommendation, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) today told Government it has until 2016 to set out an effective plan for limiting aviation emissions. The Government’s official advisory body on delivery of the UK’s Climate Change Act used its 5th ‘Progress Report’ [1] to Government to highlight the need for action on aviation, including constraints on demand.

Given the anticipated growth in emissions from the sector, the Department for Transport must set out how it will ensure that emissions from aviation are no higher in 2050 than they were in 2005 (37.5 Mt), the CCC states in its advice to ministers. The limited scope for improvements in aviation technology mean that demand growth must be limited to no more than 60% above its 2005 level. Current forecasts exceed this level even without adding new airport capacity and a new runway would increase passenger growth still further.

Cait Hewitt from Aviation Environment Federation, the leading UK environmental NGO campaigning on the environmental impacts of airports and flying, said:

The CCC’s report highlights the need for Government intervention to manage aviation demand just at the time when a decision on new airport capacity is looming. Our work has shown, a new runway would make the aviation emissions cap impossible to achieve in the real world.

“Ruling out South East airport expansion is the most obvious first step for the Government to take in response to today’s advice from the CCC. At the very least it must postpone a decision on a new runway until after it has published an emissions action plan for aviation.”

While the CCC’s recommendations for limiting aviation emissions are not new, the specific requirement to set out a plan for achieving them will put new pressure on the Government as it considers the recommendation of the Airports Commission. Even with current runway capacity, emissions are currently forecast to overshoot the maximum level CCC say is permissible. A new runway at either Heathrow or Gatwick would significantly increase the scale of the challenge[2], as the Airports Commission’s own modelling has shown.

As set out in the report we published earlier this month[3], the only options for tackling CO2 from the sector if expansion was approved at either Heathrow or Gatwick would be draconian restrictions on regional airports or large increases in the cost of flying to manage demand. In reality, neither approach would be deliverable.


Notes to Editors

For more information contact the AEF office on 020 3102 1509.

The Aviation Environment Federation is the leading UK organisation campaigning exclusively on the environmental impacts of aviation. We represent community groups and individuals around many of the UK’s airports and airfields. Further information can be found on our website:

[1] The Committee on Climate Change’s 5th Progress report is available here: See Table A.1 Recommendation 19 in ‘Summary of Recommendations’ and page 145 of main report

[2] View our infographic demonstrating future emissions forecasts with expansion at Heathrow and Gatwick here:

[3] Our report is available here: