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AEF October Newsletter: Is it time to stop expanding airports?

30th October, 2020

AEF publishes short guide to current UK airport planning applications and proposed expansions

Despite record drops in air travel and uncertainty around the pace and scale of recovery from the pandemic, many UK airports continue to press ahead with their expansion plans. 
We continue to be concerned at the number of expansion plans across the UK, and to highlight the discord between these and the Government’s net zero commitment. Our new airport expansion guide tracks the progress of new and existing applications and draws attention to this concerning trend.
Heathrow Airport was at the Supreme Court in October challenging February’s ruling that the Airports National Policy Statement, which supported its expansion, was unlawful on climate change grounds. The verdict is expected in January 2021. 
In good news, permission has been granted for a judicial review of the Government’s decision in July to grant Manston Airport permission to open as an air freight hub. The decision had gone against the advice of the planning inspectorate, and according to campaigners, will damage the local economy and impact negatively on the UK’s carbon budget and our commitments to the Paris Agreement.
recent study from NATS found public support for airport expansion at a three-year low and that “the proportion agreeing that airport expansion is the right thing to do has dropped considerably compared to 2019”. Meanwhile, this new report from the New Economics Foundation finds that even the economics of airport expansion don’t stack up. 

Non-CO2 impacts of aviation emphasised in recent report

The contribution of global aviation to anthropogenic climate forcing for 2000 to 2018, published in September in ScienceDirect, provides the first comprehensive update on the effects of aviation on climate change for almost a decade. The report found that when accounting for aviation’s non-CO2 impacts (e.g. contrail cirrus and NOx), the sector is warming the climate at approximately three times the rate associated with its CO2 emissions alone. 

Increase flight taxes, recommends citizens’ assembly on climate change

The UK Climate Assembly, made up of a broad and representative sample of the public and convened by six parliamentary select committees, published its recommendations on how the UK should achieve net zero. On air travel, it made 14 recommendations, including speeding up technology, and introducing taxes that increase as an individual flies more or further.

Read our summary here.

AEF makes recommendations on aviation’s recovery

AEF has responded to a call for evidence from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Heathrow Expansion and Regional Connectivity on ‘Building Aviation Back Better: Developing an environmental strategy’. Our response highlighted the need to ensure the Government’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan puts the aviation industry on a net zero emissions trajectory, and called for research into the health impacts of concentrated flightpaths.
We also, in conjunction with Transform Scotland, wrote to MSPs arguing against any further financial support for the aviation sector without action to tackle environmental impacts, including climate change and noise pollution. 
Reflecting on how the coronavirus crisis has hit the aviation sector, AEF published an article drawing on the work of academic Prof Stefan Gössling on how we can develop a resilient aviation system. This involves thinking beyond short term bailouts and tax cuts, we argue, and instead addressing the need for diversification, in order to provide financially stable work in a net zero future.

In other news

AEF’s Cait Hewitt appeared on Channel 4’s Supershoppers to discuss whether or not you should offset the carbon from your flight when you go on holiday… and on Radio 4’s PM programme, to talk about the role and limits of technology solutions in dealing with the aviation emissions challenge.

Carbon pricing on aviation must not be watered down post-Brexit, says AEF in response to a government consultation on the possible introduction of a carbon emissions tax in the UK… read more 

AEF responds to the Civil Aviation Authority’s consultation on a draft procedure for reviewing airspace classification… read more

‘Why is Gatwick one of the few major airports with only runway?’ asks Sewill in an updated edition of his book Tangled Wings: Living with a runway on my doorstepDownload and read the story of one man’s experiences of the fight against the growth of his local airport.

What’s coming up?

Sometime in autumn: publication of the Government’s long-awaited net zero aviation consultation, and its transport decarbonisation plan

Thursday 26th November 2020: AEF’s Virtual AGM for members, with guest presentations from some of those involved in opposing airport expansion proposals

January 2021: Verdict on Heathrow third runway hearing