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AEF Newsletter: Curbing airport expansion and the latest in the sustainable fuels debate

6th May, 2022

Local campaigners have seen several positive developments when it comes to curbing airport expansion. An update on this is below, together with news on AEF’s latest contribution to the sustainable aviation fuel debate, new resources explaining Air Passenger Duty and our call for Airport Consultative Committees to reform – scroll down to read more!


There has been growing pressure for airport expansion to be scrapped in view of the UK’s 2050 climate goals. In March, Leeds Bradford Airport axed its plans for a new terminal building. In April, the Secretary of State decided to call in Luton Airport’s application to increase its capacity to 19 million passengers, citing “concerns over climate change targets and policies for enhancing the natural environment”. Bristol Airport campaigners obtained permission to challenge the Inspectors’ decision to grant permission in the High Court, and the High Court is also considering the decision to allow Southampton Airport to expand. Liverpool Airport expansion has meanwhile been called into doubt as councillors ponder whether growth is consistent with the city’s environmental objectives. AEF continues to campaign against airport expansion at a policy level, including asking the Government to provide clearer guidance for local councils when they consider airport planning applications.

AEF also supported Celeste Hicks who has written a book about the legal battle against a Heathrow third runway. Expansion Rebellion: using the law to fight a runway and save the planet is due out in May.


AEF’s Airspace and Noise Community Forum responded to the CAA’s draft Airspace Modernisation Strategy, opting to write to the DfT and the CAA in order to highlight the need for major policy change in the area of aircraft noise. ANCF has also sent out its first newsletter, speaking to communities directly impacted by airport noise.


Also on noise, we sent a letter to the Department of Transport outlining members’ concerns in relation to Airport Consultative Committees – the (usually) statutory bodies responsible for consulting with users of the aerodrome, local authorities and communities.


AEF joined with other European NGOs in calling for an embargo on oil and gas imports from Russia. Reducing our dependence on fossil fuels has never been more important and the crisis in Ukraine prompts a historic opportunity to think about travelling differently.


Our Policy Director, Cait Hewitt, spoke at CAPA’s annual summit on the topic of decarbonisation in the aviation industry. During the panel, which can be watched online, she highlighted AEF’s key campaigns, discouraging airport expansion, raising awareness of the negative effects of airports on residents, and encouraging a shift in behaviour towards flying less. She also cast doubt on the industry’s enthusiasm for ‘sustainable fuel’, SAF, saying that “some airlines are claiming that they can start cutting their emissions now by using fuel made out of waste. That’s false. Turning waste into aviation fuel and burning it, for example, generates as much CO2 as burning kerosene”, the ‘net’ savings are made elsewhere. We set out more detail on this in our response to the Government’s call for ideas on their low carbon fuel strategy.


With the aviation industry continuing to call for a reduction in tax, AEF has created a key resource on Air Passenger Duty (APD) and aviation taxation more generally. It gives readers a key insight into the role of APD and the absence of tax on aviation fuel, as well as the reforms AEF is calling for in this area.

In other news:

  • France is the first country to ban short-haul flights, instructing people to take the train for any journey under two and a half hours. Other countries considering similar bans include Spain, Germany and some Scandinavian countries. ‘Mode shift’ is a positive step in terms of tourism, though people should also consider ‘destination shift’ in order to decrease emissions further.
  • The 2022 IPCC report underlined the need to tackle aviation emissions, suggesting that demand-side solutions and behavioural changes, as well as more R&D, will be required to decarbonise the sector as sustainable aviation fuels, for example, “still require demonstration at scale”. Shortly after its publication leaders in the tourism industry said they expect a “cascade” effect across the industry but argue that the window for decisive change is closing and that companies need to do more, and quickly.
  • The investment group Climate 100+, which is worth $68 trillion collectively, has called for more accountability within the aviation sector. IATA has launched a standardised methodology to quantify emissions per passenger for a specific flight. The U.S. plans to make airlines disclose greenhouse gas emissions. In the UK, it is now mandatory for more than 1,300 companies to disclose climate-related risks and opportunities, in line with the global Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD.) The United Nations has announced the appointment of an expert panel to scrutinise companies’ efforts to curb climate change. It is getting harder to greenwash, but more needs to be done. Airlines are still taking advantage of loopholes in marketing regulations, and with lots of initiatives such as SAFs and offsets being introduced to the market, there is a risk of greenwashing and misrepresentation to climate-conscious consumers.

Long reads

Report: ‘Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change’, IPCC

Paper: ‘Quantifying aviation’s contribution to global warming’, Environmental Research Letters, Volume 16, Number 10

Study: ‘People living in noisy environment more likely to suffer a heart attack’, American College of Cardiology

Upcoming Events:

The Second Quarter of 2022:

Publication of Element Energy report on the role of aviation demand reduction in UK decarbonisation, commissioned by AEF.

The Third Quarter of 2022:

The government is currently analysing responses to its Jet Zero consultations (the further technical consultation – to which AEF responded – closed on 25th April) and is expected to publish a ‘Jet Zero Strategy’ in July.

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