Airport expansion blocked at Heathrow and Bristol. Doncaster and Leeds next?

Green campaigners are celebrating the brilliant news that Heathrow airport expansion has been stopped because it is incompatible with the Paris Agreement. At last, the courts have realised how important the Paris agreement is and legal campaigners Plan B and Friends of the Earth must be congratulated for winning this David and Goliath battle.  Bristol has also decided against expanding their airport. Greta Thunberg spoke to massive crowds of climate strikers last week welcoming the decision. 

Heathrow Airport (Image by JoeBreuer from Pixabay)

This is the first time the Paris Agreement has been used as the basis for a court ruling. I believe it will open the door for more challenges to allow people to take power back from big business and protect our planet. Campaigners across the country will continue to fight the expansion of airports.

Why is aviation so bad for the planet?  Rapid reduction of passenger numbers and flights is required to limit global heating. Globally aviation is responsible for 6% of CO₂ emissions, not 2% as claimed by the industry.  Within Europe, aviation CO₂ emissions grew 4.9% in 2018 while emissions from other industries in the Emissions Trading Scheme fell.  CO₂ emitted by airlines increased by 32% from 2013 to 2018, according to a study by the International Council on Clean Transportation. The number of flights being taken globally is increasing and airports are building more runways, with expansion plans all over the UK.

The plans for the growth of aviation are staggering. Doncaster Robin Hood airport had 1,335,590 passengers in 2017 but this is planned to increase 9 fold by 2050 to 11,800,000. Leeds Bradford is planning to nearly double by 2030, from 4,074,500 to 7,000,000. The total number of passengers for all the airports in the UK in 2017 is 280 million but it is planned to grow to 440 million.  

To curb emissions in the aviation sector, the government must manage travel demand – ensuring that the number of flights does not increase and indeed starts to rapidly fall over the next decade.

 A “frequent flyer levy” is proposed by many green campaigners. This would charge frequent flyers while leaving one flight per year priced at current levels. The majority of people would not be impacted. A 2014 survey found that 74% of adults in the UK had not flown, or had only flown once, during the previous year. On the other hand, 10% of passengers took 4 or more flights a year. These are the people that need to be dissuaded from flying first. Many of these will be business trips. In these days of video conferencing, I  question the efficiency of continually flying to make business deals. Surely this could be done using modern technology. If I can video conference with people all over the world on my home pc, business leaders can manage this in their plush offices. 

Governments must stop subsidising aviation fuel. Why should the most polluting form of transport get the biggest subsidy? It’s estimated this amounts to £10 billion a year in the UK- so roughly £150 of the tax you pay the Government goes straight to the aviation industry. This money could be invested in better rail and bus services and facilities for cyclists and pedestrians and could substantially reduce our nations carbon footprint. 

Having avoided flying for 30 years to do my best to help the climate, it is clear that my personal sacrifice has made little difference. I may have persuaded some people not to fly, but it’s like trying to bail out a flooded house with a teaspoon. We need immediate structural change from Governments, businesses and the United Nations to ensure we reduce our dependence on aviation. The alternative is to pass on an uninhabitable world to our children and grandchildren. 


Cllr Andrew Cooper on Leeds Bradford Airport

Greta Thunberg speaks in Bristol (Full Speech)

Plan B

Heathrow third runway ruled illegal

Carbon Brief Planned growth of UK airports is not consistent with net-zero climate goal.

Industry solutions are technological myths

Aviation 2-3 times more damaging to climate than industry claims.

Government fuel subsidy of £10 billion


Doncaster Airport expansion plans

Call for the plane truth at world aviation festival

Airlines emissions rising up to 70% faster than expected.

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