Climate Madness – or – the “logic” of expanding an Airport during a climate emergency

Just over a year ago protesters successfully persuaded North Somerset Council to say no to airport expansion. Now Bristol Airport is striking back and appealing the decision.

The inquiry will take place in Weston-Super-Mare. It begins on July 20th 2021 and runs for 10 weeks.

If Bristol Airport expansion is allowed to go ahead there will be an extra:

  • 23,800 flights and two million passengers a year
  • 10,000 car movements a day
  • One million tonnes of carbon emitted a year

To put the additional CO2 emissions in perspective:
Back in 2019 North Somerset Council (NSC) declared a climate emergency, committing to reducing to net zero by 2030.  In 2017 NSC’s ‘sphere of influence’ CO2 emissions were 886 thousand tonnes per annum (ktpa). 
So if the expansion plans go ahead, the INCREASE in CO2 emissions from the airport will be GREATER than NSCs planned reductions under their climate emergency measures.

But isn’t aviation going carbon neutral? What about offsetting?
There are huge flaws in the aviation industries plans for carbon neutral flying.  But even these don’t get to carbon neutral until 2050, and emissions will still increase well into the 2030s:
Due to the massive weight penalty of batteries, electric planes can only make very short haul flights

If we can achieve gains from more efficient aircraft, offsetting and substitute fuels, then the emergency we are in means that we must implement these without more flights.

Don’t we need airport expansion to boost the economy?
Business flights are less than 15% of total UK flights.  Of the remainder, about two thirds are outbound leisure flights.  Each one of these takes money out of the UK economy

Isn’t aviation only a small part of UK climate emissions?
Aviation emissions accounted for 8% of the UK total.  Also, they cause more harm as they are emitted in the upper atmosphere.  This and other effects mean that the impact of aviation emissions is increased by approximately 70%

Don’t families need a week in the sun each year?
UK government statistics for England show that in 2017 just 1% people took 20% of all flights abroad, and 10% of people took 52% of all flights abroad.  So cutbacks from frequent fliers alone could massively reduce emissions