Leeds Local Plan 2040 Consultation - GALBA’s Full Response
Leeds City Council asks:
“Do you think that the Local Plan should be considering updating its policy on managing growth at Leeds Bradford Airport?”
Yes. Except we believe that policy SP12 should be updated so that it prevents, rather than manages, the growth of Leeds Bradford Airport, until such time as the aviation industry achieves genuinely net zero greenhouse gas emissions from flying and develops genuinely quiet aircraft. SP12 currently supports LBA growth ‘within environmental limits’. That is simply impossible at present. There are no technological options to decarbonise flying within the seven years left to cut its emissions in half by 2030 and to net zero by 2050. The world’s climate scientists have repeatedly said this is what must happen to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
For recent, authoritative evidence that aviation cannot cut its emissions in half by 2030 (and is unlikely to reach net zero by 2050) please read these recent reports by the Royal Society: https://royalsociety.org/news/2023/02/net-zero-aviation-fuels-report/ and Imperial College London: https://spiral.imperial.ac.uk/bitstream/10044/1/101834/11/IMSE_Low_carbon_aviation_fuels_briefing_paper_2023.pdf?fbclid=IwAR1aizcF-jsE1jrlP_iM735NeVTxU4BFjWth1YnQFtTzO1AP--qf8Oua9kc. You will be aware that the government’s expert climate advisers, the Climate Change Committee, have reached a similar conclusion and have repeatedly recommended limiting demand for flying by not expanding UK airports.
The preamble to your question above is factually incorrect in a crucial way. It should make clear that ‘air travel does [not ‘can’] have a negative impact on the environment.’ It is not disputed by anyone, including LCC, that flying is one of, if not the, hardest industry to decarbonise. It is also accepted by LCC that increased flying is incompatible with tackling the climate crisis until new technologies are developed to effectively decarbonise flying. The above expert analysis shows that this is not possible now or within a meaningful timescale to tackle the climate crisis.
The climate crisis is the largest threat to human civilisation that we have ever faced. Having declared a Climate Emergency, and seeking to implement it meaningfully, LCC should not have a policy that facilitates growth in aviation (by allowing LBA to expand) until alternative fuels and new technologies have been developed and scaled up to commercial use (including flights to destinations outside of the UK) which genuinely decarbonise flying.
Whatever contribution LBA makes to local jobs (and we dispute their and LCC’s claims), allowing LBA to grow can only make the climate crisis worse. The claim that ‘people will just drive to Manchester’ if LBA does not expand is not credible. If LBA were to close down, then yes, that would happen. But GALBA has not proposed closing LBA down, merely preventing its expansion during the climate emergency. The evidence from regional airport expansions since the 1990s shows that expanded airports offer more routes which induces new demand rather than redistributing it from other airports, resulting in a net overall increase in flights and emissions.
We believe LCC policy on jobs and the economy should move sharply away from supporting the growth of high carbon industries, including aviation. Policy should enable the people of Leeds to develop the skills needed to take up opportunities in the zero carbon economy of the future. So we wholeheartedly agree that “priorities for transport investment [need to] shift towards a greater focus on decarbonisation.” That cannot mean investments that facilitate aviation growth by supporting LBA growth in the period up to 2040.
Please also note that flying is a vastly unequal activity: around 70% of flights are taken by about 20% of wealthier people in the UK population. In any given year, around half the population does not fly at all. Civil Aviation Authority data shows that the demographic for passengers using LBA matches these national figures.
It is settled science that all emissions must be cut in half by 2030 in order to retain a realistic chance of reaching net zero by 2050. Achieving net zero by 2050 still only gives us a one in two chance of keeping global temperature rise below 1.5C. The consequences of failing to do that will be disastrous for Leeds, its people and its economy, though it is poorer people and economies who are suffering the effects of climate breakdown first and worst - for example the floods in Pakistan last year.
When announcing LCC’s declaration of a Climate Emergency, Cllr Judith Blake said: “What we have to do is make sure that every single decision we take across this council - whether it be transport, health, housing, planning or poverty reduction - that we embed sustainability in our decision making." We agree. She also said that Leeds “can lead by example”. Updating the Local Plan as outlined above is an opportunity to do just that.