Campaigners condemn Leeds City Council’s decision to spend taxpayers’ money backing Leeds Bradford Airport expansion at public inquiry
Campaigners against the expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport have condemned the decision by Leeds City Council to actively support LBA’s expansion at the forthcoming Planning Inquiry. The Council had been asked by campaigners to take a neutral position at the inquiry, which would have saved a significant amount of public money, as well as demonstrating the Council's commitment to tackling the climate emergency. However, the Council has refused. In a letter to the Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA) they said that the Council ‘”will appear at the inquiry in order to support the application of LBA”.
GALBA responded by asking if Leeds City Council’s Climate Emergency Declaration still has any meaning. The Council’s announcement came just two days after scientists from around the world issued their starkest warning yet about the immediate and dire threats to humanity from the climate crisis.
Chris Foren, chair of GALBA, said: “The Council frequently says that it is short of money but it is proposing to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on lawyers to shore up a planning application by LBA’s owners, a huge Australian wealth management company, in opposition to community and environmental groups. Three years ago the Council declared a climate emergency. Local people can now see that it was an empty gesture – the Council is actively helping to wreck its own policy. It beggars belief that they could make this choice just two days after the IPCC issued its starkest warning yet about the extreme danger of climate breakdown. Airport expansion would mean more, not less, greenhouse gas emissions - completely against the advice of the world’s scientists.”
He added: “GALBA will continue the fight to protect our climate and our communities. We know it will be difficult as we rely entirely on public donations. It’s David vs Goliath but we are 110% committed to stopping this climate wrecking expansion. There’s a special irony in this decision. The Council’s lead member responsible for tackling the climate emergency, Helen Hayden, signed off the decision. If she won’t listen to climate scientists’ advice, what credibility can she, and the Council’s Climate Emergency Declaration, have left? The IPCC report was very clear: ‘Near-term actions that limit global warming to 1.5°C would substantially reduce projected damage from climate change to human systems and ecosystems…’ That’s why we must stop expansion.”
1) IPCC report: published on 1 March, this report is the second part of the IPCC’s latest updated and comprehensive review of global knowledge of the climate. It has been seven years in the making, produced by more than 1,000 physical and social scientists and unanimously approved by the governments of 195 nations. It states: “The scientific evidence is unequivocal: climate change is a threat to human wellbeing and the health of the planet. Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future.” It also states: “Near-term actions that limit global warming to close to 1.5°C would substantially reduce projected losses and damages related to climate change in human systems and ecosystems…”
2) Public Inquiry into LBA expansion: the decision to ‘call in’ LBA’s planning application and hold a public inquiry was announced by Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, on 19 January, and will commence on 13 September in Leeds.
3) Expert policy advice: Lord Deben, chair of the Climate Change Committee (CCC) said last year, “There is not any space for airport expansion” if the UK is to meet its climate goals. The CCC’s policy recommendation is for “no net expansion of UK airport capacity unless the sector is on track to sufficiently outperform its net emissions trajectory and can accommodate the additional demand”. That test has not been met and will not be met for many years to come.
4) Climate science and LBA expansion: the Leeds Climate Commission and experts in climate science from the University of Leeds have calculated that LBA’s proposals mean greenhouse gas emissions from the airport would exceed the amount allowed for the whole of Leeds, as set out in the Leeds Carbon Reduction Roadmap, from 2026 onwards. See the report here.