The Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA) has described the government’s Jet Zero strategy, published today, as a flight of fantasy. GALBA says the government has ignored its own expert advisers, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), by putting all its hope in new technology, alternative fuels and offsetting to make flying carbon net zero by 2050. GALBA point out that the CCC’s climate experts have repeatedly told the government that the number of flights must be limited, alongside improving aircraft efficiency, in order to tackle the climate crisis.
Chris Foren, chair of GALBA, said: “Who do you trust to protect our climate: a committee of scientific experts or Grant Shapps and his chums in the aviation industry? Climate science experts have repeatedly told the government that demand for flying must be curbed and airports should not be allowed to expand if the aviation industry has any chance of reaching net zero by 2050. Only a few weeks ago, the CCC said: ‘Government must recognise that planning for an ever growing aviation sector is not consistent with the UK’s Net Zero target...’ And their priority recommendation was: ‘There should be no net expansion of UK airport capacity... and a demand management framework will need to be developed (by 2022) and be in place by the mid-2020s... ’”
He continued: “Of course, we also need all the technological innovations possible. But the Climate Change Committee describes these as ‘nascent and untested’ and even in the most optimistic scenario, the CCC warns: ‘Zero-carbon aviation is highly unlikely to be feasible by 2050.’ It’s deeply reckless and irresponsible of the government to put all its eggs in the technology basket. Electric flight will only be possible for small, short haul planes, there won’t be enough green electricity to create hydrogen fuel for long haul flights, carbon capture technology is only at the drawing board stage and it’s not going to be possible to produce bio-fuels at the scale required.”
Chris added: “Just as we all learned to trust scientists’ advice during the Covid crisis, we must trust their advice on how to deal with the climate crisis. If the government doesn’t listen to its own experts, it will be taking a huge risk with everyone’s future. The climate crisis is already killing people and destroying livelihoods - just look at the north American heat dome. The good news is that we have the power to create a better future if we make the right decisions today.”
2) Climate Change Committee recommendations: the CCC has repeatedly warned the government that technological solutions alone will be insufficient to make the aviation sector net zero by 2050 - copies of the following CCC reports can be supplied on request.
a. In September 2019, the Chair of the CCC, Lord Deben, wrote to Grant Shapps saying: “Zero-carbon aviation is highly unlikely to be feasible by 2050.”
b. In the 6th Carbon Budget published in December 2020, the CCC called for measures to constrain increasing demand for flying as well as for the rapid development of new technology and alternative aviation fuels. They also said that the use of international carbon offsetting schemes should not be used to meet the UK’s net zero target.
c. The CCC reiterated their advice in their Progress Report to Parliament in June 2021. In the recommendations, the CCC said:
i. “An assessment of the UK’s airport capacity strategy and a mechanism for aviation demand management should be part of the aviation strategy” (p32)
ii. “Government should not plan for unconstrained leisure flying at or beyond pre-pandemic levels in its strategy for airport capacity and demand management” (p72)
iii. “Government must recognise that planning for an ever growing aviation sector is not consistent with the UK’s Net Zero target as part of its aviation decarbonisation consultation and strategy” (p74)
iv. “Our advice from the Sixth Carbon Budget remains unchanged – there should be no net expansion of UK airport capacity unless the sector is on track to outperform its net emissions trajectory. Government needs to assess its airport capacity strategy and develop and put in place a demand management framework to assess and, if required, control sector GHG emissions and non-CO2 effects” (p184).
v. “The UK already has more than enough capacity to accommodate the demand increases in our Balanced Net Zero Pathway. Our advice in the Sixth Carbon Budget was therefore that there should be 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:
• Outperforming the net emissions trajectory means making significant progress on nascent and untested technologies like hybrid electric planes, and developing and scaling up markets for sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) and greenhouse gas removals.
• It is not possible to have certainty today over the pace of development of these technologies in future. It is therefore difficult at present to justify [airport] capacity expansion on the basis of outperforming the emissions trajectory, particularly given the uncertainty around the permanence of impacts on aviation demand from COVID-19.” (p185)
vi. “Priority recommendation: There should be 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. A demand management framework will need to be developed (by 2022) and be in place by the mid-2020s to annually assess and, if required, control sector GHG emissions and non-CO2” (p211)
3) 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.
4) UK’s emissions reduction target includes aviation: the government’s announcement can be found here.
5) UK-wide airport expansion moratorium call: GALBA has joined with 15 other local and national airport campaigns to call for an immediate halt to all airport expansion plans. Further details and a copy of the letter are available here.
6) Public inquiry decision postponed: on 6 April, Secretary of State Robert Jenrick postponed his decision on whether to call in LBA’s application for a public inquiry. This means that no changes can be made to flying hours at LBA until a final decision is made.