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Press Release: GALBA Joins Campaigners to Call for Immediate Halt on All Airport Expansions

GALBA joins airport campaigners across the country to call for an immediate halt on all airport expansions and to warn against ‘techno-fix’ greenwashing

Campaigners from the Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport are warning against attempts to greenwash flying with talk of ‘techno-fixes’. They say new technologies and alternative fuels will take decades to be used on international flights, which cause the vast majority of aviation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

GALBA will join with airport campaigns across the country at 11.00 this morning to send a clear message: we must stop all airport expansions immediately. Simultaneous protests will be held against plans to expand 12 airports: Heathrow, Stansted, Gatwick, Luton, London City, Southampton, Bristol, Doncaster-Sheffield, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds-Bradford and Glasgow. The protests are part of the Global Day of Action, coinciding with the COP 26 Conference in Glasgow.

Chris Foren, chair of GALBA, said: “The government and the aviation industry claim that new technology means we can carry on flying as much as we like despite the climate crisis. It’s deeply irresponsible to spread these false claims. The experts on the Climate Change Committee (CCC) warn that such a ‘techno-centric’ approach has a high risk of failure. New aircraft designs and alternative fuels are decades away from making a dent in the huge amount of greenhouse gas emissions caused by international flying. Just one return flight from the UK to New York emits as much greenhouse gas as the average British household does in a whole year.”

Chris added: “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has told us we need to halve our emissions by 2030 to reach net zero by 2050. For decades, the aviation industry has promised that its techno-fixes will make everything alright. But that’s never happened and it’s not going to happen in the nine years we have left to stop climate breakdown. Maybe, one day, we’ll be able to fly in large, long haul, zero emission aircraft but we know that’s not an option in the foreseeable future. We simply have to stop expanding all airports - now.”

The government’s ‘techno-centric’ Jet Zero strategy has been condemned by scientists from Leeds University for its refusal to follow advice from the government’s expert advisers on the CCC. The CCC has repeatedly warned that because there is no realistic prospect of international flying becoming zero carbon by 2050, the government needs to implement ‘demand control’ measures, including an immediate halt on all UK airport expansion plans.

Additional notes:

1) Photos/videos of the protest: please look out for these, sent by email, late morning on Saturday 6 November. Photos from protests at LBA and around the country will also be available from 12.30 on 6 November on this link.

2) Green Sky Thinking videos on aviation techno-fixes: in a series of nine 3-4 minute videos available on You Tube, ex-Rolls-Royce aircraft engine designer Finlay Asher explains why the claimed technological solutions to aviation emissions are not feasible in the short to medium term future. Finlay is available for interview: 07984 602404

3) Greenwashing factsheets: the international campaign group Stay Grounded has published five factsheets on what the industry tells us and what they don’t tell us about their proposed techno-fixes for aviation’s greenhouse gas problem. The factsheets are available here.

4) Jet Zero criticised by University of Leeds experts: please see their letter published in The Times on 10 September.

5) High risk of failure: responding to the government’s net zero strategy and its ‘techno-centric’ approach, the Climate Change Committee said there was a high risk of it failing to cut emissions. See this BBC news report on 26 October.

6) Climate justice march and rally: GALBA will join this event at lunchtime on 6 November in Millenium Square, Leeds and be available for interview.

7) 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.

8) 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.

  • 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.”

  • 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.

  • 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)

9) LBA public inquiry decision postponed: on 6 April, then 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 by Michael Gove, the current Secretary of State.

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