West Yorkshire airport campaigners take government to court over ‘fantasy’ strategy to cut greenhouse gas emissions from flying
Today, the Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA) launched its campaign against what they describe as the government’s ‘fantasy’ strategy to cut the polluting greenhouse gases caused by flying. The campaigners are taking the government to court in an attempt to reverse the Jet Zero strategy, which was launched in July this year. The legal challenge is being made by Nick Hodgkinson, on behalf of GALBA. Nick is from Leeds and is terminally ill with Motor Neurone Disease.
Nick, an active member of GALBA, said: “With the UK recording its highest ever temperatures this summer, wildfires burning down homes, parts of our region severely flooded last year and Pakistan currently under water, we simply cannot allow the aviation industry to pump out even more greenhouse gases and make the climate crisis worse. But that’s exactly what the government wants to allow and that’s why we’re taking them to court.”
The Jet Zero strategy has received fierce criticism from independent experts. It ignores repeated advice from the government’s own climate change experts to limit demand for flying. Instead, Jet Zero encourages unrestrained growth in aviation – based on the hope that new fuels and technologies will be developed to cut emissions from flying to net zero by 2050. Experts have warned, however, that these technologies either cannot be developed or cannot be scaled up in time to meet that crucial target date. GALBA believes that the Jet Zero strategy is unlawful and is launching a Judicial Review.
Nick said: “The government claims that Jet Zero is how the aviation industry will reach net zero emissions by 2050. But that’s a fantasy. In reality Jet Zero does the opposite - it gives the green light to large scale expansion of airports and emissions. The government is just crossing its fingers and hoping there will be techno-solutions at some point in the future. That’s like someone speeding down a road that ends at a cliff edge over a ravine. Instead of slowing down way before the edge, the driver says ‘it’ll be fine, someone will have built a bridge by the time I get there’.”
He added: “Taking legal action costs money. We’re relying entirely on donations from the public to fund this challenge and we’re confident that responsible people around the country will help GALBA raise the £60,000 we need.”
1) Fundraising: GALBA is working closely with other airport campaigners around the country (in particular the Bristol Airport Action Network) to raise £60,000. The crowdfunder is available here www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/sayno2jetzero.
2) Jet Zero strategy: following two rounds of consultation, Jet Zero was launched on 19 July 2022. A copy is available here.
3) Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport: GALBA is a group of concerned citizens from across West Yorkshire who successfully campaigned against a planning application by Leeds Bradford Airport to expand by three million passengers a year. The group submitted detailed responses to both Jet Zero consultations. More information about GALBA is available on their website: www.galba.uk
4) Climate Change Committee: the Climate Change Committee (CCC) gives advice to the government on how to cut greenhouse gas emissions and reach net zero by 2050. In its 2022 ‘Progress Report to Parliament’, the CCC criticised government policy on aviation emissions as a highly risky strategy and reiterated its advice to control demand for flying. Aviation is covered on p325-355. In respect of constraining demand for aviation, the report said:
"The government’s announcements on aviation to date have not set any ambition to constrain aviation demand growth through policy, beyond vague proposals on carbon pricing... Given the risks outlined [in the report], as well as risks of under-delivery on emissions reductions in other sectors, the Government should actively develop the option to implement policy to manage aviation demand.”
The point is reiterated with these words: “No progress has been made in addressing demand in the aviation sector, despite the significant risks in the technology required to decarbonise flying.”
And again: “This assessment of progress in the aviation sector shows there are significant risks to achieving the Government’s pathway [to net zero]… particularly due to the heavy reliance on a technology driven approach without sufficient attempts to constrain demand.”
And again: “Key priorities for the Department for Transport should be to implement a Sustainable Aviation Fuel mandate and manage demand growth.”
And again: “As highlighted in Figure 9.17, the primary risk is the heavy reliance on technological solutions and lack of focus on demand management.”
And again: “Demand management is particularly important as it can address both the CO2 and non-CO2 emissions from aviation, whereas technology primarily addresses the CO2 emissions and relies on international cooperation.”
And again: “Fiscal policies, e.g. taxes, frequent flyer levies, quotas or subsidies for low-emission alternative forms of transport should be developed to mitigate demand now.”
Among several recommendations, the CCC called on the Government to: “Assess the Government’s airport capacity strategy in the context of Net Zero. There should be no net expansion of UK airport capacity unless the carbon intensity of aviation can accommodate additional demand.”
And to: “Implement demand mitigation techniques, such as increasing the price of domestic aviation to encourage consumers to switch to low-carbon surface transport alternatives.”
The report also notes the following:
“The ‘FlyZero’ programme has made significant progress in understanding the potential of zero-emission aircraft… However, the technologies described are at a very early stage, and are unlikely to be commercially viable for some decades.”
“The cost of flying does not reflect the emissions impact relative to lower-emission forms of travel… prices of air travel ought to be more expensive than lower emission modes to reflect the higher emissions of air travel relative to alternatives”
"UK aviation emissions per person in 2019, before the pandemic, were 33% higher than the OECD average… Other countries are moving faster than the UK with policies to reduce their aviation emissions.”
“Only two of 13 recommendations [by the CCC in its 2021 progress report] have been achieved or are making sufficient progress.”