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Press Release: New Report Tells Councils LBA Expansion is Inconsistent with Climate Efforts

New report tells West Yorkshire council leaders that Leeds Bradford Airport expansion is inconsistent with efforts to create a net zero regional economy by 2038.

West Yorkshire council and business leaders are discussing a new report on how the region’s economy could achieve net zero emissions by 2038. Climate consultants Element Energy have carried out a Carbon Emission Reduction Pathways (CERP) study on behalf of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA). Options for decarbonizing West Yorkshire by 2038 will be presented to a meeting of WYCA and the Local Enterprise Partnership today.

The report highlights transport as a “critical area for carbon emissions reduction across West Yorkshire” which “will require ambitious action.” [Appendix 1, Key Findings, p12] The most ambitious option for decarbonising local transport would mean no increase in the number of passengers using Leeds Bradford Airport.

The report outlines three ‘pathways’ that could lead to radical reductions in greenhouse gas emissions across West Yorkshire by 2038. But even the ‘maximum ambition’ pathway would only achieve 82% of WYCA’s net zero emissions target. Element Energy consultants say this pathway “requires ambitious changes in travel behaviour across all transport types over the next ten years.” [CERP Technical Report slide 27] This is the same period over which LBA wants to increase air travel passengers by 3 million per year.

Describing what the ‘maximum ambition’ pathway would look like in 2038, the report says: “Domestic aviation demand is reduced by 20% … while international aviation is maintained at current levels.” [CERP Technical Report slide 27] That means LBA would have the same number of passengers in 2038 as in 2019.

The Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport has written to WYCA’s Board members to congratulate them on funding the research and to point out the implications for LBA’s controversial planning application.

Chair of GALBA Chris Foren said: “We welcome this serious and detailed report, WYCA were right to commission it. It illustrates the size of the challenge facing us all – even the most ambitious pathway falls short of WYCA’s 2038 target by 18%. And that pathway assumes that Leeds City Council will not give the green light to LBA’s proposed expansion. The net zero target date in Leeds and Bradford is 2030, so everything the report recommends needs to happen 8 years earlier here.”

Chris added: “The report says that we need “highly ambitious leadership” to tackle the climate emergency. Leeds’ planning committee has the power and opportunity to show that leadership by rejecting LBA’s application.”

Additional notes:

1) CERP report and GALBA letter: a copy of the CERP’s Key Findings and Technical Report slides are attached. A copy of GALBA’s letter to WYCA and LEP members is also attached.

Download PDF • 117KB

2) West Yorkshire Combined Authority: WYCA brings together councillors from Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield, Kirklees and Calderdale councils and business leaders in the Leeds City Region.

3) Leeds University climate scientists’ object to LBA expansion: a group of leading climate scientists recently made an objection to LBA’s planning application. They criticised LBA’s own assessment of the additional greenhouse gas emissions and recalculated them to give the full quantity. This showed that if LBA is allowed to expand, it would produce more emissions than the amount permitted in the whole of Leeds’ carbon budget in 2030. A copy of their objection is attached – the conclusion summarises the key issues.

4) Aviation expansion and achieving zero carbon are fundamentally incompatible - and new technologies are not on the horizon: Leeds City Council “accepts that aviation growth and meeting zero carbon targets are fundamentally incompatible until such time as new technologies are developed.”* Leeds Climate Commission’s ‘Aviation Position Paper’ states: “In the medium to long term, there is some scope for technological change... However, the prospects for such innovations becoming widely adopted across the aviation sector in the short to medium term currently seem low - even if planes with new technologies became viable in the next decade, it would take many years for existing fleets to transition towards the new technologies. Given the nature of the climate emergency and the need to deliver deep reductions in emissions in the next decade, the growth of emissions from aviation therefore represents a major challenge.” Page 4 of Exec Board Climate Emergency report, 7 January 2020.

5) Wealthy minority take majority of flights: Leeds Climate Commission’s ‘Aviation Position Paper’ was published in December 2019. It states that the majority of UK flights are taken by a minority of better off people. 70% of all flights are taken by 20% of the population; 100% of all flights are taken by 52% of people. These ‘frequent flyers’ are on higher incomes - the wealthiest 20% take 40% of all flights. The report is available here.

6) Leeds Climate Change Citizens Jury: the Jury was a group of 25 randomly selected Leeds residents, representative of the population of Leeds. They considered the climate change challenges facing the city and made recommendations about how Leeds needs to respond. Recommendation 9 was: “Leeds Bradford Airport expansion should be stopped; specifically Leeds City Council should not approve new road-building or selling land to develop… Residents should block expansion and be educated about the impact on the carbon footprint”. The jury also said that flying should be discouraged by measures including a frequent-flyer tax (based on income and number of flights and location) and by advertising holidays in the UK rather than abroad. The full report is available here.

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