Tell the government to act on the climate, not expand airports

The government is consulting on its aviation strategy up to 2050 - and it's not good news for the planet. The consultation ends Thursday 20 June (11.45pm)

They claim that the aviation sector can grow to meet rapidly increasing demand, but there's nothing to worry about as this will be 'sustainable growth'....

Unfortunately, sustainable aviation growth is an imaginary concept. In this climate emergency, the only solutions are those focus on reducing demand. Fiddling the figures and pretending everything will be ok is not an option. Can you spare 10 minutes to tell the government this?

How to respond to the consultation

There is an online form to fill in. This may be the easiest way to respond (you can save it and come back to complete it later if necessary) but don't attempt to answer all the questions! 

Unless you have a particular interest in other areas, the relevant part will be Chapter 3, in which the Department for Transport dedicate themselves to the impossible goal: "Ensure aviation can grow sustainably". So once you have filled in the initial section, skip forward to questions 17-28.

The key points below probably fit best under questions 20 ("How could the policy proposals be improved to maximise their impact and effectiveness in addressing the issues that have been identified?") and 26 ("Are there any options or policy approaches that have not been included in this chapter that should be considered for inclusion in the Aviation Strategy?")

NOTE: if you skip forward to other questions and reach the page titled 'Technical Annexes', don't click 'Next page' (this will submit your response) unless you are happy that you've finished!

The full strategy document can be read here

What to say in your response

Please reply in your own words if you can (duplicate responses may be given less weight).

20. How could the policy proposals be improved to maximise their impact and effectiveness in addressing the issues that have been identified?

- The strategy is based on the UK's current targets under the Climate Act, which are now out of date. The government must revise the strategy to be compatible with its new net zero target.

-The starting point of the strategy should not be that growth must take place and that it can be 'sustainable'. Instead the key question should be what level of aviation emissions is possible in a net zero economy without placing an unfair burden on other parts of the economy to absorb those emissions.

- It should follow the Committee on Climate Change's advice and not rely on carbon offsets elsewhere in the world. There are well-known problems with offsetting, including the CORSIA scheme agreed by the international aviation industry. This mean that carbon reductions cannot be guaranteed to be real, nor can an expanding supply of offsets be relied upon, on top of what is needed to rapidly cut global emissions to limit warming to 1.5C or even 2C.

- The CCC's advice is generous in its assumptions about the potential of negative emissions technology (carbon capture). Forecasts should also be cautious about the potential for technology to reduce emissions from flights and remember that the uptake of these will be slow, limited, for example, by the rate at which old aircraft are replaced.

- The only sure way to keep emissions down is to manage demand. The government must recognise that in a climate emergency there is no alternative but to cancel Heathrow expansion as it would cause a massive increase in emissions which is completely incompatible with achieving net zero emissions. The National Infrastructure Commission have a vital role in achieving net zero in the UK. They should not be given a remit to assess need for additional runways

- Expecting local authorities to make planning decisions based on airports demonstrating that their project will not have a material impact on the government’s ability to meet its carbon reduction targets is not a sensible way of controlling emissions and ensuring fair distribution between regions. Airports will not be impartial in assessing their own climate impact, for example the Heathrow masterplan just published does not count emissions from international flights from its CO2 figures, claiming these will be offset.

- The strategy mentions the need to reduce aviation's non-CO2 emissions which have climate impacts. But it doesn't mention that ignoring these emissions mean that the current strategy for managing aviation's climate impacts is fatally flawed. One tonne of CO2 carries with it non-CO2 emissions. These have been calculated elsewhere as being around the equivalent of another tonne of CO2. The exact figure is uncertain. However, this additional impact means that aviation emissions cannot be truly offset elsewhere unless that equivalent CO2 is also absorbed. Further research should be urgently carried out to get a more accurate understanding of non-CO2 emissions. In the meantime all calculations relating to aviation emissions should include some headroom for non-CO2 emissions: assuming they are zero is a deliberate underestimate of aviation's total climate impact.

26. Are there any options or policy approaches that have not been included in this chapter that should be considered for inclusion in the Aviation Strategy?

- The government should look for effective policies to manage demand for aviation. This is the only way to avoid a massive increase in emissions from the sector at a time when the UK is committed to reducing its overall emissions towards net zero. 

- This review should include proposals to remove aviation fuel's tax-free status across the EU, and solutions along the lines of the Frequent Flyer levy proposed by campaign group 'A Free Ride'.

Now you can submit your response. If you still have the energy, you could even go back and reply to question 6 - "How should the UK use its global leadership and international influence to further the aims of the UK’s aviation sector?" - perhaps you might feel that the UK's global influence would be better used addressing the climate crisis...?

Additional documents (up to 1MB) can be uploaded at question 28.

Thank you!