…and misleading ‘greenwashing’ needs to be challenged
Bristol Airport’s Master Plan Consultation (open until 6th July - link) announces an aspiration to be carbon neutral by 2030. This is despite a plan to grow by 50% in the next few years, and to more than double in size in the longer term. But a small amount of digging by a Green Party councillor has revealed that the airport has no plan in place for delivering this rapid decarbonisation. And more shockingly, it does not include the emissions from flights in the calculation of its carbon footprint.
After reading the consultation document, Councillor Carla Denyer contacted the Bristol Airport consultation team to ask for details of their carbon management plan. The responses she received (see Appendix_-_Airport_emails.pdf) revealed that the airport only has a ‘Stage 1’ Airport Carbon Accreditation, meaning that the airport has not yet demonstrated that it is taking steps to reduce its carbon footprint, only that is it measuring it. And while insisting that it had one, the airport was unwilling to release a copy of its carbon management plan despite two requests. The Airport representative also explained that “emissions from flights are out of scope” of their 2030 carbon neutrality target.
Councillor Denyer commented following the revelation,
“In the Airport’s glossy consultation booklet, the aspiration to be carbon neutral by 2030 is printed next to a photograph of an aircraft engine, (below) clearly implying that emissions from flights would be included. This kind of misleading ‘greenwashing’ is just cynical PR from the airport and does nothing for the sustainability of our city and country. There is already widespread concern that the expansion of Heathrow Airport, which was approved by MPs last week, will make it very hard to meet our national CO2 commitments . Expanding Bristol airport could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It is very hard to see how the airport could achieve carbon neutrality in 12 years without yet having a road map for it, while expanding the airport at the same time.”
The City of Bristol has made a commitment to be carbon neutral by 2050, while the Climate Change Act requires the UK to make an 80% cut in emissions. And the Joint Spatial Plan for the region – which includes North Somerset and the geographical area covered by the airport – contains an explicit commitment to making a 50% cut in emissions by 2036.
Air travel remains the most climate-damaging form of travel, and significant expansion of air travel will therefore have a significant climate impact.
And this is an equality issue as well as an environmental one. According to the Civil Aviation Authority’s passenger surveys, 47% of the UK population has flown in the last year, and this figure has been stable over the last 15 years. Most of those people only make one or two trips per year, while 10% of the population makes about 60% of all flights, and these people are mainly from the highest income groups.  This means that airport expansion disproportionally benefits wealthier households while it negatively affects us all through climate change, air pollution and noise pollution.
Councillor Denyer summed up,
“Without a clear and feasible path to decarbonisation, the airport’s plans are worth less than the paper they’re written on. It is up to us as citizens to tell the airport and political leaders that we will not accept such a cavalier attitude to carbon emissions, and the airport must develop a workable road map to full decarbonisation before the expansion plans are agreed. The consequences are no less than the future liveability of our planet.”
The consultation is open until 6th July at https://www.bristolairport.co.uk/future and you can write to the leaders of North Somerset and Bristol Councils, and the West of England Combined Authority, using the details below:
- Councillor Nigel Ashton, leader of North Somerset Council: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mayor Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol: https://www.bristol.gov.uk/mayor/contact-the-mayor-form
- Mayor Tim Bowles, West of England Regional Mayor: email@example.com
1) The Committee on Climate Change found that the UK target of reducing emissions by 80 per cent below 1990 levels could be achieved only if emissions from the UK aviation industry do not exceed 37.5 million tons – the level seen in 2005. And yet, a report released by the Department for Transport has already revealed that aviation emissions will hit 43 million tons by 2030 if the Heathrow expansion goes ahead. https://www.independent.co.uk/infact/heathrow-airport-expansion-vote-third-runway-climate-change-chris-grayling-a8415881.html
2) Calculated by David Banister based on the National Travel Survey data and the Civil Aviation Authority’s Air Passenger Surveys: https://theconversation.com/heathrows-third-runway-is-expensive-polluting-and-unequal-why-the-poor-will-lose-out-98781