Report says no new London runway possible

Both Heathrow and Gatwick cannot meet targets

A new study shows that the need to take climate change seriously rules out any new runway – at Heathrow or at Gatwick.

The study was carried out by AEF – Aviation Environment Federation and commissioned by GACC – Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign.

Written by Cait Hewitt, Deputy Director of the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF), “Gatwick in perspective: Climate Change and a new Runway” shows that the agreement in Paris last December by all the nations of the world to put tougher limits on climate change, must mean cancelling plans for a new runway.

The research study shows how every other industry in the UK is – by law –  due to decrease their CO2 emissions by – 85% on average, but that aviation is permitted to increase their pollution in the sky by + 120% (by 2050 compared to 1990 level).  If a new runway is built it would be even higher.

Report author, Cait:

‘If we are to prevent great climate disasters in future we have got to slow down the growth in air travel. Big tax increases would be political dynamite, and the alternative of an effective world-wide emissions trading scheme looks impossible to achieve. In an old phrase it’s just pie in the sky.’

GACC chairman, Brendon Sewill:

‘In 2010 new runways at Heathrow or Gatwick were ruled out by the Government on the grounds of climate change, but more recently this crucial issue has been ignored in all the debate about runways. It is time for the Government to stand up to the lobbying by the aviation industry, and tell them that there will be no new runway.’

The report concludes:

The Climate Change Act commits the UK to cutting emissions by 80% by 2050. The Government’s official climate watchdog has specified that in order to meet this economy-wide target, emissions from flights departing from the UK can be no higher than 37.5 Mt CO2 – equivalent to a quarter of UK emissions by 2050. This represents a minimum level of ambition and the target should probably in fact be tightened both to allow for aviation’s non-CO2 impacts and to meet the ambition of the December 2015 climate agreement in Paris.

But none of the official bodies you might expect to be overseeing delivery of the target – the Committee on Climate Change, the Government or the Airports Commission – has ever set out a plan for doing so, and emissions are currently set to overshoot their maximum level even without airport expansion. The Commission’s argument that a new runway at Heathrow or Gatwick is theoretically compatible with the target conceals the fact that in reality it would be impossible to achieve.

With all countries now committed to CO2 limitations, aviation emissions are likely to come under increasing scrutiny. But the current plan for a global measure to limit emissions falls a long way short of the action needed to tackle the UK’s significant aviation CO2 challenge and, even if successful, will need to be complemented by other measures. Saying no to new runways is the obvious first step towards ensuring that the UK avoids locking itself into carbon intensive infrastructure and instead makes investment choices that help to deliver a low carbon economy.

More research studies by GACC are available at

N.B. Image credit: GACC

Internet links

“Gatwick in perspective: Climate Change and a new Runway.”  (12 pages)

GACC – Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign

Aviation Environment Federation – AEF