Plans to build new runway ‘not rooted in real world’ say leading green groups

Passengers at airport

Leading environmental organisations are challenging the Airport Commission’s claim that it is possible to build a new runway and still meet the Government’s climate change targets.

Two new reports released today by the RSPB, WWF and Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) say plans to expand airport capacity are ‘based on a wing and a prayer’ and ‘not rooted in the real world’.

They also argue that building a new runway in the South East would worsen the North/South divide as growth at the regional airports would need to be constrained in order to ensure CO2 emissions from aviation fall to their 2005 levels by 2050.

If aviation emissions were allowed to soar it would impose costs on the rest of the economy rising to between £1 billion and £8.4 billion per year or more by 2050 as non-aviation sectors would need to make even deeper emissions cuts.

Aviation, climate change and sharing the load, from the RSPB, says that the Commission’s recommendation that we can have one new runway and still be compliant with the UK Climate Change Act assumes that aviation emissions will be constrained by regulatory measures.

But the report has found that the regulatory regime is still aspirational - or is so weak as to be ineffective. It argues “We are therefore basing our decision to build a new runway on a world as we would like it to be - rather than as it currently exists.”

The report concludes that, in order to comply with the Climate Change Act, the only options are to manage future demand by increasing the cost of carbon which would see fares soar to unrealistically high levels or constrain capacity at airports by ruling out any new runways.

The second report, Implications of South East expansion for regional airports from the Aviation Environment Federation, commissioned by WWF-UK, shows it is impossible to build an additional runway in the South East and keep aviation emissions consistent with meeting UK climate targets, without cutting airport capacity elsewhere.

In practice, this could mean that many regional airports would need either to be closed or limited to operating fewer flights than today’s levels. This would conflict with both government and commercial forecasts, which anticipate at least 200% growth by 2050, and also exacerbate the North/South divide.

RSPB’s economist Adam Dutton and author of their report, said: “The rest of the economy will be heavily penalised if emissions from aviation are not constrained. We estimate the cost could rise to as much as £8 billion per year and maybe more. When the rest of society is already being asked to decarbonise by at least 80% this is neither fair nor efficient.”

Cait Hewitt, the deputy director of the Aviation Environment Federation who wrote their report, said: “The Airports Commission and future governments have a choice to make: either allow aviation expansion in the South East and heavily constrain regional airports or let regional airports grow within the capacity they already have but don’t build any new runways. But climate change limits mean that you can’t do both.”

Jean Leston, head of transport at WWF-UK, said: “Thinking that you can build a new runway at Heathrow or Gatwick while still keeping to UK climate targets is being over-optimistic and using assumptions that are based on a wing and a prayer, not on the real world. When it comes to airport expansion, climate change isn’t ‘dealt with’ as an issue.”

Read WWF's regional airports report (PDF)

Join our #LastSelfie campaign

Lasty selfie promo image

Join our #LastSelfie campaign - don’t let some of the world’s most iconic species disappear!

 We’re using SnapChat to highlight the many threats these amazing species face – comparing the fleeting existence of a SnapChat post to the real danger facing many species around the world.

Want to take part? Then download the SnapChat app for iOS or Android and search for WWFpanda. We’ll be sharing images of some truly stunning animals – don’t let this be their #LastSelfie!

Here’s what you can do to help:

Adopt an endangered animal 
Text ‘Save’ to 70060 and donate £3 – your donation will go towards helping protect endangered species and habitats they call home.

With nearly a quarter of all mammal species threatened with extinction, it’s more important than ever to help protect species and the places in which they live. After all, it’s at the heart of our mission – we need to work hard to conserve the earth's biodiversity.

SnapChat is a mobile app that works in a similar way to most messaging services, but with one big difference – once you’ve received a text, picture or video from a friend, it disappears after a few seconds. We’re using it to highlight the threats endangered animals face – don’t let it be their #LastSelfie!

WWF Green Ambassadors visit Highgrove

Schools who have won WWF Green Ambassadors awards were presented with their prizes today at Highgrove, the Gloucestershire home of WWF-UK's President, The Prince of Wales. The Green Ambassador scheme aims to encourage a new generation of sustainability champions. It is aimed at inspiring primary school children (5-11 year olds) to become active in making their school greener by looking at issues such as reducing energy, food, encouraging wildlife and reducing waste.

Pooles Park Primary School in Finsbury Park, London – was awarded the main prize of £5,000 for its inspirational project to create an organic allotment. In this green space, pupils can get close to nature and try their hand at growing their own produce. There is also a wildlife pond and hen enclosure. Teachers are able to use this as a resource to teach pupils about growing plants, wild habitats, lifecycles and much more in science

A special Food & Growing award was presented to Wicor Primary School in Farnham, which impressed the judges with a scheme giving children the chance to not only grow their own food, but then either sell it to parents or cook it and eat it themselves.

The Green Ambassadors Award for Encouraging Wildlife was presented to staff and pupils from Heald Place Primary in Rusholme, Manchester.

West Wittering Parochial Primary School in Chichester won the Energy award.

The Waste award was given to Hillhead Primary School in Glasgow.

Prizes were presented by Executive Director of Communications and Fundraising at WWF-UK, Alison Lucas and Alpro dietician, Kate Arthur.

During their time a t Highgrove, pupils helped The Royal Entomological Society mark National Insect Week by undertaking an insect survey at Highgrove. Pupils will be joined their scientists to help them find out about the diversity of insect life that lives in The Prince of Wales’ garden!

Green Ambassadors were also given a private tour of the beautiful organic gardens at
Highgrove. There they learnt about how His Royal Highness has incorporated sustainability principles into the way that the gardens are managed. The pupils were accompanied by members of the gardening team at Highgrove, which gave pupils a unique opportunity to talk with the team that work in the gardens throughout the seasons.

The Green Ambassadors also worked with communication experts from WWF and sponsors, Alpro, to define what it is about nature that they loved. Together they used this passion to encourage others to develop the same interest in the natural world by producing short video messages which were created in a specially created video pod!

Greg Crawford, Head Teacher of Pooles Park Primary said:

“Being sustainable, caring for our natural environment and learning through positive interaction is a way of life at Pooles Park Primary School. It is a fundamental part of our school's educational journey and contributes to life experiences. I am so pleased that Pooles Park Primary School has been recognised with this award”.

Executive Director of Communications and Fundraising at WWF-UK, Alison Lucas, said: “The Green Ambassadors scheme shows just what is possible for schools to accomplish in terms of environment and sustainability as well as the benefits to young people, schools and the wider community

The Green Ambassadors scheme will continue to inspire young people to explore their own connection with nature and food, develop their knowledge of environmental issues and encourage them to build their current skills in order to make a difference to the future of the planet.

All of our winners have done extremely well but I would like offer Pooles Park Primary my particular congratulations.”