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How can a Labour Mayor support airport expansion for the few, not the many?

Green councillor Carla Denyer will ask Bristol’s Mayor to reconcile his contradictory views about climate change and airport expansion in light of a new analysis showing that airport expansion disproportionally benefits the wealthiest in society.

The questions, which will be asked at the Full Council meeting on 17th July, read:

1. Does the Mayor understand the critical importance of the UK sticking to its carbon emissions targets, to prevent abrupt and irreversible changes that will wreck livelihoods and make the economy the least of our worries, as we face more of the droughts, crop failures, disease and flooding that we are already seeing on all continents?

2.   In light of the recent analysis that has shown that airport expansion disproportionally benefits the richest 10% while harming us all through climate change, air pollution and noise pollution; and in light of the recently agreed expansion of Heathrow Airport, which puts the UK on a trajectory to miss its carbon emissions targets unless drastic actions are taken; will the Mayor reconsider his previous position of supporting the expansion of Bristol Airport?

Another Green councillor, Charlie Bolton, questioned the Mayor in January 2018, during an earlier consultation about airport expansion, highlighting how the increase in the airport’s capacity – which would see passenger numbers more than double from 8 million to 20 million – contradicts local and national climate targets. At the time he said,

“I asked the Mayor about this at the last Full Council and in response he suggested he supports both meeting our climate targets and expanding the airport, which is quite frankly impossible to reconcile. Making encouraging sounds about climate commitments while blithely agreeing to more air travel is trying to have your cake and eat it. Much like Theresa May it seems the Mayor simply doesn’t want to face up to the unpleasant reality that our climate change targets are incompatible with further expanding airports and air travel in the UK."

"Political evasion on this issue isn’t helping anyone.”

Councillor Denyer has also submitted a motion to next week’s Full Council meeting, calling on the Mayor to use his influential position to hold the airport to account on its emissions, to ensure the region keeps its commitments. The Joint Spatial Plan – 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. But the airport has been accused of ‘greenwash’ for publicising a 2030 carbon neutral target with no plan in place, and which does not include the emissions from aeroplanes themselves.

She commented: “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 the wealthy but negatively affects us all through climate change, air pollution and noise pollution. So I cannot understand how a Labour Mayor can justify his position of backing airport expansion.”

In the recent vote in Parliament over the expansion of Heathrow, Bristol’s Labour MPs were divided, with two voting against, one voting for, and one not present.

Notes:

- Councillor Denyer’s exposé of the Airport’s misleading claims and lack of a plan for decarbonisation: https://bristolgreenparty.org.uk/news/bristol-airport-carbon-targets-worthless-without-roadmap-say-greens

- Councillor Bolton’s question to Marvin Rees in January 2018, during the last round of the consultation, and the Mayor’s answer: https://bristolgreenparty.org.uk/news/greens-say-we-all-need-to-challenge-airport-expansion. This was covered in Bristol Post here: https://www.bristolpost.co.uk/news/bristol-news/mayor-marvin-rees-is-having-1116930

 - Votes cast by MPs on the Heathrow expansion: https://metro.co.uk/2018/06/26/mp-voted-heathrow-expansion-debate-parliament-7659718/

 - Full text of question and motion submitted to next week’s Full Council meeting (Tuesday 17th July) below

 

Question - Councillor Carla Denyer: Bristol Airport expansion

1.            Does the Mayor understand the critical importance of the UK sticking to its carbon emissions targets, to prevent abrupt and irreversible changes that will wreck livelihoods and make the economy the least of our worries, as we face more of the droughts, crop failures, disease and flooding that we are already seeing on all continents?

 2.            In light of the recent analysis that has shown that airport expansion disproportionally benefits the richest 10% while harming us all through climate change, air pollution and noise pollution; and in light of the recently agreed expansion of Heathrow Airport, which puts the UK on a trajectory to miss its carbon emissions targets unless drastic actions are taken; will the Mayor reconsider his previous position of supporting the expansion of Bristol Airport?

Sources:

•             IPCC Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report Summary for Policymakers: http://ar5-syr.ipcc.ch/topic_summary.php

•             News article about the IPCC 2014 reports: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/mar/28/ipcc-report-climate-change-report-human-natural-systems

•             Analysis showing that airport expansion will increase inequalities: https://theconversation.com/heathrows-third-runway-is-expensive-polluting-and-unequal-why-the-poor-will-lose-out-98781

•             News article about the very high chance of missing the UK climate change targets if Heathrow expansion goes ahead: https://www.independent.co.uk/infact/heathrow-airport-expansion-vote-third-runway-climate-change-chris-grayling-a8415881.html

 

FULL COUNCIL MOTION – 17 July 2018 - Expansion of Bristol International Airport and Climate Change

Full Council notes:

  1. The stage 2 consultation by Bristol Airport regarding a new Master Plan and Charter for Future Growth (which could cover the period up to the mid-2040s); and the further consultation which will be launched this winter.
  2. That these proposals include a more-than-doubling of passenger numbers from the current figure of 8 million to 12 million in the next few years and then 20 million.
  3. That the proposals include an aspiration to be carbon neutral by 2030 (printed next to a photograph of an aircraft engine, implying that emissions from flights would be included).1
  4. That upon investigation it was found that the Airport currently lacks any plan for how to achieve carbon neutrality, and has no intention to include emissions from flights in its target.2
  5. That air travel remains the most climate-damaging form of travel, and significant expansion of air travel will therefore have a significant climate impact.
  6. That such an increase will lead to an enormous increase in the number of journeys to get to the airport to meet the increased usage – a fact which in itself will lead to significant issues around congestion, pollution and infrastructure.
  7. The commitment – in Bristol – to be carbon-neutral by 2050, and the Climate Change Act which requires an 80% cut in emissions across the UK.
  8. The Joint Spatial Plan – 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.
  9. The widespread concern that the expansion of Heathrow Airport which was supported by MPs on 25th June will make it even harder to meet the UK’s commitments under the Climate Change act.3
  10. That airport expansion, whether in Bristol or Heathrow, locks the UK into emissions increases.
  11. That 47% of the UK population has flown in the last year, and this figure has been stable over the last 15 years. Most (31%) only make one or two trips per year. This means that 10% of the population makes about 60% of all flights, and these people are mainly from the highest income groups.4

Full Council believes that:

  1. Airport expansion disproportionally benefits high income households while negatively affecting all households through climate change, air pollution and noise pollution.
  2. The airport must conform to the commitment contained in the Joint Spatial Plan, and such a commitment must include emissions from the aircraft using it.

Full Council resolves to call on the Mayor to: 

  1. Pass on these views to the airport, North Somerset Council, the West of England Combined Authority, the Joint Committee; and
  2. Respond directly to the consultations making the points above.

Motion Submitted by: Councillor Carla Denyer

Date of submission: 5th July 2018

Motion Notes

  1. See page 19 of https://static1.squarespace.com/static/59b6667ab7411c6d0214b1f3/t/5af5823e03ce6466ca11df4d/1526039116734/Stage+2+booklet+ELECTRONIC+FINAL.PDF
  2. Copy of correspondence between Councillor Carla Denyer and the Bristol Airport Consultation Team. https://bristolgreenparty.org.uk/library/Appendix_-_Airport_emails.pdf
  3.  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
  4. 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

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