Take action to prevent expansion at Leeds Bradford airport - deadline 15 June

Despite the aviation industry's current crisis, the climate-wrecking ambition of long-term expansion at regional airports across the UK has not gone away. The latest is Leeds Bradford Airport which wants to increase passenger numbers from 4 million per year now to 7.1 million by 2030 – not far short of doubling the passengers, and with a similar impact on carbon emissions.

Whether you live in the local area or not, you can object to their planning application (you will need to register first). Earlier this year, North Somerset Council faced a strong local campaign against Bristol Airport expansion, supported by over 8000 objections to the application and finally rejected the proposal. 

This is in no way compatible with the government's commitment to achieve net zero carbon by 2050. Even less so with the more urgent reductions that we actually need to take in a climate emergency. Leeds City Council themselves declared a Climate Emergency in March 2019 and committed to achieving a carbon neutral city by about 2030. 

Leeds Climate Commission (a partnership of LCC, University of Leeds, local businesses, the local public sector and the third sector) has forecast that airport expansion would mean emissions from the airport become higher than emissions from the whole of the rest of Leeds by 2026. The airport owners would like to ignore the elephant in the room of this massive carbon footprint, focusing instead on minor reductions in emissions from the terminal building. 

The government may be willing to go along with the aviation industry's claim that reducing emissions can best be done on an international level; which in practice seems to mean relying on highly flawed offsetting schemes and dubious promises of technological improvements rather than demand reduction, the only effective method of cutting emissions. However earlier this year, the Airports National Policy Statement (the legal basis for Heathrow expansion) was overturned in the Court of Appeal because it did not take account of our commitments under the Paris Climate Chage Agreement.

The court also ruled that the government should have taken into account aviation's non-CO2 impacts. These are tooo often ignored, but these impacts (of releasing gases at altitude) can effectively double aviation's warming impact on our climate. That's right - aviation has double the climate impact that would be calculated from looking at CO2 alone.

Local authorities such as Leeds City Council would be well advised to consider this Court of Appeal judgement carefully. Rather than accepting at face value Leeds Bradford Airport's assurances that they don't need to worry about emissions from flights, they should take into account both carbon emissions and non-CO2 impacts of flights.

They should also bear in mind their own 2030 target, which would be rendered meaningless by allowing airport expansion, and the National Planning Policy Framework, which states that "the purpose of the planning system is to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development. At a very high level, the objective of sustainable development can be summarised as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

Take action now and object to the planning proposal. You need to register first, but it isn't necessary to comment in great detail.