Captain Carbon says...
and another thing! Carbon Neutral Airports!
In a way its a shame Silverjet has gone bust because if it hadn't it could have expanded
operations to Manchester Airport, which claimed a couple of years back in its Draft
Masterplan for airport expansion that it too aimed to be carbon neutral. A carbon neutral
business flight from a carbon neutral expanded regional airport! We're really getting this
climate change issue licked!
Can we take it then that the airport is planning to abandon the aviation business and plant
trees over the substantial swathe of green belt land its runways and terminals currently
occupy? Get out the tipees and refocus the airport's core business on the burgeoning British
festival industry. But before local green entrepreneurs get too excited what it is actually
planning is emissions cuts in its operations – or rather those operations that don't
actually involve flying - plus of course the obligatory carbon offsetting.
The Masterplan professed the ambition of the airport to “control…carbon emissions from
airport operations” and “reduce carbon emissions from energy plant by 10%. By 2015, 25% of energy from renewable sources...” All very laudable, until you note the airport is also
committed to meeting projected increasing demand for air travel, increasing flights 30% by
2015 and adding a further 10 million passengers per year by 2030.
The Government ’s policy is still to encourage growth at regional airports. The Air
Transport White Paper (2003) makes much of the positive economic contribution provided by
airports to their regions. Manchester Airport’s Draft Masterplan justified expansion of 10
million passengers by 2030 on the same grounds, claiming, “There is substantial evidence
that airports sustain, create and attract jobs on a large scale. For every 1 million air
passengers, 3000 jobs are created nationally, 2,000 regionally and 1,425 in the immediate
These claims are based on the industry’s own study by Oxford Economic Forecasting (1999),
uncritically accepted by the Department of Transport despite critiques by respected
independent bodies, such as the Institute for Public Policy Research. Anthony Rae of Friends of the Earth has pointed out that three-quarters of forecast growth (and thus the justification for expansion) is based on outbound leisure travel – in other words largely flying high income earners on foreign holidays, weekend trips and to second homes. Friends of the Earth have calculated that this amounted to a loss to the region of £1.6 billion in 2004 in lost expenditure in the region and associated jobs. If the rich spend their money somewhere else, for more and more of the time, it's difficult to see how that contributes to regional development.
From it’s official opening on 25 June 1938 Manchester Ringway Airport has expanded massively into today’s Manchester International, serving 40 million passengers a year. Adjacent Wythenshawe, one of the poorest areas in Greater Manchester, faces serious social and economic problems with high unemployment, low incomes, high levels of ill-health, poor housing, and crime. Wythenshawe has not benefited from nearly 70 years of airport expansion – why should we expect the next twenty years of expansion to be any different?
Whilst the cost of climate change is not reflected in the cost of flying the poorest in
society pay the price for the leisure of society’s richest.