22nd May 2021

Climate Change Impact Of Stansted Expansion Will Be Far Worse Than Previously Claimed

The climate change impact of the proposed Stansted Airport expansion could be eight times higher than its proponents claimed, according to research from the New Economics Foundation (NEF) published yesterday (21 May 2021).

The report found that the proposed expansion of Stansted would be likely to account for an increase in annual emissions of up to 1.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide and CO2-equivalent emissions in 2035, the year of the Government’s new climate change target.  This is equivalent to putting around one million additional cars on Britain’s roads.  The NEF report concluded that Stansted Airport’s estimate of the climate change impact of its expansion plans was not credible because, for example:

  • It assumes that the aviation sector will be using currently undeveloped technologies to deliver fuel-efficiency savings over the next few decades.
  • It does not account for the impact of non-CO2 emissions like aerosols, water vapour and nitrogen oxides, which can double or even triple the climate impact of airport expansions.
  • It has not put a monetary value on the climate change impacts of expansion and hasn’t tested the impact of higher carbon prices in the future, contrary to government guidance.

The NEF report examined expansion proposals for Bristol, Leeds Bradford, Southampton and Stansted airports and assessed the combined impact at £13.4 billion potential damage to the climate, with Stansted accounting for £6.6 billion of this, about 50%.  The damage to the climate largely arises through emission at high altitude of pollutants such as CO2, aerosols, nitrogen oxides, and water vapour.

The report found that none of the airports studied had provided decision-makers with credible estimates of the climate change cost of their proposals. As a result, harms were understated and net economic benefits were overstated.  The report recommends that, in the light of a lack of credible information in these airport expansion applications, the Government should halt all active applications. It argues that any decisions on airport expansion should take into account the Government’s upcoming publication of its aviation decarbonisation strategy, the new statutory target to cut emissions 78% by 2035, and the Committee on Climate Change’s recommendation for no net expansion of UK airports.

SSE Chairman Peter Sanders commented “This new research is a vindication of the arguments which SSE put before the recent Stansted Airport Public Inquiry.  The Government cannot continue to disregard the economic cost of the damage being inflicted upon the climate as a result of increased aviation emissions.”



Campaigning to ensure Stansted Airport's authorised operations stay below harmful limits