13th September 2021

HOPE IS NOT A STRATEGY – Aviation cannot be allowed to keep adding to the Climate Crisis

With just two months to go before the UK Government hosts the vitally important COP26 International Climate Change Summit in Glasgow, Stansted Airport Watch (‘SAW’), and a host of other environmental campaign groups from all across the UK, are pressing the Government for immediate action to tackle aviation’s growing impact on climate change.

UK aviation was responsible for 38 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2019 and the Government is content to allow this to continue to increase until 2030 and still to be more than 30 million tonnes in 2040.  It is therefore difficult to see how the target of net zero aviation emissions by 2050 could be met.  The Government is pinning all its hopes on technological solutions emerging over the next 20-30 years, such as electric and hydrogen-powered planes and new aviation biofuels.

Despite the climate crisis, the Department for Transport (‘DfT’) insists that it should be ‘business as usual’ for UK aviation allowing all UK airports to continue to expand.  This is despite the strong recommendation from the Government’s independent advisers, the Climate Change Committee (‘CCC’), for a freeze on all airport expansion in the UK until such time as there is clear evidence that aviation CO2 emissions are on a downward slope towards the Government’s legally-binding target of net zero emissions by 2050.

In response to a DfT consultation, SAW has submitted a highly critical evidence paper challenging the DfT’s ‘business as usual’ strategy and its total reliance on technological solutions emerging from beyond the horizon over the next 20-30 years.  The key message from SAW is that “Hope is not a Strategy”.

SAW has also submitted evidence to the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee which is carrying out an Inquiry into the apparent contradiction between the Government’s expansionist aviation policy and its declared commitment to tackling climate change.

SAW’s climate change adviser, Mike Young, commented: “The Climate Crisis is here and now.  We don’t have the luxury of waiting for 20-30 years in the hope that technological solutions will somehow emerge.  The Government should follow the clear recommendations of its own independent advisers, the Climate Change Committee, and call a halt to airport expansion until aircraft emissions are brought under control.”

Mike Young continued: “CO2 emissions stay in the atmosphere for up to a hundred years and high-altitude aviation emissions can be three times more damaging than the CO2 emissions alone, due to the additional warming effect of the non-CO2 emissions from aircraft jet engines and their contrails. There is an urgent need to act and yet the Government still wants to allow more and more flights every year.”

Mike Young concluded: “In less than two months, the UK will be hosting the COP26 International Climate Change Summit in Glasgow and this needs to be a turning point in the global fight against climate change.  Failure is not an option. However, as matters stand, it will be difficult for the UK to be telling other countries what they must do, while at the same time continuing to support the unfettered growth in air travel.”


  1. The SAW submission to the DfT (8 September) is at Stansted-Airport-Watch-Response-to-DfT-Jet-Zero-Consultation-8.9.2021.pdf (stanstedairportwatch.com)
  2. The SAW submission to the Environmental Audit Committee (3 September) is at Stansted-Airport-Watch-submission-to-EAC-Jet-Zero-3.9.2021.pdf (stanstedairportwatch.com)


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