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UK: CO2 costs threaten airport expansion

Six out of seven projects at risk due to lack of emissions plan

The environmental challenge in the UK aviation sector is putting the expansion plans of several airports at risk. This is due to the increase in the price of carbon offsetting, which has more than tripled since September 2021: from 92 to 294 Euros per tonne. A measure ordered by the British government to reach the net zero target in 2050.

According to the analysis centre New Economics Foundation, although London's decisions jeopardise six of the seven airport expansion plans, they underestimate the impact of airports on the climate.

The Bristol airport expansion project in the south-west of England is seen as a national test case. North Somerset District Council rejected the application in 2020, noting that harmful emissions values had been ignored. The operators appealed but had to resubmit the plan with updated prices on offsets. At that point, the cost of the project rose to 748 million Euros, reducing the net benefits to 602 million: over 1.3 billion less than in the original cost-benefit analysis. 

The operators of London-Heathrow and London-Gatwick airports look at this case with concern. In fact, even in the plans of these major airports, the cost of offsetting emissions is hardly taken into account. In contrast, the expansion plan for Leeds-Bradford airport does not even include this variable, which is why London has launched an investigation in recent days.

Up to now, planning law in England has not explicitly required a plan on harmful emissions to be attached. However, failure to do so may increase the risk of litigation. London-Heathrow Airport has already received an initial green light and has indicated that it will go ahead even if costs rise. Today, British airports are at a crossroads.

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AVIONEWS - World Aeronautical Press Agency