Monday, December 11, 2006

Briefing Paper to Councillors

Below is our briefing paper which we have sent to every Councillor in Aberdeen. We have also sent personal Christmas cards to the Councillors, wishing them a Merry Christmas and asking them ' Think Before You Vote - Aviation Fuels Climate Change'. Please join us outside the Town House in Broad Street at 1.30 pm on Wednesday, 13th December for a half-hour presence with placards and banners.

BAA’s Application for Runway Extension (A5/2080)
Briefing Paper by Aberdeen Campaign Against Climate Change

What is Aberdeen Campaign Against Climate Change:
We are a local group which seeks to raise awareness of the impacts of climate change and the need for urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We are affiliated to the national Campaign Against Climate Change ( We have no party-political affiliation.

Why is BAA applying for runway extension:
The 2003 Aviation White Paper calls for airport expansion across most UK airports and supports a trebling of aviation for the whole of the UK by 2030. BAA plc’s Outline Masterplan for Aberdeen expects a doubling in the number of passengers by 2030 and a steep increase in the overall number of flights. The runway extension is an essential part of BAA achieving that aim. It would allow heavier planes with greater fuel-loads, including cargo planes, to use the airport. Currently, BAA plc is owned by the Spanish toll roads operator Ferovial. It is more responsible to its shareholders than to people in Aberdeen. But the White Paper was written 3 years before the recent Stern Review into the Economics of Global warming and before the Environmental Change Institute’s report into ‘Aviation, Climate Change and Aviation Policy’. Public and political awareness of global warming has increased dramatically since then, even over the past year.

BAA says that two types of slightly more efficient aircraft, Boeing 737-800 and Airbus 321 require a larger runway to operate from Aberdeen airport. Both types of aircraft already operate from Aberdeen and it is said that they can only operate with a reduced passenger and/or fuel-load. More passengers and thus more fuel may increase ‘efficiency’ – but also they increase pollution and global warming. What matters to the climate is the total of fossil fuels that we burn. Some slightly more efficient planes, more passengers and a lot more emissions overall are bad news for the climate.

It is widely claimed that more cheap flights benefit many low-income families, however the Civil Aviation Authority has shown that this is a myth. The CAA state: “Their main effect has been to provide further opportunities to those in middle and higher income groups to fly more often.” Low-income households account for a small proportion of flights, because they can rarely afford the other costs associated with such holidays. (

How does airport expansion affect climate change?
With respect to climate change, BAA’s claims that the runway extension will allow some more efficient aircraft are irrelevant: it is the amount of emissions that matters. The runway extension would encourage a steep increase in emissions for the following reasons:

First, longer runways encourage larger and heavier planes, including more cargo planes, which tend to carry and burn more fuel. BAA has claimed that the runway extension is necessary to allow slightly more efficient Airbus 321 and Boeing 737-800 aircraft to fly from Aberdeen. Both types of aircraft already fly regularly from Aberdeen. A longer runway would allow them to carry more fuel and passengers – and again, this means more emissions, not less. What matters to the climate is the total of fossil fuels that we burn. A higher proportion of more fuel-efficient planes, but with more passengers and cargo and thus a lot more emissions overall are bad news for the climate.

Second, The number of passengers using Aberdeen airport grew by 9.9% last year. BAA predicts that there will be four more flights every hour during the day by 2015, and another 2 more flights per hour by 2030. This is a 20% increase in the number of flights in 9 years. Fuel efficiency will not compensate for this since it is forecast to improve by only 1% a year.

Third, claims that more direct flights from Scottish Airports mean fewer flights from the south-east of England are not backed up. Transport Minister Tavish Scott was asked in a parliamentary question whether there was any evidence that a single flight from England had been cut because of the large number of new direct flights from Scotland – his answer was no.

Fourth, at the Planning Meeting on 16th November, some Members suggested that more direct flights from Aberdeen would reduce greenhouse emissions from car journeys to other airports. However, per passenger-mile, aviation causes 2-10 times more global warming than surface transport (see: (See the European Federation on Transport and Aviation report: Publications/2006/2006-06_aviation_clearing_the_ air_myths_reality.pdf)

SNH stated in their submission to the Planning Department that they had requested an assessment of the impact of runway extension on overall greenhouse gas emissions caused by aircraft using Aberdeen airport, but that this was not done. The Environmental Impact Assessment makes some general statements about ‘efficiency’, but does not assess the carbon footprint of the present airport compared to one following runway extension.

Why is it so urgent to get our greenhouse gas emissions down now?
James Hansen, NASA’s most senior climate scientist, warns that without strong action on climate change in the next 5-10 years we will commit ourselves to a ‘very different planet’, with higher temperatures, rapid melting of ice caps leading to very destructive sea level rises and to extinctions on a massive scale. Methane, a more potent green-house gas than CO2, would be released from natural stores and would add to an irretrievable temperature-runaway. We need to cut global emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions by 50% initially, and then further, by at least 60-80% in total. We must start to stabilise levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere now.

160,000 people a year are already dying from global warming, according to the World Health Organisation – after recent warming of less than 1°C. Death rates are expected to increase with the average global temperature. Developing nations are suffering most at present, but as temperatures rise, impacts will become more severe everywhere, including in Aberdeen.

It will be impossible to stabilise the climate if aviation is expanded at the rate BAA demands; more essential carbon-emitting activities would have to be reduced beyond reason. One return flight from London to Florida produces a global warming effect equivalent to 4.6 tonnes of CO2. This is more than the 4.45 tonnes that the average global citizen emits in a year! For comparison, the per capita CO2 emissions for the UK are above 9.1 tonnes per year, for India, 1 tonne per year, and for China, 2.9 tonnes a year. Countries like India and China have made clear that they want strong action to reduce emissions globally, but only if those actions don’t allow countries like the UK to burn an unfair share of fossil fuels.

At the Planning Meeting on 16th November, Mr. H. Campbell advised that ‘Global warming is an issue that is being discussed at International and National levels and if any decisions are made at these levels they will eventually trickle down into planning policy which we would implement. So we don’t feel that the issue of global warming should be hung onto the coat tails of this particular planning application’: This counsel of delay sends a wrong message. We have only 5-10 years.

Economic impact:
Information provided to the Planning Committee about the economics of this application, for their meeting on 16th November, looks sparse and limited. Claims that airport expansion would boost Aberdeen’s economy are over-simple and are not substantiated adequately.

Research by Friends of the Earth has shown that: ‘All regions except London run a huge economic deficit from aviation’. ‘Although foreign visitors spent £11 billion in the UK in 2004, UK residents spent more than double this (£26 billion) during trips abroad. This creates an overall loss to the UK economy of £15 billion per year. If airports expand as planned, more people will holiday abroad which is likely to double this tourism deficit by 2030. The cumulative extra cost to the UK economy in the coming decades would be well over £100 billion. ( deficit.pdf).

This view of the economics suggests a net drain on Aberdeen’s regional economy which would become worse with airport expansion. It is not adequate for members of Aberdeen City Council to assume that economic impact is a decisive factor in favour of this important planning application nor that further expansion would add significantly to the Airport’s present benefits to the region. If Aberdeen City Council believed that the short-term economic impact of airport expansion should a significant factor in their decision, then they might well wish to commission an independent economic assessment to establish the full facts.

The Stern Review, October 2006, stresses that the economic impact from unmitigated global warming will far outweigh any short-term gains: ( gov. uk/independent_ reviews/ stern_review_economics_climate_change /stern_review_report.cfm). The true costs, however, cannot be calculated in economic balance sheets – they will be counted in human lives.

Noise impact:
Although, primarily, we are concerned about climate change, we sympathise with the many people who already suffer noise from the airport and who will be exposed to increasingly frequent aircraft noise. BAA’s method of averaging aircraft noise, relied on by the Council, produces the ludicrous result that even a doubling of the number of flights would produce a barely perceptible increase in noise nuisance (+3dB LAeq) as they measure it. Also, it excludes noise from ground-running. Airport expansion, including extension of the runway, simply means more fixed-wing flights to and from Aberdeen and thus more noise events. It is unlikely that most noisy planes now in use will be replaced in the next 10-20 years. A longer runway generally allows heavier and larger aircraft to take off and land, including more heavily laden cargo aircraft. Heavier aircraft will still tend to be noisier, not quieter.

The World Health Organisation is an authority on the health impacts of noise. It states that:
‘- - for clear speech perception the background noise level should not exceed 35 dB(A).' ‘To protect the majority of people from being seriously annoyed during the daytime, the outdoor sound level from steady, continuous noise should not exceed 55 dB LAeq on balconies, terraces and in outdoor living areas’. ( guidelines2.html see also: Noise/ Pollution/ 20030528_2).
Aberdeen City Council uses 60 dBLAeq as a limit for daytime noise round new housing development; i.e. more than twice the sound pressure of 55 dB. BAA’s 2006 Impact Assessment doesn’t even show the daytime 55 dB contours.

Recently, Aberdeen City Council’s planners have misinterpreted the BAA-Enviros Impact Assessment 2004’s figures for the number of people likely to be awakened by night flights (they implied ‘per night’ when it meant ‘per flight’). Also, they have failed to provide adequate noise reports for local planning applications and for the current Public Inquiry into the Local Plan 2004, where also they quoted BAA’s misleading map of helicopter flight paths over housing areas. This inadequate approach to environmental noise provides little confidence in the Council’s environmental judgements. It re-enforces the need for a closer assessment of the environmental effects of expanding Aberdeen Airport, independent of BAA and other financial interests.

Road traffic impact:
BAA’s Outline Masterplan states that the number of car parking spaces could be increased by 600 by 2015. This, and more drop-off traffic, means more road traffic, noise and air pollution in areas around Dyce and Bucksburn as well as encouraging extra climate-change emissions.

What do we ask Aberdeen City Council to do?
We ask Aberdeen City Council to put the overwhelming need to stabilise climate above the short-term interests of BAA, the air-transport industry and holiday-makers. We ask the Council to act responsibly in the long-term interest of local people who will be vulnerable to accelerated sea level rises and to world-wide social disruption.

Uttlesford District Council has refused BAA’s planning application for a runway extension at Stanstead Airport, largely because of the climate change impacts. If Uttlesford can take a stand in this way, then so should Aberdeen.

We therefore call on the City Council to either refuse the Planning Application at this stage, or to defer it pending an independent assessment of the overall climate change impact of runway extension, as requested by SNH.

Website: 6th December 200