An Open Statement to the West of England Combined Authority Meeting 31 January 2020 from the Stop Bristol Airport Expansion campaign, presented by Professor John Adams
In July 2019, WECA committee declared a climate emergency, committing the West of England to carbon neutrality by 2030. Today it will be considering an update report from the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership [LEP] that clearly sets out the immediate challenge to the Authority posed by the climate emergency (Note 1).
For technical reasons, the LEP update omits specific reference to the planned expansion of Bristol Airport and indeed any emissions from aviation. However, Bristol Airport cannot be removed from the life of the region as its lived! Airport expansion represents a massive source of additional GHG emissions which would obliterate all regional efforts to reach net zero emissions by 2030.
Through the prism of the LEP report it is clear that Airport application is:
Unnecessary. This tourist Airport (85% leisure traffic) at its current size already serves the business community and reasonable leisure needs region perfectly well, with 15% headroom to grow under current permissions.
Premature. International and national legislation and protocols on climate emergency are on the move and WECA itself is in the early stages of preparing an evidence-based Climate Emergency Action Plan. A decision in favour of Airport expansion on 10th February will render all such intentions irrelevant.
Indefensible. There will be given collateral damage to the health and well-being of communities from GHG emissions, increased night flights and harm to wildlife and the natural environment, particularly annexing the green belt for parking.
Unsustainable. Expansion cannot be reconciled with WECA’s declared aims to achieve carbon neutrality.
The LEP report states uncompromisingly that climate change poses a clear and serious threat to the prosperity and environment of our region: ‘If we do not act now, we will need to take more drastic action in the future.’
‘If we do not act now…’ In 10 day’s time (on 10th February) North Somerset Council decides whether or not to approve the Airport planning application to expand. Meanwhile WECA is riding two horses galloping in opposite directions: supporting Airport expansion and attempting to achieve carbon neutrality in the region. No amount of slamming stable doors after 10th February will make up for the fact that both horses will have bolted since any endeavour to combat climate change in the region will be near futile in the face of massively increased aviation emissions.
Public policy lags far behind scientific evidence and public opinion on climate change. A slick, ruthless Airport operation has taken full advantage of this political void. North Somerset officers, working this a policy vacuum, have played safe and recommended acceptance of the Airport planning application. With the Airport and the planning bureaucrats aligned, the only remaining hope rests with the 27 Councillors on the North Somerset Council Regulatory and Planning Committee. They desperately need your support.
‘WECA has made a full-blooded commitment to champion the Climate Emergency. I am therefore calling for the WECA group, the Mayor and the Unitary Authority Mayors and other Council leaders, to show political leadership now through tabling and voting on a motion expressing opposition to Airport expansion today. ‘
Local Enterprise Partnership, ‘Update Report for the WECA Committee 31 January 2020: