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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Further E-mail to Cheltenham, Gloucester and Tweksbury Councillors regarding Staverton Airport

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Cheltenam and Gloucester Council's scrutiny committee has given a written response to the question of CO2 emissions from the Staverton Airport extension. Bizarrely, most of this rested on evidence from the airport. This is hardly scrutiny. My response to them follows below, along with a further letter to the Gloucester Citizen:

Dear Councillors,

Following tonight’s written reply to scrutiny committee regarding the additional CO2 emissions from the Staverton Airport expansion, I write to challenge some of the points in the reply and to correct some of the factual inaccuracies within it. Also included at the end of this email is a copy of my letter to the Gloucester Citizen in response to their opinion poll which concludes the 67% of people do not want restrictions on aviation.

Firstly, the reply says that “2.1 million litres of fuel were used by aircraft using the airport in 2005.” This in its own right is a significant amount of fuel and will increase significantly as the airport is expanded. It is therefore misleading to argue about the future impact of the airport by only comparing with the current emissions. The reply also states that the current emissions are small compared to roads. This actually argues for not building the airport. We know the environmental damage that road transport is doing, yet we find it impossible to stop the traffic. The last thing need now is another infrastructure whose emissions will rise with time and which will also be impossible to stop.

Secondly, the reply says that the emissions “equate to less than 1% of the emissions for the whole of Cheltenham .” Given that the services from the airport are likely to increase after the development work, then it can be assumed that the percentage of the emissions total will also increase.

All the scientific evidence points to us needing to reduce our CO2 emissions by 90% to minimise the risk of dangerous climate change. If we were to achieve this target, the emissions from the airport would amount to 9.1% of Cheltenham ’s total. However, it would in actual fact be higher once the emissions from the additional growth that the airport is trying to achieve is factored in.

Thirdly, the reply says “Gloucester Airport has stressed that its proposals are to improve the runway rather than expand the airport.” Whilst this may be the public position, their initial business plan showed their objective was to develop new services and indeed even talked about a new terminal building. Even Mark Ryan, when interviewed by local press made no secret of his plans to develop new services. Furthermore, the new services introduced by Manx Air clearly demonstrate that the airports intention is to increase services.

Fourthly, the reply says The airports strategic plans aim to attract small high-tech business craft, which are more environmentally friendly.” This is absolute nonsense. The small high-tech airplanes are business jets which are the most carbon intensive mode of travel, no matter how efficient they are. Madonna is a well known user of these and recent reports in the Independent after the Live Earth concert calculated that her carbon footprint was greater than 1000 tonnes. This is galling to people like me and many others who are trying in all ways to reduce our individual carbon foots prints. You are failing in your duty to your constituents if you intend to try to attract business or people to this area who want to operate in environmentally damaging and unsustainable ways.

Fifthly, the reply says that “The airport expects the level of pollution caused to fall over the next few years.” The airport has produced no evidence to support this claim.

Sixthly, the reply says Gloucestershire Airport is committed to playing its part in meeting internationally agreed targets for greenhouse gas emissions.” This is nonsense. There are no internationally agreed targets for greenhouse gas emissions from aviation. In fact, emissions emitted on international flights (which would include most of the proposed business jets) are not even recorded or allocated to any country and the debate on including aviation into any form of carbon trading has stalled.

Finally, the reply states Provision of fuel data will help build a more accurate picture of emissions from this sector and enable monitoring over time.” Clearly we do not have to expand the airport to improve fuel data and it would be interesting to understand what monitoring is actually planned. Would we for example monitor the melting of the ice caps, or the rising of the oceans, or the number of people starving?

Copy of letter to the Gloucester Citizen in response to today's report, click here to report

Dear Editor

It is extremely worrying that only 67% of your readers believe that no action should be taken to limit air travel. It goes to show the effectiveness of the campaigns run by the aviation companies, against the efforts and evidence that the scientific community have amassed on this issue.

Just this week, it has been reported that food prices around the world are rising rapidly. This will mean starvation for many of the world’s poorer people. The reason for this is the bizarre combination around the world of droughts and floods, all of which stem from global warming. We are rapidly running out of time to act.

As for the point that one of your readers has made in the feedback on this article about the Stern report claiming that aviation only accounts for 2% of emissions, this needs some careful consideration. Firstly the Stern report calculates the 2% based on all emissions, including burning down the rain forests. It is simply because this is such a large contribution to the overall total, that aviation is small. We should be campaigning against forest clearances as well, rather than ignoring aviation because it is small in comparison. Also the aviation figures in Stern are based on data from 2000 and do not reflect the growth that the industry has experienced since then or the anticipated future increase of their emissions. Finally the figures in Stern relate only to the CO2 emissions, whereas aviation also causes the release of NOx gases into the upper atmosphere which have global warming effects hundreds of times higher that CO2 alone. The radiative forcing effects of aviation indicate that the actual impact is 4 to 6 times higher that just for CO2 alone. These factors have made it virtually impossible for aviation to be incorporated into European Carbon Trading Mechanism, so great is its impact.

The facts speak for themselves. Staverton Airport is currently under review regarding expansion and there is no case for it. We need to hope that we have councillors who are brave enough to show leadership and do the right thing based on the evidence by rejecting the proposals, rather that to default to follower-ship and allow policies to be dictated by popularist opinion polls.
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