Comment: Time ministers delivered on airport policy

Comment: Time ministers delivered on airport policyAirports are reducing their carbon footprints and managing noise. It’s time the government delivered support, says Darren Caplan, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association (AOA)

A new report, Sustainable Airports: Improving the environmental impact of the UK’s global gateways, launched this week by the Airport Operators Association (AOA) highlights the great progress UK airports have made in cutting their carbon footprint and managing noise.

Now there is hard evidence that a growing airport sector can be delivered sustainably, it is important the sector receives more policy support from government to further drive down its carbon footprint and to support airports in limiting and reducing the number of people affected by aircraft noise.

It is widely understood that airports and the wider aviation sector make a huge contribution to the UK.

The sector sustains around one million jobs and makes a £50 billion annual contribution to GDP, as well as paying £8 billion a year in taxes to the Treasury.

At the same time, the industry acknowledges its obligations to minimise the effect it has on the environment.

The AOA report concludes the UK airport sector is keeping to its side of the bargain when it comes to reducing carbon emissions.

Between 2010 and 2012, airports representing 95% of air travellers in the UK grew by more than 5% in terms of passenger numbers and almost 2% in terms of air traffic movements, yet they reduced their carbon footprint by nearly 3%.

While it is aircraft that are the main contributors in terms of aviation carbon emissions, there is no reason why their footprint cannot continue to be suitably managed.

Analysis by the industry coalition Sustainable Aviation – representing airports, airlines, aircraft, engine manufacturers and air navigation service provider NATS – shows that a combination of newer fleets and better operational measures can help to reduce the carbon emitted by airport partners.

UK airports would like to see the government help the sector to develop sustainable aviation fuels and promote a global emissions trading scheme.

That could ensure aviation can grow to 2050 with neither airports nor airlines seeing any significant increase in carbon emissions. It would be in all our interests – government, industry and public alike.

The AOA’s report also highlights some challenges in terms of managing noise in the vicinity of airports.

Since April 2011, over 5,700 homes have been given planning permission or have started or completed construction in areas where the government expects some people will experience annoyance at aircraft noise.

While Sustainable Aviation is clear that UK aviation can almost double its air traffic movements to 2050 without increasing noise, the sector cannot control housing development.

The report demonstrates the work that airports have done historically to reduce noise, and the on-going work they are doing with local communities to ensure any effect is kept to an absolute minimum.

For example, between 1998 and 2010 airports and their partners in the aviation sector reduced the area of aircraft noise by 45% – a significant reduction. Now it is time for the government to play its part.

We would like to see the government examine the process by which planning permission is granted for new homes and other noise-sensitive buildings within the all-important noise contour of airports.

Sustainable Airports: Improving the environmental impact of the UK’s global gateways demonstrates the impressive work UK airports have done in recent years to make the sector more sustainable.

It also highlights the steps airports are taking to engage with local communities and work with them to ensure airports and the people who live and work around them are aware of and share in the benefits of these essential international and regional gateways.

Most important, it demonstrates that the airports sector can grow sustainably, even more so if it is given proper policy support from the UK government.

The AOA report Sustainable Airports: Improving the environmental impact of the UK’s global gateways is due to be launched at the House of Commons today.

Sourced from Travel Weekly

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