We’re concerned by the expansion plans of many airports around the UK. These assume business-as-usual air traffic growth across the 2020s & 2030s, in a similar fashion to the growth that occurred across the 2010s.
However, we’re in a position where the climate science and climate action required is incredibly clear: we need year-by-year degrowth in emissions across all sectors of the economy. This necessitates that we fundamentally transform how we travel, and how we fly.
Our group includes engineers who have worked on the cutting-edge technology that will emerge over the next few decades, and it’s very clear to us that technology alone won’t deliver a 1.5°C-consistent emissions reduction pathway. We fully anticipate future policies and regulations that will mean we need to fly:
- Less far
- Less fast
- Less frequently
This is likely to result in shorter-range flights made in smaller, unconventional, aircraft e.g. battery-electric or hydrogen aircraft, and less longer-range flights made in large conventional jet airliners. However, these aircraft concepts are still in very early stages of design & development, and there are many significant design challenges which are likely to place severe restrictions on their size and range.
The airport infrastructure being proposed at Bristol, and elsewhere, is inconsistent with a significant uptake of such aircraft. We therefore warn these airports & workers about the risk of stranded-assets for public and private finance if the wrong infrastructure is built.
We should consider putting expansion plans on hold until the future of air travel is better understood. This is not only in the best interests of the planet, but also of the workers who rely on sustainable business decisions being made, for a future of long-term employment.
We’re concerned that the airport will waste significant financial resources and time. It should instead hold off on expansion, and direct efforts towards future-proofing the airport & associated jobs for the necessary transformation of air travel.