THE EXPANSION of Leeds Bradford Airport is ‘incompatible’ with commitments to tackle climate change.

That is the conclusion of researchers at the University of Leeds as outlined in a new piece published on The Conversation - a website featuring news stories based on academic research.

The article is entitled ‘We can’t expand airports after declaring a climate emergency – let’s shift to low-carbon transport instead’ - and the researchers use Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA) as a case study.

The report - at https://theconversation.com/uk - notes that Leeds City Council (LCC) recently declared a climate emergency and ‘committed the city to emitting no more than 42 megatonnes of CO₂ from 2018 until 2050’.

It adds: “But the city’s targets sit uncomfortably alongside plans to expand LBA.

“The expansion should double the number of passengers using the airport every year, from 4 million to 8 million by 2030.

“The climate impact of all those flights would be more than double the 2030 target emissions for Leeds as a whole.”

“If the number of passengers using LBA remained at their current levels, all flights from 2018 to 2050 combined would still produce a climate impact equivalent to the entire carbon budget of Leeds. Only if passenger numbers fell drastically could flying become remotely compatible with climate targets.”

Local Extinction Rebellion protester Ian Coatman sent us a summary of the research after talking to one of the team behind it, Jefim Vogel from the University of Leeds’ Sustainability Research Institute.

Mr Coatman said: “Their research provides stark evidence that plans to double the number of passengers at LBA by 2030 would mean flying full-speed towards the climate crisis.

“It shows that if the planned increase in passenger numbers goes ahead the climate impact of all those flights would be more than double the 2030 target emissions for Leeds as a whole.

“And...the council also wants to spend £100 million building new roads to accommodate the resulting increase in car traffic.”

Leeds Bradford Airport’s CEO, Hywel Rees, points out that the airport introduced a range of measures that have caused its CO2 emissions for airport operations to fall by 45 per cent in the last five years.

He added: “We work in collaboration with partners across the aviation sector to minimise the impact on the environment and we value the feedback of interest groups.

“The UK aviation sector is undergoing a sea-change and we are confident in its view, as outlined in its 2018 CO2 Road-map, that the adoption of newer, cleaner and quieter aircraft and improved passenger procedures will help accommodate growth in air travel in the UK without a substantial increase in CO2.

“Aviation enables trade, the exchange of ideas and provides jobs that will allow people in the north of England to adapt to the challenges that climate change presents and decarbonise the economy.”

A graph produced by the University of Leeds researchers shows a gulf between LCC’s ‘carbon neutral’ ambitions and the projected rising carbon emissions from the (expanded) airport between now and 2050.

The airport’s environmental impact was the focus of a Clean Air Day protest in June.

Responding at the time, LCC reiterated its commitment to making Leeds carbon neutral by 2050.

Executive Member for Climate Change, Transport and Sustainable Development, Councillor Lisa Mulherin, added: “Tackling the environmental impact of the aviation sector is beyond the power of any one local authority and we believe the Government must lead on this issue.”