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Arguments against extension of Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport
Stay Grounded opposes the very principle of expanding CDG Airport.
How can France, without any qualms, prepare for 440 new flights per day knowing that:
- Flying is the most harmful means of transport for the climate and will remain so for a long time.
- The carbon footprint caused by flying is not sustainable. It is all the more unsustainable considering that it is largely the outcome of non-essential journeys. (Leisure)
- Flying benefits a minority of the population whilst harming the majority.
1. Flying is the most harmful means of transport for the climate and will remain so for a long time.
- An air passenger emits as much CO2 eq (1) as a single person driving a car of average engine power, but does much more harm as he/she travels so much further !
- According to the IPCC, civil aviation accounts for 5% of overall radiative forcing (and not 2%, as the aviation industry would have us believe, whilst avoiding mention of greenhouse gases other than C02, and the effect of condensation trails) (2)
- This percentage keeps growing, since the rampant growth in air traffic, resulting in the need for the expansion or building of airports, is not offset by technical or operational improvements. Worldwide, passenger and freight air traffic is currently growing by around 6 to 7% per annum, whereas energy efficiency improves by a mere 1.5% p.a., with no miracle solution on the horizon.
- The only concerted solution the aviation industry has come up with is a minimalist system of carbon offsetting that guarantees nothing. Let us not forget that resorting to carbon offsetting entails paying someone else to reduce their own carbon emissions or to remove CO2 from the atmosphere (by planting trees for instance).
2. The carbon footprint caused by flying is not sustainable. It is all the more unsustainable considering that it is largely the outcome of non-essential journeys. (Leisure).
- A round trip from Paris to New York by plane produces 2.6 tonnes of CO2eq (3), which is significantly more than what a French person can afford to emit in view of France’s commitment to keeping global warming under 2°C. Such a trip uses up more than every human being’s fair share of the global carbon budget, leaving nothing for the daily essentials such as food, heating, and daily transport.
- Today in France, CO2eq emissions produced by air traffic account for nearly 9% of France’s total greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to 60% of the emissions produced by the car industry. (4)
- Leisure activities account for 52% of plane journeys, (visiting family or friends, 27% and work-related journeys, just 14%). (2)
- Building a 4th terminal at Paris CDG, and in so doing, enabling 40 million more passengers to fly every year, would involve adding approximately 15Mt of CO2eq to France’s annual emissions by 2037. (5)
- Yet, the objective France has set itself of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050 requires her to keep her emissions under 100Mt CO2eq in 2037.
- In 2037, Terminal 4 air traffic would alone account for 15% of France’s total emissions budget, and the total traffic at Charles de Gaulle airport more than 40% ! What would then be left for passengers’ more essential needs whose carbon footprint we won’t have managed to reduce sufficiently ?
3. Flying is a means of transport that benefits a minority of the population whilst harming the majority.
- Few people fly regularly, but those who do are frequent flyers. (6) They are mostly the well-off, in many cases the very well-off (7)
- One of the adverse effects of the expansion and building of airports worldwide is that more and more residents are suffering from air and noise pollution, often day and night. Others are dispossessed of their own land.
- Global warming already affects, (and will affect even more in the future), the earth’s entire population , but the majority of its victims will be the poorest.
Explanatory notes and references
(1) In order to cumulate the effects of the various greenhouse gases, non-CO2 gas emissions are converted into CO2 equivalents (CO2eq), which correspond to the equivalent radiative forcing.(2) Wikipedia : Impact climatique du transport aérien (In French)
(3) Emission factors from ADEME’s Base Carbone. (In French)
(4) Air transport emissions in France in 2016 according to the DGAC = 20 Mt CO2, which is approximately 40 Mt CO2eq. (According to the Base Carbone, C02 quantities have to be multiplied by 2). France’s CO2eq emissions in 2016 according to the CITEPA = 422 Mt+ international bunker fuel emissions attributable to France. Emissions from personal vehicles in France = 71,5 Mt CO2 according to la commission des comptes des transports de la nation. (The nation’s transport accounts commission).
(5) In 2017, according to the DGAC, Charles de Gaulle airport and its air traffic were responsible for producing 13Mt of CO2 emissions for every 70 million passengers. An extra 40 million passengers would add another 7,4 Mt CO2, corresponding to an approximate 15 Mt CO2eq.
(6) Enquête nationale auprès des passagers aériens (National survey of air passengers. Results for 2014-2015), DGAC
(7) Enquête sur la mobilité des personnes. (Survey on people’s mobility), CGDD, 2008