Inventory for Glasgow Agreement finds hidden airport expansion in the UK

by | 25 Aug 2022 | Members, Uncategorized


RisingTideUK found more than 25 UK airports are expanding, with some evading usual channels of consent in the process, using a combination of methods not officially defined as expansion. Here RisingTide explains:

As Members of Stay Grounded, and as part of our contribution as signatories to the Glasgow Agreement – aka the People’s Climate Commitment – we recently worked on the UK carbon emitters Inventory and Climate Agenda and updated a supplement for the section on Aviation for the agreement. Other sections of the inventory updated by RTUK are on gas, coal and nuclear along with loads of other resources here.

When conducting our inventory, we accounted for more than 250 private, public and military airports and airstrips in the UK (with around 40 in Republic of Ireland). While the inventory is a living document in a constantly changing world, we’ve used the available data to compile a list airports that are expanding and which are the largest, in terms of passenger numbers and climate impact and emissions. Most of this data is from 2019, before the Covid19 pandemic hit, as that’s the base year from which we measure future growth from. Passenger number figures vary so we’ve gone for those that best match the year ending 2019.

During this process, it became starkly apparent that airport expansion is taking place at more than 25 airports, not just at the 8 usual suspect airports generally reported. What’s more, airports are expanding not just by consent to plans for increasing passenger numbers through Air Traffic Movements (ATM) or new runways, but are expanded by a combination of methods which include:

  • Extending the runway or changing its composition=Airport Expansion 

  • Increasing the Public Safety (crash) Zone=Airport Expansion
  • Building or extending existing terminals=Airport Expansion
  • Building more aircraft stands and hangars=Airport Expansion
  • Building an industrial estate/warehousing=Airport Expansion 

  • Building a hotel=Airport Expansion
  • Extending vehicle parking and access roadways=Airport Expansion
  • Building a solar park to pretend your airport is carbon neutral by offsetting its ground emissions=Airport Expansion 

  • NOT using associated land but offsetting it against emissions, or planting trees on other land=Airport Expansion
  • Extending opening hours=Airport Expansion
  • Making more use of, or repurposing taxiways=Airport Expansion
  • Publishing a wish-list Airport Master Plan=Airport Expansion
  • Getting aspects of that Plan approved by Local Authorities and/or inserted in Local Plans for future use=Airport Expansion
  • Pausing existing planning permissions or putting them on hold=Airport Expansion
  • Obtaining retrospective planning permission=Airport Expansion

Such expansion must stop if we are to stand any chance pegging the average global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C, lest we condemn ourselves to living on a +2 degree C planet. Attempting business-as-usual by greenwash offsetting and replacing kerosene with so-called Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) won’t help us succeed in delivering emissions cuts fast enough or indeed at all.

For an overview of climate change and aviation more widely, see the UKgov House of Commons Library Briefing paper on Aviation, decarbonisation and climate change.

Note: For Regional Airports in the UK, Scope Emissions are defined thus:-

  • Direct emissions (Scope 1)–Emissions from airport-controlled sources (e.g. vehicles/ground support owned by airport, boilers, on-site power generation);
  • Indirect emissions (Scope 2) – Emissions from purchased energy (off-site electricity generation for heating, cooling, lighting);
  • Indirect emissions (Scope 3) – Emissions from other sources related to the airport (e.g. flights, aircraft ground movements, passenger and staff travel to the airport, waste disposal).

With your help, we can continue updating the resource lists! Please send your updates to with “Aviation (etc.) Update” as the subject. Follow links above for full airport (including Republic of Ireland) & airline lists.

–  RisingTideUK

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