The UK must drop plans for airport expansion if it is to meet carbon reduction targets, the head of the Climate Change Committee has warned the aviation industry.
Lord Deben, chair of the Climate Change Committee which advises the government and devolved administrations, told the Airport Operators Association (AOA) conference: “There is not any space for airport expansion.”
He slammed the flight taken by Manchester United Football Club to play a game in Leicester on Saturday and suggested Manchester airport should not have allowed it.
“The airport which agreed a football club could fly that tiny distance should be ashamed. It should have said ‘We are not in that business’. Manchester airport should have said ‘We don’t agree with this’.”
Deben told the AOA: “That has done your business harm.”
AOA chief executive Karen Dee challenged Deben, saying “We don’t agree you need to stop any expansion” and asked: “Are airports facilitators or controllers?”
But Deben insisted: “You are part of the supply chain and you are damaged by it. You may decide you can’t say ‘no’, but you have every right to say ‘This is not what we are here for’ and you should do that.”
Deben, the former Conservative cabinet member John Gummer, noted up to 10 UK airports plan expansion including Heathrow and Gatwick and said: “The idea we are going to have a whole lot of airports expanding – we are just not in that world.”
He said the Climate Change Committee had given the aviation industry “a very large envelope” on emissions and told the AOA: “You must realise that can’t be surpassed.
“If the industry wants more emissions, those will have to come from somewhere else and there isn’t anywhere.”
He added: “I speak to finance directors who are saying ‘We are not going to have people flying all over the world anymore.”
Deben criticised the government, saying: “The government has to make it easier and simpler to be good and hard and expensive to be bad. At the moment it is often more expensive and more complicated to be good.”
He warned: “This is not about fiddling about around the edges.
“We don’t have any control over the time. We’ve allowed climate change to get out of hand. But in a democratic system you have to make the transition fair, and the government has to be able to say some hard things.”