Leeds Bradford Airport plans; now hold public inquiry – Hilary Benn

THE Government is currently preparing to host COP26 when countries from across the world will come to the UK to discuss the next steps needed to tackle dangerous climate change.

Should Leeds Bradford Airport's redevelopment be given the green light - or subjected to a public inquiry? A decision is imminent.

Meanwhile sitting in Housing and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick’s inbox is a rather significant document.

It’s a planning application to expand Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA) and the Government will need to take a decision on this.

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This one airport plans to emit more CO2 than a number of small countries which are the most vulnerable to climate change.

Hilary Benn is the Labour MP for Leeds Central.

While LBA expansion may not be on the scale of Heathrow, the proposal has implications that go way beyond the immediate locality of the airport.

It is the aviation equivalent of the proposed new Cumbria coal mine about which ministers now appear to be having second thoughts.

The airport’s planned expansion from four million to seven million passengers, and consequent increase in greenhouse gases, is clearly incompatible with our commitment to achieve Net Zero, given the way aircraft are currently powered.

It also goes directly against the advice of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) which, in its Sixth Carbon Budget, said there should be “no net expansion of UK airport capacity”, unless the sector is on track to sufficiently outperform its trajectory to Net Zero.

Should Leeds Bradford Airport's redevelopment be given the green light - or subjected to a public inquiry? A decision is imminent.

At present, we are not even close to being on track.

This means that the only way that LBA can expand is if there is a compensating reduction in capacity at another airport.

In the absence of this, approving an expansion at LBA would contradict the advice of the CCC.

Amongst the many individuals (me included) and organisations pressing Mr Jenrick, the Minister responsible for planning, to hold a public inquiry are over 200 academics, including international climate scientists from Leeds University who recently wrote to him urging him to ‘call in’ the application.

Indeed, while the application was being assessed by Leeds City Council (LCC), evidence was submitted by university experts led by Professor Julia Steinberger, a lead author for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 5th and 6th assessment reports.

This detailed the full climate impact of expansion and stated that an expanded LBA would be emitting 1.227 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide annually by 2030, a factor 2.5 larger than LBA claimed.

Leeds City Council declared a climate emergency in 2019 and committed to achieving Net Zero in the city by 2030.

An inconvenient truth is that this would be impossible to achieve with an expanded LBA.

A ‘call in’ would result in a public inquiry where the climate impact could be fully assessed.

Without leadership, every airport would have the potential to expand in an unregulated race to the bottom, which would make it very hard for the UK to achieve its climate commitments and would seriously damage the UK’s claim to be a world leader in tackling the climate crisis.

In the year the UK is hosting the COP26 conference, allowing this expansion to go ahead would be a big mistake.

The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government now has to decide by tomorrow whether to sign off the application or hold a public inquiry.

Lots of people are hoping that he does the right thing and chooses the latter.

Over to you, Mr Jenrick.

Hilary Benn is the Labour MP 
for Leeds Central.

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