Bristol Greens: Airport’s net-zero claims are ‘utter nonsense’

Bristol Airport has recently announced its intention to become the first ‘net-zero’ airport by 2030. These commitments, however, exclude the two main areas of enterprise for the airport, enabling aeroplanes to take off and land, and the operation of a large car park.

Birdseye image of Bristol Airport

© Hydrock (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Emma Love

Bristol Green Party Councillors have responded to Bristol Airport’s claims to be ‘carbon neutral by 2021’ and to ‘reach net-zero by 2030’, labelling them as ‘utter nonsense’.

They highlight that the airport’s net-zero claims do not extend to flights or car parking, so promoting itself as a ‘net zero airport’ is misleading.

On 25th June, Bristol Airport announced that it intends to become the first net-zero airport by 2030, including a commitment to become a ‘net zero airfield’, with ‘net zero buildings’, operating a ‘net zero fleet of vehicles’. These claims excluded the two main areas of business for the airport, enabling aeroplanes to take off and land, and the operation of a large, expensive car park.

The announcement came following a ‘Future of Flight Business Breakfast’, wherein a number of business, aviation and aerospace industry leaders gathered to discuss the future of aviation in the region. Amongst the attendees were Bristol Mayor, Marvin Rees and South Gloucestershire Council Leader, Toby Savage. 

In December 2018, Bristol Airport submitted a planning application to North Somerset Council seeking approval for an expansion that would allow up to 12 million passengers per annum. This was rejected in March of last year, with the Airport submitting an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate in September. A public inquiry is due to be held on the issue later this month (20 July) in Weston Super Mare.

The Green Party has warned against the expansion, showing that the proposed development would result in the emission of an additional one million tonnes of CO2 equivalents every year. Campaigners launched the #OneMillionTonnes campaign to increase pressure on local leaders to oppose Bristol Airport’s plans, with Green councillors calling on the Bristol Mayor to rethink his support for the airport.

Bristol Green Councillor Carla Denyer, who tabled Bristol’s climate emergency motion, said: “Bristol Airport’s claims today are utter nonsense and a cynical form of greenwashing. 

“Of course any work to improve the airport’s climate targets are welcome, but to brand yourself as a ‘net zero airport’ without including flights, car parking or journeys to and from the airport is highly misleading. The environmental impact of aviation is well documented but is something they seem unwilling or unable to talk about.”

She continued: “It’s not only the flights they seem to want to pretend aren’t happening, but also the car parking operation that remains central to their business model. An estimated 87.5 per cent of passengers arrive at the airport by car and the airport profits massively from this – which is why they are so keen to concrete over green fields to grow this car parking operation.”

Councillor Emma Edwards, one of the 19 new Green Party councillors elected to Bristol City Council last month, added: “It was deeply disappointing to see the Mayor of Bristol at the announcement this morning, offering support to this environmentally damaging operation. 

“His comment that this represents the Airport showing “leadership” is baffling, when he has been vocal in his commitment to Bristol becoming carbon neutral by 2030. The airport and its current plans to expand should be under the highest scrutiny by the council.”

“Bristol was the first UK city to declare a climate emergency a carbon neutral target for 2030, but to deliver on that promise means being honest about the climate impact of our aviation industry and opposing the airport’s continued lobbying for expansion.”

Councillor Bridget Petty, Green Councillor for Backwell in North Somerset, a stone’s throw from the Airport, said: “For an airport where less than 15 per cent of passengers arrive by public transport, it is farcical for them to claim net neutrality by this year.

“Residents of North Somerset know how much the airport contributes to air pollution locally. Residents contact me often to say they can smell the fumes in their garden.”