Luton Airport ‘has to take responsibility for carbon emissions’
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Campaign groups in St Albans and Harpenden are calling on Luton Airport to reduce carbon emissions to help tackle the climate crisis.
The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has said that growth in aviation emissions needs to be curbed in order to achieve net zero by 2050, with aviation likely to be the largest carbon-emitting sector in the UK by that time.
Luton Airport is preparing to expand to accommodate 32 million passengers per year, but the CCC argues that, without zero-carbon aircraft, demand cannot continue to grow unchecked over the long-term.
Andrew Lambourne, of LADACAN (Luton and District Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise), said: "Luton Airport needs to think carefully about a future strategy appropriate for a low-carbon world in which it has to take responsibility for emissions from the aircraft it flies, not just claim 'sustainability' through reductions in its use of cars.
"The airport needs to show that it is being socially responsible as well as economically beneficial, which means cutting back on the noisy polluting flights, scrapping plans to exceed its passenger limit, and focusing all its energies on achieving a genuine and sustainable reduction in emissions."
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St Albans MP Anne Main met with representatives from campaign group STAQS (St Albans Quieter Skies), to discuss the planned expansion and noise pollution caused by flights.
Mrs Main has campaigned against aircraft noise pollution since the RNAV navigation system was introduced in 2015, narrowing the flight paths and concentrating noise over a smaller area.
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She said: "Residents are rightly annoyed by the continuing inaction from Luton Airport and the CAA. We were meant to have a full review of the RNAV route months ago and still we have nothing.
"On top of that, Luton Airport and the council are making headway with their plans for expansion, which is not acceptable for residents whose lives are being heavily impacted by noise."
Mrs Main also argued that a drop in noise complaints is not an indication of the problem improving, as residents will become discouraged from complaining if nothing seems to change.
STAQS spokesman John Hale echoed the call for carbon emissions to be reduced. He said: "The CCC has made clear that measures should be put in place to limit growth in aviation demand to at most 25 per cent above current levels by 2050.
"These could include carbon pricing, a frequent flyer levy, fiscal measures to ensure aviation is not undertaxed compared to other transport sectors, reforms to air passenger duty, or management of airport capacity.
"As more people realise that aviation emissions have double the impact of other sources due to high altitude gases and vapour trails, these measures will reinforce a need to think about flying more responsibly or even not at all."
St Albans Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate Daisy Cooper agreed with the campaigners, saying: "There must be no further growth in capacity of Luton Airport on both environmental and economic grounds.
"With aviation forecast to be the largest contributor of greenhouse gases by 2050, Liberal Democrats are committed to halting the development of all new runways in the UK and to requiring all domestic flights to blend traditional fuels with zero-carbon fuels to reduce emissions."
Luton Borough Council has made a public commitment to moving the town to zero carbon emissions before the government's target of 2050, with a cross-party working group established to have meaningful targets and actions in place by January 2020.
Cllr Andy Malcolm, portfolio holder for finance and chair of LLAL (London Luton Airport Ltd), said: "The council's approach to tackling climate change, and LLAL's proposals for airport expansion, are driven by the highest standards of public interest and we will continue to take account of government guidance on how to deal with aviation-related activity."
LLAL has developed a new 'sustainability strategy' and invested in an air quality monitoring regime, and wants to make the best use of the airport's single runway for the economic and employment benefits that the airport brings to the town.
A second public consultation on expansion proposals is set to take place this autumn.