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Boris Johnson’s Net Zero dilemma: Economic recovery or climate cap on holidays abroad

The Sunday Times

Overseas holidays are on hold and the aviation sector is on its knees, yet airports are pressing ahead with huge expansion plans before a proposed green cap on passenger numbers that would limit future growth.

Yorkshire made the first move on Thursday night, when a new £150 million terminal at Leeds-Bradford was approved — with local supporters insisting that if passengers were not able to fly from their local airport, they will simply travel from another.

Ambitious expansion schemes from Stansted, Luton, Gatwick and Southampton airports, which would increase annual passenger numbers by millions, all face public scrutiny.

The race for growth has been triggered by the Climate Change Committee, the government’s official advisory body. It has proposed a cap on passenger numbers to meet Boris Johnson’s decision to set the UK on the path to net zero emissions by 2050. It wants to limit any rise in passenger numbers to 365 million by 2050, up from 297 million in 2019. The government must decide by June whether to incorporate this into law, or to explain why it is rejecting the advice.

The problem is that if all airport expansion plans go ahead, capacity will soar to an estimated 532 million passengers by 2050, more than three times the growth proposed to meet climate pledges.

Heathrow, which is still committed to a third runway, could expand passenger numbers from 81 million in 2019 to 136 million in 2050, an increase of 55 million and almost single-handedly using up all the headroom for expansion.

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