Bristol Airport Expansion

Last month Keri Beckingham in her article ‘Bristol Airport expansion decision due in September’ put the points forward about our local airport expansion plans clearly, and they were scary. Over 6 years it wants to increase passenger numbers from 8 to 12 million with the option of bumping it up to 20 million after that. Instead of reducing its carbon output like the rest of us, it will double it.  This is to happen in Councils that have declared a climate emergency and aim to be carbon free by 2030. What on earth is going on? Why would anyone think it reasonable to seek permission to drastically increase carbon output?

Perhaps it is because Bristol Airport relies on us being the silent majority. Maybe it knows we are so wedded to the convenience and habit of flying abroad for our holidays we’d rather turn a blind eye to the consequences of what we are doing, and not question what it says and does.  But if we don’t and expect to carry on flying as much as we want, our children and grandchildren will point their fingers and say you carried on destroying our planet when you knew what you were doing just because you enjoyed the convenience and luxury.

The airport aims to have zero carbon output by 2030, which sounds good. If it can achieve that after the expansion, then maybe it hopes it will salve our consciences. But it doesn’t take a genius to work out that it’s only talking about the buildings. All new buildings should be carbon neutral by then. It’s specifically failing to include the carbon output of the extra aircraft running 24 hours, the extra road traffic and the loss of green space to park them. Keri included the figure of 87% as the numbers who arrive by private transport.

How do we feel knowing that all the carbon our Councils will have saved by becoming carbon free by 2030 will be wasted because of the airport’s expansion? Or that the efforts we will have made as businesses or private citizens will count as nothing?

The airport would argue that it has to expand to meet demand. It would be less willing to say publicly that there’s good money in it especially for its owners, a Canadian investment fund for teachers pensions.

If we have any concerns at all about climate change, the first thing to do is stop meeting demand by flying less and the second is to stop being part of Bristol’s silent majority. To achieve the latter check whether the planning decision was made in September and if not send objections to the 17 North Somerset Councillors responsible. Details can be found at To help with the former sign up to the Flight Free UK pledge.

One of a regular series of articles, written by Sustainable Redland founder Hamish Wills.
It was published in Bishopston Voice in October 2019.

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