UK runway capacity decision welcomed by Sustainable Aviation

Sustainable Aviation – the coalition of UK airlines, airports, aerospace manufacturers and the air traffic service provider, which works to deliver cleaner, quieter, smarter flying – welcomes the announcement by the Government in response to the Airports Commission’s Final Report on runway capacity in the South East of England.

Given that the UK aviation industry currently supports close to a million jobs and over 3,000 apprenticeships, with contributions of £52 billion to UK GDP, enabling growth in UK aviation will give the industry opportunities to further increase these socio-economic benefits.  Sustainable Aviation fully appreciates the need for this growth to be delivered with the minimum impact of aircraft noise disturbance and emissions that contribute to climate change and local air quality.

There has been considerable progress on this with reductions of 20 million tonnes of CO2 from flights by UK airlines and 14% smaller noise sensitive areas near airports between 2005 and 2015.  This was achieved by developing and introducing cleaner, more efficient and quieter aircraft and pioneering smarter techniques in how the aircraft operate.  Sustainable Aviation has produced detailed Road-Maps showing how these and future improvements in the years to come enable UK aviation growth to be delivered whilst reducing net CO2 emissions and with no further increase in noise.

With Government support for airspace modernisation and the commercialisation of renewable fuels the aviation sector will be able to make even faster progress towards the achievement of our environmental goals.

Chair of Sustainable Aviation, Ian Jopson, said:

 “Delivering environmentally sustainable aviation growth in the UK, with the significant economic benefits that it will bring, is a challenge that our industry is ready to meet. The Government’s decision on additional runway capacity in the South East of England brings welcome clarity for the aviation industry about our future growth.

 “Aviation has already made good progress in decoupling growth of aviation from increases in CO2 emissions, noise and the impact on air quality. In the last ten years, 20 million tonnes of CO2 emissions were saved from UK airline flights – not least thanks to a record investment in 470 new, cleaner and quieter aircraft by UK airlines since 2005.

 “Sustainable Aviation’s Road-Maps set out how we will meet our goals of improving aviation’s environmental performance, consistent with the global aviation industry’s target to halve CO2 emissions by 2050 compared to 2005 while growth in aviation continues. We are on track to deliver, with the recent Global Market-Based Measure agreed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation being an additional boost.”




Notes to Editors


  1. A full list of Sustainable Aviation members is available here:


  1. The Sustainable Aviation work includes the following:


Carbon dioxide emissions
The global aviation sector aims to halve net emissions by 2050 compared to 2005, despite continuing growth in aviation connectivity. Sustainable Aviation’s CO2 Road-Map, published in 2012, set out that this could be achieved for UK aviation through:


  • Changes in aircraft technology, such as improved fuel consumption, improved aerodynamics and reductions in the weight of aircraft engines
  • Changes in operational techniques, such as continuous descent and climb operations and more direct routes being flown through improved air traffic management both in the UK and across Europe
  • The introduction of renewable aviation fuels – the technology is already proven for these but the challenge is the commercialisation of such fuels, which will require Government support similar to that provided to renewable road fuels
  • Market-based measures – although the aviation industry will continue to make significant reductions in its own CO2 intensity, a global CO2 trading scheme will be required to enable aviation to contribute to overall CO2 reductions beyond those achievable within the aviation sector.


In our progress report last year, we noted that:


  • 20 million tonnes of CO2 emissions were saved from UK airline flights in the last ten years
  • More than 470 new, cleaner and quieter, aircraft have been introduced by UK airlines since 2005
  • Since 2008, 400 procedural airspace changes and more efficient air traffic control has enabled savings of more than 1 million tonnes of CO2


Noise reduction

UK aviation is able to accommodate significant growth in air transport movements to 2050 and at the same time achieve a reduction to UK aviation’s total noise output compared to 2010.


Sustainable Aviation’s Noise Road-Map, published in 2013, showed how future noise reductions will be achieved through:


  • Changes in aircraft technology, such as quieter engines, acoustic liners to contain more noise within the engines and reducing noise created by turbulence caused by aircraft
  • Changes in operational techniques, such as improved descent and climb operations, curved approaches, airspace modernisation and reduced engine taxiing.


Good progress is already being made. Based on a review of noise contour information at Gatwick, Heathrow, Manchester, Stansted, Birmingham and Luton airports between 1998 and 2010, the number of people inside the UK Government’s standard noise contour has reduced by nearly 40%, despite an increase of over 5% in air transport movements at those airports.


Air quality improvements

A Sustainable Aviation report on air quality will be published later this year. The report will detail work being carried out to monitor and improve air quality and will explore the interplay between emissions at an airport and around an airport.  While emissions at an airport, including those from aircraft, effect air quality within the airport perimeter, they disperse quickly and other emissions, such as those from road traffic, become much more significant.


Airports are undertaking work to reduce emissions from surface access, including encouraging investment in and use of public transport options. Significant further progress in this area will come from improvements in road vehicles, including the uptake of electric vehicles. Other steps that the aviation sector is taking, such as reduced engine taxiing, continuous descent and climb operations and providing air conditioning and electricity to aircraft on stand to reduce engine use will also improve air quality.


In some areas, such as the introduction of renewable aviation fuels and research into electric support vehicles, such as pushback tugs, Government support will be required for further improvements.


  1. Sustainable Aviation has also done work to quantify the socio-economic benefits of aviation. A flourishing aviation industry brings benefits to the UK, both economically and socially. The UK aviation sector contributes one billion pounds a week to the UK economy, employs a million people and contributes £9 billion in taxes.Aviation enables other industries to do well. For example, the visitors brought to the UK by aviation support half a million jobs in the tourism industry, and their spending helps to add another £7bn to UK GDP. Meanwhile, 40% by value of the UK’s imports and exports utilises aviation.A growing and flourishing aviation sector, able to benefit from enhanced runway capacity, is in the interest of the whole of the UK and this can be achieved while reducing aviation’s impact on the environment.


Contact details:


For further information please contact the following or email info@sustainableaviation.local.


Neal Weston, Head of Policy, British Air Transport Association – 0207 808 7111



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