In July of last year, Boris Johnson’s government released its flagship ‘Jet Zero Strategy’ – a roadmap to ‘delivering net zero aviation by 2050’. However, as leading sustainability advisory firm Element Energy noted at the time, the strategy relies heavily on the introduction of as-yet non-existent or infeasible technologies – such as Johnson’s proposal for a commercial transatlantic flight producing no carbon emissions by 2025, dismissed by industry experts as a ‘gimmick’ – whilst sidelining the need to reduce flights now. Such techno-fixes are pie in the sky thinking which let the industry off the hook when it comes to their environmental responsibilities. As the Aviation Environment Federation policy director Cait Hewitt said, the government’s plan amounts to ‘sitting back and allowing both airports and emissions to grow in the short term while hoping for future technologies and fuels to save the day’.
However, instead of looking to reduce, the aviation industry is engaged in a push to expand – with plans being submitted, considered, and in some cases accepted for airports in Leeds, Bristol, Southampton, Stansted, Luton, Manston, Gatwick and Heathrow. These fly in the face of the need to drastically reduce the UK’s carbon emissions in the short term, whilst locking us into future decades of environmental destruction. In addition, expansions threaten the well-being of neighbouring communities, who are exposed to heightened air and noise pollution.
Fortunately, these communities are fighting back, with local groups springing up across the country to defend both their local and our shared environments. Hope for the Future was honoured to be invited to the inaugural in-person meeting of the new group No Airport Expansion! (NAE!), which has formed out of a coalition of local groups committed to opposing airport expansions.
We met on Saturday the 14th of October at The American International Church on Tottenham Court Road, where we discovered a lively hub of debate over what the campaign should do. In addition to our workshop, we were lucky to sit in for some of the other talks, which included
Me and my fellow Policy and Engagement Officer Apaar came last, facilitating a workshop on how to approach engagement with MPs over airport expansions, which the NAE! campaign has selected as one of their core tactics. During the workshop we discussed how to engage with sceptical MPs and how to counter voices from the aviation industry, the importance of research and how to prepare for a meeting. In addition, we explored ways of getting politicians to commit to meaningful ‘SMART’ asks that tie them to taking action. In general, the day was an inspiring instance of what can happen when very switched on, engaged and informed people come together around a common goal, and at Hope for the Future we’re excited to see how successful the campaign is going to be.