Luton Rising are proposing a new approach to sustainability concerns around expanding the airport. Called Green Controlled Growth, the aim is to set fixed limits for a variety of environmental harms. Any expansion of the airport has to fit within those boundaries, or it can’t happen. Here’s the video introducting the idea:
As Luton Rising CEO Graham Olver writes, Green Controlled Growth “means we cannot grow unless we remain inside set environmental limits on carbon emissions, aircraft noise, surface access modes, and air quality. These constraints will be legally binding, overseen, and monitored by an independent body.”
This is a pioneering idea, and if done well, it would be an interesting innovation to come out of Luton Airport. As an airport wholly owned by the local council, it’s appropriate that Luton should be pioneering socially conscious approaches to aviation.
However, the bottom line with climate change is always the same: greenhouse gas emissions. Every source of climate emissions needs to be falling. No sector gets a free pass to increase emissions. And here’s where Green Controlled Growth can’t deliver on the most important thing. It only covers emissions from ground operations. Once planes reach cruising altitude, it’s not considered part of Luton Airport’s emissions, even if the fuel was pumped on board in Luton.
As Luton Rising acknowledge themselves, “by far the largest contributor to the airport’s overall climate impact is the carbon emitted by aircraft engines.” And that is not covered by the Green Controlled Growth strategy.
To put it another way, Green Controlled Growth can be seen as a way of managing local impacts, but not global ones. Expanding the airport is still going to lead to a massive increase in greenhouse gas emissions and climate impact.