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Campaigners call on Manchester to reduce climate-wrecking emissions from Manchester Airport, and drop road building schemes

news release

Manchester Friends of the Earth welcomes the City Council’s ambition to halve carbon emissions from the city’s homes, workplaces and ground transport over the next five years and to reduce aviation emissions from Manchester Airport.

The council’s Climate Change Action plan and the Manchester Climate Change Framework were adopted at the Manchester City Council Executive meeting on Wednesday 11th March. (1)   Yet, council leaders are still planning to build new roads and expand Manchester Airport, schemes that will hard-wire more climate-wrecking emissions into our transport system.

Ali Abbas, Manchester Friends of the Earth joint co-ordinator said:

“We’re pleased that the council is starting to take the climate emergency seriously.  But if we’re going to halve emissions in the next five years, we need to stop adding to the problem.  That means ditching plans to build new roads and double passenger numbers at the airport.

“We also need to find new ways to fund the transition to a zero-carbon city. That’s why we’re calling for a Climate Emergency Levy on flights from Manchester Airport – a move which could raise £100 million a year to fund climate action in our homes, communities and workplaces.“

The Manchester Climate Change Framework commits the city to staying within our “15 million tonne carbon budget for 2018-2100, including reducing the CO2 emitted from our homes, workplaces and ground transport by at least 50% during 2020-25”. (2) The Manchester City Council Climate Action Plan commits to achieving a “reduction in aviation emissions from Manchester Airport which is in line with the Paris Agreement and the findings of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research.” (3) 

Manchester Airport is currently spending £1 billion on a Terminal 2 transformation programme which is due to open in phases over the next two-to-three years.  The Airport plans to double passenger numbers from 23 million in 2015 to 45 million by 2040 (4) and has plans to build more car parks even though more than 80% of passengers travel to the airport by car or taxi. To tackle climate change we need to fly less and for people who do need to fly to travel to the airport by public transport. (5) 

Following a successful legal challenge by environmental organisation Friends of the Earth, the government’s decision to expand Heathrow Airport was ruled “unlawful” by the Court of Appeal, on climate change grounds (6) and it has been reported that the Government has shelved the £25 billion strategy to expand motorways and major A-roads over the next five years, until later in the spring or even early summer as a result of the Court of Appeal ruling. (7)

The delayed Government road funding may see major road-building schemes being built across Greater Manchester including the North West Quadrant M60 scheme and the Goyt Valley bypass with potential costs of nearly £6 billion (8) despite road transport now producing the biggest share of climate-wrecking emissions.  

The aviation industry has committed to become ‘net zero carbon’ by 2050 whilst seeing an increase of 70% in passenger numbers by 2050. The industry plans to achieve this with a “significant investment in carbon offset” (9)  

However, a study for the European Commission  into United Nations-sanctioned offset projects found that three quarters of projects were unlikely to have resulted in additional emissions reductions (meaning they would have probably gone ahead anyway) and only 2 per cent had a high likelihood of being classed as “additional”. So, in most cases it seems clear that carbon offsetting doesn’t work in practice. (10) 

A review of aviation sector emissions by the Tyndall Centre (11) shows that to be consistent with the 15 million tonne carbon budget for Manchester’s direct CO2 emissions, UK aviation emissions need to stay below 1,200 million tonnes CO2 for the period 2020 to 2100.  That means emissions from flights must remain at 2018 levels until 2030 and then reduce to zero by 2075.

The review also suggests that the introduction of a local departure fee at Manchester Airport of £10 per departure, accompanied by an annual first flight waiver for local residents, “may raise the order of £100m per annum in total.” (11)


Contact for comments:

Pete Abel, Manchester Friends of the Earth.  Mobile: 07951 642858. Email:

Notes to Editors

1) See Agenda items: 4. Manchester Climate Change Framework 2020-25 and 5. Manchester City Council Climate Change Action Plan 2020-25.

2) Page 5. Manchester Climate Change Framework.

3) Manchester Council Climate Change Action Plan 2020-25 and Appendices

Appendix 1. Section 2.7

Deliver……Review and act on the findings of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research to assess how emissions from Manchester Airport can be managed in line with the Paris Agreement. Work with Manchester Airport Group and other local authorities with airports within their boundaries to lobby government to accelerate the decarbonisation of air travel.

To achieve……A reduction in aviation emissions from Manchester Airport which is in line with the Paris Agreement and the findings of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research.

4) Manchester Airports Group (MAG) has ambitious plans to grow its passenger market from 24 million trips per annum in 2016 to 45 million. (Para 227, page 62). Greater Manchester Transport 2040 Strategy

5)  Airport Technology, 11 February 2019,   Councils plan new multi-storey car park at Manchester Airport.  See also  “Mode of transport used figures” 2017. [Page 40]. Manchester Airport: Private car 55.9%, Taxis 25.1% 

6) Press release: Friends of the Earth wins campaign to protect the climate from Heathrow Third Runway. 27th February 2020. 

7) Climate fears halt smart motorway plans (The Times, 9th March 2020)

8) Guardian, 13th June 2019. Andy Burnham reveals 2038 carbon target for Greater Manchester. 

“almost £6bn of road schemes are being mooted in the region, including £5.4bn for an extension to the M60 and M62 near Bolton and £477m for a motorway link through the Goyt valley in Stockport. On Wednesday Manchester city council announced plans for a £9.1m revamp of Great Ancoats Street, a key commuter route just outside the city centre, which did not include any provision for cyclists.” 

9) Sustainable Aviation, 4th February 2020, UK Aviation commits to Net Zero Carbon emissions by 2050.

10) Friends of the Earth briefing: Does carbon offsetting work?

11) Tyndall Centre briefing: Aviation Sector Emissions and the Manchester Climate Change Framework

12) See also Friends of the Earth: Aviation and climate change: our position 

13) Manchester Friends of the Earth is an award-winning environmental campaign group, raising awareness and lobbying for policy changes at a local, regional, national and international level. The group consists entirely of volunteers, and its campaigns are funded by membership fees and individual donations. Up-to-date information is available on the group’s website: Manchester Friends of the Earth is a Licensed Local Group of Friends of the Earth, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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