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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Aviation Emissions and Consultation on the Melbourne Airport Masterplan

Last night I attended the last public consultation on the Melbourne Airport Masterplan which involves substantial expansion of the terminals, roads and a future 2nd east-west runway. And complete silence on aviation emissions, except when I pushed the Environment Manger to reluctantly concede this impact.

Tick the Box consultation

First thing to note that all the consultation forums have occurred in Hume or Brimbank when direct flightpath noise and pollution impacts will also be felt in the northern suburbs of Moreland. Moreland residents have been disenfranchised by a failure to advertise forums more widely.

These forums are done with individual conversations, with all the power being held by the authority due to the individualisation of the discussions. A Town Hall meeting with presentations and then question and answer is a much better format for empowering community discussion as it allows for community debate and airing of issues publicly that might not be dealt with on an individual conversational level.

Aviation Emissions

The second thing to note is that airport expansion leads directly to growth in passengers, growth in the number of flights which massively increases greenhouse gas emissions and the climate impact from aviation. The climate impact of aviation is estimated to be 2 to 3 times greater than the impact of CO2 emissions from a flight.

A return flight Melbourne to London is estimated to cause 9 to 11 tonnes of CO2 equivalent climate impact per economy class passenger, and even more for 1st class and Business class passengers.

Although the airport expansion includes increasing sustainability criteria for on ground infrastructure, this in no way counteracts the increase in aviation emissions. Use of a tri gen gas system, LED lights, water recycling and reuse, a future solar farm are all well and good, but the super wicked issue here is growth in aviation climate impact, which affects us all.

I was able to speak to Nick, the airport environment manager, who conceded that airport expansion will increase the number of flights and passenger kilometres and aviation emissions. He argued that aviation emissions is not the purview of the Airport Corporation, even though expansion will directly lead to the increase in these emissions.

Source: pp45 Part B Preliminary Draft Masterplan 2018 Melbourne Airport

And that’s the super wicked problem. No-one is taking responsibility for reducing aviation emissions.

International flights are governed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation which has been super slow to act, and prevents increasing tax on aviation fuels for international flights. Australian Government is responsible for domestic aviation emissions and taxes on domestic fuels, but they too have failed in stepping up regulation.

There is almost a complete silence in Australian politics on this issue or in trying to address aviation taxes or ticket pricing to include the costs of the climate impact of aviation.

Airports are now mostly privatised, and while they greenwash their own infrastructure, are engaged in boosting business through increasing flights which increases aviation emissions. They too fail to take responsibility even in an advocacy role to government and airlines.

What we need

We need to have airport infrastructure bans, promote alternative modes of travel including fast rail, and virtual travel and teleconferencing.

Choosing not to fly should be promoted as a highly ethical option.

Climate scientists say we need to do demand management of aviation, to limit our use of aviation. This can be done through personal carbon budgets, a carbon tax or frequent flyer levy, and realistic pricing in the cost of airline tickets of climate impacts of aviation.

Read Mark Carter’s excellent brochure - The Elephant in the Sky - on aviation emissions and climate change, written from an Australian perspective.

What a god awful mess.

What can you do?

  • Think about not flying, or at the very least flying less
  • Oppose the Melbourne airport expansion as it will directly increase Australian contribution to aviation emissions.
  • Support fast rail proposals for regional and interstate travel.
  • If you do fly to a conference or visit family overseas, use economy class and make it a multipurpose trip perhaps incorporating a holiday as well to limit the number of flights you might do.

Want to learn more?

Visit Mark Making in a No Fly Zone at and download the 32pp brochure: Elephant in the Sky (PDF) or the 4pp A4 Aviation Factsheet (PDF)

Visit the Stay Grounded website at and read the 13 Steps for a Just Transport System and for Rapidly Reducing Aviation, and if you are an organisation, sign on to this statement.

Peruse my 2017 slide presentation on Why we need to fly less: aviation, carbon offsets and climate change

Melbourne Airport - Environment Strategy Banner.
Note absence of any mention of aviation emissions, and what expanding the airport will do for increasing flights, passenger kms, aviation emissions and climate change. A big silence.

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