Climate Campaign Turns Down Airport: "Eco-Snobbery" or Drawing the Line?


Image credit: 10:10 Campaign

The 10:10 Campaign has been receiving massive attention in the UK, signing up everyone from government ministers to major corporations with pledges to cut their own CO2 emissions 10% by 2010. It almost won a vote in parliament to reduce the entire country's emissions by 10% too. So you'd think think they'd be pleased when they receive an application from the country's third largest airport, an institution that is creating power with biomass grown and burned on site; running an experimental electric car; installing energy efficient lighting, and buying all of its electricity from renewable sources by 2015. Don't count on it. In a move that's brought accusations of eco-snobbery, 10:10 turned the Manchester Airport Group down. Here's why. In their explanation of why 10:10 refused Manchester Airport, the organization applauds many of the airport's efforts—especially its commitment to go entirely carbon neutral by 2015. After all, as the campaigners admit, "430,000 tonnes of carbon emissions are not to be sniffed at."

But on closer inspection of the airport's plans, says 10:10, it was decided that it would be disingenuous to join when their planned emissions cuts almost completely ignore the impact of the flights coming to and from the airport. (Discounting taxiing to and from the runway.) If those flights' emissions were taken into account, says 10:10, then the airport's carbon neutral plans would only cover 15% of overall emissions—leaving by far its largest impact unchecked.

It's a tricky conundrum. The airport claims that those flight emissions are nothing to do with them, and to some degree they are right. Under the terms of 10:10, the airport is in principle only responsible for the emissions from its ground operations. But the campaign also specifically asks all groups and individuals who sign up to cut their air travel by 10%. Given the fact that Manchester Airport is planning a 50% increase in flights by 2015, it becomes hard to see how the airport can claim to be following the spirit of the campaign.

Needless to say, Manchester Airport disagrees, complaining to an industry lobby group about "eco-snobbery". (That complaint was later leaked to the press.) We'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Can a campaign like 10:10 ask an airport which is, in the end, in the business of flying, to cut its flights, or should it laud the group for the efforts it is making?

Tags: Activism | Carbon Emissions | Carbon Footprint | United Kingdom