By Greg Foyster, Campaigns Manager Environment Victoria
Environment Victoria have several concerns about the total climate change impact of this third runway being downplayed in both the marketing material and the technical document itself.
The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from building a third runway will be increased air traffic. This is mentioned in the ‘Heritage and Climate’ display of the Melbourne Airport virtual portal but the actual greenhouse gas emissions are not specified, only construction emissions of 422 kilotonnes CO2-e over four years. This gives a false impression as to the total climate impact of building a third runway.
The technical document acknowledges the impact of air travel in the summary of key findings in Chapter B11 (p. 606):
Summary of key findings:
- A detailed greenhouse gas emissions inventory has been prepared for the construction and operation of Melbourne Airport’s Third Runway (M3R).
- This assessment identified a difference in predicted greenhouse gas emissions between the Build and No Build scenarios of 348 kilotonnes CO 2 -e annually by 2046.
- The biggest source of emissions is from aircraft during the Land and Take-Off cycle (LTO). Melbourne Airport has a limited ability to implement measures to reduce these LTO-related emissions but will continue working with airlines to reduce greenhouse gas emissions wherever possible.
While we understand the reasoning behind including only Land and Take-Off cycle within scope when doing the greenhouse gas calculations, we believe a proper assessment would go beyond calculating only the emissions during landing and take off. We note there is an increasing trend for projects to include the widest possible scope for emissions calculations, and believe a ‘Build vs No Build’ scenario should also model the emissions of increased air traffic beyond the landing and take off cycle. Given the size and importance of this project, the public should be given an idea of how it will contribute to increased emissions globally by further promoting fossil-fuel based air travel.
Greenhouse gas emissions from aviation currently make up a relatively small percentage of global emissions, but are difficult to decarbonise with current technology (compared to other sectors such as electricity generation), and at existing trajectories aviation emissions could make up 20% of emissions globally in 2050 (Cames et al., 2015). Since the bulk of emissions occur in international airspace, governments – and airports – can argue this is not their responsibility, and that they don’t need to factor it into decisions around airport expansion. But anthropogenic climate change is a collective global problem, and we believe decisions around expanding airports should take into account the broader effects of increasing air travel, not just emissions from the landing and take off cycle.
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Environment Victoria is located on Wurundjeri land and works across many Aboriginal nations. We pay our respects to Aboriginal elders past and present, recognise their continuing contribution to caring for country, and acknowledge that sovereignty was never ceded.