Dear Editor, Your article BIA Stands Accused Over Misleading CO2 Figures (Post, December 4) and James Botham’s letter (Post, December 5) are in need of clarification.

Birmingham Airport has never suggested that it has reduced aircraft emissions per passenger; that’s the manufacturers and airlines’ job and an excellent job they are doing too.

Our community and environment report Growing Together is explicit on the first page in that “The best way of delivering on your promises is to be clear about what is achievable”. Let’s be clear about BIA. We do not own or operate aircraft so we cannot make promises about them (the same goes for trains, cars, nuclear power stations and anything else that the environmental lobby would like to attach to its argument).

However, within aviation, everyone has a part to play and there can be no room for complacency.

Politically, the EU has decided to include aviation in the European Emissions Trading Scheme. From 2012, aircraft operators will be covered by this scheme, with a cap at 97 per cent of 2005 emissions levels. From 2012 onwards, operators will have to surrender one allowance for every tonne of CO2 emitted on a flight to and from (and within) Europe.

Technologically, high-tech companies, many of whom are based in the Midlands, continue to commit money and some of the nation’s best engineers and scientists, to find new solutions that will reduce air travel’s contribution to global man-made emissions, and at the same time continue to make aircraft quieter.

Of course, as soon as one outlines this level of commitment, others will accuse the industry of promising “jam tomorrow”. It’s true that there are lots of clever wheezes “in the pipeline” but when judging what might happen in the future, it is always prudent to check an industry’s track-record.

If you burn less fuel, you emit less CO2. Aircraft have become 70 per cent more fuel-efficient than they were 40 years ago. Birmingham is proud to be home to many green fleets including Flybe’s Q400 and Embraer 195 aircraft, and Ryanair’s 737-800 aircraft.

In response to Chris Crean’s gripe about emissions from aircraft, and although we have never claimed the credit, it is extremely likely that the emissions per passenger for aircraft at Birmingham have reduced over the last couple of years. This is because more efficient aircraft, carrying more people per movement, are being introduced, and older, thirstier types with less than 50 seats are being phased out.

And that’s the paradox of the environmental movement’s mantra – that all aviation development is bad. James Botham says that he is not opposed to development in principle – but Birmingham’s is one of the smallest developments that one can envisage, and certainly the most proportionate. It also has real environmental benefits. Precisely what sort of development would he accept?

An extended runway at Birmingham would help Midlanders to depart from their own region in larger, more efficient aircraft. That would reduce the current wasteful situation where about 64 per cent of those in the Midlands who fly, pound the motorways to find other airports which can cater for the flights that are currently denied to Birmingham.

James Botham’s facts and figures are indeed from official reports – but those reports paint an absolute “worst case” scenario and assume that the engineers have downed tools and have stopped designing quieter aircraft. Whilst this is patently nonsense, we didn’t make any assumptions on noise reduction of the next generation of aircraft as it would have been manifestly wrong to make a guess at the improvements anticipated. However, using the “track record” argument, noise contours have significantly reduced in size over recent years, as noisier aircraft have been phased out and superseded by much quieter aircraft.

There were significantly more people living within the 1998 noise contours than we expect to be living within the 2030 noise contours with a runway extension – but we were not going to make a guess at the number when we did our research!

Improvements to aircraft noise performance are anticipated to continue into the future. However, the noise contours produced for the runway extension did not take account of these forecast improvements. The noise contours for 2030 therefore represent a worst case which is inconceivable.

In reality, noise will not increase significantly from the runway extension because it generates only a small increase in traffic. BIA implements one of the most onerous night flying policies in the UK and is committed to continue restricting operations during the sensitive night-time period.

Even without a runway extension, Birmingham Airport will continue to grow its passenger numbers. By 2030, a runway extension would probably only account for one additional flight per hour from the airport.

Without an extension, people will still travel – but by ‘bringing the passengers home’, there would be a reduction in stress on the rest of the national infrastructure (and consequent environmental and economic benefits), and there would be more jobs for local people.

Our proposals are fair and proportionate. We are open and transparent, we never claim the victories of others, and we never make promises that we cannot keep.

John Morris

Head of Corporate and Community Affairs

Birmingham International Airport Limited


Video conferencing is eco friendly

Dear Editor, Following your article on the advantages of video conferencing dated December 2nd, can I take the opportunity to reinforce the message that this medium is an effective business tool to cut CO2, save both time and money.

I recently joined colleagues at BT’s city centre offices at which we spent a half a day working with six participants from Norwich, who ‘virtually’ attended using the latest video conferencing technology. As a result, 176kg of carbon were saved, along with £500 of transport costs and 48 hours of travel time, all of which would normally be funded by public money. This was appropriate as the purpose of our meeting was to help develop a new web-based carbon reporting and management tool for the use by cities and local areas.

Keith Budden

Birmingham Environmental Partnership