Select Committee on Environmental Audit Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Manchester Airports Group Plc


  The Manchester Airports Group (MAG) comprises Manchester, Nottingham East Midlands (NEMA), Humberside and Bournemouth Airports. It is owned by the 10 local authorities of Greater Manchester.

  As the UK's second largest airport operator, MAG handled around 27 million passengers in 2004-05; 400,000 tonnes of freight are carried from our airports and 90,000 jobs are attributable to aviation in the areas where MAG operates. In sum, MAG contributes over £1 billion to the UK economy.

  MAG notes that the main focus of the Environmental Audit Select Committee's (EAC) inquiry into carbon emissions from transport is not aviation, but would like to make its response in relation to two relevant points.


    1.  Current progress being made by MAG on reducing carbon emissions in regards to:

(a)  surface access;

(b)  energy use;

(c)  aircraft on the ground; and

(d)  EU Emissions Trading Scheme.

    2.  Further steps to be taken by the aviation industry and the UK Government.

  The social and economic benefits derived from air travel are numerous—aviation promotes trade, investment and travel opportunities. As an island nation, the UK is particularly reliant on international aviation links. In addition, the North West, East Midlands and areas where MAG and other regional airports operate are peripheral to Europe. These regions need good transport infrastructure to operate effectively in the global workplace and provide a counterbalance to the over-reliance of the UK economy on the South-East. Indeed, the Government has identified Manchester Airport as the major international gateway for the North of England, the North Midlands and North Wales. This was also recognised by the three Northern RDAs in the "Northern Way" strategy.

  Manchester is the largest airport outside the South East and the only one outside that region where a significant range of both short and long-haul scheduled services have proved viable. Elsewhere in MAG, policy makers have identified the significant role played by NEMA as a UK hub for express air freight operations.

  At the same time, MAG recognises that should the growth in aviation be as forecast by the Department for Transport (4% every year for 30 years) and technological and operational improvements not yield sufficient environmental benefits, then aviation's contribution as a proportion of greenhouse gases will rise substantially. Indeed, although aviation currently contributes about 2-3% of global emissions, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has forecast that this will grow to between 5-15% in the future if no action is taken.

  MAG fully recognises that what will ultimately impede the growth of the aviation, and airports in particular, is not physical or financial constraints, but environmental ones. Carbon management has been identified as a major environmental issue for us as an airport operator and represents a challenge to our business, which we are fully prepared to meet. Indeed in 2005, Manchester Airport won a Northwest Business Environment Award for its climate change programme, and we continue to work hard at the local, national and European level to tackle the issue. We will discuss our work in more detail later in our response.


  The Committee has indicated that it wishes to evaluate the progress that the DfT has made against its targets. In this section, MAG would like to note the progress being made by our airports and our plans to further reduce our carbon emissions.

  Firstly, MAG has signed up to the industry-wide Sustainable Aviation strategy that commits us to tackling climate change and building a sustainable future, for instance by improving fuel efficiency and Air Traffic Management (ATM) systems. A wide ranging set of targets have been agreed for all sectors of aviation. MAG wants to go further than the goals stated in the strategy, and has taken the requisite steps.

  We are one of the lead players in the UK Airports Carbon Management group, which is supported by the Carbon Trust. The aim of the Group is to share best practice energy efficiency and carbon management issues. In 2003 the Carbon Trust set up 50 Carbon Management Pilot Projects across a range of industrial and commercial sectors. As a result of this, we are one of the few airports and few multi-business sites who have calculated, reported and modelled our CO2 emissions across the whole site. The Manchester site for instance has over 300 companies, 19,000 employees and occupies an area of 624 hectares. We now have a targeted and comprehensive plan to reduce carbon emissions and are in the process of delivering it. This is discussed in more detail below.

  Our carbon management strategy is part of our broader Environment Plan. We aim for a 10% reduction in our carbon emissions by 2015 and if we achieve our forecast of 40 million passengers per year by 2015, we will have seen a 60% reduction in CO2 emissions per passenger.

  The key sources of carbon emissions at an airport are on-site power and heating, off-site electricity generation, vehicles involved in the day-to-day operation of the airport (airside and landside), vehicles accessing the site and aircraft when they land and depart.

  Broadly speaking, the breakdown for our carbon emissions at Manchester Airport are as follows:

Energy use
Aircraft on the ground
Surface access
60%  6% of which is from staff travel)

(a)  Surface access

  Surface access is the largest contributor to CO2 and is our major priority for action. The increased demand for air travel has meant a resultant increase in surface access traffic, mainly private cars. How individuals get to and from the airport is a matter of personal choice but MAG does its best to influence that decision by investing in and encouraging the use of public transport amongst our staff and passengers. This is why all our airports have surface access strategies, are among the leaders in developing a range of measure to reduce car use, and also encourage the use of public transport. Further progress on this will however be greatly aided by strategic direction and funding from Government.

  The two bigger airports in MAG are NEMA and Manchester. NEMA is an airport in a rural area and this makes it especially difficult to access by public transport. Our target here is that by 2016, 30% of staff should access the Airport by means other than being a single car occupant, and that 10% of passengers should travel to and from the Airport by means other than a car. NEMA subsidises a range of bus services, including the express bus links to Nottingham, Derby and Leicester city centres. Progress towards our targets will depend on the opening of the new East Midlands Parkway Station, as well as our investment in schemes such as car sharing and taxi brokerage.

  At Manchester, public transport use has steadily grown and around 20% of staff and passenger journeys are now by public transport. Manchester Airport first published its Ground Transport Strategy in 1997, revised in 2004 to cover the period to 2015. Along with our Employee Travel Plan, this is considered industry best practice, with the strategy highlighted in the Government's 1998 Transport White Paper.

  Over £100 million has been invested in public transport since 1992. We have invested £60 million in the ground transport interchange development at Manchester Airport (now known as "The Station") and subsidise a quality bus partnership to a tune of £269,000 pa. This has proved very successful and has led to an increase in bus use from 2.5% in 1994 to 10% in 2005. More than that, 10% of our marketing budget is devoted to promoting car sharing, cycling and walking to work, along with public transport. The Airport is now a key hub both for the National express coach network and inter regional and local rail services. TransPennine Express now handle over £2 million rail passengers at the Airport, with use growing by nearly 30% from 2004. Fast, frequent and high quality rail services are attracting more passengers out of their cars. Our key indicator is the number of vehicle trips per passenger. This has fallen steadily from 1.84 in 1992 to 1.38 in 2004.

  There is however, only so much we can do as an airport operator to reduce carbon emissions from surface access. The other strand of our strategy is to work with our partners (including GMPTE) to increase rail capacity and also extend Metrolink.

  Both these campaigns aim to improve public transport, which is crucial to reducing carbon emissions. Manchester Airport rail station is already operating at capacity for most of the day with all available train paths into and out of the station fully used. We are now trying to fund a third platform. There are also major capacity bottlenecks in Greater Manchester (the Manchester Hub) that are preventing the growth of rail services in the region, and to Manchester Airport. Enhancing the rail capacity at Manchester Airport will provide passengers with more choice of destinations and a better frequency of services. It is axiomatic that where rail provision is good, people use the service. Indeed, it is estimated that the proposed Metrolink extension to the airport will carry around eight million passengers a year and remove 1.2 million car journeys from the roads. This extension to the hugely successful current system is a crucial element in our plans to reduce car use (especially by staff), better link to adjacent regeneration areas and open up new areas of the conurbation for airport employees.

(b)  Energy use

  With an installed boiler capacity of greater than 20MWs, Manchester Airport was included in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) as of January 2005. Rising utility prices have added a greater sense of urgency to tackling carbon emissions from energy sources. We now aim to obtain 25% of our electricity from renewables by 2010 and to reduce energy consumption by 25% from 2000 levels by 2015.

  Poorly designed buildings are recognised as one source of energy wastage. In our previous Environment Plan, we aimed to reduce the use of energy by 33% per square meter of floor space by 2000, based on 1990 levels. This we achieved, in part due to our latest office block that received an "excellent" rating from BREEAM (BRE's Environmental Assessment Method) for sustainability, and energy efficiency. At Manchester we are sponsoring and working on leading edge research into Eco Footprints. This if the first example in the UK of the concept being applied to either a business activity or transport facility.

  Meanwhile, NEMA is committed to heating its expanded terminal with biomass fuel from the national forest. This is a carbon neutral scheme which we expect to reduce our carbon emissions by up to 15%. At the same time, NEMA is working in conjunction with Nottingham University, where we are funding a PhD student who is researching the application of renewable energy to an airport site.

  As of April 2005, 10% of our electricity was purchased from renewable sources across all four MAG airports, saving 4,300 tons of carbon each year. This is well on the way to achieving our target of 25% by 2010, and we will continue to purchase renewable electricity and bridge the 15% gap by a mix of green tariff, investment off site and on site generation. Our initial feasibility study on the potential yield and energy production of growing willow or miscanthus on some of our land has been completed. The results were positive, and there are ongoing discussions with our partners to put in place grant funding.

  On this note, MAG would like to urge that the Government introduce tax incentives or grants for biofuels and renewable energy generation.

(c)  Aircraft on the ground

  As an airport operator, we do not have direct control over most aircraft emissions. However, we are in the position to improve taxiing and holding procedures so as to minimise emissions on the ground or in the take off and landing cycle.

  To this end MAG has introduced Continuous Descent Approaches (CDA) which are shown to deliver environmental benefits by aircraft using a steady and gradual descent on arrival. Secondly, we have made improvements to our taxiway and apron layout and air traffic operating procedures which are designed to minimise holding times, delays and congestion. This directly reduces fuel burn, noise and emissions.

  Looking ahead, we have undertaken trials around Manchester Airport and now have a database that records the taxiing time and CO2 emissions for each flight. From here we hope to have robust data that will allow us to improve our current procedures and set targets for reduction.

(d)  EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS)

  We previously lobbied the UK government hard to ensure the inclusion of aviation as part of the EU ETS. Like the Committee, we want to see this take place from 2008, and regret the opposition shown by other industries already in the EU ETS.

  On the European front, we are now working through our European trade association Airports Council International (ACI)-Europe to ensure that our views are represented in the Commission's final proposal. We support an ETS based on the inclusion of CO2 only, with appropriate flanking instruments to tackle other pollutants (en-route charging being one possibility). We accept that the climate change impact of aviation emissions go beyond CO2 and would support the introduction of other gases at a later stage, subject to the strength of scientific evidence and the inclusion of other industries too. We also strongly support an Emissions Trading Scheme with a global scope.


  The Committee has indicated that it wishes to assess if the DfT's targets are realistic and if there is a role for demand management in particular. In this section MAG would like to propose steps we feel the Government and industry should be taking to achieve its carbon emission targets.

  Firstly, the Government has recognised the importance of mobility to social and economic development, as well as the significant environmental impact of the transport industry. However the modes of transport have to be well-integrated, and well-developed to aid economic development and minimise the environmental impact of transport. To this end, MAG believes that the Government needs to invest more heavily in surface access (especially rail) where appropriate to reduce the reliance on private transport.

  Secondly, MAG believes that demand management for air travel is a crude instrument that will stifle economic growth and will hit the poorest, not those who least require air travel.

  However we believe demand management can play a part in reducing emissions from road traffic. But this is in the context of the prior provision of public transport, of adequate capacity and quality. Such an approach should also support a policy of using the strategic road and rail networks for long distance, intra-regional or strategic trips eg to give access to ports or airports.

  Demand management in the form of a tax on aviation fuel would contravene international agreements and there is, for that matter of fact, no fuel tax on shipping, there is only 3p/litre on "red diesel" for trains while buses benefit from Fuel Duty Rebate. Aviation also funds all its own infrastructure . Indeed a DfT study from 2002 found that aviation's external environmental costs are broadly equivalent to annual Air Passenger Duty (APD) of £1 billion/pa. Demand management in the form of air to rail substitution or electronic substitution eg use of video-conferencing would not reduce the reliance on, and the demand for international direct air links. Air-rail substitution is not always feasible at present, while technological progress has in fact gone hand-in-hand with the growth in demand for air travel, instead of replacing it. The provision of more direct air services from regional airports avoids passengers making air or surface journeys to the congested South East airports saving emissions, time and congestion.

  Instead of suppressing demand, MAG believes that we should encourage emissions trading and would like to see APD replaced by emissions trading—because this would incentivise airlines to use more fuel efficient aircraft.

  On the subject of the EU ETS, we acknowledge the leadership and commitment shown by the UK government during its Presidency of the EU. We would however like the Government to continue to prioritise this issue and work closely with our EU counterparts to ensure that speedy progress is made.

  Thirdly, for many other industries, individuals have an opportunity to change their behaviour and thereby reduce climate change whilst still enjoying the services offered (eg insulation of houses, whilst still enjoying the benefits of central heating). However with air travel, the average person can only choose to fly less, or practice carbon offsetting through initiatives such as Climate Care.

  MAG believes that the aviation industry needs a new initiative to encourage people to reduce their climate impact when they do fly (eg by taking less baggage with them, by travelling to airport by public transport) or by demanding less "frills" like catering and entertainment on board.


  MAG supports the Government's view that aviation is critical to the UK's future prosperity. The growth of regional airports such as Manchester has been shown to be vital for improving the competitiveness of the regions and a comprehensive range of air services are a core component of competitive cities. As key hubs in the regional and national transport network, airports provide an opportunity to develop as true multi-modal interchanges with the critical mass to support investment in much improved public transport.

  At the same time MAG fully accepts that carbon emissions from the industry are a challenge that has to be tackled, not least because environmental constrains could potentially impede the sustainability of our business.

  As an airport operator, we have, over the years improved our operational and business practices and hence reduced our carbon emissions. We intend to continue our present good practice (eg buying renewable energy), and also doing more to ensure that we reduce our carbon emissions (eg investing in our own renewable energy sources). We will also continue to work with our airline partners to reduce their carbon emissions at the airport, for instance by improving taxiing and holding procedures.

  In conclusion, MAG believes that the key steps that need to be taken to meet our carbon emission commitments are:

    —  delivery of the measures in the Sustainable Aviation strategy;

    —  implementation of integrated transport strategies;

    —  investment in public transport measures to provide an attractive alternative to private transport; and

    —  inclusion of aviation into EU ETS as soon as possible.

February 2006

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