PLANS to expand Stansted Airport have been struck a massive blow by the Government’s new emission targets, campaigners claim.

In a major breakthrough for campaigners against Stansted Airport’s expansion, the Government has agreed that all aviation emissions are to be subject to legal limits under the Climate Change Act.

The Government announced the new climate change target which aims to cut emissions by 78 per cent by 2035 when compared to levels in 1990.

However – for the first time – this carbon budget includes the UK’s share of aviation emissions, which includes international travel and shipping.

In wake of the Government’s announcement, campaigners – including Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE)  have written to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick, calling for an immediate delay on airport expansion.

“The pandemic has damaged the business capability of some airports and airlines, reducing their ability to invest, particularly in the innovation required to deliver net zero,” they write.

“However, it appears not to have affected airports’ appetite to pursue permission to expand.

“All of these expansion plans have the potential to increase greenhouse gas emissions and therefore run contrary to the recommendations of the Climate Change Committee (CCC).

SSE chairman Peter Sanders said: “This is a major cause for celebration and something we have long argued for.

“The Government finally seems to have recognised that if we are serious about tackling climate change, the environmental damage caused by the aviation sector can no longer be ignored.”

SSE has also sent a further submission to the planning inspectors who presided over the recent Stansted public inquiry.

The campaign group has highlighted the shift in government policy and argue that it would be wholly inconsistent with this policy to approve further expansion of Stansted Airport.

At this stage there is still no indication when planning inspectors will announce their decision on the Stansted public inquiry, or what that will be.

The Government decision to bring aviation emissions fully into a legal framework is in line with one of the key recommendations made by the CCC.

Another key recommendation was that there should be no further expansion of UK airport capacity until the sector could demonstrate that it had reduced its carbon emissions sufficiently to accommodate additional demand.

The CCC concluded that even with the aviation industry’s projections of new aviation biofuels and improved aircraft efficiency, the demand for flying would still need to be limited if the UK is to meet its climate change commitments.

A spokesperson for London Stansted Airport said: “The Government’s recent decision on the Sixth Carbon Budget usefully formalises the way emissions from international aviation are accounted for and is entirely consistent with our planning application and the case we set out during the public inquiry. 

“The Sixth Carbon Budget also supports the commitment we made in 2020, working with a wide range of partners across the aviation industry and supported by the secretary of state for transport, to reach net zero for UK aviation by 2050.

“We look forward to continuing to work with government to ensure that aviation plays a full part in meeting the UK’s commitment to net zero emissions by 2050 while we continue to create the jobs, travel opportunities and business connections that are so highly valued and vital in supporting the UK’s recovery from the devastating economic impacts of the Covid pandemic.”