A major new aviation report argues “claims about the economic benefits of connectivity are not founded on solid evidence”

A major new report The Economics of Airport Expansion‘, launched  in the House of Commons in April, challenges the view that improved international air connectivity will necessarily bring significant benefits to the UK economy. The report by the independent Dutch consultants CE Delft, and commissioned jointly by WWF, RSPB and the Heathrow campaign group HACAN, argues that “claims about the economic benefits of connectivity are not founded on solid evidence.”

The report was launched at packed meetinghosted byZac Goldsmith MP.The speakers included Jasper Faber from CE Delft, the main author of the report.

The report is timely.  The Airports Commission, set up by the Government under Sir Howard Davies, has been charged with looking at whether the UK, and London and the South East in particular, requires additional airport capacity in order for the UK to maintain its first rate international links over the coming decades.  At present it is actively looking at evidence on aviation connectivity .

CE Delft concluded: “many studies find a positive correlation between aviation and economic growth, but no causal relationship between connectivity and economic growth was found”.  Their analysis of the evidence shows that increasing connectivity is less beneficial for developed countries than for developing economies.  They also found that extra connectivity in cities that are already well-connected, like London, does not necessarily deliver measurable or substantial economic benefits.

The report also challenges the way that the costs and benefits of airport expansion have traditionally been measured. It points out gaps in the Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) which should “provide an overview of current and future pros and cons of a particular project for society as a whole (public, private sector and government) as objectively as possible.” It argues that the DfT’s current Cost-Benefit Analysis method still omits key social or environmental costs, resulting in an overestimation of economic benefits.

There are also enormous uncertainties in CBA work as it must predict future demands and costs. For example, the Department for Transport estimated that Heathrow expansion would produce £5 billion in economic benefits but when the New Economics Foundation re-ran their figures using different predictions for growth and oil prices but the same models they found that Heathrow expansion would result in a £5 billion loss.

This report also looks at some of the economic arguments being used by proponents of airport expansion and finds them to be miscalculated and exaggerated, distorting the aviation debate.

RSPB economist Adam Dutton said, “This report highlights the uncertainty surrounding the economic benefits of aviation expansion. New airport infrastructure could destroy internationally important and increasingly scarce habitat, such as that found in Thames estuary, and jeopardise the UK’s legally binding greenhouse gas emissions targets, all for uncertain economic benefit and a net loss to society. More specifically, this report urges caution about automatically linking improved connectivity with economic performance. While some base level of connectivity is important for any economy, this report demonstrates that the benefits of extra connectivity in a city as well connected as London are doubtful and difficult to demonstrate with certainty”.

Jean Leston, head of transport policy at WWF, said, “The methods for assessing the benefits and costs of new runways and airports are hopelessly inadequate and open to gross manipulation.  CE Delft has instilled a dose of reality into the airports debate.  We hope that the Airports Commission and the Department for Transport will adopt the better SCBA methodology and require development proposals to do the same.”

HACAN Chair John Stewart said, “This report could not be more timely.  It comes just as the Airports Commission is asking the hard questions about airport capacity and connectivity.  And its message is clear:  new runways may not be nearly as important for our economy as is commonly assumed.”

Cost Benefit Analysis does not take social and environmental costs into account
Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) is a widely used tool for complex decision making but it has limitations and is easily manipulated to favour particular results.
The complexities of CBA can lead to double counting and an overestimation of benefits since they tend to be easier to measure in monetary terms than costs. Indeed, some costs are currently excluded, such as landscape impacts, water pollution and biodiversity.
CE Delft recommends CBA could be improved to include external effects, such as social and environmental impacts, that are not internalised in market prices. CBA should also avoid overestimating the economic benefits.
For those of us living in the Thames Estuary for whom our biodiversity, iconic landscapes, historic heritage and water are of paramount importance to us, the CBA finding is extremely worrying indeed. When these effects are not taken into consideration, it could lead to a large under-estimation of the costs of an airport investment project. Environmental values must not be underestimated!
As Jean Leston at WWF says “We hope that the Airports Commission and the Department for Transport will adopt the better SCBA methodology and require development proposals to do the same”

A brief 2 page summary of the report please click here

Full 55 page report please click here

Saving special places Great Expectations and profound concerns

A flavour of what it’s like to face the obliteration of your local landscape – with all its connections and heritage – not to mention internationally important wildlife.  Friends of North Kent Marshes was formed in the heat of battle ten years ago when last the airport planners came calling.

Please click on link below to read

 Saving special places Great Expectations and profound concerns

Our thanks go to RSPB Andre Farrar who started the RSPB Saving special places blog.

Read his bio below:

This blog is where you can read about the places we work to protect and the people on the front line.  The scope of this blog covers planning, the policies and legal framework that exists to protect the best places for wildlife and of, of course, the individual cases that are the daily work of staff across the UK.  We help BirdLife International partners overseas – and you will be able to read contributions from Europe and further afield.

Of course – probably of the best way to save a site is to a acquire it as a nature reserve – this blog will sometimes feature our reserves and the role they play in future of our wildlife, but the full story of the RSPBs network of nature reserves is told elsewhere: http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves

This blog features the contributions of many individuals – I will have the pleasure of holding the ring and acting as the narrator to this compelling story.  So a little about me; I’m Andre Farrar and my first active involvement with the RSPB was in the late 1970s as a volunteer with our Leeds Local Group http://www.rspb.org.uk/groups/leeds.

I was one of many who wrote to their MPs as part of the campaign to get the best outcome for what became the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981).  It wasn’t perfect but it was a good start.  Thirty years on, I’m still in the thick of it campaigning for our protected areas and special places for wildlife.  Are we winning?  Read on and find out, and see how you can help.

Mark Reckless MP launches NO Estuary Airport Petition

Mark Reckless, MP for Rochester and Strood has launched a No Estuary Airport Petition to make sure the voice of the people of the Hoo Peninsula is heard loud and clear in City Hall and Westminster.

Ours is the marsh country down by the river within as the river winds twenty miles of the sea…

Please add your voice to ours. If we all act together we can save this special place for wildlife for future generations to enjoy, and ensure that this shocking act of vandalism never goes ahead.

How can you help?

PLEASE sign Mark Reckless MP’s petition here

then

PLEASE Step up for nature and help us get the message across to the Secretary of State for Transport.

RSPB have prepared a template e-mail for you to send to the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin MP.
A copy will also be sent to your local MP.

NO estuary airport ever!

Plans for an airport in the Thames Estuary are unsustainable and threaten a world-class coastal wetland.

Once again the nightmare of a Thames estuary airport has reared its ugly head! Communities in the Thames estuary have been here before and every time it has been rejected. There is massive opposition to the construction of an airport anywhere in the Thames Estuary because of the immense damage it would cause to the area’s internationally important wildlife and the wider environment.The whole issue was exhaustively investigated in the run up to the publication of the previous Government’s Aviation White Paper (2003). All the key players, including the aviation industry, contributed, and the idea of an airport in the Thames Estuary was ruled out. In addition to the unprecedented environmental damage and the resulting legal implications, the investigation found that an estuary airport did not make economic sense, would not meet the requirements of the aviation industry and presented a significantly higher (up to 12 times greater) risk of ‘bird strike’ than at any other major airport in the UK. Recent statements and proposals by London Mayor, Boris Johnson, Norman Foster and others in favour of an estuary airport, do nothing to alter these findings. The threats and the risks remain the same. An airport in the Thames Estuary is unrealistic due to the ecological, environmental and economic impacts it would cause. As well as being hugely expensive,  an airport in the Thames Estuary would cause massive environmental damage, and there would be a significantly increased risk of birdstrike as the Thames Estuary is a hub for hundreds of thousands of migrant birds. Furthermore, a new hub airport in the Thames Estuary could have a very high carbon cost.

The RSPB fought its largest ever campaign against a proposal to site a new airport on Cliffe Marshes in 2003. These proposals, which were part of a Government review of airport capacity in the South East ahead of the White Paper, were eventually rejected.

To read the RSPB position statement please click here

Friends of the North Kent Marshes say No Estuary Airport here and on facebook also twitter
To watch the wonderful RSPB vimeo  ‘Keep the Thames full of life’ please click here

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