Wellington Airport expansion plan baffles climate change experts

Despite messages to reduce air travel, Wellington Airport is planning for 25 per cent more flights by 2040. 

Its plan for a $1 billion upgrade, released yesterday, says the airport also has a target for 30 per cent less carbon emissions from operations by 2030 and almost double the amount of people using the airport in the next 20 years.  

Experts say the plan for more flights does not align with reality. 

Victoria University professor James Renwick, who has contributed to the work of the  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said increasing flights was wrong in the context of climate change.  

READ MORE:
Is it time to scrap Airpoints?
Where are the large electric aircraft?
40000 protest at Parliament for climate action
Climate strike: Why they marched

ROSA WOODS/STUFF
Airport chief executive Steve Sanderson outlines the airport's development plans.

"We need to be looking seriously at reducing flying, not increasing flights or arrivals to Wellington," he said. 

That $1b could be better spent elsewhere in the city, Renwick said. "There will be quite a few objections to this, and I'd hope it doesn't go ahead."  

The airport's 2040 masterplan, released on Monday, says achieving the 2030 target while expanding its operation would require  it to adopt "energy-efficient and sustainable construction" in its projects. 

It was also supporting airline partners to reduce fuel consumption, and new generation aircraft would be lighter, more efficient and able to fly further, it said. 

Wellington Airport's plan for a $1 billion upgrade says the airport also has a target for 30 per cent less carbon emissions by 2030.
ROSA WOODS/STUFF
Wellington Airport's plan for a $1 billion upgrade says the airport also has a target for 30 per cent less carbon emissions by 2030.

Auckland physics professor Shaun Hendy said to plan for even more air travel by 2040 didn't stack up. 

"These plans don't look realistic without a massive offsetting plan in place." 

Even with future improvements to aircraft efficiency, Wellington's "carbon neutral" 2030 goal would be hindered or even impossible with increased flights.

Hendy estimated that net zero carbon 2030 goal wouldn't be possible without several new, national park-sized areas of forestry. 

Victoria University professor James Renwick says we need to be flying less, not expanding for more.
VIRGINIA WOOLF/STUFF
Victoria University professor James Renwick says we need to be flying less, not expanding for more.

It seemed the airport was one of many organisations grappling with the challenge, he said. 

"In the aviation industry it's very clear that things are a bit murky. There's a responsibility for them to lead the way, and start factoring in these things properly."  

Wellington Airport spokesman Greg Thomas said future aircraft would carry more passengers and would also be 20-30 per cent more fuel efficient. 

"Electric planes will be introduced onto domestic routes over time." 

Extending the runway could also reduce the number of forecast flights by 2040 as it would open up efficient, direct international routes, he said. 

The airport was committed to reducing emissions.

"We are targeting a 30 per cent reduction in our carbon emissions by 2030 while expanding our operations through reducing energy consumption and efficient design of our facilities." 

 

Auckland professor Shaun Hendy refrained from flying for a year to reduce his carbon footprint.
SUPPLIED
Auckland professor Shaun Hendy refrained from flying for a year to reduce his carbon footprint.

Stuff