Opinion pieces

Dublin Airport’s Expansion Plan Must Be Rejected

Dublin Airport authority (DAA)’s expansion plan creates an unacceptable level of exposure to noise and air pollution for north Dublin residents, and facilitates a massive expansion in aviation emissions. Astonishingly, the plan contains no proposals to reduce or mitigate these impacts in the surrounding areas. It is an affront to the affected communities, and Ireland’s climate efforts. It must be rejected.

People living in north Dublin are already dealing with serious noise pollution issues due to the volume of flights in and out of Dublin Airport. Enforcement complaints are under active investigation by Fingal County Council in relation to alleged breaches of the new north runway’s planning permission (DAA rejects any claim that it is in breach of planning). Some locals report they can smell aviation fuel in the air and fear there are public health risks.

The DAA failed to hold sufficient public consultations or distribute leaflets about the expansion plan, or indeed include any measures to reduce or mitigate the localised impacts of expansion in their application. Few would be surprised that the resulting plan gives little to no consideration to the impact on local communities. It is to the credit of local councillors, TDs, and resident associations like the St Margaret’s Ward Forum group, that local communities were duly informed.

The DAA plan foresees an unacceptable 24 per cent increase in aviation emissions. Any increase in aviation is incompatible with stopping runaway climate change. While currently responsible for 3.8 per cent of the EU’s CO2 emissions, the global warming potential of aviation is not limited to CO2 emissions alone. The warming effect of aviation is up to three times higher when other emissions from flying are considered. Even with the impact of sustainable aviation fuels, more flights will increase emissions in the short- to medium-term. We need demand management measures like the passenger cap now, more than ever. There is, therefore, no justification for increasing emissions by 24 per cent in this context, particularly as other sectors make difficult but important changes to achieve reductions.

Continued failure to hold the aviation industry to account for the emissions it produces emboldens operators and airlines alike to plan their operations in blind pursuit of economic gain without giving a second thought to the social or environmental impact of their activities. The DAA has repeatedly suggested that not expanding will “hurt” their sustainability goals. It betrays a view that the authority bears no responsibility for the emissions produced by the airlines it hosts, which can only be true as long as the authority ignores the indispensable role it plays in facilitating those emissions. While DAA’s efforts to reduce emissions per passenger such as building a solar power farm and electric charging should be applauded, the resulting emission savings will be small when compared with increasing flight emissions. Until the industry is held accountable, aviation will remain the wild west of climate action.

It has been suggested that Ireland would forego economic growth and thousands of jobs if the passenger cap were not increased. Job creation in Ireland is thankfully not contingent on endless expansion in aviation, and more jobs can and will be created as we transition to a greener economy. They may be created, for example, in domestic production of sustainable aviation fuel or works to improve transport links to and from the airport. In the absence of a legitimate reason for increasing the passenger cap that justifies its significant social and environmental impacts, the application cannot be approved. The profound failure by the authority to be accountable for the increased noise and air pollution and emissions in their expansion plan is regrettable.


February 6, 2024

first published

The Irish Times

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