Justin Francis, the chief executive of Responsible Travel, believes air travellers should fly less and make sure each journey contributes to conservation and local communities, and that allowing the regional airport to expand to carry 12 million passengers annually – and eventual rise to 20 million the should be vetoed.
Mr Francis said: “Zero tax on aviation fuel and cheap flights are a disaster for the environment. Expanding Bristol Airport to accommodate will vastly add to pollution.”
He also welcomed the Government inquiry to address tourism problems - a parliamentary scrutiny that is investigating the environmental impacts of tourism in the UK and abroad both of which Mr Francis say will be exacerbated if the regional airport expands.
The inquiry will consider whether the UK government should play a leading role in offsetting the damage caused by the tens of millions of Britons taking holidays abroad and focus on the hefty carbon footprint of aviation and cruise companies.
Mr Francis commented: “It remains to be seen how committed global governments are to taxing aviation, but this is essential if we are to reduce the numbers of that people fly.”
Responsible Travel was one of the first travel agencies to introduce carbon offsetting – allowing supposedly guilt-free flying if you made up for pollution with green deeds.
This policy has now been dropped. “We simply need to fly less – travel by train, take holidays closer to home, or fewer holidays with flights and staying longer, as well as making carbon reductions in lifestyles,” Mr Francis added.
If Bristol Airport is allowed to expand it could mean 97, 373 aircraft movements in a 12-month calendar period: a flight almost every three minutes and an average of 9,500 extra vehicle movements every day.
To cope with this, permanent airspace change proposals could be set to follow and a greater number of communities across Somerset and Bristol may be flown over by thousands more planes, while millions more cars will pour through the region, widely affecting South West.
Wrington-based environmental consultant, Dr Adrian Gibbs, questioned the airport’s ability to offset its carbon footprint. His website Insomnia.co.uk states that to mitigate the extra emissions of CO2, Bristol Airport would have to reforest an area the size of North Somerset ever four months.
A recent UK landmark study also showed that exposure to air pollution is linked to the stunting of babies’ brain growth during pregnancy. A smaller gestational birth size is associated with conditions later in life, including, coronary artery disease, type two diabetes and asthma.
Study lead, Paediatrician, Professor Steve Turner stated that nobody knows the baseline of the amount of pollution that can cause harm and has called for legislation, taxation and someone to champion cleaner air.
The advisory Committee on Climate Change (CCC) recently stated the UK's planned increase in aviation needs to be curbed to restrict harmful CO2 levels which contribute to global warming.
Melanie Greenwood is a freelance journalist.