The government would struggle to meet its net zero carbon emissions target by 2050 if airports such as Luton continue to expand, a meeting heard.
Last week, Luton Borough Council's airport air quality task group was told that Stansted Airport is responsible for 3.7m tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) generation based on 30m passengers, according to Stop Stansted Expansion data.
Luton wants to increase its passenger numbers from 18m to 32m which would raise its CO2 emissions from 2.2m tonnes to 3.9m, based on the same rate.
But Luton Airport's owners still consider its expansion plans are sustainable, a view which was challenged by Wigmore resident Carolyn Cottier.
She said: “How can the government maintain its target of net zero emissions by 2050?
"With this degree of increase in CO2 it would be near impossible.”
However, it was considered beyond the group’s remit and more appropriate for the local authority’s team investigating climate change.
“This issue is specifically to do with (airport) expansion,” said Andrew Loosley, the council’s technical officer of air quality.
“We are looking at current operations of the airport. Climate change is an equally important issue to air quality.
“But the way it’s handled in terms of the responsibility of local government is slightly different.
“The borough council, along with other local authorities, has responsibilities under the local air quality management regime, which involves achieving certain legal limits for various pollutants.
“CO2 isn’t one of those pollutants. The air quality agenda is all about pollutants which have a direct health impact on exposed populations, such as particulate matter.
Mr Loosley went on to inform the task group about the aviation-related emissions uncovered in the air quality pollutant inventory for England.
“There’s a national pollutant inventory maintained by The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA),” he explained.
“That data includes aviation emissions. It can only be looked at in terms of national levels. The most recent report published this month is between 1990 and 2017 and it shows the pollutant outputs from different forms of aviation and also from support vehicles."
Labour Farley councillor Dave Taylor asked: “If we could have a picture for London Luton Airport, would it look any different?
Mr Loosley replied: “I wouldn’t think it would look hugely different for Luton. There’s a slight variation from airport to airport.
“It’s the specialist nature of calculating emissions from aircraft.
“Undertaking this would be a substantial time-consuming and costly piece of work, which would require specialist consultants to deliver.