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Breaching Dublin Airport passenger cap 'unsustainable' during climate crisis, Dáil hears

Paul Murphy said rising numbers are not sustainable in the face of the climate crisis.

A TD HAS criticised the government for not stepping in to ensure that Dublin Airport does not breach its annual cap on passenger numbers, saying that growth in aviation figures is unsustainable in the face of the climate crisis.

Dublin Airport is subject to a cap on passengers in its terminals of 32 million per year. New figures for 2023 show that if connecting passengers were counted in the total tally, the number of passengers overall would exceed 32 million, sparking debate about how passenger numbers are being managed at the airport.

People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy raised the matter in the Dáil this morning before Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan and Minister of State for International Transport Jack Chambers.

“If all passengers going through the airport were properly counted, the airport would have breached the 32 million cap by more than a million. What action is your department going to take to ensure that the airport does maintain the passenger cap?” Murphy questioned the government ministers.

Chambers said that the cap was a condition attached to planning permission that was granted for Terminal Two and was primarily aimed at limiting traffic and pressure on infrastructure in the vicinity of the airport.

He added that interpreting and enforcing conditions of planning permission is a matter for the relevant planning authority, which in this case is Fingal County Council.

“The government has no role in such matters,” Chambers said.

Murphy pushed back, saying: “Are you seriously telling me that the government accepts the idea that if a passenger doesn’t set foot in Terminal One or Terminal Two, but they connect through the airport, that they aren’t a passenger going through the airport? Are you seriously telling me that we can exclude over a million people on connecting flights?”

The recent figures published by the Dublin airport authority record 31,908,471 “passengers through terminals” last year.

A further 1,081,800 passengers connected through the airport. Each connecting passenger takes two flights – one in and one out of the airport – but is counted just once in this figure.

532,222 were counted as “other passengers”. This includes transit passengers who landed at Dublin Airport but did not get off the plane and other categories of passengers, like Search and Rescue and Air Ambulances.

If taken altogether, the number would come out to around 33.5 million.

“You’re telling me that the government and a department led by a Green minister doesn’t mind? Says it’s nothing to do with us?” Murphy said in the Dáil this morning.

“It is not sustainable. In terms of climate targets, in terms of not burning our planet, it is not sustainable to keep expanding the number of flights that are going through to our country and other countries,” the TD said.

“Surely it should be a policy goal of the government to stop that happening.”

Operating flights burns harmful greenhouse gases that trap heat inside the atmosphere, causing global average temperatures to rise.

Dublin Airport’s ‘carbon per passenger’ figure for December 2023 was 1kg.

Thousands of scientists around the world have repeatedly warned policymakers that without immediate and substantial action to lower greenhouse gas emissions, the world faces devastating and irreversible consequences.

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