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File photo of Dublin Airport Shutterstock/BW Press
Dublin Airport

'I'm not rejecting science, I'm supporting the economy': DAA boss defends plan to increase flights

DAA wants to increase the annual number of passengers at Dublin Airport by 25%.

LAST UPDATE | 7 Feb

THE CEO OF DAA has defended plans to increase the number of passengers at Dublin Airport by 25%, claiming it won’t necessarily increase emissions.

DAA has applied to increase the annual number of passengers at Dublin Airport from 32 million to 40 million – in a move that could jeopardise a commitment to make the airport net zero for carbon emissions by 2050 at the latest.

However, DAA CEO Kenny Jacobs today claimed that an increase in emissions would be “minimal… if any”.

“People have asked how is that going to be possible? It’s possible because the only number that really matters is our commitment to be a net-zero business by 2050, to reduce our emissions by 51% by 2030.”

Jacobs said using more sustainable aircraft and fuel would help offset the planned increase in flights.

Jack Chambers, Minister of State at the Departments of Transport and Environment, believes the 2050 net-zero goal can still be met.

“Lifting a cap and facilitating more flights is in the context of more fuel-efficient aircraft, really ambitious targets on sustainable aviation fuel, which we have to meet in an EU and international context,” Chambers said.

Both men were speaking at a press conference to outline measures being taken to make Dublin and Cork airports more sustainable.

Climate action

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

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. 

Other sectors of society, such as the agriculture industry, have expressed unease at plans to increase flights while they are coming under pressure to reduce emissions.

Ireland has committed to a 25% cut in greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture by 2030, with significant reductions also necessary in areas like energy, transport, buildings and land use.

“I understand there’s a lot of anxiety amongst the farming community and different sectors of our society and our economy, but it’s about bringing people with us and working with sectors of our economy so that we can make decisions on sustainability and on climate action,” Chambers said.

Asked about the sustainability of Dublin Airport’s transport plans this morning, Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan said cutting emissions will be challenging but that it can’t be weighted unfairly towards measures that impact ordinary people.

Speaking to reporters at the launch of a new funding plan for walking and cycling routes, Ryan said: “It won’t work if it’s all on the consumer end, if it’s all ‘are you doing the right thing?’”

He added, however, that the every sector, including aviation, must “play its part… there’s no opting out.”

2.75266103 Jack Chambers, Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan, and Hugh Creegan, National Transport Authority deputy chief executive, cycling at the launch of new funding for active transport projects PA PA

‘We are not greenwashing’

Jacobs earlier told the DAA event that an airport could reduce its number of flights and still increase emissions depending on the type of aircraft and fuel being used.

When pushed on how an increase in flights would not increase emissions, Jacobs said: “I’m not rejecting science, I am supporting the economy.”

Jacobs denied that DAA, which also operates Cork Airport, is “greenwashing”.

We will never be greenwashing, we are green-doing.

“Everybody seems to have an opinion on Dublin Airport’s infrastructure application at the moment, that it should stay capped. ‘How can you do that? What about emissions and what about sustainability?’

“The two can go hand in hand. You can grow an airport and you can improve sustainability at that airport and ultimately reduce the emissions for every passenger using that airport.”

Jacobs said if a cap remains on the number of flights at Dublin Airport, emissions wouldn’t be reduced and instead they would be moved “across the water to Manchester, to Edinburgh, and other airports. Why would we do that?”

DAA is expecting to receive an update from Fingal County Council on its application to increase flights at Dublin Airport within the next 12 days. A final decision may not be made at that point but the local authority is expected to give an indication of its thoughts on the plan.

Jacobs said he hopes the council will support the expansion plan, saying it could create thousands of jobs in the coming years.

Additional reporting by Lauren Boland

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