No to Madrid and Barcelona airport expansions

by | 27 Jul 2021 | Members, Press Release

(photo credits: @Christine Tyler / Stay Grounded)

120 organisations call on the government to cancel the expansions of Madrid and Barcelona airports

  • The expansion of airport infrastructures and the growth of aviation are incompatible with climate commitments.
  • The proposed projects would have significant negative impacts on biodiversity and human health, and are unfeasible in a scenario of energy and aviation crisis.
  • The signatory organisations demand that the 3.4 billion euros budgeted for the expansion projects be invested in a mobility model that prioritises the modes of transport most used by the population as a whole and the most sustainable, such as the train.

Madrid, 27 July 2021 – A total of 120 social, neighbourhood and environmental organisations are calling on the Spanish Government to halt the expansion projects for the Adolfo Suárez – Madrid Barajas and Josep Tarradellas – Barcelona El Prat airports. With this demand, the groups are responding to the intense lobbying campaign being carried out by the airport manager AENA to obtain support in different areas, without any publicly presented project and with a total lack of technical, social, environmental, economic, financial and budgetary justification. The final decision on the future of these expansion plans, with an initial cost of some 3.4 billion euros and whose works would not begin until 2025, should be announced by the government at the next Council of Ministers on 30 September.

The projects to expand Madrid and Barcelona airports – not the only ones planned in Spain – are two clear examples of a transport policy focused almost exclusively on the construction of large infrastructures in favour of the most polluting means of transport, such as the aeroplane. This vision of mobility promoted by the government is contrary to the model we need to move towards in the context of the climate emergency in which we find ourselves. A model oriented towards the promotion of the most energy-efficient and low-emission modes of transport, in which investments prioritise the travel needs of the population as a whole and not the economic profitability of a few economic operators.

In view of the above, the organisations signing this press release express their opposition to the aforementioned airport expansion projects and call for their cancellation both to the Government and to the Autonomous Communities and municipalities involved, for the following reasons:

Climate and environmental impacts:

Europe has agreed to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.  Aviation is by far the mode of transport that generates the most GHG emissions per passenger carried. In 2019, Barcelona-El Prat airport generated 8.4 million tonnes of CO2, more than double all the emissions from the city’s energy consumption. Taking into account the planned capacity expansion – from 55 to 70 million passengers per year – emissions could increase by at least 33% according to a recent report by the Barcelona Urban Development Agency. Similarly, increasing the capacity of Madrid – Barajas (from 70 to 80 million) would mean an exponential increase in emissions. This is totally incompatible with European commitments and with environmental legislation at both state and regional level.

On the other hand, the expansion of airport infrastructures has a very negative impact on the surrounding ecosystems and fauna. This is particularly worrying in the case of Barcelona-El Prat, as the airport expansion is planned in the area of La Ricarda, an area protected by the Natura 2000 network. The extension of the third runway would also endanger the aquifer system that guarantees the drinking water consumption of the metropolitan area and the good state of the natural and agricultural areas of the Llobregat Delta. It should also be remembered that last February the European Commission opened proceedings against the Spanish State for negligence in the protection of the delta, and has asked both the Government and the Generalitat for explanations on the actions they are taking to preserve the area. To date, AENA has still not complied with the environmental compensation actions committed to in the previous airport expansion, set out in the 1998 environmental impact statement, and is presenting them again as if they were new in this new expansion, affecting the agricultural area and avoiding other impacts such as the increase in emissions.

Social and health impacts on the population:

Although often invisible, air transport and airport activity is a major source of ultrafine particles, soot and noise, among others. Numerous studies have shown how people living near airports are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular diseases, hearing impairment, sleep disturbances or impaired cognitive performance.

Speculative projects against the general interest:

In the context of the aviation and energy crisis and economic contraction, the investments presented, at a cost of approximately 3.4 billion euros, represent a speculative operations that fundamentally favours construction companies and banks, as well as AENA’s private shareholders (49%), in which some of the world’s largest investment funds participate.

In this sense, taking into account the uncertain prospects of global air traffic recovery and the fall in world oil production, on which aviation will continue to be dependent in the medium and long term, presenting investments in airport infrastructure growth can only be understood as a manoeuvre to hide AENA’s deep financial crisis.

These projects also respond to the interests of big real estate and mass tourism capital, which are trying to make a short-term profit in the current global crisis. A model that is at the origin of the increase in inequalities, the expulsion of housing, the destruction of local neighbourhood commerce, the precariousness and exploitation of labour, air and noise pollution, the exponential increase in CO2 emissions and the loss of agricultural and natural spaces.

For all these reasons, the undersigned organisations and collectives demand that the Government:

  • The indefinite halt of any expansion of airport infrastructures and aviation growth plans (both runway expansion, new terminals and new rail connections between airports) as well as the associated real estate projects of airport cities, a model that favours large capitals at the expense of the population and the planet.
  • The implementation of a plan to resize AENA, including the closure of airports that were already loss-making before the pandemic and the elimination of short-haul flights with rail alternatives, with the aim of avoiding the socialisation of the company’s losses at the expense of the public purse and the fulfilment of climate objectives.
  • The accountability in the management of transport policies in the general interest, leaving aside the private interests of entities such as AENA.
  • Investing everyone’s money in measures to protect public services and the most vulnerable essential sectors, such as transport, making these investments conditional on sustainability criteria.
  • The redefinition of its current transport policy, with the aim of building a fair, sustainable and resilient mobility model that meets the needs of the entire population and respects the limits of the planet, dedicating investments to those modes that are more socially and environmentally fair, such as the railways.

Press Contacts:

Pablo Muñoz Nieto – Coordinador campaña aviación Ecologistas en Acción (699 185 413)

Elena Iodate – Portavoz plataforma Zeroport (630 264 469)

Adrián Fernández – Coordinador movilidad Greenpeace (646 885 780)

Jaume Osete – Portavoz Red para la Justicia Climática (637 331 358)


Signing Organisations from the Spanish state:

Amigos de la Tierra

Ecologistas en Acción

Greenpeace España

SEO Birdlife

WWF España


Extinction Rebellion España

CIDES (Centro de Iniciativas de Desarrollo Ecosocial)

Asociación Española de Educación Ambiental

Fundación Renovables

Federació d’Associacions Veïnals de Barcelona FAVB 

Marea blanca Catalunya – Organitzacions per a la Justícia Global

Xarxa d’Economia Solidària

Girona Pel Clima

Acció Ecofeminista

Rebel·lió o Extinció Girona

Justicia Alimentaria

Ecologistes en Acció de Catalunya 

Extinction Rebellion Málaga

Assemblea de la Bici Sant Cugat

Revo Prosperidad Sostenible 

Fridays for Future Barcelona

Ecologistas en Acción La Rioja


La horda

Comuns Verds de Sitges

Hort Fortalesa

Voltes cooperativa d arquitectura sccl

Joves Ecosocialistes

Comuns Verds de Sitges


Alternativa Verda

Observatori del Deute en la Globalització

SCI Catalunya

Dia de la Terra

Arran de terra

Grup Ecolologista del nucli antic de Barcelona 

No Més Blocs-Salvem L’H

Associació de veïns La Barceloneta


Ecologistas en Acción Guadalajara

Col·lectiu El Tinglado 

Alternativa d’Esquerres de l’Hospitalet

Coordinadora Obrera Sindical

Consell de la Joventut de Barcelona

Asociación Animal Latitude

Associació Catalana d’Enginyeria Sense Fronteres

Asociación Entrepueblos/Entrepobles/Entrepobos/Herriarte

SOS Baix Llobregat i l’Hospitalet

Fundació Goteo

Plataforma por un Nuevo Modelo Energético

Partit Comunista dels Comitès Catalans


Fundació Roca Galès

Centro de Asesoría y Estudios Sociales (CAES)

Lliga per la defensa del patrimoni natural – DEPANA


Associació NOVACT

Marea Roja Alacant


Asamblea Popular de Fuerteventura

AVV Clot-Camp de l’Arpa

Ecologistas en Acción Sierras de Madrid

Salvem l’entorn de la Colònia Güell

Acció x Santa Coloma de Cervelló


Asociación Pedalibre Madrid

Ecologistas en Acción de Aranjuez

Stop Massificació L’H Cosme Toda

Colectivo Ciudadano de Urbanismo Corazón Verde de Chamberí

Intersindical Valenciana

Candidatura d’Unitat Popular (CUP) 


Fridays for future Manresa

Coordinación Baladre

Fem Sant Antoni 

Asociación Familiar Alonso de Ojeda – Madrid

Naturalistes de Gelida

La Casa Blava 

Pierre Rolle

Energetix Poble-sec

Extinction Rebellion Madrid

Extinction Rebellion Murcia 

Club de Debates Urbanos Madrid

Xarxa per la Justícia Climàtica

Fridays For Future Barcelona

Ecologistas en Acción de Pinto

Asociación Acción Clima

Compañía de las 3Rs (Reducir, Reutilizar, Reciclar)

Scientists for Future (S4F)

La Hidra Cooperativa

Assemblea de Barris pel Decreixement Turístic


Irídia, Centre per la Defensa dels Drets Humans

GOB Mallorca

PTP (Associació per a la Promoció del Transport Públic)

Associació Culinària de Pinyol Vermell

Observatorio Independiente de DD HH y Salud Mental Madrid

Flipas-GAM Madrid.

Fundación Mobilitat Sostenible i Segura

Extinction Rebellion Barcelona

Sindicat CTGE (Col·lectiu de Treballadores Grup E) 

Agrupació per a la Protecció del Medi Ambient del Garraf (APMA-EdC)

Plataforma salvatusarboles


Asturies Pol Clima

Ecoloxistes n’Aicion d’Asturies

Coordinadora Ecoloxista d’Asturies

Fundación Mobilitat Sostenible I Segura

Consell Nacional de la Joventut de Catalunya (CNJC) 

Ni un Pam de Terra

Asociación Vecinal Jarama

Comitè de Solidaritat amb Amèrica Central del Prat

La Garbancita Ecológica S. Coop. Mad.

Sociedad Española de Agricultura Ecológica y Agroecología (SEAE)


International Organisations:

 Stay Grounded (global)

Transport&Environment (UE)

Climáximo (PT)

Aterra (PT)