Briefing by AEF asks whether a new runway would breach legal limits for air quality
The AEF (Aviation Environment Federation) has published a short, easy to read, briefing on air pollution in relation to a new runway at Heathrow or Gatwick. It considers the importance of air pollution and how far the Airports Commission has gone to address the issue to date. The Commission says a full assessment and modelling of the local air quality impacts has yet to be undertaken. AEF says because air quality is a key issue for a new Heathrow runway, as the area already breaches legal air quality limits, the Commission should publish the modelling it will carry out of the local air quality impacts, including damage to human health. AEF says the future Government should assess the Commission’s recommendations in terms of their impact on human health. They should assess the risks to air quality legal limits from runway plans, and only permit a runway if it can be shown that legal limits on pollutants can already be met consistently, and are falling. The Commission is aware that improvements in aircraft engine emissions may take a very long time to happen; that reducing the amount of air pollution from road transport around Heathrow may take a very long time; and EU air quality standards may be tightened.
The briefing is at
Briefing: airport expansion and air pollution
Image credit: Annual nitrogen dioxide levels across London 2010 – Cleaner Air for London
Heathrow NO2 in ug/m3 per year
In the image above, yellow is above 40 ug/m3 and red is above 70 ug/m3
AEF’s new briefing sets out the issue of air pollution around Heathrow and Gatwick, the work done so far by the Airports Commissions and the remaining gaps.
Key points of the briefing:
- Air pollution is described by the World Health Organisation as the world’s biggest environmental health risk.
- The European Court of Justice has ruled that the UK must take action to ensure air pollution is reduced to legal limits within the shortest time possible.
- Sites around Heathrow and Gatwick have breached legal air quality limits in recent years with at least one site around Heathrow having breached the limit for nitrogen dioxide annually over the past 10 years.
- The Airports Commission’s appraisal found that all short-listed expansion options would have an adverse impact on local air quality unless significant mitigation measures are put in place.
- A full assessment and modelling of the local air quality impacts, however, has yet to be undertaken. This includes estimates of the size of the population that would be adversely affected.
- A runway should not be built in a location already breaching air quality limits or where there is a risk of it happening.
The Airports Commission’s analysis so far indicates that expansion at Heathrow could have a significantly adverse impact on local air quality.
The briefing is at
AIRPORT EXPANSION AND AIR POLLUTION
Would a new runway breach legal limits for air quality?
One of the Airports Commission’s appraisal objectives is that runway schemes must “improve air quality consistent with EU standards and local planning policy requirements”. This AEF briefing considers the importance of air pollution in the airport expansion debate and how far the Airports Commission has gone to addressthe issue to date.
The Airports Commission should:
• publish the modelling it will carry out of the local air quality impacts, including damage to human health
The future Government should:
• Assess the Airports Commission’s final recommendations in terms of their impact on human health, and the risks to air quality legal limits
• Only permit expansion if legal limits are already met consistently to avoid contradicting the requirement to reduce air pollution as soon as possible
• Aim to improve air quality around airports to WHO guidelines levels in order to protect public health