Aviation Environment Federation says Airports Commission recommendations are beset with environmental hurdles
The Aviation Environment Federation (AEF), the national environmental campaigning organisation representing community groups around the UK’s airports, has urged the Government to reject the Airports Commission’s recommendation of a third runway at Heathrow, given its insurmountable environmental impacts and widespread opposition. “Every government that has ever considered Heathrow expansion has ruled it out once the full scale of the environmental impacts has become clear.” On noise, AEF says people living around Heathrow are already exposed to more noise than at any other airport in Europe. Hundreds of thousands of people around Heathrow would be overflown for the first time if a new runway is built. On air pollution AEF says the UK has a legal obligation to meet EU air quality legal limits and the Airports Commission still cannot say confidently whether or not air quality reduction with a runway would be legal. On carbon emissions, AEF says that according to the Airports Commission’s own analysis, a Heathrow or a Gatwick runway would, on current technology trends, lead to breaches in UK aviation’s CO2 emissions cap, even if the sector was included in a global carbon trading scheme. The only solution would be to limit growth at other airports – or (unpopular) to substantially increase the cost of flying.
Davies Commission recommendations beset with environmental hurdles, says Aviation Environment Federation
The Aviation Environment Federation (AEF), the national environmental campaigning organisation representing community groups around the UK’s airports, has urged the Government to reject the Airports Commission’s recommendation of a third runway at Heathrow, given its insurmountable environmental impacts and widespread opposition.
AEF is opposed to a new runway at any of the sites short-listed by the Airports Commission because all three options would breach CO2 limits and have unacceptable local environmental impacts.
Cait Hewitt, AEF’s Deputy Director said:
“The recommendation to expand Heathrow will be fiercely resisted by local authorities, MPs, communities and environmental organisations. Every government that has ever considered Heathrow expansion has ruled it out once the full scale of the environmental impacts has become clear. People living around Heathrow are already exposed to more noise than at any other airport in Europe. Hundreds of thousands of people around Heathrow would be overflown for the first time if a new runway is built. The Government should ensure that those people are fully consulted before deciding whether or not this is a price worth paying.” See link
In relation to the air quality impact of expansion, Cait said:
“The UK has a legal obligation to meet EU air quality legal limits and despite its last minute consultation on the issue the Airports Commission still cannot say confidently whether or not expansion would be legal.”
AEF also challenged the Airports Commission’s assessment of whether expansion is compatible with climate change targets , highlighting that according to the Airports Commission’s analysis all three of the options would, on current technology trends, lead to breaches in aviation’s emissions cap even if the sector was included in a global carbon trading scheme.
“Increased emissions from a second runway at Heathrow, like all the shortlisted expansion options, would breach the climate change target for aviation unless politically challenging measures are introduced to limit growth at other airports or to substantially increase the cost of flying.”
The Aviation Environment Federation is the leading UK organisation campaigning exclusively on the environmental impacts of aviation. We represent community groups and individuals around many of the UK’s airports and airfields. Further information can be found on our website.
A group of senior MPs around Heathrow airport recently launched a campaign to highlight the size of the population that could be overflown if a third runway is built
The Airports Commission has been unable to demonstrate convincingly how a new runway can be built without breaching the Climate Change Act and has made claims about the economic benefit of expansion that do not take into account the costs of keeping emissions from UK aviation to the UK’s Climate Change Act. The AEF’s concerns about the Commission’s analysis on CO2 are detailed in our recent report.
The Heathrow noise sweeteners that act as a smokescreen for third runway pollution
By James Lees
The Airports Commission has finally published its report on UK airport capacity, emphatically supporting a third runway at Heathrow over its rivals – a Gatwick second runway or the Heathrow Hub option (a runway on the end of one of Heathrow’s existing runways). The Commission’s recommendation for a third runway did come with the conditions of ending night flights and £1 billion needed for compensation. Both of these sweeteners will more than turn a few heads in West London to the possibility of a third runway. However, they also serve to draw attention from the environmental impacts the Commission doesn’t have an answer for.
To start with the Airports Commission has not placated concerns about aircraft noise which is the source of the vocal political opposition to Heathrow expansion (Heathrow currently has the rather dubious award of “most people affected by aircraft noise in Europe“). Rather than accepting that more flights would mean more aircraft noise, the Airports Commission has opted to disproportionately shift the noise to communities that are currently not over flown. According to the Commission’s own assessment, some 320,700 would have planes over their heads for the first time with a new runway. What’s important is that many of these people are simply unaware of the storm heading their way. Fortunately, a group of London MPs are trying to highlightthis issue.
Secondly, there is the very relevant issue of air quality, which was one of the main reasons that the Blair/Brown Labour Government was unable to advance plans to build a third runway, despite being fully behind it. Yet, the Airports Commission is still unable to say with any conviction whether a new runway could be built without continued breaches in the legal limit of air quality.
The Commission describes the air quality impact of a third runway as “significantly adverse”. Considering the Government estimates that the area around a two runway Heathrow will have the second highest levels of air pollution in the country by 2030, a third runway would move it into first place (another award Heathrow could add to its collection).
The Airports Commission of course says that the air quality impact could be reduced through various measures. However, the Commission’s consultants concluded that it “isn’t clear” whether Heathrow’s promise to not increase the number of cars accessing the airport is deliverable. The Commission then puts a lot of faith in an ambitious new Government plan to tackle air quality. We should find out whether this is vindicated in early 2016.
Finally, there is the small concern about meeting our national climate targets. Sir Howard Davies evidently gristles every time that CO2 emissions are mentioned. This was perhaps no more evident than when he deflected a question on managing CO2 emissions at the final report launch to a colleague of his. Sir Howard’s lack of interest in all things climate related also appears to represent the Airports Commission’s approach to the issue.
There is a recommended limit to the level of CO2 emissions from aviation that can be allowed in 2050 so that the UK as a whole can stand a chance of meeting its national climate change commitments. Unfortunately, the emissions from an expanded Heathrow on top of those from other airports will far exceed that limit according to the Airports Commission.
The Government’s advisors on climate change say exceeding that limit isn’t an option and so aviation emissions will have to managed somehow. The good news is that according to the Airports Commission managing demand is possible with a new runway. The bad news is that the cost of emitting a tonne of carbon dioxide would have to rise from around £5 today up to somewhere in the region of £300 per tonne in 2050 (or even up to £1050 in some scenarios). That would mean increases in ticket prices of around £500 for a return flight to New York, or in other words an end to the “democratisation of air travel“.
Rather than comment on the feasibility of such a policy, the Airports Commission has left the challenge to the Government. Incidentally, Heathrow could also retain another award with a third runway. In 2012, it was the airport responsible for most CO2 emissions in the world. To have any chance of keeping hold of that award it will need to expand to keep up with the likes of Dubai and Istanbul.
So today’s announcement may change the views of some people on Heathrow expansion, but in no way have the environmental challenges been addressed. Now it is over to the Government.
This post originally appeared on Huffington Post UK.