Cross party committee of MPs recommends Government should not give go ahead on Heathrow expansion
The Environmental Audit Committee said the Government should not to give a runway at Heathrow the go ahead unless it is ready to make a ‘step change’ in its approach to environmental mitigation. Cait Hewitt, Deputy Director of the AEF (Aviation Environment Federation) commented that the EAC report “highlights the sheer scale of the measures that would be needed to prevent a third runway becoming an environmental disaster … AEF has repeatedly highlighted the need for Government to demonstrate how it will close the policy gap in relation to aviation emissions, and we welcome the EAC’s emphasis on the inadequacy of existing policies for tackling climate change objectives … We believe that the challenges of addressing the environmental impacts of a new runway at either Heathrow or Gatwick cannot, in reality, be overcome.” The EAC said that Government would need to demonstrate “a high degree of certainty that their own policies are robust enough to deliver the mitigations required” before giving approval for the expansion. On CO2 the EAC said the industry’s efforts are “highly unlikely” to achieve the target for aviation emissions and that there is a need for additional Government policies including some form of demand management.
Cross party committee of MPs recommends Government should not give go ahead on Heathrow expansion
The Environmental Audit Committee today called on Government not to give Heathrow expansion the go ahead unless it is ready to make a ‘step change’ in its approach to environmental mitigation.
The EAC’s report on the implications for Government commitments on carbon emissions, air quality and noise of implementing the Airports Commission’s recommendation, advised that Government would need to demonstrate “a high degree of certainty that their own policies are robust enough to deliver the mitigations required” before giving approval for the expansion.
On climate change, the EAC quotes AEF’s written [AEF response to EAC Airports Commission inquiry] and oral [Parliament TV recording of the EAC evidence session] contributions in reaching its conclusion that industry efforts are “highly unlikely” to achieve the target for aviation emissions and that there is a need for additional Government policies including some form of demand management.
The Committee emphasised the “policy vacuum” in relation to the aviation carbon target and called on Government to introduce an effective aviation emissions framework and follow the approach recommended by the Committee on Climate Change in its 5th carbon budget advice.
On air quality, the EAC said that Heathrow expansion should be conditional on Government demonstrating that it would be compatible with EU air quality limits. The committee was very critical of the approach taken by the Airports Commission, namely that a deterioration of air quality in the Heathrow area could be legally permissible as long as air quality elsewhere in London is even worse. The EAC’s conclusion was based on concerns about the health impacts of air pollution and aligns with statements by air quality campaigners, such as Clean Air in London. The Committee also called on Government to calculate the costs of preventing health damage from poor air quality.
On noise, the EAC called for the Government to demonstrate how it would deliver the night flight ban proposed by the Airports Commission, and called for further analysis into whether the Airports Commission’s claim that a three runway Heathrow could actually be less noisy than a two runway Heathrow is realistic.
Cait Hewitt, AEF Deputy Director commented:
“Today’s report highlights the sheer scale of the measures that would be needed to prevent a third runway becoming an environmental disaster. We agree with the committee that there would need to be a ‘step change’ to the Government’s approach to environmental mitigation for expansion to be compatible with environmental limits.
“AEF has repeatedly highlighted the need for Government to demonstrate how it will close the policy gap in relation to aviation emissions, and we welcome the EAC’s emphasis on the inadequacy of existing policies for tackling climate change objectives.
“We believe that the challenges of addressing the environmental impacts of a new runway at either Heathrow or Gatwick cannot, in reality, be overcome.”
What aviation means for the fifth carbon budget
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC), the official body advising the Government on climate change policy, has today published its advice on the fifth carbon budget, including a restatement of its recommendation that aviation emissions should be no higher in 2050 than in 2005 (37.5 Mt).
CO2 from the sector is currently set to overshoot this level even without any new runways and to be higher still if expansion takes place at either Heathrow or Gatwick. New CCC analysis published today indicates that in a scenario where emissions are not capped and only low ‘carbon abatement’ options (such as technology improvements) are available, aviation emissions could be as high as 51.9 Mt by 2050, underlining the need for policy action to address the gap.
Carbon budgets ensure that the UK is on the right path to deliver the economy-wide 80% emissions reduction required under the Climate Change Act. So far, the Government has consistently adopted and legislated CCC’s advice on the appropriate level of ambition for carbon budgets. The fifth budget will cover emissions from 2028-2032.
UK carbon emission reduction path
Where does aviation fit in the UK climate change plan?
The CCC’s recommendation that carbon budgets must account for emissions from international aviation and shipping is longstanding. To date these emissions have not been formally included in carbon budgets given concerns about the appropriate approach to accounting for emissions from international travel.
The advice published today calls on Government to begin including shipping emissions in carbon budgets, but that “continuing uncertainties in aviation’s accounting within the EU ETS mean inclusion would be impractical at this time”. In the interim, CCC maintains that carbon budgets should continue to allow headroom for the future inclusion of aviation.
AEF supports inclusion of aviation emissions in carbon budgets and we set out some possible approaches for doing so in our response to the CCC’s consultation on its fifth carbon budget. But a continuation by Governbment of the current approach of ensuring that the UK is on course to deliver the long-term emissions target of 80% in a way that includes all sectors, and makes allowance for the future inclusion of aviation, is more important than formal inclusion of aviation emissions in carbon budgets in our view.
CCC recommends that aviation emissions should be no higher than 37.5 Mt in 2050 – the level in 2005 – and that the level of emissions reduction this assumes from other sectors in order to achieve the economy-wide target of an 80% cut is at the limit of what is feasible. In June this year, the CCC advised the Government to draw up a policy plan for closing the gap between currently forecast aviation emissions and the 37.5 Mt target.
What does this mean for the runway debate?
The Airports Commission, in making its recommendations for a new runway at Heathrow, produced two sets of forecasts. One, the ‘carbon capped’ forecast, assumed that Government continues to act on the CCC’s advice in limiting aviation emissions to 37.5 Mt. The other, the ‘carbon traded’ forecast, ignored any constraint on emissions under the Climate Change Act and assumed that the only action to control UK aviation emissions would be inclusion in an international carbon trading scheme.
Today’s advice from the CCC implies that Government must work on the basis of a ‘carbon capped’ scenario, and that the advice of the Airports Commission to build a new South East runway should be considered in this context.
What do we want Government to do?
The Government will propose draft legislation in response to the CCC’s advice on the Fifth Carbon Budget in 2016. AEF will be asking for Government to implement the CCC’s recommendation to allow headroom for aviation emissions, and to reconsider whether in fact sufficient information either is or will be available to formally include aviation as well as shipping emissions in carbon budgets from 2028.
To demonstrate its commitment to keeping aviation emissions at a level compatible with the Climate Change Act, Government should also set out a detailed policy plan for limiting aviation demand growth to no more than 60% above its level in 2005, in line with CCC’s recommendation of June 2015, and no decisions should be taken to increase South East airport capacity unless it can be shown to be compatible with such a plan.
We’re hoping that the international climate change conference in Paris this December will produce some ambitious long-term commitments. We’re also hoping to see some evidence following the conference that the UK is willing to honour its domestic climate commitments now they are starting to bite. And getting aviation policy right is an important part of this picture.
Committee on Climate Change confirm aviation CO2 must remain capped – putting new runway into question
On the eve of the Airports Commission’s runway recommendation, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has told Government it has until 2016 to set out an effective plan for limiting aviation emissions. The Government’s official advisory body on delivery of the UK’s Climate Change Act used its 5th ‘Progress Report’ to Government to highlight the need for action on aviation, including constraints on demand. The CCC says that given the anticipated growth in emissions from the sector, the DfT must set out how it will ensure that emissions from aviation are no higher in 2050 than they were in 2005 (37.5 Mt). The limited scope for improvements in aviation technology mean that demand growth must be kept to no more than 60% above its 2005 level. Current forecasts of air passenger growth with associated CO2 emissions exceed this level EVEN WITHOUT adding a new runway. With a new SE runway the growth in passenger demand – and thus CO2 emissions – would be even higher. Extensive analysis by the AEF has shown that a new runway would make the aviation emissions cap (37.5MtCO2 annually) impossible to achieve. Ruling out a new runway is the most obvious first step for the Government to take in response to the CCC’s advice. Adding a runway, and then having to deal with the extra carbon problem it has produced, is not an efficient way to deal with the issue.