Caroline Lucas: “The expansion of Heathrow is unforgivable – we will fight this decision”
Caroline Lucas, a long standing opponent of aviation expansion due to its carbon emissions, has expressed her anger at the government’s decision to back Heathrow. She says: “This is not a win for families who jet off on a holiday once a year – this is to pacify the needs of those privileged individuals who fly regularly.” … “the Government is ignoring the abundant evidence. .. For those of us who care about Britain’s role in combating climate change, and for people living in west London, today’s decision is a disaster.” … “We are living under a Government that says it wants to allow people to “take back control”, yet it is pressing ahead with a decision that will inflict more noise and pollution on a local community that’s already suffering…” … “average CO2 levels are now more than 400 parts per million. The effects of burning more and more dirty fossil fuels are well known…” … “Theresa May knows all of this of course and, at times, she appears to really care. Earlier this year she proudly told the House of Commons that the UK is the “second best country in the world for tackling climate change”. That’s why her decision back expansion at Heathrow is so unforgivable. ” … “today’s decision puts a wrecking ball through the UK’s climate change commitments.” … “we need practical proposals [like aa frequent-flyer levy] to keep aviation at levels that are compatible with fighting climate change, and which require no new runways.”
The expansion of Heathrow is unforgivable – we will fight this decision
This is not a win for families who jet off on a holiday once a year – this is to pacify the needs of those privileged individuals who fly regularly
By Caroline Lucas @CarolineLucas (Independent – Voices)
25 October 2016
Heathrow expansion protesters gather outside Parliament Reclaim the Power
It’s finally been confirmed: the Government is ignoring the abundant evidence and backing expansion of Europe’s biggest airport. For those of us who care about Britain’s role in combating climate change, and for people living in west London, today’s decision is a disaster.
This will directly affect those living around Heathrow, with increased pollution, noise and daily disruption to their lives – and it will benefit only the wealthier fliers, with just 15 per cent of UK residents accounting for seven out of 10 of all flights taken. This is not a win for families who jet off on a holiday once a year (and most people don’t even do that); this is to pacify the needs of those privileged individuals who fly regularly.
We are living under a Government that says it wants to allow people to “take back control”, yet it is pressing ahead with a decision that will inflict more noise and pollution on a local community that’s already suffering – all for the benefit of aviation lobbyists and the business-class set.
The expansion announcement today comes days after leading scientists said that the world is entering a new “climate change reality”, as average carbon dioxide levels are now more than 400 parts per million. The effects of burning more and more dirty fossil fuels are well known, but worth reiterating. From an increase in devastating flooding in Britain, to wildfires in Indonesia and more hurricanes hitting the Caribbean – climate change affects everyone’s lives, but hits the most vulnerable communities hardest.
Theresa May knows all of this of course and, at times, she appears to really care. Earlier this year she proudly told the House of Commons that the UK is the “second best country in the world for tackling climate change”. That’s why her decision back expansion at Heathrow is so unforgivable. And let’s just be clear about this: today’s decision puts a wrecking ball through the UK’s climate change commitments. This decision comes in the same week that the UK Government is in court for failing to tackle illegal air pollution limits.
Lifting people into in the air requires a lot of energy, and there’s no prospect of that energy coming from low carbon sources anytime soon. That’s why, unlike every other part of the economy, aviation isn’t expected to reduce its emissions. This already generous exemption is now set to be magnified many times over. If we’re serious about climate change, we would need to make even deeper carbon cuts in other parts of the economy (and we’re already failing to do that).
Another solution would be to force Northern airports to limit flights and bring in a substantially higher tax on flying – are the Government going to take those actions? Of course not.
Those of us who want to reduce the impact of flying cannot just wish away increased demand – instead we need practical proposals to keep aviation at levels that are compatible with fighting climate change, and which require no new runways.
One such proposal, a frequent-flyer levy, would reduce demand for airport expansion through a fairer tax on flights that increases depending on the number of flights you take. It’s clear that the small minority of wealthy individuals who fly often are fuelling the demand for new runways. The proposed frequent-flyer levy would be a fair way to manage demand – the crucial missing part of any aviation policy serious about tackling climate change and protecting local communities.
Another alternative would be to redirect investment away from airport expansion and into improving railways and reducing fares – to end the ridiculous situation where flying is often cheaper than taking the train to nearby destinations.
Ministers know very well that airport expansion, at Heathrow or anywhere else for that matter, will leave our climate change commitments in tatters – and we need to make sure they know that climate campaigners and local residents have absolutely no plans to give up this battle.
Caroline Lucas is co-leader of the Green Party
John Sauven: The decision to back a 3rd Heathrow runway is a grotesque, cynical, folly
Writing in the Guardian, the Director of Greenpeace UK – John Sauven – explains why the government approval of a Heathrow runway is so cynical. The reality, which is well known by the government, and the “independent” Airports Commission, is that UK aviation carbon emissions are on target to far exceed the level at which they need to be, under the 2008 Climate Change Act. Adding an extra runway only exacerbates that problem. If the UK was half serious about its global obligations to cut CO2 (which it does not appear to be) the simplest solution would be not to build a new runway – which needlessly raises emissions. But instead, as the job of the Commission was to get a Heathrow runway to appear possible and desirable, they made some obscure assumptions (well hidden in endless supporting documents) which were not intended to be understood. Realising CO2 would be too high, they postulated a sky high price of carbon. That would mean the price of air tickets would rise dramatically, cutting exactly the extra demand the runway had been built to cater for. Otherwise, either the emissions of the regional airports would have to be cut, to let the monster Heathrow continue to expand – or else the UK just abandons any pretence of an aviation carbon target. Both are cynical, demonstrating the absence of any credible aviation carbon policy. It demonstrates that the government is at best half hearted on climate commitments.
AEF damning assessment of Heathrow recommendation and its environmental impacts
The AEF (Aviation Environment Federation) is the main group in the UK assessing UK aviation policy for its environment impacts, with several decades of expertise. They have had a first look at the government’s Heathrow decision, and are underwhelmed. Some of their comments: On CO2 the DfT says that keeping UK carbon emissions to within the 37.5 MtCO2 cap while adding a Heathrow runway effectively cannot be done. AEF says the DfT now has no commitment to the 37.5 MtCO2 cap, and just includes vague references to the ICAO global carbon offsetting scheme for aviation agreed this month, and to potential efficiencies arising from better air traffic management -though both measures are (effectively) already taken into account in the CCC’s modelling. On air pollution, the DfT says “a new runway at Heathrow is deliverable within air quality limits, if necessary mitigation measures are put in place, in line with the ‘National air quality plan’, published in December 2015.” But AEF says Government appears to have little idea what those mitigation measures will be, and the deliverability of the plan has already, therefore, been questioned through the courts. And on noise AEF says the noise impact will depend heavily on the precise location of flight paths, which are unknown.