Third runway at Heathrow would wreck climate target

2.11.2008     (Times)


Gordon Brown has been warned by senior ministers that approving a third runway
at Heathrow could wreck the government’s green credentials and undermine efforts
to combat climate change.

Weeks before a formal announcement on expanding the airport is due, the prime
minister is facing a revolt from the cabinet and senior MPs.

They fear building the runway could harm the party’s electoral prospects and
damage Britain’s chances of hitting its target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions
by 80% by 2050.

Among the critics is Harriet Harman, Labour’s deputy leader, who has been told
that residents angry at the increased noise and congestion could eject a clutch
of the party’s MPs in west London at the next election.


Hilary Benn, the environment secretary, has expressed concerns that Britain may
not meet European Union air quality targets because of extra traffic at an expanded

Britain is three years behind European requirements for cutting emissions and
may have to sacrifice pollution standards across London to allow at least an extra
60,000 flights a year at Heathrow.     Benn, who lives under the Heathrow flight
path in west London, has warned that the government may have to ask Brussels for
a special deal to exempt the capital from official limits on exposure to pollutants.

David Miliband, the foreign secretary, who championed tough climate change measures
when he was environment secretary, is also understood to be worried about the
effect on greenhouse gas emissions of an expanded Heathrow airport.

Joan Ruddock, the climate change minister and London MP, is said to share concerns
that the targets may be in jeopardy.

Other local MPs opposed to the scheme include Ann Keen, the health minister,
and Andrew Slaughter.

The prime minister is due to meet a group of Labour MPs in Downing Street in
the next fortnight to discuss fears that the expansion is so unpopular it could
cost the seats of members nearest the airport.

At least 100 MPs from all parties, including 38 on the Labour benches, have signed
a parliamentary motion opposing the third runway.

Among those who have made representations to Brown is Martin Salter, an MP who
is vice-chairman of the Labour party with responsibility for the environment.

He has told the prime minister that allowing the runway could harm Labour’s green

Salter said: "It is clear Gordon is in listening mode from the interest he has
shown in hearing all points of view."

The prime minister’s spokesman said Brown had made up his mind in principle that
the expansion should go ahead.

"The government has taken a political decision that it is right to go for a third
runway at Heathrow but now it is going to be a planning judicial decision subject
to very stringent environmental concerns," said the spokesman.

"We have taken the decision in principle. It is now a planning decision."

David Cameron, the Conservative party leader, has announced that a Tory government
would tear up plans for a third runway.

Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, wants to build a hub airport in the Thames