Environmental groups question feasibility of new runway, in the face of climate, noise and air quality constraints
In response to the Airports Commission’s interim report, announcing that a new runway at either Heathrow, or Gatwick (distant possibility of estuary – but unlikely), some of the main environmental NGOs have commented. The AEF says “The Commission’s report reaches a conclusion on the need for a new runway before it has undertaken a comprehensive environmental and social analysis that could still rule out all the options on the table. Building a new runway will not be possible within our national climate targets unless the Government is willing to limit growth at all the other airports in the UK”. “The report gives no reassurance on how huge local constraints on air quality and noise will be met.” Friends of the Earth commented: “If our airports are allowed to expand, other sectors of the economy will have to make even bigger carbon cuts to enable the UK to play its part in tackling climate change. The south east doesn’t need aviation expansion – London has more flights to the world’s business centres than its European competitors.” The RSPB says further airport expansion will undermine efforts to reduce our climate impact in the UK, “Emissions from aircraft are one of the fastest increasing sources of greenhouse gases. The impacts of climate change on wildlife in the UK and abroad are already being felt with seabirds struggling to find food as sea temperatures increase.” And there are more comments.
AEF response to the Airports Commission Interim Report
17.12.2013 (AEF – Aviation Environment Federation) The Airports Commission Interim Report was launched today (Tuesday 17th December). In it, the Commission concludes that runway capacity will be under “very substantial” pressure in the South East by 2030 requiring additional runway capacity, even in a carbon constrained world when aviation emissions are constrained to 2005 levels.
In response, Tim Johnson, Director of Aviation Environment Federationi said this “Sir Howard Davies has spoken of decisions on airport capacity needing to balance the national interest with local considerations. Yet the Commission’s report reaches a conclusion on the need for a new runway before it has undertaken a comprehensive environmental and social analysis that could still rule out all the options on the table.
“Building a new runway will not be possible within our national climate targets unless the Government is willing to limit growth at all the other airports in the UK – something the Government will not be willing to do. In his report, Sir Howard Davies estimates the costs to the UK economy of not building a new runway. The costs of blowing our enshrined climate targets will be much higher. “Similarly, previous proposals for airport expansion have not been given the political green light because of insurmountable local constraints relating to air quality and noise. There is no explanation on how these local obstacles can be overcome. ”
AEF will outline how the Interim Report compared to our three tests ii in a briefing to follow shortly,when it has had time to assess it in full.
i The Aviation Environment Federation is the main UK NGO working exclusively on the environmental impacts of aviation and we play a leading role in the Airport Watch coalition. We represent people affected by airports of all sizes across the UK and those concerned with the growing climate impact of aviation. We want to ensure the debate on airport capacity takes social and environmental concerns into account as well as those that are economical ii Our three tests for the Airports Commission on climate, noise and economic justification are available at http://www.aef.org.uk/?p=1669
News from Darren Johnson AM: “Environmental catastrophe” Davies Commission shortlisting of Heathrow and Gatwick
17 December 2013 (London AM Press Release)
Sir Howard Davies’s Aviation Commission’s interim report has selected Gatwick and Heathrow airport as their potential options for aviation expansion.
Specifically at Heathrow it proposes a new runway or the extension of the existing northern runway to enable it to operate as two separate runways; a new runway at Gatwick.
Earlier, Darren Johnson, the Chair of the London Assembly in a joint with Boris Johnson wrote to London MPs stating that they are “unanimously opposed to Heathrow expansion in any form. The environmental catastrophe that the airport represents cannot be allowed to worsen”(1) Darren Johnson said: “This decision completely disregards public opinion and spells even more noise misery for residents living under flight paths. Londoners must be given their say on the future of Heathrow and the Davies Commission should not be used as a way of by-passing that.”
“The aviation’s contribution to the economy is massively overstated, it is only the 26th biggest industry in Britain (2) . The ‘capacity crisis’ has been largely manufactured by narrow commercial interest”
“If we are to stand any chance of avoiding the immense risks involved with runaway climate change, we urgently need to substantially reduce carbon emissions. This includes cutting the number of both short and long haul flights in London and the South East and also raising the price of flights to reflect the environment damage they cause”
(1) Joint letter from Boris Johnson, Mayor of London & Darren Johnson, Chair of London Assembly, 13th September 2013,
Sent to Members of Parliament
.’The future of airport capacity in London and the South East is now a subject of intense national debate. Over the course of the last year there have been inquiries held into the topic by a number of bodies, including the House of Commons Transport Select Committee and the London Assembly Transport Committee, and now the Airports Commission under Sir Howard Davies is working through the same issues under its remit from Government. At the heart of the debate lies the future of the UK’s largest airport, Heathrow. The airport operators themselves have submitted proposals to the Airports Commission laying out how Heathrow could double in size to become a four-runway airport. We are writing to express jointly our deep concern over these proposals. Heathrow is already the most noise-polluting airport in Europe by quite some margin. Its noise seriously degrades the lives of over 766,000 people, a figure which makes up 28 per cent of all those similarly affected by airport noise throughout Europe. It also contributes significantly to the very serious air pollution problems which London faces in terms of both CO2 and NOx emissions. It is primarily because of these significant impacts that the Mayor of London and the London Assembly continue to be unanimously opposed to Heathrow expansion in any form.
The environmental catastrophe that the airport represents cannot be allowed to worsen. We hope that you, as a London MP, share that view, and we would greatly value your support in making this clear to both the Airports Commission and the Government. In particular, it would be helpful if you were to write to Sir Howard Davies to make him aware of the damaging effects Heathrow has on your constituents and the practical and political impossibility of expansion there.”
Sir Howard can be reached at: Sir Howard Davies, Airports Commission, Sanctuary Buildings, 20, Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3BT
If you would like any further information then please do not hesitate to get in touch. Yours sincerely Boris Johnson , Mayor of London Darren Johnson, Chair of the London Assembly’ 2) HACAN – http://www.hacan.org.uk/
Friends of the Earth – South east doesn’t need more runways, says Friends of the Earth
Reacting to the Airports Commission Interim Report published today (Tuesday 17 December 2013), Friends of the Earth Senior Campaigner Jane Thomas said: “Building new airports and runways will have a huge impact on local communities and their environment, and pump more climate-changing pollution into our atmosphere. “If our airports are allowed to expand, other sectors of the economy will have to make even bigger carbon cuts to enable the UK to play its part in tackling climate change. “The south east doesn’t need aviation expansion – London has more flights to the world’s business centres than its European competitors.” ENDS 1. The Airports Commission agreed with Friends of the Earth that a carbon cap should now be ‘the limiting factor for aviation demand growth overall’. But airport expansion will require other sectors to make even bigger cuts – and there is no guarantee that this will happen. 2. For more than 40 years we’ve seen that the wellbeing of people and planet go hand in hand – and it’s been the inspiration for our campaigns. Together with thousands of people like you we’ve secured safer food and water, defended wildlife and natural habitats, championed the move to clean energy and acted to keep our climate stable. Be a Friend of the Earth – see things differently. For further information visit www.foe.co.uk Friends of the Earth – South east doesn’t need more runways, says friends of the earth .
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) – RSPB responds to future of aviation report
The Davies Commission into the future of aviation has once again highlighted the environmental destruction an airport in the Thames Estuary would cause. In his report released this morning Sir Howard favours new runways at existing airports, with Heathrow ahead of Gatwick.
But he has included a second division level of a new airport on Kent’s Hoo Peninsula in the Thames Estuary, which he acknowledges would be both expensive (up to £112 billion) and environmentally damaging. The RSPB believes that further airport expansion will undermine efforts to reduce our climate impact in the UK, and that further scrutiny of an option in the Thames Estuary will lead to it being ruled out completely.
The tidal mudflats, saltmarsh and reed beds that line the estuary are one of the most import wildlife habitats in Europe, home to a rich ecosystem which includes hundreds of thousands of threatened wintering birds. It is designated with the highest environmental protection available.
Sue Armstrong-Brown, RSPB head of policy, said: “We have always said that the Thames Estuary is a disastrous place to put an airport. It supports many thousands of wintering birds and other wildlife. “Every time a spotlight is put on the Thames Estuary as a potential site for an airport it is revealed to be both an environmental disaster and economic lunacy.
The more scrutiny put on this proposal, the more clear it will be for all concerned that it is a non starter. “However climate change remains the greatest long term threat to wildlife. We believe there should be no further airports in this country until the Government can demonstrate how they can be built and operated without busting our legally binding climate targets.
“Emissions from aircraft are one of the fastest increasing sources of greenhouse gases. The impacts of climate change on wildlife in the UK and abroad are already being felt with seabirds struggling to find food as sea temperatures increase. Evidence shows that climate change could lead to up to a third of land-based species committed to extinction by 2050.”
1. The RSPB is the UK’s largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.
There is no business case for airport expansion
16 December 2013 (WWF-UK) WWF’s new infographic, published in advance of the Airports Commission interim report on the future of UK airport capacity, shows that business flying, far from taking off and needing airport expansion, has actually been on a steep descent for many years.
What is more, our evidence shows that business flying is permanently grounded with little FTSE 500 interest in returning to pre-recession flying levels as business meeting and travel practices have shifted in favour of lower carbon alternatives. When you also look at the evidence from WWF’s One in Five Challenge, which has helped some of the UK’s leading companies to cut 38% of their flights in three years, saving £ millions in the process, it makes good business sense to reduce flying now and in the future.
As the Airports Commission is expected to say that business needs airport expansion in order to grow and that alternatives such as rail and videoconferencing won’t replace flying, WWF thought it was important to tell our side of the story, showing the evidence that the Airports Commission appear to have ignored. Let’s come clean on who airport expansion is really for.
If business doesn’t need it, who does? Or is airport expansion simply a vanity project leading to more holidays? Whatever the Airport Commission says, WWF believes that airport expansion is completely incompatible with the UK Climate Change Act and is not needed as we have sufficient available capacity for aviation to grow within the limits recommended by the Committee on Climate Change.
Business are profiting from #FlyingLess. We don’t need new runways. Visit the No business case for airport expansion infographic
CPRE @CPRE Airport Commission: Expansion of Gatwick or Heathrow would be triple blow to the countryside. Not only will building new runways have a terrible landscape impact, extra planes could destroy tranquility of swathes of countryside, more flights will jeopardise government’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions. We should make better use of existing capacity and revitalised rail. And stop flying short haul.
Irresistible force immovable object
I’ve just come for the launch of the Airports Commission Interim Report. Sir Howard Davies, the commission’s chair eloquently, patiently and with a little humour took us through the reports findings.
Logic, graphs, bar charts, clarity of thought, and a clearly extensive fulsome consultation process build a sense of confidence. But this report is about airports and the proven (in the eyes of the commission) need for long term expansion of airport capacity in the South East of England – and that means the political wind will blow hot and strong as the report’s findings are picked over.
Indeed the political wind may have already blown; Sir Howard would not be drawn on the degree to which his recommendations reflect a certain realpolitik.
I have a copy of the Interim Report by my elbow – my skim read has been superficial at this stage – thankfully while I was listening to Sir Howard colleagues were giving the report the attention it deserves.
The options that will proceed for further consultation and consideration will be Gatwick and two runway options at Heathrow. Most of the Thames Estuary options have been ruled out as has expansion at Stansted – but one option on Kent’s Isle of Grain struggles on despite the report setting out a number of good reasons why it looks like a non-runner.
This second division status damns the proposal with feint praise and doesn’t follow, to a logical conclusion, the report’s own arguments to reject this option on cost, environmental impact and connectivity grounds. Sir Howard admitted it was a close call, but wanted to take a little longer (until the middle of 2014) to finish scrutiny of this proposal – disappointing as we’ve been watching estuary options be rejected regularly for over 60 years – it would be good (not least for the people of North Kent) not have to wait another 6 months to see this dangerous option rejected.
A telling inconsistency in the report is that one reason Stansted was rejected (along with all the other new airports) was because of the economic disruption of having to close Heathrow … yet this same consideration seems to play less strongly around the Isle of Grain proposal.
So – on we go more time to make the case for #noestuaryairport (the twitter tag that has seen more than its fair share of use over the last few years.
One silver lining is that we will continue to highlight the fabulous work that is happening in and around the Thames to give nature a home – both our own work and that of our many partners.
The Estuary is an iconic landscape in the South East and its coastline is dotted with important projects both to enhance the value of the Thames for nature and making it better and more accessible for local people and visitors to the area. And it attracts investment – from the coalition Government’s own Nature Improvement Area initiative to our partnership with Crossrail and the Environment Agency to restore the coast at Wallasea Island.
A short blog can’t do this topic justice so me colleagues and I will return to the Aviation Commission’s Interim Report over the coming days. We’ll look at the implications for the fight against damaging climate change amongst other issues.
Sir Howard was asked at the end of the launch if he saw the political will necessary to deliver airport expansion given the difficulties. He acknowledged that this was a classic case of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object – and he always backs irresistible forces.
Meanwhile, while we’re on the subject of twitter tags #JeThames