What Heathrow’s 3rd runway proposal says on carbon emissions and air quality (very little)

Just taking the parts on carbon emissions and air quality from Heathrow’s promotional document for its 3rd runway, the claims can be seen to be ambitious, or perhaps unrealistic.  Tellingly they forget to  mention carbon emissions in the press release, other than to say there is one of their 10 “commitments” (no indication how these are to be enforced) that they will “Keep CO2 emissions within UK climate change targets”. This appears to be largely on hopes of more efficient operation, plus planes as yet unbuilt, carbon trading systems as yet  not in existence, and new fuels (they don’t actually mention biofuels), which also do not exist.  On local air quality standards, which the Heathrow area currently often breaches, Heathrow says it wants a local congestion charge to reduce vehicle journeys, a lot more public transport (paid for by taxpayer?) and another commitment (enforcement?) to “Increase the proportion of passengers using public transport to access Heathrow to more than 50%”. They also depend on road vehicle engines in future emitting less NO2 than at present.



 Extracts from the Heathrow press release, relating to carbon emissions and to local air quality :

Press release  (13.5.2014) at    link


  • New section of M25 to be tunnelled and upgraded alongside the existing section, increasing capacity and reducing congestion without disrupting road users.

Heathrow’s 10 commitments

If Government supports a third runway we will:

  1. Increase the proportion of passengers using public transport to access Heathrow to more than 50%

by supporting new rail, bus and coach schemes to improve public transport to Heathrow and considering the case for a congestion charge

  1. Keep CO2 emissions within UK climate change targets and play our part in meeting local air quality limits

by incentivising cleaner aircraft, supporting global carbon trading, and increasing public transport use

That’s all there is …..

In the Heathrow document “Taking Britain further” here are the relevant extracts on carbon emissions and local air quality:


Page 43
“We will cut carbon emissions from airport energy use by 60% compared to today
The Airports Commission’s interim report and the Committee on Climate Change have found that a third runway is compatible with the UK meeting its climate change reduction targets. We are also committed to making the construction and operation of a third runway as low carbon as possible. The airport [ie buildings etc on the ground – not flights] in 2030 will produce 60% less carbon from energy use compared to 2010. This will be achieved by a combination of technologies including ground source heat pumps, thin film photovoltaics, and combined heat and power.”
Heathrow CO2 emissions chart to 2050

[By contrast, the Committee on Climate Change had a less unrealistic scenario for future UK aviation emissions. ]

CCC aviation emissions forecasts 2009
” Expansion should only go ahead within strict limits on noise, local air quality and within the UK’s climate change targets. There isn’t a choice between more flights or less noise. Heathrow can deliver both “
 “We believe there is a case for introducing a congestion charging zone  (Page 36)
Once public transport improvements have been delivered, we believe there is a case for reducing vehicles journeys to Heathrow by introducing a new congestion charge zone. This would improve air quality and reduce congestion while raising money for public transport improvements.
“The charge would discourage passengers from using cars and subsidise public transport for those who adopt more sustainable travel plans. The charge would only apply to those travelling to the airport – not those using surrounding roads like the A4, A30, M4 or M25. We envisage that there could be exemptions in place for the greenest vehicles,
the local community and for taxis. Funds could be ring-fenced to pay for transport schemes and local community improvements. Heathrow will be able to deliver more flights without increasing the traffic on the road due to the airport”
 “Better air quality than today  ()age 42)
We can add capacity at Heathrow while meeting all air pollution limits. New public transport options will provide an alternative to travelling to the airport by road. A congestion charge would provide a new mechanism for managing demand and ensuring there will be no more Heathrow-related vehicles on the roads than today. Those vehicles that are travelling to the airport will be cleaner. Combined with new aircraft technology this means that levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) would be within EU limits. Levels of fine particles (PM10 and PM2.5) are already within the limits and would continue to be with a third runway.
“We will operate a Clean Vehicles Programme to promote low and zero emissions vehicles among airport companies. In addition, we host the UK’s first publicly accessible hydrogen refuelling site and are increasing the number of electric vehicle charging points at our passenger car parks.”