29 January 2009
On 15 January the Government gave the go-ahead for a third runway and sixth terminal at Heathrow.
I was dismayed by this decision in view of the environmental consequences of airport expansion such as that proposed at Heathrow. Aviation growth is incompatible with the emission reductions' targets laid out in the UK’s world leading climate legislation. I have signed a number of Early Day Motions on the subject and the two of the most recent are printed below.
The Conservatives tabled a motion, which was identical to EDM 2344, that had been tabled by a Labour MP, John Grogan. Consistent with my support for the original EDM, I supported the motion, which was unfortunately defeated - though with a substantially reduced majority. I spoke in the Opposition Day Debate on 28 January and you can read my speech here.
Climate change is the most important challenge facing humanity, requiring urgent and radical action. I have consistently supported actions to reduce our CO2 emissions, particularly through my work on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee. To read an article on actions I am taking to reduce my carbon footprint click here.
I do not find it at all reassuring that the Government have set a target that aviation emissions will get back to 2005 levels by 2050. This actually increases these emissions until then! On 20 January, I tabled a Parliamentary Question to the Department of Energy and Climate Change as follows:
What assessment he has made of the cumulative effect on UK carbon dioxide emissions of the target of returning to 2005 emissions of carbon dioxide from aviation between now and 2050 as a proportion of the total UK carbon dioxide emissions between now and 2050?
The context to my PQ is that the achievement of the 400-450ppm concentration of CO2 necessary to limit global warming to no more than 2º C (and so avoid dangerous climate change) will depend on the trajectory of emissions and not just the final target. If emissions from aviation are set to get worse before they get better, it will be all the more difficult to achieve this. I will post details of the reply when I receive it.
EDM 2344: GOVERNMENT POLICY ON THIRD RUNWAY AT HEATHROW AIRPORT
That this House urges the Government to rethink its plans for a third runway at Heathrow Airport and to give full consideration to alternative solutions; regrets the Government's heavy reliance on data supplied by the BAA in assessing the case for expansion and notes the likely forthcoming break up of BAA's ownership of three of London's airports following the investigation by the Competition Committee; believes that the consultation paper Adding Capacity at Heathrow Airport was deeply flawed, as it paid insufficient regard to the costs of air and noise pollution in the surrounding areas and the commitment to curb carbon dioxide emissions to tackle climate change; regrets the fact that provisions to improve high speed rail lines from Heathrow to major cities have not been fully explored, along with the potential of other UK airports to handle more long haul flights; and urges the Government to initiate a consultation on a new national planning policy statement on the theme of airports and high speed rail.
EDM 339: ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF THIRD RUNWAY AT HEATHROW
That this House notes the Government's commitment given in the 2003 Aviation White Paper, The Future of Air Transport to reduce noise impacts and to ensure that air quality and environmental standards are met before proceeding with a third runway at Heathrow Airport; further notes the assurance given by the Prime Minister on 12 November 2008 that support for a third runway at Heathrow is subject to strict environmental conditions; further notes that Heathrow Airport is already in breach of the European Air Quality Directive to be implemented by 2010; welcomes the statement by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs that these environmental commitments should be honoured; supports the Chairman of the Environment Agency's decision to oppose the third runway on environmental grounds; and calls upon the Government not to proceed with the third Heathrow runway or mixed-mode and to put the matter to a vote on the floor of the House.