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Cross party committee of MPs recommends Government should not give go ahead on Heathrow expansion

1st December, 2015

The Environmental Audit Committee today called on Government not to give Heathrow expansion the go ahead unless it is ready to make a ‘step change’ in its approach to environmental mitigation. The EAC’s report on the implications for Government commitments on carbon emissions, air quality and noise of implementing the Airports Commission’s recommendation, which was published today, advised that Government would need to demonstrate “a high degree of certainty that their own policies are robust enough to deliver the mitigations required” before giving approval for the expansion.

On climate change, the EAC quotes AEF’s written and oral contributions in reaching its conclusion that industry efforts are “highly unlikely” to achieve the target for aviation emissions and that there is a need for additional Government policies including some form of demand management. The Committee emphasised the “policy vacuum” in relation to the aviation carbon target and called on Government to introduce an effective aviation emissions framework and follow the approach recommended by the Committee on Climate Change in its 5th carbon budget advice.

On air quality, the EAC said that Heathrow expansion should be conditional on Government demonstrating that it would be compatible with EU air quality limits. The committee was very critical of the approach taken by the Airports Commission, namely that a deterioration of air quality in the Heathrow area could be legally permissible as long as air quality elsewhere in London is even worse. The EAC’s conclusion was based on concerns about the health impacts of air pollution and aligns with statements by air quality campaigners, such Clean Air in London. The Committee also called on Government to calculate the costs of preventing health damage from poor air quality.

On noise, the EAC called for the Government to demonstrate how it would deliver the night flight ban proposed by the Airports Commission, and called for further analysis into whether the Airports Commission’s claim that a three runway Heathrow could actually be less noisy than a two runway Heathrow is realistic.

Cait Hewitt, AEF Deputy Director commented:

“Today’s report highlights the sheer scale of the measures that would be needed to prevent a third runway becoming an environmental disaster. We agree with the committee that there would need to be a ‘step change’ to the Government’s approach to environmental mitigation for expansion to be compatible with environmental limits.

“AEF has repeatedly highlighted the need for Government to demonstrate how it will close the policy gap in relation to aviation emissions, and we welcome the EAC’s emphasis on the inadequacy of existing policies for tackling climate change objectives.

“We believe that the challenges of addressing the environmental impacts of a new runway at either Heathrow or Gatwick cannot, in reality, be overcome.”

Download: Environmental Audit Committee: The Airports Commission Report Carbon Emissions, Air Quality and Noise

Image credit: Ray Wewerka via Flickr