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Dark day for communities and for the UK’s chance of tackling climate change, as Heathrow announcement shows reckless disregard for environmental targets

25th October, 2016

PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE The environmental NGO, Aviation Environment Federation [1], which represents communities around the UK’s airports, has strongly criticised the Government’s decision to back a third runway at Heathrow.

Cait Hewitt, AEF Deputy Director, said:

This is a dark day for local communities, and suggests a reckless disregard for the climate change damage that a new runway will bring.

Within weeks of the Paris Agreement on climate change becoming binding, the UK appears to be turning its back on earlier promises to play our part in ensuring a safe and stable climate. Heathrow is already the UK’s biggest single source of emissions [3], and is responsible for more CO2 from international flights than any other airport in the world [4]. As the Government has no meaningful plans for tackling CO2 from aviation despite UK and international climate change commitments, a new runway will see aviation emissions soar.

The decision is also a betrayal of local people who are already exposed to dangerous and illegal levels of air pollution, and to noise at levels known to harm health. Even if the airport introduces a partial night flight ban that may provide some respite for existing communities, hundreds of thousands of people will be overflown for the first time as a result of expansion, at an airport that already impacts more people than its five major European rivals combined.

Today’s decision is not final. This is not the first time that a UK government has announced its support for a new South East runway. On each occasion in the past that that the government has supported expansion, it has not proceeded once the full economic and environmental costs have become clear.

Parliament will now have its say on the Government’s decision. It is vital that MPs look beyond the headline figures from the Airports Commission’s final report, since many of the costs of expansion were hidden in appendices. Factoring in these costs shows that the environmental damage created by a new runway will result in a relatively small economic benefit and could even be negative. Over the summer we sent politicians from all major parties 50 reasons to oppose a new runway. MPs must now see if the Government has answers to these challenges.”

Contact: Name / email

AEF office: 0203 102 1509

Tim Johnson, AEF Director: (

Cait Hewitt, AEF Deputy Director: (


[1] The Aviation Environment Federation is the only national NGO campaigning exclusively on environmental impacts of aviation including noise, air pollution and climate change. We represent community groups around many of the UK airports in our work to secure effective regulation of the aviation industry at national and international levels.

[2] AEF’s 50 reasons are available to download at: with full references at:

[3] Drax emissions from UK Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (verified emissions accounting for biomass); Heathrow emissions projections from Jacobs, Carbon Assessment, November 2014, prepared for the Airports Commission

[4] (page 41)

[5] The UN reached agreement earlier this month on a global aviation emissions offsetting scheme, a welcome indication that all countries recognise the challenge of aviation emissions. While the agreement represents a first step towards bringing the sector into line with climate ambition, however, it will be unable to deliver the emissions reductions required by either UK climate legislation or the Paris Agreement.

[6] Click here for supporting information.