Airport Rethink Following Climate Report

Passenger growth 'limited' to 60%


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Wednesday’s report by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) setting new limits on aviation growth could force ministers to redraw airport expansion policies across the UK.

The 2M Group of councils opposed to Heathrow expansion said the 2003 air transport white paper on which the third runway proposal was based was now hopelessly out of date.

The CCC said growth between now and 2050 should be capped at 60% - not the 200% projected by the Government. This was necessary if aviation emissions were to be contained at their 2005 levels. The report says other sectors of the economy must reduce emissions by 90% if aviation is to be allowed to grow.

It finds that even with an increased carbon price, high speed rail alternatives and greater sue of video-conferencing; additional policies would be needed to constrain demand growth to 60 per cent.

Hounslow council's Lead Member for Aviation, Cllr Barbara Reid, said, “Today’s report should mark the final collapse of the Government’s plans for airport expansion. Achieving the new lower levels of growth will be immensely difficult and it would be reckless, if not plain stupid, to press ahead with a third runway given these uncertainties.

“If, in the dying days of this government, ministers are determined to single Heathrow out for special treatment then they will have to come up with a fresh set of proposals which can be the subject of proper consultation with the public. This Government never did have a credible aviation policy; and now the report, and the climate change committee, together are consigning the 2003 Airports White Paper to the dustbin. It is impossible to see now how ministers could justify a go ahead for a third runway at Heathrow.”

The 2M group also welcomed the CCC’s finding that high speed rail could provide substitute for domestic and short haul flights to Europe. This could result in a 10% aviation demand reduction by 2050.

2M has identified 159 flights from Heathrow for which high speed rail could offer a viable alternative within a four-hour threshold. This would include the key European destinations of Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Frankfurt. This is equivalent to just over 24% of current Heathrow flights.

A judicial review of the Government’s Heathrow decision will be heard in the High Court from 23-25 February. The case is being brought by a coalition of local councils, environmental bodies, residents groups and is supported by the Mayor of London.

They are arguing that the consultation was flawed and that the decision was irrational because its basis, the Government’s 2003 aviation policy, is out of date and completely at odds with the Government’s climate change policy.

The case is backed by Hounslow, Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth, Windsor and Maidenhead, Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea councils and the Mayor of London.

For more information about the campaign group, visit  

London Assembly member for South West, Tony Arbour, has hit out at the Committee on Climate Change after it said that the building of a third runway at Heathrow would be possible within carbon dioxide emissions limits.

In its report the Committee said that improvements in the efficiency of aviation technology would allow for more flying without exceeding the Government’s CO2 limits.

Commenting, Mr Arbour said, “It is estimated that a third runway at Heathrow would attract between 24 million – 70 milion more people by 2030, but that through improvements in technology emissions from aviation will be reduced to their 2005 levels.  I really do find this hard to believe.

“The point is this, that even if this were possible, which I very much doubt, there would still be millions more people and thousands more planes landing and taking off from Heathrow. Millions of people are against the building of this runway. It should not be built.”


December 18, 2009