GREEN MEP Jean Lambert has said there should be no new runways in London or the South-east after the Airports Commission recommended the construction of a new runway at either Heathrow or Gatwick Airport.
It has emerged today that the Commission, led by businessman Sir Howard Davies, will recommend a new runway for one of the two airports in its final report into how to improve airport capacity in the UK, due next summer.
Ms Lambert said the if the Commission had considered the question of whether we should boost the capacity of aviation in light of the UK’s legal obligations to cut greenhouse gas emissions and improve Londoners’ air quality it would have recommended no new runway at all.
In fact, the Commission took for granted that the aviation industry should be expanded and merely considered where a new runway should be put.
It will make a recommendation based on a shortlist of three options – building a new runway or doubling the length of an existing runway at Heathrow or building a new runway at Gatwick, according to Sir Howard.
The viability of a planned new airport in the Thames Estuary as espoused by Mayor of London Boris Johnson will be considered next year confirmed Sir Howard.
The Green MEP said: “The reality is that we shouldn’t be extending the UK aviation industry at all.
“Wherever you build it, any new runway will destroy local communities, worsen air pollution – and increase the UK’s CO2 emissions.
“Heathrow is already an air pollution hot-spot – with all the implications for health we know about: thousands of Londoners a year are dying prematurely every year as a result of poor air quality.
“We know that residents of the Heathrow area are already suffering intolerable noise pollution – often in their own homes – and that this is causing ill-health and having a negative impact on children’s eduction. Expanding the airport can only make this worse.
“We know the greenhouse gas emission limits we face and have to work within – instead of building ever-more new runways, leading to ever more CO2 emissions, we need to develop a transport policy that takes account of that.
“The UK already has the aviation capacity it needs – rather than asking for new runways in London, the Government should be looking at how we can use that capacity more effectively.”
Aviation already accounts for about 13% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. If allowed to continue unchecked, aviation growth will make it impossible for the UK to meet its target of reducing emissions by 80% by 2050.
Recent research by the Aviation Environment Federation suggests that the UK already has sufficient airport infrastructure to meet the maximum levels of future demand that would be consistent with the limits on aviation growth recommended by the UK Parliament’s Committee on Climate Change.
Ms Lambert added: “Not only is the expansion against Government targets for limiting all forms of pollution including noise and air but it will inevitably impact on the green belt and directly impinge on the homes and health of millions of Londoners.
“We’ve been told that expansion is crucial to the economy, but the contribution that aviation makes is frequently overstated. Eighteen million passengers arriving at Heathrow never leave the airport, simply using it to transfer to another international flight. That figure is expected to double by 2030.
“And the aviation industry does not pay it’s way, receiving tax breaks which other transport industries do not get. It doesn’t pay the damages of the noise and pollution it causes, it pays no tax on aviation fuel and it is zero-rated for VAT.
“A new runway anywhere will increase noise and air pollution. The health impacts of these pollutants are now much better understood than when Heathrow and Gatwick were first constructed, yet the Government does not seem concerned to address these issues.”