Heathrow is already highly disruptive, its flight paths overflying the most densely populated residential region in the UK. In the entire EU, a staggering 29% of people adversely impacted by aviation nose live under the Heathrow flight paths.
And yet a 3rd runway will mean a 54% increase in flights that will halve periods of “respite” for residents (times when areas are not overflown).
Who will foot the bill for expansion? TfL claims infrastructure costs will be at least £15 billion the government claims £5 billion, but Heathrow has committed to contribute only £1 billion.
Resurrected plans for the Southwest Trains link to Heathrow will see the railway crossings along this route closed for 45 minutes in the hour – there has even been councillor discussions of permanently closing one of the Egham crossings.
A 3rd runway will increase “hub” traffic (transfer passengers that) and profits for Heathrow’s 92% foreign owned shareholders, but what will the economic benefit be to the UK? Even the government believes the net benefit (after infrastructure, compensation, mitigation costs) to be no more than £6 billion over 60 years. Put another way, each UK citizen will benefit by £1.86 per year – less than a cup of coffee!
The “Independent” Airports Commission, which recommended a 3rd runway, was chaired by Sir Howard Davies, who on the date of his appointment was employed by GIC Private Ltd – one of Heathrow’s principal owners and cheerleaders for Heathrow expansion. Philip Hammond’s response to this at the recently packed public meeting in Englefield Green was “Sir Howard Davies is a man of Integrity”. Sir Howard Davies is no stranger to controversy for example see here, here or here.
Evidence for expansion is flawed. Questions raised by the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee (see published letter to Philip Hammond), doubting the economic benefit, remain unanswered. Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee has issued a damning report on the health and environmental impacts and will put more pressure on the overloaded NHS.
The DfT’s National Policy Statement (NPS) consultation has been condemned by communities as a mere publicity stunt and completely one sided – residents have not been properly consulted and Heathrow has consistently significantly underestimated the current noise footprint, using outdated and deliberately misleading metrics that government and the airline industry are only just now, because of community outcry, reluctantly and whisperingly quietly just acknowledging, but still using to promote their cause.
The key findings of the Health Assessment in the Draft National Policy Statement include findings that people most affected by the negative affects of expansion will be least likely to benefit, inequality between children in low income housing on the one hand and higher income families on the other will increase and air quality for children and people living in areas with poor health status will deteriorate.
Air quality around Heathrow already fails to meet the current legal required standards shown by the current breach by Government of the High Court Order recently made against it. If the air quality is to deteriorate further, it is difficult to see how expansion can be lawful.
The UK is legally bound through its Climate Change Act 2008 to reduce CO2 levels by 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. To ensure this occurs, the government takes advice from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), an independent, statutory body.
The CCC has made it very clear that a limit of 37.5Mt by 2050 for flights departing the UK (around a quarter of the UK’s 2050 total emissions) is the maximum that can be accommodated that is compatible with the Climate Change Act. This is higher than aviation emissions were in 1990.
The Department for Transport have predicted aviation emissions to reach 47Mt by 2050, by expanding Heathrow. The UK is currently off course to meet carbon emissions targets from 2030 onwards.
The Committee on Climate Change found that under current policies we are on track to make about half the emissions reductions needed under the Climate Change Act. We’re already in carbon debt with no credit card, so there is no room to take account of extra emissions from aviation.
Comments by Mary Creagh, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, have emphasised the frustration with the government refusing to show its working on climate change, using terms like ‘magical thinking’ and ‘fantasy’. The committee’s formal report is more restrained but the summary is worth reading. There has been no clarity from the Government on carbon emissions. The Government’s headline cost-benefit analysis for Heathrow expansion is based on a hypothetical international framework to reduce emissions which would leave international aviation emissions 15% higher than the level assumed in the Fifth Carbon Budget (2028–2033).
The Government has said Heathrow “can” be delivered within emissions limits but it hasn’t decided or stated what these limits are. It is considering rejecting the Committee on Climate Change’s advice on the limits that should be adhered to and the level of passenger demand which is compatible with those limits. The Government’s revised aviation strategy must set out its approach to reducing emissions, the target it will work to and the measures it will take to close the policy gap between where we currently are and where we will need to be in each carbon budget period to 2050. If the Government does reject the Committee on Climate Change’s advice on aviation emissions it should set out clearly the resulting additional emissions reduction requirements on other sectors of the economy and the resulting costs to those sectors. These assumptions should be tested with industry and subjected to independent scrutiny by the Committee on Climate Change.
The Campaign Against Climate Change new video sums up this up well.