Aviation White Paper: huge expansion in airport capacity
A huge expansion in air travel was signalled this week with the publication of the Aviation White Paper. Transport Secretary, Alastair Darling, announced new runways for both Stansted and Heathrow airports, amid furious criticism from environmental groups.
Mr Darling said that "all the evidence suggests that air travel will continue growing over the next 30 years", but that environmental issues should also be addressed. He added that emissions trading was the best way to tackle the aviation industry's greenhouse gas emissions, and said the government would push hard for this approach both in the EU and globally.
The third runway at Heathrow will only be given the go-ahead if the airport operator can overcome nitrogen pollution problems and ensure no extra residents suffer noise inconvenience. To achieve this, new low-emission service vehicles would have to be introduced and airlines would have to use cleaner aircraft engines.
The British Airports Authority (BAA) welcomed the framework for aviation and said it would press ahead with plans for a second runway at Stansted.
Mike Clasper, BAA Chief Executive, said: "Aviation is vital to the economic and social well being of the UK and we are pleased that the government has taken such a long sighted strategic view."
However, many others criticised the plan.
Barbara Young, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, said: "The government needs to work with the EU, international bodies, its environmental advisors and industry, to reduce aviation's greenhouse gas emissions and to develop appropriate economic instruments that meet the environmental costs of aviation."
She added that the white paper's acceptance of growth in air traffic jeopardises all achievements in reducing CO2 emissions and that, by 2030, aircraft fuelled at UK airports could have a global warming impact equivalent to at least 30% of current CO2 emissions from all UK sources. Ms Young also said that airport development has a number of major knock-on consequences outside the airport vicinity, such as an increase in traffic on surrounding roads. Promoters and planning bodies should consult the Environment Agency before commencing with any expansion, she said.
Friends of the Earth also criticised the plans, accusing the government of abdicating its environmental responsibilities. The group said that, as well as abandoning its climate change targets, the government had missed the chance to invest in high speed rail and less environmentally damaging forms of transport.