There has been much concern over the Government’s plans to expand Heathrow airport, by adding another runway. The concern is not just being expressed by people living locally to the airport but also those who want the UK to reduce its carbon emissions.
British Airways plane coming in to land over houses near Heathrow Airport
A piece in this week’s New Scientist” by Adam Vaughan sets out some of the actions the UK needs to take if it is to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. A bar chart in his article shows that aviation in the UK emits more greenhouse gases than any other sector (31.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent), with agriculture coming second.
See: New Scientist No. 3229, 11th May 2019.
The advisory Committee on Climate Change (CCC) recommendations have also been commented on by the BBC on their website.
They also focus on aviation and the planned Heathrow airport expansion. A senior civil servant has said that ministers may have to review their aviation strategy. And other environmental groups have said that the decision on Heathrow expansion should be brought back to Parliament.
It is a crucial time for flying, with policy on aviation right up to 2050 currently out for consultation.
When the government first laid out proposals for increasing aviation, the UK had an overall target of cutting CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050. But the CCC recently raised the bar of ambition in recommending that Britain should adopt a target of net zero emissions by 2050. That will mean compensating for any greenhouse gases by either capturing the CO2 and storing it, or planting more trees.
Under the previous 80% scenario, aviation had a privileged position. Its expansion would be counter-balanced by additional CO2 cuts in other sectors, like industry.
The CCC makes it clear this is not an option any more in a zero-carbon Britain.