The environmental impact of a third runway at Heathrow


The Guardian, 27 June 2018:

This government’s decision to create more pollution at Heathrow (Report, 26 June) while simultaneously rejecting tidal power in Swansea Bay (Report, 26 June) shows it has no strategy for tackling climate change.

Although aviation only contributes about 2% of global emissions of carbon dioxide, it accounts for over 6% of global warming due the effects of other greenhouse gases and vapour trails. The upcoming report by the UK Committee on Climate Change shows that a third runway will increase CO2emissions from air travel from 37 to 43 million tonnes per annum. But since our overall carbon budget will have fallen by 2030 to 344 million tonnes, the contribution from aviation will have jumped from 6.5% to 12.5% of the UK’s carbon emissions. In other words, a third runway is incompatible with the UK’s climate commitments, and things will only get worse post-Brexit.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Marlow, Buckinghamshire

Air quality targets will not be enforceable


Financial Times, 19 June 2018:

The letter from the UK roads minister Jesse Norman needs to be seen in context (“New regulations will drive emissions cheats off road”, June 8). Without the EU threatening legal action, would there have been any appetite in government to fine car manufacturers £50,000 per vehicle fitted with a defeat device? And why does this apply only to new cars? In the US, Volkswagen was fined $30,000 for every vehicle on the road, and VW personnel are subject to criminal prosecution.

There is of course a further dimension to this catalogue of failure. Following Brexit, the EU air quality directive will no longer apply. It will be replaced by a new environmental watchdog, but the proposal from environment secretary Michael Gove makes it clear that the air quality targets will not be legally enforceable. So the statutory body can issue advisory notices about poor air quality in central London, or unacceptable levels of pollution at Heathrow, but the government will be immune from prosecution.

Brexiters will claim a victory for the free market, but for everyone else it will be a defeat.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Former Chair, Campaign for Lead Free Air,
Marlow, Bucks, UK

Heathrow and the ‘aviation mafia’


The Guardian, 9 June 2018:

Climate change is a good reason for opposing a third runway at Heathrow. Air pollution is another. The chief executive of Heathrow, John Holland-Kaye, has circulated local residents reassuring them that he takes this issue very seriously. In fact Heathrow uses diesel generators to refuel around 40% of its planes. It has been offered renewable energy generated locally but turned down the proposal as it was slightly more expensive. So pollution and sustainability do not seem to feature in Holland-Kaye’s business decisions.

Nor it seems in the government’s. The real reason for Chris Grayling’s announcement is that Brexit will free the UK from the EU air quality directive; and we already know that Michael Gove’s new Environment Agency has no regulatory teeth. It can issue advisory notices regarding pollution levels at Heathrow, but the government will be immune from prosecution. Those who have hitherto failed to comprehend the cynical rationale behind Brexit need look no further than Heathrow.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Chair, Help Rescue the Planet