No New Runways at Heathrow or Gatwick – A Sustainable Future is a far more credible alternative.

The South East Green Party, which includes communities at Gatwick and Heathrow, is calling for an end to airport expansion and real action on climate change in response to the Airport Commission’s recommendations this morning (July 1) that a third runway is required at Heathrow. But the uncertainty remains as the Commission has also said that Gatwick expansion remains “a credible alternative”. This announcement comes less than 6 months before international leaders meet to negotiate their commitments to climate action in Paris this December – and just one day after the independent Committee on Climate Change published an update on the government’s progress on this issue.

The Airports Commission had been charged by the Government with reviewing whether further capacity is needed at any of the UK’s airports and whether Gatwick or Heathrow should be preferred. Their decision fails to acknowledge that all airports (with the exception of Heathrow) are currently underused. The matter will now be determined by MPs.

“The real choice our Government needs to make in response to the Davies Commission is whether it wants to invest now for a sustainable UK or continue to expand aviation. The only reason why the Airports Commission has discounted climate change as central to this decision is because it has followed the Government’s current approach, which is to ignore all the climate impacts of international aviation. As well as recognising the true scale of local environmental impacts of expansion, our Government must now show its leadership on climate change by choosing a different course for the UK’s economy – one where environmental and economic sustainability walk together. The Committee on Climate Change says we need an emissions action plan for aviation. Any decision should be delayed until this is drawn up.”

A recent yougov poll shows that 64 % of people believe that the best way to address climate change is by reducing carbon emissions. With the COP talks coming up, our Government must show concrete commitment, including by investing in the transition to more sustainable modes of transport instead. This would signal that the UK is committed to the joined-up approach needed to turn the G7’s call for zero carbon economies into practice, and make the hard decisions to invest in what our common future requires.”

This is echoed by Cait Hewitt from the Aviation Environment Federation, the leading UK environmental NGO campaigning on the environmental impacts of aviation. Commenting to a report out just yesterday from the government’s independent Committee on Climate Change she said, “this report highlights the need for Government intervention to manage aviation demand just at a time when a decision on new airport capacity is looming. Our work has shown, a new runway would make the aviation emissions cap impossible to achieve in the real world. Ruling out South East airport expansion is the most obvious first step for the Government to take in response – at the very least it must postpone a decision on a new runway until after it has published an emissions action plan for aviation.”

The Green Party says we must tackle the trend of excessive flying. Green MP Caroline Lucas and South East Green MEP Keith Taylor are supporting changes to taxation around flying to discourage ‘frequent flyers’. The plan, backed by the Campaign for Better Transport, the New Economics Foundation, the Tax Justice Network and many more would replace air passenger duty with a frequent flyer levy.