The government can’t push ahead with Heathrow, unless they reject the latest advice from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC). In 2016, the Airports Commission used evidence from the CCC to state that Heathrow expansion was OK if we stayed within national limits for carbon emissions, but the CCC now want the UK target changed to zero emissions by 2050 and have stated that aviation expansion will have to be curbed.
The Airports Commission only justified the existing policy of Heathrow expansion by taking an extremely optimistic view about future efficiency improvements and making big assumptions which are not widely accepted. Even with these efficiency improvements, the Airports Commission was already talking (in the small print of reports) about carbon capping and taxing. Even in their optimistic scenarios, passenger numbers would eventually have to fall.
Heathrow only scraped through the recent court case brought by local authorities and Greenpeace because the Paris Agreement to reduce carbon emissions is not part of UK law. However, the Climate Act is law and so are the five yearly carbon budgets which will have to be reduced further to reach zero emissions in 2050. With the government already facing problems reaching its current commitments, then Heathrow expansion becomes a non-starter.
I’ll be telling the government that it makes no sense to spend billions of pounds expanding Heathrow if it has to close a decade later.
The Lords exchange is here