Environmental objections to a third runway at Heathrow airport are “disappearing”, the chair of the energy and climate change committee said today.
Senior Tory MP Tim Yeo claimed the inclusion of airlines under the EU emissions trading scheme means Heathrow could be expanded without damaging the environment.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, the MP said: “Last January, greenhouse gas emissions from flying were brought within the EU cap. Indeed, we could cover the whole of Surrey with runways and not increase emissions by a single kilogram: if Heathrow expands, so remaining the European destination of choice, airlines will fly their newest and quietest aircraft to it. If not, then older and noisier planes will be the norm.”
In June 2008, Prime Minister David Cameron announced his opposition to expanding the London airport. He also agreed to rule out any expansion in the Coalition agreement which should last until the next election.
Originally toeing the party line in 2008, Mr Yeo now believes a third runway would help the UK stay in the “economic Premier League”.
The growing prosperity of cities in China such as Chongqing (population 28 million) is an opportunity the UK’s economy could miss out on because there are no direct flights there, unlike other top European cities, he claimed.
Not everyone agrees this is the case. Labour MP John McDonnell said in a letter to the Guardian yesterday: “There is no independent evidence to demonstrate that the UK is missing out on trade with China or any other Bric country. The reverse is true, as London is served by its network of five airports that make us the best connected city in the world.”
Campaign groups also dispute the Tory MP’s environmental claims. Jean Leston, Senior Policy Advisor at WWF UK, which opposes a new runway, dismissed the MP’s “faulty reasoning”.
She told ELN: “The EU ETS works by paying other sectors to reduce emissions on your behalf… Particularly after the sub-prime mortgage system we should be wary of a system which passes on other people’s debt.”
Relying on the EU ETS could push up airlines’ ticket prices, she warned: “The more you pollute, the more you have to buy. You leave yourself vulnerable to the price of carbon.”
She added aviation is not “cure-all” for the economy: “It’s a fallacious argument that if we have a new runway that magically solves growth.”