Heathrow Airport expansion: Transport secretary dismisses warning that climate change targets will be smashed

Independent committee is poised to warn that soaring emissions from third runway will destroy Britain's greenhouse gas reduction commitments

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Monday 25 June 2018 07:42 BST
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling: modern planes “breaking new frontiers” by cutting fuel use, emissions and noise

The transport secretary is on a collision course with climate change experts after denying the expansion of Heathrow Airport will smash the UK’s legal commitments.

An independent committee is poised to warn that the controversial third runway will – through soaring emissions - destroy hopes that Britain can meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) will say that UK aviation must not exceed its pre-recession peak of emitting 37.5m tonnes of CO2 in 2005, if the targets are to be hit.

Yet a report published on the department for transport website last week said aviation emissions would hit 43m tonnes of CO2 by 2030 if Heathrow expansion goes ahead.

However, Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, rejected the fears – insisting modern planes were “breaking new frontiers” by cutting fuel use, emissions and noise.

“The Airports Commission came to a very clear view that we could expand Heathrow airport and still meet our climate change obligations,” Mr Grayling claimed.

“They gave it the thumbs up, they did lots of detailed analysis on this and they said ‘yes we can do this’.”

Challenged, on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, on the likelihood that CO2 emissions would rise, Mr Grayling replied: “I think technology, over the next 20 or 30 years, is going to make a big difference in aviation.

“It’s happening already, if you look at the new aircraft. That’s going to make a huge difference to fuel consumption and emissions and noise at airports.”

Ministers are facing accusations that they are “fixing” the Heathrow vote, by staging it three days before the climate change committee’s report is published.

It is expected to warn that aviation and other emissions are growing so fast that homeowners and businesses may have to sacrifice gas cookers, central heating boilers and petrol cars for Britain to meet its targets.

The UK emitted 800m tonnes of CO2 in 1990 and ha pledged to cut this to 344m tonnes by 2030 and 160m tonnes by 2050 – an 80 per cent reduction.

Lord Deben, the CCC’s chairman and a former Tory minister, has written to Mr Grayling, warning of the perils of expanding aviation, The Sunday Times reported.

Labour has condemned the timing of the vote tonight, Andy McDonald, the shadow transport secretary, calling it “outrageous”.

“MPs will be voting in ignorance of the key facts about emissions from aviation. It's a free vote but I am recommending all Labour MPs oppose Heathrow expansion,” he said.

Environmental groups warn that expanding aviation will in effect take Britain out of the Paris agreement on climate change.

James Beard, a climate specialist at the World Wide Fund for Nature, said: “We can live up to our commitments to tackle climate change or we can build a third runway. It's almost impossible to do both.”

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