Stansted and City airports get the expansion go ahead

Posted by bex — 10 October 2008 at 9:45am - Comments

Stansted Airport

There've been two new blows to the UK's prospects of tackling climate change in the last couple of days.

First, City Airport got permission to increase flights to and from the airport by up to 50 per cent - despite the presence of dozens of flashmobbers registering their opposition outside Newham Town Hall (where the decision meeting was taking place), and local planners, teachers and campaigners from a number of organisations inside the hall. And despite the fact that the airport representatives couldn't and didn't even try to answer the accusations that they'd lied and their noise figures were inaccurate.

And then, ignoring powerful opposition from Stop Stansted Expansion and thousands of others, the government's minister for BAA transport secretary gave Stansted Airport the go ahead for an extra 10 million passengers - or 23,000 flights - a year.

Overall then, a bad day for the UK's emissions. But the subtext of the decision is even more worrying; despite the reshuffle, despite the government's recent signals that it will agree to a target that necessitates the stopping of growth from aviation, the government is carrying on with business as usual. 'Business' being the operative word; as the Lib Dem's Norman Baker observed, it's "further evidence that the government is in the pocket of the aviation industry".

The government's somewhat dense letter to BAA (pdf) confirming its decision on Stansted is quite revealing. In it, the government admits it is pretty much ignoring the climate change bill ("The Secretaries of State note that neither the Planning Bill nor Climate Change Bill have been enacted, and afford them little weight, as they might be subject to change").

The letter also reveals that the government still hasn't grasped a fundamental reality about airport expansion: that aviation growth is irreconcilable with tackling climate change (as we've explained before, if aviation keeps expanding at predicted levels, its emissions would wipe out our entire 2050 carbon budget*).

And yet the Secretaries of State, says the letter, "share the Inspector's view that Government policy seeks to reconcile growth in aviation to meet the needs identified in the [Air Transport White Paper] with action to address climate change..."

On the bright side, there has been some small consolation for anti-aviation expansion campaigners this week: Coventry airport lost its High Court appeal to build a terminal this week.

But for now, campaigners' eyes are on the Heathrow decision - and whether the government, for once, can make reality match its rhetoric.

* Clarification 13/10/08: If aviation keeps expanding at predicted levels, its emissions would wipe out our entire 2050 carbon budget if we adopted the 80 per cent target Brown is considering adopting.

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