The Committee on Climate Change – the Government’s independent advisers – have produced a report which can be interpreted as saying a third runway at Heathrow would not jeopardise the UK’s carbon emission reduction targets.
The Committee’s report assesses the options for cutting UK aviation emissions back to 2005 levels by 2050, the target adopted by the government earlier this year. It’s conclusions have surprised many environmental campaigners.
Their maths suggests R3 might increase passenger numbers by 70 million a year. It also concludes that the number of passengers using British airports could increase by 60% an extra 138 million people by 2050 without the emissions target being breached. So R3 on its own would not breach this target, providing that the technological improvements in aircraft and fuel which the Committee has used as assumptions are realised.
Expansion at Heathrow would ‘use up’ about half the headroom identified by this report, and mean that while other airports could also expand capacity, they might find their plans tougher to realise. Given that the 2003 White Paper put forward Heathrow, Stansted and Edinburgh for expansion, other UK airports may not want this report to be taken too literally.
While this is not conclusive, or binding, it does suggest that an argument based solely on climate change will not stop a third runway. Those opposed will have to win an argument around economic benefit, which they may find significantly harder.