Heathrow expansion increases energy saving strain

Image credit: Philip Capper (Flickr)

by Joshua Green

Has the passed proposal of a third runway at Heathrow Airport reduced great stress on the runaways at the cost of great stress on the rest of the country? According to the Committee on Climate Change the plan will cause hardship as the government will have to find energy savings in other sectors of the economy.

The committee, a body that was created as result of the Climate Change Act of 2008, was set up to advise them on matters regarding emission targets set by various climate treaties. The body has warned that the building of the highly controversial third runway (as part of the overall Heathrow business plan) will increase aviation emissions by 15% by the year 2050. The committee also made further comments on how this contradicts minister policy on keeping aviation emissions at 2005 levels and also how cuts will have to be made elsewhere to keep in line with ideal emission levels.

Lord Deben, who chairs the Committee on Climate Change, wrote recently to Greg Clark who is the Business and Energy Secretary stating these fears, as stated by BBC News: “Aviation emissions at 2005 levels already imply an 85% reduction in other sectors. My committee has limited confidence about the options [for achieving the compensatory cuts needed].”

Lord Deben’s fears corroborates with observations made on the aviation industry. Since the year 1990 emissions from aviation have doubled whilst economy-wide emissions have decreased by a third of their original levels. To counteract aviation overshoots there are plans that the Department of Transport will buy ‘permits to pollute’ in poorer countries that have much lower levels of CO2 emissions. These permits are basically a way for countries that over-pollute to pay a consequence for doing so. A clear benefit of this system is that overshooting has the silver-lining effect of helping weaker economies.

However, the system of buying credits has the committee worried. The committee had previously warned the government for indulging in this method of palming off the overshoot in emissions as this method relies on other countries or entities having these credits to sell. Thus the committee argues that this is not a solution that should be used for long term. Rules regarding government policy and committee interactions also state that the committee should have been consulted on government’s plans.

Not only has the committee itself expressed concerns and doubt on government plans but also organisations such as Greenpeace (via Doug Parr a member of the organisation) who echoed the same fears as the committee have. Further concerns have also been generated, about the government’s commitment to climate change action, because of delayed long-term plans for lower emissions until early 2017. Along with this and the scrapping of the ‘Green Deal’ scheme, which tackled home emissions by improving home insulation across the country, many people could be right in suggesting that government is clearly not doing enough on their obligation to reduce harmful emissions.

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