Whichever candidate becomes leader there has to be another vote on a 3rd Runway

Today sees the launch of Heathrow’s consultation, shining a light on just how serious a misstep a 3rd Runway at Heathrow would be. The disruption and pollution from a 3rd Runway would be a serious blight on local communities as well as a backwards step for this Government’s green credentials.


A 3rd Runway would mean 260,000 extra flights per year. That’s more than 700 extra flights per day! The scale of their plans is vast – similar to bolting on an entire new Gatwick Airport (the UK’s second largest airport after Heathrow) - and will have a massive impact on many communities, especially those of Windsor. Approximately 800 homes will have to be demolished and another 3,000 homes rendered unliveable owing to the construction and pollution. Heathrow is already Europe's most disruptive airport, impacting a quarter of all of the people affected by aviation noise pollution, and this could increase the problem further.


Heathrow will grow into the UK’s largest single source of carbon emissions. A report by the Committee on Climate Change found that by 2030 the proportion of carbon emissions emitted from aviation will have almost doubled from 6.5% to 12.5%. In its consultation document, Heathrow claims that it will only take up 1.2% of the UK’s 2050 carbon target…but only if you exclude the CO2 from international flights? More importantly, even this skewed target is based on the obsolete 80% greenhouse gas emissions target. The Government has (rightly) embarked on an even more ambitious target; aiming to eliminate net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 rather than simply cut them by 80% compared to 1990 levels. This simply isn’t acting in favour with the ‘climate emergency’ which parliament declared on Wednesday 1st May.[AW1] 


This does not mean that the Government will necessarily miss its ambitious targets to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050. However, allowing one sector of the economy to grow in this manner means that the rest of the economy will have to work twice as hard to install costly mechanisms and investments to reduce its carbon footprint simply so that Heathrow can be allowed to continue to belch out greenhouse gas emissions at an even greater rate.


This new greenhouse gas emissions target means that we are now in a totally different situation to the scenario MPs voted on.


And this is just one of the many aspects of a 3rd Runway which has changed since the vote in Parliament to approve the runway. For example, whilst Heathrow maintain the ambitious claim that they can get the runway built by 2026, the supporting infrastructure - new roads, terminal, fuel depots, hotels, shops, etc, will take until 2050 – at a total cost of £31bn. This is not what MPs were told before the NPS vote!


There are many reasons to reject a 3rd Runway at Heathrow, from the shift away from “hub and spoke” airports towards more long haul flights, the reduction in competition between airports and the 2.2 million people more affected by noise pollution. After all, we must not forget that the Department for Transport has progressively revised the expected benefits from a 3rd Runway down from over £12 billion to now being only “+£2.9 billion to -£2.5 billion” in their latest National Policy Statement. These figures are all over a 60 year period and are miniscule compared with a UK National GDP of nearly £2 trillion a year. The benefits range from negligible, to negative.


Far from the economic necessity that it is so often portrayed as, a 3rd Runway is, in environmental terms, a luxury. Given the context of our radical decarbonisation targets, it is a luxury we will likely find that we are unable to afford.


With a more ambitious target to eliminate net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, we are now in a permanently different era to the one when a 3rd Runway was approved just 12 months ago. I very much hope that the next leader of the Conservative Party, and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, takes Heathrow’s consultation as an opportunity to pause, take stock of the new scenario we live in, and take the brave option of going against the group think and cancelling a 3rd Runway at Heathrow.




Notes to editors


1.   Adam Afriyie has been Member of Parliament for Windsor since 2005.

2.   Adam Afriyie has campaigned against a 3rd Runway at Heathrow since he became an MP in 2005.

3.   He is a founding member of the No 3rd Runway Coalition.

4.   To view more of Adam’s work in this area please click here.

 [AW1]This was a Labour opposition motion which the government chose not to oppose. It was passed by approval, rather than a vote – and it is not binding on the government