Travelling by air is one of the most environmentally unfriendly means of transport and many people who were lobbying on behalf of the environment were very pleased to see that the government cancelled any more development plans for another runway at Heathrow. The coalition also ruled out expansion at Stansted and Gatwick airport for the near future.
Since this time, the government’s plans have changed and their desperate need to cause economic growth in the country has been at a cost to the environment. Plans have been going ahead for the Thames estuary airport. Even if the government is to meet its carbon targets by 2050, there is still room for more air transport in the United Kingdom, at least according to advisers to the government.
The Committee on Climate Change has told the government that it is relatively hard to reduce emissions with regard to air travel and the reduction efforts should be focused elsewhere. The new airport is proposed to be twice the size of Heathrow and if it is constructed it would use all of the carbon allowance that the UK has left before 2050 meaning that it would be impossible to expand any other airports.
It is a well used argument that increased air travel will lead to economic growth and many business groups have proposed this argument to the government. Legally binding carbon reduction programs implemented by the EU have meant that aircraft are probably going to have to become more efficient if they are to be allowed to continue to fly.
However, if the amount we are flying continues to increase then no number of efficiency changes are going to be able to reverse the damage done by even more flights.The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has said that any plans to build an airport in this location in London would be simple environmental vandalism. They described the area as very important to the survival of several wild birds and building an airport there would cause irreversible damage.
Several new policies have come out from the government which are not focused on being environmentally friendly. The government are putting economic recovery before the environment and many people have met the government’s proposals with horror, such as the selling off of public would land.
As much as the government want to preach about the value of the environment, it is simply not coming through in their policies. What is becoming clear is that the government are willing to sacrifice the environment in aid of economic growth. This is a very short-sighted approach when we live in a world with finite resources and we are leaving our children with an environmental legacy that no one would want to have to deal with.
It is easy to be critical of the government as they promised themselves to be very green focused during their election campaign, but since then they have failed to live up to their word. Many people feel that this new airport will never go ahead and a far simpler option is to build a third runway at Heathrow.