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Green Liberal Democrats

A letter you can send to your MP if they support the expansion of Heathrow

January 12, 2009 10:49 AM

Dear MP

I know you support the construction of a third runway at Heathrow. I am writing to ask you to reconsider your position as a matter of urgency and to join other MPs across all parties in lobbying for an end to airport expansion.

The government has said that it supports Heathrow expansion because: 1) without the third runway the UK is going to be left behind economically; and 2) inclusion of aviation emissions in the emissions trading scheme (ETS) is the best way of addressing emissions in this sector. I would like you to know that I strongly disagree with this view.

The Committee on Climate Change recently reviewed the technological prospects for decarbonising aviation. There is no silver bullet in the next few decades which could reduce emissions from planes in line with the the 80% cuts the UK Government is committed to making. Emissions of CO2 from aviation already stand at 39MtCO2 - more than 5% of the total, and their global warming effects is actually 2 - 4 times worst once we take account of emissions of NOX and water vapour.

Nor is inclusion of aviation in the EU-ETS a panacea. Inclusion of aviation will result in lobbying by business for laxer overall EU-ETS targets.Building a third runway will mean airport authorities incurring a huge sunk cost. They need to see a return on this investment which will make it be extremely difficult for any government thereafter to introduce policy that aims to reduce the number of flights. Consequently aviation emissions are almost certain to remain on an upward trajectory, taking a higher and higher share of our allowed emissions. You will no doubt be aware of the history of the ETS itself and the limited impact it has on carbon prices for the same reason - that governments simply seek to protect their industries. By joining in the race for the best airport and building the third runway, we will in effect be locking ourselves into a higher carbon system.

The 2M group of local authorities, which represents more than 4 million residents in the London area, is adamant that the government has not made the economic case for Heathrow expansion. Furthermore a low carbon economy will mean growth of communications of the future: high speed rail; video conferencing etc. In a few years time when this change in communication methods begins to be seen, a third runway is likely to be an unneeded white elephant and an expensive millstone round our necks. Interestingly we have a substantial trade deficit in terms of income from tourism. Roughly twice as many UK residents holiday overseas, than overseas visitors holiday here. By faciltating this expansion we are exporting tourism jobs, costing the economy many tens of billions a year.

So please, please reconsider and help to maintain the UK's lead on climate change matters. If we say no to the expansion of airports, then we will be sending an extremely powerful message to the world

Yours sincerely

Cllr Alexis Rowell

Chair, Camden Sustainability Task Force

www.camden.gov.uk/susforce