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WWF comment on proposed third runway at Heathrow

Chief Executive David Nussbaum commented on proposed third runway at Heathrow

“UK aviation has a serious emissions challenge.  Runway expansion would make the problem worse and the solutions tougher.  The Prime Minister should consider that ordinary families, businesses and our environment will gain little from a new runway.  Expanding Heathrow would be the worst outcome for the environment.  It would lead to the greatest increases in noise, in air pollution, and in climate-damaging CO2 emissions.

“Expanding runway capacity will not make Britain more prosperous, but it will make it impossible for the aviation sector to play its proper role in meeting the UK’s emissions targets, to which the Prime Minister and Climate Change Secretary are committed.  The greater the emissions from aviation, the greater pressure there will be on other businesses to reduce their CO2 emissions even further.  If the Government supports the Davies report, they will have to present a plan how these reductions will be achieved elsewhere – and at what price to the UK economy and people. 
 
“The green growth the UK needs would be better served by investing in low carbon technologies and making intelligent use of alternatives to flying.  Businesses are already doing this – with increased demand for airport expansion largely coming from a small proportion of the population who take repeated leisure flights each year."

Background             
Expanding Heathrow’s capacity would be the worst choice for Britain, with major impact on air quality, CO2 emissions and environmental disturbance.  In choosing this most damaging option, the Government would jeopardise any claim to international leadership on carbon emissions or sustainable development, and place an additional responsibility on other businesses to cut their emissions further and faster.

With all other sectors cutting emissions, all aviation needs to do is limit emissions increases. With airport expansion, the sector will fail to do even that. The aviation sector must play its fair share in tackling climate change.

Having agreed to airport expansion, the government must now set out how they will make up for these additional emissions. Otherwise they  will not be able to show leadership at UNFCCC and ICAO and will not be able to meet our existing Carbon Budget. 
 
Business demand for air travel is falling (DfT)  as companies are making increasing use of low-carbon alternatives. In 2011, 61% of FTSE 500 companies expected to travel more by train and 87% expected to use more videoconferencing in future (WWF-UK) . Videoconferencing saves time and money as well as CO2 (WWF-UK) . Business travel has fallen both in percentage terms and in absolute terms over the past 15 years (AEF)  . 
 
Many flights do not fly at full capacity, and many regional airports have spare runway capacity. Making better use of existing capacity, both on-board planes and in regional airports, would significantly reduce the need for expansion.

Expansion will not drive economic growth. The correlation between aviation capacity and growth is strong in emerging economies and regions but weak in developed economies (like the UK) and regions (like the south east) (WWF-UK/CE Delft) .

The main driver of aviation demand is not business or family holidays, but a small and wealthy subset of the population who take several leisure flights per year. This group, 15% of the UK population, takes 70% of UK flights (Fellow Travellers) .

For further information please contact:
Oliver Fry | Political Media Relations Manager
T: +44 (0)1483 412280 | M: +44 (0)7855 456 453

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