Thursday 23 February 2017 12:01 am

Government isn't doing enough to mitigate the environmental hit from Heathrow expansion, warn MPs

The government looks set to flout recommendations made by its own climate change advisers regarding the environmental impact of Heathrow expansion, MPs warned today.

The Environmental Audit Committee has found the government is not doing enough to show it can mitigate the environmental hit the new runway is expected to have, and looks set to “water down” the limits on aviation emissions recommended by its advisers.

Read more: Two arrested after blocking Heathrow tunnel as travellers warned of delays

Mary Creagh MP, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, said:

If the government wants to get Heathrow expansion of the ground it needs to show that a third runway can be built and run without exceeding legal limits on air pollution or breaching our carbon budgets.

We have seen little evidence of the ‘step change’ in the government’s approach we called for in our previous report.

Worryingly, the government looks set to water down the limits on aviation emissions recommended by its own climate change advisers. That would mean other sectors of the economy, like energy and industry, having to cut their carbon emissions even deeper and faster.

The Committee said the government needed to set out new modelling on air quality following the High Court’s latest ruling and a new approach to air quality post 2019, to inform the national policy statement process. It said as yet, there had been no clarity on carbon emissions.

The Committee added: “The government must not allow our air quality standards to be watered down as a result of leaving the EU.”

Read more: Government to unveil Heathrow third runway national policy statement

And the cross-party MPs also expressed concern as to whether the government will have time to carry out a thorough reanalysis of the air quality impacts due to the timing of the national policy statement consultation.

Earlier this month, the government published proposals for Heathrow’s third runway for public consultation

Opponents to the expansion have said there hasn’t been a clear plan to meet the environmental obligations set out, with both air quality and CO2 limits breached before expansion.

It comes as the Transport Select Committee announced it was launching an inquiry into the draft airports national policy statement published by the Department for Transport (DfT). 

It is interested in receiving submissions on how comprehensive the proposal is in terms of supporting measures for affected communities as well as how well the proposal takes account of sustainability and environmental considerations.