Government must do more to show Heathrow expansion can be delivered within legal air pollution limits, the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee has said.
Fears about noise impacts, higher carbon emissions and poorer air quality are raised in the committee’s Airports Commission Report Follow-up: Carbon Emissions, Air Quality and Noise report which condemns the government’s failure to show a “step change” in the expansion programme’s environmental mitigation measures.
It comes after the government published its draft National Policy Statement (NPS) on Heathrow expansion earlier this month. MPs have called for new air quality modelling to inform the NPS process, following the High Court’s November 2016 ruling that over-optimistic pollution modelling was being used.
“If the government wants to get Heathrow expansion off 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,” said Environmental Audit Committee chair Mary Creagh.
“Worryingly, the government looks set to water down the limits on aviation emissions recommended by its own climate change advisors. That would mean other sectors of the economy, like energy and industry, having to cut their carbon emissions even deeper and faster.”
“Mitigating the air quality, carbon and noise impacts of a new runway cannot be an afterthought. Ministers must work harder to show that Heathrow expansion can be done within the UK’s legally binding environmental commitments.”
Concerns about air quality feature heavily in the report, which criticises government for failing to guarantee air quality targets will be maintained after Brexit. Britain recently received a final warning from the European Commission over its high NO2 emissions – London breached its 2017 limits just five days into the New Year.
The report also slams the “scant detail” available on the government’s approach to carbon emissions – adding carbon recommendations from the Committee on Climate Change could be rejected.
Noise reduction measures “lack ambition” according to the report, which calls for an Independent Aviation Noise Authority.
New Civil Engneer has contacted the Department for Transport for a response.