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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 June, 2004, 07:45 GMT 08:45 UK
Government airport plans slammed
Easyjet plane
The growth of low-cost carriers has hit the environment, the SDC says
Government plans to expand several UK airports will make it impossible for it to meet its targets for tackling global warming, a Whitehall adviser says.

The Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) says greenhouse gases, the main cause of global climate change, are rising due to the boom in air travel.

But the Department for Transport (DfT) plans to expand runways and terminals at several airports.

The SDC is calling for the DfT's plans to be reassessed and air taxes raised.

Passenger boom

Sir Jonathon Porritt, chair of the Sustainable Development Commission, said: "The government has got to develop a far more joined-up approach on aviation.

The huge expansion of airports... will render impossible government efforts to adhere to its own target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions
Sir Jonathan Porritt
"That means the Department for Transport cannot pursue policies that cut across what the government is trying to achieve elsewhere."

The government has set itself a target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 60% by 2050.

The DfT has outlined plans to build new runways at Heathrow, Birmingham and Stansted as well as expand aircraft terminals in several other parts of the country.

The moves are designed to cope with a projected increase in passengers from the current 200 million a year to 400 million by 2020, and 500 million by 2030.

A spokesman for the DfT said more needed to be done to limit the environmental impact of air travel, while balancing the expansion in air travel.

He said: "The Future of Air Transport White Paper sets out a balanced and measured approach between travel needs, economic benefits of new capacity and the environmental effects of flying."

'Huge expansion'

In a report published on Thursday, the SDC says there is no way the projected increase in air traffic can be described as "sustainable".

Former Friends of the Earth director Sir Jonathon added: "The huge expansion of airports and air traffic outlined in the White Paper will render impossible government efforts to adhere to its own target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions."

Numbers passing through UK airports
2004 - 200 million
2020 - 400 million
2030 - 500 million
He said the growth of low-cost airlines, such as Easyjet and Ryanair, had also worsened the environmental impact.

The SDC argues the UK aviation industry should be included in the EU Emission Trading Scheme (EUETS), by 2008, and calls for the government's international leading role in sustainable development and climate change to be safeguarded.

In the build-up to last week's local and European elections, the Green Party said Britain should cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 90% over the next 50 years.

Lord Faulkner, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Sustainable Aviation Group, supported the SDC's stance and urged the Department for Transport to respond "positively" to their "expert, independent and important advice".

The DfT spokesman said government figures showed that by 2050, air travel emissions would amount to a third of UK climate change impact - less than the figure quoted in the SDC's report.

He also said that emissions trading would be a priority, as well as exploring other ways of cutting greenhouse gases.

Greens highlight pollution drive
07 Jun 04  |  Politics
Calls to control low-cost flights
24 Apr 04  |  Science/Nature
Air plans 'will hit green policy'
15 Mar 04  |  Politics
Stansted heads airports expansion
16 Dec 03  |  Politics
Green concerns over aviation plan
16 Dec 03  |  Science/Nature

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