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Aviation expansion at any cost?

Last modified: 12 July 2012

Plane landing

Aviation expansion

Aviation expansion could threaten UK wildlife and lead to rocketing greenhouse gas emissions. That’s the message from the RSPB after the Government launched its consultation on the environmental impacts of aviation today [Thursday 12 July, 2012].

Aviation is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, with this country already one of the world’s biggest producers of carbon per head through air travel.

By 2050 aviation could account for one quarter of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions.  Yet there are no targets to reduce this, and these emissions are still not counted in UK’s carbon budget system. What’s more, the consultation confirms that new and expanding airports are on the horizon, which would see emissions rise to alarming and unacceptable levels, and may threaten valuable wildlife habitats such as the Thames Estuary.

Sue Armstrong-Brown, RSPB head of conservation policy, said: “Today’s announcement confirms Government’s continued pursuit of economic growth regardless of the cost to people, wildlife and our environment. Ultimately, this will only stoke the flames of opposition and cause needless damage to our fragile environment. The RSPB is calling for a new approach that properly values the environment and ensures that unbridled growth in aviation does not undermine our climate.

“Climate change is the greatest long-term threat facing birds, wildlife and people. If we don’t act now to limit our emissions, we’re putting our special places and species at grave risk as well people’s homes and livelihoods.

“The government has also delayed consultation on the economic arguments for a hub airport until later this year, and in doing so has harmfully segregated the debate. We cannot consider the economic arguments for expansion and specific hub proposals without taking into account the environmental impacts such as noise, pollution and climate change.

“We need a bold new vision for the UK’s wider transport strategy. Instead of thinking about aviation expansion, the government should be investing much more in improving the UK’s surface transport network, in new technologies for efficient and electric vehicles, and in using existing airport capacity better.”

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