The planned construction of a third runway at Heathrow Airport has been a political hot potato for some time now. And despite recent Government approval for the expansion, concerns remain, particularly with regards to the potential impact on the environment and our capital’s air quality.
In terms of legislation, a third runway may affect the UK’s ability to meet climate change targets- due to all the money being spent on aviation, it is estimated that the British economy will have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 80 per cent. This is also exacerbated by the fact that around a quarter of Britain’s carbon budget will also need to be spent on modernizing airplane technology. So with air quality already a major issue among environmentalists, not to mention the financial burden, it’s unsurprising that the impending expansion of one of the world’s biggest airports has caused consternation.
Therefore, being able to keep emissions to a level that satisfies concerned bureaucrats is going to prove rather difficult, requiring more efficient planes, a more sensible use of aviation fuel as well as the levying of carbon taxes. This is precisely what the Committee on Climate Change is lobbying the Government to look into.
Whether you think that man-made global warming is pure fantasy or not, there’s no getting away from the fact that local residents will be affected. A new runway will mean more traffic to and from the airport and then of course there’s the noise factor with even more planes flying over London. Some also fear that people will be uprooted to make way for the expansion – it’s going to be a rather big project after all.
The construction process also has the potential to create harmful emissions. This is one of the main issues for activists and campaigners who contend that London’s air will be more dangerous to breathe and contribute to an air pollution ‘crisis’ that has apparently killed thousands of people. The UK is already breaching EU limits for nitrogen dioxide which is thought to cause numerous respiratory illnesses. However, recent independent research suggests that expansion would only lead to marginal increases in NO2. Unfortunately, this doesn’t wash with campaigners who have deemed the report’s findings as far-fetched.
Thankfully, campaigners and activists will be taking the Government to court and will stand side by side (in solidarity one presumes) with various West London councils in the hope that the whole project will be scrapped. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has also thrown his hat into the ring as well to add a certain amount of gravitas to proceedings. However, if their legal action fails, activists have a backup plan. They’ll be chaining themselves together on a mock runway outside Parliament.
We can be thankful for their efforts, especially if they prove successful. For despite the prospect of flaming airliner fuselages raining down on us due to increasing congestion in the skies, we will have saved our capital and the planet from an immediate and unwelcome environmental catastrophe.
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