The UK government has delayed its decision on a third runway at Heathrow airport until summer 2016 over environmental concerns and to allow elections in May to run their course.
The government has said it still supports the the Airports Commission recommendation for greater airport capacity in the south-east. Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin said: “The case for aviation expansion is clear – but it’s vitally important we get the decision right so that it will benefit generations to come. We will undertake more work on environmental impacts, including air quality, noise and carbon.
“We must develop the best possible package of measures to mitigate the impacts on local people. We will continue work on all the shortlisted locations, so that the timetable for more capacity set out by Sir Howard is met.
“At the first opportunity I will make a statement to the House to make clear our plans.”
Commenting on the announcement Stephen Joseph, Chief Executive, Campaign for Better Transport said: “While the Government is right to consider properly the impact of airport expansion on pollution and the environment, we are disappointed that it has accepted the case in principle for a new runway without looking at alternatives, including a frequent flyer levy that would avoid the need for expansion at all.
“The cost of sufficiently improving surface access to avoid unacceptable congestion and pollution would be so high as to make airport expansion unaffordable. If the Government were truly serious about emissions and noise, it would abandon these plans for a new runway in the South East.”
Friends of the Earth campaigner Oliver Hayes said: “It’s no surprise that David Cameron has choked on the Heathrow decision. It’s an inconvenient truth, but experts are clear you can’t build a new runway and tackle London’s toxic air pollution at the same time.
“It’s absurd that UK Government Ministers are touting “Green Britain” in Paris while beating the drum for more climate changing pollution through a new runway back home.
“With the majority of flights taken by a small number of frequent flyers, it’s time the Government taxed those who are contributing most to the air pollution and carbon problems that aviation exacerbates.”
WWF-UK CEO David Nussbaum said: “Expanding airport capacity makes little business and no environmental sense. The Government is here in Paris lobbying for a low-carbon future. It is difficult to see how a new runway would contribute to this.
“So before any concrete is poured the Government should publish a clear and credible plan for driving down aviation emissions. And it should set a Fifth Carbon Budget that unequivocally commits to low-carbon growth and provides long-term clarity for investors in clean energy, infrastructure and transport.”