A senior MP has accused ministers of ‘putting the cart before the horse’ over their approach to carbon emissions from an expanded Heathrow Airport.
The Environmental Audit Committee has published a letter from transport secretary Chris Grayling to its chair, Mary Creagh MP, in response to the committee’s request for clarification on carbon emissions and air quality.
Environmental Audit Committee chair Mary Creagh
Mr Grayling stated that ministers have not made a decision as to whether to accept a ‘planning assumption’ made by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) on the UK’s impact on carbon emissions from international aviation in 2050.
He said: 'The Government remains open to considering all feasible measures to ensure that the aviation sector contributes fairly to UK emissions reductions.’
However, he noted that the Airports Commission had shown that the planning assumption could be met even with higher demand growth than the 60% figure on which it recommended a new runway at Heathrow.
Responding to Mr Grayling’s letter, Ms Creagh said: ‘The Government has said that Heathrow can be delivered within carbon limits.
‘Yet this letter shows it has not yet decided what those international aviation emission limits should be. This implies it is considering rejecting the advice of the independent Committee on Climate Change.
‘The Government should set out its strategy to limit carbon emissions from international aviation before taking a final decision on Heathrow expansion. Anything else is putting the cart before the horse.’
In November, CCC chair Lord Deben wrote to business secretary Greg Clark, expressing ‘concerns’ about how the Department for Transport presented the implications for greenhouse gas emissions in the business case for a new Heathrow runway.
In his letter, Mr Grayling also confirmed that the Government would only back a new runway if the scheme complied with its air quality obligations. Ministers are due to make a final decision on Heathrow expansion by next winter.