The Airports Commission is due to publish its decision shortly on which airport should be expanded: Heathrow or Gatwick. Either would have huge impacts on the South East and globally because of increased carbon emissions contributing to climate change.
The Government told Sir Howard Davies' Commission to report by the end of June, which gives us a week before the campaign proper begins. There are legal challenges, which could hold it up, but every indication is that the Commission will publish regardless.
Whichever site is chosen will lead to protests and direct action, splits among parties whose MPs favour one or the other and a tussle for votes in the London Mayoral campaign. Only the Green Party has consistently opposed airport expansion wherever it is proposed.
The Government is determined to argue that we have an airport capacity crisis, despite the fact that every airport in the UK, excluding Heathrow, is underused.
The Green Party's recent submission to the Commission on air quality said that going ahead at either site would be illegal (for different reasons). It also said that the potential effect on air quality had been underestimated by not considering the impact when the additional runways are fully used, nor including the increased traffic required to feed the freight industry and associated additional jobs created not just in, but around the airports.
But we weren't asked about climate change, which is the top air pollution issue and due to come under scrutiny at the talks in Paris in December.
The way we should meet our transport needs without compromising our wider environment was only considered at the start of this process. And the much narrower question - to choose between Heathrow and Gatwick - appears to have largely ignored the full extent to which this development will impact upon local communities. The Green Party is the only one to say "none of the above" - no new runways - and Green MP, Caroline Lucas, will be able to lead that campaign when it comes to Parliament later this year, or early next.
As Surrey Parliamentary Candidate, Nicola Dodgson, said before the election:
"The Airports Commission was given a flawed brief on which to work- the focus was maintaining the South East’s status as an international aviation ‘hub’, rather than being framed within our international obligations to take action on climate change, and it will be near if not actually impossible to meet our climate targets if expansion goes ahead".
And South East Green Party Chair, Jonathan Essex, sums it up:
"Choosing to expand aviation is part of a short-sighted economic strategy that depends on continually expanding the scale of everything – including inequality – at the expense of our communities and our local and global environment. Instead, we can make better use of what we have already got. This requires us to be better connected to each other – not have better flight connections to China. Bigger is not automatically better. That is why we remain opposed to runway expansion, not just at Gatwick Airport but elsewhere too".”
More news about the announcement here when it happens.