Green MEP attends estuary airport meeting to voice opposition to government plans

9 March 2012

Keith Taylor, the Green MEP for South East England, is returning to his home town of Southend, Essex tonight to voice his concerns about plans to build a new airport in the region. At a public meeting Keith will outline his objections to the government's recent announcement that they will include controversial plans for a new airport in the Thames Estuary in a formal consultation on UK aviation.

Keith will argue that we do not need any more airport capacity in the UK as this will increase harmful climate emissions, jeopardizing our ability to avoid runaway climate change. He will also highlight the environmental impact of these proposals including damage to an internationally important habitat for birds, noise and air pollution which local people would have to suffer.

The Committee on Climate Change has indicated that even if the volume of air travel in the UK was reduced to 2005 levels, by 2050 this would account for 23% of the UK's total emissions budget. Recent scientific work suggests that if the non-CO2 impacts of aviation, such as nitrogen oxides and water vapour, are taken into account this could double our estimates of aviation's climate damage. These figures clearly show that a rapidly growing aviation sector cannot co-exist with serious attempts to tackle climate change.

In response to comments about airport capacity in the South East, Keith will point out that Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted already have more than double the number of flights to key business destinations each week compared with Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam. He'll suggest that a new airport would probably necessitate the closing of existing airports, with resulting problems from unemployment.

According to the RSPB, twelve species of bird are found in the Thames Estuary in internationally important numbers, the highest concentration anywhere in the South East region. Any plans to build a new airport in the estuary could well be illegal under EU laws which exist to protect areas of special environmental significance.

Keith said: "This is not only a misguided, but also an absurd and highly damaging idea. Any new airports would increase the amount of harmful emissions, noise and pollution but the idea that we can build an airport on an island in the middle of an estuary in one of the world's top five waterbird sites, on a key EU protected migration route is beyond ridiculous. Not only would this scheme devastate a locally crucial habitat, it would also mean large volumes of flights overhead, damaging the quality of life for all of those who live in Essex and Kent."

He continued: "Currently air fuel is not taxed but with the threat of climate change and peak oil ever more prominent we will not be able to continue to fly without paying the true price of flying. This will lead to an inevitable decrease in the number of flights and so this airport would be out of date before it's even been completed."

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