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Airport Expansion
#1
My view on the additional runway at Heathrow and airport expansion in general is one of great environmental concern. If we look at the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, it states:
  • a long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels;
  • to aim to limit the increase to 1.5°C, since this would significantly reduce risks and the impacts of climate change;
  • on the need for global emissions to peak as soon as possible, recognising that this will take longer for developing countries;
  • to undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with the best available science.
We are at present struggling to meet these targets. An additional runway at Heathrow would mean we have no hope of ever getting near reaching those targets. The short term winners of this are those who seek to use the additional facility. The long term losers will be future generations who will suffer as a consequence of our actions on not taking the fight against climate change seriously.


Sadly what we have is a government and many of the political elite in Westminster still addressing 21st century problems with 20th century policies. It is said the expansion for Heathrow will be beneficial for business, but in reality when all the figures are added up the benefits to the UK economy is minimal. A great deal of business can now be conducted via modern technology, negating the need for face to face meetings. But the price to the environment, with the expansion likely to mean the UK unlikely to meet emissions targets is a high one to pay.

I am also very angry at the attitude of some of our Trade Unions, including my own the GMB. Like the government they are failing to look at what could be a green industrial revolution, instead choosing to champion yesterday's technology and yesterday's solution. They could have supported a greener argument and alternative to Heathrow, one which could have created new jobs, but instead chose to back expansion at Heathrow and the devastating effect on the environment and pollution levels that go with it. That is not really protecting workers, that is simply ignorance.

It appears the government is putting all its eggs in the same old basket instead of looking at better public transport connections and even alternative forms of air travel. Such modern alternative forms of air travel could include a new generation of air ships for domestic and cross channel flights. Some may dismiss this idea, however those involved in the industry are confident modern air ships have a place in 21st century aviation. What they are up against is a very powerful airport lobby and conventional jet aircraft industry.

However providing more environmentally friendly alternatives is not the only solution. Some of the wealthy will still use air travel as often as they change their shoes simply because they always have done. In the face of climate change such frequent use is completely unsustainable, and it's a battle we must all face together. This is why I favour the introduction of 'Carbon Points' for all forms of travel, with an upper limit. This would mean the most frequent travellers looking to use less polluting forms of transport as their carbon points run out. This system would not discriminate against the less wealthy, and provide an added incentive for businesses to use Skype meetings or the equivalent instead of accumulating 'Carbon Points'.

Too often and for too long we have been held back by in the box thinking and as I previously mentioned using 20th century politics and solutions to fix 21st century problems. Very often corners are cut to keep prices down. But the cost in the case of airport expansion is one that will not be paid for in monetary terms, but by the environment. A cost which may be beyond the reach of future generations. The choice is that simple. For this very reason we must work globally for a new approach and act unilaterally if necessary to help set an example.
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