Gatwick Airport UPDATE: Green Party condemns Airports Commission report

Caroline Lucas, the Green Party’s MP for Brighton Pavilion, has said she is ‘deeply disappointed’ by the commission’s proposal to expand Heathrow.

Wednesday, 1st July 2015, 7:42 am
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Lucas is calling for an end to airport expansion and for the Government to look at proposals to change the taxation around aviation to discourage ‘frequent flyers’ while cutting taxes for those who fly less frequently.

The plan, backed by the Campaign for Better Transport, the New Economics Foundation, the Tax Justice Network, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth among others, would see air passenger duty scrapped and replaced by a new frequent flyers levy. Everyone would be able to take one flight a year without paying any levy, but for subsequent journeys the levy would rise each time.

Caroline Lucas said: “It’s deeply disappointing that Howard Davies is proposing expansion at Heathrow.

“The reality is that endless growth in our aviation capacity is incompatible with the UK’s climate change commitments. It’s also bad news for local residents who will suffer enormously from increasing noise and air pollution.

“It’s clear that a small minority of wealthy individuals are fuelling the demand for airport expansion - not families taking an annual holiday or businesses. We need fairer and more honest approach to the aviation debate that rules out airport expansion once and for all. The Government must urgently look into the proposed frequent flier levy as a fair way of reducing the demand for flights from those who fly the most, whilst benefiting the majority of people and protecting us all from the threat of climate change.”

Keith Taylor, Green MEP for South East England, and a vocal airport expansion opponent, has responded to the Airports Commission’s recommendation that a third runway should be built at Heathrow Airport.

He said: “Despite three long years of the Commission looking at all the evidence, we still cannot build a third runway at Heathrow otherwise we will fail to meet our climate change targets.

“It is and has always been a myth that the UK faces an airport capacity crisis and we already fly more than any other country.

“Instead of expanding our airports the Government should introduce a frequent flyer tax which would tax aviation much more fairly and at the same time reduce the demand for new runways.”

South East Green Party Chair Jonathan Essex said: “This proposal from Howard Davies is deeply disappointing. His proposal for a third runway at Heathrow would see a local community further blighted by noise and air pollution and would undermine our efforts to tackle climate change.”

The South East Green Party, which includes communities at Gatwick and Heathrow, is calling for an end to airport expansion and real action on climate change in response to the Airport Commission’s recommendations this morning that a third runway is required at Heathrow. But the uncertainty remains as the Commission has also said that Gatwick expansion remains ‘a credible alternative’. This announcement comes less than six months before international leaders meet to negotiate their commitments to climate action in Paris this December.

The Airports Commission had been charged by the Government with reviewing whether further capacity is needed at any of the UK’s airports and whether Gatwick or Heathrow should be preferred. Their decision fails to acknowledge that all airports (with the exception of Heathrow) are currently underused. The matter will now be determined by MPs.

Jonathan Essex, chair of the South East Green Party says: “The real choice our Government needs to make in response to the Davies Commission is whether it wants to invest now for a sustainable UK or continue to expand aviation. The only reason why the Airports Commission has discounted climate change as central to this decision is because it has followed the Government’s current approach, which is to ignore all the climate impacts of international aviation. As well as recognising the true scale of local environmental impacts of expansion, our Government must now show its leadership on climate change by choosing a different course for the UK’s economy – one where environmental and economic sustainability walk together. The Committee on Climate Change says we need an emissions action plan for aviation. Any decision should be delayed until this is drawn up.

“A recent yougov poll shows that 64 per cent of people believe that the best way to address climate change is by reducing carbon emissions. With the COP talks coming up, our Government must show concrete commitment by investing in the transition to more sustainable modes of transport instead. This would signal that the UK is committed to the joined-up approach needed to turn the G7’s call for zero carbon economies into practice, and make the hard decisions to invest in what our common future requires.”

The Green Party says we must tackle the trend of excessive flying. Green MP Caroline Lucas and South East Green MEP Keith Taylor are supporting changes to taxation around flying to discourage ‘frequent flyers’. The plan, backed by the Campaign for Better Transport, the New Economics Foundation, the Tax Justice Network and many more would replace air passenger duty with a frequent flyer levy.

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