Adding emissions at Heathrow Airport

January 14, 2008 at 3:10 pm | Posted in Adding, Aviation, Capacity, Carbon dioxide, Climate change, CO2, Consultation, Emissions, Expansion, Heathrow, Nitrogen dioxide, NO2, Proposal, Public | Leave a comment

Adding capacity at Heathrow Airport is today’s wordplay.

Perhaps ‘cap a city‘ might be a more appropriate concept under the circumstances. Or else we will have to start ‘e-missions‘ of a more concerted kind😉

Anyway, on a more serious note, the Public Consultation at the Sheraton Heathrow Hotel, Colnbrook was interesting today, and well-staffed with experts. For example, after being greeted by half a dozen pleasant greeters as we made our way into the consultation room, a helpful lady approached to explain that there were displays on key topics and experts on hand to provide information on such things as noise pollution, and environmental issues, like air quality.

It seemed most people in the room had arrived on shuttle bus services from Sipson at this stage in the day. Identifying myself as a Windsor resident, visiting to glean information about the proposal on behalf of my Neighbourhood Watch group, I stressed that my personal interest is in climate change. The summary that was sent to residents hardly mentioned climate change, except in general terms about expected costs, and certainly did not present any materials upon which an informed decision could be made. So I asked where the climate change expert was, and my welcomer was the very person. Wasting no time, she led me to the only display (in the corner, facing away from the entrance) that mentioned climate change, under a most appropriate heading:

ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES

Too true. Here it is:

Climate change display Adding capacity at Heathrow Airport 14 January 2008

Left side:

Environmental challenges Adding capacity at Heathrow Airport 14 January 2008

Right side:

Conditions for development - Air quality Adding capacity at Heathrow Airport 14 January 2008

And for your delight and delectation, here is the text:

ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES

ACTION AT A GLOBAL LEVEL

  • There are legitimate concerns about airport expansion, particularly from those living closest to them, and it is right that all voices are heard in the debate.
  • At the global level, we believe that a well-designed, open Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) for aviation is the best way of tackling aviation’s climate change impacts.
  • We support the EU plans for an ETS regime which effectively caps aviation carbon emissions.
  • The EU estimates that the scheme would lead to savings in carbon dioxide equivalent to a 46 per cent reduction in aviation emissions by 2020.
  • We will continue to explore and promote other measures, including carbon offsetting schemes.
THE GOVERNMENT IS COMMITTED TO REDUCING CLIMATE CHANGE EMISSIONS ACROSS THE ECONOMY BY 60 PER CENT BY 2050, AND TO SEEING THE PRICE OF AIR TRAVEL, OVER TIME, REFLECT ITS ENVIRONMENTAL AND SOCIAL COSTS.

CONDITIONS OF FURTHER DEVELOPMENT AT HEATHROW – AIR QUALITY

  • One of the conditions of further development at Heathrow is having confidence that European air quality and limits applicable from 2010 would be met.
  • The most significant local pollutants in relation to Heathrow are nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulates. Both road vehicles and aircraft contribute to these.
  • Local air quality has been progressively improving, due mainly to emission controls for road vehicles and industrial sources. This will improve further as tighter controls for road vehicles come into force and aircraft engines become cleaner over time.

Figure 2: Relative improvement in car engine emissions under successive euro standards.

http://www.dft.gov.uk/heathrowconsultation

0845 600 4170

So, our discussion consisted of my rather blunt assessment that the government is making climate change worse by supporting this proposal to add airport capacity, and her response included reassurances that advances in engine and fuel technologies will help. The problem is we don’t know when and by how much; they will be a step in the right direction, I agree, though we are all still very much in the dark! The same is true of my point that aviation emissions will necessarily increase despite technology improvements, which was met by a reassurance that those increases will be offset by reductions elsewhere by power stations. When I maintained that the use of Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs) to effectively balance the emissions books, and bolster markets trading in them, was not a valid solution if the electricity power plants were capable of making those reductions anyway, I was told that the airport would have to buy CERs and that would be a financial incentive to the power industry to make the reductions! Then I tried to get onto the subject of additionality another way, by asking whether these reductions by energy companies would be included in any existing government mandates to supply a proportion of power from other sources (renewables). This is a bit like paying (as opposed to robbing) Peter to pay Paul. Upon hearing that the power stations involved could be in Poland, so this is not necessarily limited to national emissions, I began to appreciate the government’s use of phrases such as “at the global level …” in the context of climate solutions, especially now that Britain has agreed to join the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). In the end, I moved on to look at loads of detailed maps, and was amazed at the quality of materials and knowledge of subject experts on the topic of noise pollution. Still, I am bothered by the financial glossing over of a topic as important as climate change.

One day I’ll have to find time to study emissions invisible, I think …

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