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27 Feb, 2020 16:58

Green preachers shut down Heathrow runway project just when Brexit Britain needs it most

Green preachers shut down Heathrow runway project just when Brexit Britain needs it most

Britain has scored a massive own goal over the short-sighted decision this week by the Court of Appeal to block a third runway at Heathrow Airport just as we enter into the most significant trade talks of a generation.

Despite the aviation industry pledging to be carbon-neutral by 2050, ‘not-in-my-backyard’ attitudes have triumphed in west London along with the help of Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and London Mayor Sadiq Khan, and of course the judges who decided the runway project did not take into account the UK’s commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change.

If the Mayor wanted a legacy to be remembered by, this could be it. The day he helped turn London into a parochial, insular city on an island off the coast of Europe, forced to rely on Paris, with its five runways at Charles De Gaulle, as its international hub to the world.

No Heathrow expansion means no global Britain,” Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye has said. We’ve essentially pulled up the drawbridge at the most damaging time imaginable.

On Thursday, the UK published its 36-page EU trade negotiations plan so the optics on this could not have come at a worse time, making a laughing stock of Britain’s ambition to become a global player  

As for BoJo, it’s hard to imagine how he can rescue a third runway from this mess, or if he’ll want to. After promising, as mayor of London, to lie down in front of the bulldozers to prevent a third runway, he dodged being seen making a decision: when the issue came up in Parliament in 2018, at a time when he was Foreign Secretary, he suddenly chose a trip to Afghanistan rather than stay and vote on the issue in the House, where his fellow MPs then voted in support of the project.

There is also the little matter of noise over the PM’s constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip which, the Heathrow consultation admitted, would reach “extreme levels” with the extra flights soaring overhead. Maybe this court decision lets him off the hook of having to make a yes/no choice himself.

While we mull over the tattered plans, it should be recognised that the proposal for a third runway is not something that happened in isolation. There have been ongoing initiatives in the aviation industry, aside from the zero-carbon-by-2050 pledge, that are continually being implemented.

Industry group Sustainable Aviation is heavily invested in exploring many of the issues surrounding air travel, each of which can have a marked impact on those two key environmental bugbears: noise and emissions.

There are smarter flight operations to consider alongside new aircraft and engine technology, and the use of sustainable aviation fuels.

At last year’s Paris Air Show we saw a prototype of the first electric passenger aircraft from an Israeli firm, something that would revolutionise air travel for everyone.

But instead of being excited about how developments in aviation can be used to open up the world, a bunch of flat-earthers decided on taking legal action aimed at shutting the door on these opportunities.

That decision sends a message to the world in direct contrast to the one we wanted. Despite the rhetoric, Britain is not open to the world for business. 

Ironically, the winner in all this is the Paris Agreement, with the future economic spoils going to  France and so you have to wonder why the UK didn’t seize a chance last year when Donald Trump announced he would withdraw the US from the pact.

With our 2020 hindsight (pun intended), that was a big miss and will certainly damage the world standing of Heathrow as the third biggest airport on the planet and that cannot be good in the long term.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.