Despite overwhelming evidence contradicting the wisdom of extending the runway at Birmingham International Airport, Solihull Council last week approved plans to do so.
Birmingham Friends of the Earth have spent the last year and more fighting plans to increase the capacity of the airport and enable bigger planes to take off with the help of local residents and more than a thousand signed objections to the application.
The runway extension is likely to lead to 37 per cent more emissions by 2030 at a time when we are aiming to decrease them by 80 per cent by 2050. Granting permission to do this cannot be in line with sustainable development and plans for overall reductions, especially considering that since the passing of the historic Climate Change Bill in November, cutting carbon emissions is no longer just an environmental imperative – it's the law.
The council has admitted that agreeing to allow more flights and an increase in carbon emissions is a step in the wrong direction. With time running out to prevent runaway climate change, we are still unable to see how big this step is going to be. There is a "Carbon Management Plan", but the lack of strength in it is very disappointing and this extension should not go ahead without better safeguards.
In addition, due to the proposed changes, there will be larger, noisier aircraft with closer and lower flights over residential areas, resulting in an extra 8100 people being exposed to significant daytime aircraft noise. Again some safeguards have been put in place with regards to night flights, but not enough to prevent the lives of more people being subject to noise pollution.
The airport and business lobby built the case for the extension on the claim that it will bring in more foreign investment and is essential to the wealth and prospects of the area. In fact, basing hopes for future wealth on the aviation industry at this time would be a huge gamble, considering the fact that nobody knows what oil will cost per barrel next year, let alone in 2012 (when the extension is due to be completed.
Airlines are currently going out of business as quickly as other sectors of the economy and there has been no independent survey showing the need for the envisaged increased air traffic. On the other hand, as the Stern report and recently published Green New Deal have shown, there is a great need for investment in new carbon neutral technologies, which could really kick start the economy of this area if encouraged sufficiently. The airport has considerably overestimated the economic benefits and underestimated the costs of this extension, so it is highly likely that it will have no overall benefit to the area.
Birmingham Friends of the Earth and other local people who care about the future of this planet will continue to oppose plans for ever-increasing levels of CO2 to be built into the airport's plans.
If you want to get involved with our work in campaigning for a better environment, contact us to find out how.