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Government urged to act over aircraft pollution
Nicholas Christian

The Scotland on Sunday

4th July 2004

Government plans for airport expansion are in direct conflict with targets to reduce greenhouse gases, the chief cause of climate change, according to a major new report.

The Stockholm Institute at the University of York, which is publishing the document tomorrow, says it is in response to an urgent need globally to cut harmful greenhouse gases.

It warns that the UK government, in common with other governments in the EU, has made a massive commitment to expand aviation.

The authors of the report, Professor John Whitelegg and Howard Cambridge, set out a model for dealing with aviation over the next 30 years.

Last December Transport Minister Alistair Darling outlined the government’s white paper on the future of air transport which included the building of a second runway at Stansted and Heathrow airports.

However, Whitelegg and Cambridge warn that polluting gases produced by aircraft exhaust fumes are rising, and that airlines should pay an environmental charge equal to the damage caused by flying.

Whitelegg said the growth in demand for flying is now one of the most serious environmental threats that the world faces.

"This growth has been fuelled by generous tax breaks and state aid and is contrary to the objectives of environmental policy, especially efforts to prevent the worst consequences of climate change," he said.

The report argues that aviation should play its full role in reducing greenhouse gases and suggests seven specific actions that can be carried out by the UK government and the EU, including an end to the tax free status of aviation fuel, an environmental charge for flying that is equal to the environmental damage it causes, and increasing the use of public transport for access to airports to at least 50% of all trips.

It also calls for the carrying out of the Zurich airport "bubble concept" that limits emissions of all kinds from airports and treats airports as if they were large industrial sites.

Short trips (those less than 400 miles) should also be transferred from air to train. This, claim the report’s authors, would reduce the number of flights by 45% and improve the quality of rail travel for everyone.