It seems the sporadic tug-of-war between London’s airports has kicked off again, with Gatwick’s consultation on a new runway over-shadowed by Heathrow’s claims to boost the economy. As a woodland charity with specified aims, we’re not fundamentally opposed to growth of aviation, but we have and will continue to get involved when the direct effect of airport expansion includes the loss of ancient woodland. We’ve done this in the past at Stansted and Gatwick and will continue to do so in the future, where we have a long history of campaigning.
However, as one of the biggest long-term threats to all ancient woodland is climate change we are exploring how we would respond to aviation growth, or indeed the current demand, in terms of climate change, as aviation is one of the largest contributors of CO2. In our response to a consultation on aviation and climate change 2 years ago, we said we’d want to see how the sector reduces its carbon footprint, and therefore would like to see agreements across Europe – it’s no use just shifting the footprint to a neighbouring country.
We also don’t see biofuels as a credible alternative – I’ve not seen anything to suggest biofuels are ever better than carbon-neutral, and usually negative when you take into account the full “well-to-wheel” (or in this case wing!) life-cycle comparison. There are global environmental and social issues associated from the land-take – if we’re worried about the deforestation already caused by palm oil production, that will be nothing compared to the pressure if aviation biofuel adds to the demand. Personally I think there are already enough people in the world struggling to get food to consider switching food crops to biofuel crops…
So, in summary, our main issues with aviation are:
1 Land-take from airport expansion affecting woodland (and other valuable habitats);
2 Threat to woodland and the wider landscape from aviation’s contribution to climate change;
3 Land-take (including deforestation in UK and abroad) and net CO2 emissions from growing biofuels for aviation fuel.
Thank you to all of those who responded to the recent Gatwick consultation, highlighting the impact all three options would have on ancient woodland and on the wildlife corridors that are so vital in the area. More than 4,000 responses were sent in.
Read the Trust’s response to the Gatwick consultation.
Gatwick Airport Limited will feed in the responses from this consultation to the independent Airports Commission, led by Sir Howard Davies. In the coming months, the Commission is expected to consult on its recommendations for national aviation growth before submitting a final report to the Government after the general election.
Richard Barnes, Senior Conservation Adviser