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Transport

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:29 pm on 5th February 2020.

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Photo of Ruth Cadbury Ruth Cadbury Labour, Brentford and Isleworth 6:29 pm, 5th February 2020

We know full well the challenges of and the solutions to climate change, and we all know just how worried our constituents are about this crisis. Only this morning, at Smallberry Green Primary School in Isleworth, I got asked about climate change not just by a year 5 student, but by a year 2 student.

Transport is the largest sector for emissions, and it is the sector cutting emissions the least. Within transport, the sector with the fastest growing emissions is aviation. During the time that emissions from the economy as a whole have fallen by 40%, aviation emissions have more than doubled. Passenger numbers are set to increase by 70%, and that growth is not business travel. Over half of the British population do not fly at all in any given year, but the highest 15% of the UK population by income are taking over 70% of all our flights. The growth is in outbound leisure travel, with UK-based tourists in the top income bands taking their holiday money away from the UK three or more times a year, including from places such as those represented by Derek Thomas. That is money that many of those in our beautiful places would be delighted to see spent here.

The aviation industry mentions magical solutions that will allow it to continue with a business-as-usual approach in a carbon-constrained world, but electric planes—particularly for short haul and long haul—will not be online until 2050 at the absolute earliest. There is no current industry development for these longer flights. For example, long-haul planes make up 70% of UK air travel, yet there is no current development for electric planes going on in those areas.

Yesterday, the chief executive of Heathrow airport was on the radio talking about sustainable fuels for aviation, but we know that a rise in biofuels will only lead to more deforestation. This means more habitats destroyed, more communities displaced and more carbon emissions. Carbon offsetting by planting trees only removes, years from now, the carbon emitted today. It is not an alternative to cutting emissions in the first place.

Obviously, the chief executive of Heathrow Airport Ltd dearly wants a third runway, but even Department for Transport figures—from work done in the run-up to the vote in this place in 2018—show that the additional passengers using runway 3 will almost all be UK-based passengers taking leisure flights overseas. Expansion will draw long-haul flights away from regional airports, thus impacting on their direct international connections. Furthermore, expanding Heathrow will mean an extra 6 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.

I am glad that the Labour Front-Bench team led by my hon. Friend Andy McDonald concluded in June 2018 that Heathrow expansion is incompatible with our climate change obligations and that Labour would not authorise Heathrow expansion or any other plans that jeopardise those climate targets. The solution we should be promoting—the only carbon-saving solution for aviation that will make a difference before 2050, when electric planes come online—is to address the growth in demand. We need to stop runway 3 at Heathrow, address the pricing disparity between rail and flying, and implement a frequent flyer levy to replace air passenger duty.