Turner-round, every now and then I get a little misquoted

Green plane

With just a few weeks to go before the Government gives the go ahead for BAA to apply for planning permission to expand Heathrow and rumours are flying faster than a British Airways 747. The latest nugget of info is the announcement by Lord Turner that Heathrow could expand without CO2 emissions spiralling out of control. But is that what he actually said?

The Grauniad was the first to comment, with the headline “Climate change watchdog backs expansion of Heathrow”. Lord Turner, it said, had signalled that “the UK could meet its ambitious pledge to slash greenhouse gas pollution even if ministers give the go-ahead to expanding Heathrow airport”. The Evading Standards jumped on this, stating firmly that “a THIRD [sic] runway at Heathrow need not breach Britain's new legal target to cut greenhouse gas emissions”. But what did Turner actually say?

Nothing quite so exciting as the journalists were making out. When questioned about the impact of expansion, he replied "It's possible for the world to cut greenhouse gases while still not cutting aviation by anything like as much, even increase aviation emissions.” Nothing untoward here: most global aviation is concentrated in the West and Asia, and it’s perfectly possible for aviation to expand globally while reducing global emissions by 80% (by expanding some developing markets and while developed markets in the West contract). This is basic 'contraction and convergence' theory, and doesn’t mean it’s possible for aviation to expand in the UK while reducing UK emissions.

P.s. Lord Turner reckons that it’s only possible for this to happen if we switch to biofuels and low-carbon fuels. The Department for Transport said in the Air Transport White Paper that ”there is no viable alternative currently visible to kerosene as an aviation fuel.”. Of course, ask the industry and they’ll probably just invent a pretend plane or something (secret prototype pictured above).