Committee on Climate Change

CCC hides killing blow behind polite veneer

Don't believe what you're reading in most of today's papers. The Committee on Climate Change's report into aviation and CO2 targets is clear that we can't expand all the airports and meet the Government's greenhouse gas emission targets. But instead of spelling it out, they've chosen to present the Government with an impossible choice: cancel Heathrow or condemn millions to fuel poverty.

The CCC explained that if biofuels work, if efficiency suddenly starts increasing, if other sectors reduce their emissions by 90%, then we can have some airport expansion. Not only is that a lot of ifs, but it's also a lot less expansion than was envisaged. Gone is the 200% increase in passenger numbers, replaced by a somewhat more sedate (but still delusional) 60% hike. This means that it's regional airports versus Heathrow in the fight to expand, because once we hit 60%, forget it.

But even if the industry suddenly starts making greener planes, other sectors are being asked to make 90% reductions to cover aviation's shortfall. This is a recipe for big increases in fuel bills, which has the privatised energy monopolists rubbing their hands in glee. This is a recipe for inequity: poorer people spend more of their income on heating than transport, while richer people spend more on transport than energy.

The CCC's vision of less airport expansion in return for more fuel poverty is not likely to win many votes. No Government with half a mind would think making the poor pay through the nose for the excesses of the wealthy would make a solid manifesto commitment (what about the Tories? - Ed.). In the cold hard world of realpolitick, airport expansion will be reigned in, whether O'Leary likes it or not.

Of course to the army of uninformed hacks out there (step forward Roger Harrabin of the BBC) this report gave the green light (in every sense of the word) to Heathrow expansion. Sadly that says more about the quality of journalism than climate change policy.