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Third Heathrow runway a 'massive step backwards'

The government’s go-ahead for a third runway at Heathrow is a massive step backwards in the battle against climate change that will have repercussions far beyond Britain’s shores, Christian Aid warns today.

It grievously undermines the government’s claim to be at the forefront of international efforts to combat global warming.

It puts the target of reducing UK carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, as pledged in the Climate Change Act, even further out of reach unless the government  resorts  to widespread carbon off-setting with poorer countries.

And it sends entirely the wrong signal to developing countries about just how far rich nations are prepared to go in reducing their carbon emissions.

The decision begs the question – will the government now go further still in ignoring the scientific evidence about climate change and give the green light for a new coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth in Kent which could trigger a new generation of such plants?

Dr Alison Doig, a senior climate change adviser at Christian Aid, said: ‘It is imperative that the international community arrives at a new deal at the next UN climate summit in Copenhagen in 11 months time.

‘One of the thorniest issues in the negotiations will be demands from the industrialised world that developing countries must cut their emissions. Poorer countries argue that they have little responsibility for global warming, and it is up to richer countries to put their own houses in order first.

‘A great deal of mistrust exists on both sides. The building of a third runway at Heathrow will be seen by many in the developing world as evidence that rich countries will always put self interest above any real desire to tackle climate change.

‘The simple truth is, despite the rhetoric, the UK is set to produce more emissions, not less. Those in favour of the runway say it will reduce congestion in the skies above London, and so reduce emissions. One only has to look at the M25, which was also built to reduce congestion, to see just how much more traffic such developments generate.’

Dr Doig added that for the UK to stand any chance of reducing emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, it will have to make even bigger emission cuts at home if it is to avoid massive  off-setting of carbon emissions abroad.

Off-setting means paying poorer countries to curb their emissions to enable the payer to continue polluting at will.

‘To keep climate change in check, we should make real cuts in emissions domestically reaching our own targets at home, and additionally support poor countries to develop in a low-carbon way,’ she said.

‘The next climate challenge for the UK government will be the decision as to whether or not to go ahead with Kingsnorth, which will emit as many greenhouse gases as 30 of the world’s poorest countries combined. The Heathrow decision makes it even more critical that that project does not get the go-ahead.’

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For more press information, pictures or case studies, please contact Judith Melby 0207 523 2408/07720 467 679

Notes to editors:

Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in more than 50 countries. We act where the need is greatest, regardless of religion, helping people build the life they deserve.
Christian Aid is a member of the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition - the UK's largest group of people dedicated to action on climate change.

Together with faith-based development agencies in a number of other European countries, Christian Aid has launched a new climate justice campaign called Countdown to Copenhagen. www.countdowntocopenhagen.com' to focus on the need for a new climate deal to be agreed at the next UN climate summit in Copenhagen in a year’s time.