The Today programme on airport expansion

Image courtesy of the BBC.

The planned Leeds Bradford Airport extension was discussed on this morning’s Today programme. Councillor Helen Hayden, Leeds City Council’s executive member for Infrastructure and Climate took part:

Nick Robinson: More than a third of councils in England are advocating policies that could increase carbon emissions, whilst at the same time having declared what they call a “climate emergency.” That’s the finding of BBC research, done with the assistance as ever, of our energy and environment analyst Roger Harrabin. Tell us more Roger.

Roger Harrabin: Well, it was a really good result to the survey. 90% as you say, have declared a climate emergency. And others told us that actually, they were taking climate change really seriously as well. But they weren’t quite comfortable necessarily with the “emergency” word. It’s taken a long time. Obviously, councillors normally pre-occupied with what they’re elected for: local services, housing, transport and waste. But now we’re seeing a different sort of priorities coming in. There’s widespread priority for walking and cycling. Newcastle for instance says it wants to become a 15 minute city where you can do everything within 15 minutes on foot or by bike that you would want to do. Coventry has an ultra light rail system they’re looking at. Kensington and Chelsea, quite interesting here. They’re thinking of charges per gram of CO2 for parking, and widespread home insulation. But as you say, one in three of those councils who’s declared an emergency, is still backing projects that are pushing in the opposite direction. Road building or airports for instance. Leeds aims to be one of the top green cities in the UK. It’s record is really impressive in many ways, but it’s still backing airport expansion. And their climate leader, Helen Hayden, explains their dilemma:

Councillor Helen Hayden: It’s extremely difficult to get that balance right, and there are always going to be competing factors. If we don’t expand, the fear is that somebody else will and that economic growth will go elsewhere.

Nick Robinson: Roger, isn’t that where we are just now? Which is almost all politicians of all colours declare that they think there is a crisis. But when it comes to the question of, “Who pays for us to rip out our gas boiler, to drive an electric car, or indeed to stop flying?” – no one’s quite clear what the answers are.

Roger Harrabin: That’s exactly right Nick, and not just in the UK. I mean, wherever you look round the world, the urgency of the situation is now upon us. You know, the IPCC report earlier on in the week. I mean a lot of people found frankly frightening. But how you translate that into policy, to nudge business as usual, that’s a different matter. If you ask climate experts, they’ll say with an issue like Leeds and the airport for instance. We have now to install a policy where at national or local or international level, there should be no spending on policies that increase emissions. They see that as very simple. They’re looking for the UK government and local councils to impose a policy like that. And you mentioned money. The National Audit Office back the local councils actually, when they say they’re not getting enough money. And they’re urging the government to prioritise spending through local governments because they say it’s the most efficient way of doing it.

Nick Robinson: Roger Harrabin, thank you.

You can listen to the above extract from the Today programme here.

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