1. Heathrow's contribution to climate change
1.1 Heathrow airport accounts for more than 22.75% of UK civil air transport movements [ 1 ] and therefore for a similar proportion of the pollution from UK aircraft. That would translate into 227,500 tonnes of carbon from Heathrow's civil air traffic alone. [ 2 ] The ground traffic stimulated by the airport is another major contributor to climate change.
2. Heathrow's hidden costs
2.1 The 'external' or hidden costs of UK aviation have been estimated at £3.767 billion a year, including £2.148 billion for aviation's contribution to climate change. [ 3 ] [ 4 ]
2.2 Heathrow's share of the hidden costs of UK aviation is estimated at almost £857 million a year, including over £488 million for its share of climate change-related costs. [ 5 ]
3. Heathrow's tax breaks
3.1 Aviation fuel is currently exempt from taxation because of international agreements under the Chicago Convention not to tax fuel used for international air travel. [ 6 ]
3.2 3.2 Altogether, UK aviation is currently getting a tax break of £9.2 billion a year. [ 7 ]
3.3 Heathrow's share of this tax break can be estimated at considerably more than £2 billion a year. [ 8 ]
4. Limits to fuel efficiency improvements
4.1 Technology can only partly solve the problem of pollution and its adverse economic impacts. Anticipated technological developments for improved aerodynamics, materials, engine efficiencies and combustors are expected to continue to improve the normative global CO2 and NOx emissions from aviation during the next 30 years. That is, pollution per passenger kilometre will fall - but of course with more passengers flying more kilometres, pollution will still increase very significantly unless remedial action is taken.
4.2 UK government analysis concludes that future technologies will offer fuel efficiency improvements of 2% per annum until 2030, whilst NOx reduction technology is forecast to deliver an 80% reduction from today’s LTO emissions by 2030. However, taken together these new technologies cannot offset the additional environmental impact associated with forecast growth in air traffic and therefore the net or overall environmental impact from aviation is predicted to increase from today’s levels. [ 9 ]
4.3 In other words, government and industry foresee no technofix. Aircraft pollution will continue to cost society dearly.