The CCC was created by the 2008 Climate Change Act to hold the government to account for its efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, and its most recent five-year “carbon budget” was signed into law by Boris Johnson in 2021.
Rejecting their recommendations would set the government up for a major legal clash with environmental groups. Last year, a High Court ruling stated that “considerable weight” should be given to the CCC’s advice. Groups like Greenpeace plan to use the committee’s latest recommendation in legal challenges against future airport expansions.
But a Department for Transport spokesperson told The Telegraph: “The growth of airports, and the aviation sector as a whole, has a key role to play in boosting our global connectivity and helping grow the economy. We continue to support airport expansion where it can be done sustainably.”
Ministers pin their hopes on the rapid development of green aviation fuels to decarbonise the sector. This week, Coutinho will present a proposal of legal obligation for the Government to elaborate plans to subsidize the so-called sustainable aviation fuels (SAF).
The government’s approach will increase pressure on the Labor Party to take a position on the issue.
Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, told The Telegraph last week that she would do “whatever it takes” to attract investment to Britain.
Heathrow is in the process of reviewing plans for a third runway, which Labor previously said failed its “four tests” for airport expansion.
But a Heathrow spokesman said: “We have always been clear that the expansion will be done within strict environmental targets, including those for carbon, minimizing noise and local environmental impact, thus meeting Labor’s four tests.
“We are confident that the Heathrow plans and the aviation industry roadmap provide a credible path to net zero flight by 2050.
“Adding capacity at the UK’s only hub airport would bring benefits to the whole of the UK, create jobs, boost UK exports and fulfill the country’s global ambitions.”
The CCC’s decision to issue formal advice against further enlargement was taken at one of the last meetings chaired by Lord Deben – formerly John Gummer – before leaving the body this summer.
The committee was frustrated that plans to expand airports across the country continued despite its warnings that net airport growth was inconsistent with the country’s net zero target.