Today's reports that the leading environment groups, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, WWF and Green Alliance, are withdrawing from the Government's consultation on the future of nuclear power because of government attempts to fix the consultation process augurs extremely basdly for the imminent consultation on the expansion of Heathrow airport.
The Government's aviation white paper two years ago concluded that a third runway at Heathrow could only go ahead if the environmental problems associated with such a development could be overcome, in particular air pollution and increased noise. Since then the British Airports Authority has added the demand for a 6th terminal to the proposal for a third runway. The Climate Change Camp this summer caught the imagination of the country and even of the wider world in drawing attention to the impact of allowing this aviation expansion on climate change.
Reports appeared in the media only last month of BAA being allowed to interfere in the supposedly independent processes the Government had set up to assess the environmental impact of expansion at Heathrow. In the next few weeks the Government is expected to publish its consultation paper setting out options for consultation on proposals designed to overcome the environmental damage caused by a new runnway and new terminal.
The attempt by the Government to influence the consultation on nuclear powere does not bode well for the independence and integrity of the prospective consulation on aviation. Just as on the nuclear issue Gordon Brown has already pre-empted the consultation on aviation by expressing his preference for Heathrow expansion.
The Climate Camp was a warning to politicians of all the major political parties which have been dominated by the influence of the aviation industry. If the formal political process fails them people will take the view that direct action is the only option.