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Stopping Heathrow Airport expansion (for now): Lessons from a victory for the politics of sufficiency

Posted on: 22 October 2014
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Filed under: News

A politics of sufficiency challenges the relentless expansion of production and consumption. It faces daunting obstacles in contemporary societies where macro-economic growth has come to be seen as imperative. However, when defined more narrowly, as a challenge to the growth of particular forms of economic activity, ideas of sufficiency have made some limited inroads. One significant example is the Conservative-led government’s cancellation of the planned third runway at Heathrow airport in Britain. This represented a major victory for environmentalists and others who argued that aviation growth conflicted with Britain’s carbon-reduction targets. The case sheds light on the conditions in which sufficiency-based policies can prevail today, notably through linkages with core political imperatives faced by states and political actors. In this case, a sufficiency approach became linked to the legitimacy needs of the Conservative Party at a key moment, while campaigners succeeded in casting doubt on claims that Heathrow expansion was economically imperative. This article appears in the latest issue of the Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning (Vol.16 Issue 4, 2014).

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