Third runway at Heathrow ruled illegal because of climate change


On Thursday 27 February 2020, The United Kingdom’s Court of Appeal has ruled that the UK government’s plans to construct a third runway at London Heathrow Airport are illegal.

Environmental campaign groups, London councils and Mr Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, had brought an application for judicial review of the UK government’s decision to proceed with the construction of the third runway.

The UK Court of Appeal has now ruled that the construction of the third runway is illegal, as the UK government’s has not adequately taken into consideration its commitment to tackle climate change under the Paris Agreement.

In 2016, the UK government announced the go-ahead for a third runway at London Heathrow Airport, currently one of the busiest airports in the world with more than 80 million passengers and around 475 thousand air transport movements per year.

© London Heathrow Airport

Heathrow Airport has already published a response to the findings of the judicial review:

“The Court of Appeal dismissed all appeals against the government – including on “noise” and “air quality” – apart from one which is eminently fixable.  We will appeal to the Supreme Court on this one issue and are confident that we will be successful.  In the meantime, we are ready to work with the Government to fix the issue that the court has raised.  Heathrow has taken a lead in getting the UK aviation sector to commit to a plan to get to Net Zero emissions by 2050, in line with the Paris Accord. Expanding Heathrow, Britain’s biggest port and only hub, is essential to achieving the Prime Minister’s vision of Global Britain.  We will get it done the right way, without jeopardising the planet’s future. Let’s get Heathrow done.”

The airport also states:

Judicial reviews are a common feature of major infrastructure projects, and today’s announcement explicitly does not prevent Heathrow expansion from moving ahead. The judgment clearly states that this ruling does not mean Heathrow expansion should not be delivered, or that the Airports National Policy Statement is not compatible with the UK’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions. The judges now require the Government to undertake more work to ensure a third runway would definitely be compatible with a strategy to mitigate climate change under the Paris Agreement. This is eminently achievable. Since the original court hearing, which unanimously backed the government’s process with regard to the ANPS, the UK aviation industry has produced a comprehensive and detailed plan which sets out the road to Carbon Net Zero by 2050 and Heathrow published its own pathway to Net Zero earlier this week.  This is a challenge that needs to be addressed for any UK airport to expand.

29 February 2020

Photos: © London Heathrow Airport


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