A judgement by the UK’s Court of Appeal has applied the brakes to the expansion of Heathrow Airport with a third runway, finding that the government’s policy on the new runway was “unlawful” as it did not take climate commitments to the Paris Agreement into account.
The judges declared the government’s decision to allow the expansion was unlawful, preventing the project from going ahead until a review finds it fits the relevant provisions and the UK’s climate policy.
Commenting on the findings of the Judicial Review, a Heathrow spokesperson said: “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,” the spokesperson continued, adding that Heathrow had been a leading force in encouraging the UK aviation sector to commit to a plan to achieve 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.”
The airport suggested the outcome requires 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.”
In a summary of the judgements, the Court of Appeals stated: “We have not decided, and could not decide, that there will be no third runway at Heathrow,” adding that a national policy statement supporting the project is not “necessarily incompatible with the United Kingdom’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions and mitigating climate change under the Paris Agreement…”
The airport announced on 20th February that it has become one of the world’s first major aviation hubs to become carbon neutral for its infrastructure, and the first to target zero carbon by the mid-2030s.
The Secretary of State for Transport, the Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP, tweeted: “Airport expansion is core to boosting global connectivity. We also take seriously our commitment to the environment. This Govt won’t appeal today’s judgement given our manifesto makes clear any Heathrow expansion will be industry led.”
In 2018, MPs voted in support of the government’s proposal for a third runway at Heathrow, and the expansion plans have also received support of regional airports in the UK.