Climate Change

Heathrow airport third runway ruled illegal by court

The court termed British government's policy unlawful for failing to take into account climate change commitments made in 2015 Paris Agreement 

By DTE Staff
Published: Thursday 27 February 2020
Heathrow airport. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Heathrow airport expansion project was ruled illegal by a court of appeal on February 27, 2020 on environmental grounds. The ruling could prompt the British government to withdraw support for a third runway, according to a Reuters report.

The court ruled that the government’s policy was unlawful as it failed to take into account climate change commitments made by the government when it signed up for the Paris Agreement in 2015.

The court said the government did not seek permission to appeal the ruling in Supreme Court.

The new runway was approved by the government in 2018. The ruling could prompt the government to rework the policy if it wants to go ahead with the expansion or abandon it altogether.

Heathrow is Britain and Europe’s busiest airport and caters to over 80 million passengers a year, according to reports. The third runway, touted to be built by 2028, would bring 700 more planes per day — along with a major spike in carbon emissions.

The court said:

The government when it published the ANPS (Airports National Policy Statement) had not taken into account its own firm policy commitments on climate change under the Paris agreement. That, in our view, is legally fatal to the ANPS in its present form.

According to Reuters, Heathrow Airport said it would appeal to the Supreme Court. It added that recent commitments made by the aviation industry on meeting carbon commitments by 2050 were in line with the Paris Agreement.

In 2018, lawmakers voted 415 to 119 in favor of the new runway. However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson had opposed the expansion.

During 2019’s election campaign, he had said he would “find some way of honoring an old promise to lie down in front of bulldozers at Heathrow to halt the expansion plans”.

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