The decision is a blow to the project at a time when public concern about the climate emergency is growing rapidly and the government has set a legal goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. Prime Minister Boris Johnson could use the decision to scrap the project, or the government could draft a new policy document approving the track. Does this mean that the runway cannot be built at all? Yes and no, depending on whether or not the UK meets its climate commitments. Heathrow, one of the world`s largest airports by passenger frequency, has been planning a new runway since at least 2006, when the then Labour government backed plans to expand the airport. Since then, the plans have seen a series of changes and setbacks until 2018, when the Conservative government gave the green light to the current plan. Heathrow Airport Ltd has won Friends of the Earth`s judicial review of the government`s decision to give the green light for a third runway at Heathrow. “Shockingly, this case showed that the government accepted a legal opinion that it should ignore the Paris Agreement when giving the green light to the third track. The court made it very clear that it was illegal. Johnson spoke out against the track, saying in 2015 that he would “lie down in front of these bulldozers and stop construction.” Heathrow is already one of the busiest airports in the world with 80 million passengers a year. The £14 billion third runway could be built by 2028 and would produce 700 aircraft a day and a sharp increase in carbon emissions.
Ignoring the Paris Agreement, the judges said, was “legally fatal” to the plan. Heathrow and supporters of the third runway would say it would provide an economic boost and are important for international affairs, especially after Brexit. “The Court of Appeal has rejected all appeals against the government – including on `noise` and `air quality` – except for one appeal which [i.e. climate change] is perfectly fixable,” a Heathrow spokeswoman said. The saga of the third track has been highly controversial and has highlighted the impact of major infrastructure projects on climate change. Going forward, the government will likely work hard to ensure that new national policy statements meet all the necessary legal boxes, especially those with an environmental/climate change aspect. Although the Supreme Court ruled in its favour, a great deal of time and money has been spent defending the ANPS, and there is still a long way to go. We will continue to follow him and keep you informed. Plan B argued that the Paris Agreement target, which the government had ratified, was an integral part of the government`s climate policy and that ministers had not assessed how a third track could be compatible with the Paris goal of keeping global temperature rise as close to 1.5°C as possible. The government approved the third track in 2018 and won a large parliamentary majority.
However, ministers said in February that they accepted the Court of Appeal`s ruling that it was illegal. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has spoken out against the track, saying in 2015 that he would “lie in front of these bulldozers and stop construction”. The Court of Appeal ordered the government to declare illegal its decision to allow the expansion of Heathrow Airport – included in its national policy statement of the airline. Ministers now have two options. They can withdraw the entire policy statement or seek to amend it to make it compatible with the UK`s commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. Since the track`s approval in 2018, the UK has committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, and on December 4 it pledged to reduce its CO2 emissions by 68% by 2030. The climate crisis is worsening as CO2 levels in the atmosphere continue to rise and international attention turns to the UK`s actions as it hosts a major UN climate summit in Glasgow this November. The ANPS sets out national policy governing the construction of a third runway at Heathrow. This is important because any application for runway authorisation under this directive will be examined. Sign up to receive the latest legal developments, ideas and news from Ashurst. By registering, you agree to receive marketing messages from us.
You can unsubscribe at any time. However, this decision has been challenged by the non-profit organization Plan B, which is taking legal action against decisions that contribute to climate change. Plan B launched its legal action against the runway system, saying: “On the one hand, there is the UK government`s policy of expanding aviation, one of the most polluting modes of transport. On the other hand, there is their policy on climate change. He can have one or the other, but not both. The case began in March 2019. For the first time, judges have declared plans for a major infrastructure project illegal because they violate the UK`s commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to tackle the climate crisis. This is a groundbreaking legal decision that could influence future infrastructure developments and put the UK`s commitment to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050 at the forefront of future policymaking.
A protester holds up a sign to protest plans for a third runway in London on the same day the British Supreme Court reopened the runway door. The runway had previously been closed for environmental reasons. Daniel Leal-Olivas / AFP on Getty Images Hide caption “I still don`t think the third runway will happen,” said Tim Crosland, a lawyer for Plan B who filed a lawsuit against Heathrow. “What`s really damaging [about the Supreme Court decision] is the precedent for other cases.” He said the Court of Appeal, which said the UK`s commitments to the Paris Agreement should be taken into account, had been a “very powerful lever” in legal arguments against carbon-rich infrastructure. In addition, the court clarified that its decision was not about the benefits of expanding Heathrow by adding a third runway or other alternative project, or about doing nothing at all to increase the UK`s air capacity. These matters are the responsibility of the government and only the responsibility of the government. If the document is amended to include climate change considerations and the UK`s commitments to the Paris Agreement, it is possible that the runway extension will take place. “It is now clear that our governments cannot continue to claim to be committed to the Paris Agreement while taking actions that blatantly contradict it,” said Tim Crosland of the legal charity Plan B, which launched the protest. “The bell rings loud and clear about the carbon economy.” While the decision left the door open for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to reformulate plans and try again, it significantly backtracked on the runway expansion and prolonged a battle that had been raging for years.
This posed a dilemma for a country – a “truly global Britain”, as Johnson put it – which is severing its close ties with Europe and looking for new trading partners in more distant countries. The Court of Appeal had concluded that the government`s approval of the track was illegal because ministers had failed to take into account the UK`s commitments under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, which requires global temperature rise to be kept as close to 1.5C as possible. But after arguments from Heathrow`s lawyers, the Supreme Court ruled that this was unnecessary and overturned the decision. “The judges are killing Heathrow`s 3rd runway and Britain is getting the modern airlift infrastructure we need, even though the elected Parliament voted overwhelmingly for it. Presumably, this is the kind of exaggerated anti-democratic legal activism that Boris wants to contain. or maybe not” This decision means that Heathrow Airport Ltd will now be able to submit its application for authorisation for Heathrow`s third runway. The Supreme Court also overturned a parallel case by Friends of the Earth. Will Rundle, Legal Officer of Friends of the Earth, said: “We are disappointed but pleased that [the decision] confirms our view that climate impacts have not yet been fully determined at the planning stage. The expansion of Heathrow Airport remains questionable and more difficult than ever given the UK`s increasingly stringent climate policy. The Supreme Court was satisfied that the Minister had acted rationally and in accordance with his legal obligations. The Foreign Secretary`s report, which accompanied the ANPS, referred to the UK`s obligations under national and international law, and the Court stated that there was no need to go into detail. Friends of the Earth`s victory in the fight against a third runway at Heathrow Airport will be defended in the Supreme Court on Wednesday 7 October.