Anti-Heathrow expansion campaigners still doubt it will ever be built
CGI image of how extended airport might look
The Supreme Court has overruled a previous verdict that the Third Runway was in breach of the Paris Agreement on climate change.
In February 2020, the Appeal Court had ruled in favour of a group of local authorities, including Wandsworth and Hammersmith & Fulham, and environmental campaign groups who were challenging the legality of the government’s support of expansion of Heathrow.
A new third runway was unanimously recommended by the Davies Commission in 2015 and the government enacted legislation to enable it but the court found that Chris Grayling, who was transport secretary at the time, had failed to take into account the commitments that the government had made on climate change in the meantime.
The government opted not to appeal against this decision but Heathrow Airport did and this Wednesday (16 December) the five Supreme Court justices ruled in its favour.
The case was determined by the ruling by the judges that the Minister was correct in using a temperature increase limit of 2C rather than the Paris Agreement aim of 1.5C in determining that the expansion did not breach the requirements of agreements on climate change.
Tim Crosland of Plan B, one of the groups defending the appeal said, “The government was right to accept the Court of Appeal’s verdict. The Supreme Court’s judgment, which has legitimised Mr Grayling’s use of the deadly 2C threshold, has betrayed us all.”
John Stewart, chair of HACAN, said, “Despite this verdict, there remain a real doubt about whether the third runway will ever see the light of day. Recovery is all that is on Heathrow’s mind right now. Flight numbers are down nearly 90%. The airport’s expansion team has long since been disbanded. A third runway remains no more than a distant and uncertain prospect.”
A Heathrow Spokesperson said, “Only by expanding the UK’s hub airport can we connect all of Britain to all of the growing markets of the world, helping to create hundreds of thousands of jobs in every nation and region of our country. Demand for aviation will recover from Covid, and the additional capacity at an expanded Heathrow will allow Britain as a sovereign nation to compete for trade and win against our rivals in France and Germany. Heathrow has already committed to net zero and this ruling recognises the robust planning process that will require us to prove expansion is compliant with the UK’s climate change obligations, including the Paris Climate Agreement, before construction can begin. “
If work on the project resumed immediately the earliest possible opening date for the new airport would be 2030.
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December 16, 2020