UK Supreme Court hears climate case on Heathrow airport expansion


A Friends of the Earth lawyer claimed, re. the ruling now being challenged: “It is the first case that has ruled that government plans for a massive infrastructure project are unlawful on the basis of the Paris Agreement,” she said. But that gives a misleading impression of the verdict, as this report shows. Big infrastructure projects haven’t been declared illegal.
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Heathrow Airport is challenging a ruling that quashed plans to build a third runway earlier this year, based on the UK commitment to the Paris Agreement, says Climate Home News.

Heathrow appeared in front of the UK Supreme Court this week in a bid to overturn a judgment that blocked Europe’s busiest airport from expanding.

In February, campaigners claimed a historic victory in the Court of Appeal, which quashed plans for a third runway at Heathrow on climate grounds. The case was brought by litigation charity Plan B and campaign group Friends of the Earth.

Three appeal judges ruled that government approval of the expansion plan was unlawful because, among other reasons, it failed to consider the Paris Agreement on climate change.

To pursue the project, the transport secretary would have to review how it could fit with the country’s climate commitments. The transport department accepted the ruling and said it would not appeal.

In a two-day virtual sitting of the Supreme Court this week, Heathrow argued the government was not legally required to consider the Paris Agreement.

At the same time, the airport owners claimed a third runway was compatible with Paris, so a government review would ultimately conclude it could go ahead.

According to the UK Committee on Climate Change, aviation is likely to be the UK’s highest emitting sector by 2050, as it is hard to decarbonise. Heathrow currently emits around 19 million tonnes of CO2 a year, more than half of UK aviation emissions.

A third runway would add a projected 9 million tonnes to the airport’s total annual CO2 output.

A spokesperson for Heathrow airport said: “Heathrow will ensure the expansion project is compliant with the UK’s climate change obligations, including under the Paris Climate Agreement, as part of our plans to reach net-zero carbon. We fully expect to be held to account by the government through the planning process.”

Continued here.

[The verdict is expected in January.]

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October 10, 2020 at 10:45AM

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