Ruth Cadbury, MP for Brentford & Isleworth, says the Supreme Court’s ruling on Heathrow “drives a cart and horses through our Government’s commitments on climate change.
“Pushing ahead with another runway at Heathrow is a huge step backwards in our efforts to fight the climate crisis”.
The Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday 16 December that building a third runway at Heathrow would be legal. The decision by the UK’s top court overturns the decision made in February by the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal had ruled that the proposed expansion of Heathrow was unlawful because it did not meet the Government’s international commitments on Climate Change. It said ministers had failed to take into account the UK’s commitments under the 2015 Paris climate accord, but the Supreme Court yesterday found this was not necessary.
Tim Crosland, a lawyer at Plan B, which brought the legal case against Heathrow, said: “The really damaging thing is the precedent for the other cases.”
Environmental campaigners were delighted by the Court of Appeal’s ruling in February, as it was the first significant ruling in the world to be based on the Paris climate agreement. Tim Crosland described it as “a really strong lever” in legal arguments against high-carbon infrastructure. He said Plan B is now considering an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
Image above: Heathrow airport
“The right result for the country” – Heathrow
Heathrow’s response to the decision was:
‘This is the right result for the country, which will allow Global Britain to become a reality. 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…
‘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’.
Supreme Court’s decision places the ball back in the Government’s court
The Supreme Court’s decision does not mean that the third runway will necessarily be built, but it does mean Heathrow can move to the next stage and start it application for planning permission.
The campaign group No Third Runway said: “The Supreme Court’s verdict does not mean Heathrow expansion now has the green light. It’s simply one hurdle cleared.
They say the onus is now on the Government to review the Airports National Policy Statement.
“It can be argued that the Net Zero commitments and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic provide legitimate reasons for review”.
Net zero target
The Government has just announced (3 December 2020) an ambitious climate target, aiming for at least 68% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the decade, compared to 1990 levels.
The statement, from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, and the Prime Minister’s Office said:
‘Recognising the urgency to go further to tackle climate change, the UK’s new target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – our Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Climate Agreement – is among the highest in the world and commits the UK to cutting emissions at the fastest rate of any major economy so far.
‘Today’s target is the first set by the UK following its departure from the EU, demonstrating the UK’s leadership in tackling climate change’.
That leadership will be put to the test when the British Government hosts the COP26 summit in Glasgow next year. The summit, due to take place in November 2021, will bring parties together ‘to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’.
Heathrow, already anticipating the fight it still has to win the argument for a third runway, says Heathrow is already committed to a net zero.
‘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’.
‘Better not bigger’
Opponents of the third runway argue that the strategy for the development of Heathrow airport is that is should be ‘better not bigger’.
Ruth Cadbury MP said:
“Plans by Heathrow to build a third runway will not address the immediate crisis caused by the current collapse in demand for flying, nor will it address the UK’s need to cut carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions.
“Many working at Heathrow and the wider aviation sector are facing redundancies and significant cuts to their pay and conditions now. Building a third runway in ten to fifteen years’ time does not help the caterers, baggage handlers or cabin crew who live in my constituency and around Heathrow, who are currently facing extreme hardship.
“I have always believed that Heathrow should be better, not bigger. Even with this decision we are still years away from the bulldozers going in. In the meantime, thousands of local jobs have been lost due to the pandemic-generated cuts in flying, especially with business travel which will probably never return to previous levels.
“Building a third runway will mean more noise, more congestion and more emissions for families across West London and beyond and today’s decision means that fear still hangs over us.
“This ruling also drives a cart and horses through our Governments commitments on climate change and pushing ahead with another runway at Heathrow is a huge step backwards in our efforts to fight the climate crisis”.
Leader of LB Hounslow, Cllr Steve Curran’s reaction was more nuanced:
“Hounslow Council has long-held that we want the airport to be successful, as it plays such an important role in the economic lives of our residents, and our status as the gateway borough to London. That is even more important as we come to terms with the social and economic impacts of COVID-19 and its devastating effects on Aviation Communities, where locally we face a £4 billion hit to our Hounslow economy with 40,000 jobs at risk.
“We have said before, we want to see a Heathrow which is better, not bigger so we hope that the Government and Heathrow Airport can find a solution that protects our environment and allows the airport to flourish. As a Council we are committed to our Climate Emergency pledge, to delivering our recovery plan through a Green Economic recovery for aviation communities, and to working with Heathrow in its ambitions to improve while ensuring the best outcomes for local residents and businesses.”
Unlike other boroughs under the Heathrow flight path, LB Hounslow has not taken part in legal action against Heathrow expansion. The boroughs which have are Hammersmith and Fulham, Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth, and Windsor and Maidenhead.
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See also: London goes into Tier 3
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