Controversial plans to build a third runway at Heathrow Airport have been thrown into doubt.
The Court of Appeal has ruled in favour of London Mayor Sadiq Khan, Hillingdon Council and environmental campaigners, saying that the government’s decision for expansion at Heathrow was unlawful because it did not take climate commitments (specifically under the Paris Climate Agreement) into account.
The government has confirmed that it will not appeal the decision by the court. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps tweeted;
“Airport expansion is core to boosting global connectivity. We also take seriously our commitment to the environment. This Govt won’t appeal today’s judgement given our manifesto makes clear any #Heathrow expansion will be industry led.”
Heathrow Airport has though said that it still wants to ‘get Heathrow done’ and will challenge the court’s decision at the Supreme Court. The airport has claimed that a third runway was “essential to achieving the PM’s vision of Global Britain”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has long been a vocal critic of the project, previously promising in 2015 to ‘lie down’ in front of the bulldozers.
Greenpeace, amongst other organisations and political parties, have called on the government to now permanently scrap Heathrow’s expansion plans.
Following the court ruling, Friends of the Earth, who were involved in bringing the case, described the ruling as “an absolutely ground-breaking result for climate justice”.
The ruling is likely to prompt a mixed reaction in industry. Many businesses and trade bodies have argued that expansion of the airport is crucial to the economy and not doing it could leave the UK at risk of being left behind. However, the owner of British Airways, IAG, said following the ruling; “We have always said the environmental impact and cost of Heathrow expansion needs independent review. The airport cannot be trusted. Its original £14bn cost for expansion is now £32bn.”
The ruling could be very significant in the future, as any future planned infrastructure projects could also be challenged if they fail to take into account the UK’s climate commitments.