The UK High Court has rejected a legal challenge against the construction of a third runway at Heathrow Airport, following separate judicial reviews of transport secretary Chris Grayling's approval of the plans brought by a group of councils, concerned citizens, environmental activists and London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
The legal challenge's central argument was the runway is incompatible with climate change targets enshrined in UK law, and also international obligations set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement. Whitehall is legally obliged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent, compared with 1990 levels, by 2050 — and the Climate Change Committee is scheduled to release a report 1st May calling for emissions to be reduced to net zero by 2050.
Bizarre court judgement on Heathrow airport expansion that lets government off the hook because it has not put Paris Climate Change Agreement into UK law. Campaign goes on. Appeals certain. This is just the first stage in defeating 3rd runway & protecting our environment.— John McDonnell MP (@johnmcdonnellMP) May 1, 2019
Despite a long-running campaign opposing the expansion, parliament overwhelmingly voted for the third runway in 2018, approving Mr Grayling's plans by 415 votes to 119.
The ruling comes mere hours before MPs are due to debate the "climate emergency" in parliament. The extension will cost at least £18 billion, and the government estimates the UK's aviation emissions will rise by 4.9 million tonnes of CO2 by 2030 if the third runway is developed, meaning the cost of flights would need to greatly increase for the UK to remain within its carbon budget. A return flight from London to New York could rise in price by £130 or more, for instance.
⚡️Today’s High Court decision to dismiss our #climatechange case against a third runway at #Heathrow airport is legally and morally wrong and “out of step with the world”. More to follow…#NoThirdRunway #ClimateEmergency pic.twitter.com/LdbBkStNTq— Friends of the Earth 🌍 (@friends_earth) May 1, 2019
Friends Of The Earth, one of the charities behind the legal challenge, has demanded MPs declare a climate emergency "to show they recognise the magnitude of the threat".
"Time to avert catastrophic climate change and the horrifying impacts it will have on our lives and livelihoods is fast running out. The declaration of a climate emergency would hopefully trigger the bold action needed to rapidly end our addiction to climate-wrecking fossil fuels. The good news is the solutions already exist — all that's lacking is the political will, leadership and urgency. We need to stop fueling climate change by building more runways, roads and looking for yet more fossil fuels, and instead build a cleaner, healthier future by investing in energy efficiency and harnessing the nation's huge renewable power potential," the charity's chief executive Craig Bennett said.