Judge knocks back Heathrow expansion on basis of climate impacts



Posted on 26 March 2010  | 
Concerned communities and climate change concerns led to Judge calling an end to endless expansion of London's Heathrow Airport
© Arpington Enlarge
Lord Justice Carnwath of the High Court ruled that if the UK Government decides to push ahead with the runway project it must now review the climate change implications of Heathrow expansion, the economic case for a third runway, and the issue of how additional passengers would get to a bigger airport.

Government claims that the aviation policy was in some way divorced from requirements of the 2008 Climate Change Act were described as ‘untenable in law and common sense’.

On the economic case for Heathrow expansion the judget said that he would be ‘surprised’ if the recent tripling of the estimated cost to society of emitting carbon did not have ‘a significant effect’ on the economic case for the runway. The judge also said that “it makes no sense to treat the economic case as settled in 2003.”

"We are delighted with today’s judgement," said David Nussbaum, CEO of WWF-UK.  "It deals a body blow to the third runway, but more than that it makes it clear that the Government's whole policy of airport expansion must be reviewed in order to bring it into line with the Climate Change Act.


"Today's landmark ruling has implications that could resonate far wider than the aviation sector. For a judge to tell the Government that it cannot build huge pieces of carbon-intensive infrastructure without considering the long-term consequences is a resounding win in the fight to tackle climate change.

"It is also a further indication of the need for the UK to make a swift transition to a low carbon economy. WWF would now urge the Government to focus on green investment, encouraging alternative ways of connecting with people wherever possible, such as high speed rail and videoconferencing, rather than relying on carbon-heavy methods such as flying.”The court was hearing a case brought by six local authorities in West London, a local residents group (NoTRAG) and the national campaigning group against airport expansion HACAN. WWF-UK, Campaign to Protect Rural England and Greenpeace were also claimants.

Transport for London was an independent party supporting the claim while the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds gave expert witness. The challenge to the airport was also supported by Kensington and Chelsea and the Mayor of London. The local authorities are all members of the 2M Group which comprises 24 local councils with a combined population of 5 million  opposed to Heathrow expansion .

The UK Government’s entire aviation policy must now be reviewed to take into account the implications of the 2008 Climate Change Act. The judge found that “the claimants’ submissions add up, in my view, to a powerful demonstration of the potential significance of developments in climate change policy since the 2003 Air Transport White Paper. They are clearly matters which will need to be taken into account under the new Airports National Policy Statement.”

"We are delighted with today’s judgement," said David Nussbaum, CEO of WWF-UK.  "It deals a body blow to the third runway, but more than that it makes it clear that the Government's whole policy of airport expansion must be reviewed in order to bring it into line with the Climate Change Act.


"Today's landmark ruling has implications that could resonate far wider than the aviation sector. For a judge to tell the Government that it cannot build huge pieces of carbon-intensive infrastructure without considering the long-term consequences is a resounding win in the fight to tackle climate change.

"It is also a further indication of the need for the UK to make a swift transition to a low carbon economy. WWF would now urge the Government to focus on green investment, encouraging alternative ways of connecting with people wherever possible, such as high speed rail and videoconferencing, rather than relying on carbon-heavy methods such as flying.”

The implications of today’s ruling are profound, not just for Heathrow but for airport expansion plans across the UK. Lord Justice Carnwath ruled that the 2003 Air Transport White Paper – the foundation of expansion plans across the country - is obsolete because it is inconsistent with the Climate Change Act 2008.

The judge expressed real concern over the “hardship caused to the local community by uncertainty” over the third runway. The coalition which brought the successful legal challenge is now calling on the Government to end the uncertainty and scrap the runway plans once and for all.

If a third runway at Heathrow airport were to be built,  the airport would become the largest single emitter of carbon dioxide in the UK. Unrestrained airport expansion in line with the 2003 plan would make it impossible for the UK to meet its emissions reductions commitments.

Contact:  Jo Sargent, WWF UK press office, +44 1483 412375/ 07867 697519




Concerned communities and climate change concerns led to Judge calling an end to endless expansion of London's Heathrow Airport
© Arpington Enlarge

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