Court Rules Heathrow Expansion Illegal, Says Climate Crisis Should Have Been Considered

©. Leon Neal/Getty Images

The political football that is the third runway gets kicked down again.

They have been fighting over the third runway since it was first proposed in 2003. When he was Mayor, Boris Johnson said he would "lie down in front of those bulldozers and stop the construction." As we noted earlier, It has been a political football for years, with the last Conservative government scrapping it. However, British Prime Minister Theresa May brought it back in 2016, and activists immediately challenged it. And now they have won a huge victory; the plans for the runway have been ruled illegal by the Court of Appeal because "ministers did not adequately take into account the government’s commitments to tackle the climate crisis."

third runway

© Airports Commission via BBCDamian Carrington of the Guardian explains the significance of the ruling:

The court’s ruling is the first major ruling in the world to be based on the Paris agreement and may have an impact both in the UK and around the globe by inspiring challenges against other high-carbon projects. Lord Justice Lindblom said: “The Paris agreement ought to have been taken into account by the secretary of state. The national planning statement was not produced as the law requires.”

The court challenge was led by a group called Plan B, but there were other challenges from the Mayor of London and environmental groups. Many think that the importance of it will be far reaching:

“For the first time, a court has confirmed that the Paris agreement temperature goal has binding effect. This goal was based on overwhelming evidence about the catastrophic risk of exceeding 1.5C of warming. Yet some have argued that the goal is aspirational only, leaving governments free to ignore it in practice.”

Prof Corinne Le Quéré, at the University of East Anglia, said: “Government needs to put climate targets at the heart all big decisions, or risk missing their own net zero objectives with devastating consequences for climate and stability. I am relieved this is finally recognised in law.”

Climate campaigner Greta Thunberg said: “Imagine when we all start taking the Paris agreement into account.”

The government says it is not appealing this decision, saying it is up to Heathrow, but it presents an interesting problem for a country that just pulled out of the European Union because it didn't want Brussels telling it what to do. Now it has Paris telling it what to do.

Heathrow Statement on airport

© Heathrow Statement on airport

Heathrow, going full Brexit with "let's get Heathrow done", is not taking this lying down. But having net zero emissions by 2050 is a fantasy, and as George Monbiot has noted,

The airline companies seek to divert us with a series of mumbo-jumbo jets, mythical technologies never destined for life beyond the press release. Solar passenger planes, blended wing bodies, hydrogen jets, algal oils, other biofuels: all are either technically impossible, commercially infeasible, worse than fossil fuels or capable of making scarcely a dent in emissions.

It is not a coincidence that my previous post was about how Oil investments are the new tobacco. There are probably going to be many more of them, about cancelled projects, bankrupted resource companies, massive divestment. You ain't seen nuthin' yet.