On Thursday 27th February, a British appeals court ruled that a planned expansion of Heathrow airport is unconstitutional because the planning process was not in accordance with the government’s own climate policies set out in the Paris Agreement. Lords Justice Lindblom, Singh and Haddon-Cave ruled that when setting out their support for the measures in their National Policy Statement (NPS), the government did not take adequate account of its contribution to the Paris Agreement on climate change.
“The decision was a win for Londoners and generations to come”Sadiq Khan
“A new runway at Heathrow would have serious consequences on climate change, on air quality, on noise pollution, on road and rail networks and on the quality of life in our city. The government must now finally see sense and abandon plans for a third runway at Heathrow”.Sadiq Khan
The legal case was brought forward by a coalition of councils, including London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Plan B.
Supporters of the third runway argue that it would provide an economic boost and that it is necessary for international business, in particular the post-Brexit era. The economic benefits are illusory at best; a bulk of flights are taken for leisure and according to surveys, only 1% of English residents take one-fifth of overseas flights.
Are the French ruling us all?
John Holland-Kaye, the Chief executive of Heathrow, thinks failing to expand Heathrow would “give control to the French”. This, however, could not be further from the truth. The Paris Agreement on Climate Change was signed to ensure our survival on this planet. While climate-change-denying leaders may not see themselves governed by the very same principals they themselves aspired to, their electorate does. It is indeed unusual for almost all nations to have a consensus on a single topic, but the Paris Agreement was an exception. Collectively, leaders around the world agreed that climate change is caused by human behaviour, that it is a threat to the environment and to society as a whole, and that concerted action is needed to avoid it.
Can the runway still be built?
If the government can show that Heathrow’s extension is consistent with its obligations under the Paris Agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions drastically, the runway building process may go ahead. But a spokesperson for the prime minister has said that the government will not appeal its ruling.
At a separate event on Thursday, the business secretary and president of November’s UN COP26 climate summit, said: “Our choices will make or break the zero-carbon economy.”
“The only economy which can avoid the worst effects of climate change is a decarbonised economy.”Alok Sharma
While leaders like Trump decided to gleefully pass the mounting problem of climate change on to our children, our commitment to the Paris Agreement will persist. Make no mistake, temperatures will keep rising. We’re seeing that already and we should expect more of it to come, it is only sensible to take action to reduce and mitigate these impacts. It is up to each of us to put this forward by making positive changes in our lives, helping businesses that really respect nature, and voting for politicians who want to tackle the climate emergency.