Green light for Heathrow third runway

Shutterstock / Jane Rix

The UK Supreme Court gave permission for the expansion of the third runway at London Heathrow Airport. 

The plan was previously blocked by the Appeal Court, which found that the airport expansion was not in line with  the UK’s climate targets as part of the Paris Climate Agreement. On December 16, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that the strategy was based on earlier agreed climate targets, which were less strict. 

“The Supreme Court unanimously allows the appeal that the Secretary of State did take the Paris agreements into account. He was not legally required to give it more weight than he decided was appropriate. In line with the advice of the Committee on Climate Change, the national policy statement is not affected by any unlawfulness, and is valid.”

The additional infrastructure of a third runway would allow the airport to increase its capacity and add more landing and takeoff slots. However, even after Heathrow receives permission to start the construction of the runway, the government will still have the final say.

“Only by expanding the UK’s hub airport can we connect all of Britain to all of the growing markets of the world, helping to create hundreds of thousands of jobs in every nation and region of our country,” said Heathrow’s spokesperson.

“Demand for aviation will recover from Covid-19, and the additional capacity at an expanded Heathrow will allow Britain as a sovereign nation to compete for trade and win against our rivals in France and Germany.”

The Supreme Court ruling comes as a blow to the people campaigning against the third runway and its environmental impact. They claim that the airport’s expansion goes against the government’s policy of zero carbon emissions by 2050. The environmentalists still plan to challenge the decision in courts, including at the European Court of Human Rights, according to the BBC News.

“This is a terrible verdict – the runway plan is in clear breach of climate change targets and it can’t be allowed to go ahead. I can’t imagine how the judges came to this decision,” Tim Crosland, founder of the environmental NGO Plan B, told the BBC News.

In May 2020, the airport CEO admitted that the third runway at Heathrow would not be needed for another 10 to 15 years. In November 2020, passenger numbers at the UK’s biggest airport were down by 88% and the airport decided to keep its Terminal 4 closed until the end of 2021.


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