Government CO2 net zero commitment challenged in High Court, on Heathrow expansion NPS
A cross-party group of politicians will join claimants, campaigners and residents outside the High Court on the morning of Thursday 17th October as the legal challenge against the proposed expansion of Heathrow continues, with the Government’s new target of net zero emission by 2050 a key element of the judicial review. The Court of Appeal will be hearing the challenges from Local Authorities, the Mayor of London and Greenpeace as well as Friends of the Earth, Plan B Earth and Heathrow Hub. The challenges are being made against the decision to designate the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS). One ground is the incompatibility of the expansion plans with the UK’s climate change commitments. The previous challenge was dismissed by the High Court on a technicality as the Government had not incorporated the Paris Agreement into law. The Climate Change Act (2008) has now been amended to incorporate a target of Net Zero by 2050, which places an even more pressing demand upon Government to limit the expansion of carbon intensive infrastructure. The No 3rd Runway Coalition said: “It’s now vital for Government to pause plans for Heathrow expansion, to reassess airport capacity strategy for the whole country.”
Government net zero commitment challenged in High Court
Heathrow expansion means targets cannot be met, say claimants
16 October 2019
A cross-party group of politicians will join claimants, campaigners and residents outside the High Court on the morning of Thursday 17th October as the legal challenge against the proposed expansion of Heathrow continues (1), with the Government’s new target of net zero emission by 2050 a key element of the judicial review.
The Court of Appeal will be hearing the challenges from Local Authorities, the Mayor of London and Greenpeace as well as Friends of the Earth, Plan B Earth and Heathrow Hub (2).
The challenges are being made against the decision to designate the Airports National Policy Statement on two key grounds: the absence of plans to address commitments under the Habitats Directive and the incompatibility of the expansion plans with the UK’s climate change commitments.
The previous challenge was dismissed by the High Court on a technicality as the Government had not incorporated the Paris Agreement into law.
However, the Climate Change Act (2008) has now been amended to incorporate a target of Net Zero by 2050, which places an even more pressing demand upon Government to limit the expansion of carbon intensive infrastructure.
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has also recently advised the Government that aviation will become the biggest source of carbon in the UK by 2050 and that expansion at Heathrow leaves very little room for growth at any other airport (3).
In a direct blow to aviation industry claims of technological solutions to aviation’s carbon problem, the CCC states that zero-carbon aviation is highly unlikely to be feasible by 2050.
Paul McGuinness, Chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said:
“If the unavoidable increases in noise pollution and poorer air quality were not enough, the recent inclusion of a net zero carbon target in the Climate Change Act has tightened the noose around Heathrow expansion even further.
“The Committee on Climate Change has highlighted that demand for aviation must be limited and that a third runway at Heathrow would inevitably mean restrictions on capacity at other airports across the UK.
“It’s now vital for Government to pause plans for Heathrow expansion, to reassess airport capacity strategy for the whole country.”
1). Gathering outside the Royal Courts of Justice at 9am for photograph and speeches from politicians and claimants. Spokespersons from the Coalition are available for interview all day.
2) Local authorities include London Boroughs of Hillingdon, Richmond upon Thames, Hammersmith and Fulham, Wandsworth and the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead.
On 1st May 2019, when the parties’ application to apply for Judicial Review of the Secretary of State’s designation of Airports National Policy Statement had their cases thrown out, the judgment made it clear that the judges had not considered the actual merits of Heathrow expansion. Lord Justice Hickinbottom stated that they were “only concerned with the legality (of the Secretary of States procedures), and not the merits of the Airports National Policy Statement.”
However, on 22 July 2019, when the parties were given leave to appeal, Justice Lindblom stated that “the importance of the issues raised is obvious”. The Net Zero Carbon target was incorporated into the Climate Change Act in June.
For more information contact: Paul Beckford firstname.lastname@example.org
Theresa May commits to net zero UK carbon emissions by 2050
11th June 2019
Skeleton arguments by Plan B Earth for their legal appeal against government approval of the Airports NPS
The legal appeals against the decision of the High Court, to reject the legal challenges against the Secretary of State for Transport (SST) decision to designate the Airports National Policy Statement (NPS), starts on 17th October, at the Appeal Court, in the Strand. The ANPS gave approval for a 3rd Heathrow runway. One of the four parties who are appealing is Plan B Earth, on grounds of the increased carbon emissions that the runway would produce. The Plan B skeleton argument (14 pages) has been publicised, and this says the SST and the court below proceeded on the false assumption that “Government policy relating to … climate change” was confined to a) (The minimum target established by CCA s. 1 as it was then, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050 compared to a 1990 baseline) and that b) (a commitment to introduce a new UK target in accordance with the Paris Agreement (a commitment which has now been implemented into law, via a change to CCA s.1) should be disregarded. Also that neither the SST nor the court below, have advanced any explanation for disregarding the Committee on Climate Change’s clear position on this issue. “If the court below had given proper account to these matters, and properly considered the advice of the CCC, it would have been driven to the conclusion that the ANPS was fundamentally flawed and that it should be quashed.”
All the claimants, whose challenges against the DfT on Heathrow expansion were rejected, now given leave to appeal
The Court of Appeal has granted the claimants against the Government’s plans to expand Heathrow permission to appeal their claims in a hearing beginning on 21 October 2019. The Government had argued permission should be refused. Lord Justice Lindblom stated: “The importance of the issues raised in these and related proceedings is obvious.” Four Councils (Wandsworth, Richmond, Hammersmith & Fulham, Windsor & Maidenhead) with Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Plan B Earth and the Mayor London sought the appeal, after judges at the High Court ruled against the legal challenges on 1st May. Rob Barnstone, of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, commented: “Boris Johnson knows that Heathrow expansion cannot meet environmental targets, including on noise and air pollution. Mr Johnson has indicated he will be following the legal and planning processes very carefully. Then at the appropriate time, the project can be cancelled. We don’t expect any gimmicks but remain confident that Mr Johnson will stop this disastrous project, albeit at the correct time in the process. The decision by the Court of Appeal today may make that time a little sooner than previously thought.” Heathrow Hub has also been given permission to appeal.
Judges reject judicial review challenges against DfT’s Heathrow 3rd runway NPS
The judges at the High Court have handed down their judgement, which was to reject all the legal challenges against the DfT and the Secretary of State for Transport, on the government decision to approve a 3rd Heathrow runway, through the Airports NPS (National Policy Statement). The judges chose to make their ruling exclusively on the legality, and “rationality” of the DfT decision, ignoring the facts and details of the Heathrow scheme and the NPS process – or the areas where relevant information was ignored by the DfT. In the view of the judges, the process had been conducted legally. They threw out challenges on air pollution, surface access, noise and habitats – as well as carbon emissions. The latter being on the grounds that the Paris Agreement, though ratified by the UK government, has not been incorporated into UK law, so the DfT did not have to consider it. The Paris Agreement requires countries to aim for only a global 1.5C rise in temperature, not 2 degrees (as in the current UK Climate Change Act). Read comments by Neil Spurrier, one of those making a legal challenge. There are now likely to be appeals, perhaps even direct to the Supreme Court.