Tim Crosland (Plan B Earth) broke Supreme Court judgement embargo as “an act of civil disobedience” that will be treated as a “contempt of court”

The Appeal Court ruled in February that the ANPS was illegal, as it had not taken proper account of the Paris Agreement and the climate targets for the UK.  The case was partly on complicated legal points about to what extent Paris-related obligations were part of UK law.  The two parties taking the challenge to the Supreme Court are Friends of the Earth UK and Plan B Earth.  A day before the court date, Tim Crosland – representing Plan B Earth – decided (on being given a pre-copy of the judgement) in ‘an act of civil disobedience,’ to publicise the decision, though not the details of the judgement. This will be held as contempt of court. Several papers published news of this, but then withdrew comments, for fear of also being held in contempt of court. Tim Crosland believes that the Secretary of State for Transport (Chris Grayling at the time in 2018) should have acted in line with trying to avoid a 1.5C rise in global temperature, not just a 2C rise, and this decision by the Supreme Court puts the well-being and lives of millions of people – especially young people – at risk, from climate related impacts.


The judgement on the legal challenges to the government’s Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) is due to be handed down by the Court at 9.45am by the Supreme Court judges.


Personal Statement on the Supreme Court’s Heathrow verdict

By Tim Crosland  (Plan B Earth)

15th December 2020

Tomorrow, 16 December, the Supreme Court will publish its judgement on Heathrow expansion. I have taken the decision to break the embargo on that decision as an act of civil disobedience. This will be treated as a “contempt of court” and I am ready to face the consequences. I have no choice but to protest the deep immorality of the Court’s ruling. 

Chris Grayling took his decision to approve Heathrow expansion in June 2018.  That was 2 ½ years on from the Paris Agreement. Yet he assessed the climate impacts of Heathrow expansion against the historic temperature limit of 2˚C warming – which the UK Government and the international community had rejected as inadequate and dangerous in 2015. He did not inform the public or Parliament that that is what he did, but it became clear through the disclosure in this litigation that that is what he did.

Had he assessed Heathrow expansion against the 1.5˚C temperature goal in the Paris Agreement, he could not have approved it. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global decarbonisation by 2050 would still leave a 50% chance of exceeding 1.5˚C (even assuming the rapid development of negative emission technologies). According to the Government’s own figures, Heathrow expansion would mean 40 million tonnes of CO2 by 2050, just from UK aviation. Those two figures can not be reconciled.

In February 2020, the Court of Appeal ruled that Mr Grayling should have relied on the Paris Agreement temperature limit (not the 2˚C limit) and consequently ruled his decision unlawful. Boris Johnson informed Parliament that the Government would accept that decision and abide by the Paris Agreement.

But Heathrow Airport Limited, the company which plans to profit from expansion launched an appeal, supported by an army of lawyers. Tomorrow the Supreme Court will overturn the Court of Appeal’s judgement in Heathrow’s favour and rule that Mr Grayling acted lawfully.

As the IPCC has shown, the consequences for humanity of exceeding the 1.5˚C temperature limit are dire, with the younger generation and the Global South on the frontline. Mr Grayling’s hidden reliance upon the discredited, dangerous 2˚C limit to support his plans was a treasonous betrayal of the young people of this country and made a mockery of the Government’s commitment to showing international leadership in the face of the climate emergency, which our Parliament and the UN Secretary General have declared

The pandemic has reminded us of our subjection to natural laws. The Paris Temperature Limit is all that divides us from a grim future of crisis upon crisis. The Government was right to accept the Court of Appeal’s verdict. The Supreme Court’s judgment, which has legitimised Mr Grayling’s use of the deadly 2˚C threshold, has betrayed us all. 

I have been a lawyer for 25 years and a legal adviser to government agencies. I was a Deputy Director at the Serious Organised Crime Agency. I have deep respect for the rule of law and the vital role of the judicial system in holding power to account. That is why it is a duty to protest a decision that so gravely betrays that purpose. 

I take this act of protest for the sake of my two children and in memory of all those who have lost their lives on the frontline of the climate crisis, in the UK and around the world.

See  https://docs.google.com/document/d/1HxxC4TQgHh_haFkikww74CBhwgYaKfu1Nooi9NwKJns/preview?pru=AAABdoq0zc4*x_pS5xIEqbN1M-86ODm53w   as the full document, including all footnotes



15th December, 2020

By the AEF (Aviation Environment Federation)

According to news reported by Reuters, the Supreme Court will tomorrow rule in favour of Heathrow, overturning the judgment of the Court of Appeal that the plan for Heathrow expansion was unlawful for having failed to take account of the Paris Agreement on climate change. But this legal obstacle to the third runway (plans for which may yet be subject to further legal challenge from opponents), may prove insignificant compared with the political, economic and climate challenges ahead.

The Covid crisis has caused demand to plummet, and it’s widely thought that passenger levels won’t recover for several years. Whether business travel – the main money-spinner for many of Heathrow’s airlines – will ever be the same is in fact doubtful now that working practices have shifted towards virtual meetings online. A recent US poll of the business travel sector predicted that up to 36% of business air passengers will be lost permanently.

Heathrow chose to fight this court battle alone, the Government having shown no interest in reviving the third runway plans after they were judged to be unlawful by the Court of Appeal. In the meantime, the need for decision-makers to get a grip on aviation emissions has become crystal clear. Last week, the Government’s climate experts advised that there should be no increase in the UK’s total airport capacity if demand for flying is to be kept to a level that’s consistent with UK climate law.



Comment from the No 3rd Runway Coalition:



Story on UK court decision on Heathrow expansion is withdrawn