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Latest 19 December 2020

Stopping climate change can’t be a lie we tell our children

With noted environmentalist, Dale Vince, we have written to Government to require that it reviews the Airports National Policy Statement – or face legal proceedings. The claim, if successful, will mean Heathrow Airport expansion will have to meet much tougher environmental standards to get the go-ahead.

The Supreme Court ruled this week that the Airports NPS was not unlawful by reason of its failure to treat the Paris Agreement as government policy. But the Court was careful to confine its reasoning to the legal regime that existed in June 2018 – i.e. prior to Government making its net-zero by 2050 commitment. 

Since the third runway at Heathrow was approved in 2018, the UK Government has committed to net-zero emissions by 2050 and on 4 December it pledged to cut carbon emissions by 68% by 2030. But as matters stand, Heathrow Airport can seek permission to expand under the earlier, laxer, regime.

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We believe this is unlawful and Government must revise and update the Airports NPS to take account of its new net-zero commitment in section 1 of the Climate Change Act 2008, via an amendment in 2019.

We think the litigation has a strong chance of succeeding – the legal point in this challenge is basically the same as that on which the Government conceded in our judicial review earlier this year over the outdated Energy National Policy Statements. This week the Secretary of State conceded in his Energy White Paper the need for a review of the Energy NPS.

The Government did not appeal the Court of Appeal’s judgment in February this year which ruled against the third runway for environmental reasons. And the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, with a constituency near Heathrow, has been a longstanding critic of expansion.

Theresa May’s final act as Prime Minister was to set a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target – making the UK the first major economy to do so. But setting targets does nothing to help halt climate change – we actually need to hit them. And that means we only approve new transport infrastructure when doing so is consistent with them. 

We can’t allow climate change targets to become lies we tell our children and grandchildren. 

It’s not too late to stop Heathrow expansion. If you are in a position to do so, you can support our legal challenge

The Government is due to respond by 18th January 2021. If it does not concede the need for a review, we will issue judicial review proceedings.

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