London’s Heathrow Airport’s third runway expansion plan has been called “unlawful” by the United Kingdom's Court of Appeal. Although the move to expand Heathrow was approved in 2018, it faced a lot of backlash from climate change activists and campaigners at that time, and they call this decision of the court a major win.
On February 27th 2020, the UK Court of Appeal said that the UK government, which threw its support behind the proposal, had failed to take into account what impact the move would have on Britain's commitments under the Paris Agreement. However, the final decision lies with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The judges wrote in their ruling "We have not found that a national policy statement supporting this project is necessarily incompatible with the United Kingdom's commitment to reducing carbon emissions and mitigating climate change under the Paris Agreement, or with any other policy the Government may adopt or international obligation it may undertake."
Last year the United Kingdom announced that it would become the first major economy in the world to be 100% carbon neutral by 2050 and as a result, the third runway proposal was not per the country’s environmental policy. The government has said that it would not contest the decision but Heathrow Authorities are not scrapping plans to a third runway completely. Heathrow officials have stated that there still is a possibility for a third runway and they would be working with the government to meet the environmental objectives.
Heathrow Airport said, “The issue identified by the court is eminently fixable."
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vehemently opposed the third runway plan as well as Mayor of London, Mr. Sadiq Khan. When the plan got the green light, the government was headed by Theresa May, and Boris Johnson, the then Mayor of London was out on an official visit to Afghanistan and was therefore unable to express his displeasure during the vote.
Prime Minister Johnson once said, “I would lie down in front of the bulldozers to stop it going ahead.”
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan tweeted on Thursday "We won!”
"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," Sadiq Khan added in a statement.
The proposal also makes a mockery of the government's 2050 carbon-neutral strategy, according to Green MP Caroline Lucas.
The third runway was strongly supported by many as it would’ve boosted the British economy as well as many businesses. However, the environmental factors like noise pollution, air pollution and life in the city would’ve been disturbed. If the expansion was to go through, apart from carbon emissions and environmental degradation, the new runway would have been built over the highly congested M25 motorway and would have disrupted traffic and would force the builders to displace 750 families from their homes near Heathrow. Despite all these issues, Heathrow Authorities are positive about future expansion plans.