Heathrow Airport will today begin a Supreme Court appeal over the decision to block the building of a third runway on the grounds that it did not take into account the UK’s climate pledges.
Back in February, the Court of Appeal ruled that the government had failed to take the 2015 Paris climate agreement into account in its plans to expand the country’s busiest airport.
Three judges ruled that the Airports National Policy Statement was unlawful (ANPS), a decision that ministers accepted and said they would not appeal.
The decision met with disappointment from business associations, who warned that not building the runway would risk companies losing access to key markets around the world.
Acting independently, Heathrow will argue the expansion project will adhere to the UK’s climate commitments.
A spokesperson for the airport said: “Heathrow will ensure the expansion project is compliant with the UK’s climate change obligations, including under the Paris Climate Agreement, as part of our plans to reach net-zero carbon.
“We fully expect to be held to account by government through the planning process. The ANPS makes clear that approval for expansion would be refused if it would have a material impact on the UK’s ability to meet its carbon reduction obligations.
“We’re appealing to the Supreme Court to allow this thorough planning process to proceed as it was designed.
“Given the timescales required to deliver complex infrastructure of this scale in the UK, it’s critical that we get on with laying the groundwork today for future operations that will be essential for a successful global Britain in the decade after Brexit.”
It will be opposed by environmental campaign groups such as Friends of the Earth. In a statement ahead of the trial, the group’s head of legal Will Rundle said:
“Without the government in the picture, this case has become one about business interests versus the wellbeing of people everywhere facing the impact of the climate crisis.
“The Court of Appeal rightly ruled against the expansion of Heathrow, and we’re now here to defend our historic win for the planet.”
He said that he was confident that the UK’s highest court would uphold the ruling, which was a landmark ruling for climate campaigners.
The hearing will run today and tomorrow and can be watched live here. A ruling is not expected until January at the earliest.
Speaking to MPs earlier this year, Heathrow’s chief exec John Holland-Kaye said that the new runway would not be needed for 15 years due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has decimated international aviation.
The airport is currently operating at a fifth of normal levels due to the crisis.
However, he insisted that the project remained “a critical economic plank for the growth of the country”.