London Mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted: “We won! Today’s verdict is a great victory for all Londoners who want to overcome the climate emergency and stand up for Clean Air.“His enthusiasm is understandable: the Court of Appeal, the National Court of Appeal, has decided that the planned third runway at Heathrow Airport must not be built for environmental reasons. After all, with the signing of the Paris climate agreement in 2016, the British government has committed itself to taking action to protect the climate and to reducing harmful emissions to net zero by 2050. The expansion of the airport contradicts this.
As the newspaper “The Guardian” writes, Lord Justice Keith Lindblom justifies the judgment as follows: the Paris Agreement should have been taken into account in the decision for the runway. Since this had not happened, the government had violated the law.
According to the Guardian, This is the first time that a court has included the Paris climate agreement in its reasoning and has given it greater weight than economic interests.
No opposition from the government
The government under Boris Johnson – according to the newspaper “Guardian” - has announced in an initial reaction to accept the verdict. The fact that Boris Johnson has already spoken out against the expansion in 2015 may play a part in this.
Heathrow Airport is already one of the largest hubs of global aviation. Around 80 million passengers are handled each year. The third runway would have allowed 700 additional flights per day.
Climate protection must be integrated into decision-making
The environmental organisation Plan B had sued the court of Appeal. The Guardian quotes Plan B representative Tim Crosland as saying: “now it is clear that our government cannot say that it wants to implement the Paris climate agreement while clearly violating it.“Plan B had argued that with the signing of the Paris climate agreement, the goals set therein had become an integral part of governance. Therefore, it should have been assessed how a third runway could be reconciled with the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 percent.
“This verdict will have worldwide consequences, “Margaretha Wewerinke-Singh, an expert in international law at Leiden University in the Netherlands, told The Guardian. “It is the first Time that a court has confirmed that the Paris climate agreement is binding. Some have argued that the goals are only to be pursued and that governments have the freedom to block them.“Now it is clear that this is not legal. Contract is contract!