Court of Appeal clips Heathrow’s wings as third runway forced into climate emergency landing

Major setback for plans to build a third runway at Heathrow as the Court of Appeal rules the government decision was unlawful for ignoring the Paris climate agreement


Today the Court of Appeal delivered its decision on the Judicial Reviews of the government’s Airport National Policy Statement (ANPS), which in 2018 gave Heathrow’s proposed third runway the go-ahead. The Court’s most important finding was that the Secretary of State for Transport (Chris Grayling) had failed to give due consideration to the UK’s commitments to reduce carbon emissions under the Paris Agreement, which was legally fatal to the ANPS, and a new one must be produced before the development can continue.

John Sauven, Executive Director of Greenpeace UK, said:

“The court has decided that the Airports National Policy Statement is fatally undermined by ignoring climate commitments, but we still need the government to permanently ground Heathrow’s expansion plans. The third runway is already on its knees over costs, noise, air pollution, habitat loss and lack of access, and now Heathrow Ltd has yet another impossibly high hurdle to clear. No amount of spin from Heathrow’s PR machine can obscure the carbon logic of a new runway. Their plans would pollute as much as a small country. Boris Johnson should now put Heathrow out of its misery and cancel the third runway once and for all. No ifs, no buts, no lies, no u-turns.”

John Sauven continued:

“Instead of locking in more carbon pollution with more airport expansion, we urgently need a fair and effective way to cut aviation emissions. Currently, the vast majority of UK flights are taken by the 10% of the population who are frequent fliers, with around half of the UK not flying abroad at all in any given year. A frequent flyer levy would help make flying cheaper for those who do it rarely while applying a heavy cost to binge flying.”

Other problems confronting Heathrow’s plans have been moved to the jurisdiction of the planning process, to be determined when Heathrow Ltd apply to the Planning Inspectorate for a Development Consent Order, if they ever do. A ruling from the High Court last year stated the development could not go ahead if it posed a risk of breaching air quality limits. The area around Heathrow is already frequently in breach, as is central London and other areas affected by Heathrow traffic, and so meeting this requirement seems unlikely.

Heathrow have recently published plans to reduce their carbon emissions to net-zero. However, these plans exclude emissions from aeroplanes, and so ignore the vast majority of Heathrow’s pollution.



Greenpeace UK Press Office – or 020 7865 8255

Press officer on site – 07801 212 960


Greenpeace are party to an appeal of a Judicial Review of the government’s Aviation National Policy Statement, together with Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Hammersmith and Fulham, Richmond upon Thames and Windsor and Maidenhead councils, joined by the Mayor of London. Other JRs have been brought by Friends of the Earth, Plan B, and Heathrow Hub Ltd.

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