The implications of the Appeal Court decision…

The implications of the Appeal Court decision will go far beyond just Heathrow, perhaps to all high carbon developments
2020-02-28 14:19:00
The Appeal Court ruled the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) illegal, because it had not properly taken into account the obligation by the UK to consider its impact on obligations to the Paris Agreement. The ANPS should have – through the Planning Bill 2008 that set out what an NPS should include – contained an “explanation of how the policy takes account of government policy relating to the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change.” It did not. The implications is the precedent set by the judgement on any large infrastructure project that requires an NPS. But it also goes wider. Many commentators have said this will require the UK government, and other governments, to take seriously their obligations to cut carbon emissions, through their Paris commitments. The court has shown that the Paris agreement has real teeth, and suggests that these targets must now be taken into account in all future big infrastructure projects, including plans for new roads (see below), airport expansion and the building of gas-fired power stations. The extent to which this applies to all planning applications, not just the largest (through the NPS/DCO process) will probably be determined in coming months, by the Courts. .Tweet   More on the implications:  See also an important article by lawyers at Friends of the Earth, on what the ruling means, for aviation and beyond.    Ruling against Heathrow expansion – impacts and significance   (28th Feb 2020) The Times view on the Court of Appeal’s rejection of Heathrow’s expansion plans: Lucky Escape Boris Johnson won’t be the only one celebrating, but the judgement leaves the PM with two big headaches Friday February 28 2020, The Times Leading Article Since the election Boris Johnson has made no secret of his desire to clip the wings of what he regards as over-mighty judges who overrule the decisions of elected politicians. But sometimes judges can have their uses. Yesterday the Court of Appeal struck down the 2018 legislation that had given Heathrow preliminary planning permission to build a third runway and which had received overwhelming backing in parliament. In doing so the court has done the prime minister a huge favour. It has given him an opportunity effectively to kill off the 20-year campaign for a third runway, a runway that Mr Johnson once pledged to lie down in front of the bulldozers to stop. Indeed the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, wasted no time making clear that the government intends to seize this chance by confirming that it does not plan to appeal. Of course it’s still possible that Heathrow can appeal to the Supreme Court, which is what it says it will do. But the reality is that it is unlikely to succeed on its own. The Appeal Court ruled that the government’s Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) had failed to take proper account of Britain’s obligations under the Paris climate agreement. If the government accepts this verdict, then the only way that the third runway could go ahead is if ministers redraft the ANPS. The aim would be to make it compatible with the Paris agreement, under which Britain committed to limit the rise in global temperatures to below 2C. The transport secretary at the time, Chris Grayling, (who else?) had concluded that this was unnecessary. Mr Johnson will hardly be alone in celebrating the demise of a plan that would have allowed an extra 280,000 flights a year over London and the southeast. This newspaper has long argued that the near doubling of Heathrow’s capacity is not the answer to the capital’s creaking aviation infrastructure. The project involved building the two biggest car parks in the world, the demolition of 750 homes and creating a tunnel for a busy section of the M25. Meanwhile Heathrow’s proposals to combat pollution, both air and noise, across densely populated and already polluted parts of London remained opaque. Nonetheless the court’s ruling does leave the prime minister with two significant headaches. The first – is what he should do to address the lack of airport capacity. As things stand, Heathrow is already full and Gatwick, Stansted and Luton are expected to be so by 2040. Plans exist to boost capacity at all of these, as they do for Birmingham, which, with the advent of HS2, will be 38 minutes by rail from central London. But all of these proposals have drawbacks and none can do the one thing that has consistently tipped the scales in Heathrow’s favour — provide the country with a global hub able to offer point-to-point connections to all the world’s population centres. Mr Johnson must decide whether that is still a goal for Britain or whether he is willing to concede European leadership in such connectivity to Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Paris. The second headache – is that in rejecting the ANPS on environmental grounds, the court has shown that the Paris agreement has real teeth. Indeed, the binding nature of Britain’s environmental commitments has since been further underlined by the government’s decision to make the target to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 legally binding. The ruling suggests that these targets must now be taken into account in all future big infrastructure projects, including plans for new roads, airport expansion and the building of gas-fired power stations. That in turn underlines the urgent need for the government to set out credible plans for how it intends to hit the net-zero target. Easy gestures, such as last week’s decision to ban the sale of wood for household stoves, are not going to cut it. . Various comments on the legal judgement: The decision could have implications beyond Heathrow, as by citing climate change it had taken the rhetoric of reducing carbon emissions and “turned it into concrete case law”. He said the decision had made reducing climate emissions “a priority for any major infrastructure project” in future. Will Rundle, head of legal at environmental campaign group Friends Of The Earth, was pleased with that prospect, saying climate change should now be “at the heart of all planning decisions”. He added: “It’s time for developers and public authorities to be held to account when it comes to the climate impact of their damaging developments.” unlawful because it failed to take account of the Paris climate accord, under which the UK pledged to work to keep global temperature increases below 2C. The original judgment was emphatic however that the Paris commitments had not been incorporated into UK law and therefore had no effect. Overturning that position is a stunning triumph for environmental groups and a landmark moment for campaigners, regulators and developers. Until now pledges to cut carbon emissions, including the government’s target of hitting net-zero by 2050, have been theoretical, more easily said than done. This judgement turns the rhetoric into concrete, practical case law. The judgment does not rule out further expansion of UK airports, but it does offer an opportunity for the government to change tack, perhaps returning to plans for Gatwick. Boris Johnson was always publicly opposed to Heathrow’s expansion, but any sense of triumph in the PM’s circle may prove pyrrhic. Any expansion of airports, wherever they are, will now be much harder to get off the ground. . Will Rundle, head of legal at the environmental group, called the ruling “an absolutely ground-breaking result for climate justice. We were fighting a project that would have had dire implications for present and future generations.” He labelled the victory “one of the most important environmental law cases in this country for over a generation.” The solicitor working on the appeal, Rowan Smith, solicitor in the environmental law team at law firm Leigh Day, added: “The Court of Appeal concluded that there was absolutely no legal means by which the Government could ignore its international climate change commitments under the Paris Agreement”. Leo Murray, from the climate charity, Possible, called the legal ruling a “turning point in the climate struggle. It is difficult to overstate the significance of this decision. Heathrow airport is a bastion of the global fossil fuel economy, so the symbolism alone of this defeat will resonate loudly around the world, giving courage to the movement fighting for a liveable future – while striking fear in the hearts of the corporate fossil interests still determined to profit while the planet burns.”  . U.K. Court Blocks Heathrow Airport Expansion on Environmental Grounds The Court of Appeal said the government failed to take its climate change commitments into account, a decision that carries global implications By Benjamin Mueller and Mark Landler  (New York Times) Feb. 27, 2020 LONDON — Britain’s Court of Appeal issued a landmark ruling on Thursday that stymied plans to build a third runway at Heathrow Airport in London, declaring that the government illegally neglected its commitments to reduce carbon emissions and protect the planet from dangerously high temperatures. The ruling, among the first in the world to measure a state’s infrastructure plans specifically against its promises under the Paris Agreement on climate change, threw the expansion of Heathrow into doubt and opened up a new frontier for legal challenges to major projects in Britain and around the world. While the decision left the door open for Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, to reformulate the plans and try again, it set back the runway expansion considerably, prolonging a battle that has raged for years. That posed a dilemma to a country — a “truly global Britain,” in Mr. Johnson’s words — that is in the midst of severing its strong ties to Europe and looking for new trading partners farther afield. But analysts said the ruling also relieved Mr. Johnso


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