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Heathrow's owner hopes to press on with runway expansion, court hears

HEATHROW’S owner wants to press on with plans to expand by building a third runway, the Supreme Court heard today.

At the two-day hearing Heathrow Ltd is seeking to overturn a previous ruling. 

The expansion was approved in principle by ministers in 2018, but the decision was successfully challenged by a group of local councils affected by the proposed plans and environmental charities Plan B, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.

In a landmark decision in February, the Court of Appeal agreed with campaigners that the government had failed to take into account Britain’s commitments under the 2015 Paris climate agreement when drawing up the aviation national policy statement (ANPS) which permitted Heathrow expansion.

The Paris agreement commits signatories to taking measures that will limit global warming to well below 2°C.

Heathrow Ltd is this week challenging February’s decision, arguing that its proposed third runway would be built according to Britain’s climate commitments. 

But in a written submission to the court, Friends of the Earth’s lawyer David Wolfe QC said that the construction of a third runway would “lead to many additional flights over a period of up to 80 years which, by generating additional carbon dioxide (CO2) and through non-CO2 effects could — unusually for a single project — contribute significantly to climate change, a major threat to our environment and to life on Earth.” 

Chairman of the No Third Runway Coalition Paul McGuiness said: “It’s time for the UK’s single largest polluter to drop their expansion plans, which would have resulted in an additional seven million tonnes of carbon being emitted every year and required aviation restrictions in less advantaged regions of the UK is to meet its climate commitments. 

“Despite it probably being years before aviation demand returns to pre-pandemic levels, Heathrow appears determined to pollute our communities simply for the benefit of its foreign shareholders.” 

Parmjit Dhanda, executive director of Back Heathrow, a group that supports airport expansion, said: “Although this appeal is a technical one about whether the government took the Paris agreement into account when agreeing its national policy on airports, the need to create jobs for the future is more important than ever.”

The Supreme Court hearing will conclude on Thursday but the justices are expected to reserve their ruling.

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