Environmental group Friends of the Earth have announced that they will appeal the High Court judgment, that was handed down on Wednesday 1 May 2019, which found that the government’s decision to allow the building of a third runway at Heathrow airport was lawful. 

In the judgment the High Court rejected all the legal challenges to the airport expansion brought by a number of environmental NGOs, pressure groups and local councils.

Friends of the Earth (FoE), represented by law firm Leigh Day, focused their legal challenge on climate change arguments relating to the proposed airport expansion. They argued that the government’s decision to allow the expansion was unlawful as it failed to explain how such expansion fitted with the UK’s climate change policy. The environmental group also claimed that the decision breached the UK’s sustainable development duties.

Through its lawyers, FoE argued during the hearing which took place in March this year, that the decision by the government to permit the building of the runway fails to have regard to the desirability of mitigating climate change in the context of the UN’s Paris Agreement and the non-CO2 contribution of aviation to global warming.

Friends of the Earth will appeal the judgment and seek permission to appeal the High Court’s decision that their grounds of challenge were unarguable.

Craig Bennett, chief executive of Friends of the Earth, said:

“The decision to expand Heathrow is wrong on every level. I could not sleep at night if Friends of the Earth did not challenge this decision. We are going to appeal this decision because we believe the court got it wrong.

“We are in an ecological and climate emergency and parliament have supported an outdated decision to chase climate-wrecking development. How can we take any government seriously when they claim to care about climate chaos while supporting this runway?

“We are going to continue this fight because it’s about more than a runway, it is actually about a future fit for our children.”

Rowan Smith, solicitor in the environmental law team at law firm Leigh Day, said:

“This judgment came on the same day that the Government declared a climate emergency, and a day before the Committee for Climate Change Committee advised that the Government must legislate for net zero carbon emissions in order to meet the Paris Agreement goals.

“We believe the law is potentially already out of step with scientific developments. To add weight to our client’s appeal, we defeated the Government’s primary argument that the Secretary of State could simply ignore the Paris Agreement, and that should have been enough to win, given the Government’s lawyers conceded as much.

“We hope the Court of Appeal will acknowledge this flaw in the Court’s ruling and allow another hearing.”