The government faces a legal challenge over its plan to expand Heathrow Airport, with lawyers and environmentalists demanding that it revise its policy in line with its commitment to net zero emissions by 2050.
The Good Law Project, a non-profit organization with a focus on public interest cases that include environmentalism and the fight against poverty, argues that the government should update its plan for a third track to take into account the emissions commitment. which he did after the approval of the airport expansion in June 2018.
Since the Heathrow Airport National Policy Statement, the policy framework governing the construction of a third runway, was released, the government has committed to a legally binding goal of net zero emissions by 2050. Also promised reduce carbon emissions by 68% by 2030 earlier this month.
The challenge follows a supreme court decision last week that the airport expansion was not illegal for failing to treat the 2015 Paris agreement as government policy. However, the court’s ruling limited its reasoning to the legal regime at the time the framework was published. It did not consider the effects of the government’s subsequent legally binding promise.
The UK became the first major economy to set a net zero greenhouse emissions target in June 2019. The target previously had been to reduce emissions by at least 80% from 1990 levels.
“Setting goals does not help stop climate change. We really have to attack them, ”said Jolyon Maugham QC, director of the Good Law Project. “And that means that we only approve new transportation infrastructure when doing so is consistent with that goal. We cannot allow the goals of climate change to become lies that we tell our children and grandchildren. It is not too late to stop Heathrow expansion. “
Setting the 2050 target was one of Theresa May’s last acts as prime minister, and it remains something of a badge of honor for the government. Ministers routinely describes its environmental commitments as world leaders. However, one year after the 2019 neutrality target, the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) was able to cite few concrete actions taken to achieve the target.
When asked by the Guardian in June what measures had been introduced in the race for net zero over the past year, the department listed three points: a consultation to advance the phase-out of gasoline and diesel cars from 2040 to 2035, 800 million pounds for carbon capture and storage, and plans to double the UK’s international climate finance from £ 5.8 billion to £ 11.6 billion.
Dale Vince, founder of green energy company Ecotricity and Good Law Project partner in this challenge, criticized the government for failing to make the bold decisions necessary to meet the climate goals it boasts of.
He said: “This is a government that imposed a carbon tax on green energy, but exempts large users of fossil fuels, and that charges 20% VAT on solar panels for the home but only 5% on solar energy. Coal. These are the simple anomalies that surely should not exist. The most serious are national planning policies that support the old way of doing things, fossil fuel power plants and more clues. It is a ridiculous contradiction. We shouldn’t need to go to court to fix it, but we do. “
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