Environmental debate in the expansion of Heathrow airport

Published by Basilio on

Aeropuerto de Heathrow
Heathrow airport, source wkimedia commons

The Heathrow International Airport London is the busiest airport in the UK and Europe. In 2014, it received more international passenger traffic than any other airport in the world. Due to its traffic, the expansion of Heathrow airport was proposed, adding a new runway. Running a contest won by the Grimshaw architecture studio. After the project was canceled in a historic court ruling. The Supreme Court has given the green light to the project in November 2020.

Proyecto de expansión de Grimshaw
Project presented by Grimshaw

Environmental groups manage to conceal the project in 2019.

Activist groups like Plan B Earth, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth challenged the government, arguing that expanding Heathrow would be illegal because it contradicted the UK's commitment to the 2016 Paris agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The project was canceled in a landmark case earlier this year (2020). When the appeals court agreed that the airport expansion would jeopardize the UK's commitment to the Paris Agreement.

In this case, it is striking given that the infrastructure itself will not increase CO2 emissions but rather the increase in air traffic will be the source of pollution. The ruling established jurisprudence, as Grimshaw's project complied with all British and European environmental regulations. It was the first time that an infrastructure project had been blocked for contravening an international agreement against climate change.

The Supreme Court annuls the ruling that canceled the expansion of Heathrow airport.

However, on 16 December 2020, the supreme court overturned the decision, allowing Heathrow's £ 14bn expansion to continue. The Heathrow airport expansion could go ahead after nearly a year of litigation.

"International treaties are binding only as a matter of international law and have no effect in domestic law",

Excerpt from the Supreme Court ruling

Proyecto de expansión de Grimshaw
Project presented by Grimshaw

Coronavirus delays third track

However, the fall in air traffic and the emergency situation has paralyzed the project. It may take several years to recover pre-global pandemic traffic. The start of the works is not yet scheduled. Being raised once the pandemic is over.

Environmental groups launch a new lawsuit against the government

The members of the Good Law Project They argue that since the Paris accords were signed in 2016, the government has made two legally binding promises on climate change for Britain: To be 'zero CO2 emissions' by 2050 and to reduce carbon emissions by 68% by 2030.

Airports have been at the center of debate in the UK architecture industry after Foster and Partners and later Zaha Hadid Architects withdrew from the association. UK Architects Declare Climate and Biodiversity Emergency due to the pressure and the signatures of this association against continuing to design international airports.

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