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Lawyer in Heathrow Expansion Case Says Supreme Court Backs Third Runway, Risks Contempt of Court

Lawyer in Heathrow Expansion Case Says Supreme Court Backs Third Runway, Risks Contempt of Court

A lawyer who has been working to stop London’s Heathrow International Airport (LHR) from building a highly controversial third runway says the highest court in the United Kingdom will give the green light for the massive expansion project in a ruling set to be published on Wednesday.

By breaking an embargo set by the Supreme Court and releasing details of the judgement a day before it is officially due to be published, the lawyer says he expects to be found “in contempt of court” and is ready to face the consequences which may include a prison sentence.

An artist’s impression of the what the expanded Heathrow Airport could look like. Picture Credit: Heathrow Airport

“I have taken the decision to break the embargo on that decision as an act of civil disobedience,” lawyer Tim Crosland wrote in a statement which was published on Twitter by environmental group Extinction Rebellion.

“I have no choice but to protest the deep immorality of the Court’s ruling,” Crosland continued. Heathrow has been fighting to win approval for a third runway for years but the Court of Appeal blocked the project in February because the government had failed to take into account the Paris Climate Agreement when it signed off on the expansion plans.

Heathrow launched an appeal to the Supreme Court saying that the lower court had dismissed most of the claims brought by environmentalists except for one which was “eminently fixable”.

At least £14 billion has been earmarked for the expansion project, which includes two new passenger terminals, a new cargo terminal and a third runway.

The Paris Climate Agreement aims to keep global warming at a maximum of 2˚C of pre industrialised times and ideally at 1.5˚C if at all possible. Crosland claims the government only assessed Heathrow’s plans against the 2˚C limit.

“Had he assessed Heathrow expansion against the 1.5˚C temperature goal in the Paris Agreement, he could not have approved it,” Crosland argued on Tuesday.

“I have deep respect for the rule of law and the vital role of the judicial system in holding power to account. That is why it is a duty to protest a decision that so gravely betrays that purpose,” his statement continued.

“I take this act of protest for the sake of my two children and in memory of all those who have lost their lives on the frontline of the climate crisis, in the UK and around the world.”

Heathrow has not commented ahead of the Supreme Court’s official ruling on Wednesday.

Even if Heathrow does get the green light tomorrow, it could be years before bulldozers get going. In November, passenger traffic was down 88 per cent on the same month in 2019, while Heathrow has been overtaken by Paris Charles de Gaulle as the busiest airport in Europe.

The West London airport has closed two of its four passenger terminals owing to lack of demand because of the Coronavirus pandemic and expects to keep Terminal 4, which is normally home to international airlines like Qatar Airways, Korean Air and Etihad Airways, mothballed until 2022 at the earliest.

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