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Airport campaigners tell government ‘we’ll see you in court’

March 29 2023 • 3 minute read

The Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA) has been given permission by the High Court to take their legal challenge against the government’s Jet Zero aviation emissions strategy to a full hearing. Their lawyers will face the government in court.

Jet Zero proposes new technology and alternative fuels to cut the greenhouse gases caused by flying. However, since the strategy was published, a number of independent experts have criticised it as inadequate to ensure the aviation industry reduces its greenhouse gas emissions in line with the UK’s legally binding climate commitments. The government’s own advisers, the Climate Change Committee, have repeatedly said that to meet climate targets, limiting the overall number of flights is essential.

Jet Zero is reckless and irresponsible. The Royal Society and Imperial College London recently analysed all the measures that the government proposes to cut emissions from flying and they were judged to be inadequate.

GALBA’s chair, Chris Foren, said: “Jet Zero is reckless and irresponsible. The Royal Society and Imperial College London recently analysed all the measures that the government proposes to cut emissions from flying and they were judged to be inadequate. The only reliable way to cut emissions from flying is to limit flying.”

He added: “Just last week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a grave warning that the world must “massively fast-track climate efforts” in order to stand a chance of limiting global heating to 1.5C.”

“If anyone thinks climate action can be delayed, tell that to the people who lost their homes and loved ones in the unprecedented floods in Pakistan or the mega storm in Malawi. We need effective measures to cut aviation emissions right now and that means no more expansion.”

Leigh Day solicitor Ricardo Gama, who represents GALBA, said: “Until there is a credible pathway to decarbonising the aviation sector, it is a massive gamble for the government to allow the unchecked growth of the sector without any attempt at managing demand. Jet Zero is reckless and irresponsible.”

“The Royal Society and Imperial College London recently analysed all the measures that the government proposes to cut emissions from flying and they were judged to be inadequate. Our clients are therefore pleased that the important question of whether the government’s approach is lawful will be tested in court.”

“Until there is a credible pathway to decarbonising the aviation sector, it is a massive gamble for the government to allow the unchecked growth of the sector without any attempt at managing demand."

Additional notes

Background: in October 2022, lawyers at Leigh Day filed for a judicial review, on behalf of GALBA, to challenge the Jet Zero Strategy, which the Department for Transport released in July 2022.

Advice to government: the UK’s Climate Change Committee has consistently stated that the government needs to “implement a policy to manage aviation demand as soon as possible” to ensure there are adequate mechanisms in place “in the likely event” that low emission technologies are not commercially available in time to sufficiently reduce emissions from flights.

Legal grounds: the key grounds on which the challenge will be heard in the High Court are:

    1. The government failed to lay a report before Parliament setting out how the strategy would enable carbon budgets to be met.
    2. The government failed to consult in a lawful manner by having a “closed mind” before the consultation commenced on whether demand management measures were required.
    3. The government failed to respond adequately to recommendations from the Climate Change Committee that demand management measures are required.

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