Skip to content

The Heathrow decision is an assault on democracy–Ben Pile

February 29, 2020

By Paul Homewood



Ben Pile attacks the Heathrow decision, but also includes a pocket history of the Climate Change Act, which is ultimately to blame:


Yesterday’s ruling in the Court of Appeal has seemingly resolved the decades-long wrangling over the future of Heathrow’s third runway. The court decided that the government had failed to take into consideration its own commitments to the 2015 Paris Agreement, and that therefore its Heathrow plans are ‘unlawful’. Transport minister Grant Shapps plunged the runway into more doom, by announcing on Twitter that the government will not appeal the decision. Heathrow’s operator, however, has said it will appeal.

But the realisation that has brought many down to Earth with a bump is that courts now seem to be making decisions that had hitherto been made by government. Yesterday’s events are very significant in terms of what they tell us about the threat posed by environmentalism to democracy and progress.

That a court has made a decision that overrides the wishes of elected politicians is not at all a trivial point. This isn’t just about the need to expand airport capacity – the court’s decision also puts a question mark over every future infrastructure project. As the BBC’s green correspondent reported shortly after the decision: ‘New roads face Heathrow-style court action threat.’

In short, well-funded campaigning organisations can use the nebulous Paris Agreement on climate change to close down anything they don’t like. With climate change being a theory of everything, everything from the planning of the economy to the planning of roads seems to fall under the remit of the Paris Agreement. And yet, while the Paris Agreement is a seemingly ‘global’ agreement that compels UK courts to obstruct the UK government’s strategic decisions, it places no such obligation on other signatories, many of which are expanding airport capacity. Why? Because it calls on governments to determine their own contributions to emissions reduction. So for governments, like ours, that have ‘ambitious’ climate-change policies, the agreement is an economic suicide pact.

Capturing the broader concern with what happened yesterday, former Conservative-turned-UKIP MP Douglas Carswell asked: ‘How did we end up in a situation where unelected judges decide airport policy?’ The answer to this question requires a long memory.

Full story here.

  1. Robert Christopher permalink
    February 29, 2020 10:34 am

    So, signing up to the Paris Agreement has led to consequences? 🙂 🙂
    The Courts are only doing as the instructed by Parliament!
    The agreement is a major part of the Climate Hysteria Agenda, political malfeasance to interfere in our democratic processes, and it has turned on its supporters, those who fly to Climate Hysteria Conferences, mentioning no names! 🙂
    There is a post on Conservative Home that points out:
    1) If Zero Emissions is correct, shrink (or even close) Heathrow.
    2) If Zero Emissions is rubbish, we need a proper airport, with four runways, so build a Boris Island (somewhere in the Thames).
    3) Until we know, carry on as we are.(And we don’t know what this CoronaVirus will do to air traffic volumes.)

    That sounds like a plan.

  2. charles wardrop permalink
    February 29, 2020 10:42 am

    Whatever made our politicos sign up?
    What’s in it for us voters?

  3. February 29, 2020 10:54 am

    “the threat posed by environmentalism to democracy”

    Well put. This is the issue. Environmentalism in this case boils down to anti fossil fuel activism.

  4. megagriff permalink
    February 29, 2020 10:58 am

    Given that you can’t make cement or concrete without putting CO2 into the atmosphere, does this mean that all construction projects potentially could be stymied by the Green Lobby until the ridiculous Climate Change Act is repealed? This could be a blessing in disguise as it might drag Bojo towards the Trump position and resile the UK from the Paris accord. Just imagine the hot air that would generate at the BBC!!

    • February 29, 2020 6:55 pm

      No, it means that unless the government states it has ‘considered’ the Paris Agreement in situations where it’s required by law to do so (as interpreted by the courts), it’s going to leave itself wide open to any related legal challenges.

  5. David Parker permalink
    February 29, 2020 11:02 am

    As a non – lawyer and non – parliamentarian, it seems to me that the root cause of this and future problems is the refusal of Parliament to allow and encourage a full unbiased debate on both sides of the CO2 argument. I saw the debate in the Commons declaring the Climate Emergency. I believe there was only one MP speaking against this, nearly all the other MPs turned their backs on him and talked over him. The Speaker intervened to reprimand them for rudeness. The evidence is that it will cost several trillion pounds to reduce CO2 emissions to zero, even if that is possible. Surely it is better to spend vastly less on adaptation regardless of the effect of rising CO2 on the climate.

    • bobn permalink
      February 29, 2020 8:17 pm

      And CO2 has no measurable impact on climate. Even if they succeed in their suicidal plan they will not change climate one iota.

  6. Mad Mike permalink
    February 29, 2020 11:10 am

    The big trouble we have with climate legislation is that 2050 or even 2030 is so far out that politicians feel free to jump on the virtue signalling bandwagon knowing that they probably will be elsewhere by that time and somebody else will have to deal with it. Kicking the can down the road is what politicians do hence the world of endless meetings and committee work they inhabit. This latest decision has suddenly brought 2050 to the here and now and I expect most politicians will be in a state of shock and panic. Faced with the consequences they might have to actually look at CC issue and check the data maybe. Something about chickens and roosting comes to mind.

    Trump doesn’t look sobbed now does he.

    • keith holland permalink
      February 29, 2020 11:33 am

      Oh God, you seem to think our MP’s have a brain. I don’t, otherwise they would not have jumped on the ludicrous Zero Emissions legislation they voted through last year without a second thought. My MP is thicker than two short planks and has not been able to reply to an email I sent about the costs of this legislation, or a letter I sent about the stupid proposals to go for only electric cars and shut down all gas heating by 2050.

      • Ariane permalink
        February 29, 2020 3:13 pm

        In Scotland, they’re using the ‘climate crisis’ as a way to motivate people to ‘Keeo Scotland Beautiful’, to reduce ‘Social Isolation’, to increase community projects (using the CC Fund’, to become more healthy (by cycling/decreasing cars) and more confident (getting kids and ethnic minorities to come out and do things with others.) And under the rubric of ‘adaptation’ fund the building of flood defences,
        I suspect that the social motivational aspect is one of the most valuable aspects of stuff done in the name of ‘the climate change emergency’, the others being jobs for the academics, quangoes and civil servants.
        Scotland’s tiny population and lack of heavy industry are keeping the fundamental destructiveness of the anti-growth ideology invisible – for now.
        Eat your heart out:

      • Harry Passfield permalink
        February 29, 2020 5:29 pm

        Arisen, I think they (SNP Gov) are bribing people with their own money. Anything to keep power – but not cheap ‘power.

    • Mad Mike permalink
      February 29, 2020 12:06 pm

      How did “sobbed” get in to it? I know auto-correct is weird sometimes but “sobbed”?

      It was obviously “so bad” but I suppose the little man on auto-correct just couldn’t bring himself to agree with me.

  7. Nick Dekker permalink
    February 29, 2020 11:11 am

    The Government can challenge this decision yet decides not to. Democracy is what the elected Government decides to do. This article is nonsense.

    • February 29, 2020 2:05 pm

      And what if the Supreme Court also block Heathrow?

      What we are all forgetting is that the Paris Agreement is not legally binding, and has no legal presence under UK law.

      So why is the Appeal Court relying on it in this judgement? It seems to me that they have gone way beyond interpreting the law.

      And why for that matter did the High Court not come to the same decision?

      • Gerry, England permalink
        February 29, 2020 2:18 pm

        That is the question – is the Paris Agreement legally binding on the UK government? Paul is correct to say that on its own the Paris Agreement is not legally binding but if the morons have by some legislation made it so then the court decision would be correct. It says a lot that the government is not involving itself in the appeal. Heathrow can make a case if Paris is not legally binding but there is so much climate crap written into legislation now that I would think it would be easy for them to find another blocking reason. I think if that happened the judiciary would be over-reaching since they have to rule on the decision made and not bring in anything else.

  8. AllanM permalink
    February 29, 2020 11:19 am

    Cripes! Harrabin is now Prime Minister. Poor Roger must now have his knickers in such a twist that he has friction burns! Let us pray that he is inflammable.

  9. David Parker permalink
    February 29, 2020 11:20 am

    As a non – lawyer and non – parliamentarian, it seems to me that the root cause of this and future problems is the refusal of Parliament to allow and encourage a full unbiased debate on both sides of the CO2 argument. I saw the debate in the Commons declaring the Climate Emergency. I believe there was only one MP speaking against this, nearly all the other MPs turned their backs on him and talked over him. The Speaker intervened to reprimand them for rudeness. The evidence is that it will cost several trillion pounds to reduce CO2 emissions to zero, even if that is possible. Surely it is better to send vastly less on adaptation regardless of the effect of rising CO2 on the climate.

    • March 1, 2020 10:06 am

      Good point, but has anyone thought just what will happen if by some miracle it is achieved? My bet is total destruction of planet and People, painfully!

  10. Harry Davidson permalink
    February 29, 2020 11:26 am

    There is a very good article on this by Juliet Samuel in the DT. She points out the Court did not say it could not be built, in fact all grounds of substance against the expansion were dismissed. The basis of the judgement is that the Govt. did not include the environmental assessment that its own laws require. If they put that in, even if it says “it will us all”, then it’s good to go. A bureaucratic error from the days of Grayling (now that is surprising) is all.

    • Neil Wilkinson permalink
      February 29, 2020 11:45 am

      Endless delays for objections, assessments, legal challenges, appeals …?

  11. johnbillscott permalink
    February 29, 2020 12:10 pm

    A proposed $20billion project in Canada has been cancelled because of environmental activism which is supported financially by USA based Eco-NGO’s who have decided and the environmental useful Canadian idiots, and this includes the Liberal Government, have decided that energy resource development is bad. Canada’s whole rail network has been closed down for two weeks by a few hereditary Chiefs who oppose the decisions of the elected chiefs to allow a natural gas pipeline to be built. As usual, the mob of environmentalists and other Indian bands are manning the barricades, Democracy is failing fast.

    • Robert Christopher permalink
      February 29, 2020 12:48 pm

      I have seen reports that the activists are not Canadian, it is not a local spontaneous protest, to put it mildly, and it has parallels with the FLQ which had connections to, how can I put it, very murky liberation organisations. So you will not see much logic to the news.
      Yes, Democracy is failing fast, and we haven’t even mentioned Trudeau by name who has been at the forefront of sidelining the effort to add a pipeline to the West coast.

  12. Steve permalink
    February 29, 2020 12:15 pm

    If we have to take the Paris agreement and the zero emissions by 2050 law into account, then we will be able to argue that some new roads will reduce emissions and by then all transport will depend on the wind. Hospitals will not be permitted though as they will increase the number of humans staying alive and, as all good watermelons know, it the human animal that is setting fire to the Erf.

  13. Bloke down the pub permalink
    February 29, 2020 12:42 pm

    After reading a related article over at Tallbloke’s, a thought struck me. If Russian forces started rolling over the European plain and governments announced their plans to confront them, would the courts stop them if they hadn’t made an environmental impact study first? As the courts of all western powers have shown a tendency to be totally disconnected from reality, I have to conclude that Putin could be at Calais tomorrow and no-one would lift a finger to stop him.

    • Robert Christopher permalink
      February 29, 2020 12:50 pm

      I don’t think Putin will be sending in an army: he already has enough supporters ensconced here! 🙂

    • bobn permalink
      February 29, 2020 8:24 pm

      I would welcome the Russians. They have far more common sense than the blithering idiots ruling here. Unfortunately the Russians are too smart to take on the burden of freeing Western countries from the eco-fascist idiots that are screwing them up!

  14. February 29, 2020 12:45 pm

    The law of unintended consequence,
    We don’t have a Climate Emergency… it’s a Democracy Emergency.

  15. sensescaper permalink
    February 29, 2020 12:50 pm

    So this seems to be the new way of power being exercised remotely from Europe via the judicial system? We have a government in name only. I agree with the above comment – we have DEMOCRACY emergency – not a climatic one.

  16. 2hmp permalink
    February 29, 2020 1:08 pm

    Maurice Strong knew what he was saying when he said that the IPCC was the beginning of ‘socialst’ world government

    • February 29, 2020 1:54 pm

      They said the same thing about the UN decades ago. Socialism came about by infantilizing society, something that parents and much of the world found appealing after WW2. WE did this to ourselves, being too lazy to grow up and deal. At this point, it’s the muslims, not the Russians, that are going to own the world because the children are too afraid of them to stop them and maybe in their own way, they represent adults, much like gang-bangers do. However, check the mirror for what happened. People just did not care to grow up and in the sixties, this was encouraged and codified. We now live in the result. There is no easy way out–you can’t get people to act like grownups if they don’t want to. Eventually, reality will beat adulthood back into human beings. It always does.

  17. Mike Jackson permalink
    February 29, 2020 1:13 pm

    I agree 100%, Robert. I’m usually a supporter of Ben Pile’s stuff but on this I think he’s wandered off-track a bit. As has Carswell, which is less of a surprise.

    The UK government has enshrined certain environmental actions in law, first by enacting the Climate Change Act (and as Ben says, or at least implies, all that flows therefrom) and subsequently signing up to the Paris Accord and, thankyou Theresa, finally making the “net-zero” commitment legally binding.

    As I said yesterday, we on here know that Paris is not worth the paper it’s written because we pay attention and we are pretty sure that well before 2050 (and possible by the time the next GE comes round if the forecast La Niña has her way) a large number of political, scientific, and environmental activists are going to have a deal of explaining to do. Meanwhile we have a massive project with major environmental implications which, it has now been successfully argued in court, breaches not simply government policy but legislation as well.

    Where Ben is correct is in saying that this judgment has implications for a raft of other projects but the blame for that does not lie with the courts which are, correctly in my view, carrying out their proper function which is to interpret legislation. And when you have ill-thought out legislation you are going to have unpopular decisions. The judiciary is between a rock and a hard place and we — we all at the moment — are tending to make the judges’ job harder by immediately rushing to take up arms at any decision we don’t like.

    And this is not, whatever Carswell might say, “unelected judges deciding airport policy”. For a start we don’t have a “policy” about airports (maybe we should have then at least we would have taken all options into account before going for the lazy option) and what need like a hole in the head in this country is elected judges with all the real politicisation of the law that would inevitably follow.

    • February 29, 2020 2:11 pm

      What we must remember is that the Paris Agreement is not legally binding, and that it is not a part of UK law. Yet this seems to be the only thing the Appeal Court have objected to. I cannot find any reference to the Climate Change Act, which presumably was properly addressed in the National Policy Statement.

      To that extent, it seems to me that the AC is improperly getting involved in policy, rather than strictly interpreting the law.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        February 29, 2020 2:31 pm

        Looking at a legal site there is no suggestion that the Paris Agreement forms any part of UK legislation – it may guide legislation. Therefore it should be quite clear that Heathrow go to the Supreme Court on this point. But we must remember that the Supreme Court wrongly ruled that proroguing of parliament was not legal which was a politically motivated decision. Ben Pile has jumped the gun with his article while it contains some useful points.

        Ratification of the Paris Agreement by the UK makes it an international treaty under the Vienna Convention on treaties but that would just require the UK to use its provisions should it want to leave the agreement just as the USA did by giving 12 months notice.

      • Mike Jackson permalink
        February 29, 2020 3:47 pm

        I made the point yesterday and again in that post that we know the Accord is not legally binding but if government effectively treat it as so and go on to legislate for net zero emissions by some perennially movable date in the future then the logic is that future infrastructure developments must take that legislation into account.

        On that basis you can hardly blame the court for finding the environmental impact statement (or equivalent) is defective if it doesn’t take that legislation into account.

      • February 29, 2020 4:36 pm

        But the Zero Emissions legislation took place a year after the Heathrow plan was legislated, so clearly the latter could not take it into account.

        It’s an untriguing thought, BTW. I wonder what these activist judges would decide if somebody challenged the government’s climate policies! I would imagine there are all sorts of reasons to get them abolished, not least the failure to carry out any cost analysis!

  18. February 29, 2020 1:59 pm

    Welcome to American-style “government” where judges replace elected officials and executive orders are the only way to get things done since the elected worthless creatures do nothing but fight, collect graft and sell out. Judges virtually rule the US, and routinely overrule what the population votes for. California may have pioneered the sport, but all states do it now. Makes voting useless except for the four to eight years of EOs and the hope of getting a few judges in that will back the populace. There’s no stability whatsoever, no continuity.

  19. Broadlands permalink
    February 29, 2020 2:03 pm

    Pull on and unravel the ‘global warming’ ball of string to see where and when it all started soon after the global cooling ‘crisis’ ended. A decade of data with charts in a 1987 paper by Hansen and Lebedeff. Followed by testimony to the U.S. Congress in 1988. That’s what got the ball of string rolling and has led to a ‘climate emergency’. Even though the last 20 years have been called a ‘hiatus’ waiting to resume again… unless we act soon?

  20. Jackington permalink
    February 29, 2020 2:10 pm

    The judges are not deciding airport policy, they are simply saying what the government is proposing for the expansion of Heathrow is not compatible with what they have already put into law regarding net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Heathrow will never be able to comply with it. So, it must be shut down not expanded – like every other UK airport. It’s all down to the eco-loon of a PM.

    • February 29, 2020 2:13 pm

      That’s a moot point about Net Zero. The Heathrow expansion was approved in 2018, the year before Net Zero was legislated. Does that mean that any projects already approved can be stopped in their tracks because they do not comply with Net Zero?

      • Harry Passfield permalink
        February 29, 2020 2:22 pm

        When interviewed on R4 the other day the head of Heathrow Airport claimed that Heathrow was already planning to be zero-Carbon in the near future (2030-ish, iirc). When challenged on this he explained that it did not mean the aircraft flying in and out but the airport itself. I don’t know what that subtlety indicates in law but he seemed to think it was a valid argument – for what, I know not.

  21. Gamecock permalink
    February 29, 2020 2:22 pm

    DMV has taken over the government.

  22. john cooknell permalink
    February 29, 2020 2:48 pm

    If we want to get to net zero, then we must ban all 16 million domestic cats and dogs. Think of the methane saving because we don’t have to produce “evil MEAT” for them to eat.

    strangely I don’t think the idea will catch on!

    • Mad Mike permalink
      February 29, 2020 3:21 pm

      I propose that the entire drinks industry be closed down as brewing and subsequent distilling produce CO2 and soft drinks are used full of the stuff. That should shut down every student bar and keep us clear headed. We must all make sacrifices for the common good.

  23. Ariane permalink
    February 29, 2020 3:26 pm

    It’s not ‘all down to the eco-loon of a PM.’ The 2008 Climate Change Act was passed – bar 5 MPs – unanimously by the UK Parliament.’ Theresa May just left us a PM-departing-gift – but – bar only one MP this time – her Zero Carbon idea passed unanimously.

  24. MrGrimNasty permalink
    February 29, 2020 3:33 pm

    As ever it seems politically motivated interests with deep pockets can eventually get the decision they want from the courts. Last May the right decision was made.

    “However, the court found that the Secretary of State did not arguably act unlawfully in not taking into account the Paris Agreement.”

    Is the new judgement available to see yet – interesting to see what argument was used to change the original decision?

  25. February 29, 2020 3:43 pm

    I was browsing through a bookshop the other day and saw an environmental book published in 1976 which predicted that human life would end by the year 2000, because, amongst other things, supersonic planes like Concorde would be everywhere and they would suck all the oxygen out of the atmosphere! I can’t remember the title but it was full of similar gems and was apparently a best seller in its day. It advocated the end of all commercial flying and the closure of most of the worlds airports as a solution. Of course it’s all ridiculous nonsense and everyone’s forgotten about it now but at the time… The difference between now and then is that no one in their right mind would have acted upon such gibberish whilst today our parliament would be discussing it seriously and enacting laws to see it happened. Decades of dumbing down, the deliberate and cynical destruction of the state education system, plus the lies and hysteria-lunacy of the British media, have brought us to our knees I’m afraid.

  26. March 3, 2020 9:09 pm

    Let’s get this straight: do I have a problem with activist judges – up to a point yes. Judges should apply the law, not find the law. BUT – in this case they are right. The government has committed the UK to the Paris accords. I am sure that nobody in the British political class ever took this commitment seriously. Another empty piece of paper that is being signed in order to sell the gullible masses that things are being done while in reality, they knew from the outset that they would keep fudging things. The honest thing would have been to stand up and say that the Paris accords are incompatible with the requirements of modern life. They should have told the electorate that if they want Paris, they would have to tone it down drastically. But they never do that …

  27. cajwbroomhill permalink
    March 3, 2020 9:14 pm

    Governments should not have commitedus and the nation to such cr@p as the global climate hysteria, but they still must get the chance of governing..
    Therefore, repeal the CC Acts and, like the US, ditch theParis agreement, not compusory anyway.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: