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Brace! Brace! Heathrow decision signals ‘once in a species opportunity’ for new era of climate leadership


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Are you sitting down? 

Times are changing, a new path has been chosen as the Court of Appeal ruled against the proposed expansion of Heathrow Airport and the government let it be known that they will accept the court’s decision. 

Stop for a moment and take this epic historical moment in, the reality of what this means. Business as usual has no future here on this planet. What greater sign could we all receive than watching the cancellation of an iconic infrastructure project like the third runway at Heathrow?

The government’s decision to accept the ruling is exactly the kind of leadership the UK needs to be taking ahead of hosting COP26 this November. The ruling today sets a precedent that the Paris Agreement must be the yardstick against which we measure all major infrastructure projects. All 195 governments who have ratified the Paris Agreement could now see legal cases brought against projects which are incompatible with a 1.5˚C future. 

To Plan B, Friends of the Earth and all the other claimants in the case, we are so grateful to you for sticking the course, even when the luxury of hope was in short supply. And to all the others, including the folks at Plane Stupid, Stay Grounded, Grow Heathrow, Hacan, No 3rd Runway Coalition, Heathrow Pause, Greenpeace and local residents of Richmond, Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Maidenhead and Windsor, who have spent years working to stop the construction of a third runway, congratulations.

There is courage in the collective. 

The proposed expansion to London’s biggest airport was broadly unpopular across the political spectrum, with Boris Johnson famously saying that he would join John McDonnell and lie down in front of the bulldozers to stop the construction of a third runway. While this could have created an amusing image, the choice made this morning will have far reaching consequences and the impact will be felt by future generations. This is a signal of change for all of us who felt powerless in the face of the climate and ecological emergency.

2020 is beginning to show us what is possible – when we come together, tell the truth and act on it.


Tim Crosland, Director of Plan B. Earth, the volunteer-based climate litigation charity, which brought one of the successful claims, said:

“It would have been hard to imagine this outcome even a couple of years ago, but as the scale and impacts of the ecological crisis become clearer, with people dying and being displaced in the UK and around the world, it’s vital we reject the politics of division and unite amidst adversity.

“This is an important moment for all of us, and for our young people in particular. Some sanity is finally prevailing. It’s now clear that our governments can’t keep claiming commitment to the Paris Agreement, while simultaneously taking actions that blatantly contradict it.  We welcome the ruling of the Court and we welcome the Government’s acceptance of it. The Government has a crucial responsibility to show real climate leadership ahead of COP26 and this is an important start.

“It’s all those people who have been working so hard to sound the alarm, whether by taking to the streets or in other ways, who have made this outcome possible. The message is finally getting through. The bell is tolling on the carbon economy loud and clear.”

Clare Farrell, a co-founder of Extinction Rebellion who was one of those who went on a two week hunger strike in protest against the proposed third runway in 2018, said: 

“Today the claimants have won a once in a species opportunity for the law to support our only chance for international cooperation, the Paris Agreement. There is no way to undo failure from here on, we’re on the precipice as a planetary community. This ruling is a crack in the edifice letting the light in. This brings possibility. 

“Councils in North Somerset and around Stansted have been voting firmly against airport expansion plans. The recognition of this appeal will support citizens all over the world who are begging for policy writing in line with the truth. Only with the help of legal systems can we guarantee our collective success in the long term. This is a landmark, we will continue, we will win.”

Extinction Rebellion Youth UK, said: 

“In April last year, XR Youth took to Heathrow to send a clear message about the impact that airport expansion would have on our futures. As young people living in the midst of a climate and ecological crisis, aviation is a threat to our existence and we cannot afford for this sector to continue as usual, let alone expand. 

“This court ruling shows that our voices are being heard and we hope that this marks the beginning of the world finally taking action to protect us.”

About Extinction Rebellion

Time has almost entirely run out to address the ecological crisis which is upon us, including the 6th mass species extinction, global pollution, and abrupt, runaway climate change. Societal collapse and mass death are seen as inevitable by scientists and other credible voices, with human extinction also a possibility, if rapid action is not taken.

Extinction Rebellion believes it is a citizen’s duty to rebel, using peaceful civil disobedience, when faced with criminal inactivity by their Government.

Extinction Rebellion’s key demands are:

  1. Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
  2. Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
  3. Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.

What Emergency? | Extinction Rebellion in Numbers |This Is Not A Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook 

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About Rising Up!

Extinction Rebellion emerged from the Rising Up! network, which promotes a fundamental change of our political and economic system to one which maximises well-being and minimises harm. Change needs to be nurtured in a culture of reverence, gratitude and inclusion while the tools of civil disobedience and direct action are used to express our collective power.

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