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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

Heathrow decision must be ‘death knell’ for airport’s expansion, says IPPR

Judgment on third runway should mark end of 'business as usual' when faced with the climate emergency

Responding to the High Court decision to block Heathrow’s third runway expansion, leading progressive think tank IPPR says that this judgment must mark the end of the government’s ‘business as usual’ approach to the environment.

Research has revealed that the aviation industry is set to become the UK’s largest emitting sector by 2050, so IPPR welcomes the decision to block the planned expansion which would have contributed to the near doubling of demand for flights.

Luke Murphy, Head of the IPPR Environmental Justice Commission, said:

"This landmark judgment should be the death knell for a scheme which is incompatible with tackling the climate emergency.

"The UK's legal commitment to net zero and the Paris Agreement must mean urgent and radical reductions in carbon emissions. Allowing Heathrow expansion which could have contributed to the near doubling in demand for flights was always totally inconsistent with that goal.

"All governments, businesses and investors around the world must now consider the precedent set by this judgment when taking decisions that impact our climate. It must mark the end of 'business as usual'. All policies from road building to trade deals must now be subject to the question - are they climate safe?"



  1. IPPR’s cross-party Environmental Justice Commission was established last year to help develop the ideas and policies to bring about a rapid green transition that is fair and just. It is chaired by Ed Miliband MP, Laura Sandys and Caroline Lucas MP. They are joined on the commission by leading figures from business, academia, civil society, trade unions, and youth and climate activism. Its interim report will be published next month. Find out more about the commission here:
  2. Aviation is likely to be the largest emitting sector in the UK by 2050. See:
  3. Without additional policies being put in place, government projections suggest demand for aviation could grow 90% by 2050 on 2005 levels. New UK policies will therefore be needed to manage growth in demand. See:
  4. The UK has a legally binding commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Climate Change Act. The Government has also committed, through the Paris Agreement, to limit the rise in global temperature to well below 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C.
  5. Luke Murphy is head of the IPPR Environmental Justice Commission and IPPR Associate Director for Environment, Climate, Housing and Infrastructure. Find out more here:
  6. IPPR is the UK’s pre-eminent progressive think tank. With more than 40 staff in offices in London, Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh, IPPR is Britain’s only national think tank with a truly national presence.