Letter to the Justices of the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court


On Tuesday, March 30, Dan Galpern, CPR Initiative General Counsel and Executive Director, transmitted to the Justices of the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court a letter (see below) taking exception to a recent decision of that Court.

The case formally concerned a planned expansion of the Heathrow Airport, but on principle went much further. The Court reversed a decision by the UK Court of Appeals, which decision compelled the UK Government first to take account of the global warming temperature limits contained in the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

But the UK Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals. Instead, it ruled that the Government’s plans to expand Heathrow were lawful despite the Government’s admission it had considered the Paris Agreement on Climate Change to be “not relevant” and despite uncontested evidence the proposal would result in 40m tonnes of CO2 by 2050 just from UK aviation.

The letter was drafted by Dan Galpern, Farhana Yamin, one of the principal negotiators of the Paris Agreement, Dr Margaretha Wewerinke-Singh, Assistant Professor of Public International Law at Leiden University and Adjunct Senior Lecturer at the University of the South Pacific, and Antonio Oposa Jr, a leading environmental lawyer from the Philippines. It was also signed by leading lawyers, academics and policy experts from Austria, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, France, Germany, Ghana, Guyana, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Liberia, Mexico, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, the Solomon Islands, South Africa, South Sudan, Spain, UK, the US and Vanuatu.

Importantly as well, the letter also appealed to the Court to take account of the climate crisis context in evaluating the actions of Tim Crosland. Tim is the director of Plan B Earth and co-plaintiff in the action that challenged, on climate grounds, the government’s approval of the expansion of the Heathrow Airport. He was thus privy to the Court’s planned decision and its reasoning regarding the Paris Agreement temperature limit. Upon review, Tim regarded that reasoning to be “not just devoid of merit [but] deadly,” and for that reason he publicly disclosed its substance ahead of the Court’s publication.

[Full disclosure: Tim is a member of the Board of Directors of CPR Initiative.]

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