Heathrow’s blocked expansion: Can it happen in Mumbai or Singapore?

Guest post by Tilak Doshi,

Originally published at Forbes

To the well-heeled tourist visiting London, the UK Court of Appeal’s decision last week to stop the expansion of Heathrow airport will mean more hassle flying into an already “overcrowded and expensive” airport or having to fly to Luton or Gatwick instead. But is the Court’s decision – the first legal ruling in the world to explicitly cite the Paris Agreement as the basis to reject a government-approved development plan – likely to worry Asian government planners?

On the face of it, the answer is clearly “no”. The Paris climate change agreement does not bind any nation beyond voluntary “intended nationally-determined contributions” and good-faith efforts to “increasing” such INDCs in future rounds of negotiations. In the mainstream media, the Paris agreement was widely hailed as the “first truly global climate deal”, committing both rich and poor countries to controlling rising emissions blamed for global warming. Yet the level of commitment determined by each country is an open question, to say the least.

Each submission by the current 189 signatories to the agreement is at the discretion of the individual country with no objective standards that it must meet; the “contributions” themselves are not binding as a matter of international law and there are no agreed and independently-audited systems of measurement, reporting and verification (“MRV”). Commentators have called the accord a process of “name and shame” but one doubts whether such a process can be a strong motivator of sovereign state behaviour in many cases.

China, the world’s largest emitter by far, has committed to reaching peak emissions “around 2030” but offered no commitment regarding the level of that peak or the subsequent rate of emission decline. Early models of China’s “business-as-usual” (BAU) trajectories by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory had already concluded that emissions would peak around then anyway. Bloomberg New Energy Finance found Chinese commitments with respect to emissions intensity actually less ambitious than BAU. It also observed that India’s submitted INDCs were underperforming a policy of doing nothing at all. India, the world’s third-largest emitter after China and the US, offered no commitment with respect to its expected emissions peak. A domestic think-tank claimed that India’s BAU emission profile did not appreciably differ from its INDC submission.

Yet, the failed Heathrow airport expansion project will be a déjà vu moment for some developing country governments. They have had their share of experiences of large infrastructure projects being blocked by challenges mounted by foreign NGOs and local activists. The plaintiffs against the Heathrow expansion project were, apart from local government bodies (five London councils and the Mayor of London), four other litigants, all environmental NGOs: Plan B Earth, Friends of the Earth, WWF-UK and Greenpeace.

It was not too long ago (2015) that the Indian branch of Greenpeace was banned from receiving foreign donations. The then-new Modi government’s posture was clear: Greenpeace India’s campaigns against India’s infrastructure projects were not to be financed by their foreign sponsors. Since Modi took office in 2014, India has cancelled the registrations of nearly 15,000 non-governmental groups under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act over the same principles. Are environmental advocacy groups spokesmen of an international civil society fighting for a global public commons as they claim? Or are they special interests that influence government policy in an agenda set by foreign funders at the expense of the common man?

Environmental groups (and their lawyers) hailed the Heathrow verdict as a milestone in their efforts against the development of huge infrastructure projects. The Green child-prophet Greta Thunberg tweeted “Heathrow third runway ruled illegal over climate change. Imagine when we all start taking the Paris Agreement into account…” The Heathrow ruling opens the door to potential challenges against expanding other airports or building roads, gas-fired power stations and coalmines on the grounds that they too run afoul of the Paris climate change “commitments”. As one commentator put it: “This decision will surely open up a whole new Pandora’s box and allow the likes of Greenpeace to legally challenge any and every project they don’t like in future.”

The Obama Administration submitted INDCs for the Paris Agreement which were to be achieved through regulations enacted by executive orders rather than by enabling legislation in Congress. It was clear that the consent of the Senate for ratifying the Paris Agreement would not have been forthcoming. It did not take long for in-coming President Trump to pull the US out of the international accord in which he saw no credible commitments by the likes of China and India. Furthermore, he retracted the remaining US$2 billion contribution pledged by the previous administration to the Green Climate Fund, the UN’s moribund climate finance initiative. At a stroke, President Trump nixed the idea that the Paris Agreement was to lead to a massive global redistribution of funds from the developed to the developing countries. This, it should be noted, was an explicit pre-condition of the vast majority of the developing countries for signing on to the Paris Agreement in the first place.

The legal setback for the Heathrow expansion plan is merely one of the many infrastructure and energy projects that have been delayed or blocked by any number of environmental NGOs in the developed countries, from Canada to Australia and from the US to Europe. But the explicit reference to the Paris Agreement by the three judges in UK’s Court of Appeal does raise an ominous new threat of a “weaponized” Paris Agreement, an addition to the arsenal of blocking tactics available to activist international NGOs.

It was not too long ago that Arvind Subramaniam — previously chief economic advisor to the Indian government — stated that India cannot allow the West’s narrative of “carbon imperialism” to negate rational planning for the vast infrastructure requirements of the developing countries. For the hundreds of millions of citizens that have newly emerged from poverty in recent decades and are beginning to enjoy the fruits of economic growth and technological progress across Asia, Africa and Latin America – among the greatest achievements in human history – it is to be hoped that the Heathrow decision is irrelevant to their futures.

Let China and India proceed with their plans to build hundreds of new airports over the next several years. Meanwhile, the US$2.2 billion Navi Mumbai International Airport is slated to handle 20 million passengers annually when it opens its first phase in 2023. And Singapore’s Changi Airport inaugurated its iconic 10-story “Jewel” concourse last year, offering visitors an indoor forest and waterfall and more than 280 stores and restaurants, hoping to make the Singapore airport a destination in itself. While London’s greenies cheer over stopping the expansion of Heathrow, Mumbai and Singapore are open for business. Let Greta take the train!

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March 6, 2020 6:59 am

In the future you will fly to a global hub in China in order to get to your destination in outposts like London.

John McClure
Reply to  ResourceGuy
March 6, 2020 9:07 am


Why is anyone talking Obama nonsense?

In the future, we will enjoy the same flights from our own ports of entry and exit.

PS: Anthony, why is this site still so “old school “, you promised an upgrade!

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  John McClure
March 6, 2020 11:01 am

Sarcasm detector broken?

Reply to  Jeff Alberts
March 6, 2020 11:40 am

I thought Macron said that recently.

Reply to  John McClure
March 6, 2020 3:24 pm

China subsidizes their airlines and airports.
It may well be that you have to fly one of China’s airlines and their main hubs will be in China.

Unless, they can convince a third world country to allow China to purchase sufficient land for a China airport.

If UK’s court of Appeals and other top courts in many countries start using the “Paris Agreement” to block airport or airline extensions or even block air flights; China may become a sole option for international flights.

Steve Case
March 6, 2020 7:11 am

The left is on its way to control everything. They want their not so far in the future government to be able to tell YOU exactly what to do and before you do it, you must say, “Yowsa Massa!”

March 6, 2020 7:13 am

A simple cure for degenerative Carbon Derangement Syndrome


I work for an E&P organisation….had a chat to my office next door neighbor who had a similar view when we heard of this LHR ruling. To paraphrase “turn off the spigots, right now. No oil and gas production forthwith”

Let’s stop dicking around with these psychopaths

Steve Case
Reply to  AleaJactaEst
March 6, 2020 8:07 am

…No oil and gas production forthwith”

They’re already denying gas hook-ups in cities on the West Coast and Massachusetts.

Eric Brownson
March 6, 2020 7:36 am

Does anyone get the Flash Player pop-up when they open WUWT? It frequently blocks the WUWT website when I sign-on. Is someone trying to block access to the WUWT website?
Thanks for responding.

Reply to  Eric Brownson
March 6, 2020 8:34 am

Yes, I get it sporadically when using Safari, even when I have ghostery blocking, but don’t get it ever on Chrome.

Reply to  Eric Brownson
March 6, 2020 9:03 am

I occasionally get it on both Chrome & Edge when I use and incognito browser. I close the browser & go back & things are fine, but I do worry it is a hack or something. A while back it happened more frequently to me.

Reply to  gord
March 6, 2020 10:44 am

It happens to me, usually in the evenings, and I have Apple’s latest version of Safari browser with the latest MacOS installed.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  gord
March 6, 2020 11:04 am

I’ve never gotten here, on Chrome. I haven’t turned off Javascript and don’t have an ad blocker on for this site.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Eric Brownson
March 6, 2020 10:06 am

The only way I’ve found to stop it effectively is to turn off Javascript in your browser’s Preference.

I no longer un Chrome, so I can’t easily Inspect the Underlying page code to see the embedded coding that is directing the re-direct to the fake Flash player site.

But whatever you do, do not click on load anything from that re-directed link that claims to want to install Flash Player on your computer. Likely malware/virus laded crap will load on your computer.

The best advice I can give when it happens is to
1. close, red X, the open page-window immediately.
2. Then go to preferences and turn off Javascript.
3. Then you can come back to WUWT safely in a new browser window without the redirect happening.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
March 6, 2020 11:42 am

“1. close, red X, the open page-window immediately.”

I would be wary of clicking on anything in a window like that. Sometimes hackers have been known to make anywhere you click on the page take you to their link, including the closing “x”.

If that happened to me I would leave the offending window open and close the btowser from the Windows Task Manager, and then turn off javascript before going back to that webpage.

I use the Firefox browser and the NoScript add-on and never see any of these pop-ups because they are automatically blocked.

Reply to  Eric Brownson
March 7, 2020 1:52 am

I use the Brave browser (a bit like google only no tracking, no pop-ups etc)

No problem here

(The worst part is no in-built translation, so you have to install and add-on)

Andy Espersen
March 6, 2020 7:47 am

The Paris agreement is given as the reason for blocking the extension of the airport – but is it? And should it be?

It makes excellent sense that we must limit the size of cities in the world. The growth of an individual city should stop somewhere – for the simple reason that human life becomes unpleasant if too many people are crammed into one place. Sensible city planning is very necessary. We are not dumb animals, just mindlessly keeping on growing and breeding in one location.

Reply to  Andy Espersen
March 6, 2020 8:01 am

Wow, it’s almost as if people are forced to go to cities rather than choosing. Or are you suggesting they should be forced not to go?

Andy Espersen
Reply to  Phoenix44
March 6, 2020 12:18 pm

Clever countries control the crazy growth of cities by tax-breaks to industries to move into the provinces (all the provinces love that) and by generally making it more expensive to go to live in those cities – and, of course, by not giving in to pressures to build bigger airports.

Michael Jankowski
Reply to  Andy Espersen
March 6, 2020 3:23 pm

Actually Andy, planners say much the opposite. They argue that higher densities and centralization make it easier to provide goods-and-services efficiently.

Michael Jankowski
Reply to  Andy Espersen
March 8, 2020 10:09 am

Speak of the devil…https://wattsupwiththat.com/2020/03/08/nasa-satellite-offers-urban-carbon-dioxide-insights/#comment-2933296

Higher population density = lower per capita emissions (example of greater efficiency).

Michael Jankowsk
Reply to  Andy Espersen
March 6, 2020 12:01 pm

It is safe to say that London has plenty of city planners on staff and as outside consultants.

If it is anything like the US, there are also local and regional transportation boards doing planning.

The expansion was not the result of “mindlessly keeping on growing and breeding in one location.”

Henning Nielsen
Reply to  Andy Espersen
March 6, 2020 5:14 pm

Espersen; megacities can be great. Tokyo is a wonderful city, and not just its central parts. Th emore we concentrate into huge city structuers, the more we can leave nature untouched. 100 world cities of 100 million each would be good for both humans and nature.

Reply to  Andy Espersen
March 7, 2020 9:05 am

“We are not dumb animals, just mindlessly keeping on growing and breeding in one location.”

Do you have proof of this statement?

All creatures have free will of a sorts but all are bound by evolutionary genetics and instincts. Man is only progressing within its bounded and evolutionary nature.

March 6, 2020 7:59 am

The trouble is, this is a total misunderstanding of the Heathrow decision.

This was a judicial review, not a court case about the Paris Agreement. Its purpose was to see whether the government had followed the correct procedure in passing a National Policy Statement (NPS). As the court itself said explicitly, it was making no ruling on whether the expansion should go ahead, whether it met any targets or not, whether it was the right thing to do. All it was judging was the procedure.

Its ruling was simple: the government had said that in formulating an NPS, the government has to take into account “government policy”. The court ruled that government policy included the Paris Agreement. For Heathrow, the government had not taken into account Paris and so the NPS was unlawful. It made no judgement on whether in taking into account Paris, the expansion could proceed or not. That was not its role.

There is nothing in the ruling that says taking account of Paris would stop Heathrow expansion. Indeed, the government could probably just have said something like: in coming to our decision we have taken account of the Paris Agreement. They had already taken account of the Climate Change Act for example.

This judgement literally says nothing Green, nothing about Climate Change and nothing about whether Heathrow expansion can ultimately go ahead. It simply says the procedure the government followed was unlawful – incomplete if you like. And so a new NPS has to be done by the government it it still supports expansion.

The Greens are either mistaken or lying about the effects of this on future projects. But far too many sceptics are also reading far too much into it.

Reply to  Phoenix44
March 6, 2020 8:45 am

Thanks Phoenix44 for this edifying post. I suspected as much, but didn’t have time to research it.

I was quite interested in the subject at one point, because I happened, on a totally unrelated board, to be in contact with a lawyer for Plan B, I think possibly the lead lawyer. I asked him several times how getting such a ruling from a Judge was going to reduce levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. No answer. Getting frustrated, I further asked him how would getting a 100 rulings like this from a Judge reduce levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. Again no answer, not even deflection, or a half-assed one, just denial that the question was tabled, I guess.

At least I invented the term calculator-dodger during that episode.

Reply to  philincalifornia
March 6, 2020 9:37 am

I suspect he was being well rewarded to action the legal process, and had little interest in what it all meant.

Reply to  DaveS
March 6, 2020 6:33 pm

Yeah, despite his pleadings that he was saving the futures of an 11-year old girl for free, I’m pretty certain it was the legal fees. So certain that, even though I considered it, I didn’t get my brilliant English accountant/auditor nephew involved. I’ll save that for a later date.

Reply to  Phoenix44
March 6, 2020 9:29 am


You are of course right and everyone from the right to the left are misrepresenting the decision for their own purposes.

The judges could do nothing else as it is written into law that we must achieve a reduction of x emissions by y date. i.e that is Govt policy

It is entirely in the hands of the UK govt to put a few lines into the appropriate transport or planning bill saying they had taken into account the new runways effect on emissions and the bill would pass due to Boris’s huge majority.

However Boris has said in the past he would lie down in front of the bulldozers so he will likely leave it to the airport to challenge the decision.

At the back of all this is that Heathrow has grown enormously since the war and is in completely the wrong position. Let us also remember that fully a third of the passengers arriving there are merely in transit to other places and as well as causing pollution bring no benefit financially to the UK.

Much better to develop regional airports thereby relieving pressure on Heathrow and leaving it for those people actually wanting to visit London not just pass through it and for freight


Reply to  tonyb
March 6, 2020 1:19 pm

It does set a precedent. An NPS can now be, realistically, used as the premise for stopping any project using a purely, subject, self imposed standard.



jim hogg
Reply to  Phoenix44
March 6, 2020 1:20 pm

Thanks for that Phoenix44. I was just about to make a similar point: that the judgement was based on an administrative failure by the govt. Johnson, of course, is against the expansion, so won’t be disappointed.

Chris Wright
Reply to  Phoenix44
March 7, 2020 3:34 am

Funnily enough, I just read in the Daily Telegraph an article which said the same thing. All they need to do is add a bit of meaningless blurb referring to the Paris suicide pact. The writer did worry that Boris may use this to stop the expansion while being able to blame it on “Paris”. Maybe he’s simply following orders from his climate activist girlfriend.

The whole thing is bizarre. The world is building hundreds of brand-new airports while we spend decades on trying to decide whether to build a single runway. I think we should go ahead. The economic benefits generated by Heathrow are vast.

Robert of Texas
March 6, 2020 8:36 am

Build capacity somewhere else why does it have to be at Heathrow, or even in England?

Building a runway is different than building, say, a pipeline. You can put a runway almost anywhere in range of the aircraft. A pipeline has to start and end at particular points to be useful.

If countries decide to limit their growth because of the Paris accord, let them. Each country needs to be responsible to the wishes of it’s own citizens, not some global accord.

In the U.S., we need to start taxing NGO’s that are politically active (including churches, temples, mosques), and replace as many activist judges as possible. We need to arrest and punish those activists acting illegally (like Antifa). If you allow radical activists to run lose, expect them to do a lot of damage. There is nothing worse then a religious fanatic, and green activists are the most religious acting of all.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Robert of Texas
March 6, 2020 9:35 am


In the words of the great George Carlin, “Tax those [bleep]ers”

Rhys Jaggar
Reply to  Robert of Texas
March 6, 2020 10:21 am

Amazingly enough, we English actually want more capacity in our own hub airport.

It is not just about jerking off rich foreigners in Club Class, First Class etc etc.

NO UK electorate would support expanding Heathrow just to allow a bunch of foreigners to land here. Nto unless it added about £100bn to the Exchequer. Which it won’t……

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Robert of Texas
March 6, 2020 7:23 pm

I agree. It could be built in an artificial island like Lantau in Hong Kong.

March 6, 2020 9:27 am

Welcome to de-industrialisation.
All hail to the Khmer Vert.
Mind the skulls, don’t wear glasses

March 6, 2020 9:35 am

The court forgot to calculate the emission impact of their decision. Given that people will fly to other London airports anyway and then take longer land based trips into London, the net benefit is zero, even before calculating additional fuel used by planes circling while waiting to land at Heathrow.

Rhys Jaggar`
March 6, 2020 10:17 am

This article assumes that UK citizens will continue to respect the judicial system, when it has clearly become extremely politicised and taken over by woke left nutcases.

It is entirely possible that judges will face the full force of the wrath of UK citizens in ways they consider unjudicial.

They would only have themselves to blame if that were to come to pass….

None of those NGOs have anywhere near support form a majority of UK voters, so their democratic legitimacy is close to zero.

When judges overrule democracy to favour minorities, they have stepped across a rubicon they should never be crossing. A few defrockings might make judges become more sober, more respectful of democracy and more accountable to those who pay their salaries.

March 6, 2020 10:24 am

Anthony keep it up. You, Mcintyre, Tony Heller and many others too long to mention here (and Will Franken, joke!) will be remembered forever as those who stopped the AGW scam. I can’t believe you put up with the petty criticisms after all you have done. Cheers from South America Paradise where no one really takes this AGW crap seriously (except maybe the leaders of Venezuela) as we are mostly busy enjoying a happy life at ~30C every day since 1 million years ago LOL

March 6, 2020 10:32 am

Does Luton (as mentioned in the article) have commercial flights?

Traveling trough Heathrow is almost as unpleasant as traveling through LAX. However, many compliments to the designers of Terminal 5 – they did a really good job on the curb – to -jetway process, and the jetway – to – curb process. Even immigration and customs are rather well done. And the refurbished Terminal 2 was also well-designed. The old Terminal 2, and Terminals 1 and 3, were a right royal pain to transit, and my one experience with Terminal 4 was terrible.

What I’ve noticed about LHR was we’d land, and it would take 30 – 45 minutes to get to the gate. Likewise, we’d push-back and it would take 30 – 45 minutes to brake release. This has improved for flights to/from Terminal 5.

And what about Stansted (not mentioned in the article) – why must we fly to LHR or, even worse, Gatwick from SoCal?

Reply to  Retired_Engineer_Jim
March 6, 2020 1:49 pm

Stansted, Gatwick & Luton are all single runways (all have vast local opposition to any expansion ) so any runway incident shuts the airport.

Only London Heathrow, Manchester, Edinburgh & Belfast Airports have 2 runways.

Flight Level
March 6, 2020 10:53 am

Heathrow is at capacity (saturated). A complex and complicated nerve wrecking to work very expensive maze. Empty flights take-off and land just to preserve strategic slots that would trade for astronomical cashloads.

Preventing it’s extension is the least effort and therefore the cheapest way to hike-up prices and taxes.

A profitable to some deal with the help of green zealotry.

Jeff Alberts
March 6, 2020 10:59 am

“Or are they special interests that influence government policy in an agenda set by foreign funders at the expense of the common man?”

Oh noes! My wokeness has been triggered!!

Serge Wright
March 6, 2020 2:20 pm

With this decision to NOT build an additional runway, more planes will be placed into holding patterns, crusing in circles above the city whilst buring more fuel.

Another loony decision from the lobotomized left.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Serge Wright
March 6, 2020 7:19 pm

Its actually quite a sight watching planes one in to land. On a clear day and at dusk you can see quite a few in to the distance following each other coming in to land.

Flight Level
Reply to  Patrick MJD
March 7, 2020 1:22 am

And quite a nerve wrecking deal to be part of that sight.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Flight Level
March 7, 2020 5:11 pm

IIRC, a good view can be had in Richmond Park. Last time I was there would have been late 80’s early 90’s.

Patrick MJD
March 6, 2020 7:17 pm

There is Stansted and Biggin Hill too around London.

David Stone
March 7, 2020 1:11 am

Have you ever tried to go from Stanstead to Heathrow, or Heathrow to Gatwick to get a connection? It takes a very long time and you will probably miss the connection. Having multiple airports really doesn’t work with modern hub operations and complex flight systems where one uses multiple planes. Agreed that Heathrow is in the wrong place, but that is because development was allowed all around it a long time ago when it was not busy. We should have moved it to Greenham when the USA left, loads of space, but the Greenies insisted that the very good runway was removed, although it could land two modern planes end to end at once.

March 7, 2020 1:58 am

To the well-heeled tourist visiting London

I’m not well-heeled and I fly in/out of Heathrow, Luton or Stansted (Gatwick is a pain)

Not sure I can afford City Airport though

Solomon Green
March 9, 2020 7:04 am

For short-haul, City Airport is far preferable to Heathrow, Luton, Stansted or Gatwick. Much less hassle, shorter waiting times and, for many, easier to reach. What about Southend now that Flybe has collapsed and left so many vacant slots? It is closer to Central London than Stansted.

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