Environmental group launches legal action over plans for new Dublin Airport runway under climate law

Published by Niall Sargent on

May 8th, 2017

Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) have sought a judicial review of Fingal County Council’s decision to extend planning permission for the development of a €320 million runway at Dublin Airport.

The environmental group alleges that the council’s Chief Executive was fully aware that the extra runway would result in increased greenhouse gas emissions before granting the five-year extension.

According to the group, this runs in contravention of the objectives of the 2015 Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act.

The group’s affidavit states that the Chief Executive failed to take account of various climate and emissions related criteria as legally obliged under the 2015 Climate Act before deciding to grant the extension.

The extension was granted by Fingal County Council in March. The original permission for the proposed 3.1km runway, granted in 2007, was due to expire this August.

The project, set to be located less than 2km north of the Airport’s existing main runway, was put on hold during the recession.

Direct emissions from the aviation industry account for about 2 per cent of global emissions, and are projected to be around 70 per cent higher in 2020 compared to 2005 levels.

According to the European Commission, a flight from London to New York and back generates the same emissions as the average EU citizen does from heating their home for a year.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) estimates that by 2050 aviation emissions will have increased by 300% compared to today.

According to an affidavit provided by FIE Director Tony Lowes, the Fingal Chief Executive made a number of “entirely general observations” in relation to the findings of the ICAO in its decision.

The FIE’s challenge also points to the recent refusal of planning permission for a third runway at Vienna Airport by the Austrian Federal Administrative Court due to air traffic’s climate change impact.

The group also argue that, as the original permission was granted based on an Environmental Impact Statement from 2002, the council has failed to consider new research on climate change over the past 15 years.

“The fact is that the international and national context in respect of climate change has moved on dramatically since the runway was first granted permission, which included a very limited assessment of climate impacts,” the affidavit states.

“Every citizen possesses constitutional and natural rights to bodily integrity, life, water, food, health and an environment consistent with their right to dignity and well-being. Climate change will directly and irrevocably impinge on each and all of those constitutional and natural right.”

Two separate groups of residents set to be affected by the construction of a third runway have also brought legal challenges.

One group, St Margaret’s Concerned Residents Group, allege that the development is illegal as the council failed to consider the impact of the development on their homes before granting the extension.

These cases are set to be heard in the Commercial Court in October following an application to the high court by the Dublin Airport Authority.

In 2016, 25 million passengers passed through Dublin Airport. Dublin is the fastest growing major airport in Europe, according to Airports Council international Europe, the trade association for European airport operators.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London