By Anders Lorenzen
A major court in Austria has turned down a proposed third runway at Vienna International Airport.
Environmentalists in the UK are dismayed that their government is driving forward plans to build a third runway at the country’s largest airport, Heathrow. However, the situation is different in Austria. There activists can claim victory, as the Federal Administrative Court (BVwG) has dismissed the application for a third runway at Vienna International Airport.
The court’s findings were that “the construction of the third runway at Vienna Schwechat Airport and the resulting increase in air traffic would lead to a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions in Austria.” This was calculated by taking into account the emissions during take-off and landing, and by the extra greenhouse gas emissions generated after reaching the airports. The court, in the public interest, weighed the cons higher than the pros, in protecting against the negative impacts of climate change.
Coming to the decision the BVwG court looked at two combining factors. There are legal obligations covering climate and environmental protection in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, the Austrian Federal Constitution, and the Lower Austrian Land Constitution. In addition, Austria has committed itself internationally to reducing greenhouse gas emissions within the framework of the Climate Protection Act, under which sectoral emission ceilings were set for 2020. The court declared that the airport’s ability to reduce CO2 emissions through its own measures is not sufficient.
This decision comes, as the UK government is facing a series of questions about whether Heathrow’s third runway can be constructed and still comply with legally binding climate targets.