Expansion plans of Vienna Airport

In February 2017, the Austrian Federal Administrative Court came to the conclusion that building a third runway in Vienna would lead to too many greenhouse gas emissions and would destroy too much agricultural land. The public interest of climate mitigation and food production were rated higher than economic growth and jobs.
Find the court decision in German here. Find a professional translation of the court decision’s most important part (the last 21 pages) here, and a non-professional translation of the whole decision here. Also, we recommend reading the summary and conclusions by Global 2000.

This was a great victory which also had to do with the long resistance against the airport – on a legal as well as public pressure level. In October 2016 we had organized an action at the airport, at the same time while actions at airports around the world were taking place. The motto: “Stay grounded. Aviation growth cancelled due to climate change“.

But already few months after the landmark decision, end of June 2017, the higher constitutional court ruled that the decision was wrong and unconstitutional! The court claimed that not all flight emissions could be accounted for, and that only the emissions during take off and landing should be calculated as effects from the third runway. (So who is responsible for the other emissions? Nobody? The atmosphere?). They also claimed that environmental concerns can only be taken into account as public interests if they can be directly deduced from the aviation law (Luftfahrtgesetz). This is equally strange, because environmental protection is part of the Austrian constitution. All leads to our conclusion that the immense pressure from politicians and media, that had followed the positive court decision, had its effects…
Here’s the German press release from the court: https://www.vfgh.gv.at/medien/Flughafen_3._Piste.de.php

The Federal Administrative Court had to make a new decision based on the ruling of the Constitutional Court and permitted the construction of the third runway in March 2018 with further requirements for noise- and emission reductions. However these requirements are minimal compared to the expected growth of flights and close to greenwashing. In order to expand, the airport expansion has to become carbon neutral, but this process just covers the on-ground operations and does not include the additional flights! Furthermore problematic offsetting is part of the requirements. See Press relesase (in German) and action of “System Change!”.

In March 2019, just a few days after the international Climate Strike – the biggest climate mobilization in history – the Austrian High Administrative Court permitted the construction of the third runway. Appeals against the permission at the Constitutional Court and High Administrative Court had not been rejected with the dubious argument that an increase in noise was not expected since landings will not take place over the city of Vienna (there is no reference to starts however). Further, the court confirmed that climate change is a relevant issue for the Environmental Impact Assessment but that according to the EU ETS airlines are responsible for emission reductions in aviation, not airports. After this catastrophic verdict for the climate and for our future, civil society initiatives announced that they will turn to the European Court of Justice. There are no further juridical steps on the national level but the political struggle will persist. This is why we need to build more resistance on the ground, and grow political pressure so that Austria’s most polluting project won’t be built!

For any further information please contact us: norunway3[at]systemchange-not-climatechange.at

System Change, not Climate Change!