The Prime Minister’s remarks cast further doubt on the expansion of the west London hub after he was challenged in the Commons.
Labour MP Rupa Huq (Ealing Central and Acton) had asked for a fresh vote to allow MPs “to kill off” the project.
Mr Johnson said the Government was focused on achieving “net-zero aviation”, adding at Prime Minister’s Questions: “That’s the future of this country: clean, green aviation.
“And by the way, I think that has every chance of arriving a lot earlier than a third runway at Heathrow.”
Mr Johnson – who is MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip – had previously voiced his opposition to expansion at Heathrow, declaring that he would lie in front of the bulldozers, but appeared to renege on that pledge after failing to show up to a crucial Commons vote approving the move in 2018.
Geraldine Nicholson, from the Stop Heathrow Expansion campaign group, said in a statement: “The Prime Minister knows that Heathrow expansion would so badly undermine our ability to meet new climate legislation, but also would result in toxic levels of air pollution in areas around the airport.
“Together with the Government’s pledge not to commit a penny in funding for the project, this is surely the end of it. It is the news our communities and wider environment deserve.”
The Heathrow third runway proposal has faced fierce opposition from climate campaigners since its inception, leading to a high-stakes legal battle to try to stop it from going ahead.
In February 2020, the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of campaigners who claimed plans for Heathrow expansion were unlawful because ministers failed to fully take into consideration their obligations under the Paris Agreement.
The ruling was the first of its kind to hinge on the Paris Agreement, the international deal aimed at keeping global warming “well below” 2C, which was made just over five years ago.
However, this decision was overturned by the Supreme Court in December the same year, with the judgement stating that Chris Grayling had acted lawfully when setting out his support for the project because he took into account the climate targets in place at the time.
Despite this blow for environmentalists, a combination of pandemic travel restrictions and increasing global pressure to cut emissions means the government’s endorsement of the third runway now appears lukewarm.
The UK government did not join Heathrow Airport Ltd in its appeal to the Supreme Court.
John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said at the time: “Heathrow Ltd have squeaked out a belated legal win, but history has moved on.
“Now the ball is in the government’s court, it’s hard to imagine Boris Johnson wanting to resurrect a project that makes no business or environmental sense.”
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