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Protesters blockade mock runway outside Parliament to oppose airport expansion

By staff - Plane Stupid and Reclaim the Power, October 25, 2016

Activists have blockaded a mock runway outside Parliament to oppose airport expansion and highlight  the inequality of catastrophic climate impacts on the day a government announcement is expected.

This morning, 40 Activists locked together using ‘arm tubes’ on a mock runway outside Parliament to signal their intent to continue fighting airport expansion. Air traffic controllers with “STOP” paddles lined the runway highlighting the need to stop climate change as well as noise and air pollution. Other campaigners and local residents held a banner reading “Climate Change Kills, No New Runways.”

Shona Kealey spokesperson for Plane Stupid, said,

“Two weeks ago, enough countries agreed to ratify the Paris Agreement for it to come into force. Last week, the government’s climate advisers issued a report saying reducing aviation emissions should be a priority if we’re going to honour the Climate Change Act. And now, with today’s announcement, our government proclaims to the world that we’re a dishonest and unreliable nation who can’t be trusted to keep to our international agreements or even follow our own laws, just as we’re about to renegotiate trade agreements with the whole world.

“Obedience to this government is suicide. If they think we’re going to quietly follow them over the cliff, they’re dreaming.

Speaking for Reclaim the Power, Stephanie Nicholls said,

“We can honour our commitments to tackle climate change, or we can build new runways – we can’t do both. Aviation expansion anywhere is irresponsible, and globally will impact the most on the people who’ve done least to cause the problem. Climate change is already hitting poorer communities in the global south, who are the least likely to ever set foot on a plane.

“When the government won’t follow its own rules, it’s time for normal people to step up and take action. Following today’s announcement climate activists, council leaders and local residents will be standing together to make any new runways undeliverable. If the government thinks they can override local opinion, climate science and their own commitments they’ve got another thing coming.”

Throughout the day, local residents and environmental campaigners will be in the Five Bells Pub in Harmondsworth (Harmondsworth High Street, UB7 0AQ) to demonstrate continuing opposition to airport expansion and will be available for interview. Contact: Rob Barnstone, 07806 947050.

Local residents from Gatwick CAGNE (Communities Against Gatwick Noise Emissions) will be meeting at the Plough Inn, Ifield from midday to watch the decision. Contact: Sally Pavey, cagnegatwick@gmail.com, 07831 632537.

We are expecting new direct action network Rising Up to announce escalating direct action against airport expansion following the government announcement. Contact: Simon Bramwell, 07760 556177, lawgoch2008@hotmail.co.uk.

Aviation facts:

  • Flying is the most emissions-intensive form of transport and the fastest growing cause of climate change.
  • Globally, aviation emissions are forecast to balloon by 300% by 2050.
  • A new runway at Heathrow is predicted to increase local noise and air pollution as well as produce an extra 9 Megatonnes of CO2 per year, exceeding the safe limits recommended by the Committee on Climate Change and accelerating devastating climate change.
  • This growth is incompatible with UK climate targets as set out in the Climate Change Act 2008.
  • The International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO), assembled right now in Montreal, has not proposed any plans so far to limit the CO2 emissions from aviation.
  • Globally, flying benefits a privileged few – only 3-7% of people have flown – and even in the UK a 15% minority of the population take 70% of flights. In contrast, the damaging impacts of aviation are experienced by everyone – climate change will affect the entire world population but is hitting some of the poorest, most vulnerable areas (where people do not fly) first and worst.
  • The aviation industry enjoys a number of tax breaks: most substantially there is no duty on aircraft fuel or VAT on tickets, a ‘major anomaly’ according to the World Bank and IMF. This money could be invested in sustainable transport, in improving rail connections around the UK and internationally.
  • A large proportion of Heathrow flights are short haul, these routes could be better, and more sustainably, serviced by improved rail infrastructure. Past experience shows this: since the Eurostar has been running the number of flights from London to Paris and Brussels has fallen dramatically (by nearly half and a third, respectively).
  • If Heathrow expands, it would be responsible for more emissions than any other single site in the UK, including Drax the UK’s largest power station.
  • For more information, see Analysis: Aviation to consume half of UK’s 1.5C carbon budget by 2050 - By Simon Evans, Carbon Brief, October 24, 2016

Timing

  • In July 2015 the Davies Report recommended building a third runway at Heathrow airport.
  • In July 2016 London City airport was given the go-ahead for expansion to accommodate larger aircraft and more traffic.
  • A Cabinet vote on a new runway at a London airport is expected on 25th October; Theresa May announced 29/09 that there was cabinet support for Heathrow.
  • There will then be 12-18 months for consultation before a final decision about expansion.
  • The UN body for the aviation industry met between 26th Sept – 7th Oct this year for the World Aviation Forum, and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Assembly. They agreed on using Carbon Offsets as a voluntary market mechanism to make aviation ‘sustainable’; though the agreement ultimately fell short of the ICAO’s own target of a system which ‘offsets’ all future growth in aviation emissions – the agreement is expected to cover 80%.
  • Around the world, international anti-aviation expansion movements took action around the same time: https://reclaimthepower.org.uk/aviation-flashmob-critical-mass/global-actions/

The protest was jointly organised by Reclaim the Power, a grassroots direct action network taking action for social and environmental justice, and Plane Stupid, a network of grassroots groups that take non-violent direct action against aviation expansion.

A full statement from Plane Stupid responding to the decision is available here.

Reclaim the Power’s most recent action was the #StayGrounded “die in” and bike ride at Heathrow earlier this month. Other previous actions include the high profile anti-fracking camp in Balcombe in 2013 and mass occupation of the UK’s largest open-cast coal mine, Ffos-y-fran, earlier in 2016.

Plane Stupid has been taking action against aviation expansion since 2005. They occupied Stansted, East Midlands, Aberdeen and Heathrow airports, shut down easyJet and BAA’s headquarters, stopped private jets at Biggin Hill, London City and Edinburgh airports; sat atop the House of Commons and the Scottish Parliament, supported the Camp for Climate Action at Heathrow, worked with local residents to defend their homes from the bulldozers; exposed a corporate spy and ‘slimed’ Peter Mandelson.

The group made headlines in July 2015 with a blockade of the Northern runway at Heathrow, and the high profile trial of the ‘Heathrow 13’, who narrowly escaped a prison sentence and becoming the first ‘climate prisoners’ in the UK.

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