Heathrow 13 on trial - but who are the guilty ones?


Next week 13 people will stand trial for their role in challenging the climate crimes of Heathrow expansion. But who are the guilty ones? Ordinary people who risk arrest and personal liberty to stop carbon emissions and draw attention to the devastation of aviation expansion, or a rich business-government partnership that wants to build an unnecessary third runway that will crash our emissions targets, further damage the health of local communities and cause catastrophic climate change?
 
Last summer, shortly after the publication of the Davies report which recommended expansion of Heathrow, 13 members of Plane Stupid occupied Heathrow’s northern runway, constructing a sophisticated fortress in the early hours of the morning, with a polar bear seated on top of an iceberg in a cage and the rest locked on in various ways. They stayed in position for six hours, causing the cancellation of a number of flights, saving hundreds of tonnes of carbon being released into the atmosphere, whilst apologising for any disruption caused to passengers. They were eventually arrested and charged for aggravated trespass and being airside without permission.

The 'Heathrow 13' now face a two-week trial at Willesden Magistrates Court, starting next week (18th-29th January). All 13 have pleaded not guilty, and will be running a ‘necessity’ defence of preventing greater harm. They believe their actions were justified, necessary and proportionate in the face of the destruction and public health damage caused by Heathrow airport, and plan to draw on witnesses including leading climate scientists, politicians, prominent authors, campaigners and local residents to give evidence.

Court schedule and sentencing

Each defendant will be giving evidence, in turn from the 18th-21st January, with defence experts and witnesses giving evidence from 21st-25th January. Judgement will be given on 29th Jan at Uxbridge Magistrates Court (note change of location for final day). If convicted, the sentencing may be given a few weeks later.

Possible sentences range from fines and community service to up to 3 months in prison. Prison is a real possibility, following the recent imprisonment of peaceful protestors – such as the Love Activists who occupied the old Bank of England to highlight lack of support for the homeless, and Trenton Oldfield who disrupted the Oxford-Cambridge boat race in protest of elitism and inequality – which could indicate a trend towards more severe sentencing for people taking peaceful direct action. It’s a risk the defendants have said they are willing to take, noting that a short spell in prison is still a life of privilege compared to those living on the frontlines of climate change such as low lying Pacific Island states, facing the total destruction of their homes, communities and entire way of life.

Direct action is a vital part of any functioning democracy. It’s played a key role in many of the civil liberties we take for granted today such as the eight-hour working day, the weekend, women’s right to vote, equal rights for people regardless of race and ethnicity. Since the Heathrow action, the discourse around whether to expand Gatwick or Heathrow has shifted to include climate change. This is no longer a debate around which airport to expand, but whether to expand at all.

More runways means more climate chaos and air pollution

 When you look at the facts, it’s clearly the Government and Heathrow airport that should be on trial. They cannot be relied upon to take action on climate change, instead going in the opposite direction.

The urgent need to take action is clear, given breaches of the Climate Change Act and EU limits on NO2, poor health and early death due to air and noise pollution from the airport, and increasing CO2 concentrations leading to catastrophic climate change, which is causing the sixth mass extinction event and, if action is not taken, will result in the displacement of 75 million people by 2035 and exponentially more beyond, as well as death, disease and injury to people - last year alone 300,000 people died due to climate change. Being one of the hardest industries to decarbonize, the only way to reduce emissions from aviation is to fly less.

Giving evidence for the defence is Professor in Energy & Climate Change Alice Bows-Larkin on the impacts of aviation on climate change, and Associate Professor Steven Barrett on air quality and public health impacts of UK airports. Bows-Larkin’s research found in 2005 that, if aviation growth isn’t reduced, by 2037 all of the carbon that it’s safe for the UK to emit will come from aviation alone. Papers by Barrett have warned of more than 50 deaths a year directly attributable to air pollution from Heathrow. They also found that every year UK airport emissions are responsible for 4,400 cases of respiratory symptoms in asthmatic children and 2,300 cases of asthma exacerbation in asthmatic children, as well as 16,000 lost work days and 89,000 minor restricted activity days.

The UK, and particularly London, has long been in breach of EU air pollution limits. Just this week, London breached EU air pollution limits for the whole year in just eight days. Environment ministers will soon be in court over inadequate plans to address dangerous and illegal NO2 levels. 93% of the population-weighted mean due to UK aviation emissions in Greater London is accounted for by airports. This means that 93% of the total aviation emissions (weighted for population) occurs in the Greater London area – and poor air quality is likely to be the dominant environmental cause of mortality in 2050 (even more than dirty water or poor sanitation). Aircraft emissions account for 27% of annual mean NOx emissions near (and 15% 2-3km downwind of) airports. Reports estimate that UK airport emissions at their 2005 baseline cause 110 deaths per year, which will likely rise to ~250 per year by 2030, even without expansion. Expansion at Heathrow would increase UK-wide health impacts due to air quality by 4% in 2030 relative to the baseline (again assuming no expansion). Aircraft emissions already result in approximately 31 deaths per year within 32km of Heathrow.

Perks for the few

The problem is not the average family taking an annual holiday, and that is not what is driving the expansion. Nor – despite what the pro-expansion lobby would have you believe – is it even business flights, which have been in decline for 15 years. What is actually driving demand for more runways is wealthy frequent flyers. The 10-15 per cent of the UK population who flew three or more times last year took a whopping 70 per cent of all of UK flights. 57 per cent actually took no flights at all, with the rest taking just one or two. And the strongest predictors of frequent flyer status? A salary of over £115,000 and ownership of a second home abroad. Not only that, the most popular destinations from the areas with the most frequent flyers are tax havens. The facts speak for themselves – this is about a rich minority living luxury lifestyles, while the rest of us pay the real cost.

Government lies


Five years ago David Cameron unequivocally cancelled plans for a new runway with his now embarrassingly infamous "No ifs, no buts, no third runway" pledge. But he then found some profitable 'ifs' and 'buts' and commissioned Howard Davies to produce the £20 million Airport Commission to decide not 'whether' to expand or not, but 'which' airport to expand. Nowhere in the report was the option of 'neither'. Nowhere was the real impact on the climate and local communities seriously considered. The 'Heathrow 13' group took their action two weeks after the publication of the Airport Commission and before the government’s response to the report, which has now been delayed until after London Mayoral elections.

Support the #Heathrow13

The group has been receiving messages of solidarity from groups and individuals from across the UK as well as further afield such as Turkey and France, where the fight has continued for over 40 years against the proposed Notre Dame des Landes mega-airport near Nantes. Last weekend, on Saturday 9th January, 20,000 people, 400 local farmers on tractors, and 200 bikes blocked the Nantes ringroad in protest against the building of what would be Europe’s largest airport. A forest – known as la ZAD (Zone À Défendre) – has been occupied for years to protect it from the threat of destruction by the airport project. The same story runs through their struggle – local communities, wildlife and the climate face of devastating damage in the name of needless profit.

Supporters will also be outside Willesden Magistrates Court on the first day of the trial (Monday 18th January) for a solidarity demo organised by allies at Reclaim the Power. The theme is RED lines - lines which represent minimum limits for a just and liveable planet; lines that global leaders inevitably crossed in their genocidal deal, signed in Paris, and which Heathrow would cross in the building of a third runway. Defending those red lines is not a crime, and the Government has shown that it can’t be trusted to take action. The facts speak for themselves – it’s new runways or a safe climate; we can’t have both.

Plane Stupid will be covering the court proceedings on Facebook, Twitter and their website with daily updates. Support the #Heathrow13 by sharing updates on social media and/or come down to the court and join the solidarity demo on Monday.

Excluding aviation & shipping will wreck the Paris agreement's 2 degree target

The Paris climate agreement text has now dropped mention of international aviation and shipping. The weak statement that has been removed only said that parties might “pursue the limitation or reduction of greenhouse gas emissions” through ICAO “with a view to agreeing concrete measures addressing these emissions, including developing procedures for incorporating emissions from international aviation and marine bunker fuels into low-emission development strategies.” Even that has gone, so there is no ambition for CO2 regulation. Transport & Environment (T&E) says this has fatally undermined the prospects of keeping global warming below 2°C. The CO2 emissions of these two sectors amount to about 8% of emissions globally. In recent years their emissions have grown twice as fast as the those of the global economy – an 80% rise in CO2 output from aviation and shipping between 1990 and 2010, versus 40% growth in CO2 emissions from global economic activity. Their CO2 is projected to rise by up to 270% in 2050. They could be 39% of global CO2 emissions by 2050 if left unregulated. After 18 years of being supposed to come up with measures to tackle aviation emissions, ICAO has done almost nothing – and little is expected of it.

Excluding aviation and shipping emissions from COP deal makes 2°C limit close to impossible

From T&E (Transport & Environment) 9.12.2015

The dropping of international aviation and shipping emissions from the draft Paris climate agreement published this afternoon has fatally undermined the prospects of keeping global warming below 2°C, green NGOs Seas At Risk and Transport & Environment (T&E) have said.

As the emissions from these two sectors uniquely fall outside national reduction targets, they require an explicit reference in the agreement.

If treated as countries, global aviation and shipping would both make the list of top 10 emitters.

In recent years their emissions have grown twice as fast as the those of the global economy – an 80% rise in CO2 output from aviation and shipping between 1990 and 2010, versus 40% growth in CO2 emissions from global economic activity – and they are projected to grow by up to 270% in 2050. [See Professor Bows-Larkin link below].

The Kyoto Protocol tasked the UN agencies that regulate these sectors, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), to develop measures to tackle their emissions.

Now, 18 years on, these agencies have failed to do so, and rapid emissions growth from these sectors is set to make a 1.5/2°C target almost impossible to achieve.

Andrew Murphy, policy officer at T&E, said: “The dropping of international aviation and shipping emissions from the draft Paris climate agreement makes keeping a temperature increase under 2 degrees close to impossible. Those parties calling for an ambitious agreement must insist that language on international transport be reinserted.”

Aviation accounts for about 5% of global warming, and CO2 from shipping is about 3% of the global total. Both sectors are among the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gases at a global level and could be responsible for 39% of world CO2 emissions in 2050 if left unregulated, according to a scientific study published last month by the European Parliament.

John Maggs, senior policy advisor at Seas At Risk, said: “History may now judge aviation and shipping as industries that, while the rest of the world moved forward at COP21, sat on the sidelines and refused to contribute.”

Note to editor:

[1] ‘All adrift: aviation, shipping, and climate change policy’, (2014) Bows-Larkin. Climate Policy http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/14693062.2014.965125
http://www.transportenvironment.org/press/excluding-aviation-and-shipping-emissions-cop-deal-makes-2%C2%B0c-limit-close-impossible

AirportWatch note:

The UK government is keen to say that aviation carbon emissions will all be dealt with at the international level, and so UK airport expansion is possible – it will all work out fine.

The Paris agreement fails even to include mention of international aviation, or to put any pressure on ICAO to get on with developing an international mechanism for regulating aviation carbon emissions.

That will mean there is even less likelihood of a  proposal or plan by ICAO to take effective measures to deal with aviation carbon emissions. This government cannot depend on it, to take care, painlessly, of growing aviation CO2 – particularly not from an extra runway, which will only increase overall UK carbon emissions.

Read more...

FInd out more at elephantsintheroom.eu

Court solidarity this December 2015 and January 2016

Direct action works! That's why we do it. Our disruptive direct actions this year, combined with more conventional campaigning by other groups, have scored a big win against the pro-aviation expansion lobby , with the recent government announcement that the decision on aviation expansion is to be delayed another 6 months.

But after direct actions comes the court case, a tedious, sometimes costly and often lengthy process. Please support the Plane Stupid activists and community defenders at their court appearances, court solidarity means a lot when people are up against the unjust legal system, which penalises climate defenders as 'criminals' whilst protecting the interests of the rich and those who destroy nature and, in this case, inflict misery on the communities around Heathrow Airport.

The court dates for your diary are:

Wednesday 23 December 2015 – 1.30pm Uxbridge Magistrates' Court 

Heathrow tunnel blockaders and local residents have their first court appearance, see details of their action in November 2015.

Monday 18 January 2016 – 9am Willesden Magistrates' Court

13 activists who occupied Heathrow Airport in July 2015 have their trial. The trial will last 2 weeks. All 13 activists are asserting their right to defend the climate and the communities negatively impacted by Heathrow, and are pleading not guilty. See details of their action in July 2015. The nearest Tube station is Neasden, get directions.

Bring cake and banners, or just yourselves!

Decarbonising the UK: the aviation industry is the elephant in the room

 

 

Airport expansion is unsustainable – environmentally, socially, and politically. First and foremost, aviation is a hugely polluting industry, responsible for emissions of around 34 Mt CO2 e in 2013 in the UK. Airports also cause enormous suffering for local residents by drastically reducing local air quality and contributing considerably to local noise pollution. Imagine having a plane fly over your house at 80 decibels every 90 seconds. That’s something as loud as a pneumatic drill or a motorbike. Every 90 seconds!

In 2010 David Cameron promised he would not back a third runway at Heathrow, “no ifs, no buts”. That’s the phrase Plane Stupid protesters picked up on Thursday 26th November when they blocked the tunnel leading to terminals 1, 2 and 3. It’s also a phrase that demonstrates as well as any other the government’s willingness to compromise their promises and U-turn on key commitments such as their commitment to tackling climate change.

A non-committal response, or worse, no commitment at all, on climate change is exactly what is not needed in the run-up to the outcome of the Paris climate summit. The summit is considered to be a pivotal moment in the global struggle to limit the worst effects of climate change, and time is running out to reach a global agreement that will prevent warming of more than 2°C taking place, the agreed threshold considered to be “dangerous climate change”.

Our dependence on carbon-based fossil fuels is driving climate change. Aviation is inherently carbon intensive because of its reliance on high-density petroleum-derived fuels like kerosene. You can’t safely substitute more than 10% of jet fuel for biofuels, and that’s before you even consider the associated issues of the food vs. fuel debate and whether biofuels may have even worse climate impacts.

Aircraft themselves are also difficult to decarbonise – most of the efficiency savings that are currently technologically possible (such as weight reductions or streamlining aircraft bodies) have already been made and there are few remaining options. Marginal reductions of aviation’s carbon footprint are possible, for instance with the introduction of operational measures like air traffic management, but ultimately the only thing that will reduce emissions to a safe level is reducing the number of flights.

In this context, it is clear that government plans to expand Heathrow airport are utterly unsustainable, and totally irresponsible. Direct actions like those taken by Plane Stupid activists last week and throughout 2015 are becoming more and more necessary given the failure of our government to listen to popular demands to scrap destructive plans like a third runway.

Aviation is a #RedLine 

Aviation is a #RedLine 

On the 26th of November, just three days before the COP21 climate conference in Paris was due to start, three Plane Stupid activists blocked the main road access tunnel to Heathrow's terminals 1, 2 and 3. This reportedly caused a traffic tailback several miles long as police directed inbound vehicles to one lane of the outbound tunnel. Our early entry for the #ClimateGames - the direct action adventure game being used as a platform for actions around the COP21 - sent a clear message to the UK government that expanding aviation is a no-go for the climate. Were it to go ahead the UK would undoubtedly miss its emissions targets as set out under the 2008 Climate Change Act. 

Nor will aviation expansion benefit the majority of the population or businesses, as is often claimed. The  demand for airport expansion is being driven by rich frequent  flyers. Last year, less than half of people in Britain flew. Of those who did, a mere 15% of flyers took 70% of our flights. As well as noise and air pollution, poor people are paying the price in droughts, flooding and storms so that the rich can cook the planet with frequent leisure flights. Whilst we might hope that David Cameron might live up to his pre-election promise - “no ifs, no buts, no third runway” - we can't rely on it. After being forced to take non-violent disobedient action where all other options were exhausted, we stopped a third runway before and we'll stop it again this time too. 

#RedLines 

At the COP21 talks this year in Paris, the theme for the mass day of  action on December 12th (D12) is Red Lines. These red lines represent lines  minimum limits for a just and liveable planet that must never be  crossed if we are to stay within the 2C rise in global temperatures. Failure to stay within this threshold will take us down a road where even if we reduce emissions to zero, feedback loops will mean that emissions will continue to rise. The result: climate chaos. 

In reality there are many Red Lines we should not cross, but governments and corporations seem intent to do so. In the UK this includes the aviation industry, which if it continues to grow at its current rate will by 2050 emit all of the carbon it is safe for the UK to emit. Beyond this, other red lines that are being crossed nationally include increasing unconventional fossil fuel extraction through fracking, part of the government 'dash for gas' power stations rather than renewables. Internationally, there are similar concerns as well as a clear  need to stop lignite coal mining in Germany and the Tar Sands in Alberta, Canada. Whilst there are many such examples of industries that  cannot continue, overall the science dictates that the fossil fuel industry must transition to renewables and most of the carbon must be kept in the ground. 


Beyond the talks in Paris 

Unlike the climate talks in Copenhagen, many activists are going to  Paris with low expectations. We know that the heads of states and business leaders won't come up with a satisfactory deal to prevent climate catastrophe. Naomi Klein writes in 'This Changes Everything' that climate deals always come in second place to trade deals as corporate profit and perpetual economic growth are ideologically untouchable in our  neoliberal era. With this in mind, the aim for many activists is to see the Paris talks as a way for us all to network between struggles and to show on the twelth day, D12, that if our 'leaders' won't do it, then we can stop climate chaos  ourselves. Unfortunately, with the recent events in Paris, marches have been banned out of fears over safety, but with creativity and determination we are finding ways to mobilise and still have the final word.

However, given that we know that the solutions to the climate crisis won't come from the COP, let's see this as an opportunity rather than a problem. Let's get out and take action wherever the real #RedLines are: the dirty fossil fuel industries, the unsustainable, undemocratic mega-projects. #ClimateGames starts tomorrow. In this game we have nothing to lose but our fears. We have our whole futures to win. Asking our 'leaders' to solve our problems has left us with the hottest years on record, year after year.  We  are the solution we've been waiting for.

We are not fighting for nature. We are nature defending itself.

See you on the playing field,

"Paula Bear"

Plane Stupid blockade Heathrow entrance tunnel

The main road entrance to Heathrow airport has been blocked by climate change activists since 7.40 this morning. Three members of anti-airport expansion campaign group Plane Stupid parked a vehicle across both lanes of the entrance tunnel and locked their bodies to it, unfurling a banner quoting David Cameron's election promise: “No Ifs, No Buts: No Third Runway”. David Cameron has promised a decision by the end of the year on whether to build another runway at Heathrow.[1] 

Local resident Neil Keveren, a builder whose village, Harmondsworth, would be bulldozed for the third runway, arrived later at the tunnel. He was fined after blocking the same tunnel with his van on 2nd July.[2] He said, “No one wants to do this. They feel they have to. People feel they have no choice. After we campaigned for years, David Cameron was elected promising 'no ifs, no buts: no third runway'.[3] In 2010 the High Court ruled third runwayplans “untenable in law and common sense” because they breached the Climate Change Act.[4] Now Cameron might just build it anyway. We have tried every other option. We have been forced to be disobedient just to be heard. To save our homes and our planet.” 

Plane Stupid spokesperson Cameron Kaye said, “Airport expansion would wreck the legally binding Climate Change Act,[5] risking wiping out 55% of species this century[6] and displacing 75 million more people from their homes by 2035.[7] if aviation growth isn't reduced, by 2037 aviation alone could emit all of the carbon it's safe for the UK to emit.[8] The government needs to choose: build new runways or stop climate chaos: it's that simple. 

“There is already airport capacity for families taking their yearly holiday. New runways only benefit the 15% of flyers who take 70% of our flights,[9] cooking our planet. These are rich frequent leisure flyers. The most reliable predictors of frequent flyer status are a household income over £115,000 and owning a second home abroad,[10] but it's the poorest people who suffer most from climate change.” 

On 13th July Plane Stupid blocked Heathrow's North runway, reportedly causing 22 flights to be cancelled and hundreds delayed.[11]

Photos can be used freely from twitter.com/planestupid

Contact the Plane Stupid press team:

07799360351

press@planestupid.com

@planestupid

 

References:

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-33341548

[2] http://www.getwestlondon.co.uk/news/west-london-news/heathrow-airport-van-protest-man-9582532

[3] http://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/david-cameron-lied-to-londoners-about-blocking-third-runway-9012834.html

[4] http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/mar/26/heathrow-third-runway-travel-and-transport

[5] Aviation Environment Federation, 16 June 2015, 'All set for take off? Aviation emissions to soar under Airports Commission proposals', p.1, http://www.aef.org.uk/uploads/All-set-for-take-off-AEF-report.pdf

[6] Over 3.5 degrees, 40 to 70 per cent [average 55%] of all assessed species will be extinct. If no action is taken, this will happen by 2100.: IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007, 3.4 Risk of abrupt or irreversible changes, https://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/syr/en/mains3-4.html If no action: 3.7 degree rise by 2100 if representative concentration pathway 8.5 (RCP8.5) is followed. IPCC: Table SPM-2, in: Summary for Policymakers, in: IPCC AR5 WG1 2013, p. 21http://www.climatechange2013.org/images/report/WG1AR5_SPM_FINAL.pdf

[7] Global Humanitarian Forum: Human Impact Report, 2009, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2009/may/29/1,http://www.ghf-ge.org/human-impact-report.pdf

[8] Page 5 of Growth Scenarios for EU & UK Aviation: contradictions with climate policy, Summary of research by Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research for Friends of the Earth Trust, Drs Alice Bows, Paul Upham, Kevin Anderson, The University of Manchester, 16 April 2005, http://www.foe.co.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/aviation_tyndall_summary.pdf

[9] Table ATT0601, Public experience of and attitudes towards air travel, DfT Statistical release, July 2014. Analysis by afreeride.org(passenger survey data), https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/335069/annex-a-tables.xls

[10] Air Transport Statistics, House of Commons Library Standard Note SN0370, p.9, http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN03760.pdf

[11] http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jul/13/heathrow-disruption-climate-change-activists-claim-chained-runway