Heathrow

Judgement Day

Verdict? Innocent

Legal verdict? Guilty.

As we prepare ourselves for the likelihood of an unusually harsh sentence on February 24th  - the Judge told us to prepare for prison, and implied it could be the maximum of 3 months - we sit reeling from the institutional failure of the legal system to address the biggest and deadliest problem of our time.

A guilty verdict may have been a forgone conclusion in the eyes of the law, but today has been an extraordinary day for climate change activists the world over.

The issue of climate change, its connection to the aviation industry, and its resultant massive loss of life have not once been disputed in the proceedings of the trial. In her closing remarks, Judge Wright said: “There can be no doubt that the defendants are very committed to tackling the problems of climate change and that they acted as they did on the 13th July in what they genuinely believed was in the best interests of the public and society as a whole”. She called us “principled” and “passionate” people.  She accepted that climate change was a problem and that we were doing what we could to stop carbon emissions.

This acceptance, however, appears to have had no bearing whatsoever on the verdict we have received, and the sentencing we now face. After warning us to prepare for prison, the judge said 'I cannot think of a more serious case of aggravated trespass', implying that she may give the maximum, which is 3 months inside for our charge (aggravated trespass). If we had been taken to court for more serious charges (eg, public nuisance, which we arrested for), we could have had a trial by jury. Unlike judges, juries have previously found people not guilty for similar actions.

With his opening statement this morning, the prosecution lawyer attempted to paint us as crusaders against democracy, taking the law into our own hands and seeking a defence based on “criminal self-help” rather than necessity.  His summation ran into the following confusing circularity: “sober and reasonable people don’t break the law”, and “it is my job to decide whether a sober and reasonable person would have broken the law in these circumstances.”  Well, no surprises then when he decided that they wouldn’t have. But that was a forgone conclusion. A system that defines reasonableness as following the law can’t acknowledge the possibility of a reasonable breach. 

 Defence lawyer, Mr Greenhall, put it well when he said (I paraphrase):

Suppose our small group had just learned that Chernobyl was about explode, Madam, and had tried to do something to prevent the inevitable and catastrophic impact on human life.  Suppose our group felt compelled to act, and that they decided to chain themselves to the reactor in an attempt to physically prevent further leakage and future explosion.  This group would have had both the support of the public, in whose interest they were acting, and also the support of the law. Even if the deaths from Chernobyl were somewhat removed in both space and time; even if they could not name the people who would be affected; even if the group had waved banners warning about the dangers of future expansion of the plant, the necessity defence would have been open to them, and they would have won. Their actions would be reasonable to prevent loss of life. The #Heathrow13 find themselves in a very similar situation. And this is the defence that should prevail today.

 Unfortunately, it has not prevailed.

When Lawyer Mr Chada ended his statement with some words from Robert Kennedy, the Judge was still to announce her decision.

“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, they send forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and, daring those ripples, build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” 

These words feel all the more powerful now the verdict has been made.

Climate change has already claimed many lives, and it is the continued negligence of governance that forces citizens to act in their stead. We are not hooligans. We are not heroes. We are ordinary people who acted against the letter of the law in the face of complete failure of the authorities to act in the service of what we, and many, many others, know to be the major issue we face today.

Solidarity messages with Plane Stupid and the #Heathrow13

On Monday the 18th, 13 Plane Stupid activists stand trial in Wilsden Magistrates Court for occupying the Northern Runway at Heathrow in July 2015. All 13 have pleaded not guilty to the charges of aggravated trespass and being in a restricted zone. Their defence is based on necessity, that their actions were reasonable and justified in the face of climate chaos, which causes death and serious injury. Full details of the trial can be found here. Ultimately, climate defence is not an offence! 

Responding to our call out, groups from around the UK and the world have been sending solidarity messages and pictures to show their support. Here is a selection of what we've received so far: 

Official support from the Green party via Twitter

International support from the Northern Forest Defence in Turkey, who are fighting a 3rd Airport in Istanbul, which would devastate remaining forests.

More international solidarity from France, where the fantastic ZAD (Zones to Defend) movement have been fighting various forms of destructive industry for years. Most notably, the ZAD in Notre Dame des Landes is the largest land occupation in Europe, a giant cousin to the UK's Grow Heathrow. Together we say 'No airport expansion anywhere!'

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

Letter of solidarity to the Crown Prosecution Service

Plane Stupid would like to thank all of the signatories to the letter below, sent to the Crown Prosecution Service on Friday 9th of October, 2015. 

We are deeply grateful and appreciative of all the support we have received - from the signatories, from Heathrow’s local residents and from other groups campaigning for David Cameron to keep his promise.  No ifs, no buts, no new runways, anywhere.  

Open Letter to the Crown Prosecution Service

In July a group of climate activists with anti airport expansion group Plane Stupid took peaceful direct action at Heathrow Airport. They have been charged with aggravated trespass and being in a restricted area of the airport without permission.

The Plane Stupid action, which came just weeks after the recommendation by the Airports Commission to build a new runway at Heathrow, highlighted the importance of considering climate change in the context of any discussion about the future of the aviation industry.

The science tells us that deep cuts are required from existing levels of greenhouse gas emissions to tackle climate change, but successive governments, including the present one, have failed to act appropriately. A new runway, and the many thousands of extra flights it would allow, would make the necessary cuts far more difficult to achieve.

Against this background, with the failure of the democratic process, the actions of the Plane Stupid activists were reasonable, justifiable and honorable. We, the undersigned, call upon the CPS to drop the charges against the activists in the public interest – we should be congratulating them for the defending the planet, not prosecuting them.

Signed: 

John McDonnell MP (Shadow Chancellor)

Natalie Bennett (Leader of the Greens)

Caroline Lucas MP

Michael Mansfield QC (Human rights lawyer)

Rajiv Menon QC (Human rights lawyer)

Nnimmo Bassey (Leading African environmentalist, Winner of Right Livelihood Award)

Bill McKibben (Founder of 350.org)

Craig Bennett  (CEO, Friends of the Earth)

John Sauven (Executive Director of Greenpeace UK)

John Stewart (Chair of HACAN)

Suzanne Jeffrey (Vice Chair of Campaign against Climate Change)

Dr Damien Short (Human rights advocate and lecturer)

George Monbiot (Writer) 

 

UPDATE: this letter was referred to in this Guardian article on Friday 9 October 2015: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/oct/09/shadow-chancellor-calls-for-charges-against-heathrow-activists-to-be-dropped

The Heathrow 13 – Case Management Hearing 19th August 2015

 

Yesterday, we - the 13 Plane Stupid activists who occupied the northern runway of Heathrow Airport for over six hours on 13th July - had our hearing at Uxbridge Magistrates Court. All 13 of us pleaded not guilty to both charges brought against each of us, and are now set to have a full two week trial, commencing on Monday 18th January 2016.

We arrived at court in the morning to be greeted by a whole array of media journalists, as well as a sea of supporters, including local residents and campaigners from grassroots groups and NGO’s, elected representatives of political parties, and even a handful of polar bears! We would all like to sincerely thank all those who were able to come to the court to support us, as well as those who have shown their support from afar. It’s touching to feel so supported by so many people, for taking the action that we have. Thank you all; your invaluable support means so much.

Needless to say, starting the day with polar bears, friends and supporters fuelled us with hope and joy for the day to come. We were always aware that this hearing was going to be relatively simple; mainly an opportunity for us defendants to receive the prosecution’s case against us (although this didn’t actually materialize in the end) and for each of us to enter our pleas. And our amazing lawyers from Bindman’s and Hodge, Jones & Allen walked us though the process and made sure we were supported thought the day.

 

Last time this runway was defeated, climate change was at the core of the argument. Local campaigns such as HACAN, Stop Heathrow Expansion and NOTAG have been fighting aviation expansion for years and, whilst winning some concessions, Heathrow continues to lie to the public, and the Government continues to ignore climate change. But climate change won’t wait for an unwilling political system to act.

Any kind of airport expansion in the UK will make it impossible for the UK to meet its legally binding target of reducing CO2 emissions by 80% (from 1990 levels) by 2050. It’s really that simple. In fact, the aviation industry is the only carbon intensive industry in the UK that is effectively being given a license to pollute.  Furthermore, the ‘need’ for airport expansion is being driven by the wealthy minority (10-15%) of UK citizens who are responsible for booking the vast majority (70%) of flights in the UK, mainly to short-haul destinations that could easily be reached by train. Heathrow continues to lie about the economic benefits, and underplays the real cost to the public and climate that airpot expansion will have.

 It’s reassuring to know that the amount of time the court has given us will allow us to adequately put forward our case, and that the overwhelming support from both inside the court room, outside the court and in the general media, shows that people agree with us and feel it’s important for the issues to be heard.

Social and regular media this week has been awash with our message that climate change must be at the forefront of the debate around airport expansion and if it takes its rightful place as the key issue, it rules out expansion. #Heathrow13 shows just a pocket of this support from all over the country; this is not just a local issue even though some of the activists involved are local residents.

I am filled with a lot of hope for the future; the support we have been shown is truly heart warming, from letters from parents to local residents and fellow activists. The only way for this campaign is up, but we can’t fight climate change alone. The Government needs to be shown our true power, so please continue to support Plane Stupid, HACAN, Stop Heathrow Expansion, Grow Heathrow, Gatwick Obviously Not!, Reclaim The Power, and all the other groups and organisations fighting airport expansion. Together we can stop this! We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again. No If’s, No Buts, No Third Runway… and we mean it!

Cameron Kaye

Defendant

 

Heathrow activists plead not guilty

 

From Press Release:

Today at Uxbridge Magistrates Court, the 13 climate change activists who blocked a runway at Heathrow airport pleaded not guilty. They are charged with aggravated trespass and entering a security restricted area of an aerodrome, forcing flights to be delayed and cancelled. The defendants will argue in court that the runway occupation was necessary and justifiable. If aviation growth continues unchecked, by 2037 the  industry will be responsible for all of the carbon that the UK can safely emit.[1] Failure to prevent climate change will see at least one billion people suffer water shortages, 40% of species made extinct and sea level rises threatening London by the end of the century.[2]

Defendant Ella Gilbert, 22, said:

"We didn't want to do this, but we had to. If the government won't prevent catastrophic climate change, ordinary citizens have to step up; you can't reduce carbon emissions and build more runways, it's plane stupid. There is already more than enough aviation capacity for ordinary people who take their one holiday abroad a year. Airport expansion is for the 15% of wealthy frequent flyers who take 70% of our flights.[3] A broad movement is again uniting to make airport expansion impossible, and we're in it for the long haul!"

The proposed start date for the trial is 18 January and it is estimated to last 2 weeks.


Plane Stupid Press Statement:

In the early hours of Monday 13th July, 13 of us took peaceful direct action at Heathrow Airport. Two weeks before our action took place, the Airports Commission issued a recommendation to build a new runway at Heathrow Airport. Some of us are local residents, and the existing air traffic from Heathrow is already having a hugely negative impact on the local community by way of noise & air pollution and blight on the area.

Last year more than half the UK population didn't fly. Airport expansion in the UK is being driven by a minority of wealthy frequent flyers who are booking the vast majority of flights in the UK. But the long term negative impacts of airport expansion will mean everybody pays the price.

Scientific evidence is telling us that if we are serious about tackling climate change, and keeping within the safe 2 degree global temperature rise, we need to be drastically reducing our carbon emissions. But our government is clearly failing to act responsibly.

Building any new runway in the UK is simply not compatible with reducing carbon emissions at this critical time, and will make it impossible to meet our legally binding commitments, as set out in the Climate Change Act 2008.

It is critically important that climate change is prominent in the context of any discussion about the future of the aviation industry. Against this background, and the failure of democratic processes, we believe our actions were reasonable, justifiable and necessary.


Previous press releases:
July 14: http://news.met.police.uk/news/thirteen-charged-following-protest-123389
July 13: http://planestupid.com/blogs/2015/07/13/plane-stupid-activists-heathrow-...


[Notes]

[1]
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_summ...

[2]
Page 5 of Stern Review. (2006). Part II: Impacts of climate change on growth and development. Stern, Nicholas, HM Treasury. London. October 2006. http://www.wwf.se/source.php/1169157/Stern%20Report_Exec%20Summary.pdf

[3]
Based on passenger survey data: Table ATT0601, Public experience of and attitudes towards air travel, DfT Statistical release, July 2014. Analysis by afreeride.org

Further statistics with sources are available at afreeride.org/about

[ENDS]

Support the Plane Stupid climate activists in court on 19 August!

Last month activists staged a peaceful direct action at Heathrow Airport – less than a fortnight after the Airports Commission recommended a third runway at Heathrow. The action itself involved occupying the northern runway and erecting a tripod and fencing which the activists locked onto. A polar bear climbed onto the tripod. The action stopped some flights and saved greenhouse gas emissions.

 

The science tells us that deep cuts are required from existing levels of emissions to tackle climate change, but successive governments have failed to respond. Direct action, therefore, is our only hope of securing a decent future for children everywhere. A new runway, and the hundreds of thousands of extra flights it would allow, would make the necessary cuts far more difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. In addition, Heathrow hugely contributes to illegal levels of air, and noise pollution, which have massive impacts on health for people living near the airport and for Londoners generally.

 

For defending the planet and human health, the activists have been charged with aggravated trespass and being in a restricted area of the airport without permission. If you want to show them your solidarity, please support them at their first court hearing on Wednesday 19 August 2015, at Uxbridge Magistrates Court (nearest tube: Uxbridge, on the Metropolitan and Piccadilly lines). A gathering is taking place outside the court from 8.30am. 

For more updates, see https://www.facebook.com/events/480531532112107/

 

The full address for the court is:

 

The Court House
Hare field Road
Uxbridge
Middlesex
UB8 1PQ

 

The court hearing will probably last until at least lunchtime.  

Plane Stupid activists on Heathrow runway in climate protest

From Press Release:

12 climate change activists from anti airport expansion direct action group, Plane Stupid, got onto the north runway at 03:30am this morning at Heathrow Airport by cutting through a fence, in a peaceful protest against proposals to build a new runway.  

The protestors say that going ahead with the recent Airports Commission recommendation that a third runway should be built at Heathrow will make it impossible for the UK to meet its climate change targets.  

The skies above Heathrow are already the busiest in the world, and demand for flights is driven by air fares that are kept artificially low by generous tax exemptions. The activists say that if the aviation industry paid more of its environmental costs then there would be no pressing need for a new runway.

Nine of the top ten most popular routes out of Heathrow are short haul[1], including destinations such as Paris, Manchester and Edinburgh which all have existing rail alternatives.  

Ella Gilbert, an activist from Plane Stupid who is on the runway, said:  

“Building more runways goes against everything we're being told by scientists and experts on climate change. This would massively increase carbon emissions exactly when we need to massively reduce them, that’s why we’re here.  

We want to say sorry to anyone whose day we’ve ruined, and we’re not saying that everybody who wants to fly is a bad person. It's those who fly frequently and unnecessarily who are driving the need for expansion, and we cannot keep ignoring the terrifying consequences of flying like there’s no tomorrow.  

No ifs, no buts, no third runway. And we mean it.”

Airports Commission backs Heathrow 3rd runway

Tags:

Plane Stupid were very disappointed to hear the announcement from Sir Howard Davies this week that the Airports Commission unanimously backs a third runway at Heathrow. 

The worst part is that Sir Howard seems to have completely fudged the climate change implications.

Here's a reminder why airport expansion is a terrible idea:

Protests by Plane Stupid and Transition Heathrow in unity against aviation expansion

Early this morning protesters from Plane Stupid and Transition Heathrow scaled the Heathrow Park Inn Hotel and dropped banners saying “Any new runway would be Plane Stupid” and “Runner beans not runways” in order to show resistance to the Davies Commission’s consultation proposing a future runway at either Heathrow or Gatwick.

If Heathrow Airport’s proposal for a third runway went ahead, much of the village of Harmondsworth would be demolished, with the neighbouring villages of Sipson and Harlington also under threat. Over a million people living in London could be affected by long term noise and air pollution caused by this aggressive expansion. Heathrow are already exceeding EU air pollution limits, this is likely to increase not decrease with a new runway.

The Davies’ commission argues that an expanded aviation industry would still allow the possibility of the UK staying within its 2050 climate targets of an 80% reduction of CO2 (1), which is needed to prevent a climate catastrophe. This estimate relies on predicted technological change and the use of bio-fuels. Both are unproven and allow aviation to remain a special case, absolving the industry of any climate responsibility. We find this unacceptable.

Plane Stupid campaigner Charlie Smith said:

“The Davies Commission is a farce, it has not allowed for the possibility that the best option for the country and the planet is to avoid any further aviation expansion and seek investment in alternative means of transport. The Commission has prohibited a real debate about our transport future and as such encourages any future government to expand its aviation infrastructure thus sending us further along the road to climate chaos”