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, 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.”
The huge advertising budgets of the aviation industry have tricked the public into believing we face an airport capacity crisis.
Additionally, the employment benefits of expansion have been overplayed. Claims that airport expansion will create thousands of new jobs are based on unreliable statistics. Airport expansion actually results in more UK tourists going abroad, which creates a ‘tourism deficit’.
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”
Climate protest is big again. Last week hundreds of thousands of people across the world took to the streets in a call for serious action to be taken to combat climate change (map above shows where marches took place). Truly, climate change has become a global movement.
UK politicians won’t be able to ignore climate change when they take the decision on airport expansion, expected about this time next year. It will come just before the COP in Paris where world leaders will gather to look at ways to cut CO2.
It will mean that any decision to build a new runway will be met by huge climate protests. Although the Government of the day will argue that the Committee on Climate Change, the Government’s official advisers, have said that one new runway would be compatible with the country’s CO2 targets, airport expansion on this scale will feel all wrong to climate campaigners. It will jar. It will anger.
And that anger will spill out on to the streets in demonstrations and direct action. If that activity is complemented by anger of local residents at what a new runway will do to their quality of life, the Government could find itself in the same trouble as when the last Labour Government tried to go for expansion: http://hacan.org.uk/victory-against-all-the-odds-2/
In recent years the aviation industry has not denied climate change. It has tried to sideline it by saying that technology will deal with it. Technology will improve but to allow the rest of the world at fly as much as the rich world does today. I don’t think so. Remember only 5% of the world’s population has ever flown. For the rest of the planet, our binge flying has to stop. I feel a slogan coming on….ready for the next climate march……..
Two new reports done by the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) & WWF and another one by The RSPB have shown that hopes of expanding airport capacity while meeting UK climate change targets can only be based on a wing and a prayer, requiring either implausible increases in carbon prices or constraints on regional airports to below current traffic levels.
The UK, like all G8 countries, is committed to cutting emissions by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050. But there are particular reasons why the challenge of ensuring that airports policy is compatible with climate policy has come to the fore in the UK. The number of flights taken per person in the UK is higher than in any other developed nation, London Heathrow is responsible for significantly more CO2 emissions than any other airport globally, and the Climate Change Act 2008 has made it a legislative requirement that the UK meets its political commitments on emissions.
In order for the UK economy as a whole to meet the requirement of the Act, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has recommended that aviation emissions should be no higher than 37.5 Mt CO2 by 2050 – reducing emissions back to 2005 levels. This, according to the Airports Commission, need not preclude a new runway. But the Commission has yet to spell out the policy steps that would be needed to reduce aviation emissions if a new runway were to be built.
The CCC has advised that since technology take-up, more efficient operations, or increased biofuel use can only do so much to reduce UK aviation emissions, limiting aviation CO2 requires limits on demand. Our analysis shows that the future Government would have two equally unpalatable options for constraining aviation emissions if approval was given for a new runway:
(i) Take unilateral action to tackle aviation emissions through taxes or other market based measures even though the Commission’s findings suggest that the cost would have to rise from around £3 per tonne of CO2 today to around £600 per tonne by 2050 which would have significant consequences for businesses. This option reflects Sir Howard Davies’ recent comments on the need for a higher carbon price.
(ii) Introduce very significant constraints on other airports, such as closure or restrictions to below current traffic levels at regional airports, to compensate for a new South East runway.
2. Share the two reports with your contacts who you feel could be drawn into the airports expansion debate by the contents of the report, particularly members of the climate change community, leaders of other industries or regional airports.
3. Contact the Department for Transport to request that they produce a scenario of future passenger demand and resulting CO2 emissions based on the world as it is today without strong regulatory measures, not a scenario where such measures exist.
Last night celebrity judges including actor Hugh Grant, TV presenter Holly Willoughby, journalist Rachel Johnson and TV personality Gyles Brandreth picked this winning video with the videomakers taking home a prize of £10,000