United Kingdom: Activists Block Tunnel to Airport
from Plane Stupid
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 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. Partly 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.
At the COP21 talks this year in Paris, the theme for the mass day of action on December 12th (D12) is Red Lines. These blockades will represent lines that cannot 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: 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 close to being crossed nationally include increasing unconventional fossil fuel extraction through fracking and a 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 day 12 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, which may mean that our mobilisations might not be as big or as effective as we hoped.
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,
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.
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. 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’. In 2010 the High Court ruled third runway plans “untenable in law and common sense” because they breached the Climate Change Act. 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, risking wiping out 55% of species this century and displacing 75 million more people from their homes by 2035. if aviation growth isn’t reduced, by 2037 aviation alone could emit all of the carbon it’s safe for the UK to emit. 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, 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, 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.
Photos can be used freely from twitter.com/planestupid
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