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Protest actions around the globe against aviation greenwashing during COP26
Stop Greenwashing – Reduce Air Traffic Now!
In the first days of November 2021, protest actions across the globe coordinated by Stay Grounded called for an end to aviation’s greenwashing and an effective reduction of air traffic. The diverse protests were part of the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice occurring during the UN Climate Conference COP26 in Glasgow (UK) and took place in Mexico, Nepal, Germany, France and the UK.
Why counter the greenwashing agenda of the air industry?
Aviation is the most climate-damaging form of transport and one of the worst examples of climate injustice. No one should be fooled by the attempts to greenwash the aviation industry. New technologies and ‘sustainable’ fuels will take decades to be used on commercial, long haul flights – and it is these flights that cause the vast majority of aviation’s climate pollution.
As the Covid pandemic seems to be more under control in some countries (in many, not at all due to vaccine apartheid) and governments as well as companies are being forced to take climate action, both are redoubling their greenwashing efforts. Yet, research shows that technological innovation will not decarbonise the aviation sector rapidly enough to stay below the 1.5o C limit. (Check out five Greenwashing Factsheets here). We took to the streets to counter the greenwashing of the industry!
31.10.-9.11. Celebrating the resistance against Frankfurt airport’s expansion (Frankfurt, Germany)
In Frankfurt, a series of exhibitions, guided walks, films, debates, a demonstration inside the airport and even a concert, celebrated the decade-long resistance against the devastating impacts of the major European airport, which led to successes such as a night flight ban. On the 6th of November, a concert with the title “Better Climate – Instead of Airport Expansion” took place which focused on the continuity of the protest culture since the struggle against Frankfurt airport’s expansion began in the 60s.
4.11. ‘The green airplane will not save the climate’ support mobilisation for climate justice activists (Bobigny, France)
Around 50 people gathered in Bobigny, France, in support of activists who faced trial because of painting an aeroplane green at Roissy airport in March this year, to highlight the greenwashing and climate irresponsibility of the French government. Their trial was recently stopped due to the violation of their rights.
4.11. Solidarity with affected communities and denounciation of false solutions (Mexico City, Mexico)
The coordinators of indigenous Mexico valley organisations, CPOOEM, held a protest in Mexico City in solidarity with the Istmo peoples of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, who are being dispossessed and are victims of the destruction caused by wind farms owned by two COP26 partners, Iberdrola and ScottishPower. The action not only showed solidarity with different territories, but also denounced the false solutions to climate change, such as the construction of mega-wind farms, which follow the large-scale capitalist model of concentration of wealth in the hands of the few and dispossession.
5.11. A reminder to the Chancellor (Berlin, Germany)
Am Boden bleiben organised an action against greenwashing in front of the Chancellor’s residence to remind the future chancellor that real solutions are needed, not greenwashing.
7.11. The youth makes aviation’s injustices visible (Nepal)
In Nepal, a youth protest at Simara Airport’s gate, in the Bara district, drew attention to the injustices related to air traffic. Over 30 participants from different youth clubs and civil society groups of the Bara districts distributed a document informing about their campaign to more than 100 passengers and organised a demonstration.”Nepal is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world due to climate change. Our campaign will sensitise local people, government agencies and the private sector to be more accountable and address the issues of injustice and the environmental crisis,” said Bhola Bhattarai from NAFAN Nepal.
Largest UK anti-airport protest in history.
18 event for 12 UK airports during Stay Grounded Global Days of Action – “Stop Greenwashing – Reduce Air Traffic Now!”
A report by Rising Tide UK
On the 5th and 6th of November 2021, aviation protest actions across the globe coordinated by Stay Grounded, called for an end to aviation’s greenwashing and an effective reduction of air traffic. The diverse protests were part of a Global Day of Action called by the COP26 Coalition, a UK-based civil society grouping, mobilising around climate justice during COP26, the UN Climate Conference in Glasgow.
.Research shows that relying on techno-fixes will not decarbonise the aviation sector rapidly enough to stay below the globally agreed 1.5 degrees limit; and the UK government’s advisory body, the Climate Change Committee, recommends NO net expansion of UK airports and has repeatedly warned the government that technological solutions alone will be insufficient to make the aviation sector even net zero by 2050. Yet, every UK airport has plans to expand.
In this context we took to the fields and streets to counter greenwashing and aviation expansion. In what rapidly became a full Week of Action, Rising Tide UK co-ordinated the Stay Grounded activities in the UK for airports at: Bristol, Doncaster-Sheffield, Gatwick, Glasgow, Heathrow, Leeds-Bradford, London-City, Luton, Liverpool, Manchester, Southampton and Stanstead. Press spokesperson Ray Stewart said:
“We warn that trusting yet-to-be-developed technology to reduce climate-wrecking emissions is an extreme risk we cannot afford to take. Instead, we demand immediate action be taken to prevent aviation growth to cut associated emissions, for us to stand any chance of remaining within 1.5C.”
18 events for 12 UK airports showed what happens when we get together and co-ordinate united action around common themes under the Stay Grounded UK Chapter umbrella. So well done to those groups that took part and thanks to those who acted as group spokespeople, took photo’s and did techy stuff. Lets have more groups covering more airports next time!
This report is a round-up of what happened and where, including media links, selected photo’s are on Stay Grounded’s Flickr.
UK national reactions
The Independent and The Sun report the action day announcements. Who would’ve thought of better coverage in The Sun than this, not so good from Mirror. You can register to comment on this as our spokesperson did:- Looks like your stringer Hamish who we spoke with, was intent on writing about disruption and us stopping flights which we didn’t. “Eco-zealots” not really, just concerned ordinary citizens who are blighted by airport expansion and care about climate breakdown and doing something about it. 18 events for 12 expanding UK airports. Didn’t fit with his preconceived framing obviously – Ray Stewart, Stay Grounded UK.
The official Cop26-info email list told delegates about the Day of Action: “Dear COP26 attendee, A number of large climate change-related protests are due to take place in the coming days:…..there are protests planned at 10 UK airports, including Glasgow Airport. Please contact your airline operator if you are due to fly Saturday and have any concerns.”
Pre Day of Action Stuff
Glasgow: Wednesday 3rd Nov.
The Stay Grounded crew toured Glasgow on the Greenwash March for some photo ops and “The illusion of green flying” was highlighted by activist pilots and BAAN (Bristol Airport Action Network) people dressed up as ‘Greenwashbusters’ (who you gonna call?) to bring their message about Bristol Airport’s endless greenwash to COP26. A BAAN spokesperson said: ‘The dream of low carbon commercial flight through electric, hydrogen, and sustainable fuels is going to remain a dream for many years. It’s total Greenwash to say that we can continue to fly and pretend we’re not trashing the planet. Who you gonna call? Greenwash busters from Bristol, naturally…https://twitter.com/Infante_Fran/status/1456987519061565441
Glasgow: Thursday 4th Nov.
BAAN had a jaunt to the COP26 green zone for photo shenanigans dressed in UK traditionally emblazoned “Stop Airport Expansion” red t-shirts, including at Rolls Royce’s Transition to Jet Zero Carbon stand.
Other Stay Grounded members took part in several COP events.
Glasgow: Friday 5th Nov.
Subvertising: People from Stay Grounded and Brandalism networks hacked over 50 bus stop ad spaces around Glasgow with spoof EasyJet posters depicting artwork of extreme weather events from summer 2021 with captions reading “Flooded landscapes from €14.99” and “Raging wildfires from €22.99”. The original ‘Destination Zero Emissions’ EasyJet adverts stated, “We are championing a future of Zero Emissions flights.” misleading the public by using unfounded promises about future aviation technology to sell flights. Photos and report by Ecohustler. The subverts were later found by the BAAN crew:-
Glasgow: Saturday 6th Nov.
Now infamous BAAN Greenwashbusters roamed the streets of Glasgow on the main COP26 DoA March along with the rest of the COP Stay Grounded crew. Reports can be found halfway down on this Desmog article.
11 UK Airports Day of Action, 11am, Saturday 6th Nov.
Glasgow Airport event from Stay Grounded campaigners and members at the airport highlighted its planned expansion and greenwashing with a banner protest. Photo that went via Alba Pics to all UK picture desks:-
Bristol Airport event with XR Landing Crew & BAAN. A Photo op reported on Bristol Live before joining the Bristol ma
Doncaster-Sheffield Airport event. STEAP (Stop The Expansion of the AirPort) took placards and leafleted outside their MP Dan Jarvis’s office then marched across to Doncaster Town Hall where their council sits and followed that by joining the COP26 march from Devonshire Green for the rally outside Sheffield City Hall where any final say will be had on the expansion plan.
Leeds-Bradford Airport event. GALBA (Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport) protest/photo op outside the terminal building with a banner.
Featured on local BBC news. https://www.galba.uk/post/press-release-galba-joins-campaigners-to-call-for-immediate-halt-on-all-airport-expansions Very good piece by Yorkshire Evening Post detailing the UK DoA, which mentions Doncaster protest with GALBA quotes. They then joined the Leeds march.
Manchester Airport event. An anti-airport expansion banner was dropped in central Manchester and covered by Quay News TV.
Liverpool Airport event. Photo op banner protest at airport before joining the Liverpool march.
Southampton Airport event. Southampton Airport eXpansion Opposition (AXO). Protest on the airport side of Southampton Airport Parkway station with Samba band, banners and props. A group of about 40 people from AXO and others who oppose the airport’s expansion plans, gathered with their flying pigs and a banner saying “Green Aviation=Flight of Fantasy”, protesting against suggestions that ‘planes will soon be eco-friendly and that now is the time to expand our airports. “It’s all green-washing and impossible, like flying pigs!” 🐖✈️ They then cycled or trained it into town for a picnic on the steps of Guildhall before the Southampton march. Their spokesperson continued “With UK aviation carbon emission set to grow in the next few years, the idea that we can bring them back down using “green” technologies that are unproven at scale is a dangerous delusion.” Video: ITV Meridian local news covered it all along with South Coast Greatest Hits Radio.
London City Airport event. HACAN-East at 11am launched an online video/webpage “SO HOW MUCH DO YOU KNOW ABOUT PRIVATE JETS? “to mark the Climate Summit in Glasgow – COP 26 – …a quiz about private jets which many of the official delegates to the Summit are using. It …released the quiz today to coincide with aviation climate-related events from campaign groups from around the world, being coordinated by Stay Grounded.” Their Coordinator John Stewart stated, “Our fun quiz has a serious side. It is intended to show just how bad for the climate private jets are. And, of course, London City is one of the main private jet airports in the UK.”
Luton Airport event. A Coalition of Groups including Stop Luton Airport Expansion (SLAE), St. Albans Quiet Skies (STaQS) & LADACAN mobilised around 60 people to attend a rally against airport expansion/climate change at Wigmore Valley Park to the east of the airport site, that their council want to destroy for airport expansion. Its a 70 hectare wild country park, a public space owned by Luton Borough Council (but licenced to their airport company, London Luton Airport Ltd) who are spending £millions of public money in the process pursuing expansion plans. A green lung would disappear to be replaced by more pollution with aircraft, noise and light disturbance doubling over time; all in the pursuit of commercial income for the airport owners. As with several UK Local Authorities for some insane reason, the town’s climate emergency declaration does not include the airport! Covered by BBC Look East TV Saturday and BBC Three Counties Radio on Monday. Front page story in Luton News previous Wednesday mentioning all DoA airports.
Gatwick Airport events.
CAGNE (Communities against Gatwick’s Noise and Emissions) had 40 people online live at 11am for photo of protest vote on – Do you support Gatwick Airport expansion plans? Whereby everyone held up a sign saying “NO!”. Gatwick plans to bring its emergency runway into daily use, turning it into a second one. “One of the biggest instant reductions in carbon, greenhouse gases and air particles could be made by our government leading the way at COP26, by stopping all airport expansion until aviation can be truly green. Even then aviation would still be a polluter, as we all are. It is unlikely governments will agree to curb aviation, so it is down to the consumer to fly less to save the planet” said their Chairperson. Greatest Hits Radio Sussex broadcast an interview.
GACC (Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign) mobilised concerned residents to stage a peaceful gathering near the airport to protest against “greenwashing” by the aviation industry and call for a halt to Gatwick’s expansion plans. They met outside the Half Moon pub in Charlwood and walked to nearby Glebe Field to protest by a noise monitor. Peter Barclay their Chairman said: “If Gatwick is allowed a second runway, its carbon emissions will increase dramatically.” See their press release here. ITV Meridian (who also included the Southampton protest) and BBC TV South and South East’s newcast can be seen via Back Off Horse Hill Fracking site’s feed here.
Also the airport put out this Security Warning!
Stansted Airport events. Stansted Airport Watch (SAW) had banner drops on 30th October launching its “Fly Less” campaign at the road entrance and exits at the airport and on Saturday 6th November ‘Dig for Victory’ – a tree planting initiative aimed at involving their members and families on the actual site of the proposed 2nd runway. Media coverage included a pre-recorded radio interview for Heart Radio on 4th Nov. with clips used Sat. 6th and a live interview for LBC Radio. BBC TV Look East also covered with the Luton event.
Tuesday 9th Nov.
Heathrow Airport event. HACAN (Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise) were joined a cross-party group of MPs and Peers outside the UK Parliament to call for an end of greenwashing for the aviation industry. Paul Beckford Coordinator for HACAN said “The aviation industry does not fully pay its environmental costs in terms of noise and emissions. The reliance on future technological solutions and offsetting is simply greenwashing. There are plenty of policy initiatives, such as a frequent flyer levy, that could be delivered now to help reduce the impact of aircraft noise and emissions. Overflown communities and our climate deserve better.”
Post Day of Action Stuff
Wednesday 10th Nov.
Grant Shapps UK Transport Minister Memorial Statue to Technofix Erected
To commemorate the tragic event of the IACAC declaration, a dummy Minister mannequin was erected by Stay Grounded’s crew in the Cameron Memorial Fountain on Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street, complete with his messianic Icarus wings. In the UK Prime Minister’s beloved Greek mythology, Icarus is the story of a man who creates artificial wings by sticking feathers to his arms with wax and managing to fly, thinking he must be a god due to his ingenuity. But he flies too close to the sun and the wax melts causing him to plunge to his death. The moral of the story is: “don’t get too cocky but recognise your limitations”. As true today as it was then. We can’t design our way out of everything using fancy non-existent technology.
The UK government recently closed a consultation called “Jet Zero” with pathways to get to net zero emissions in aviation but was hugely reliant upon unproven, untested and dangerous technology. Let’s learn from Icarus and not “fly too close to the sun” relying on technofixes but take immediate action to prevent aviation growth and cut associated emissions.
Here’s to future Days of Action to achieve that!
RisingTideUK for STAY GROUNDED UK & Friends CHAPTER