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!
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. 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.
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. 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.
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 ofemissions to tackle climate change, but successivegovernments have failed to respond. Direct action, therefore, is our only hope of securing a decent future for children everywhere. Anew runway, and the hundreds of thousands of extra flights it would allow, wouldmake 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.
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”