Aound the world, in country after country, we're seeing the same thing: the companies that profit most from extracting and burning fossil fuels are putting a stranglehold on our political leaders. With climate politics deadlocked, 350.org are trying something new: directly targeting the companies standing in the way of progress.
Emissions from airlines blanket communities, causing heart failure, asthma, and other lung diseases. Airlines already accounts for 5 percent of global warming pollution, and aviation emissions are skyrocketing. If nothing is done, airline pollution is expected to double by 2020 and quadruple by 2050.
Last month, governments from around the world met to negotiate a program to cap airline pollution. But the airline industry, led by United, has spent millions lobbying to weaken standards.
A high level group of an intergovernmental panel known as the International Civil Aviation Organization (or ICAO) met in Montreal last month to design a system to reduce air travel’s footprint on the climate. They will release proposed rules in June, and a vote will be held in September. But United and other airlines have unleashed a horde of lobbyists, PR flacks, and “experts” to muscle the ICAO into making those rules as toothless as possible.
This isn’t the first time United has declared war on sensible environmental regulation. Last year, the European Union passed a law requiring airlines to improve their energy efficiency or buy pollution permits at a cost of just $3 per passenger. United responded by lobbying aggressively to get the U.S. Congress to pass a bill that prohibits U.S.-based airlines from complying with the EU’s efficiency standards and forces American taxpayers to foot the bill for the resulting fines.
United’s CEO Jeff Smisek wrote an op-ed in Hemispheres, his company’s in-flight magazine, arguing that the EU had no right to regulate flights taking off and landing in Europe.
Even other airlines think that United is extreme in its uncompromising opposition to all emissions standards. And in the highly competitive airline industry, United can’t afford a reputation as the anti-environment airline. If enough people call United out, it will have to stand down, and we’ll have a much better shot at controlling one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse emissions.
What’s going on behind closed doors? The government’s “sustainable aviation strategy” which was due for publication this week is delayed to the end of the summer, with no reasons given. Could it be something to do with Sir Colin Matthews from BAA and his band of environmental psychopaths bullying the government into dropping its last vestiges of being the greenest government of them all?
They are running an advertising campaign across London fraudulently declaring the “route to economic recovery is a flight path.” Just in case BAA doesn’t understand basic economics, our economy is in a mess because of high oil prices, bankrupt banks and rising food prices. Building new runways will not sort out the mess that we are in – it will make things far worse.
Not content to limit itself to a fraudulent advertising campaign, BAA has got its favourite self-interested economic groups and journalists to vomit up reports on how economic growth can only happen with a third runway. Without it, they claim all business will go to Europe where every airport, runway and strip of tarmac will be expanded into an international hub. None of these pundits recognise that across Europe people have been inspired by the protests that stopped Heathrow and are organising themselves in their thousands to stop further destructive airport expansions.
And one more thought for Sir Colin and his band of environmental psychopaths – you lost the last time and you lost everywhere. You lost in the law courts, you lost in the press, you lost public opinion and you lost at the ballot box. You lost for the simple reason that any reasonable person knows it is wrong to deliberately destroy the future through policies which knowingly worsen the already terrible plight our young people face through climate change.
So the message to Sir Colin is this - resign. Your pursuit of a failed and immoral business strategy renders you inappropriate to run a powerful corporation. Your policy is to deliberately poison the air for the young people of today and violate their human rights.
This blog carries a warning. Before reading it, fortify yourself with a little rum or whisky. Flying Matters, the pro-aviation lobby group that has fought so hard for expansion of airports across the country, is to fold. According to that well-known publication 'An Executive Review of Business Travel', Flying Matters will be wound up at the end of the month because its corporate backers (mostly airlines) are falling out amongst themselves about the future direction of policy.
So it is farewell to it's chairman Brian Wilson, the once radical Labour MP, who became Tony Blair's Energy Minister and a big defender of nuclear power and airport expansion. Who would have though it would end like this for the radical young journalist who, 40-odd years ago, founded the West Highland Free Press, the hugely popular newspaper which brought a breath of fresh air to Scotland's highlands and island by giving a voice to the crofters and challenging the staid establishment press.
And it's farewell, too, to the face of Flying Papers, Michelle di Leo. Michelle, who once tried to join the anti-expansion network, AirportWatch, under an assumed name, is the daughter of Tony Blair's first aviation minister Glenda Jackson MP. She married Jackson's Dan Hodges who chaired Freedom to Fly, the earlier pro-aviation lobby group, which folder in 2003.
The demise of Flying Matters is a sign of the confusion within the UK aviation industry. It is still in a state of shock that a conservative-led Government dared to drop new runways at Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick. Never before has the industry had such a reverse. For 50 years it has got what it wanted. But it was on the wrong side of the popular revolt - against a third runway at Heathrow. Flying Matters has been swept aside by that.
An executive review of Business Travel commented:
"The organisation did cover a wide spectrum of the industry, including both British Airways and Unite, but there was an argument that Flying Matters carried little weight of influence." It went on: "Any future lobbying group is expected to be formed around a more focused alliance. Vital is the selection of the individual to lead such a coalition, common consensus being that British Aviation is currently lacking such a person."
We received an email the other night from British Airways inviting us to buy raffle tickets to ‘be part of comedy history and laugh along at our record-breaking comedy gig in the sky’ as part of their 'Flying Start' promotion. In short, Comic Relief together with British Airways is holding an event which will inevitably contribute to climate change in order to raise money for climate change. Hypocrisy or what?
Today is the 1 year anniversary of the birth of Grow Heathrow. Amazing video done by YouandIFilms at the celebration event on Sunday. The most well attended event so far at the site with way over 100 people in and out of the gates all day. Good luck to them for the future. If you haven't been down there yet it's about time you do. www.transitionheathrow.com
Protesters descended on Heathrow and Leeds/Bradford Airports today in a coordinated attempt to highlight the fact that the aviation industry pays no VAT.
In a protest modelled on those recently seen at Oxford Street stores like Vodafone and Topshop, over 100 campaigners from TakeVAT and other direct action groups such as Plane Stupid ran around terminal 3 at Heathrow airport 'confiscating items'.
The campaigners were symbolically 'confiscating' items such as luggage trolleys and toilet roll, to highlight the fact that there is no VAT on airline tickets, the purchase of planes or on spare parts for aircraft.
In January VAT rose to 20%. Hard working families across the country are being hit hardest by the rise whilst the aviation industry - which is mainly a habit of the rich, remains a special case and is completely exempt.
In Leeds around 20 protesters targeted Leeds/Bradford Airport. As soon as they arrived off the bus they were met by a handful of police and scuffles broke out as the protesters tried to reach the terminal building. In the end they managed to sit down together to make their point heard just outside the main terminal building.
Spokesperson for TakeVAT London, David Nivens said:
"It is simply unfair that aviation pays no VAT. Why should one of the dirtiest and noisiest industries in the world get away scot-free when ordinary people are charged VAT on basic necessities like toilet rolls?"
Spokesperson for TakeVAT Leeds, University of Leeds student Joseph Blake said:
"As the government imposes austerity measures on hard working families across the UK, the aviation industry gets away with £9 billion a year in VAT tax exemptions. We took action today in solidarity with the London protests and to demand the government put people first, and not climate criminals like the aviation industry".
The Managing Director of Southend Airport, Alastair Welch has been targeted for pushing for expansion at Southend Airport - something which is not acceptable considering the climate change impacts.
Alastair Welch was giving a lecture at Southend's Royal Naval Association HQ when suddenly STOP AIRPORT EXPANSION amongst other messages were projected onto the building. There was no custard thrown, no superglue used - this was a simple, clever, imaginative and effective way to make a very valid point. A pat on the back is in order to whoever was behind this one.
Or is it? NO is the answer! The final day of negotiations at the COP16 conference in Cancun came to an end today. The solution - a non legally binding agreement to shield the world. That's right, we're going to save the world again with words and not deeds.
Do not believe the hype. The time for action is still now, that is direct action led by those impacted on the ground. Don't put your massive inflatable hammers away yet, buy a d-lock, get some super glue, get into an affinity group. As the students have shown in London this week, we can show governments and big business that we will not let them trample all over us.
Business as usual is not an option. We have to directly intervene to stop emissions ourselves. Let's join the dots between all the different struggles going on right now and fight together for social justice, environmental justice and of course justice for the climate.