Why Aviation? Why Now?
Even though the aviation industry is the fastest growing source of carbon emissions and cannot be de-carbonised, climate change is still remarkably absent from any discussion around aviation expansion.
Moreover, aviation is absent from any discussions, agreements and targets around tackling climate change. It was excluded from the Paris Agreement signed by the world’s nations at the UN COP21 last December, and is even exempt from the UK’s own Climate Change Act 2008.
It is an industry that benefits from huge tax subsidies and unprecedented legal and regulatory loopholes, and is threatening the lives of communities both locally and globally, as well as the very planet we all live upon.
This isn’t about shaming individuals, it’s about holding the aviation industry to account for its effects on local communities and our climate. It is a myth that our airports are at capacity. It is the wealthy minority who are driving the aviation industry and the desire for more flights. We do not need airport expansion to grow the economy. We could just as easily invest in a low carbon economy, one with sustainable transport that creates a million new green jobs.
There is already a huge global movement resisting the unnecessary expansion of this destructive industry, but local communities are being heavily repressed for doing so. Our mass action stands in solidarity with a whole wave of international actions also planned to take place around the same time of year, and coinciding with the UN Aviation Assembly.
What are we asking for:
- No new runways, and no expansion of airports anywhere in the UK.
- The UK government must not support ICAO’s proposal to use carbon offsets to make the illusory case for expansion of ‘sustainable aviation’, but must include real reductions in aviation emissions in national carbon budgets and international targets.
- Divert the huge subsidies that the aviation industry receives, and invest the money in trains as part of a just transition to more sustainable transportation infrastructure, making national and nearby international rail journeys easier, cheaper and faster.
Some key facts:
- Aviation is the fastest growing source of carbon emissions.
- Globally, the aviation industry is exempt from paying fuel tax
- In the UK, tax payers subsidise the aviation industry to the tune of £10bn per year, through exemptions in VAT and Fuel duty.
- Globally, the ‘need’ for aviation expansion is being driven by a wealthy minority of frequent ‘binge’ flyers, while the real cost is borne by a world majority who don’t even fly – mostly in poorer countries that are being hit first and hardest by climate change.
- Globally, only about 5% of the world’s population flies
- The UK flies more, per head, than any other country … more than double the USA!
- In any given year in the UK, 54% of the population don’t fly, while 15% fly take 70% of all flights
- The most frequent flyers in the UK are the wealthiest, with salaries over £115k, and second homes abroad
- 9 out of the 10 most popular flights from the UK are to short-haul destinations that could easily be reached by train
- A new runway at Heathrow or Gatwick would produce around the same amount of carbon emissions as the whole of Kenya
- The carbon emissions from aviation expansion are not just from the extra planes, but also from construction and ongoing operations of added infrastructure (eg, hotels, car parks, new roads, increased road traffic, etc)
- If aviation growth is allowed to continue at the current rate in the UK, our entire carbon budget, as set out in the Climate Change Act 2008, will be taken up by the aviation industry by 2050
What’s the political situation with UK airport expansion?,
David Cameron was due to make a decision last Summer, after the ‘independent’ Davies Commission report recommended a 3rd runway be built at Heathrow Airport. The government’s decision has since been repeatedly postponed and, following the Brexit fall-out, has yet again been pushed back until October – after the Tory party conference – and it’s quite possible that they may attempt to announce it on a ‘good day to bury bad news’. Within days of her appointment as PM, through her abolition of DECC and her choice of cabinet members, Theresa May has made it blatantly clear that climate change is very low down on her list of priorities, and that her loyalties lie with serving corporate interest, and the affluent minority who are driving the so called ‘need’ for expansion, all in the name of ‘economic growth’.
Internationally, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Assembly runs from 27th Sept – 7th Oct, kicked off by the World Aviation Forum on 26th Sept in Montreal, Canada. Discussions will focus on making sure aviation is at the heart of any ‘sustainable’ development strategies, with a view to prioritising aviation in financing, and making sure ‘no country is left behind’. The ICAO is also pushing to adopt a carbon offsetting proposal, which will only legitimise the industry’s emissions, rather than look at real measures to actually reduce aviation emissions.