Over 1,000 people threaten to resist airport expansion

Over a thousand people have signed a nationwide pledge to resist airport expansion…

Over a thousand people have signed a nationwide pledge to resist airport expansion just over a month after it was launched outside Parliament on 8th October (1). The signatories include Dr Caroline Lucas, the Principal Speaker of the Green Party and MEP for South East England, the author and columnist George Monbiot and the veteran environmentalist, Teddy Goldsmith. People are currently signing the pledge at the rate of over 20 a day. The organisers of the pledge, to be found at www.airportpledge.org.uk, expect many more people will sign the pledge over the coming months.

The pledge is being distributed to groups and individuals across the country. People are being invited to sign up, pledging themselves to take personal action to resist airport expansion. Personal action could include anything from setting up local campaigns to taking part in non-violent direct action (2).

The pledge is in response to the Government’s Aviation White Paper launched last December. The White Paper forecast a near-trebling of passengers using UK airports over the next 30 years. It predicted there could be runways built at Stansted, Heathrow or Gatwick, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as significant expansion at most of the UK’s other airports. This is thought to be the first time that a coalition of organisations has used the threat of personal resistance to pre-empt government policy at its development stage.

George Marshall of Rising Tide, who will be administering the pledge, said, “The response to the pledge over this first month shows just how much anger there is at the Government’s aggressive plans to expand airports. If the Government does not listen, I think direct action in inevitable.”

John Stewart, Chair of HACAN ClearSkies and one of the organisers of the pledge, said “People from all walks of life are signing the pledge. It is not surprising since people feel the Government is only listening to the well-funded voices of the aviation industry.”

Green MEP Caroline Lucas said, “I have joined the hundreds of activists who have already signed the Airports Pledge to signal my commitment to taking whatever non-violent lawful measures I can to prevent new runways from being built across the South-East.”

Tony Juniper, Director of Friends of the Earth, said, “The Government’s go-for-growth plans for aviation must be stopped. They completely contradict Tony Blair’s pledge to fight climate change and will cause immense damage to our countryside, our communities and our natural habitats.”

Stephen Tindale, Director of Greenpeace, said, “Tony Blair has made climate change a key priority. Aviation is the fastest-growing contributor to climate change. If the Prime Minister is serious about tackling climate change, he has no option but to abandon any thoughts of new runways or new airports.”

Ian Leggett from People and Planet said, “Tony Blair describes climate change as the world’s greatest environmental challenge. But leading a Government that is committed to airport expansion is not consistent with global leadership on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Stephen Joseph, Director Transport 2000, said, “Airport expansion has no place in a sustainable transport system. The Government should be concentrating on providing the UK with a first-class rail and bus system and particularly promoting substitution of short haul flights with high-speed rail. It is just not sustainable to go on giving the aviation industry the huge tax breaks it currently enjoys.”

Notes for Editors:

  1. The launch took place on Friday 8th October on College Green, opposite the Houses of Parliament. The pledge is being backed by Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, the Green Party, People and the Planet, Rising Tide and Transport 2000, together with local protest groups HACAN ClearSkies and Swansea Airport No Expansion.

  2. The Pledge is not a petition. It is an invitation for people to pledge themselves to take action. The exact wording is:

“In the event that the Government chooses to ignore the widespread and well-informed opposition, and refuses to back away from its expansionist policy, I will take personal action to block airport expansion and to prevent companies from supporting and funding it.”

People are being encouraged to sign up online at a specially-created website: www.airportpledge.org.uk

For further details contact:

John Stewart, Joint Co-ordinator of the Pledge and Chair of HACAN ClearSkies, 0207 737 6641 or 07957 385650

George Marshall from Rising Tide, Joint Co-ordinator of the Pledge, on 01865 241097.