‘Trees not private jets’: activists take over Le Bourget airport against ‘climate criminals’

by | 22 Sep 2023 | Actions

Extinction Rebellion (XR) France and Attac France took over Le Bourget airport on 22 September 2023, denouncing the responsibility of the ultra-rich for the ecological crisis and the complicity of the government. Around thirty activists took to the tarmac to plant trees, symbolising an alternative future that is desirable, possible and beneficial for everyone.

A year ago, XR and Attac activists were already targeting the ultra-rich, preventing them from taking weekend trips in private jets. They denounce the contribution of this tiny part of the population to climate change. Meanwhile, courts continue to criminalise activists’ defence actions, with 11 of them fined between €300 and €500. But this verdict that does not weaken their determination: on 22 September, they once again entered Le Bourget airport.

After opening the fence with a grinder to gain access to the site, around thirty citizens planted shrubs on the tarmac. They hijacked the sign in front of the airport gate, replacing the words “Protected Military Zone” with “Climate Crimes – Zone to be reconverted”. Decked out in children’s masks and white jumpsuits, the activists also scattered coloured powders and laid down bales of straw. They unfurled a banner, reading “Don’t let the ultra-rich destroy the planet” and “No to private jets – Yes to fruit trees”.


Fence of the airport cut out, with XR and Attac banners by the side
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Photo by XR France/Attac France


The super-rich are super-polluting

Their aim? To show how the concreted area of Le Bourget airport could be used for better purposes, not harmful to the planet and people’s health, and serve the common interest, unlike the climate-destroying use of private jets by the ultra-rich.

Emma, a member of XR, declared: “I’m here to denounce the indecency of private jets. Private jets represent the epitome of climate injustice and the emblem of the government’s refusal to act for our future. Why is it so difficult to do without this superfluity? Why let the hyper-rich pollute as they please, at a time when the French are suffering the effects of heatwaves and drought?

Lou Chesné, spokesperson for Attac, added: “Knowing that no government action is being taken to stop them, citizens have every right to put these climate criminals out of business, as they are depriving us of a future. And we know we have a card to play, as was the case in Amsterdam, where a civil disobedience action resulted in a ban on private jets.

Private jets, an epitome of social and climate injustice

In 2023, while the world has just experienced the hottest summer on record, forests and cities are going up in flames and “climate collapse has begun”, the private jet industry is booming. Between 2021 and 2022, flights departing from France increased by 55%, and the emissions generated by 93%. Yet this mode of transport, used by a privileged minority with an average fortune of €1.3 billion, is extremely polluting. A single hour’s flight in a jet amounts to the annual emissions of a person complying with the Paris Agreement.

Air traffic remains the most unequal mode of transport. Aviation has contributed more to global warming than the entire African continent, and just 1% of the world’s population is responsible for 50% of aviation emissions.

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne reminded us on 12 July that the ecological transition was “everyone’s business”. But currently there are no restrictions on the very privileged people who use the world’s most polluting means of transport. Private jets are excluded from the Climate and Resilience Act, which bans certain short flights, and a bill to ban private jets was rejected in parliament. The government’s refusal to regulate private aviation only encourages such climate-damaging practices and accentuates the social and climate injustice.

Desirable futures without private jets for the common good

Activists wearing animal masks and holding Attac and XR flags
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Photo by XR France/Attac France


More than 8 out of 10 people in the world have never set foot on a plane. But these are the ones being hit hardest by the climate crisis and the negative effects of increased air traffic, such as land grabbing, noise and health problems. Today, tens of thousands of people living around Le Bourget suffer daily from the nuisance caused by a space that benefits the ultra-rich. These impacts go from noise pollution causing chronic stress, sleep problems, high blood pressure and other health problems, to air pollution and traces of hydrocarbons in agricultural water reserves.

Léa, who took part in the action, said: “Through our action, we also want to show that it is possible to use these areas in a different way. It is possible to rehabilitate these 500 hectares into spaces that are in the interest of the local population. You could create parks or sports’ areas, build housing, set up small farms”.

Extinction Rebellion and Attac call for a ban on private jet flights and for the site to be made available to local residents for the common good.