International week of action targeting private jets reaches its peak with blockade of Farnborough airport

by | 02 Jun 2024 | Actions, Press Release, Private Jets

This morning, protesters blocked the access to Farnborough airport, the biggest private jet terminal in the UK. This is part of an international week of action, with protests in eight countries demanding that governments ban private jets, tax frequent flyers and make polluters pay. They promise more actions will follow.

2nd June, 2024 – Today, a group of activists blocked all the main gates of Farnborough airport, the biggest private jet airport in the UK, which has plans to greatly expand. This was part of an international week of action targeting private jets and the injustice of aviation, with protests happening in Denmark, Germany, Mexico, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the US. These actions coincided with the week when the super-rich gathered in Geneva once again for the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition (EBACE), the largest private jet event in Europe. The climate justice groups denounce this event and the scandalous luxuries of the super-rich, who continue fuelling climate breakdown and affirm there’s no place for private jets in a burning world.

Activists hold a giant handcrafted plane saying stop EBACE at a protest in geneva
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Activists targeted Oakland Airport International in the US (24 May), as well as Copenhagen, Billund, Sønderborg and Midtjyllands airports in Denmark (25 May) and Bromma airport in Sweden (26 May); they launched a banner outside Benito Juárez International airport in Mexico City (18 May); joined a disobedient assembly by Letzte Generation, while blocking a road in Berlin (25 May); spray painted their demands throughout Trondheim, Norway, as well as giant “no airplanes” signs in a motorway that crosses by the city (28 May). In Geneva, paper planes rained down inside the Balexert and la Praille shopping centres to expose private jets and EBACE (26 May) and a protest took place in front of the venue where EBACE was happening, featuring a large hand-made airplane.

At Farnborough, protesters are currently barricading the airport’s Gulfstream Gate with the Extinction Rebellion pink boat, Ively Gate has four protesters locked on to oil drums, and the airport’s departure gate has activists mounted on two tripods blockading the entrance. A fourth group of protesters are moving between the airport’s other gates to block them. At all three main gates, protesters are releasing colourful smoke flares, chanting slogans and engaging with members of the public, accompanied by the XR Rebel Rhythms band of drummers.

More than 100 people took part in the protests and several were arrested.

“It’s utterly obscene that, during a climate and cost of living crisis, while people are burning under scorching heat in India and Mexcio or being displaced by catastrophic flooding in Brazil, the super-rich keep flying on their private jets and pouring gas in a world on fire”, says Inês Teles, campaigner at Stay Grounded. “These are the worst form of bullshit flights, and need to be banned, as well as short-haul flights or night flights. We need to stop this madness and hold the super-rich and institutions accountable for the destruction they are causing.”

The actions happened under the banner of the Make Them Pay campaign, supported by Stay Grounded, Scientist Rebellion and Extinction Rebellion groups. It unites citizens and scientists from around the globe behind three demands:

  1. Ban Private Jets
  2. Tax Frequent Flyers
  3. Make Polluters Pay

“Private jets are the single most polluting form of transport, causing about 10 times more CO2 emissions per passenger than a regular flight, and up to 100 times more than trains. About two thirds of such flights are done for leisure over short stretches on which a lower-emitting alternative exists”, says Gianluca Grimalda, university researcher and climate activist. “The ‘collateral damage’ of such flights is to cause about 20.000 deaths every year, as we know that every 4.000 ton of CO2 will kills one person and private jets produce about 80 million tons of CO2 every year. This is unacceptable, inhumane, and abhorrent.”

But private jets are not the only problem: aviation as a whole is the pinnacle of climate injustice, with 1% of the population being responsible for 50% of its emissions and 80% of the world population never having set foot on a plane.

“The wealthy frequent fliers and the airlines profiting from this should be stopped and should be the ones paying for their pollution”, says Ornela De Gasperin Quintero, professor in Ecology, INECOL, A.C. “We demand a drastic reduction of aviation, and that polluters are made to pay for the destruction they are fuelling and frequent fliers are taxed, gathering funds for the necessary transition in the transport sector and for reparations to the communities around the globe who are most affected by the impacts of climate breakdown.”

As the world witnesses the announced death of the 1.5º C barrier, scientists and people worldwide call for a full shift in terms of how society relates to aviation and other high emission sectors, to be able to avert the worst effects of climate breakdown which, while affecting everyone, will be even more deadly for the poorest and most vulnerable parts of society. The rich need to step up and cut superfluous habits such as using private jets, if the entire society is to support a move towards the necessary change.

A report by Oxfam highlighted that the richest 1% grabbed nearly two-thirds of all new wealth created since 2020, totalling $42 trillion, almost twice as much money as the bottom 99% of the world’s population. The demands of the Make Them Pay campaign seek to pave the road towards a fairer wealth distribution: an annual wealth tax of up to 5% on the world’s billionaires could raise $1.7 trillion a year, enough to deliver a 10-year plan to end hunger, support poorer countries being ravaged by climate impacts, and deliver universal healthcare and social protection for everyone living in low-income countries. Climate inequality is one of the world’s most pressing problems, and questions of social and economic justice must be at the heart of how we act on the climate collapse.

Last year, EBACE had already been targeted in a direct action involving more than a hundred climate activists from 17 countries. These actions follow a growing momentum led by civil society groups mounting pressure to cut luxury emissions and tackle the climate impact and inequality of aviation. The groups invite others who want to take action to join the webinar Private jets: Banning bullshit flights, which will take place 13th June, 17:30 – 18:30 CEST, and promise more actions are being planned to challenge the climate destruction caused by the super-rich and a system addicted to fossil fuels.

 

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MEDIA:

Photos and videos for free use are available here.
Media from Farnborough is available here.

ADDITIONAL QUOTES:

“I’m here today because private airports are an abomination. Expanding Farnborough would be putting the indulgent wants of the rich minority over the needs of the majority. Local people need cleaner air and less noise pollution, and the world’s population urgently needs rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to survive. Private airports disproportionately contribute to climate breakdown and closing them would boost our chances of sticking to the Paris Climate Accords, the supposedly legally binding international treaty agreed to and signed by our government.”
– Dr Jessica Upton, 54, from Oxford, a Veterinary surgeon and foster carer

“While simultaneous and never-ending extreme weather events are happening all around the globe with growing intensity, and people struggle everywhere to pay bills and put food on their table, the rich are met again in Geneva to buy their next luxurious private jet at EBACE (the European Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition) and continue fuelling climate breakdown. Groups from a growing international movement to tackle the injustice and climate impact of aviation, joined together once more to call out the rich and make clear that this macabre dance towards climate, environmental and social collapse cannot be tolerated any longer.”
– Joël Perret, Extinction Rebellion Geneva spokesperson