NEW research shows just 20 airports produced the equivalent CO2 emissions of 58 coal plants Launched today, the 2024 ‘Airport Tracker’ – an update to the first global inventory of CO2 and local air pollutants from passenger and freight flights – shows the scale of...
Stay Grounded in review: 2023 – A year of sustained momentum
2023 was a busy year, with lots of growth and momentum in the movement and within the Stay Grounded network. We saw our network grow – reaching 215 members! – and numerous inventive and impactful actions against private jets, aviation growth, and destructive tourism. While it’s impossible to cover everything, here’s our attempt to give an overview of the activities and achievements of our 215 member initiatives, our individual members, our working groups, our volunteers, our Turtles coordination group, and our team of campaigners.
The call to ban private jets grew loud
Our campaign against private jets and luxury emissions gained momentum and demands for policymakers to implement effective solutions – such as a ban on private jets, a ban on frequent flying programmes, and a tax on frequent flying – were echoed by the movement through powerful actions throughout the year.
In May, a hundred activists supporting Stay Grounded, Greenpeace, Extinction Rebellion, and Scientist Rebellion, and other climate justice groups, disrupted Europe’s biggest sales fair of private jets (EBACE) in Geneva. It was a key moment in the movement to hold the rich accountable for their outrageous emissions and brought hope and motivation. “We’ve come to tell the super-rich that the party is over. To expose the toxicity of the private jet industry, which is fuelling further the climate catastrophe and injustice!”, explained Charlène Fleury, who came to join the action from France.
As part of the campaign we produced a number of resources to help people understand and explain why private jets are the pinnacle of climate injustice. We created key messages to frame and communicate the issue, a Q&A cheatsheet, and infographics. In August, we released our factsheet on private jets (available in English, French, Spanish and German), which debunks claims made by the private jet industry and explains the solutions we need.
In October, 90 organisations – including Stay Grounded – issued an open letter calling on national and European policymakers to ban private jets and tax frequent flying. Our demand for an end to luxury emissions was bolstered by people across Europe, just days before, taking to the streets in the Their Time To Pay marches which called for an end to the current unjust system and the resulting cost of living and climate crises.
The energy for action continued throughout 2023. In April, we joined The Big One – a mass protest organised by Extinction Rebellion in the UK – our member BAAN co-organised the March Against Airport Expansion with over 5,000 people joining. Groups in France staged a week of actions in May to demand a cap on flights and a curfew.
The year culminated with several key moments in the movement to ground aviation. In Mexico, several actions took place against the new Tulum International Airport. Activists condemned the marketing of this as a ‘green airport’ despite its devastating environmental impact and the fact that it jeopardises Mayan peoples’ interests.
At the same time, supporters of Code Rouge from across Europe took action at Liège Airport in a peaceful direct action to demand a drastic reduction of flights. Shortly before, hundreds of activists were arrested around Antwerp, while preparing to block Antwerp International airport, one of the biggest private jet airports in Belgium. Despite police targeting activists, a large group managed to enter Antwerp Airport and achieved success: no private jets took off from Kortrijk or Antwerp on that day.
Fighting industry greenwashing
2023 saw the aviation industry dig its heels even further into new greenwashing strategies in order to continue its climate-wrecking growth. As always, we didn’t let them! The Stay Grounded greenwashing working group produced a detailed, comprehensively researched, and accessible fact-sheet on Carbon Offsetting. This explained why the very concept of using resources that are essential for the global majority to continue the polluting habits of a wealthy minority is fundamentally unjust. Meanwhile, research commissioned by Stay Grounded showed the reality of forest carbon offsets: exaggerated emission savings and legal challenges.
We saw the industry shift its focus towards so-called Sustainable Aviation Fuel in 2023, presenting it as a magic bullet to continue to pollute. We turned their attempts to greenwash the public with so-called SAF into an opportunity to raise public awareness of this false solution. During Virgin Atlantic’s 100% so-called “SAF” flight we contributed to over 300 articles while also doing TV and radio interviews to call them out for what it was: a greenwashing marketing gimmick.
Our network and educational work grew
In 2023, we welcomed 15 new member initiatives. Our multipliers network also grew to nearly 200 multipliers ready to give talks and workshops about aviation and climate injustice. Across autumn we ran 30 trainings for multipliers in French, English, Spanish, and German and saw enthusiastic new campaigners joining our global network to spread the word.
We hosted two webinars looking at the destruction wrought by extractivist tourism and an industry co-dependent on aviation. The first reimagined tourism in a future with less air traffic and the second examined the urge to travel to far away places while ignoring the beauty and mystery that surrounds us. Last year our airport conflict working group collaborated again with the Environmental Justice team to continually update the map of airport conflicts and injustices in the Environmental Justice Atlas (English/Spanish). In August, the Mexican members CPOEEM and Otros Mundos represented Stay Grounded at the Mesoamerican Gathering for Social Moments – a valuable opportunity to exchange with other movements in the region and place the topic of aviation in the agenda of such a meeting. In September, we also co-organised a webinar with our member CECIC on the dynamics of airport expansion and tourism development in the African continent while focusing on the resistance against the expansion of the Kasese airstrip in Uganda.
In February, we joined with Safe Landing and Transport & Environment to organise an online workshop inviting aviation workers to discuss their future and job security. The aim was to bring together workers across companies and trade unions from different countries to share experiences, network and strategise. In September, we joined with Umanotera, to host a webinar on aviation subsidies in Europe. This session explored the complex web of direct and indirect subsidies which privilege the aviation industry in the EU and explained that any campaign to abolish aviation subsidies would need to include aviation workers and focus on the positive impact of taxing aviation.
The Stay Grounded campaigners team also saw new members join with Sara joining as an action coordinator, Lounes joining within the Network Coordination and Education teams, and Sean and Hannah joining the comms team. At the regional coordination level, Angel Sulub joined the team as regional coordinator for the network in Latin America & the Caribbean (LAC), an important milestone in the consolidation of the LAC network and SG work in the region. During winter, the campaigners team and the Turtles coordinating committee took part in a two session anti-oppression training to reflect on ways to further decolonise our network structures and protocols.
Looking to 2024
In 2024 we want to build on the skills, momentum, and achievements that were plentiful in 2023. We’ll be looking at measures to reduce frequent flying, countering industry greenwashing on so-called “SAF”, and continuing to support local airport resistances.
If you’re interested in getting more involved with Stay Grounded in 2024 by becoming a member, join us!
In spring, we’re joining Badvertising for an international week of action to expose the industry’s scandalous greenwashing. To get involved in organising a creative action sign up.
Thank you for your support! We look forward to organising alongside you, learning with you, and supporting each other in 2024 and beyond.