Tomorrow: Sir David King to support Extinction Rebellion defendants at trial for London City Airport protest - Extinction Rebellion UK

Tomorrow: Sir David King to support Extinction Rebellion defendants at trial for London City Airport protest

For more information, copies of the expert witness statements or to arrange interviews with Sir David King, Jay Griffiths or the five London City Airport defendants, contact Zoe on 07918 165 046.

  • Former chief scientific adviser to the UK government to offer evidence for the defence at Extinction Rebellion trial (Tuesday, 28 January, 9.30am) 
  • Sir David King will attend the trial at City of London Magistrates Court and be available for interview
  • The five protesters are charged with aggravated trespass in the first trial for the London City Airport protest during the October Rebellion. If found guilty, they each face a maximum sentence of three months imprisonment
  • Also on trial Tuesday: Writer Jay Griffiths (for charges relating to the April Rebellion) will provide expert defence statements by the UK’s former climate change ambassador, John Ashton, and specialist on climate communications for the IPCC and the UK government, George Marshall

On Tuesday 28 January at City of London Magistrates Court (EC4N), former chief scientific adviser to the UK Government, Sir David King, will offer evidence for the defence of five Extinction Rebellion protesters facing charges of aggravated trespass for the London City Airport action during the October Rebellion. 

Sir David – who served as chief scientist under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown – has prepared an expert statement, in which he highlights the “important role of Extinction Rebellion” in raising awareness about the climate crisis.

During Tuesday’s trial, Sir David King, currently Emeritus Professor at Cambridge University, will sit in the public gallery to watch the legal argument about whether his evidence will be admitted. 

The five people on trial who were arrested on 10 October 2019 during the peaceful action – in which they glued themselves to the concourse between the DLR station and the airport – are: Claudia Fisher, 57, a business woman from Brighton; Phoebe Valentine, 23, a maths student also from Brighton; David Lambert, 60, a historian from Gloucestershire; Senan Clifford, 59, a former teacher also from Gloucestershire; and Ben Bont, 42, a tree surgeon from West Wales.

Sir David King on 3-4 degrees Celsius of warming

In his statement, Sir David says the world is on course for 3-4 degrees Celsius of warming by the end of the century, based on current policy commitments, and that lives would be saved if the government committed to achieving net zero emissions earlier than 2050. Extinction Rebellion is calling for a net zero target of 2025. 

Sir David writes that “vocal public concern” has raised awareness of climate change and pressured politicians to take action. “Extinction Rebellion is playing a similarly important role [to Greta Thunberg] in the UK and elsewhere. The attention of news media and the pressure of ‘ordinary voices’ raises the visibility of the issue of climate change. It is hard to see how the global temperature rise is to be limited, on average, to 1.5 deg in the very narrow timeframe still available unless it becomes a matter of real urgency within the spheres of national and global politics.”

“Climate change represents the greatest threat that humanity, as a whole, has ever had to manage. We are all involved and we need to work together with urgency to generate the pathways to a safer world.”

Read the statement in full here.

Extinction Rebellion’s London City Airport protest called for the UK government to issue a moratorium on all airport expansion and to conduct a national review.  It also highlighted the incompatibility of a planned half a billion pound expansion with the Government’s legally binding commitment to become net carbon neutral by 2050. [1] [2] Twenty one airports are planning to expand by 2040, potentially leading to a 67% passenger increase. By 2050 aviation is projected to account for 25% of UK carbon emissions. [3][4]

Writer Jay Griffiths on trial for her part in Oxford Circus occupation during April Rebellion

Award-winning writer Jay Griffiths will also be on trial on at 9.30am on Tuesday at City of London Magistrates Court (EC4N). Jay – author of eight books who has written for the Guardian, Orion and The Idler, among other publications – is charged with a breach of Section 14 of the Public Order Act. She was arrested at Oxford Circus during the April Rebellion. [5]

Jay hopes to submit witness statements from three experts to support her defence: John Ashton who was the British Government’s climate change Ambassador and Special Representative for three successive Foreign Secretaries; George Marshall, specialist on climate communications for the IPCC and the UK government; and Professor Justin Lewis, Professor at Cardiff University Research Centre in Journalism and Media. 


Defendant Claudia Fisher, 57, a mother of five from Brighton said: “The government response to the climate crisis is wholly inadequate, so much so that it is criminal. The government has a social contract to keep their citizens safe from forces that individuals cannot protect themselves from.

“I am scared, very scared about the future of my children and the future of children all over the world.”
Defendant Phoebe Valentine, 23, a mathematics student at the University of Sussex, said:“The terrifying immediacy of our situation is hard to grasp but needs to be communicated, which is why I take action with Extinction Rebellion. I didn’t want to be arrested, it wasn’t fun, I would have much rather have been at home, but the devastation of our planet isn’t going to wait for me or any of us.”

“I am 23 and like many young people I dream and make plans. Until recently, the climate crisis was a distant worry – something that would effect future generations, not me. But science tells a different story. The mass devastation of our planet has already begun.”

Anneke Sutcliffe of Extinction Rebellion, said“Allowing airports to expand is just one example of pouring fuel on the fire of increasing global carbon emissions. 21 airports in the UK have expansion plans on the table amounting to a 67% passenger increase by 2040. The Committee on Climate Change have told the Government that an absolute maximum of 24% increase should be allowed to enable us to keep within our 2050 carbon neutral target. We urgently need a moratorium, or better, a complete ban on airport expansion UK-wide to get this under control. 

“We all know that the 2050 carbon neutral target is a death sentence. We are reaching tipping points and runaway climate change, the effects of which we are already seeing round the world. Extinction Rebellion will do what it takes to make this injustice heard loud and clear. We cannot keep prioritising profit, economic growth and entitlement to luxuries in this time of crisis. We have to radically turn things around. I salute these brave rebels who are on trial for their actions at City Airport in October, risking their own liberty to protect our childrens’ futures.”

Magdalena Heuwieser from the global Stay Grounded network said:
“We’re flying straight into climate breakdown and we for one can’t understand why aviation is getting special treatment from the government.
Growth of aviation cannot be greenwashed, its emissions cannot be offset, and technologies won’t save us. It’s time to reduce aviation. This includes shifting flights to the rail, taxing kerosene, putting a levy on frequent flyers, stopping airport expansion as well as acknowledging the climate impacts of aviation apart from CO2.”


  1. City Airport plans to double the amount of flights taking off (from 75,000 to potentially 151,000): 
  2. During the London City Airport action, people blocked the departure lounge and entrance road, climbed on the terminal roof, and glued themselves to the entrance to the DLR, closing the station. Former paralympian James Brown glued himself to the top of a plane. 
  4. The Committee on Climate Change(CCC), the Government’s official advisers, has reported that growth at UK airports needs to be almost half the predicted levels if aviation is to meet the government’s target of aviation being net-zero carbon by 2050. The CCC, chaired by former Conservation minister Lord Deben, said, “In the absence of a true zero-carbon plane, demand cannot continue to grow unfettered over the long-term. Our scenario reflects a 25% growth in demand by 2050 compared to 2018 levels. This compares to current Government projections which are for up to a 49% increase in demand over the same period…. The Government should assess its airport capacity strategy in the context of net zero. Specifically, investments will need to be demonstrated to make economic sense in a net-zero world and the transition towards it. Current planned additional airport capacity in London, including the third runway at Heathrow, is likely to leave at most very limited room for growth at non-London airports”

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About Extinction Rebellion

Time has almost entirely run out to address the ecological crisis which is upon us, including the 6th mass species extinction, global pollution, and abrupt, runaway climate change. Societal collapse and mass death are seen as inevitable by scientists and other credible voices, with human extinction also a possibility, if rapid action is not taken.

Extinction Rebellion believes it is a citizen’s duty to rebel, using peaceful civil disobedience, when faced with criminal inactivity by their Government.

Extinction Rebellion’s key demands are:

  1. Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
  2. Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
  3. Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.

What Emergency? | Extinction Rebellion in Numbers |This Is Not A Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook 

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About Rising Up!

Extinction Rebellion emerged from the Rising Up! network, which promotes a fundamental change of our political and economic system to one which maximises well-being and minimises harm. Change needs to be nurtured in a culture of reverence, gratitude and inclusion while the tools of civil disobedience and direct action are used to express our collective power.

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