Extinction Rebellion protests against ‘climate blind’ Gatwick Airport expansion  - Extinction Rebellion UK

Extinction Rebellion protests against ‘climate blind’ Gatwick Airport expansion 

Proposed expansion will increase carbon emissions by 1 million tonnes and boost passenger numbers to up 80 million a year

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Extinction Rebellion activists are protesting outside the Sandman Signature London Gatwick Hotel this morning (Wednesday 28 February) against Gatwick Airport’s plans to increase passenger numbers to 80 million a year, at the start of a six month government planning inspectorate examination, which is sitting at the hotel.

The UK’s second-largest airport plans to bring its standby runway into regular use, allowing it to handle up to 75 million passengers a year by the late 2030s, up from a record 46.5 million passengers in 2019, rising to more than 80 million passengers by 2047.

The proposed expansion will make Gatwick passenger numbers almost as large as Heathrow’s, and increase carbon emissions by 1 million tonnes a year [1], putting the UK Government’s Carbon Budget Delivery Plan in even greater jeopardy. [2]  

The climate and environment activists have moored the iconic XR Pink Boat in front of the venue with banners reading ‘Fewer Flights Not More’ and ‘Flying To Extinction’ and are accompanied by drummers from XR Rhythms. Another banner reading ‘Flight Reductions Not Airport Expansion’ is stretched across the dual carriageway outside. 

Other campaign groups and organisations demonstrating outside the hotel include the Green Party, the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC), Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions (CAGNE) and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

All of these groups have expressed alarm at the lack of a specific hearing to consider the climate impact of the plans [3], which will massively boost aviation’s already significant contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and which fly in the face of the Climate Change Committee’s recommendations on limiting aviation.

A priority recommendation of the Climate Change Committee, in its 2023 progress report to Parliament, states that “No airport expansions should proceed until a UK-wide capacity management framework is in place to annually assess and, if required, control sector GHG emissions and non-CO2 effects.” [4]

Todd Smith, a former Gatwick pilot and current XR spokesperson said, “We’re often told that airport expansion is good for jobs, however, the biggest threat to job security is climate breakdown and enforced regulations leading to a major industry crash. With airports in Europe having to contend with wildfires and floods recently, and a 55% increase in severe turbulence, it’s about time the industry genuinely starts acting like ‘safety is our number one priority’.” 

Jonathan Essex, Green group leader on Surrey County Council said: “Gatwick should not be competing with Heathrow to be the UK’s biggest climate polluter whilst claiming its climate impacts are insignificant. Instead the Government should put a moratorium on airport expansion and establish a framework to limit demand for air travel, as called for by the UK’s official climate change advisors. Airport expansion is completely at odds with the climate emergency. Gatwick’s plans are greenwash of the highest order”.  

George Hibberd, a former EasyJet pilot at Gatwick and community member at Safe Landing said: “If Gatwick were serious about their climate commitments, they would be reducing flights whilst re-designing airport infrastructure as required for genuinely clean and green aircraft. This could increase jobs in both the short and long-run – whilst securing a habitable planet and improving air quality for both employees and the local community.”

Notes for Editors:

[1] “Assuming Gatwick’s standby runway continues to serve a similar range of destinations with the same aircraft fleet mix, and extrapolating the data from the DfT’s scenario and applying it to an increased passenger throughput of 70mppa, this would equate to 3.63MtCO2 in 2050, an increase of nearly 1MtCO2.” – ‘Why Gatwick Expansion Adds To The Aviation Carbon Headache’, The Aviation Environment Federation (AEF): https://www.aef.org.uk/2019/08/15/why-gatwick-expansion-adds-to-the-aviation-carbon-headache/

[2] ‘The Government didn’t want to publish these climate risk tables – here they are’, Good Law Project: https://goodlawproject.org/update/the-government-didnt-want-to-publish-these-climate-risk-tables-here-they-are/

[3] Request for an Additional Specific Issue Hearing on Climate Change, CPRE Sussex: https://infrastructure.planninginspectorate.gov.uk/wp-content/ipc/uploads/projects/TR020005/TR020005-001403-PDL%20-%20CPRE%20Sussex%20-%20Written%20submissions%20on%20Examination%20procedure.pdf 

Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions (CAGNE) request for specific hearings: https://infrastructure.planninginspectorate.gov.uk/wp-content/ipc/uploads/projects/TR020005/TR020005-001366-PDL%20-%20CAGNE%20-%20Written%20submissions%20on%20Examination%20procedure.pdf

Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC) submission for the Preliminary Meeting on the Gatwick Airport Northern Runway Project: https://infrastructure.planninginspectorate.gov.uk/wp-content/ipc/uploads/projects/TR020005/TR020005-001398-PDL%20-%20Gatwick%20Area%20Conservaton%20Campaign%20-%20Written%20submissions%20on%20Examination%20procedure.pdf

[4] 2023 Progress Report to Parliament, by the Climate Change Committee:  https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/2023-progress-report-to-parliament/ 

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