Extinction Rebellion blockades UK's largest private airport
Farnborough airport barricaded by activists locked to a stretch limousine, fuel barrels and a giant steel tripod in call for polluter elite to cut their emissions
Extinction Rebellion activists have blocked all major entrances to Farnborough Airport in Hampshire today (2nd October) to protest against the shockingly high levels of CO2 that private flights emit per passenger.
As world leaders gather for the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow this month, protestors are calling on the world's super-rich elite of celebrities, oligarchs and business leaders to ditch private flights. These private flyers, just 1% of the world’s population, cause half of aviation’s global emissions. Extinction Rebellion is also demanding the government stops private flights now.
The 30,000 private flights to and from Farnborough Airport each year carry an average of just 2.3 passengers, with each passenger responsible for the emission of nine times as much carbon as an economy flight to the US and 20 times that to Spain. The airport has permission to increase flight movements to 50,000 a year.
In protest at this wanton level of pollution by the super-rich, Extinction Rebellion has today blockaded three key airport entrances with activists locked on top of a 3 metre high steel tripod at one gateway and to fuel barrels at a second. The third entrance is barricaded by a stretch limousine, with the driver locked on to the steering wheel and a protestor dressed as a media mogul glued to the roof. Other demonstrators from across the South East, including a former airline pilot, are also protesting at the gates of the airport with banners exclaiming Private Flights Cost The Earth; Stop Private Flights Now; Private Jets = Public Deaths.
The airport’s recent move to offer “Sustainable” Aviation Fuels (SAF) to aircraft is condemned as utter greenwash, since the sheer amount of SAF needed to fuel the aviation industry would result in the mass destruction of forests and biodiversity.
Protestor Sarah Hart, 40, a sales manager and resident of Farnborough, said:
“I am taking this action against the airport to highlight the damage private flying is doing to the environment and the lack of accountability by the users who avoid public scrutiny. I am demanding the government act now and ban private flights.”
Activist Marion Malcher, 66, a project manager from Woking, said:
“It's madness that a tiny number of very rich people, just 1%, are creating half of aviation’s carbon emissions, whilst the poorest people suffer and die because of climate breakdown. They're inflicting massive damage to all life on our beautiful planet. Luxury private flights must stop, they are literally costing us the earth.”
Protestor Todd Smith, 32, a former airline pilot from Reading, criticised Farnborough Airport’s move to offer SAF as a so-called alternative fuel.
He said: “The term ‘Sustainable Aviation Fuel’ was coined by the aviation and fossil fuel industry to deceive the public and greenwash the utterly destructive nature of biofuels.
“Biofuels result in land grabs, deforestation, biodiversity loss, water scarcity, rising food prices and land-use emissions which can be worse than the fossil fuel they are replacing. The most optimistic forecasts say there are only sufficient global resources to support approximately 5.5% of projected EU jet fuel demand in 2030.“The alternative fuel that SAF producer Neste plans to supply to Farnborough would be used much more efficiently in ships and trucks and given there’s only small quantities available, should be prioritized to decarbonise more essential activities than private jet use.”
Mike Grant, 61, a former serviceman, from Rosewell near Edinburgh said "Private jets are an environmental disaster. Those who use private jets have the wealth and power to know and do so much better. They boast about being leaders of society and drivers of the economy. They are also drivers of the climate crisis. We call upon them to show real leadership, to take responsibility for their actions, to tell the truth about the impact of private jets on the environment and to do the right thing….park them."
One of the key recommendations made to the government by the Climate Assembly UK in its report The Path to Net Zero is to ban polluting private jets and helicopters, moving to electric when possible. They also called for frequent fliers and those that fly further to be made to pay more. The government has shown no sign of acting on either demand.
Research by think tank Transport and Environment, revealed that CO2 emissions from private jets in Europe rose by nearly a third between 2005 and 2019 – outstripping scheduled flights. It found that the biggest source of pollution was from jets departing from the UK and France – accounting for 36% of all private flight emissions in Europe.
Climate charity Possible recently described the private jet as representing the most extreme end of the climate injustice that characterises air travel. It is calling for the banning of fossil-fuelled private jets at UK airports within the next five years.
The protest comes days before the Farnborough International Exhibition Centre, based at the airport, hosts the "Arms Fair", the DPRTE Defence Procurement and Supply Chain event on 5th October.
Notes for Editors:
Live stream taking place from around 7.00am. Available to view afterwards.
Images available from 7.30 am
Social Media hashtags
Key facts about private flights:
- The polluter elite (just 1% of the world’s population) caused half of aviation’s emissions in 2018 https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/nov/17/people-cause-global-aviation-emissions-study-covid-19
- Private jets - up to 40 times as much CO2 per passenger as commercial flights.
- Just 2.5 passengers per flight
Farnborough Airport: Planning Application to increase permitted aircraft movement Economic Statement May 2009 para 3.4
- Each flight - the same amount of CO2e as nine UK citizens in a year
Based on 2020 average of 4.5t per UK citizen, 1.3mt of CO2e per annum and 33,000 movements.
- Fuel at Farnborough – an annual £47 million tax-free, duty-free gift to the super-rich
Based on £30m of fuel sales in 2019
- Fuel at Farnborough – 14 x BP petrol stations stacked one on top of each other
- The rich have had far too much freedom to design the planet according to their wishes.”https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/nov/17/people-cause-global-aviation-emissions-study-covid-19
- Heathrow is just 22 miles away
- Bill Gates on his private jet: a “guilty pleasure” https://www.businessinsider.com/bill-gates-spending-biggest-indulgences-2018-2?r=US&IR=T
- The UK has seen a doubling of private jet flights since April this year versus last, with the biggest year-on-year bounces at Farnborough, Jersey and Oxford airports, according to aviation business monitoring group WingX. https://wingx-advance.com/domestic-traffic-rebounding-fast-international-connections-lagging/
- A key recommendation of the Climate Assembly UK is to ban polluting private jets and helicopters, moving to electric when possible. It also called for frequent fliers and those that fly further to be made to pay more.https://www.climateassembly.uk/report/read/final-report.pdf
- Farnborough Airport is Europe’s premier private jet facility, affording access to London for ultra-high net worth individuals, corporate executives, business owners and government representatives from across the world.
- Farnborough has around 30,000 aircraft movements each year and has authorisation to increase that to a maximum of 50,000.
- The airport claims to be exclusively dedicated to ‘business’ aviation, however, during the Covid pandemic it has been increasingly used for leisure flights by individuals wanting to avoid crowded commercial airports.
- It is home to a number of the UK's largest business jet companies, including Gama Aviation, Executive Jet Charter and Bookajet.
- The airport competes with similar facilities at Luton (where Harrods bases its own private jet facility), London City Airport, Stansted, Biggin Hill and Oxford.
- Farnborough Airport is regarded as the premier private airport, regularly awarded the industry’s top European accolade for its combination of luxurious facilities and access to London.
- Farnborough Airport jealously guards the identity of its users who are drawn from the ranks of the super-rich and business elite and include Arab Royalty, Russian oligarchs, celebrities and VIPs, and high-end business owners (the Davos elite) who can afford to travel in this fashion. These are the polluter elite.
Countering Farnborough Airport’s greenwash on SAF
- ‘Sustainable’ aviation fuel is a greenwash term that needs to be called out as such.
- The only type of non-fossil aviation fuels that have been proven at commercial scale are biofuels made from Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids (HEFA) made from 'waste oils'. However, the feedstock for this process are already fully utilised by the road transport sector to make biodiesel and virgin vegetable oil (palm and soy oil is the cheapest) is still being used e.g. by Neste who supply 'SAF' to Farnborough. The global supply of genuine wastes and residues available for biofuels is miniscule in comparison with the requirement and it simply cannot be scaled sustainably.
- Converting all used cooking oil (UCO) that can be realistically collected in the EU would meet just 0.26% of the EU’s aviation fuel requirement. Moreover, the available supply of UCO is already fully utilised for powering land vehicles. Diverting it to private jet use will mean taking it away from existing customers who will then be required to rely on biofuels made from virgin vegetable oil including palm oil
- As so little is produced globally, all SAF is heavily blended with conventional Jet-A fuel (kerosene).
- Despite running a SAF demonstration in May 2019, Farnborough has yet to sell a single litre. In 2019, it sold £30m of conventional Jet A kerosene, the airport’s largest single revenue stream.
- There is no truly sustainable aviation fuel. A theoretical 'green' alternative to aviation fuel (kerosene) can be produced by combining green hydrogen (from electrolysis of water using 'spare' renewable electricity) with carbon captured directly from the air. In practice this is such an inefficient process in that the resulting fuel would cost at least three times as much kerosene (according to the most optimistic long term forecasts.) Resulting in massive strain on the electricity supply, which will need to supply power for electric vehicles and heat pumps
- Useful video brief on SAF from Green Sky Thinking Channel
Farnborough Airport Website:
Rushmore Borough Council:
Farnborough Aerodrome Consultative Committee:
Farnborough Airport PlanMaster plan (2009)
Farnborough International Exhibition and Conference Centre:
"CODE RED for humanity" - The UN Secretary-General António Guterres
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 demands are:
- Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
- Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
- Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.