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13 climate activists from the Plane Stupid campaign are facing prison sentencing next week on the 24th of February following their runway occupation last July at Heathrow airport in London. Due to Heathrow’s responsibility of 50% of all airport emissions in the United Kingdom and their plans to introduce a third runway, Plane Stupid campaigners chained themselves to the railing to demonstrate their opposition. The group is charged with aggravated trespassing, despite pleading not guilty on account of saving lives as a result of cutting emissions. Real World Radio has interviewed Danielle Paffard, one of the ‘Heathrow 13,’ to share her story and to gain insight into the urgency of addressing the environmental impacts of the aviation industry.
Plane Stupid is a grassroots, direct action group opposing all airport expansion. The group has had success in the past, with Heathrow airport’s plan for a third runway coming to a halt in 2010 following efforts of direct action and opposition from the community, supportive MPs and enormous media pressure. With the proposal of a third runway being introduced again, Paffard claims it is a real ‘kick in the teeth’ but that the group will continue to stay true to their mission of “no ifs, no buts, no third runway.”
The aviation industry is the fastest growing source of global emissions, despite only 2% of the population ever taking a flight. To make matters worse, it is the one sector that cannot be decarbonised, unlike other forms of transport, heating, and electricity. Paffard holds that the only way to reduce aviation emissions is by limiting the number of flights, and being that the U.K. flies more than any other nation in the world, Plane Stupid feels a great responsibility to take serious action.
Despite the unfortunate ordeal that the ‘Heathrow 13’ find themselves in, Paffard holds that the fight will continue:
“On the day we get sentenced, we expect hundreds and hundreds of people to be outside the court and if we get sent down, we will immediately be calling for a day of action that weekend at Heathrow, at the same time as the protest in France about the airport expansion there - really to show support, and to show it is a global movement and it’s not going to go away. The more you will try to crush it, the more it will rise up. I hope that by the time we come out of prison to see an even stronger climate movement and an even stronger movement to stop airport expansion.”
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