This October a wide coalition of campaign groups launched a pledge that has great implications for UK action on climate change. Aimed at air transport, which is expected to contribute more than half the UK’s share of greenhouse gases by 2050, the ‘pledge against aviation expansion’ invites people to sign up to the statement: ‘If the government refuses to back away from its expansion policy, I will take personal action to block airport expansion and to prevent companies from supporting and funding it.’ Unlike a routine petition, with which the hope is that a large number of people making the same request will persuade government to change its policies, the pledge is a personal statement of intent to be active. This action could include anything from providing resource support to the campaign overall to blockading construction sites for airport developments.
The pledge comes as a direct follow-up to the government’s plans to carry out the biggest single programme of aviation expansion that the UK has ever seen. The Future of Air Transport, the December 2003 aviation white paper, predicted that by 2030 figures for UK airport passengers would be three times the number that they are today. In response, the government is proposing new runways at airports that could include Stansted, Heathrow or Gatwick, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as significant expansion at other British airports.
Such a narrow ‘predict and provide’ approach to transport has a precedent in policies on road-building. However, a key difference between the mass campaigns against road expansion in the 1990s and the campaign currently building up against aviation expansion, is that the latter is attempting to show the strength of its supporter base at an early stage. A very public and very large level of opposition against Thatcher’s ‘predict and provide’ road-building programme did not really take off until the 1990s, when the direction of development was set and construction work was well on its way. Today, many of the proposed aviation schemes are right back at the starting block. George Marshall of the climate change campaign Rising Tide says: ‘We really have a chance of stopping these plans if we can show early on that the political risk for the government in pushing this issue could be huge.’
Marshall points out the impact that the pledge could have on the funding needed for airport developments to go ahead. ‘Take Stansted, where a vast amount of private money is needed for the proposed expansion,’ he says. ‘If any high street bank, for example, should consider backing this project I would like to be able to go to them and suggest that the scale of opposition, illustrated by the number of pledge signatories, creates a high level of risk for the bank, making airport expansion a very poor investment.’
Opponents to airport expansion have already scored one significant victory, for The Future of Air Transport is the first white paper ever to face a judicial review. Campaigners have been given permission to present evidence to the High Court that the document was fundamentally flawed and reached conclusions that were irrational and inconsistent with the government’s own policies and with the consultation ground rules. Such inconsistencies have been clearly spelled out by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee. The committee’s March 2004 aviation report concluded: ‘If aviation emissions increase on the scale predicted by the Department for Transport, the UK’s 60 per cent carbon emission reduction target, which the government set last year, will become meaningless and unachievable.’
Pledge campaigners point to the many different aviation strategies that could be pursued, from developing a high-quality rail system in the UK and eliminating the need for internal flights, to ending the massive tax breaks currently enjoyed by the aviation industry. ‘The action needed to cut back on carbon emissions that accelerate climate change is completely within our reach,’ says Marshall. ‘In the case of the pledge and the campaign to oppose aviation expansion, the key to being effective lies in the numbers. It all comes down to individuals making that personal commitment and signing the pledge.’
As man-made global warming gets closer to the tipping point, Andrew Simms finds reasons to be positive about averting catastrophic climate change
In this extract from his new book The Candidate, Alex Nunns tells the inside story of how Jeremy Corbyn scraped onto the Labour leadership ballot in 2015
Graham Jones proposes a framework for a diverse movement to flourish
Musician Eliane Correa reflects on the fading revolution
Trump's victory is another sign of the failure of the centre-left's narrative on climate change. A new message is needed, and new politicians to deliver it, writes Alex Randall
Siobhán McGuirk says the question we are too afraid to ask is simple - what kind of society leads to Donald Trump as President?
The battle lines are clear. Democracy is in peril and the left must take itself seriously electorally and politically. Ruth Potts speaks to Gary Younge, who was based in Muncie, Indiana, for the US election, about the implications of Donald Trump’s victory
We need a society built on openness, community and equality to truly defeat everything that trump stands for, writes Nick Dearden.
Short story: Syrenka
A short story by Kirsten Irving
Utopia: Industrial Workers Taking the Wheel
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry – and its lessons for today
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue
Utopia: Room for all
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK
A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank
News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions
Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release
Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts
‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette
The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.
How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op
Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU
Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson
Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release
University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.
Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.
Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History
Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.
A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas
Book Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
'In spite of the odds Corbyn is still standing' - Alex Doherty reviews Seymour's analysis of the rise of Corbyn
From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
'A small manifesto for black liberation through socialist revolution' - Graham Campbell reviews Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's 'From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation'
The Fashion Revolution: Turn to the left
Bryony Moore profiles Stitched Up, a non-profit group reimagining the future of fashion
The abolition of Art History A-Level will exacerbate social inequality
This is a massive blow to the rights of ordinary kids to have the same opportunities as their more privileged peers. Danielle Child reports.
Mass civil disobedience in Sudan
A three-day general strike has brought Sudan to a stand still as people mobilise against the government and inequality. Jenny Nelson writes.
Mustang film review: Three fingers to Erdogan
Laura Nicholson reviews Mustang, Deniz Gamze Erguven’s unashamedly feminist film critique of Turkey’s creeping conservatism
What if the workers were in control?
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry
Airport expansion is a racist policy
Climate change is a colonial crisis, writes Jo Ram