Taking the pledge

The campaign to prevent airport expansion is gathering early momentum

November 1, 2004
4 min read

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.’

www.airportpledge.org.uk


✹ Try our new pay-as-you-feel subscription — you choose how much to pay.

Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.

West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective

How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences

The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally

Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.

Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change

Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces

Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'

Confronting Brexit
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond

On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network

Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter

#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement

Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.

Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees

Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides

The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari

Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next

Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace

Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill

Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility

Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports

From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices

How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed

In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design

Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform

Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out