International network of activists mount campaign to halt growth of the aviation sector
(photo: Stay Grounded)
Wed 17 Oct 2018 – A two-week campaign has ended by an international network of around 130 civil society organisations and activist groups to protest against unrestrained expansion of the aviation sector and its impact on the climate and local residents. The Stay Grounded network, which includes Friends of the Earth International, reports it carried out 27 “actions” in 11 countries to raise awareness of what it describes as “the ongoing massive wave of airport infrastructure expansion and the need for alternatives”. The countries included Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands and the UK. The network says its campaign is also directed against the ICAO CORSIA scheme and the use of carbon offsetting. It has published a position paper outlining 13 steps for transitioning towards a transport system “that is more socially just and ecologically sustainable”.
“The actions are directed against airport infrastructure projects, many of them leading to noise and health issues, loss of homes, biodiversity and fertile lands,” said Mira Kapfinger from the Vienna-based Stay Grounded, which has produced a map of airports around the world it says have produced local conflicts.
Its argument against CORSIA is based on what it sees as “cheap and ineffective carbon credits with a record of fuelling land-grabbing and human rights violations in the Global South” being bought by the aviation industry to achieve its carbon neutral growth goal after 2020.
“Instead of assuming responsibility for the harmful impact of its reckless growth path, the industry is trying to buy its way out at the expense of vulnerable populations who are at risk of losing their livelihoods due to these offsetting projects,” said Kapfinger.
Referring to opposition by the European aviation industry to passenger taxes and to staying in the EU Emissions Trading System because of the introduction of CORSIA, Stay Grounded’s co-coordinator Magdalena Heuwieser added: “CORSIA is not only a greenwashed cloth attempting to polish aviation, it is also being used as a diversion tactic to block any effective regulation of the sector.”
The 13 steps the network recommends “to transform transport, society and the economy to be just and environmentally sound” include a move towards “a transport system that is democratically regulated and planned, promotes and supports the common good, and that is integrated and ecological.” It calls for a moratorium on new airports and airport expansion; a loss of subsidies and tax breaks for the aviation sector; an end to marketing incentives such as frequent flyer programmes; an end to carbon offsetting; and a halt to using “destructive” biofuels. Stay Grounded says research should continue for long-term technological improvements but believes such “fixes” are an illusion and divert the focus away from the immediate emission cuts needed.
“For decades, the aviation industry has enjoyed many privileges,” said Kapfinger. “For example, flight tickets and kerosene still remain untaxed, in contrast to car fuel or train tickets. Now is the time to wake up. Rather than fuelling further expansion, air traffic urgently needs to be controlled and reduced, before we get locked into their unaffordable emissions. This process needs to be socially just.”