LONDON Four environmental campaigners breached
security at London's Heathrow airport on Monday, climbing
aboard a parked aircraft and unfurling a banner protesting
against runway expansion plans.
Police later arrested the four from Greenpeace who walked
through security at one of the world's most policed airports.
"Climate emergency. No 3rd runway" read the banner they
hung on the tailfin of a passenger plane that had just landed
after a domestic flight from the northern city of Manchester.
The protest, with others to follow outside parliament later
in the day, came just two days before the end of the
government's public consultation on the planned expansion which
has pitted business against environmentalists.
Plans to build a third runway for what is already the
world's busiest international airport have sparked protests and
a virulent blogging campaign stressing a contradiction between
major aviation expansion and attempts to fight global warming.
"The arguments in favor simply don't stack up," said Nic
Ferriday of the Aviation Environment Federation.
"You can't have the massive expansion of aviation in this
country -- led by Heathrow -- when the government is at the
same time promising to cut carbon emissions to fight climate
Heathrow already handles 67.3 million passengers and
471,000 aircraft movements a year, figures which are forecast
to double over the next 30 years if expansion goes ahead.
Businesses say Heathrow provides vital links to the United
States, Europe and booming Asian economies like India and
More than a third of businessmen polled by London's
Institute of Directors took a business flight 10 times or more
last year and say work would suffer if flights were curbed.
HEATHROW FLIGHT PATH
With about two million people under Heathrow's flight path
if expansion goes ahead and hundreds of homes due to be
bulldozed, many local residents want expansion stopped.
Scientists say global average temperatures will rise by
between 1.8 and 4.0 degrees Celsius this century due to carbon
emissions from burning fossil fuels for transport and power,
with emissions at altitude twice as harmful as at ground level.
"Aviation accounts for about 13 percent of Britain's
climate impact. That percentage will rise very sharply as the
number of flights doubles and efforts are made to cut emissions
elsewhere," said WWF transport campaigner Pete Lockley.
The government argues that aviation expansion is vital for
the economy, an argument Lockley said did not hold water if a
true climate cost was factored into the equation.
Campaigners say only about one quarter of flights are for
"At the predicted rate of expansion, aviation will account
for all of Britain's emissions target by the middle of the
century," said Patrick Gillett of Plane Stupid.
Aircraft manufacturers have improved planes' fuel
efficiency in recent years, and trials are under way to power
them with biofuels, but most airlines are counting on emissions
trading and carbon offsetting to balance most of their impact.
Such schemes come at a cost, but nearly two thirds of those
polled by the IoD said they were willing to pay 5-10 percent
more for a business flight on environmental grounds.
A bill going through parliament and expected to become law
within three months commits the government to cut emissions of
carbon dioxide, the main climate change culprit, by at least 60
percent from 1990 by 2050 and by 26-32 percent by 2020.
Environment Secretary Hilary Benn has promised to look at
raising the end target to 80 percent.
(Editing by Peter Millership)