Halt Airport Expansions
On Tuesday 11th February 2020, Extinction Rebellion Newham held an action to demand a halt to airport expansions. Pictures and information about the action are below.
This action was supported by activists in Toronto – see their youtube video here:
On 24th February 2020, the following letter was delivered, by hand, to the offices of the Ontario Teacher’s Pension Plan at Portman Square. The community has written this letter, calling for OTPP to stop polluting our community and destroying our world with airport expansion. This call comes from faith leaders, charity workers and teachers, and OTPP refused to take the letter last week. They wouldn’t even let us through the door. So here is the letter being handed in and the text of the letter for the world to see:
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11 February 2020
Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan
10 Portman Square
Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan
5650 Yonge Street
Re: Request to withdraw your investment from the expansion of London City Airport
Dear Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan,
We are representing Newham, London residents writing to you to ask you to withdraw your investment from the expansion of London City Airport. In addition, we ask that you cease the expansions of Bristol and Birmingham Airports.
London City Airport lies in the urban borough of Newham: one of the most dense places in the UK by population, one of the most vibrantly diverse by culture and faith, one of the most tragically poor by income and services, and one of the youngest by age-profile. Newham has a population of 359,470, forecast to rise to 463,190 by 2035. Newham is on the edge of the financial heart of the UK, the City of London, and major roads cut through Newham heading into the centre of London. The toxicity of the air around these roads is already above safe standards. As these roads converge to the south east of the borough, near City Airport, the toxicity reaches its peak. Last year in Newham, there were 96 deaths directly attributable to the toxicity of the air.
In the UK are becoming increasingly aware of the effects of the Climate and Ecological Emergency: not just because the UK Government, and Newham Borough Council, has declared an Emergency; not only because of research published by highly reputable bodies (for instance, a study by Kings College London found that children’s lung growth can be stunted by 14%, 25.11.19); not simply because we see evidence on our TV’s of fires and floods (floods in the North of England in November 2019); not just because we help our children do homework on Climate Change: but because our families have to breathe in the fumes, day by day.
We write to you to ask you to withdraw your investment from the expansion of London City Airport.
This expansion is based on the prediction that passenger demand will rise from the current 5m to 11m by 2035. In June, London City Airport released its plans for a major expansion over the next fifteen years. Although the company has no intention of expanding its physical footprint by building a new runway or terminal – there simply isn’t the space – it is seeking authority for a reconfiguration of the runway and terminal infrastructure, and for a relaxation of the restrictions around its operation.
In short, the airport wants to be allowed to operate during times that it is not currently permitted, or when flights are limited. That would include an end to the 24-hour weekend closure between 12.30pm on Saturday and 12.30pm on Sunday, lifting the annual cap of 111,000 flights to 151,000 by 2035, and increasing the number of flights that can land and take off during the first and last half hour of the airport’s daily operations.
Any such expansion will impact the lives of Newham residents, who will be forced to deal with yet more noisy planes overhead, during even more antisocial hours. It will also exacerbate the city’s air pollution crisis, which already causes thousands of premature deaths every year.
Most residents of Newham have never even flown out of London City Airport.
The annual salary of an average passenger from the airport is reportedly £114,000 – four times the median UK income, three times that of the typical Londoner, nearly 5 times that of the average Newham worker, and the highest of all the airports in the UK. More than half of its passengers are business customers flying directly into financial capitals such as Frankfurt and Zurich, or tax havens like Luxembourg and the Isle of Man.
Those who do use the airport for leisure trips earn far more than middle-income holidaymakers. Most of the planes owned by low-cost carriers, such as EasyJet and Ryanair, are too large to use its runway.
The airport claims that its expansion will be carbon neutral. But even if we could take its speculative claims at face value, these promises don’t go anywhere near far enough. If we’re to meet the goals set out in the Paris Agreement and limit global temperature increase to two degrees centigrade, we need to actively reduce the quantity of greenhouse gases being expelled into the atmosphere. Off-setting emissions will not help to clean the air in Newham.
So we are requesting you withdraw your investment from the expansion of London City Airport.
- Your investment is not prudent: we do not believe that the prediction of increased demand by 2035 will indeed materialize.
- Your investment is detrimental: to the health of the people of Newham.
- Your investment is reprehensible: given the Global Climate and Ecological Emergency.
- Your investment is unethical: We believe that many of the teachers whose pensions you invest will not know the details of where and how these investments are being used; but, for their own integrity, we ask you to re-consider the proposed use of these investments that will fund Ontario teachers’ well-deserved pensions, saved for a happy and healthy retirement.
Councillor Hanif Abdulmuhit, London Borough of Newham
Councillor James Beckles, London Borough of Newham
Radhika Bynon, Director of Programmes at The Young Foundation and Trustee at Global Fund for Women UK, Community Links & Asha Trust (Sri Lanka), Newham
Dr Sharon Christy, GP Registrar, Newham
Rev. Anne Cross, Interfaith Minister, Newham
Councillor Sasha DasGupta, London Borough of Newham
Rev Sandra Eldridge, St. Matthews Church West Ham
Councillor Mumtaz Khan, London Borough of Newham
Councillor Susan Masters, London Borough of Newham
Councillor Mushtaq Hussain Mughal, London Borough of Newham
Councillor Patrick Murphy, London Borough of Newham
Councillor Nareser Osei, London Borough of Newham
Susanne Rauprich, Chair, One Newham
Miriam Scharf, Officer of Newham District National Education Union, Newham
Simon Shaw, Teacher, Newham
Rev Bruce Stokes, Woodgrange Baptist Church
Caroline Wilson, Teacher, Newham
And Leslie Everest, Matthew Porter, Peter Musgrave, Lesley Bond, Eleanor Burkey D. Eldridge, Pane Argort and Mohammed Muzibur Rahman – Residents, Newham.
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See the live stream of the action here: https://www.facebook.com/xrnewham/posts/461256804754316
Article in the Newham Recorder Newspaper here: https://bit.ly/38k2gdm
Photos and videos are being posted on social media here:
All following photos © Peter Fallan:
Rupert Read speaking
The Landing Crew in action
The Landing Crew in action
Banner put up in Portman Square
Here is the press release:
EXTINCTION REBELLION TARGETS ONTARIO TEACHERS’ PENSION PLAN TO DEMAND A HALT TO AIRPORT EXPANSIONS
Today, 11th February, Extinction Rebellion activists mount a protest at the offices of Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP). OTPP are major investors in London City, Birmingham and Bristol Airports. All these airports are proposing expansions, which will massively increase carbon emissions from flights, directly contributing to climate breakdown.
Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan is investing Canadian teachers’ pension funds in toxic assets – airport expansions that are fuelling the climate crisis and contributing to a heating planet. XR Newham are leading today’s action, bringing their resistance to City Airport expansion to 10 Portman Square, where OTPP have their office.
London City Airport’s ‘Master Plan’ proposes to nearly double flight numbers from their current level, to end the 24-hour weekend break from flights, and to have more flights in the early morning and late evening. The airport currently has a cap of 111,000 flights per year but wants to increase that to 151,000 by 2035: a 36% hike, which equates to 110 additional flights per day.
The local people who make up XR Newham know what it’s like to live with the noise and air pollution caused by London City Airport. They are joined by rebels from across London, Bristol and the South West, and are supported in their action by Canadian activists from Toronto350.org and XR members in Ontario.
OTPP should be investing in the future and in conserving our planet, and instead they are funding its destruction. They are meant to work in service of the teachers of Ontario, yet they are not telling the truth to these teachers about the riskiness of their fossil fuel investments. Today, XR Newham will hold a teach-in at OTPP’s offices to call out their wilful pollution of our shared world, and the damage that these airport expansions will wreak if allowed to go ahead.
Alongside XR Newham, teaching the truth will be:
- Rupert Read, climate and environmental campaigner and Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of East Anglia.
- Amelia Womack, Deputy Leader of the Green Party; and
- John Stewart, ‘veteran transport campaigner’ (The Guardian) from HACAN East, a campaign group made up of concerned London residents resisting the expansion of London City Airport.
Rupert Read has a message for OTPP: “Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan say that their ‘social license to invest’ is fundamentally linked to them being a ‘proactive enabler of the low-carbon future’. Instead, their support for three airport expansions in the UK is pushing us towards a high-carbon dystopia. OTPP must cancel the expansions and invest in a future that protects our living world.”
Margot Farnham, a Newham resident living next to London City Airport, says: “To know what it’s like having LCY as a neighbour, stand on a runway when a jet is taking off. The vibration and aviation fuel assault the senses. The current expanded frequency was imposed on the neighbourhood; we cannot take any more.”
XR Newham will use creative protest to highlight OTPP’s plans to increase the carbon emissions generated by their airport investments. The Landing Crew performance piece will make an appearance, following celebrated actions at London City Airport in October, and Weston Super Mare in December 2019. The action will be rounded off with a ritual recognition of all that we have already lost to the climate crisis – the animals, the people, the land – and a call to action. XR Newham are calling on fellow Londoners to object to the expansion of London City Airport, and other proposed expansions around the UK.
For press images or to get in touch, see:
What do London Mayors have to say about London City Airport expansion?
- “It is essential for the airport to recognise that unfettered growth is not an option” – Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London.
- “[City Airport’s] Draft Master Plan offers no justification, in environmental terms, for the intensification of flights early in the morning and the reduction of the weekend respite period, currently enjoyed by the residents of Newham” – Rokhsana Fiaz, Mayor of Newham
About Extinction Rebellion
Time has almost entirely run out to address the ecological crisis which is upon us, including the 6th mass species extinction, global pollution, and abrupt, runaway climate change. Extinction Rebellion is an international movement that uses non-violent civil disobedience in an attempt to halt mass extinction and minimise the risk of social collapse.
Extinction Rebellion believes it is a citizen’s duty to rebel, using peaceful civil disobedience, when faced with criminal inactivity by their Government.
Extinction Rebellion’s key demands are:
- #TellTheTruth: Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
- #ActNow: Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
- #UpgradeDemocracy: Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.
- In the UK, come to one of our events, join the Rebellion Network and let us know how you can help out.
- Start a group where you are: in the UK
- Find your local group.
- Or join our Newham Extinction Rebellion Group