Climate9: Stopping Carbon Emissions at Source. So Who are the Real Criminals?

On the 14th June 2010 the Climate9 go to trial for their actions at Aberdeen airport in Scotland last year. Why should we give them our support? Read on...

Written by Amelia Wells

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Donald Trump is behind the expansion of Aberdeen airport. Illustration by Kevin Bradshaw.

When the words of the law and the actions of the Government contradict each other, it can be quite confusing for all involved. The much lauded Scottish Climate Change Act, for instance, lays down that Scottish Ministers must create a strategy which encourages the population to help them achieve their carbon emissions targets. So, why, when a group of concerned citizens prevented 107 million tonnes of carbon being emitted over a period of five hours, were they then arrested and charged with vandalism and breach of the peace? Perhaps erecting a mini golf course on the runaway at Aberdeen airport and grounding all the planes isn’t one of the actions identified by the Scottish Ministers as contributing to the achievement of those targets… because it actually affects carbon heavy businesses?

The Climate9, as they have been dubbed, staged this action is response to the proposed expansion of Aberdeen airport, an expansion to serve Donald Trump’s planned hotel complex and golf course, and all the lazy London businessmen who just need to getaway to bonny Scotland for their R&R. There are plans to expand all of Scotland’s airports, pushing passenger numbers up to 67.9 million a year, in a country where the population totals 5.1 million. Does every Scotsman need 13 flights a year? This would boost carbon emissions by 3.4 million tonnes. I fear the Ministers responsible have misinterpreted the phrase ‘achievement of targets’ in their own Act; it’s LESS not MORE. Got it? Currently, Scotland contributes 11% to UK carbon emissions from aviation and 60% of all Scottish flights are domestic. That is to say their destinations can easily be reached by train, coach or car, and slightly more adventurously by bicycle, or pony and trap.

“But trains are always late” and “Coaches are cramped and smelly!” I hear you cry. I agree. Wouldn’t it be great if the government could do something about that? Like putting £9 billion into land-based transport and sustainable development research? Faster, greener trains. Coaches with more leg-room and working toilets. The very stuff dreams are made of. You’re right though, where would they find money like that in a recession? Well, they could always NOT subsidise the aviation industry to the tune of £9 billion; using taxpayers money to dole out fuel tax exemptions to the high fliers. Funny how they don’t mention this little hand-out when touting the £11 billion ‘made’ from the aviation industry. Like any big business, aviation poops on the little guy. Sure, flights are cheaper, but if you can’t afford to take the time off work coz of all that tax you be paying, then you only pay once for the flights you aren’t taking. Every other tax payer who jets off? They pay twice.

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The tax payers fund aviation to the tune of £9 billion per year. Illustration by Kevin Bradshaw.

So, while the words of the government support reducing carbon emissions, their actions most emphatically do not. People like the Climate9, who take them at their word and do what they can to call attention to high carbon emitters and attempt to help the country achieve its targets, often find themselves arrested on some very odd chargers. Breach of the peace? Vandalism? I’d rather have a mini-golf course in my backyard that a runway, used by planes which breach the locals’ peace with their noise, cause localised air pollution, and run on oil, of which the methods of extraction are causing some serious devastation globally. Heard of the Alberta Tar Sands? That’s some vandalism right there, and you can’t just roll a fresh coat of paint over the top. The people who propagate the destruction of the environment are the real criminals and the Climate9 are hoping that their actions, and trial, will help to expose the hypocrisies of the government, and spread the word on the need for urgent action among people, not policies.

The trial start date is currently set for the 14th of June, and in the run-up to, and during, the trial, there are talks and meetings being held to show support for the Climate9 and push others to challenge the authorities with pride and confidence. Anyone and everyone is encouraged to aid the cause, through organising talks to call attention to the Climate9’s actions and government hypocrisy, dancing up some donations at a ceilidh, tweeting up the issue, sending in statements of solidarity, getting (favourable!) press coverage and involving as many people as possible throughout the blogosphere and via posters in order to “challenge the values of a legal system which too often undermines rather than supports the integrity and health of the Earth; and lets the real criminals go free while persecuting those brave enough to speak out for justice and future generations.”

I went along to one such talk at the School of Oriental and African Studies last week. Speakers included Dr. Geoff Meaden, a geography professor and key witness at the Kingsnorth 6 trial, Liz Hosken, Director and co-founder of the Gaia Foundation, and Matt Todd, editor of Attitude. Each speaker gave compelling evidence for climate change and outlined ways in which we are making a wreck of our planet. All called for a revolution in the way that we live and act when it comes to environmental issues, and all praised the Climate9 for taking direct action. Matt spoke about his efforts to get green issues into Attitude, writing a column entitled An Inconvenient Poof but found that even interested and worried parties still wouldn’t attend demos or change their lifestyle and habits. Liz made the point that it is industrialists who are vandalising the planet and emphasised the need to align current issues, showing that environmental injustices are just as much human injustices, and affect everyone. Jenny Griffiths, from the Climate and Health Council, reminded us that drought caused by climate change is already causing resource wars in poor countries such as Darfur. Ultimately, the information given was nothing that I, and probably most of the people in the lecture theatre, hadn’t heard before, but it’s good to know that there are such a variety of experts and professionals with such a passion for spreading information about climate change and the ways of combating it out there, who are willing to stand up next to activists and support their actions.

Everyone who spoke gave a call to arms. The time for hoping that the government policies will solve all ills is over. The Climate9 have led by example, and we need to let ourselves be inspired to take direct action and start up some civil disobedience. If nine people and a makeshift golf course can cause this much hassle and strife, I wonder what a whole campfull will achieve in Edinburgh later this year?

If you want to get involved with the Climate9 campaign, then head to their ‘Support’ page to find out their suggested actions to help out. If you want to get involved in generally saving the world, then keep an ear out for political or environmental hypocrisy in your local area, and do whatever it takes to make a difference.

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