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Greta Thunberg joins protest against Farnborough Airport expansion plans

 (PA Media)
(PA Media)

Greta Thunberg has marched alongside Extinction Rebellion activists to protest against an airport’s expansion plans.

Farnborough Airport Ltd has submitted a planning application to Rushmoor Borough Council to increase the number of flights from 50,000 to 70,000 a year.

The Swedish climate activist joined local residents, members of Extinction Rebellion and climate change campaigners on Saturday in a march from Farnborough town centre in Hampshire to Farnborough Airport.

The fact that using private jets is both legally and socially allowed today in an escalating climate emergency is completely detached from reality

Greta Thunberg

The group set off pink smoke flares and waved banners during the march.

The protesters are calling for a total ban on private jets, which are up to 30 times more polluting than passenger airliners, the group said.

Miss Thunberg said: “The fact that using private jets is both legally and socially allowed today in an escalating climate emergency is completely detached from reality.

“There are few examples that show as clearly how the rich elite is sacrificing present and future living conditions on this planet so they can maintain their extreme and violent lifestyles.”

The airport plans would also see an increase in non-weekday aircraft movements from 8,900 to 18,900 per year and allow heavier aircraft to use the airport if approved.

Farnborough Airport said its environmental footprint is “a fraction that of a traditional commercial airport”, yet it serves as one of the largest employment sites in the region.

Rushmoor Borough Council is set to consider the plans in March.

Todd Smith, former airline pilot and Extinction Rebellion spokesperson said: “Flying is the fastest way to fry the planet and private jets are the most polluting way to fly.

“Surely it’s a no-brainer to ban private jets and stop expanding these luxury airports in the midst of a climate crisis? Survey after survey, as well as several citizens’ assemblies, have shown this would be very popular and has widespread support from the general public.

“For most people, life has become more difficult. The cost of heating our homes, buying food and paying our bills has increased massively. So imagine looking out our windows to see yet more private jets flying billionaires around.

“Is this a fair society that we live in, or is there one set of rules for the majority, and another for the elites?”

Finlay Asher, aerospace engineer and member of the aviation workers group Safe Landing, added: “As aviation workers, we understand there’s a choice to be made about how we use our limited planetary resources.

“If we expand private jet flights, then this will consume a large slice of the pie, and leave nothing for anybody else.

“However, there is a positive way forward for society and for our industry: provide genuinely sustainable clean transport for the masses instead, rather than continuing to expand super-polluting private jet airports which cater only to a tiny minority of ultra-wealthy individuals.”

Sarah Hart, 42, an office assistant from Farnborough, said: “As a local resident and a mum of two I am utterly appalled at the airport’s plan to expand when we should be banning private flying completely.

“We need to be taking drastic steps to ensure a liveable world for all our children, not increasing our use in fossil fuels.”

We recognise the importance of continually reducing our environmental impact and we are only one of a small number of UK airports to have achieved Level 4+ under the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme

Farnborough Airport spokesman

A spokesperson for Farnborough Airport said: “Farnborough Airport is an important gateway for business aviation connectivity with the majority of flights being operated for business and corporate travel purposes.

“The airport’s environmental footprint is a fraction that of a traditional commercial airport, yet it serves as one of the largest employment sites in the region.

“We recognise the importance of continually reducing our environmental impact and we are only one of a small number of UK airports to have achieved Level 4+ under the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme.”