I had no idea how much pollution airlines are causing

Aound the world, in country after country, we're seeing the same thing: the companies that profit most from extracting and burning fossil fuels are putting a stranglehold on our political leaders. With climate politics deadlocked, are trying something new: directly targeting the companies standing in the way of progress.

Emissions from airlines blanket communities, causing heart failure, asthma, and other lung diseases. Airlines already accounts for 5 percent of global warming pollution, and aviation emissions are skyrocketing. If nothing is done, airline pollution is expected to double by 2020 and quadruple by 2050.

Last month, governments from around the world met to negotiate a program to cap airline pollution. But the airline industry, led by United, has spent millions lobbying to weaken standards.

A high level group of an intergovernmental panel known as the International Civil Aviation Organization (or ICAO) met in Montreal last month to design a system to reduce air travel’s footprint on the climate. They will release proposed rules in June, and a vote will be held in September. But United and other airlines have unleashed a horde of lobbyists, PR flacks, and “experts” to muscle the ICAO into making those rules as toothless as possible.

This isn’t the first time United has declared war on sensible environmental regulation. Last year, the European Union passed a law requiring airlines to improve their energy efficiency or buy pollution permits at a cost of just $3 per passenger. United responded by lobbying aggressively to get the U.S. Congress to pass a bill that prohibits U.S.-based airlines from complying with the EU’s efficiency standards and forces American taxpayers to foot the bill for the resulting fines.

United’s CEO Jeff Smisek wrote an op-ed in Hemispheres, his company’s in-flight magazine, arguing that the EU had no right to regulate flights taking off and landing in Europe.

Even other airlines think that United is extreme in its uncompromising opposition to all emissions standards. And in the highly competitive airline industry, United can’t afford a reputation as the anti-environment airline. If enough people call United out, it will have to stand down, and we’ll have a much better shot at controlling one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse emissions.

Sign the petition to United Airlines. Demand an end to its anti-environment lobbying.

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America lead the way on lots of aviation emissions

The US Senate passed a bill on Saturday which means US airlines are exempt from paying for their emissions on European Flights.

The Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) which has been enforced by the European Commission since January is dysfunctional at best but the fact that the US cannot even sign up to it is very worrying and sends out the complete wrong message on climate change.

Republican senator John Thune said in a statement:

"The Senate's action today will help ensure that US air carriers and passengers will not be paying down European debt through this illegal tax and can instead be investing in creating jobs and stimulating our own economy."

The Republicans statement should of read:

"The Senate's action today will help ensure that US air carriers and passengers will not worry about climate change and can instead carry on with business as usual as if climate change doesn't even exist."

The US continue to have no programme in place to address its own aviation emissions.

Aviation Justice Tour videos launch

In collaboration with some different groups the Aviation Justice Tour have launched a series of videos in response to the arrest of the UK's 'most effective environmentalist' John Stewart to the FBI's fascination with the use of superglue as a 'dangerous' tool in a climate activists weaponry.

Global climate campaigns have vowed to challenge the 'green scare' political suppression of environmental groups through mass superglue trainings. A new US-wide activist network is to be set up to oppose the soaring growth of aviation in North America. The decision was taken after Americans heard from British campaigners John Stewart and Dan Glass about the success of similar networks in the UK.  Stewart and Glass had been skyped into over a dozen events across the US on tour after they were refused entry to America to speak about the successful campaign to stop a third runway at London’s Heathrow Airport.

In controversial circumstances on 29th September, Stewart, voted the UK’s ‘most effective’ environmentalist, had been escorted off the plane at New York’s JFK Airport by armed police before being sent back to Britain.  Glass, his visa challenged due to speculation of his 'superglue addiction' based himself in Canada where he worked with the communities around Toronto Island Airport.

2. The Peace Arch - Organising Against The Odds

The FBI, Secret Service and CIA tried and failed to stop the Aviation Justice Express. Due to the FBI’s over the top treatment, the tour proudly went on and their suppression backfired.

But steely determination, commitment to free speech, witty resolve and a little bit of mask-making is all we need to organise across the world to bring the aviation industry back down to Earth.

3. Tar Sands and Aviation Movements Unite

Aviation expansion and tar sands have been two of the key climate campaign issues in recent years.

The untold story is that the tar sands and aviation industries are fuelling each other’s expansion. New bounties of fuel from the tar sands are propping up the expansion of aviation across the globe, while aviation is providing a valuable market for aviation and jet fuels refined from tar sands crude. As a result at least 15% of tar sands crude ends up in commercial jets and the revolving corporate door continues to spin between Tar Sands and the Aviation industry execs. There are fuel pipelines to Vancouver, Denver and Chicago airports from Athabasca bitumen mining operations and the notorious keystone pipeline – all which must be challenged. .

All too often, we reinvent the wheel by not connecting the dots between our movements and building off of one another’s momentum, tactics and shared opponents. All along the fossil fuel production line, from Indian mining activists, to Canadian tar sands campaigners and British anti-aviation organizers, we must see find ways to bring our efforts together and support each other to have a hope of tackling this global climatic catastrophe.

4. The Transatlantic Anti Airport Expansion Rolls On – The case of Toronto City Airport Campaign

The UK, US and Canada, per capita are among the most flying nations in the world with some of the weakest train alternatives. With aviation being the fastest growing cause of global CO2 emissions, Aviation Justice Express are proud to launch our global network of grassroots campaigns to challenge this.

Brian Iler, of CommunityAIR campaign in Toronto, says:

"Superglue’s a useful tool in the array of climate campaign tactics.  It’s been used to great effect in protests against some of the biggest polluters in the world, from the Royal Bank of Scotland to airports to UK Government departments. If superglue helps stick it to politicians who let us down, then bring on the superglue revolution!"

5. Occupy Toronto 2011

The Occupy Movement worldwide has been groundbreaking with nowhere more so that in it’s home continent North America. The well-crafted image of Canada as a sweet, caring and obedient nation has taken a much needed blow as no fewer than 20 Canadian cities have seen occupations. It's “We are the 99%” mantra casts a spotlight on global disparities in wealth and power between the ever-shrinking haves and widening have- nots. Occupy’s critique of today’s corporate buy out of democracy is especially redolent here in Canada, where the aviation industry and the fossil fuel industry at large, are the loudest voice in the Canadian government. 

A success: the tour America banned

It was the tour the authorities tried to stop. Dan Glass, the Plane Stupid activist who had superglued himself to Gordon Brown in protest against a third runway at Heathrow, never got a visa to visit America. His fellow speaker, John Stewart, who had chaired the coalition against the third runway, was sent packing back to London when he landed at JFK Airport.

Dan and John had been asked by American campaigners to come to the US to talk about the successful third runway campaign. The Aviation Justice Express tour had been months in the planning. Dan and John were to spend a month visiting climate activists and local airport campaign groups across the US.

The American authorities, possibly prompted by the UK aviation industry, were determined it was never going to happen. But it did – thanks to the new media. John, from his modest office in South London and Dan, from Canada, were skyped into all the events. And new events were added when the campaigners realized that the barrier of physical travel had been removed – courtesy of the American authorities. As John put it: “We left the students of Harvard in Boston at midnight and five minutes later we were talking with activists in Pittsburgh.”

And that wasn’t the only favour the American authorities did. The banning of Dan and John generated more media on both sides of the Atlantic than the tour on its own would ever have got. From reports in the London Evening Standard to in-depth interviews on the Canadian-based Radio Eco-Shock. And it enabled Dan to do a parallel tour of Canada meeting with climate activists and airport communities.

The outcome of the skype tour was just the one the American authorities didn’t want. A new network has been set up bringing together climate activists and local airport campaigners committed to stopping new runways, cutting short-distance flights and promoting rail using conventional and direct action tactics. Bringing the American aviation industry down to earth!

John Stewart is a terrorist


It was like a scene out of a New York cop movie.  Only it was happening for real.  And to me.  I had just arrived at New York’s JFK Airport to talk to American activists about the success of the campaign to stop the third runway at Heathrow.  They had invited myself and Plane Stupid activist Dan Glass to tour the country – by train - for a month talking about the campaign -  But I never left JFK. 

When my flight touched down, it was boarded by six New York cops who escorted me off the plane.  I had apparently made threats against President Obama.  I was questioned by the Immigration Service, the FBI and the American Secret Service.  After 7½ hours I was sent back to the UK.  I had never before taken a transatlantic flight.  Now I had taken two within 24 hours!

But it was the nature of the questioning, particularly by the FBI, which was so revealing.  Next-to-nothing about threats to Obama.  What they wanted to know about was Plane Stupid, direct action and Dan (who had super-glued himself to Gordon Brown in protest against the 3rd runway).  They saw Dan as a man who – shock! horror! – “actively advocated” civil disobedience.  They even used the word “terrorist”.  When Dan had tried to apply for a visa, they said they were afraid he might super-glue himself to Sarah Palin!  When questioning me they said they feared my talks might result in armed protesters occupying JFK Airport!  Now that would be material for a movie.  Pure fiction!

What is so disturbing is that Plane Stupid – a network whose actions are rooted in the tradition of non-violent civil disobedience – can be branded terrorist.  As it happens, I personally have no convictions but somebody didn’t want me, in association with Dan, talking with American audiences.  I learnt once I returned to London that a phone-call had been made once by flight had taken off alleging that I had made threats against Obama.  We’ll never know who made it but it provided the perfect opportunity for me to be questioned at length at JFK.

A new book by Will Potter suggests that in America, green has become the new red.  The US authorities are now seeing a green under every bed planting seeds of revolution and sowing sedition.  If that’s the case, a tour telling the story of a successful and radical environmental campaign, which overcame the power of the aviation industry, would have worried the American authorities.  If the process were to be repeated across Europe and the US, it would harm the corporate interests of the aviation industry.  Potter argues in Green is the New Red that it is precisely to protect the profits of corporate interests that environmentalists are being targeted.  He has written, “much like the Red Scare and the communist witch hunts of the 40s and 50s, the Green Scare is using one word—this time, it’s “terrorist”—to push a political agenda, instill fear, and chill dissent”.

I must learn to stop associating with green “terrorists” and super-glue addicts.