By Simon Gall and George Chubb.
The trial of a group of 9 climate activists came to a close last week in Aberdeen with the jury finding them guilty of Breach of the Peace. In March 2009, two protesters climbed onto the roof of the terminal building at Aberdeen Airport while 7 occupied a runway and set up a mock golf course “in a direct action against it’s planned expansion, C02 emissions and Donald Trump’s enormous planned golf course and hotel complex.”(1)
The action caused delays to 10 flights as well as “23 helicopter flights from the North Sea oil field operator CHC.”(2). A spokesman for Aberdeen Airport described the action as “dangerous and irresponsible”(3) while another stated that “the actions of these individuals was not acceptable.”(4)
The occupation came to an end when the activists were informed that their actions had delayed an air ambulance from collecting a child from the Islands but according to Steven Wright of Gama Aviation Ltd. – the firm which operates the only Government funded Air Ambulance service in the UK – the “flight was scheduled to take off at 8.00am this morning, but in fact took off about 8.35am, but this was due to our operational delay by the medics and not the protestors. This incident has had no financial or life threatening or operational impact on our operation. I have no complaint regarding this matter.”
The group were to be charged with Vandalism but, when staff at the airport reported that there was no sign of damage to the roof and the prosecution was unable to prove the group had damaged the fencing, the charges were dropped.
The protesters aimed to defend themselves through the necessity clause, which states that if an action taken was necessary to prevent something worse from happening it will not be deemed a punishable offense. The argument was that it is becoming necessary for people to stand up and take action on climate change or we will soon hit the ‘point of no return’.
What made this case remarkable was that climate experts from all over came to defend the actions of Climate9 – part of the pressure group Plane Stupid – and to give evidence to the jury about why C02 emissions must be swiftly and drastically cut. The scientists focused on the effects of global warming and warned that the UK Government’s environmental targets are not ambitious enough, Dr. Alice Bows explained “The UK Government’s Committee on Climate Change policy of 80% reduction in emissions by 2050 only gives us a 50:50 chance of avoiding dangerous climate change. You wouldn’t go to sleep in a house that had a 50:50 chance of burning down in the night, so we need even tougher targets. In fact we need a complete de-carbonisation of the economy in the next few decades. Because we need to tackle emissions right now, the actions of both governments and individuals are important.”
Dr. Geoff Meaden, an expert in Biogeography and Coastal Hazards added “At present I see little evidence that governments at all levels are taking sufficient action on climate change. Therefore, like those who have committed civil disobedience in the past I believe that groups such as Plane Stupid must take every opportunity to bring the urgency of climate change to the public attention.”
The Climate9 were found guilty of Breach of the Peace on June 25th 2010 and will be sentenced in August. For more information on the trial and the group visit www.climate9.com
(1) Johnny Agnew – climate9
(3) Spokesman for Aberdeen Airport