Climate activist group Extinction Rebellion has announced plans to cause a “pause” in flights at Heathrow airport in June and July through “nonviolent direct action” using drones.
The group is demanding the UK government act on its declaration of a climate and environmental emergency by cancelling Heathrow expansion.
Extinction Rebellion says a “pause” in flights would raise awareness of the “genocidal impact of high-carbon activities”.
If the government does not cancel plans to build a third runway at Heathrow, the group says it will “act to shut down the airport” for up to ten days from 1 July.
In a statement on its website, Extinction Rebellion said: “This is not about targeting the public, but holding the government to their duty to take leadership on the climate and ecological emergency. The addition of the planned third runway would make Heathrow the single biggest carbon emitter in the UK; to expand the airport at this critical point in history would be madness.
“We understand the action will cause disruption to a great number of holiday makers, however we believe that it is necessary given the prospect of far greater disruption caused by ecological and societal collapse if we don’t act now. Holiday makers are being given advance notice to change travel plans.”
According to the BBC, a spokesman for Heathrow called the plan “reckless” and said it could “endanger lives”. They continued: “We agree with the need to act on climate change, but that requires us to work together constructively – not commit serious criminal offences just as hard-working people prepare to spend a well-earned holiday with their family and friends.”
The planned action comes after a drone attack at Gatwick airport in December 2018 caused severe disruption, with flights grounded at the hub off and on for more than a day in the run-up to Christmas.
Following the chaos that ensued, both Gatwick and Heathrow vowed to deploy anti-drone technology, and the government gave police new powers to tackle the illegal activity. Officers are now able to land drones and require users to produce documentation. Suspects caught flying the devices within a 5 kilometre radius of airports or above 400 feet face a prison sentence of up to five years.
From 30 November, drone owners will be also required to register devices weighing between 250g and 20kg.
Last week, Heathrow proposed creating a vehicle access charge to enter car parks and drop-off zones to try to tackle emissions in the area, with an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) due to be established from 2022.