Environment Secretary Ed Miliband should be careful what he wishes for. No sooner had he told the Guardian that more popular mobilisation on climate change was needed, than the activist group Plane Stupid kindly obliged.
Using tried and tested tactics from the book of non-violent civil disobedience to make their protests heard far and wide, campaigners took to the runway at Stansted first thing on Monday morning to protest about Ministers’ continuing inaction on the climate agenda.
With 52 cancelled flights, 57 arrests on the last count, and pole position on TV, nobody could say they were unaware of the group’s concerns, least of all the government.
However, the prime minister’s disingenuous response saying ‘everybody has a right to protest, but people also have a right to be able to travel without unnecessary hindrance” clearly shows which corporate lobbyist he remains most loyal to.
The decision to push ahead with the expansion of Stansted airport is environmental and economic madness, and Ed Miliband will need to prepare for many more such actions unless the government starts acting on the climate agenda with the urgency and ambition it requires.
Forget the much criticised “vandalism” of Plane Stupid. The real climate vandalism belongs to Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon, who has been more than willing to brush aside the huge public opposition to the expansion of Stansted, not to mention the wishes of the local authorities.
It seems increasingly clear that peaceful direct action is fast emerging as the only way to focus the government’s attention on the climate challenge.
At Kingsnorth Climate Camp earlier this year, we gathered peacefully to register our disgust at the government’s ongoing commitment to coal. On the Campaign Against Climate Change’s Global Day of Action last weekend, we gathered to demand rapid changes to safeguard our environmental future. This week, Plane Stupid showed that those who care about our planet and its people will not be silenced.
With climate emissions from air travel at an all time high, the government is living in a fantasy land if it thinks it can allow aviation to grow at such an alarming rate, while also committing to significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
As one of the MEPs involved in the negotiations on the EU’s energy and climate package, I’ve seen at first hand – and watched in horror – as government leaders of EU member states, including our own, water down key elements of the package, which were never ambitious enough in the first place.
So it’s a bit rich of government ministers to suggest that politicians can’t make progressive climate policies in the absence of the popular mobilisations.
What we need from our politicians right now is genuine political leadership - and if Labour MPs can’t provide it, they should move out of the way and leave the job to the politicians, like the Greens, who can.
Dr Caroline Lucas MEP, Green Party