March 4, 2024

The climate activist Greta Thunberg has marched alongside local residents and 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 the march from Farnborough town centre, in Hampshire, to Farnborough airport.

The group set off pink smoke flares and waved banners as they called for a total ban on private jets, which they say are up to 30 times more polluting than passenger airliners.

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

If approved, the airport plans would result in an increase in non-weekday aircraft movements from 8,900 to 18,900 a year and would allow heavier aircraft to use the airport. Farnborough airport said its environmental footprint was “a fraction that of a traditional commercial airport” yet it served as one of the largest employment sites in the region.

Rushmoor borough council will consider the plans in March.

Todd Smith, a former airline pilot and an 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.”

Sarah Hart, 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.”

A Farnborough airport spokesperson said the facility was an “important gateway for business aviation connectivity with the majority of flights being operated for business and corporate travel purposes”.

He said: “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 four-plus under the airport carbon accreditation programme.”

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