At 9am this morning, a real sense of solidarity could be felt outside Trafford Magistrate’s Court. There was a great turn-out to support the six defendants from Manchester Airport on Trial appearing in court to face charges of aggravated trespass charge for forming a human chain around the Monarch Airline jet at Manchester Airport in May 2010. Everyone was in high spirits, mixed with anticipation, despite the drizzling rain. The relaxed atmosphere was slightly tainted by the unnecessary presence of a FIT officer, invasively filming supporters of the defendants as they arrived at court.
By lunch time today the court had heard from defendants Robbie Gillett and David Cullen who defended their actions on the grounds that they were proportionate and necessary in the face of climate change in order to prevent death and serious injury by stopping emissions from the airport. Robbie stated that attempts had been made to engage and meet with local government and challenge the expansion plans through formal routes but they had been ‘fobbed off’. A strong argument was also presented by Dave who successfully challenged the prosecution’s assertion that climate change is still a spilt debate.
Into the afternoon the first expert witness, Professor Kevin Anderson from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research, was called as part of the defence.
He summed up what campaigners have been saying for years as he questioned “why is it fair that aviation continues to be a special case while every other sector has to reduce their emissions?”.
He then went on to say “every year we have an exponential increase in CO2 embedding us in a future of dangerous climate change. If aviation continues to grow that means we’re heading for 4 degrees, but that would only be a transient temperature on the way to an equilibrium rise of 6 to 8 degrees. A rise of 4 degrees is dire, above that it gets worse and worse- it is a future that we contemplate at our own peril.”.
The second witness, Dr Geoff Meaden, was also called to the stand related the actions to both local and international concerns. He spoke about the ‘tipping points’ we are reaching with global temperature rises as well as the increased possibility of flooding in the Manchester area due to changes in weather patterns, and specifically how the airport itself would be submerge by just a two metre flood.
At the end of day one the defendants, campaign and court can be under no illusion that we need to start waking up to the fact that climate change isn’t just a problem for future generations; we are seeing its devastating impacts now. The aviation industry is receiving special treatment in terms of the expansion that is being allowed and financially in the tax break of £9 billion each year it is given, including paying nothing on fuel, while public sectors are cut and the VAT we pay on toilet roll increases to 20%.
The actions of the Manchester defendants are an example of how we might be able to see real change; signing petitions just isn’t enough anymore. We need to start targeting the industries and corporations who are not only dodging tax whilst public sectors are cut, but also continue exploiting our planet.
Tomorrow the defence will continue with the court hearing from local councillor Martin Eakins, who will speak on the democratic deficit in the region, and local resident Pete Johnson speaking about the barriers to pursuing a judicial review against the expansion due to the prohibitively high costs involved.