Climate activists across Europe and the United States blocked entrances to airports Thursday to protest emissions from the aviation industry and call for a ban on private jets.
Activists with three groups — Extinction Rebellion, Scientist Rebellion and Guardian Rebellion — descended on the airport terminals as part of organized actions in at least 13 countries.
Protests were staged in the United Kingdom at Farnborough Airport and London Luton Airport’s Harrods Terminal. Similar actions were carried out in Milan, Italy, and Stockholm, Sweden.
In the U.S., activists gathered at King County International Airport in Seattle and blocked entrances to a private jet terminal at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina and at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey.
The activists targeted private jets because they represent the contributions of the ultrarich — and their lifestyles — to global greenhouse gas emissions. Earlier this year, celebrities such as Taylor Swift and Kylie Jenner faced public backlash for their use of private planes.
The protests occurred as world leaders gather this week in Egypt for the United Nations Climate Change Conference. The meeting, known as COP 27, involves negotiations between countries over how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, how to provide funding to countries most affected by climate change and what adaptation efforts to focus on.
William Livernois, a researcher at the University of Washington, said Thursday morning that he expected to be arrested for partaking in a protest of private jets at King County International Airport, which is also called Boeing Field.
The Seattle airport is a hub for small commercial airlines and privately owned planes.
“The planet is on fire and people are still flying private jets. Our action is calling for a ban,” Livernois said.
The activists also called out the lack of progress during U.N. climate talks. Past conferences have, for instance, failed to properly address funding to countries least responsible for global warming and most affected by climate change.
“We are struck in this system where the most wealthy and most powerful are the biggest contributors to the climate crisis while the people with the least wealth and power suffer the biggest consequences,” Livernois said. “We want to draw attention to that.”
Livernois, a doctoral student who studies bioelectronics and nanodevices, said he was engaging in activism because he believes scientists have a responsibility to do more than write reports about the worsening climate crisis.
“The science about the climate has been clear for half a century if you look at the trajectories — nothing is changing. We’re getting really desperate,” he said. “This is such an important, existential crisis. We need this to be in the forefront of people’s minds.”