‘Let Luton breathe’ protest in town centre

On Saturday 21st September, Extinction Rebellion and friends gathered outside Luton Town Hall to protest and hold a ‘die-in’ to bring attention to the high levels of air pollution in the town – and the INCREASED levels and direct link to LOSS OF LIFE from expanding the airport.

Activists of all ages, including members of XR Luton and XR Luton Youth, carried banners calling for Luton Council to declare a Climate Emergency.

A cardboard coffin decorated with animal silhouettes highlighted the threat to wildlife around the world – and that fact that we are in the midst of the sixth great extinction of life on earth.

Despite the serious topics, this was a family friendly event, and locals were supportive. The protest followed a day of direct action at Luton Airport on Friday.

Why we took action at the airport today

The three activists arrested at the offices of London Luton Airport Operations Ltd explained their actions with the following statement:

Science tells us that greenhouse gases must be reduced immediately to prevent a climate catastrophe. Unchecked, runaway global heating will bring increased floods, extreme weather, wildfires, droughts, famine, and conflict over water and resources. Wildlife numbers will continue to be decimated. Millions of people will lose their homes, their land, and their lives. The climate crisis is an existential threat.

In this context, we consider the expansion of Luton Airport to be an act of ecocide. Business as usual is catastrophic. Further growth is suicide. As local citizens, we can not stand by while airport emissions rise, and life on earth is destroyed for profit.

We call on London Luton Airport to declare a climate emergency, and act now to reduce emissions. Further expansion is not possible.

This is an emergency. 

Airport expansion is terminal, say Luton climate change activists

Press photos here.

Activists in Luton carried out a series of protest actions at London Luton Airport on Friday 20th of September, highlighting the dangers of airport expansion at a time of climate crisis.

Acting as part of Extinction Rebellion, activists gave out flyers and displayed banners in the main airport terminal. A further group glued themselves to the doors of the office of the airport’s operator, London Luton Airport Operations Limited (LLAOL).

The protestors deliberately targeted the airport operator rather than passengers. No disruption was intended to flights or travellers.

“At a time of climate breakdown, airport expansion is terminal,” said a spokesperson for the group.

“Luton Airport is the fastest growing airport in the country, and therefore one of the fastest growing sources of carbon emissions in Britain. The council, local politicians and the operator always talk about the benefits to Luton – but at what cost to our health? Or to local traffic congestion, or noise pollution? At what cost to the world we pass on to our children? At what cost to the world’s most vulnerable communities, already at risk from floods, droughts and extreme weather?”

Passenger numbers through Luton Airport have almost doubled in a decade, with 2018 a record year at 16.6 million passengers. Current plans call for a further doubling to 32 million passengers a year.

Why XR Luton needs YOU to take action

Luton is a place where the need for action on climate change is vital. That’s
because, right here in our town, future generations will suffer the effects of
climate change acutely. Unless we make huge changes, urgently, the health
of our children and our grandchildren will be seriously compromised, and their
lives will be shortened.

That’s because Luton has a growing airport, a motorway and major traffic
congestion. Already. And we want immediate action on these issues.

So what are the issues?

Well, even young children know that there is a climate emergency right now.
It’s important to take notice of what they say; young children become teenage
activists like Greta Thunberg. Listen to her here, as she tries to educate us to
do something urgently:

A passionate plea, isn’t it?

On 8 October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
produced a report based on 6000 scientific studies. In stressing how urgent
the crisis is, these studies should alarm everyone and motivate them to

BUT – things are not all doom and gloom

According to the IPCC, it is still possible to avoid a 2-degree increase in global
warming. This will require a peak in global emissions by 2020, all electricity
production to be virtually carbon-pollution free by 2050 (earlier in developed
countries), cutting global fossil fuel use by 60% by 2050 and achieving
worldwide zero-carbon pollution by 2100.

The pledges currently made by governments to cut carbon pollution are not
sufficient to avoid warming of more than 2 degrees. More stringent action will
be required to avoid 1.5 degrees of warming, the goal of most developing

This is why we at XR Luton demand action now!

XR Luton Town Hall for Climate Emergency motion

A summary from Colin Hall, our Political and Lobbying WG coordinator, about yesterday’s Council meeting outcome

“Some of us attended the debate at Luton Borough Council on the two climate change motions yesterday evening (30th July 2019)

The Bad News

The Liberal Democrat motion which called for a declaration of climate emergency by the Council was defeated, with the Labour group voting it down. The reason given for not declaring a Climate Emergency was that the Council need to assemble the scientific evidence. This seems absurd.

The Lib Dem Councillor commented: “What message does this send to our young people?” “We know that we are in a dreadful state…We want to be doing it now.”

The Good News

The competing Labour motion was passed. It was said that the motion has been toughened up, but we did not see that version on paper, and I have asked Tom Shaw, the lead Councillor on it, to send me a copy of the new wording and also his speech.

All who spoke appeared passionately committed to the cause. It was said more than once that this is the most important item that has come before the Council. The Labour justification for not declaring now seemed to be that they wish to build a strongly prepared, evidence-based action plan, to be in place for Jan 2020. At that point, the Council would declare a climate emergency [if the evidence so concludes].

A Citizens Assembly will be set up (to advise and scrutinise, I think) with the participation of young people of particular importance. It will be to able act outside the normal framework for such bodies if need be.

A powerful Working Group will be set up, with a cross-party approach agreed on all sides, starting next week. There will be opportunities for others to be involved in this.

Some positive references were made relating to XR during the debate.

Card presentation to the council

This week we were able to present our giant card to the council executive, calling for a declaration of climate emergency. It has been signed by many of us at XR Luton, attendees at a recent Luton Council of Faiths meeting, and members of the public we talked to at our march on Friday.

Hazel Simmons received the card, and we then read a statement to the council executive outlining the need to act, and calling for a sense of urgency.

Both were well received, and councillor Tom Shaw spoke to us about the council’s plans to consult on a net zero target for Luton. He mentioned 2030, twenty years earlier than central government’s current target.

We are grateful for the council making space for us on the meeting’s agenda, and we look forward to working with them to develop solutions for Luton.

We will also keep up the pressure on the council to ensure that this positive rhetoric turns into real policy. We do note that even in the press release to announce these new climate policies, there is a robust defence of airport expansion. We recognise the complexities of these issues, but ultimately airport expansion is not compatible with net zero climate targets. We will be raising this in futher discussions and actions with the airport operators.

Thanks to the arts and creative team for a wonderful card, and the politics group for liasing with the council.

Town centre action

On Friday 19th of July, Luton marked the 100th anniversary of the Peace Day Riots. We marked the occasion by processing down George Street to call on the council to declare a climate emergency.

This was XR Luton’s first action together.

Around 40 people joined the action at its peak, as we stood outside the town hall for a moment of silence. Drums and chants then accompanied our march up the street, as we gave out flyers and talked to those out and about on what was a very rainy day. We paused outside Barclays Bank, a notorious funder of fossil fuels projects, and a delegation went in to talk to the manager. Ending back at the town hall, we collected signatures on a giant card that will be presented to the council.

We are grateful for the support of XR in Hitchin and Bedford, who supported the action, and for the loan of the big banner from Bedford.