London climate activists set sights on Heathrow | News | DW | 19.04.2019
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London climate activists set sights on Heathrow

Climate protesters in London had threatened to shut down Heathrow airport — Europe's busiest air traffic hub. But in the end only a handful of activists took part, holding a sign that read: "Are we the last generation?"

Environmental activists in the UK took their protest to Heathrow Airport on Friday after days of demonstrations caused road closures and transport chaos across London.

The Extinction Rebellion group had announced its plan to "shut down" Europe's busiest airport as thousands prepared to travel for the Easter holiday weekend. However, by midday the transport hub reported no disruptions.

About 15-20 people, most of them teenagers, gathered near Terminals 2 and 3 and unfurled a banner that read: "Are we the last generation?" The group sang protest songs by the road, alongside a sizable police contingent. 

Read moreUK climate protesters seek to block London Underground

Protesters at Heathrow hold a banner reading 'Are we the last generation?'

'Are we the last generation?' ask protesters at Heathrow Airport

The protests so far:

  • The Extinction Rebellion activists started demonstrating on Monday, demanding greater action on climate change.
  • British police say they have arrested more than 500 activists since the protests began.
  • Hundreds of protesters have blocked central locations in the British capital, including Parliament Square, Waterloo Bridge and Oxford Circus.
  • In many cases, protesters lay down on roads and bridges, with some reportedly gluing themselves to trains.

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Greta Thunberg joins Berlin climate protesters

'Robust police response'

"I fear for my future. ... That fear gives me courage to act," Oscar Idle, 17, told the Reuters news agency. "I want to live in a society which is not catastrophic, where there is not going to be food shortages, wildfires and hurricanes, where people can live."

Police had urged the activists to "strongly reconsider" the airport action on Good Friday, one of the busiest travel days of the year, and said there were plans in place to prevent Heathrow's operations from being affected.

"Protesters can expect a robust police response," Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave said. "We are determined to keep the airport operating."

Heathrow Airport said: "While we respect the right to peaceful protest and agree with the need to act on climate change, we don't agree that passengers should have their well-earned Easter Break holiday plans with family and friends disrupted." 

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said protesters "do not have the right to break the law and significantly disrupt the lives of others."

"I expect the police to take a firm stance and use the full force of the law," he wrote on Twitter.

Read moreFridays for Future: The #Climatestrike movement comes of age

Two activists standing on a train

Climate activists reportedly glued themselves to a train carriage at Canary Wharf station in east London

What do the protesters want? Extinction Rebellion advocates nonviolent civil disobedience to pressure the British government to declare a "climate and ecological emergency" and take action to bring greenhouse gas emissions down to zero by 2025.

Britain's climate targets: Britain has lowered net emissions by 42% percent since 1990 and is planning to slash emissions by 80% by 2050. Government advisers are expected to put forward new targets next month.

Read more6 things you can do to avoid climate catastrophe

Averting climate chaos: The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has recommended a global target of net-zero emissions by 2050. This goal aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, as outlined in the 2015 Paris climate treaty. Reaching this target, however, will require rapid action from governments around the world as well as the transformation of the global economy.

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Young climate activists follow Greta Thunberg's lead

nm/rc (Reuters, AP, dpa)

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