Climate activists briefly halt air traffic in Geneva

Dozens of climate activists caused the temporary interruption of air traffic on Tuesday in Geneva, the time to evacuate them from the largest business aviation show in Europe, where they had chained themselves to a few private jets. Traffic at Switzerland’s second airport was interrupted for about an hour and gradually resumed from 12:40 p.m., Geneva airport said in a statement. Shortly before, several dozen climate activists had disrupted the business aviation show, the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE), which is being held this week on the edge of the runways of the international airport.

Images posted by activists on Twitter show activists unfurling banners sitting at the foot of planes or blocking entry into the cabin. Some managed to handcuff themselves to the devices. Protesters also held up posters resembling the warning messages on cigarette packs to “identify them as toxic objects”, with slogans warning that “private jets are burning our future”, “killing our planet” and “fueling inequalities”, according to their images.

80 activists arrested

The activists from 17 countries are members of organizations known for their hard-hitting actions, such as Greenpeace, Stay Grounded, Extinction Rebellion and Scientist Rebellion. They demand a ban on private jets, said a Greenpeace statement released shortly after the start of the commando operation. Dozens of police intervened quickly to dislodge the militants, noted a photographer from the Keystone-ATS agency on the spot.

Geneva police arrested around 80 activists, spokeswoman Tiffany Cudré-Mauroux told AFP. They were then taken for an identity check. Airport firefighters treated four people – an activist and a security guard – “victims of illness or injuries”, the airport said. Following this incursion – the activists entered the airport and exhibition grounds from three different points – Genève Aéroport “will file a complaint, as also announced by the organizers of EBACE and several exhibitors on the tarmac. “, underlines the press release from the airport.

Spokespersons for the various groups assured that they had no intention of disrupting air traffic but only the lounge. “Today the goal was really to target private jets which are the most polluting means of transport that exists and which is accessible only to an extreme minority of people, who will spend the carbon budget of all the other people who never fly,” Joël Perret, spokesman for Extinction Rebellion Geneva, told AFP. According to the European Business Jet Association (EBAA), business aviation accounts for 2% of C02 emissions from air transport, which itself accounts for just over 2% of global C02 emissions, i.e. 0.04% global emissions.

“Business aviation is deeply committed to climate action”

“Private aviation has become the symbol of climate inequality,” said Klara Maria Schenk of Greenpeace and Mira Kapfinger of the Stay Grounded network to insist: “The world is now watching this event and is aware of this hypocrisy of promoting the sales of private jets…in times of climate emergency, cost of living crisis and energy crisis.” Cordula Markert, spokeswoman for Scientist Rebellion Germany, told AFP: “I can’t believe people with so much power and money aren’t using it for good. They need to know, especially in aviation, that there is no environmentally friendly way to have private jets. Deep down, they all know that.”

“This is a completely unacceptable form of protest. We condemn this action,” show organizers said in a joint statement. “Business aviation is deeply committed to climate action. It is an industry that has reduced carbon emissions by 40% over the past 40 years, is continuously reducing emissions today, and is focused collectively on the goal of net zero emissions by 2050.” Geneva airport is the second most important airport in Switzerland after Zurich. In addition to private jets, Geneva-Cointrin is also an important hub for the low cost company Easy Jet. In 2022, it welcomed more than 14 million passengers, according to official figures.

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