Climate change protestors blockade Geneva’s private jet terminal


Extinction Rebellion activists blocked entrances to Geneva’s private jet terminal during a protest on Saturday, November 16, 2019, targeting what they claimed was “an absurd means of transport”.

About 30 activists blocked the three main entrances to the terminal for about two and half hours, supported by about 70 other protestors who clapped, sang and displayed placards, according to the Swiss news website

Extinction Rebellion spokesperson Micaël Metry said in a statement: “We want to denounce this completely absurd means of transport since a private jet emits 20 times more CO2 per passenger than a conventional airplane.”

A Facebook post on the pressure group’s website added: “We have blocked the private jet terminal to defend the principle of climate and social justice. This means of transport is completely absurd.”

Protestors from the pressure group – committed to forcing government action on climate change and biodiversity loss – later dispersed peacefully at the request of the police.

No impact on travellers

A spokesperson for Geneva Airport said that the protests had no impact on travellers.

“This demonstration had no impact on passengers and our airport operations on Saturday. Geneva Airport strives, in close collaboration with its partners, to provide its service to passengers, so that they can use our infrastructure without any inconvenience,” said the spokesperson.

Geneva is one of Europe’s busiest private jet airports. In May it hosts the annual European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition.

Requests for activists to join the protestors appeared on the Extinction Rebellion Facebook page on November 11. Amongst the roles available were: activist, spokesperson, social media management, legal observer, blocker, guardian of peace and musician. A total of 165 people said they were interested in attending the event.

The protest was live-streamed on the Extinction Rebellion’s Geneva Facebook page. The 65-minute video shows the activists peacefully protesting outside the terminal. At one point the video pans around to show the business jet ramp, with several aircraft parked. As of writing, the video has been viewed 4,555 times.

The Extinction Rebellion site claims a private jet is responsible for 20 times more CO2 per passenger than a commercial aircraft. Commercial flights account for 2% of global carbon emissions. Only 2% of the 2% of emissions are from private jets.

According to an airport spokesperson: business aviation at Geneva Airport is an important source of job creation and greatly benefited the local economy. It is also important for the international organisations, located nearby.

‘Sustainable development’

“Geneva Airport has been implementing for years a sustainable development strategy, which is reflected in numerous actions aimed at reducing the impact of our airport platform on the climate and the environment in the broadest sense,” says the spokesperson.

Recent years have seen a push towards using sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), which cut total emissions by up to 80%, a far greater percentage than the 50% emissions that business aviation has pledged to cut by 2050.

The protest comes shortly after a UK Labour politician called for a ban on fossil-fuelled private jets from UK airports by 2025. Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald was replying to a report published by Common Wealth, a left-wing think tank with a strong relationship with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, and the campaign group A Free Ride, which argues for a tax on frequent flyers.

McDonald’s comments were criticised both by the National Business Aviation Administration (NBAA) and by the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC).

Even though business aviation accounts for only a minuscule portion of transportation emissions, “the industry is pressing ahead on SAF”, said Kurt Edwards, director-general, IBAC. “Instead of singling out business aviation for prohibitive restrictions on airport access, UK leaders should focus on efforts to make SAF more widely available in the UK through positive incentive policies to encourage production and use of SAF in greater quantities.”

It is not the first time that the Extinction Rebellion has targeted aviation. In October 2019 an activist managed to ‘glue’ himself to the top of a British Airways plane at London City Airport. Pictures on the website showed the man lying on the top of the fuselage of an Embraer 190.