A group of between 80 and 100 environmental activists pushed through security gates at Geneva International Airport in Switzerland today (May 23) to protest the ongoing European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition (EBACE). Wearing yellow high-visibility vests that resembled those worn by security personnel, protestors breached the gates surrounding the EBACE static display ramp at around 11:30 a.m. local time. Some handcuffed themselves to aircraft and chanted anti-business aviation slogans. Some carried banners reading “#BanPrivateJets” and “WARNING: Private jets drown our hope.”
According to the Greenpeace website, the protestors included representatives from environmental activist groups Greenpeace, Stay Grounded, Extinction Rebellion, Scientist Rebellion “and other climate movement groups from 17 countries.”
The protest caused officials to close the airport to air traffic for approximately one hour, causing several flights to be diverted or hold before landing. According to Reuters, four people were injured, including protesters and security personnel.
Show organizers, including the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) and the U.S.-based National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), had agreed to sponsor a planned protest later in the day, hoping to keep the activists from disrupting the event.
As reported by Aviation International News, in a joint statement, NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen and EBAA head Juergen Wiese said, “This is a completely unacceptable form of protest.” The statement added, “Today’s disruption ignores the fact that business aviation is deeply committed to climate action. This is an industry that has cut its carbon emissions by 40 percent over the past 40 years, is continually reducing emissions today, and is collectively focused on achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. We as an industry are open to constructive dialogue about the industry’s sustainability leadership, and we regret the protestors’ unfortunate decision to disregard an opportunity for that dialogue to take place.” Overall, the entire aviation industry, including airline and military operations, is said to be responsible for 2 percent of human-generated carbon emissions, while private/general aviation is said to represent around 2 percent of that figure.
Local police removed and detained an unspecified number of the protestors. After security personnel cleared the area, the static display was reopened to EBACE exhibitors and attendees.