2023 – the year of direct action

By Dirk Singer / January 14, 2023

Our new Sustainable Aviation 2023 Trends report looks at how and why the battle for climate action is expected to grow more heated this year and what visionary executives can do to stay ahead. Download the full report here.

According to Andreas Malm, a Swedish academic, climate activist and author of ‘How to blow up a pipeline’, hardly any transformative social movement has succeeded without an element of non-peaceful protest.

As a result, Malm says that to be effective, the climate change movement will need to shift to acts of sabotage, especially against what he calls sources of ‘luxury emissions.’

Whether or not we will see actual damage or sabotage at airports, we do expect there to be an increased level of activity by climate change groups when targeting aviation.

2023 will be a year of direct action with high-profile, disruptive protests targeted against air travel designed to generate maximum publicity.

We expect this to be the case despite the announcement by Extinction Rebellion (XR) in the UK that in 2023 they will shift away from disruptive tactics.

First of all, this announcement is UK specific, and secondly, more radical groups such as ‘Just Stop Oil’ have since emerged – Just Stop Oil, for example, was responsible for throwing soup at the Van Gogh painting, which made news headlines worldwide.

As a result, expect to see the blocking of runways, as happened in Munich in December, and sit-ins in private jet terminals, similar to the global protest that took place in Amsterdam and other cities in November.

In fact, a good indicator of what to expect comes from 2019 and early 2020 before the pandemic caused the air travel shut down and so a stop in aviation-focused protests.

Before COVID hit, protests stopped fossil fuel delivery trains reaching Stockholm’s Arlanda airport. Meanwhile, at London Heathrow Airport, activists threatened to disrupt flights by flying drones around the perimeter of LHR.

We also expect to see more court cases against Governments’ perceived failure to tackle aviation emissions, as happened in the UK and Sweden, and legal action against airlines seen to be engaged in so-called greenwashing (see our greenwashing report).

Why are climate change groups taking these steps?

There’s a belief that we are facing a global emergency, and so drastic measures are needed.

This is then combined with a feeling that ‘big aviation’ is engaged in greenwashing talk instead of action while carrying on with fossil fuel burning growth. Read more about this in our article here.

More aviation-specific sustainability updates and analysis can be found in our weekly Sustainability In The Air newsletter, led by SimpliFlying’s Research Director Dirk Singer. Do subscribe to our send-out to stay on top of the latest trends.

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