Greenpeace activists in the Netherlands occupied a runway at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, 14 May 2020. The action was organized to protest large amounts of government funds being used to assist the aviation sector during this pandemic.
Actions by protestors
According to NH Nieuws, activists have occupied the runway known as the Aalsmeerbaan (roughly translating to ‘ships hell’). The runway is currently being used for parking KLM aircraft. Protestors managed to access the runway with a small, portable bridge used to cross a ditch that separates a public road from the Schiphol airport grounds. Assuming authorities would be responding quickly, activists used bicycles to get to the runway quickly.
“KLM emits more CO2 than the largest coal-fired power station in the Netherlands.” -Greenpeace website
The organization is calling for the Dutch government to tack on three conditions to its coronavirus-related aid package. These conditions are as follows:
- A falling CO2 ceiling
- Fewer flights
- Short-haul flights to be replaced by trains
According to NL Times, Greenpeace is also demanding conditions attached to aid for other major polluters, saying,
“All financial support must be in line with the Paris climate agreement. Companies must therefore come up with a plan to commit to serious climate goals.”
The organization has acknowledged the negative impact of these demands on business operations. As such, it has suggested the creation of a fund to “guide people to greener work or to retrain them where necessary.”
The Dutch government’s support of KLM
Last month it was announced that Air France-KLM Group as a whole would receive up to €11 billion ($12 billion) in financial aid from the French and Dutch government. While French funds to the tune of €7 billion have been confirmed for Air France, the Dutch government’s pledge has yet to go through. Authorities had announced earlier that €2-4 billion in state aid would go to KLM.
The deal includes conditions that include a restriction on paying out dividends and bonuses as well as forced pay cuts for workers. Still, KLM is grateful to the government for its pledge of support:
“On behalf of all KLM’s employees, I would like to express my deep gratitude and appreciation for this strong and significant support from the Dutch government. . . The Dutch government has responded with aid on an equally unprecedented scale. The Netherlands can be assured of our total commitment to living up to the trust that has been placed in our company.” – Pieter Elbers, President & CEO, KLM
Conclusion and update
This morning it was reported that the Koninklijke Marechaussee, a branch of the Dutch military responsible for airport security, said on Twitter that the 11 Greenpeace activists who were protesting would be detained.
11 actievoerders van Greenpeace hebben zich verzameld op de Aalsmeerbaan op #Schiphol. De Marechaussee gaat de actievoerders aanhouden en verwijderen.
— Koninklijke Marechaussee (@Marechaussee) May 14, 2020
While perhaps now might be a good time to impose conditions on funding and institute policies that work towards a greener future, trespassing and accessing an airport’s runway is not likely to earn activists any favor from the Dutch government. On one hand, these actions will draw more media attention (and certainly make for better photos). On the other hand, if the Dutch government were to give in to protestor demands, it could encourage more actions of a similar nature.