Nellie (the elephant in the room) drops in on Manchester City Council’s climate change conference

2.12.2010 (Stop Expansion at Manchester Airport, SEMA)
On Tuesday 30th November, a cold and snowy morning, campaigners from Manchester
Climate Action took a giant white elephant (lovingly named Nellie) to greet the
public and organisations attending Manchester City Council’s Climate Change stakeholder
conference at the Museum of Science and Industry.

The first annual stakeholder conference aimed to engage with residents and businesses
of Manchester about reducing their emissions. It was an initiative which came
off the back of the council’s Climate Change Action Plan, named ‘Manchester: A
Certain Furture’ (MACF), which was published in 2009 and took some important first
steps towards considering the impact of our lives and industries on the environment.

Most significantly, MACF set targets for the city to reduce emissions 41% by
2020. However, as this commitment doesn’t include the flight emissions from Manchester
Airport (55% owed by the city council and the regions biggest source of emissions)
it seems a little feeble.

So the airport is still the council’s ‘elephant in the room’, and Nellie assisted
campaigners in highlighting this, and embarrassing the city council. Everyone
attending the conference, including the airport’s biggest supporter Councillor
Richard Leese, was handed flyers explaining the elephant and detailing the councils
omission of the airport from its climate change plan, as well as its plans to
drastically expand over the next 30 years and demolish local homes to do so. Campaigners
received a warm reception from both those attending the conference and staff at
the museum who express their concerns about the council’s attitude towards the

Sarah Thomas from Manchester Climate Action said "Although the city council are
engaging with climate change and intends for the airport to be carbon neutral
within the next two years this does not include the emissions from flights taking
off or landing at the airport. Our concern is that if the council supports the
airport in going ahead with plans to increase flights from 30 million flights
a year to 50 million by 2030 then any emission reduction achieved elsewhere will
be outweighed. Essentially residents and businesses in the city will be cutting
their emissions in order for the airport to increase theirs."

The event succeeding in getting new people and organisations discussing their
emissions reduction plans – as well as the creative delivery of some of the six
parallel workshops that happened throughout the day.

Nellie’s appearance at the conference took place just a week before 11 activists from Manchester Plane Stupid stand trial at Trafford Magistrates Court following their involvement in shutting
down the airport in May 2010 in order to draw attention to the council’s plans
to allow Manchester Airport to expand at the expense of demolishing local homes
and destroying areas of important biodiversity. Their hearing begins on Monday
6th December 2010 and is expected to last one week.

A campaign entitled ‘Manchester Airport on Trial’ is being run around the court
trial and has received support from Heathrow Labour MP John McDonnell, Johann
Hari, writer and journalist for the Independent, and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas.
The campaign is playing an important role in highlighting to both the airport
and council that people from all sectors of society are concerned about the planned
expansion, and also that direct action is being increasing recognised as a legitimate
way of opposing the plans due to the lack of effective democratic avenues.

Manchester Airport on Trial