Canadians in solidarity with airport opponents

Ontario Teachers Pension Plan members Teri Burgess, Nicholas Clayton, Sarah Buisman, Zain Ghadially and Letitia

Ontario Teachers Pension Plan members Teri Burgess, Nicholas Clayton, Sarah Buisman, Zain Ghadially and Letitia - Credit: supplied

Canadian teachers in the pension plan that owns Bristol Airport say they stand in solidarity with the thousands of residents who oppose its expansion. 

In an open letter the six current and former teachers said they do not want their money used in such a “financially risky and unethical way”, and would not want a foreign investor paving over their green spaces. 

Bristol Airport is wholly owned by the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan (OTTPP), which says its mission is to ensure retirement security for its 329,000 members. 

It rejected the teachers’ claims that the airport’s expansion – refused last year by North Somerset Council – was incompatible with its climate change commitments. 
The teachers wrote: “We may live on the other side of the Atlantic, but we stand in solidarity with the thousands of Bristolians who are working to prevent harm to your local environment, community health and the global climate. 

“We call on our pension plan to instruct Bristol Airport to withdraw its appeal of North Somerset Council’s rejection of the proposed expansion and stop trying to overturn the democratic will of your communities.

“We are opposed to our pensions being used in this financially risky and unethical way that would harm your local environment, lock in expanded fossil fuel use, and work against a safe climate future.” 

They added: “We know you expressed your clear opposition to the airport expansion. And we know your local government wisely listened, and rejected the proposal.
“We wouldn’t want a foreign investor paving over our green spaces, polluting our communities, and taking our governments to court either.”

They said the pension plan had pledged to invest in 'climate-friendly opportunities' and must invest with conviction and integrity, but argued that pushing for the airport’s expansion was incompatible with those aims. 

The letter was signed by Teri Burgess, Letitia Charbonneau, Rosanne Iland, Zain Ghadially, Nicholas Clayton and Sarah Buisman. 

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A spokesperson for OTPP said: “We value and consider the feedback we hear from our 329,000 members, but our decision-making is guided by our mission to deliver retirement security for our members while creating a positive impact for our partners and the communities where we operate. 

“We believe the expansion of Bristol Airport is consistent with that mission and can create sustainable value for our members and Bristol Airport’s stakeholders, including employees, customers, and local communities. 

“We note that Bristol Airport’s plans include a roadmap to become carbon neutral for direct emissions by 2025 and a net-zero airport by 2050. These targets align with measures we are implementing to achieve net-zero at Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan by 2050. 

“Bristol Airport has submitted an appeal to proceed with the expansion and we are awaiting the decision of the relevant UK government authority as to whether the expansion is in the region’s interests and should proceed.” 

More: Bristol Airport lodges appeal against refusal to expand facilities.

A Bristol Airport spokesperson said: “The plans to expand capacity at the airport will offer passengers more routes and flights from the South West directly, create jobs, facilitate inward investment and inbound tourism, and support greener and more sustainable, regional economic growth.  

“Sustainable development has always been at the centre of Bristol Airport’s plans. The expansion proposals sit alongside a roadmap which sets out how the airport will achieve its ambition to become carbon neutral for direct emissions by 2025 and a net zero airport by 2050. 

“These aims align with measures being implemented by Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan to achieve net-zero by 2050.

“As the UK emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic it is essential that all regions of the country are given the opportunity to grow to their full potential and contribute to the national recovery effort. International trade and connectivity will become increasingly important in a post-COVID-19 and post-Brexit world – increasing aviation capacity is essential in delivering this goal.”

The appeal will be heard at a public inquiry in July. 

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