Cheap flights threaten UK targets for carbon emissions

A A A

The boom in foreign travel generated by cheaper air fares and no frills airlines will wreck Britain's attempts to bring climate change under control, environmentalists fear.

As the travel industry prepares for record bookings in 2006, green groups expressed concern over the "failure" of the Government to curb the availability of cheap flights that have sent aviation pollution surging. Fumes spewed out by jets are expected to become the single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The increase reflects the steady rise of overseas travel, which is growing at between 5 and 6 per cent a year. According to a study by Mintel this month, tourism from the world's leading 15 outbound tourism markets is likely to double between now and 2020. Britons, second only to the Germans for volume of travel, are forecast to take 101 million foreign trips by 2020. Greenpeace warned that level of air travel would be "catastrophic" for climate.

The Government's stated aim is to cut carbon emissions in the UK by 60 per cent by 2050, but the figure does not include aviation, which currently accounts for about 15 per cent of Britain's carbon.

According to the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, aviation will generate 43 million tons of carbon by 2050 - a seemingly unworkable 66 per cent of the Government's 65 million ton target.

On present trends by 2050, one green organisation, the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, estimates that air travel will account for the entire "sustainable" carbon quota of this country.

"The forecast growth in aviation represents one of the most unsustainable trends in UK society," the cross-party Environmental Audit Committee warned.

The shadow Environment Secretary, Peter Ainsworth, who chaired the Environment Audit Committee at the time of its report in 2003, is likely to push the issue up the agenda. He said aviation pollution was one of the areas being examined by the party's quality of life commission, led by Zac Goldsmith.

The combination of the amount of fossil fuel required to take off and the carbon emitted was a "cocktail of disaster," Mr Ainsworth said. "I think there's a huge degree of ignorance about this. But it's the hardest of the climate change problems to solve because people really like leaving the country and they don't care that it's bad for the balance of payments or bad for the environment."

The Government believes that a proposal to include airlines in the EU's carbon emission trading scheme will alleviate the problem - a move which does not satisfy environmentalists.

Over the next few years travellers may find themselves at the centre of an ever-louder debate about the impact of their journeys. BA already offers long-haul passengers the option of paying a levy that goes to plant trees to offset the carbon emitted on their flight. The industry magazine Travel Weekly believes other airlines may soon follow.

Another idea is for personal carbon allowances; consumers may have to wrestle with whether to experience the enjoyment of travel or to stay at home.

When package tourism took off in the 1960s and 1970s few could have imagined the phenomenal rise of air travel. Once the annual holiday was typically spent by the British seaside, now Europe, America, Africa and even the Far East are the destinations.

Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and Transport 2000 called on the Government to tax air fuel and halt the planned expansion of British airports. They urged individuals to consider switching to less polluting forms of transport, such as trains. Richard Dyer, of Friends of the Earth, said: "What's happening with low-cost travel is that it's setting up unsustainable patterns of behaviour, so people are buying property in France that they wouldn't otherwise and flying to Prague rather than taking the train to Edinburgh for stag dos. Ending or changing these patterns of behaviour is all the harder to do once they are established."

A study by the London Sustainable Development Commission in April 2004 found that five and possibly six of the top 10 destinations for air travel from London could be served by high-speed trains, which are eight times less polluting than planes.

Jason Torrance, campaigns director of Transport 2000, said: "It's undeniably attractive to travel on a low-cost flight from England to the south of Spain. But as individuals we are all actors in the crisis of climate change, and we as individuals should be questioning whether our travel is necessary. I'm not suggesting people should stop all flying but getting onto a plane and causing vast amounts of pollution is a very serious action."

Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
tvReview: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
Review: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Arts & Entertainment
Charlotte Brontë, the English novelist, poet and the eldest of the three Bronte sisters who lived into adulthood, has been celebrated with a Google Doodle depicting her most famous novel, Jane Eyre.
arts + ents "Reader, they doodled her".

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on during his side's defeat to Everton
footballBaines and Mirallas score against United as Everton keep alive hopes of a top-four finish
Sport
Tour de France 2014Sir Rodney Walker on organising the UK stages of this year’s race
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Brown Findlay as Mary Yellan in ‘Jamaica Inn’
TVJessica Brown Findlay on playing the spirited heroine of Jamaica Inn
News
YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
News
People
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLE
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Geography Teacher

£130 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Secondary Geography Teacher Lo...

Do you want to work in Education?

£55 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energeti...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: SEN TAs, LSAs and Support Workers needed...

Private Client Senior Manager - Sheffield

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: The Sheffield office of this...

Day In a Page

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

The man who could have been champion of the world

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
Didn’t she do well?

Didn’t she do well?

Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
Before they were famous

Before they were famous

Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players