Peter Lockley: Fly less and we'll all be happier

Share
Related Topics

The last week has not been a happy one for the aviation industry, nor for the thousands of stranded travellers waiting for the air to clear. But if Eyjafjallajökull's eruption has made us think about the reality of a world with less flying, it could, in fact, turn out to be a blessing.

Without question, there has been hardship for passengers stuck abroad, and economic worries for a few select industries that rely directly on air freight, such as importers of cut flowers. But there are economic upsides too. For every tourist who couldn't fly in to the UK, almost two couldn't fly out, and those two may well be spending money at UK tourist destinations that have suffered in recent years from the rise in cheap flights. The shutdown could go some way to trim the UK's £17bn "tourism deficit" – the difference between what we spend abroad and what visitors spend in the UK. Luckily it's been sunny in Britain, so maybe the charms of Devon or the Lake District will change a few people's holiday habits in the longer term.

But perhaps the biggest economic winner thus far has been the telecommunications industry. Video-conferencing companies are reporting a boom in bookings, while businesses that have already invested in their own equipment will have been among those least affected by the crisis. And on Monday, EU Transport Ministers held a "virtual" meeting via video-conferencing to discuss the impact of the volcano. It may have been a solution born of necessity, but it will hopefully have opened their eyes to how much carbon, time and taxpayers' money could be saved this way.

WWF works hard to promote alternatives to air travel. Through our 1 in 5 Challenge, we're helping businesses and public bodies to cut 20 per cent of their flights. If every business in Europe did so, it would save 22 million tonnes of CO2 a year, equivalent to taking a third of the cars off the UK's roads. The companies we're working with have found that they save huge amounts of time and money, as well as cutting carbon by cutting flights.

It's important to show that we can fly less and still stay competitive. Because while no one is proposing grounding every plane, we'll have to fly less in future if we're serious about meeting our carbon targets. The Government has set a target that emissions from aircraft be no higher in 2050 than they were in 2005. That's a good start (although it will still put an extra squeeze on other sectors).

But the Government now needs to get serious about what that target really means. Luckily, it will be forced to, thanks to some rumblings of a different kind, that took place in the High Court earlier this week.

Earlier this year, a coalition of local councils, residents and green groups, took the Government to court over the third runway proposed at Heathrow. We argued that current plans to expand some 30 airports across the country are incompatible with the UK's climate change targets.

The judge agreed, and on Tuesday, he ordered the Government to sign an undertaking that when it updates its airports policy to fit with the UK's new planning system, it will not use, or even refer to, the Air Transport White Paper which has held sway since 2003. That's a huge win for the environment. It confirms that the Climate Change Act really does have teeth, and that future governments cannot just build huge pieces of carbon-intensive infrastructure without considering the climate consequences.

It also sends airport policy back to the drawing board. The real hope is that when the next Government, whatever its colour, starts to sketch out a new aviation policy, they will look back to the week we couldn't fly but still got on with our lives, and think long and hard about just how much air travel is really necessary.

The writer is Head of Transport of WWF-UK, the British arm of the World Wide Fund for Nature

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Most powerful woman in British politics

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
All the major parties are under pressure from sceptical voters to spell out their tax and spending plans  

Yet again, the economy is the battleground on which the election will be fought

Patrick Diamond
Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders