The Climate Column

I have zero sympathy for victims of travel chaos – ban holiday flights

A family of four would have to turn off all home electricity for 28 years, to make up for one holiday to New Zealand, writes Donnachadh McCarthy

Tuesday 12 July 2022 12:36 BST
Either we are serious about the climate crisis or we should admit we do not give a toss
Either we are serious about the climate crisis or we should admit we do not give a toss (PA Wire)

Sorry, but I have zero sympathy for the so-called victims of the chaos at our overwhelmed airports. Whilst millions go hungry in the cost-of-living crisis, our rich elite have returned in droves to selfish aviation based “holidays”.

The word holiday is derived from holy-days. There is nothing holy about contributing to climate destruction and the resulting starvation, refugees, flooding, droughts and wildlife extinctions unfolding across the globe.

To be fair to the two million Britons who flew abroad during the recent mid-term break, many may not understand how criminal their holiday flights actually are, with our media keeping people in carbon illiteracy.

A family of four flying to Disneyland in California emit nine tonnes of CO2. This is the equivalent of 12.5 years average UK household electricity emissions. For a flight to the Canaries, it would be 6 years and to New Zealand, an eye watering 28 years! Yes, a family of four would have to turn off ALL their home electricity for 28 years, to make up for the carbon emissions of one holiday in New Zealand.

Despite this shocking carbon destruction, our media has been flooded with endless  headlines, support and sympathy for these airport criminals.

We have laws in place to penalise dropping an ice-cream wrapper, due to the litter it causes, but we have a government and corporate media intent on promoting aviation’s climate destruction, as global temperatures soar.

Transport is the largest single source of UK carbon emissions and Boris Johnson put a hobby pilot (Grant Shapps) in charge of the Department of Transport, including its supposed role in cutting emissions. Talk about putting the fox in charge of the carbon chicken coop!

Whilst his departmental press releases are dripping with the word “sustainable”, they really mean sustainable in terms of increasing profitability and passenger numbers, not for climate.

So, while he does give token nods to the climate crisis by talking up the Jet Zero initiative developing so called “sustainable” aviation fuels (SAFs) and electric planes, Shapps’ real agenda is more passengers, more planes and bigger airports.

His department told this column that current aviation emissions are 38.2 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent. This is the equivalent of the electricity emissions for nearly 54 million households (twice the number in the UK!). They added that “under a high ambition scenario”, this would be reduced by a miniscule 5.75 per cent by 2030.

Remember the UN says we need a 45 per cent cut in emissions by 2030 to stay under 1.5C and there is zero evidence of any ambition, never mind a high one.

In May, Shapps introduced the government’s aviation strategy saying: “The Government is committed to growth in demand and working with industry to ensure we enable the sector to recover.”

He added: “The UK’s aviation sector is a real asset to the UK, providing travel opportunities, supporting business, and transporting freight. Before Covid-19 the air transport  sector contributed £14 billion to GDP.”

He omits the inconvenient truth that foreign holidays create for the UK a whopping £39 billion deficit, i.e. rich Brits spend £39 billion more abroad than incoming tourists spend here. This £39 billion would pay for loft and cavity wall insulation for approximately 46 million homes! His press release quoted an airport industry spokesperson saying, “Airports look forward to enabling people to take well-earned breaks abroad.”

It included no quotes from the government’s Climate Change Committee, who say flight numbers have to fall 15 per cent, if we are to get even close to net zero by 2050.

Shapps’ governmental aviation strategy was called “Flightpath to the Future”, when it should have been called “Flightpath to Destruction”. This strategy was followed in June by another Shapps’ initiative to reduce the delays for the rich flying abroad this summer.

With millions of Brits facing a winter of choosing whether to eat or heat, with soaring food and energy inflation, coupled with benefit cuts, there is something seriously wrong with a government setting up a task force, with weekly crisis meetings, including cross departmental involvement, not to help the poor get through the cost of living crisis but to ensure as many people as possible can take climate-trashing flights abroad this summer.

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With climate destruction unfolding all around us, our media and government must urgently wake up to the rank criminality of rich people flying on holiday. Remember globally only 4 per cent of people fly abroad each year. It is a crime infinitely more destructive than dropping litter and so should incur action that is far more severe.

Until global carbon emissions have decreased by the 45 per cent the UN says needed to stay within 1.5C by the end of the decade, governments need to now ban all holiday flights, other than those needing to visit family on compassionate grounds.

Either we are serious about the climate crisis or we should admit we do not give a toss and we will fiddle and fly whilst the planet burns.

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