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Bailing out Flybe would be an act of climate vandalism

If this government is serious about being a world leader on climate action, giving handouts to one of the country’s dirtiest industries simply isn’t an option

Amelia Womack
Tuesday 14 January 2020 17:57 GMT
Flybe future uncertain

The government is currently deciding whether or not to bail out a failing airline by scrapping air passenger duty, giving Flybe a bit of breathing space to defer payment of their £100m tax bill, just one year after being bailed out by Virgin.

If this government is serious about being a world leader on climate action, giving handouts to one of the country’s dirtiest industries simply isn’t an option. In fact, it would be nothing less than an act of climate vandalism.

The recklessness of such a move would be threefold. Firstly, it would prop up an airline which is particularly well known for domestic flights – some of the most polluting journeys on the market.

Secondly, aviation is already exempt from fuel duty and VAT, so this would remove one of the very few duties which actually help reflect the true cost of air travel, when we should be introducing policies like a frequent flyer levy.

Thirdly, it will divert energy and funds from the real solution to “regional connectivity” – massive investment in trains and buses, making low carbon transport the cheapest, most convenient and most comfortable way of getting around the country.

Of course, there’s no getting around the fact that the potential loss of 2,000 jobs is horrific, especially for the people who depend on Flybe for their livelihoods. But the reality is that the days of carbon intensive jobs and industries are numbered. Propping up these jobs with panicked handouts is not a proper policy: it’s just delaying the inevitable.

One way or another, our economy is going to change dramatically. It could be a managed transition from a carbon intensive economy to a carbon neutral economy. The alternative is to plough on with business as usual, letting the climate emergency intensify to the point at which our economy simply collapses.

To prevent social and economic disaster, the government must have a plan to transform the economy, while bringing workers with it.

Such a plan exists. It is called the Green New Deal – hundreds of billions of pounds of investment in the carbon neutral economy, while creating millions of new jobs and a just transition for all workers in industries which will have to be scaled back or ended completely.

The fate of Flybe sits at the intersection of social and environmental justice. On the one hand, it is simply ludicrous to suggest that a government gives subsidies to one of the dirtiest industries in the country during a time of climate emergency. However, nor is it an option to just watch one industry after another scale back or close down without a carefully calculated plan for what happens to the workers and communities who depend on these jobs.

Either we leave such workers to languish in unemployment for the rest of their lives, or we create a new economy with a new suite of jobs for everyone.

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It sounds like an obvious choice, but we know from history that the Tories tend to be fairly relaxed about stripping large swathes of the country of their livelihoods and leaving them to rot. We can’t let that happen again, not when the stakes of the climate emergency are so high.

Now we must fight for a planet we can live on, while preserving a country worth living in. The solution is a Green New Deal.

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