To fly or not to fly

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Recently, a specialist tour operator, Responsible Travel, issued a manifesto which – among other things – called upon the UK government to increase APD to dissuade people from flying.

It was also in the same week that the actress, Emma Thompson was roundly condemned by some people and media for flying in from the USA to attend the Extinction Rebellion protests in London. Flying back to the US a week last Friday she apparently went first class and thus left a carbon footprint much greater than us normal mortals would do when flying economy.

Given the “Do what I say rather than what I do” school of thought why should the majority of us heed the words of Responsible Travel and accept an increase in APD especially when evidence from the Netherlands and Ireland shows that a tax like APD damages tourism and thus affects economic growth and jobs? Increasing APD substantially will affect the economy and, all of us as a result. But then, argues Extinction Rebellion, so will climate change if we do not act.

In the same week, a report by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) said that flying needs to be curtailed in order to reduce emissions and says that reductions will also come from new plane efficiencies “operational measures “ (whatever that means) and bio-fuel take-up. The committee says that It will write to the government later in the year about aviation.

This report, although over 250 pages long, is full of repetition so don’t think you need to read it thoroughly. You can easily skim through chunks of it but what it doesn’t mention much about is technology advancement and how that might assist in cutting emissions. Airline manufacturers, for example, have dramatically cut the amount of emission. IATA says that the industry has cut emissions by 1.5% per year from 2009 to 2020. Yet by 2050 it says that emissions will only be 50% lower. Could that be greater if electric planes become a reality ir if aircraft design is improved? And how does that play with space tourism even if that is only for the rich?

For the day tripper of staycationer, public transport is unavailable in many places. And if it does exist, it is erratic. My village is linked to the largest big town by one bus service there and back only on the first Wednesday of each month. Is it any wonder car usage is so high? If tourism is vital to economy growth and electric cars are the way forward where are the charging points in rural areas. I don’t know of one within a forty mile radius of where I live. It all suggests that there will have to be substantial infrastructure changes first.

The UK, being island based, has to rely on transport to import the things it needs and export the items from which it makes money to drive the economy. Flying and shipping will be vital but could sufficient reductions just come from improved technology? Will business contacts be as successful using video-conferencing as if they meet face-to-face? Should holidaymakers and travellers reduce travel to cut emissions whilst others continue to spew out emissions with little regard for the rest of us?

These are the sort of questions that have to be faced. And the answers aren’t easy or quick.

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