After coronavirus (which might be quite a long way away), or at least when the world settles down to a new normal, there are some things that I’d like to be different. So over the next days and weeks I’m going to write them down. They will mostly be to do with our relationship with the natural world (but not exclusively).
If you would like to have a go at writing a guest blog on a thing that you would like to be different then please take notice of these general guidelines for guest blogs and send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration. I’ll give priority to offers that relate to the natural environment, and/or to those that are well-written (IMHO).
Sitting in my garden I now see and hear far fewer planes crossing the east Northants skies. Aside from Icelandic volcanoes, nothing has jolted our addiction to flying as effectively as a global pandemic. A tiny virus has done more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from aviation than all the good intentions of individuals and the green policies of governments put together. We’ve been forced not too fly and there’s going to be a good few more weeks of enforced abstinence for most at least.
It seems to me that there will be few better measures of whether we want ‘after’ to be different from ‘before’ than how much we are allowed and encouraged to fly.
Carbon emissions from all UK activities other than aviation declined by 9% in the decade 1990-2000, yet those from aviation doubled in the same period. We make something like 250 million passenger flights annually which is four flights each per year. I think I’ve made five return trips by plane in the last decade.
Airlines are already squealing that they are essential to economic growth, and the economy, and to everything else and that they are so essential that they need handouts to keep going. Who could look at Michael O’Leary and Richard Branson and not want to give them some of our money these days? It’s almost as though not taxing aviation fuel doesn’t count as a massive public subsidy for a highly polluting industry.
Taxing aviation fuel would be a good start and rationing air travel would be another. If you gave me a flight allowance then I would most likely tear it up and that would reduce overall air travel, but I might give my share to my kids, or perhaps sell my share on the open market. Tradeable permits, set at a much lower level than now, would be an effective way to limit air travel through price and availability. ‘What a complicated system!’ you might cry? Well, take a look at how governments raise money from income tax and you’ll see a complicated system of regulating behaviour that is mind-numbingly complex and yet is wholly accepted (well, maybe not 100%) because we’ve all grown up with it, even though income tax was introduced as a temporary measure to raise money to fight Napoleon.
I’m not hopeful that even the jolt to the system delivered by a global pandemic will reset the system as far as air travel is concerned but it should. At present there seem to be two Westminster petitions on this subject: one entitled ‘Decline any requests for bailouts from the airline industry‘ and another ‘Support the British aviation industry during the COVID-19 outbreak‘. I’ll leave it to you to guess which one has fewer than 5,000 signatures and which has over 100,000.
If you’d like to comment on this blog post please start by disclosing how many air flights you have made in the last decade.