I’ve made a conscious descision not to fly anywhere, and haven’t flown since 16 April 2007. That’s over a whole year without any flights. That might not sound like a big deal, but in this aviation-obsessed world sometimes it feels like I’m the crazy one whilst other people are jetting off for weekend breaks left right and centre.
It’s difficult to recognise how serious an issue aviation is when even the government seem to be hell bent on expanding Heathrow and increasing flights.
Last week I attended a public “debate” at the RSA, entitled “Does London need a bigger Heathrow“. The panel comprised, among others, Ruth Kelly (minister for transport) and George Monbiot (Guardian columnist and author of Heat). I say “debate” because it was quite farcical in places. The audience was so unimpressed by Ruth Kelly’s arguments in favour of airport expansion that at a couple of points in the debate the chair stopped taking questions from the floor and instead reverted to asking “is there anyone from BAA in the audience who wants to ask a question?”. So basically it started turning into a “public debate” where the only questions that could be asked or the only points that could be made we those in favour of aircraft expansion. Right.
I still don’t understand how on one hand the government can be introducing a Climate Change Bill to limit the country’s emissions and say that tackling climate change is one of their priorities, while on the other hand looking to increase aviation – the largest growing source of emissions. If aviation continues to increase at its current rate, by 2050 it’s predicted to count for between 90-250% of the entire UK’s carbon emissions allowance. How can aviation expansion be justified?! I’m not convinced that anyone at the government even understands how it’s possible to reconcile this, because the only way they seem to be justifying it right now is by conveniently ignoring aviation emissions from the Climate Change Bill.
Someone in the government needs to face up to the fact that we have a choice. Either we choose airport expansion and climate change, or we choose a sustainable transport policy (think decent, reliable and affordable trains) and climate change mitigation. If you had the choice between clean, green transport or contributing to worldwide food shortages, mass hunger, flooding, and the potential for millions of people in the developing world to die, which would you choose?
That’s why on Saturday morning I’m going to the Make a Noise carnival at Hatton Cross/Sipson (on the boundaries of Heathrow airport), wearing my “Stop airport expansion” T-shirt.