What’s Going On Here?

The Covid-19 crisis has cost the aviation industry $880 billion worldwide. But as governments scramble to bailout airlines, environmental campaigners are asking for strict conditions on the industry’s future climate impact before taxpayer’s money is handed out.

What Does This Mean?

Aviation has all but ceased in many countries (follow this dramatic decline in air traffic is being mapped in real-time on Flight Radar24). And airlines around the world have been appealing to governments for bailouts, with varying degrees of success. In the United States, President Donald Trump singled out the industry as most deserving of financial assistance and is considering giving American airlines the $48 billion collectively requested.

But many see this lull in flying as an opportunity to get the industry to commit to reducing its climate change impact. A group of 26 civil society groups— including Greenpeace and Flight Free UK — have put pressure on the UK government, demanding “stringent conditions” on any airline bailout, including strict greenhouse gases targets in line with the UK’s net-zero by 2050 commitments.

The letter, sent to the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, also calls for workers’ rights to be enforced and in the longer term, asks for support for a “just transition” for workers to move to jobs in lower carbon industries. At the moment, Sunak has said that the industry will not receive any special measures beyond what is being offered across all sectors. But the UK government will likely come under increasing pressure from airline companies’ bosses and shareholders, as other countries bail out their airlines.

Why Should We Care?

Because the airline industry is a HUGE polluter and it’s only getting worse. Carbon dioxide emitted by commercial flights rose by 32% from 2013 to 2018, according to a recent study, and they are rising up to 70% faster than predicted by the UN.

But air travel puts out more pollution than just CO2. For example, water vapour at high levels forms thin clouds that also have a warming effect. The Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change estimates that the warming effect of aircraft emissions is about 1.9 times that of carbon dioxide alone, due to the other gases produced by planes.

Miguel Arias Cañete, the EU climate commissioner who led the bloc to the Paris agreement, agreed that any bailouts “must be conditional, otherwise when we recover we will see the same or higher levels of carbon dioxide from flying.”

Be Curious!

  • Sign this Greenpeace petition to pressure the government to invest in a new sustainable economy that protects the planet.
  • If you haven’t already committed to being flight free in 2020, enforced lockdown might be nudging you in this direction. Pledge your commitment along with more than 6,000 Brits on Flight Free UK’s site.
  • Since we are all spending more time in a FAR more local setting, why not travel with your mind, from the comfort of your armchair? Here’s a list of some of the best virtual holiday tours.
  • And don’t forget to check out all the amazing cultural resources—theatre, concerts, gallery tours—now being streamed during this period of lockdown. Here’s a list of some of the best. 

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