Claire's blog

'Carry on flying': a response to the aviation proposals in the DfT Decarbonising Transport report

The Department for Transport has finally published its plan, Decarbonising Transport: A Better, Greener Britain. In terms of aviation, the proposals are hugely disappointing, extremely limited and essentially a charter for the industry, desperate to recover from the pandemic, to build back the same.  Many colleagues in environmental and analytical organisations are preparing detailed responses, based on flight numbers, the viability or otherwise of so-called sustainable fuels and climate impact statistics. While these are much needed dissections that provide the ammunition with which to call for more radical action, there is also a need to remind ourselves of the fundamentals, a plain English telling of where we are and where we need to go. 

First, technical and scientific solutions to the climate impact of aviation are to be welcomed. No one would disagree with that – a successful call for a reduction in the amount of flying would not exclude us from wanting to see whatever flying remains from being carried out in a more climate friendly way.  Whether alternative fuels, aircraft technology, or a combination of both, in principle we would welcome investment aimed at the development of such solutions. 

Fatal delay

What we do object to is that these solutions are used as industry greenwash that ignores reality in order to justify the continuation (or restoration) of business as usual.  All actors agree, including government and industry, that viable solutions will not be available till the late 2030s at best, maybe the 2040s, or even 2050.  Many of the solutions currently proposed are either ‘false’ (i.e. create as many problems as they solve) or ‘need work’ (i.e. unproven, requiring more R&D). In particular, synthetic or so-called sustainable fuels are either a long way off development, are expensive and energy intensive to use, are impossible to scale up, or produce more emissions than conventional kerosene. 

So we are looking to some future time for the possible advent of alternative ways of flying, hence the DfT commits to ‘net zero domestic aviation by 2040’ and net zero for all aviation by 2050.  Even leaving aside the problematic nature of the term ‘net zero’ that is a long way off.

In the meantime plans for traffic growth, and associated airport expansions, remain. These have nothing to do with such solutions and are purely about an increase in fossil fuelled flying, including recovery to 2019 levels by 2025 and then continuing to grow thereafter – more flights in 2026, more in 2027, 2028 and so on.

We should ask:

i. How does such growth in emissions square with a climate emergency for which radical action is needed by 2030 to keep within 1.5C (clue: it doesn’t), and

ii. How the availability of solutions, even accelerated to the 2030s, will help solve a climate crisis that is happening very visibly right now (it won’t).

Trade unions join calls to save Green Homes Grant

 
UK trade union leaders have written to the Chancellor calling on him not to cut funding from the Green Homes Grants scheme. They say removing around £1 billion from the scheme would jeopardise the UK’s chances of a green recovery, and put jobs at risk. With severe administrative problems caused by mismanagement of the scheme by US firm ICF, they also call on the scheme to be brought under public sector control.
 
Gail Cartmail, Unite Assistant General Secretary said, "The UK has some of the poorest housing stock in western Europe and 'fuel poverty' is rampant – so the need for a comprehensive housing renovation programme - with the 'green' agenda at its heart - is desperately required. The current failings in the Green Homes Grants scheme has been abetted by awarding the contract to a US firm, when, during the pandemic, it is the public sector that has more than proved its worth as the standard bearer of delivering services in a timely fashion. This contract should be brought back under public sector control immediately."
 
John Moloney, PCS Assistant General Secretary said, "The failure of Boris Johnson's Government to deliver on the Green Homes Grant – already at best a drop in the ocean initiative to tackle the climate emergency – exposes the truth about their world beating leadership on climate change and the large scale investment needed for a green recovery."
 
Suzanne Jeffery, Chair of CACCTU said "At a time of a jobs crisis and climate crisis and in the year UK hosts COP26, it's a dangerous and unnecessary failure. Cutting back this scheme threatens jobs and climate action."
 
Full letter below.

No climate justice without an end to racism

The brutal and casual murder of George Floyd has sparked an uprising. Protests have spread across the US and in other countries, fuelled by centuries of structural oppression and racism and a culture of impunity among the police force. The roll call of sons, fathers, daughters, grandmothers killed without justice did not start with Trump's presidency, but he has consistently promoted racist violence in his statements and his policies.

We stand with the international protests. Black Lives Matter. And here in the UK we cannot merely see racism as a US issue. Black lives matter in police stations. Black lives matter in hospital wards and care homes, on trains and buses, in schools and colleges - the shocking disparity in BAME Covid deaths even more dramatic among health and social care staff and transport workers. Black lives matter in the 'hostile environment'. As individuals, we must listen and learn. As climate campaigners, we must speak out.

Climate breakdown has always been an issue of racism as well as social and economic injustice. How could it be otherwise, when the Global South suffers so disproportionately from something it has done so little to cause? Environmental racism also manifests in the toxic pollution from fossil fuel extraction burdening low-income communities in many countries. This has led to the concept of 'sacrifice zones'. But when we compromise on cutting emissions, when 'moderation' is prioritised over climate scientists' stark warnings and call to urgent action, we are accepting the idea that poorer countries and vulnerable communities should be a 'sacrifice zone' for the sake of short-term profit. 

We must insist on climate policy that says Black Lives Matter. We must stand with those, particularly indigenous peoples, who are defending their land, water and rights against fossil fuel companies and other resource extraction. 

Right now we are heading for a recession that, like the pandemic, exacerbates all existing inequalities. And governments are handing out billions to prop up high-carbon industries. Campaigning for a green recovery which is also a just transformation of society, shaped by the voices those on the streets, demanding an end to racism and injustice - this campaign has never been more urgent.

Rest in Power George Floyd. Solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter. There is no climate justice without an end to racism

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