A BBC news report today regarding the airline industry (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8243922.stm) reveals a situation that is nothing short of outrageous.
The article reports that the Climate Change Committee (CCC) is warning that the UK as whole will have to make more severe cuts in emissions than the planned 80%, in order that the aviation industry can continue to grow.
The CCC suggested in a letter to Ed Milliband (Climate Change Secretary) and Lord Adonis (Transport Secretary) that the aviation industry will need to cut its emissions back to 2005 levels by 2050. This is a much smaller emissions cut than is expected of any other sector, business or private. The overall UK target is to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by 80% on 1990 levels by 2050.
So where will the slack be taken up? Who will really pay for this? Will our fuel bills get higher and our lives become significantly harder in order to pay for the jet-setting life-style of a minority? In an age of near-instant communications technology, much air travel is completely unnecessary. Up to a point, even conferences can be organised via the internet.
In its 2007 report, Dying on a Jetplane, the World Development Movement said: “Flying is an activity dominated primarily by the rich. The richest 18 per cent of the UK population are responsible for 54 per cent of flights, whilst the poorest 18 per cent are responsible for just 5 per cent.” It’s very clear to see who benefits.
David Milliband (UK Foreign Secretary) is reported to have said (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8244223.stm) that there is a "real chance" that the Copenhagen summit will not reach agreement. No surprises there, then! How likely is it that we can convince developing nations like China, India and Brazil of our sincerity and of the desperate need to limit their emissions when we are pandering to the desires of our own elite minority and of big business interests regardless of the consequences?
No wonder some critics talk of the neo-imperialism of emissions trading and carbon reduction protocols! Developed nations tell developing nations (often former colonies of theirs) to limit their consumption while at the same time making exceptions and cosmetic changes only themselves. The parallels with the "exceptionalism" of international diplomacy and dominance are quite chilling.
In the face of the oncoming crisis it is essential that we are in agreement on the necessity to act globally and that we think in terms of our common survival and not in terms of "the national interest". Economic growth and consumption are not true measures of the health and happiness of a population. We must not be enslaved by their siren song.