Don’t celebrate more domestic flights, Chris Grayling. Think of the planet

(The Guardian, 3 Apr 2019) Rather than lauding Flybe’s new Cornwall-London service, the transport secretary must focus on trains to reduce emissions.

It’s not hard to see why Chris Grayling jumped at the opportunity to visit Heathrow airport early on Tuesday to welcome passengers landing on a dreary morning at Terminal 2. He was marking the launch of an air service from Flybe – which will now be operating four return flights from Newquay on the north coast of Cornwall to London seven days a week.

This is a transport secretary made famous for his inability to actually transport things, whether that be people by train or goods over water (he’s even managed to stop cyclists making it safely from A to B) – and so for Grayling, a plane on a new flightpath taking off and landing on time is a much needed chance to claim an easy win and arrange a photo-op.

But while I’m sure travellers were thrilled to be greeted by grinning Grayling at baggage reclaim, news that more domestic flights are set to take off and land in Britain is not a cause for celebration. It’s remarkably irresponsible, even by this government’s standards, to embrace a growth in domestic air travel when global carbon emissions are on the up, as are global temperatures. To put it bluntly: it is entirely unsustainable while we’re in the midst of a climate emergency.

Just this week, budget airline Ryanair was revealed to be one of Europe’s top 10 carbon emitters alongside nine coal plants; the company’s carbon footprint is up nearly 50% in the past five years. And while aviation accounts for about 3% of greenhouse gas emissions in Europe, it’s forecasted that by 2050 this could rise by up to 700% as growth in demand continues. There’s a complex conversation to be had about how we drastically limit international air travel in a way that reduces climate change while offering travel opportunities. But, let’s be honest, in a country as small as the United Kingdom the vast majority of domestic fights are far from essential.

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The Guardian, 3 Apr 2019: Don’t celebrate more domestic flights, Chris Grayling. Think of the planet