Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The magnificent man still in his flying machine: Tony Blair vows to fly on.

Tony Blair has announced that he has no plans to stop using long haul flights, although under pressure he has announced that all his flights, both ministerial and personal will be ‘carbon neutral’.

Offsetting Carbon emissions by planting trees is fine as a short term mechanism and certainly better than nothing, but what happens in 40 years when the trees rot and decay? The carbon in them is released again. These articles and diagrams from the New Internationalist show clearly why offsetting will salve some consciences, but is not a long term solution.

It is true that not flying is the biggest single action that an individual can take to reduce their carbon emissions. One short haul flight can wipe out hundreds of saved car journeys and thousands of energy saving lightbulbs. Flying already contributes 3% of the UK’s CO2 emissions and is expected to grow significantly. Blair argued that not flying would damage the economy, but the Stern Report showed that not dealing with climate change would have a far bigger and possibly devastating impact on the world economy.

If we’re going to change our lifestyles in any way reducing our flights is the best option.

In addition to not flying we ought to choose not to fly we ought to write to an airline explaining our decision: Carbon free flying is estimated to be 35-50 years away at the moment – if airlines became worried about their profits that timescale could be dramatically reduced. (Incidentally this is also why I support airlines being bought into the Carbon emissions trading scheme with tough year on year reductions in credits to incentivise green innovation.)

However, I’ve argued before that we must seek largescale scientific and political solutions to climate change that involve China and India whose emissions of C02 are rising exponentially – we don’t have time to be messing around recycling.

The unsightly media scrum descending on Tony Blair’s personal choices is therefore not only slightly distasteful and puerile, but more importantly misses the point. Unlike most of the rest of us, there are dozens of political decisions that Blair could prioritise that would have a massive impact on the environment. I would happily swap Tony Blair commuting from Sydney every morning by private Concorde if he prioritised:

a) pushing a tough EU wide carbons emissions trading scheme,

b) investing the same amount of money into clean energy technology as into Trident

c) facilitating fast, effective and cheap technology transfer to China and India

d) a tidal barrage on the Severn (5% UK electricity), a new generation of Nuclear power stations and a solar panel and wind turbine on every new home.

If he did all this he could even take John Prescott, his long-lost great-aunt-Doris and the entire England Cricket team with him if he wanted.

1 comment:

  1. I agree Jonathan.love him or hate him, he has been under a little bit of pressure over the past few years.SKY NEWES, GIVE THE GUY A BREAK!!.