Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Issues mainstream politics is ignoring: 1. Long haul travel.

There's a definite mood in the air at the moment - from Prince Charles' railing against the prevailing political consensus to the stark findings of the Power Inquiry - that mainstream politics is manifestly failing to address certain long-term issues facing the country and indeed the planet.

Here's a good example of what I mean from George Monbiot in today's Guardian on the question of whether unlimited growth in commercial aviation is in any way compatible with the need to tackle global warming.

I have a personal pet theory that eventually the world will be forced to bite the bullet on this and that long-haul air travel will ultimately either be outlawed or become once again the preserve of the super-rich.

No sign of this from our present political leaders though who insist that the construction of a fifth runway at Heathrow Airport and the development of Stansted, Manchester and other regional airports in no way detracts from their "commitment" to the environment.

March 1 Update: John Humphreys must have been reading Monbiot (or even this blog..!) because he asked David Cameron about this very point on this morning's Today Programme. Cameron accused him of trying to set up a "false choice" between growth and greenery, arguing that investment in new technology would solve the problem. In fact as Monbiot points out, switching aircraft fuel from kerosene to hydrogen would produce so much water vapour it would probably make the "greenhouse effect" even worse.

2 comments:

jane said...

in fact it is short-haul flights which are the main problem, especially the journey-generating factor of low-cost flights. I live and work in Latvia at present and people come and visit often,which pleases me but they can do it because it usually costs less than 20 pounds each way depending on when you book. This is the same problem as that of car journeys. We can't outlaw car ownership, nor should we try, but car use for short journeys is something against which incentives can be found. As for short-haul and domestic flights, the main incentive against using these would be fast long-distance train services, in which the German government (the last one anyway) was investing significantly. the problem of course being that the market will take care of meeting escalating demand for low-cost short-haul flights, but it won't do that for rail services.

David Gladwin said...

The government don't address this issue because the opposition don't force them to. This is clearly an area which all politicians simply hope to leave to someone else, at a later date. Or, to put it another way, our children.

Jane is right about short-haul flights being completely unnecessary, and the scandalously low rates attracting excessive consumption, but restriction of longer flights might also bear domestic fruit in terms of boosting our own tourist economy.

I would support any move to dissuade people from flying to Paris in order to visit Eurodisney.