UK government claims people must keep flying to help cut carbon emissions

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A government minister has angered scientists and environmentalists by claiming people need to fly to help cut carbon emissions.

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Rachel McLean, speaking ahead of a major UN climate conference, said the aviation sector needed “confidence in its future” and that the government had no plans to try and reduce demand for flights.

Outlining the government’s position in a parliamentary committee, he argued that theoretical cleaner airliners would never be invented if they were made unprofitable by airport dropouts.


“These are commercial decisions that are industry-led. I think the broad point I made is that we really need the aviation sector to be successful, so that it can invest in the technologies that we know Asked whether the airports should be expanded to move towards a technical solution, he told the Transport Committee on Wednesday.

“Whether it’s SAF [Sustainable aviation fuel], or whether it’s electric or hydrogen aviation aircraft: these are technically viable solutions, they exist, we have these planes that already fly, backed by government investments, clearly they’re in a very early stage, But if the sector lacks confidence in the future, it won’t be supported by its shareholders, it won’t make those big bets.”

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The minister in charge of the government’s policy on the future of transport and decarbonisation said flying was one of the things that “makes life worth living” and the government would not ban it.

Polls show that the views of the minister are contrary to those of the general public; A 2019 YouGov poll found that two-thirds of people in the UK support restrictions on the number of flights that people can take. Campaigners have called for frequent flights on the grounds that 70 per cent of flights in the UK are taken by the relatively wealthy minority 15 per cent of the population, of whom 57 per cent do not normally fly abroad.

But speaking weeks before the UK government will welcome world leaders to the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow and urge them to make a commitment to cutting carbon emissions, the minister said: “We believe that we are going to go to zero in aviation.” can reach. [by 2050], without demand management policy.

“As we’ve made clear in all of our aviation policy statements, we don’t expect people to stop things like flying, because we believe it’s important for people to be able to fly for business reasons. Is.

Rachel McLean, Minister for the Future of Transportation

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Rachel McLean, Minister for the Future of Transportation

“Obviously it’s a personal choice for those personal businesses, but you also can’t underestimate the family ties that people have, and leisure, of course.

“These are important parts of what makes life worth living, and we shouldn’t stop people from doing those things, and that’s not our policy approach. That’s why we believe we can get it straight without limiting aviation.” can, and our scenario modeling returns. UP.”

Ms McLean said the policy would be kept “under review” and provide people with “really information about a more sustainable option if they choose to make it”.

Dr Doug Parr, Chief Scientist at Greenpeace UK, said: “According to the minister, aviation needs to expand its huge carbon footprint to bring this down. We need more carbon to reach zero carbon.

“It’s like advocating for donuts because you need to find yourself going to the gym to build confidence. All the technical silver bullets the government is relying on have serious limitations because of cost, availability, or weight, which means That we can have no confidence that they can do more than decarbonize a very small portion of our flight. This is why the Committee on Climate Change and the Airports Commission insist that our carbon targets be met. In order to do this, a lack of demand for aviation was necessary.

“For a government to try to encourage investment in developing a sector they don’t know how to decarbonize is wildly irresponsible from any point of view. As the government prepares to host important international talks on the climate crisis.” Its message to other countries is that when decarbonizing calls for difficult decisions, just cross your fingers, hope some technology will sort it out in 15 years’ time, and continue regardless. Will stay.”

The Department for Transport’s own model, despite the minister’s comments, assumes that full electric aircraft will not be commercialized until 2050, when the UK needs to reach net zero until the latest.


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