Anna Hughes

Bumped by Brexit

Home »  Environment »  Bumped by Brexit

Bumped by Brexit

On October 23, 2019, Posted by , In Environment,Lifestyle, With 2 Comments

Yesterday I was asked to appear on Sky News to comment on the environmental impact of the aviation industry. It had been prompted by this article by Sky New’s new climate correspondent. I was lined up to have a discussion (animated, perhaps) with travel writer Jessica Toale – the leading line on her ‘about me’ tag on her website is ‘I spend a lot of time on planes – some times for work, but mainly just for fun’ – so, being Director of campaign group Flight Free UK, it’s pretty obvious there are fundamental differences in the way we think. It should be a good discussion.

We go through the screen test and I’m waiting in my living room with Skype loaded on my laptop. We can hear what’s being shown on the TV through our headphones – currently a Parliamentary debate. 

Then the Producer speaks: “Sorry Anna and Jessica, we’re going to have to leave this one for now because of what’s happening in the Commons.” He hangs up. 

I needn’t ask – of course, it’s Brexit. 

I’m not going to comment on the politics of Brexit, or to talk about which way I voted, or what I think should happen now. But this tiny incident is indicative of my frustration with the current situation. It’s that Brexit, once again, trumps climate change.

Climate change is the biggest issue of our time. Many politicians, including the former leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband, acknowledge that it isn’t a side issue – it’s an issue that permeates every single thing we do. Yes, Brexit is a massive deal. But climate change is just so much bigger.

It’s so important that we talk about the climate crisis, that we acknowledge that tackling climate change is a number one priority rather than just ‘another’ issue, and that we discuss the actions we each need to take to reduce our emissions to sustainable levels. Spoiler: it means changing pretty much everything about the way we live.

The trouble is, many of us don’t appreciate the urgency and seriousness of the situation, partly because of the lack of time our politicians devote to it, and partly because the rest of us don’t seem to talk about it much, either. And we certainly don’t realise the role aviation has to play in all this. Summed up by Jessica’s bio, and the Sky News article which states that aviation is only responsible for 2% of greenhouse gas emissions (as opposed to 15% from animal agriculture) therefore we shouldn’t worry about it.

(The short response is that, when we talk about industry emissions figures, we are talking on a global scale. Global emissions from agriculture are high because everybody eats. Aviation figures are low because not everybody flies – less than 10% of the world’s population has ever been on a plane. Here in the West, we fly a lot. And we Brits fly more than anyone. And if you do fly, without doubt that makes up the largest part of your carbon footprint. Even if you take other steps to be environmentally friendly, one flight can wipe out all your savings. A vegan diet saves around 1 tonne of carbon per year – the amount that is produced, per passenger, with a return flight to Tenerife. I have written two blogs about this on the Flight Free UK website: The Footprint of Flying and Rebelling against Extinction.)

It looks as though Sky News have found time for me today, so I’ll have a chance to set the record straight, though not discuss with Jessica, which would have been nice. 

And as for Brexit, my sincere hope is that it happens soon, so we can get back to talking about the things that really matter.

2 Comments so far:

  1. The trouble with the idea that we need to get Brexit done so we have time to talk about climate change is that exactly the opposite will happen after Brexit – the media won’t have time to discuss climate change because it’s spending even more time than it spent discussing Brexit discussing food and medicine shortages, Kent being shut down by gridlock, the fact that UK research (including environmental) will collapse without EU funding….

  2. Roger Roberts says:

    You are totally right, Jules. This idea of quickly ‘getting Brexit done’ is very misleading. If we do leave the EU (and I sincerely hope that we have a People’s Vote, based on facts this time, rather than lies, and don’t leave) then the whole process will drag on for years and years. It will absorb so much media attention, time and energy that climate change will continue to take a back seat, when it should be at the forefront of policy. In addition, if we cosy up to the current US administration, then we are likely to see our environmental standards drop to US levels. Why we are abandoning our EU partners escapes me. We need to work together with our closest neighbours on climate change and many other urgent health, social and environmental issues.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.