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The rise of the anti-flying movement- is this the next climate change conversation?

Across Europe, there has been a rise in the ‘flight shame’ or anti-flying movement in recent months. Whereby people are avoiding flying, due to their concerns surrounding the environmental impacts of the mode of transport.

The conversation surrounding the impacts of aviation is now becoming more prominent, with David Attenborough commenting earlier this week on the disparity of airline tickets in comparison to the total cost of the damage being done.

He told a UK parliament select committee: “If you cost that, you would see that the tickets are extraordinarily cheap” in comparison to the true cost that flights have. 

The anti-flying movement originated last year in Sweden, known as flygskam (translating to ‘flight shame’) there. The movement's aim is to encourage people to stop taking flights to lower carbon emissions. 

One of the most notable members of the movement is Greta Thunberg, who travels largely by train to events that she attends.

In Sweden, the movement has resulted in a spike in rail travel over the last few years.

Aeroplanes will emit a range of greenhouse gases, throughout the varying stages of the flight, which are then emitted directly into the higher levels of the atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide emissions from aviation have seen steady increases. Generating around 859 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2017.

Although, the overall amount of carbon dioxide from aviation is only around 2% of the total carbon dioxide produced by human activities per year.

While other sources of emissions are being actively reduced and with 50% increases in passenger air travel over the last six years, it is expected that air travel will make up considerable amounts of the total carbon emissions in the future- if action is not taken.

Air travel has become a significant factor of modern life, with many jobs involving the need to fly, families taking holidays abroad and often families can be situated in different locations across the globe.

Of course, there are undoubtedly areas where air travel can be reduced among the general population, using alternative modes of transport or altering business plans to be online. But for some, the use of air travel will be unavoidable and thus the use of shame must be considered carefully in not alienating people from the environmental movement.

Carbon offsetting is a common way for consumers to limit their own carbon footprints. This involves paying for the planting of trees, renewable energy initiatives or programs to reduce emissions in other areas.

Taxation on aviation fuel has been considered an option in disincentivising air travel, as the prices of plane tickets would then be increased. Whereas, currently aviation fuel is not largely taxed and so flying has become very accessible.

Electric planes are currently under development and are expected to start flying around a decade from now.

Paul Everitt, CEO of the UK’s aerospace trade association, said: “we’re looking at a 20- or 30-year kind of journey that we’re going to be on.”

He explained: “There is a big job that we need to do. First of all, testing, to make sure it is safe, but also then working with the regulatory authorities around the world to make sure that they are comfortable with it.”

Many airlines are now realising this rising concern for the environmental impacts of flying.

KLM has recently launched a new campaign, ‘Fly Responsibly’, highlighting the collective responsibility of being more conscious and responsible when flying. 

Anna Hughes, who is involved in the Flight Free 2020 movement to encourage people to go a full year without flying, said: “It’s an achievable aim for just a year. But it’s also really hard.”

She also added: “Obviously, it is not our aim to shame people or tell them that they need to change the way they live,”

“All we’re doing is presenting information and hoping that people will then make an informed choice about how they get around.”

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