Don't believe the airlines' promises of emissions cuts

Dan Box
Dan takes a trip down memory lane... and discovers that not only did we call for taxes and sanctions in the last recession, but that just a few years ago airlines were promising us serious cuts...

The end of economics

I stumbled across a couple of antique copies of The Ecologist today, while helping empty the attics at Fordhall Farm. They must have lain untouched for over 30 years. They reveal an older, bolder, age; one in which the editor, Edward Goldsmith, railed against 'The London Zoo ... a shameful establishment where wild animals, living in totally inappropriate conditions, are exhibited like postage stamps in an album.'

Yet one article - 'The End of Economics' - still seems fresh. Its author, Hazel Henderson, writes: 'If the present economic crisis is over, can the next one be far behind?'

Sound familiar? Then how about this: 'In spite of an unemployment rate in the US of about 9 per cent and prospects of a Federal Budget deficit in the order of $60 billion, officials pronounce that the light is now visible at the end of the tunnel.'

Today, despite a US unemployment rate of about 9 per cent, a budget deficit over $10 trillion, President Obama has pronounced: 'We can see a light at the end of the tunnel. We have pulled the economy back from the brink.'

The fact this depressing comparison can be made, of course, suggests Hazel's more apocalyptic claims of the 'end-game of industrialism' in 1976 were a little out. There is also one other, glaring, mistake; the 'climatic cooling trend' that Hazel worries 'conventional economic wisdom' is not geared up to understand.

Her world has changed. Not only is it warming, not cooling, but Hazel's 'obsolescent corporations' are now among the most vital voices demanding action to face that climate change. I understand London Zoo has smartened up a little, too.

So, can we learn anything from the Ecologist of a generation past? Well, maybe we already have. Thanks in part to this most recent economic crisis, many of Hazel's suggested 'Policy Directions' - tighter banking regulations, taxes on energy consumption, using price increases to ration fossil fuels, state control of energy companies - are now either in place or being seriously considered by governments around the world.

I could say Hazel told you so, but don't know if she would approve (though Teddy might have). Through her eyes, the generation gap between then and might seem a wasted chance.

Flights of fancy

What to make of the global airline industry's promise to halve their carbon emissions by 2050?

Before ordering champagne all round, it's worth pointing out this isn't the first time we've heard that pledge - they said much the same in 2005. On top of that, their proposals seem to suggest a deal where government leaves the industry alone to manage its own cuts, rather than impose any legal cap on their emissions by, say, forcing airlines to take part in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.

Surely coincidence, then, that the announcement came just over a week after independent advice, requested by the UK government, recommended 'aviation CO2 emissions should be capped' by forcibly including the industry in 'national/regional (e.g. EU) emissions reductions targets'.

More from this author