by Mike Greenacre, managing director, The Co-Operative Travel Group and member of the Institute of Travel & Tourism

I thought long and hard about what focus I should bring to this article - APD, Financial Protection etc...

But, like Dermot Blastland, I wanted to keep the pressure on to really focus on the incredibly important issue of climate change.

The vast majority of us have genuinely not considered properly the massive impact that carbon and other chemical emissions are having on our planet. Yet the evidence and the facts are there so why is it that most of us are not taking more steps to contribute to a reduction in emissions?

“It’s not my problem - it’s someone else’s”- it is your problem and you do need to make an effort – at least to understand the issues.

“It’s the government’s responsibility not mine”- my view is that we certainly have mixed messages from government e.g. Heathrow versus emission targets. It is critically important that any government provides a clear lead. If you accept the prediction of the inter-governmental panel on climate change then we are – no question – going to have water in short supply / rising sea levels. Nevertheless, as individuals, we all need to think how much more we could do to make an impact on reducing emissions.

“Nothings going to happen in my lifetime” - maybe not, although the earth is continuing to warm slowly, affected by the continuing increases in emissions. A recent report suggested a 4°C rise in temperature by 2060, putting half of our planet in crisis from a water supply perspective. What about our grandkids and indeed their grandkids? This is not about a short term fix to a problem but a lifetime commitment to really address the problem.

“I don’t know that much about it to do anything positive” - as an industry, we have a huge job of work to do with our stakeholders, staff, customers, suppliers alike.Government and industry bodies, in my view, have to focus on education/knowledge/training and how we can give people better understanding of the challenges ahead, clarity around the “facts” of climate change and create an environment where individuals can contribute to changing attitudes. Over the next five to ten years that has got to happen. So I’m asking the same question as Dermot: “What are you doing to take climate change seriously?” ITT members can play their part in influencing the thinking and the actions required and each of us individually must take on that growing responsibility.

My hopes for our industry in the next few years are:

A real commitment by airlines to use technological innovation through research and development to make their fleets much more fuel efficient – engine / fuels etc.

That energy companies, faced by a finite supply of oil, will do even more quickly to give real alternatives on fuel that will significantly reduce the impact on our planet. Algae fuel development for example removes the conflict between energy and food production with bio fuels but still has huge challenges as to whether or not it will meet our needs.

That governments worldwide will come together to work out a clearly defined strategy for emission reductions. I am certain for example that within five to ten years we will each have a personal carbon footprint.

Some facts and figures:

The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that global temperatures will rise by between 1°C and 6°C in the next century. The scale of warming will be highly dependent on future levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

Dangerous climate change is typically defined as exceeding 2°C of warming whereby the impacts of climate change (such as changes to rainfall) affect a far higher number of people, and we face a much greater risk of runaway climate change that is no longer within our control.

Recent predictions by the UK’s Met Office suggest that without drastic action to reduce emissions we could reach 4°C of warming by the 2060’s – within many peoples’ lifetimes.

The Global Humanitarian Forum estimates that 315,000 people die each year due to the impacts of climate change, with this figure projected to rise to 500,000 by 2030. Additionally, 325m people around the world are already adversely affected by the impacts of climate change, with this figure projected to rise to 660m by 2030.

The World Bank estimates that an extra 25m children will be malnourished in the 2050’s as a result of climate change.

For us to stand a reasonable chance of avoiding more than 2°C of warming, we will need to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by between 50% to 80% by the 2050’s. Achieving this will involve rich countries (that are largely responsible for the problem) taking greater cuts, more quickly.

The Climate Change Act (2008) commits the UK to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 (based on 1990 levels). This Act, made the UK the first country to establish legally binding, long term targets.

Taking forecasts from the Department for Transport, aviation could account for nearly 50% of the UK’s annual emissions budget in the 2050’s. If this were to happen, all other sectors would have to reduce their emissions by 90% for us to stay within our emissions budget. This raises real questions of equity, desirability and practicality.



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