As activists from across Europe descend on Copenhagen, Plane Stupid takes a few minutes to consider some very different reactions to the COP15. Here, Howard discusses why he is relucantly putting his faith in the politicians and decision makers and joining the Climate Justice Fast throught the COP15 conference.
I've chosen to defend the COP15. It's not going to be easy. I decided to defend the official process because I believe that a globally binding treaty offers the best chance of avoiding catastrophic climate events.
The infrastructure and resources at the disposal of global leaders is enormous and our situation requires that they utilise these for the benefit of all and take action immediately. My scientist friends tell me that without such action there is no chance of stopping runaway chaos. Where does that leave our kids?
I do find it particularly difficult to trust our leaders; throughout my life they've repeatedly let me down. I am dismayed by their injustices, their lies, their propaganda and their greed, so why should this time be any different? It's simple: this is the first time since COP3 in 1997 that a global agreement on suitable action can be reached.
However greedy or just plain sick these politicians really are, they too have kids and they know what will happen to them if they fail. They would have to be really, really stupid to miss this opportunity for change. In prior negotiations the rich nations would just muscle their way through and continue to exploit the poor but this time that's a bit different. Climate change is a global issue and unilateral action isn't going to mean much if everyone else is burning coal. There has to be an immediate global accord for everyone's sake.
The developing nations that are already suffering climate genocide have had enough and this time around we need everyone to play ball or we're all screwed! Most importantly, we should never discount our own ability as activists and campaigners to force the issue and demand political change. We cannot allow this conference to be a continuation of business as usual, so we've got to put our skills to good use and use a variety of tactics to exert considerable pressure on the politicians and generate as much public support as we are able.
The passionate Tuvalu protests at Copenhagen yesterday where activists from all over the world joined together in solidarity with several tiny nations was surely a sign of things to come during the rest of the negotiations. We must keep the pressure up and force our representatives to adopt a new equitable and sustainable approach.
I'm not putting all my eggs in the COP15 basket. Over the past few years I have devoted more and more time to sustainable community work and carbon literacy in my community. I believe that a global political agreement is essential it is only half the picture; we also need a rapid cultural shift away from the crazy consumer lifestyle which doesn't bring lasting happiness.
I believe that we've got to demand change at every level. I've chosen to join the Climate Justice Fast during the COP to call upon both the world leaders and all people, everywhere, to make the changes we need.
It was all going so right for NQY (Newquay) Airport. Despite ongoing incompetence, disorganisation, cancellations, compensation, off-the-record admissions that the venture has no long term economic viability and British Airways banning surfboards the struggling airport was being kept afloat by massive injections of taxpayers' money. Then it all started to go wrong.
The MOD was due to hand it to Cornwall County Council in August, but the council wasn't ready. A second date was set for December 1st, but no one had got round to building a control tower. Now the Civil Aviation Authority has refused to grant an operating licence, so NQY has been forced to close for at least three weeks. Ryanair's so angry it's pulled all its flights until further notice.
If we accept the analysis of ten leading climate scientists from around the world, we are truly on the brink of disaster and need to make immediate and drastic cuts in emissions to avoid a 70 metre sea-level rise, the loss of the inland glaciers that provide water to a billion people, the rapid expansion of the subtropical deserts, and mass extinctions. But all is not lost: we now have the "world's first carbon neutral airline".
Nature Air have always considered themselves less an airline, "more like a travel company with wings", whatever that means. While their site acknowledges that "the only way to slow or stop temperature rise due to man made activities is to restrict the amount of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere", that doesn't stop them making a rather remarkable claim of carbon neutrality. How do they achieve this? By planting trees... and ignoring the impacts of radiative forcing (which increase climate impacts by a factor of 2.7). Even if offsetting worked, Nature Air is offsetting just over a third of their full impact.
This morning the Observer carried a National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit press release, in which they claimed to have alerted a number of major carbon polluters to watch out for eco-terrorists, with advice on how they can withstand being targeted. The article goes on to say that "green extremists" - Earth First! and the Camp for Climate Action - may be about to launch a campaign of intimidation and fear aimed at disrupting businesses. Is this an attempt by the police to prime public opinion and pave the way for a crackdown on climate activists?
My words can only represent my own feelings but I know that many activists share the following views. We are in the grip of a global emergency: climate scientists are telling us that we have reached a 'tipping point' and if we do not take measures to drastically reduce our carbon footprint then our children will inherit a dying planet. Our abuses of the earth have already committed us to climate changes that will result in the deaths of many, many thousands of people and most of these will be from poorer nations that have played no part in creating this situation. My actions seek to highlight this and to attempt to slow it down. I want to preserve life, both of my friends and families but also of my fellow humans and creatures from around the globe.
Doncaster Robin Hood Airport has outlined its plans for continued expansion of passenger and freight through to 2030 in its Draft Airport Master Plan. How this fits into the recent UK commitment to reduce CO2 emissions is quite beyond us. Perhaps the passenger contribution towards tree planting, the £500 raised from cardboard recycling and the toilet fed by a grey water system somehow offset the global damage?
But sod climate change: these credit crunched times are all about job creation. Airport developers always dig up this old chestnut as a sure-fire vote winner, but is it actually true? Recent cost-cutting strategies within the aviation sector have resulted in hundreds of redundancies and measures such as automated check in are hardly going to help. Reports by John Whitelegg, Professor of Sustainable Transport at Liverpool John Moores University, and Wiz Baines of Groundswell show that airport expansion destroys more jobs than it creates through encouraging overseas tourism and investment, not to mention the economic impacts of environmental degradation, health damage and climate change.
While global economic turmoil continues to undermine air transport, die-hards within the aviation industry are left clutching at straws. Rather than accepting that bankrupt airlines, union disquiet and falling passenger figures are a sign of the times, our old friends at BAA and Flying Matters are getting desperate - and desperate times call for desperate (and underhand) measures.
Firstly we have the news that BAA have been rumbled trying to hijack an online debate by posing as members of the public. The Woodland Trust's blog post about expansion at Stansted had generated a heated response, but repeated postings in favour of the scheme just didn't ring true. The Trust decided to investigate and found that the posts all came from a computer registered to...BAA! Shame on you.
Well Mr. O'Leary, it turns out that we "eco-nuts" can read after all. Despite the usual doom-and-gloom in the papers ("the credit crunch will knifecrime your children!") some of what we're reading is pretty good news. Take Europe, where MEP's have stood up to the coal lobby and voted for tough regulations that require companies to fit expensive equipment to trap their emissions. Don't worry, that includes you E-on!
But the news that really got us chuckling was when Michael announced his
plans for transatlantic flights with an upbeat and quite bonkers forecast where the credit crunch is "good for business", the economic outlook is "great" and where only a "fool" couldn't make money in this economic climate.
However with 400 staff at Ryanair's Stansted airport base taking a week of unpaid leave over the winter to conserve costs, and senior management taking pay cuts of at least 10% this year, it looks like Mr O'Leary may be rather too confident. Could this announcement be just more O'Leary bluster? Place your bets now...