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Car and Air Travel advertising should carry climate warning demands report 06.04.07


Cigarette style warnings for air travel

A report published by the Institute for Public Policy Research, argues that car and airline advertising should carry a warning, cigarette style, saying Driving and Flying Causes Climate Change.

Positive Energy: Harnessing people power to prevent climate change, by Simon Retallack and Tim Lawrence with Matthew Lockwood, argues that we need to take strong steps to encourage climate friendly choices for transport and domestic energy.

For the travel industry the report suggests that warnings are published on all air travel advertising, including holiday marketing that involves flights, and at airports themselves.

The report recommends:

• Large and clearly visible warnings such as Flying Causes Climate Change.

• Estimates of average emissions from the flight in question alongside the average individual’s emissions from energy use, to put the flight in context. For example: The average individual in the UK emits 4400 kilograms of CO2 per year. A return flight from London to Perth, Australia, on average emits 4500 kilograms of CO2 per person.

• For domestic and short-haul flights a comparison of emissions for the same journey if using alternative forms of transport such as rail or coach. For example: A return flight from London to Newcastle on average emits 120 kilograms of CO2 per person while the same journey by train emits 39 kilograms of CO2 per person.

Warnings on cigarette packets was introduced into Europe in 1992. Following research showing a relationship between the size of the warnings and the impact on smokers, they were increased in size. For example, by 1994 33 per cent of all surfaces of cigarette packs in Canada had to contain a health warning. Most European countries have followed suit, including the UK in 2003. According to Action on Smoking and Health, ASH, ‘Research has shown that the larger a health warning is, the more impact it has on persuading a smoker to give up: labels that occupy 30 per cent or more of each of the largest sides on the cigarette pack have been found to be strongly linked with smokers’ decisions to quit or to cut down their smoking. In addition, health warnings can have a cumulative effect – older smokers have reported that they start to become afraid of the warnings after seeing them on cigarette packets every day.’

Simon Retallack, ippr Head of Climate Change, said, “The evidence that aviation damages the atmosphere is just as clear as the evidence that smoking kills. We know that smokers notice health warnings on cigarettes, and we have to tackle our addiction to flying in the same way. But if we are to change people’s behaviour, warnings must be accompanied by offering people alternatives to short-haul flights and by steps to make the cost of flying better reflect its impact on the environment.”

That action is needed on air travel in particular is indisputable based on current trends. The number of passengers flying abroad from the UK rose by about 65 per cent between 1994 and 2004, and the number flying within the UK rose by about 70 per cent over the same period. More than 70 per cent of passengers flying from UK airports are UK citizens.

Almost 90 per cent of flights are for holidays and visiting friends. The number of people choosing to take their holidays abroad increased by 48 per cent between 1995 and 2003, while the number choosing to take holidays within the UK fell by almost three per cent.

Just 1-5 per cent of respondents to a poll by the Central Office of Information said they offset their emissions from flying. Offsetting companies estimate that in 2005, 34,000 tonnes of CO2 was offset by UK customers, representing less than 0.5 per cent of the UK emissions from aviation.

Because of other effects (from water vapour, ozone reactions and contrails) each tonne of CO2 emitted from aviation has an enhanced warming effect on the climate compared with emissions from land-based sources.

The Department for Transport estimates that domestic aviation and international departures together account for 5.5 per cent of the UK’s CO2 emissions, but this rises to the equivalent of 11 per cent if this enhanced warming effect is included.

According to the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University, business as usual scenarios show emissions from aviation growing to between four and ten times their 1990 levels by 2050.

The report also recommends

• Carbon offsetting of flights should be the default option, with passengers being required to opt-out rather than having to opt-in.

• Aviation taxation should be changed to reflect the true environmental cost of emissions.

• Increases in aviation taxation should be matched with improvements to rail transport to make it a viable alternative to domestic and European flights.

• The UK should work with other EU member states to better integrate the fragmented European rail network.

• All new cars should be required to carry emissions labelling in showroom displays and in advertising.

• All car advertising should carry bold and visible warnings about the contribution of driving to climate change.

Ring fencing air travel taxation revenue for developing an integrated high speed train infrastructure similar to the French TGV would be a major step in curbing domestic air travel. Air France’s most profitable route use to be Paris-Lyon, the route effectively disappeared with the introduction of the TGV line. The link up with the Thalys system to Brussels, Amsterdam and Dusseldorf, and link being built to Barcelona and the Barcelona- Madrid connection will soon make large parts of Europe open to high speed rail travel. For those who love the slow train the Man in Seat 61 has routes from Vauxhall to Vietnam.

While the report is welcome in terms of creating higher public awareness of the key issues, it does not avoid the fact that Government has to grasp the nettle and make firm policy commitments on both supporting the rail networks, on limiting airport growth, and of course introducing tax on domestic flights and arguing for a Europe wide tax. Maybe the reports actions will effectively soften up the public to more drastic action, but then Government has failed to take even the most modest step to curb the expansion of air travel, it would mark a grand departure if they even started on these modest proposals.

Peter Shield

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Institute for Public Policy Research

Man in Seat 61

Comment on this article

2 Comments

  • Car and Air Travel advertising should carry climate warning demands report

    9 June 2008 09:18, by ian0

    I agree, but I think that ALL the facts should be revealed in the advertisement, including the environmental impact of MAKING the car, and of disposing of it after its lifecycle. When you do this, hybrids, for example, do not stack up very well at all... Short-sighted "environmentalists" who buy a new Toyota Prius every year, for example, are making a much bigger impact on the environment than someone running a traditional 5 year old petrol engined car that they intend keeping for at least 3 years. Construction of a Prius outputs 3 times the CO2 of a similar non-hybrid, and the car would need to be kept for at least 5 years before it even breaks even with the ordinary car. Then there is the issue of disposing of the batteries... The EU needs to view the full picture in this issue. I recall reading somewhere that when the total environmental impact is considered, the least polluting car is actually the Lotus Elise!

    Reply to this comment

    • Car and Air Travel advertising should carry climate warning demands report 11 June 2008 20:13, by Peter Shield

      Oh I love this one.

      On the surface it appears to have merit, dig a little deeper and it flashes up a few great general elitist accusations against ‘greens’, and shows that wonderful ‘one frame’ analysis that is in the timeless, and often side splittingly funny, Jeremy Clarkson style.

      “Hybrid don’t stack up”, well neither do apples when compared to pears.

      “Short-sighted "environmentalists" who buy a new Toyota Prius every year”- who exactly are these fabulously wealthy individuals who buy a car EVERY year?

      All I can say is that they are a very very breed indeed, in all my travels around the green world I have never met one, seen pictures of one, seen any of their tracks on the ground, or even met someone who has met someone who knows one.

      But not only is this individual more illusive than the Loch Ness monster, there is a great little class dig there- I mean we greenie leaning people are the sort of individuals who can afford to be green, coz as we all know green is just another premium consumer fad and have you seen the price of things at Whole Foods in Kensington recently?

      So let’s actually move into the real world, yes if you buy a second hand car then the carbon emissions are arguably already out of the picture so it is just the running emissions, and price of fuel, so yeah if you are skint then a second hand car is not the worse option in the world if you have to have car, but buying a bike, using public transport if possible, joining a car club, even renting a car for those occasions you need a car is even better.

      If you are unavoidably a heavy car user- live in a remote rural location, haven’t got public transport, then an old car may not be the best option for you as price wise it will be heavy, both at the pump and in the garage, and of course there is the on going emissions.

      If you can afford it then a high mileage small car is the best option. Have a look at the great www.whatgreencar.com site- there are a few surprises in there and much more importantly there is more to hybrids than the much maligned old Prius.

      Reply to this comment

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