I was going to write a bit about what the UK youth delegation is about – and I will do that in a bit – but I got so excited about this that I changed my mind:
Tomorrow, the UK government will announce it’s going to include emissions from aviation and shipping in Britain’s new climate change bill, due to become law next month.
Ed Miliband, the energy and climate secretary, has already agreed to set the UK’s emissions reduction target at 80% by 2050, rather than 60% as it was going to be previously. However, until today this wasn’t set to include emissions from aviation and shipping, which are estimated to account for 7.6% of UK emissions and are rapidly increasing. Now, with these included in the Climate Bill, there’s a real incentive for the industry to develop more efficient plane engines – or, more importantly, for people to assess the way they travel and think about lower-carbon options.
There’s 15 of us going to Poznan in December for the UN’s next Climate Change Conference and we’re all going by train (except one guy who might be hitch-hiking!) because there’s a much lower climate impact – and it’d be kind of ironic to fill the stratosphere with greenhouse gases on our way to convince global leaders to commit to emitting less (a bit like a load of Cambridge geographers flying to Arolla to measure melting glaciers… but I’ll come to that another time). I couldn’t find a comparison of train/plane emissions from London to Poznan, but here’s some figures about the carbon cost of getting to Barcelona, which is (very) roughly the same distance:
A flight from London to Barcelona emits 227kg/CO2 per person. The train journey emits only 40kg/CO2 per person (from Seat61.com, a great site with loads of info on how to travel by train and boat “from the UK to Europe and beyond”). That’s less than a fifth of the emissions from flying. Plus, there’s none of that bother with waiting around for hours in airports – you get on the train and go.
This does make you wonder whether people in different government departments ever talk to each other, though. Someone from the Department of Energy and Climate Change should tell the Department of Transport it might not be a good idea to expand Stansted Airport while the government’s got a target of reducing emissions.