Sustainable Woodstock

We aim to raise public awareness among the residents of Woodstock and beyond on the climate emergency, energy conservation, sustainable travel, waste reduction, recycling, bio-diversity, sustainable economics and respect for the planet. 
We are working with local councils, Woodstock Town Council, local schools and churches, Blenheim Palace, local businesses, the Farmers Market and the Woodstock trade association, Wake Up to Woodstock

Climate Change

Sustainable Woodstock's Frequent Flyer Discounts!

Last week I was privileged to see a copy of a letter to our MP Robert Courts concerning the government’s complete blind spot when it comes to dealing with the decarbonisation of air travel.  Courts, of course, is an aviation minister, so the letter was directed at precisely the right place.  And it was a brilliant letter!  A letter that left nowhere for Courts to hide.  I don’t have permission to copy it here but here are a few nuggets.

For instance, did you know that over 50% of people never fly anywhere ever.  And just 1% take 20% of all flights, and 10% take over 50% of all flights.  So that the very heavy costs of subsidising air travel and the even heavier costs to the environment and the planet are borne by the majority for the benefit of a very few.  Where’s the justice in that?

The government trumpet the expected growth in aviation travel with a projected increase of 70 % between 2018 and 2050 (source, Department for Transport).  Of course, when challenged, the aviators respond with, “Ah! But we are researching the use of sustainable fuels.”  So, are we to grow thousands of acres of bio-fuels at the expense of food crops in a world where food is already a scarce commodity for many people?  Not much justice there either.

No one is saying that no one should ever take a flight to the Greek Islands, say, for a well earned break.  What we are saying is that people should regard flying as a luxury that is indulged rarely and where we should expect to pay a fair cost that takes account of all the damaging effects that aviation incurs.

Government policy should be addressing the need to reduce demand for flights by some or all of the following: -

·         Carbon pricing such that the environmental costs of aviation are covered by the industry (who will, of course, pass that on to the customer)

·         “Frequent Flyers” should pay a substantial surcharge rather than be priviledged with all sorts of offers and benefits

·         Fuel Duty must be charged appropriately

·         VAT and air passenger duty should be chargeable

·         Airport capacity should be limited to begin the longer term reduction in demand

So how does aviation fit into the emissions overall.  What follows is taken from the website,lowest%20carbon%20way%20to%20travel.  Do take a look.

Transport accounts for around one-fifth of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.  In richer countries with populations that travel often – transport can be one of the largest segments of an individual’s carbon footprint.

So, if you need to travel – either locally or abroad – what is the lowest carbon way to do so? 

In the following chart we see the comparison of travel modes by their carbon footprint. These are measured by the amount of greenhouse gases emitted per person to travel one kilometre. 

Of course, remember that these figures are carbon emissions PER KILOMETRE TRAVELLED and since most flights cover long distances, especially long-haul flights, it is immediately clear just how dangerous air travel is for climate change and the planet.

This data is sourced from the UK Government’s methodology paper for greenhouse gas reporting, widely used by companies to quantify and report their emissions. Greenhouse gases are measured in carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2eq), meaning they also account for non-CO2 greenhouse gases and the increased warming effects of aviation emissions at high altitudes.

If you’re interested in your own personal carbon footprint then remember that there can be wide variations in emissions depending primarily on a) the length of your trip, b) the source of electricity in your local grid, c) the occupancy of public transport and d) in the case of driving — your vehicle and number of passengers.

Over short to medium distances, walking or cycling are nearly always the lowest carbon way to travel. While not in the chart, the carbon footprint of cycling one kilometre is usually in the range of 16 to 50 grams CO2eq per km depending on how efficiently you cycle and what you eat.

Taking a flight or driving alone are the most carbon-intensive options. Between the two, which is better depends on the distance travelled. If you’re travelling moderate distances (<1000 kilometres or a domestic flight within the UK), then flying has a higher carbon footprint than a medium-sized car. If the distance is longer (>1000 kilometres or an international flight), then flying would actually have a slightly lower carbon footprint per kilometre than driving alone over the same distance.

The carbon intensity of your local electrical grid matters too. If your electricity is supplied by nuclear or renewable energy instead of coal, electric vehicles and electric rail are even more efficient. For example, France has a very ‘green’ electricity mix: more than 90% of its electricity comes from low-carbon sources – ~70% from nuclear. If you took the Eurostar in France instead of a short-haul flight, you’d cut your journey’s footprint by around 96%.

When driving, your emissions will depend mainly on which vehicle you use and the number of passengers. Driving a small Mini car emits 111 g CO2eq per km while a large 4×4 car emits ~200 gCO2eq per km. Adding one additional passenger travelling to the same location would halve emissions per passenger-kilometre.

To tie it together, let’s say you were to drive from Edinburgh to London (~500km). You’d emit close to 100 kilograms CO2eq. If you were to fly, this would increase by almost one-third (128 kg CO2eq). Taking the train would be 80% lower (21 kg CO2eq).

Some general takeaways on how you can reduce the carbon footprint of travel:

  • Walk, cycle or run when possible – this comes with many other benefits such as lower local air pollution and better health;
  • Trains are nearly always the winning option over moderate-to-long distances;
  • If travelling internationally, going by train or boat is lower-carbon than flying;
  • If travelling domestically, driving – even if it’s alone – is usually better than flying;
  • If it’s a choice between driving or flying internationally, flying economy class is often better;
  • Car-sharing will massively reduce your footprint – it also helps to reduce local air pollution and congestion;
  • Electric vehicles are nearly always lower-carbon than petrol or diesel cars, especially in a country that produces much of its electricity by renewables or nuclear.

Colin Carritt - May 2022

And here is a much more graceful and climate friendly aviator:-

The Common Darter Dragon Fly, pictured on a noticeboard in the woodland and photographed by sharp-eyed SusWoo member Steve Heath
(why on the Climate Change page?  Well it's one of the few pages without many pictures!!)



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