This is going to be a massive year for Scotland’s biggest city as Glasgow prepares to host a major United Nations climate change conference.
The 26th Conference of the Parties, or (more snappily) COP 26, will attract 30,000 delegates from around the world and is billed as the most important gathering since Paris in 2015 when a landmark agreement was reached to limit global warming.
In her New Year’s message, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was an opportunity for Scotland to show how we are “leading by example”. So this will be a crucial conference.
But, when flying is now recognised as a significant contributor to climate change, is it not a bit hypocritical for thousands of people to be travelling from around the globe to attend this gathering?
Actress Emma Thompson got a verbal kicking last year for flying in from America to attend an extinction rebellion demonstration in London.
She defended her decision, saying she didn’t fly as much as she used to and that she plants lots of trees.
Meanwhile, Greta Thunberg, the young Swedish activist who has become the poster girl for environmentalists the world over, has pledged never to take to the skies again.
I, too, would gladly never fly again. Not just to save the planet, but also because I hate it so much. I’m terrified.
A double gin and tonic in the airport departure lounge isn’t a fun, “get me in the holiday mood” occasion for me but a medical necessity to calm my nerves. Even at 7am. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to grab a stranger’s hand on take-off and ask that they hold my sweaty palm.
And apologies to the pilot of the tiny six-seater who took me and my cameraman to Shetland many years ago to cover a story. Halfway through the (bumpy) trip I shrieked at him to avoid what I thought was an oncoming plane. “It’s a star,” he replied dryly. I was just trying to help!
My youngest daughter doesn’t like it either. The last time we flew, she asked where the parachutes were. How can I break this to her gently, I wondered.
Travelling by air may soon become exclusively for the wealthy though.
Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle caused controversy last year by flying four times in a private jet within 11 days, despite lecturing the rest of us about our carbon footprints.
Elton John, who had laid on one of the flights for them, said he’d made sure the flight was carbon-neutral by making a contribution to a carbon footprint fund.
The hypocrisy of royals and celebrities banging on about this issue while jetting around the world really annoys me. Especially when they use the North Pole or the rainforest as an exotic backdrop for their lectures.
Perhaps the best way to protect these delicate ecosystems is to not go there. When you go online to book a ticket, many airlines make it clear they are making efforts to offset the fuel they use by investing in environmentally friendly projects. But how long before the cost is passed on to the passenger? The chief executive of easyJet recently warned against imposing taxes to make journeys more expensive. He believes this would disproportionately affect poorer people and be a hugely dangerous social experiment.
Surely we all need to start thinking about the way we travel and how necessary our journeys are.
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