Greta Thunberg sets sail to US climate conference on carbon neutral yacht

FT News


Greta tune bug. The swedish climate activist made headlines this month by opting to sail to the u._s. Rather than travel by plane choice reflected a growing recognition that air travel carries a heavy cost to the environment you need a convoy are transferred. Correspondent has been looking looking at this problem and the aviation industries response to it and she's here with me now to discuss this along with our environment correspondent lesley hook you nina you spoke to anna hughes an environmentalist who pitta misers this new growing hostility towards flying. What did she tell you well. Anna hughes has founded a flight-free twenty twenty campaign in the u._k. Off the back of other campaigns exist in other countries and she's encouraging people to commit to not flying in twenty twenty aim is to get one hundred thousand people to sign up to the pledge so far she's got three thousand and she's found that when she speaks to people <music> the quite often aware of the effect flying has on the environment she is concerned because it's not obvious how the aviation industry can realistically decarbonised when is in the long term and a hughes is tapping into the trend of flight shame driven by the likes of greta which started scandanavia and on a huge herself south actually committed to not flying ten years ago and doesn't fly anywhere she tries to get everywhere by bicycle or public transport and encouraging people to perhaps when they think holiday today's stop thinking flight and papp's consider u._k. Destinations if that's weather based or even tried to get some of the european cities that they used to fly into by train in because once you take into account security cues immigration queues etc getting to the airport which is usually out of town. The train doesn't necessarily take that much longer and if you organize snuffing book in advance it can be a cheaper option so that's what she's trying to do is quite big. Trend 'cause we do think when we think of holidays we will think cheap travel. Let's go to spain so let's see what's the evidence. I mean how bad is flying compared with other pollutants well. It's really interesting because in terms of global carbon dioxide emissions aviation is only two percent don't which doesn't sound that bad but there's a raft of research over the last few years that show that the emissions airplanes not just carbon dioxide but also oh night trajan oxides also the contrails they create. Those are those white ice vapour clouds that you see in the sky when you see that white line behind the plane. That's called the contrails israel. All of that has an impact on global warming. That's much greater than just the c._o. Two impact so most of the studies show that the warming impact of planes is about twice the amount that you would expect just from c._o. Two alone because of those other factors so closer to five percent percent of man-made warming can be attributed to aviation the reason that climate activists are so worried about this is because it's an area. That's growing very very quickly. Kley so well in other sectors like power. We have wind and solar farms. Many countries in europe have already been decarbonising their power sectors or your our dr electric vehicles are growing with aviation. It's not really clear how it's going to decarbonised as you mentioned and also this is a very fast growing industry street. People are just travelling more than they used to so. You need to use spoken to a number of airline to executives. What's the industry doing then to combat this well. There are several several things they're doing in the short-term. They're often investing in more fuel-efficient aircraft and also there is carbon offsetting but carbon offsetting. He's not decarbonising so kabanov fittings when you purchase a tree also one industry insider told me that customers don't always realized that they can carbon offset or they choose not to carbon offset and it's quite difficult to sometimes encourage passengers to click on that bit of the website light when they're booking a ticket but in the long-term various airlines are looking alternative fuels and electrification but realistically these are aw long-term solutions which aren't going to happen in the future certainly at scale is anybody. She's investing real money into the alternative fuels could have been electrified. Haitian is quite a few years away. I mean nobody's predicting we'll be flying from london to new york anytime soon if all by twenty fifty in an all electric airline so these sort of alternative fuels are they investing lots of money in these people are investing. There are various airlines like b._a. Left-hand sir are working working with projects that will create biofuel or synthetic fuel united airlines is another company which is heavily involved in developing biofuel and is trying to really scale it up but looking at it globally. The investments are relatively small and it's not enough but there are airlines which feel about particularly in the u._k. Governments need to start stepping in and incentivizing <hes> lines to switch to other fuels because the problem in the moment is that jet fuel is much cheaper and so in terms of business model. It's very difficult to justify moving to an alternate fuel which is in some cases three times more expensive than leslie other any environmental sarmento concerns about some of these fuels. I think biofuels has become very very popular for the aviation industry to talk about. There's headlines lines about used cooking. Oil from your house can fuel this plane isn't that cool and snazzy and it is but what the research shows is that to actually create and produce biofuels at the scale that would be needed for aviation or for other forms of transport that can't be easily electrified at the moment. You would really need so much land to do that that it wouldn't be feasible at the large scale so the i._p._c. report. That's the report art from the u._n. Intergovernmental panel for climate change that came out earlier. This month showed that to limit global warming to one point five degrees would require prior seven million square kilometers of land for bio energy and seven million square kilometers the size of australia so this is a lot of land when bio fuels are done small-scale. You could grow a crop. Perhaps on some land wasn't being optimized or wasn't being used for food crops but if you think about twenty year's time global population is going to grow food needs are going to grow and if demand for biofuels growing along with that puts a lot of pressure on available arable land and is there an issue also with the of energy density of some of these biofuels. I mean i guess one of the issues again. Switching from kerosene does have a very high energy density which gives you that thrust thrust the airplane. I mean do they match up. I think looking at alternative views of the whole electro fuels if that can take off electro fuels are approach that does much that nc of kerosene which is why if it can be produced at scale in a sustainable way that could be a real breakthrough biofuels at the moment tend and to be used from what i can gather anyway tickly in the case of united for example the bio fuels are often a drop in fuel which is blended with kerosene so it might right behalf and hof lizzy. Can you explain what our electro fuels. Electricals also called synthetic fuels. The idea is using power from renewable. Oh energy like wind or solar to drive a chemical reaction that yields a synthetic fuel so rather than extracting fossil fuels from the ground. You are synthetically creating a product that basically can match kerosene very very closely using the power from renewable energy. Let's just go back to electric. Electrification people do talk about electric flying taxis which should be in the air by twenty twenty five. I just wanted how do you see that you nina talking to various. This people working on this and airlines for example easyjet is working with right electric to develop an electric aircraft which would be viable for their business but even an the likes of easyjet who quite bullish on the development of electric aircraft even they say the earliest electric aircraft aren't going to be in service until probably the twenty thirty s mostly because of certification it takes years to certify a new aircraft pilots will need retraining certain areas of airports pulse will need to be reconfigured to deal with the new demands of a completely different model of aircraft and even if we do see the first electric planes in the twenty thirty s. I likely to be hybrid so there might be elements of the journey that still run on fuel so possibly it might need fuel to get in the air and and then the electric will kick in when it's cruising but that remains to be seen. It sounds like it's all quite a long way off. I decide one final question. In terms of policies. I mean are there any the policies that the government should be putting in place now to advance all of this so at the moment the u._k. Has a passenger tax and i think it generates about out four billion a year but that goes straight to the treasury and is not designated for anything in particular is just tax on tickets and the chief executive of heathrow airport who i spoke to not recently has called for the government to start allocating at least some of that money towards developing a more sustainable aviation industry so i guess one other sort of conclusions. Is that it flying. We'll have become more expensive. If it's going to be greener in the future it remains to be seen but the way it's looking probably thank you very much. You need leslie and thank thank you for

Coming up next