Westminster Watch: Prepare for a radical plan

If Labour gets into government, its policy on climate change will take chunks out of the travel industry

One of the effects of Brexit has been sucking the oxygen from other issues. Government and Parliament is caught in its mire, the media is absorbed in it and Westminster Twitter obsesses over the hour-by-hour drama. Indeed, part of the narrative of the day is that we need to “get it done” so we can focus on things that matter.

But there is a strand of radical policymaking that isn’t waiting for Brexit to finish. It is pushing on regardless and, I think, is going largely unnoticed. That policy area is climate change.

Extinction Rebellion has done its job of getting climate change on top of the news agenda through polarising direct action. They frame the issue as existential and say that moving to a “net zero” carbon position by 2025 is absolutely necessary.

We need to start realising how radical climate policy is shifting from the fringes to the mainstream

The scale of change required to get to that point in six years is massive. Severe restrictions on flying, radical changes to diet and huge increases in renewable energy (offshore wind covering an area twice the size of Wales). In short, seismic changes to the way we do things.

The Government by contrast is talking net zero by 2050. ER activists dismiss this, but the UK is the first major economy in the world to make this a legal commitment. The Government maintains that the changes required to deliver this target are huge challenges in themselves.

Now, how many people reading this know where Labour is on this scale? The only other viable governing party (at the minute!) is surely likely to be closer to the realism of the 2050 target than the heroic changes required to come in by 2025?

Nope. Labour is committed to net zero by 2030. This was decided on at the most recent Labour conference where it, not Brexit, was the biggest issue. Labour decides what to debate and vote on based on the number of “motions” it gets from local parties; the number referencing 2030 net zero dwarfed those of any other issue.

It might be a long shot, but Labour could be the Government at some point and it would be coming in with a commitment to radicalism on carbon reduction that would challenge many aspects of how we organise ourselves as a society.

We need to start realising how radical climate policy is shifting from the fringes to the mainstream.

Shielded from reality
Right now the transport sector is shielded from this reality. Despite the direct action, new targets, climate emergency declarations, flooding, fires, etc, we still have official policy backing airport expansion. That is because an effective alliance between business and trade unions uses its muscle in the two main parties to maintain this position. But how long can this endure?

The travel sector needs to consider how it can be radical in the face of this pressure, too, and whether reluctance to do so to avoid short-term discomfort will only store up genuine pain in the future as radical policymaking starts to take chunks out travel.

What can our sector do to champion new aviation technology? What can we do to encourage sustainable fuel? What can we do to reward those airlines that have invested in newer, less polluting fleets? Are our offsetting schemes bold enough?

There is a genuine pressure building for a more radical approach and we cannot rely forever on policy biting on every sector other than ours.

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