Campaigners warn government over ‘unlawful’ unconditional airline bailout

Support us and go ad-free

Green campaigners have warned the government not to give airlines an unconditional bailout, as a poll suggests people do not think the sector is a priority for public money.

Lawyers acting for climate action charity Possible have written to the chancellor asking for assurances any bailout of the UK aviation industry will have conditions to ensure there are meaningful emissions cuts from planes.

Legal firm Leigh Day has warned Rishi Sunak that a failure to attach carbon-cutting conditions to a bailout would be unlawful, because it would not be in line with the UK’s legal goals to cut greenhouse gases.

It would also fail to take into account the UK’s international commitments to tackle climate breakdown under the global Paris Agreement, it warned.

Meanwhile, separate polling for Greenpeace suggests just 7% of people think that the airline industry should be prioritised by the government for financial support.

The survey of 1,654 people by YouGov found health topped the list, with 58% saying it should be a priority for government support, while 40% backed prioritising education, 39% supported farming and 35% backed manufacturing.

Along with aviation, other low scorers included fisheries, with just 6% saying it should be a priority, the oil and gas sector (4%), entertainment (3%) and the car industry, which just 2% thought should be prioritised for financial support.

The findings and the legal letter come amid expectations the government is preparing a bailout for the airline industry, which has been hit by a massive downturn in people taking flights due to the global pandemic and lockdowns.

But environmental campaigners want any financial support for the sector to protect workers and make airlines tackle their contribution to climate breakdown – as the French government has done with Air France.

A spokesman for Possible said: “Right now, the government has a choice.

“They can choose to give [billionaires] like Richard Branson a free ride, or to protect people and the planet and ensure the UK builds back better.

“We need to build a low-carbon transport system that works for everyone, not just for a small minority of wealthy frequent flyers and the airline bosses cashing in on the damage flying does to our climate.

“Recovery from Covid-19 will need huge public investment, which must go to building a better future for everyone, not propping up polluters.”

In light of the Greenpeace UK polling, Fiona Nicholls, a climate campaigner for the organisation, said: “Airlines were first in the queue with their hands out for public money as soon as the Covid-19 crisis arrived.

“But they are certainly not top of the public’s priorities, where nurses, teachers, farmers and factory workers are all way ahead of airline bosses like Richard Branson.

“Over the next decade, the government needs to restrict demand for aviation to reduce emissions, and speed up leaving petrol and diesel vehicles behind, along with the oil and gas industry.”

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us