As Australia burns, our government shows how little it cares about the climate crisis

Flybe plane
Fréa Lockley

Regional airline Flybe faces collapse. But the government’s response to this shows how little it seems to understand, or care about, the current climate crisis.

Priorities

Chancellor Sajid Javid is considering cutting domestic air passenger duty (APD) to save Flybe. This would effectively work as a tax break for the airline, and other operators, enabling it to defer its £106m APD bill until 2023. In the 2019/20 tax year, total APD is expected to earn the treasury £3.7bn. As the BBC reported:

The change would allow Flybe to defer a tax bill, implement a rescue plan, and secure more than 2,000 jobs.

Although the loss of jobs is important to consider, this move comes in the face of devastating bush fires in Australia. Meanwhile, in the UK, rail fares have risen yet again. Given the climate crisis, our government’s priorities are seriously skewed.

Labour MP Ben Bradshaw argued that Flybe offers “valuable connectivity”, enabling people to travel faster to some destinations. But as Green MEP Molly Cato pointed out, this is simply a short term fix that ignores the bigger issues:

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell also questioned the government’s priorities:

So too did environmental campaigner George Monbiot:

Planes, trains and automobiles

This bailout poses another serious question. A consortium led by Virgin Atlantic bought Flybe in 2019, promising a large cash injection to save the airline. Virgin is in partnership with Delta Airlines, the largest “airline in the world in terms of assets and the second largest in terms of passengers carried”. With soaring profits, Delta is currently worth $38.3bn. But money doesn’t seem to be forthcoming to help Flybe:

Meanwhile, £100m of investment in the UK’s public transport system would at least be a start. Years of underinvestment and privatised services mean train travel in the UK is expensive and often unreliable. In January, prices rose an average of 2.8%. According to the TUC, since 2009, commuter fares have gone up 46% while average weekly wages only rose 23%. Yet in the past five years, private rail companies “paid out more than £1.2bn in dividends to shareholders”.

But more importantly, as many people pointed out, thinking about the true cost of flying – in environmental terms – is crucial for our survival:

As Australia burns, scientists have warned that these fires are “a sign” of what’s to come without drastic and immediate change to halt global temperature rises. These fires have already killed over a billion animals, and NASA predicts the smoke “will circle the Earth”. Professor Richard Betts said:

It tells us what the future world might look like. This really brings home what climate change means.

But this Conservative government is putting short-term corporate welfare first.

Featured image via Flickr – Mark Harkin

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  • Show Comments
    1. This stupid author forgets that it was The All-Party Parliamentary Group who urged the government to reduce Air Passenger Duty. All-Party: get it? And this government is only proposing to defer the tax, not reduce it, something which any firm in financial difficulty can apply for. Another non-story trying to find a stick to beat the government with and inflame opinion, just because Fréa Lockley lost her failed messiah Corbyn. Nothing to do with climate change.

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