A budget for the past

 I was sickened by the self-interested moaning of the Ryanair spokesperson about the delay in Rishi Sunak’s halving of Air Passenger Duty in your article last week.

Looking up the costs of getting to Glasgow, a return flight from Stansted would have cost me £71 compared to a return train ticket of £286. How crazy is it that the government wants to subsidise an increase our greenhouse gas emissions by supporting the option that is already less than ¼ of the price of the sustainable one?


Especially when the warming impact of planes at altitude is 3 times greater than the CO2 alone, when the additional effects of nitrogen oxides and con-trails are calculated. 


If we are going to ensure that our world remains inhabitable, we should adopt the fundamental policy of subsidising sustainable behaviours and taxing unsustainable ones.  Behavioural change will simply not happen when the tax system operates the other way around. 


The chancellor clearly has little sense of social justice either, when aviation pollution happens at the expense of the poorest in society, the 57% who don’t fly at all. They will be further subsidising the 15% of wealthy frequent flyers who account for 70% of the flights, through the taxes they will have to pay for this loss to the Exchequer.


Does the Chancellor not realise that every tonne of GHG we emit will contribute to droughts, floods and extreme weather events for the century it stays in the atmosphere? This is an appalling burden for our children and grandchildren who will eventually have to clear up our pollution, if we get that far.


Things will only get better if we finally reach carbon zero in 2050 and start to remove the trillions of tonnes of CO2 pollution we have put into the atmosphere. Only then will the temperature of our oceans slowly reduce and extreme weather events, floods, wildfires and droughts start to subside.


The chancellor and Ryanair seem hell-bent on building back to an outdated economy, with the complete absence of vision for a new, sustainable one. The Essex Climate Action Commission was similarly lacking. What we need from our leaders is a strategy for investment in a just transition to the exciting opportunities of a post fossil fuel world.


We need to plan new industries for the former employees of the airport, not leave them jobless as we did to our coal miners, ship builders and steel workers in the 80's and 90's. 


Where are the plans, locally and nationally to become a leading CLT manufacturer?  Build modular eco-homes? Manufacture vaccines? Develop new technologies to retrofit existing homes more efficiently? Pioneer battery technology? Windfarm turbine and structure? Geothermal technology? Tidal power?


As we eventually emerge from this Covid pandemic, we really must decide whether we want to go backwards or forwards.