Aviation turkeys won’t vote for Christmas and limit demand for flying during December’s Environment and Climate Change Scrutiny Committee

Muppet chef and turkeyThe turkeys known as the UK aviation sector have come up with their own ‘ambitious and exciting’ plan to Christmas called “Jet Zero” to continue flying within ‘safe environmental limits’ and they’re doing everything they can to quickly reduce emissions according to Neil Robinson, Group CSR & Future Airspace Director at Manchester Airports Group (MAG).

The problem is that everyone likes to fly, is encouraged to fly more and they are simply not making “the most sustainable choice” by choosing a more sustainable turkey (airline) and offsetting their emissions to feel less guilty.

The tone of the meeting was set straight away with the Chair (Lee-Ann Igbon, Hulme) criticising the poor accessibility of colour schemes and formats used for those with visual impairments and colour blindness of the presentations to the committee from the Manchester Climate Change Agency and MAG. From then on, it was aviation turkey shooting season. Mandie Shilton-Goodwin (Chorlton) and Linda Foley (Didsbury East) specifically asked why demand management wasn’t mentioned in the MAG presentation given by the turkey’s representative Neil Robinson.


Fly now, techno-fix later

MAG agree to a cap on aviation emissions so that business as usual can mean we ‘enjoy flying’ now and then later (soon), when the sector comes to the awkward point where they’ve blown their budget because their saviour technologies haven’t materialised… what will they do then?

The aviation turkeys cannot back any measures that potentially limit or stigmatise the glamorous and economically beneficial activity of flying. So that rules out a frequent flyer levy. Because they just don’t know what will happen with a frequent flyer levy and whether it’ll actually be effective in persuading the most frequent flyers to stop flying as much. But the levies will be sure to raise money and harm the aviation industry. But through the looking glass they are also not strictly against limits to flying if the sector fails to meet its emissions limits, but by then it’ll be a little too late with the damage already being done – I think someone needs to be reminded that you can’t go against the physics of cumulative CO2 emissions… Supposedly the airlines will fly somewhere else or people will get their flying fix by using someone else’s airport.

This is a similarly flawed argument to taxing the rich a bit more – if we do it, they’ll just move somewhere else and we’d lose all those wonderful tax dodging lawyers and accountants our economy supposedly relies so heavily on.


Who needs evidence?

Whereas a turkey-led plan “Jet Zero” is said to be more certain and economically efficient. However, no evidence was presented that their plan was just that to the committee. Instead the plan relies on a mix of untested and expensive technologies (direct carbon removals / electric or hydrogen planes) that won’t really have much of an impact practically until the mid-2030’s at the earliest, taking waste and creating a fuel that will be blended into normal fossil jet fuels at around 5% (going up to possibly 30% by 2050) . Did we mention the fantastical carbon offsets?. This plan is far FAR better than taxing the rich 1% of the global population who are frequent fliers. This is something the turkeys say will breed confidence in the sector so that investors can continue to plough ever greater amounts of money into innovating our way out of an issue that could be fairly resolved by taxing frequent flyers. Genius.

This is a point of principle that the aviation turkeys recognise that they differ from that of the more vocal and passionate Councillors who don’t have conflicts of interest with MAG (Councillor Flanagan, Miles Platting & Newton Heath has a pecuniary interest with MAG, but no record can be found on the MCC website on what that conflict is). These want to see far more efforts in the short term about what is known as ‘demand management’ i.e. flying less by exploring the potential for a frequent flyer tax or levy.


No blue sky-thinking – precious little thinking!

The MAG-conflicted councillor Flanagan did have a few good points about aligning MCC travel policy between officers and executive members, using tractors to move aircraft whilst taxiing and getting support from central government so that airports do not have to rely so much on car parking revenue or could be used as energy storage infrastructure for electric vehicles.  But again this sort of thing is not high-level strategic thinking on the big issues related to how the sector will reduce its main source of emissions in the short term and should be mostly resolved before taking up precious scrutiny committee time.


A flurry of recommendations once the flying feathers settled

To finish there was a flurry of recommendations from the chair scrutiny committee that will probably ruffle the aviation turkey’s feathers a trio from Cllr Flanagan separately related to his points on electric vehicle airport parking incentives and supporting electric airside vehicles. The chair of the committee (Lee-Ann Igbon, Hulme) recommended that she speak to the chairs of both Economy (Hannah Priest, Charlestown) and Communities & Economies Scrutiny Committees to look at the airport’s finances, growth prospects and surface access transport infrastructure that can allow staff and passengers to get to the airport more easily without a car. The chair also recommended contacting GM Mayor Andy Burnham to look at how he is lobbying central government to support MCC and other councils who economically rely on the airport.

The final recommendation was for a meeting between members of the council, scrutiny committee and the Exec Member for Environment (Tracey Rawlins, Bagley) to look at how they address the issues and hopefully differences between MAG and the concerned councillors. They also asked MAG to formally respond in writing to 3 questions asked by the chair on behalf of Climate Emergency Manchester copying in the scrutiny committee.

The proof in the pudding will be how many of these recommendations are tracked internally within the council and the outcomes transparently shared with those most concerned. No doubt we’ll do our share of keeping an eye on this, but we always welcome help from others who are also concerned.


The airport will be discussed (maybe scrutinised) again in early 2022, this time by the Economy and Scrutiny Committee. If you’d like to help CEM leading up to this meeting, helping us to expose the hypocriskies of MAG pleased get in touch contact@climateemergencymanchester.net

You might also want to take a look at the report CEM produced in advance of the meeting summarised in this report. Comments? Suggestions? Again, get in touch.

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