Rishi Sunak, the present UK prime minister, who enjoys private jet and helicopter travel, might like to think so. Although, he was recently questioned as to why he thought it appropriate to take a private jet to Scotland to announce a million-pound green initiative and travel in a tax-payer funded helicopter (a popular choice for the PM!) to Southampton to, apparently, just have a photograph taken of him having a blood pressure test.
Sunak’s response, “I’ll be flying as I normally would and that is the most efficient use of my time”. Has he not heard of working on a train journey or zoom meetings? That helicopter journey from London to Southampton could have been by train which would have taken just 75 minutes. His defence of such trips was supplemented by his view that climate change would not be solved by banning holidays. And his ministers follow his example. To quote Ministry of Defence under-secretary Dr Andrew Murrison:
“Since June 1, 2022, the Envoy aircraft of the Command Support Air Transport fleet have been tasked to carry ministers for official purposes 74 times. Each task can include a number of separate legs.”
Sunak, of course, sets a dangerous example of using expensive, climate damaging modes of transport when other options exist and his attempt to link questions regarding his travel choices to ‘banning holidays’ appears to be an attempt to appeal the Uxbridge type Tories and London Conservative councils who wished to halt the expansion of the ‘Ultra Low Emission Zone’ (ULEZ) in London.
Perhaps an example of “I’m all for Green initiatives as long as they don’t impact on me”.
Meanwhile, Sadiq Khan, the London Mayor, has acknowledged that in extending the scheme:
“It’s a difficult decision but it’s essential we take steps to deal with the air pollution crisis in London”.
Before pertinently adding:
“Clean air is a human right, not a privilege”.
However, while both major parties appear to be bickering about how far to push their Green credentials, for the fear of upsetting certain voters, the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, is more pointed. He recently declared:
“Climate change is here (and) it is terrifying”.
The contrast between local, UK politics and the need for international action and responsible government is astonishing. Labour still claim, despite a recent post-Uxbridge wobble, to be firmly committed to the Green agenda. And Grant Shapps, the present energy secretary, inflamed the culture war by trying to characterise Labour’s policies as supporting the “criminal eco gang” while also promoting the government’s planned new oil and gas licences in the North Sea.
The approach of media outlets such as the Daily Mail and Daily Express is to consistently use terms such as, ‘eco mob’, ‘eco clowns’ and ‘eco-zealots’ to describe climate protesters. Their reporting of Just Stop Oil protests support the members of public who throw insults at the protesters, rather than reporting on the climate emergency. Curiously, polls suggest that a majority of the public support greener policies and initiatives, if not some of the direct action of the protesters.
Against this background, why is there so little, real frontline leadership promoting the urgent need to confront climate change and the impact on, not only Britain’s environment but also the worlds? How can we talk sensibly to the world about the need to take action, when we don’t take it seriously ourselves?
The world is on fire. Heat accelerates the weather cycle. Water evaporates faster in hot weather so rain patterns and temperatures will change, impacting on where and how people live and what crops can be grown. Flooding is real. Humanity is in grave danger. Is it time for Private Jet Man to come to our rescue? I’m afraid that time has long passed … call me a ‘Big Yellow Taxi’.
Ed: Here’s a link for readers too young to remember Joni Mitchell – “They paved paradise / And put up a parking lot”.
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