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First, sorry for the silence. I’ve just moved house from London to Cornwall which has taken up just about every second of the past week. Still settling in, but I’ve managed to find time – once my broadband was finally set up – to spot these links…

The Guardian: Galapagos Islands could lose world heritage status

IATA Calls for a Zero Emissions Future

The Telegraph: EasyJet unveils low-carbon ‘eco-plane’

I don’t have the time right now to comment on these, but “exasperation” is probably the most apt word if you seek a snap shot of my collective view…


Are the “eco loonies” Ryanair has spoken of in the past finally taking over the asylum? This report in the Guardian suggests that, despite its earlier denials, Ryanair is now ready to accept that some of the decline in ticket sales is being driven by growing concern among travellers about aviation’s impact on the environment.

Howard Millar, Ryanair deputy chief executive, said he was “concerned” about the negative publicity gathering around the airline sector and admitted demand for flights was being impacted “at the edges”.

“I am concerned that there is a continuing media campaign and the concern is that people might say ‘maybe I will not fly on holiday and maybe I will make a different choice,'” he said.

It’s hard to argue against this really. And well done to the Stop Stanstead Expansion team for a PR masterstroke in bringing Aqqaluk Lynge to the opening of the public inquiry.

What happens in Britain affects us in the north. You may say that the expansion of London Stansted airport will play only a small part in increasing climate change, but everyone can say that about almost everything they do. It is an excuse for doing nothing. The result of that attitude would be catastrophic. The serious consequences affecting my people today will affect your people tomorrow. Most flights from Stansted are not for an important purpose. They are mostly for holidays and leisure. Is it too much to ask for some moderation for the sake of my people today and your people tomorrow? For the sake also of our wildlife and everything else in the world’s precious and fragile environment that is more important than holiday flights.

According to a survey commissioned by Travel Weekly, “less than one in ten UK consumers would be willing to change their travel plans to greener alternatives”.

TNS Travel & Tourism, which carried out the research, found that just two per cent of respondents were ‘very likely’ to change their travel plans and a further seven per cent would be ‘quite likely’ to do so. The survey also revealed a very small take up in carbon offsetting, with just four per cent of respondents stating they had made a payment to offset their travel in the last 12 months. TNS, which polled over 1,000 UK consumers, called on the travel industry to do more to educate the public in a bid to counter consumer apathy and enable them to make better informed decisions.

Today I answered reader questions live online on Guardian Unlimited. Some interesting questions came up – and I gave my best shot at answering them. You can see my responses here…

Full marks to the Financial Times for putting this story on its front page yesterday. Almost too much to digest here, but here are some of the stand-out sentences from Roger Blitz’s take on the WTTC summit in Lisbon over the weekend which suggest that some within the industry are still firmly in denial about the challenges they face.

The industry is expected to expand by 4.3 per cent a year over the next decade and managers are fretting over climate change. They worry that flying is seen as the most polluting activity and are falling over themselves to champion schemes that allow the travelling public to go on clocking up air miles…

“We look at climate change as an image issue,” said Armin Meier, chief executive of Kuoni Travel, the luxury tour operator…

Maurice Flanagan, vice-chairman of Emirates Airline, was quite happy to share his trenchant view that global warming was “an argument”. He said he was taken aback at the World Economic Forum in Davos this year at the way that airlines were being “demonised as the cause of all this”. Mr Flanagan said more worrying than the apparent threat to the planet was the real threat to the existence of low-cost carriers such as EasyJet and Ryanair. “If extremists get their way, thousands and thousands of jobs in travel and tourism will be lost…”

But it’s the end of the report that sticks in my memory…

For all the talk, practical meaningful solutions were little in evidence. It fell to James Russell of the Clinton Global Initiative to tell the industry what was expected of it. “Don’t be an Exxon,” he told the airlines, “Work out what you can do to drive down energy consumption. Travel agents should push hotels for carbon disclosure.” He added: “The message to chief executives is that perceptions are changing and you’ve got between 12 and 24 months to get on that route.” Exactly how much and for how long is arguable. “It’s flavour of the month,” said Charles Petruccelli, the president of global travel services at American Express. “The problem will realise its way beyond the industry soon.”

Mark Ellingham has been a lot more outspoken that I originally thought. Travelmole is reporting his outburst in much more detail…

“Climate change is an issue that dwarfs all others and the impact of flying is key to this. All of us involved have a responsibility to inform travellers as clearly and honestly as possible about the environmental cost of their journeys. Balancing all the positives and negatives, I’m not convinced there is such a thing as a ‘responsible’ or ‘ethical’ holiday…If there was just one thing I could change, it would be this new British obsession for binge flying. We now live in a society where, if people have nothing to do on a Saturday night, they go to Budapest for 48 hours. We fly anywhere at the slightest opportunity, 10 times and upwards a year. This needs to be addressed with the greatest urgency.”

I’m not hugely impressed with his new goal for cutting back on flying, though. It’s actually more than most people would ever dream of. But at least he is pledging to making a reduction, which is a start…

“As a ‘recovering travel writer’, I fly less than I would like to, but more than I know that ethically I should. The deal I have made with myself is to limit the number of flights I take to one long-haul and two or three shorter flights each year. I very much respect the purist attitudes of those who say they will never fly again, but it’s totally unrealistic to expect the majority to do the same.”

Environmentalists have been making such comparisions for years, but now some within the travel industry are also suggesting that their sector could be accused of being in the same state of denial – or worse, being as willfully obstructive – as the tobacco industry was 30 years ago in facing up to its negative impacts. Here’s Mark Ellingham, founder of Rough Guides, quoted in a Guardian report today which led on how a record will be set this month for the highest number of flights worldwide – 2.5bn – a 5% rise on the same period last year.

“The tobacco industry fouled up the world while denying it as much as possible for as long as they could. If the travel industry rosily goes ahead as it is doing, ignoring the effect that carbon emissions from flying are having on climate change, we are putting ourselves in a very similar position to the tobacco industry.”

I suspected this might happen. Those Virgin Train ads just seem that little bit too provocative for one of the airlines not to take the bait and challenge the green claims being made by reporting them to the Advertising Standards Authority.

I’m pleased that it looks like we might also get to the bottom of just how much Network Rail relies on nuclear power – something that is often over looked.