Worry about climate change is shifting travel to local

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Survey reveals four in ten Britons are ditching air travel due to concerns about their carbon footprint. Photo credit: Tom Fisk via Pexels.

By Anders Lorenzen

The current huge focus on tackling climate change in the UK has resulted in Parliament declaring a climate emergency and in the government setting a zero-carbon target by 2050. Many believe that this evidence of renewed ambition is due to the Extinction Rebellion protests; and also by the discernible increased concern amongst the general public following several documentaries by the loved naturalist and TV presenter, David Attenborough.

One of the issues which has been put under the microscope is that of air travel, partially inspired by the Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg, and the growing flight free movement. In Sweden, many people have been turning away from air travel in a campaign called flying shame (flygskam), a campaign that has rapidly turned global.

At the same time, the UK government is trying to force through a third runway at Europe’s largest airport, Heathrow, angering many concerned about climate change.

A survey now estimates that many Brits are also willing to ditch air travel in the name of tackling climate change. It states that 11% of British adults, corresponding to one in ten or 7 million people, want to quit flying in order to reduce their carbon footprint.

The survey conducted by comparethemarket.com also states that four in ten UK adults (41%) say that as a direct result they have become more aware of their carbon footprint while travelling. It states that more people are choosing to avoid flying altogether and staying put in the UK. Half (50%) of those surveyed say that they are not planning to take a holiday abroad this year, with nearly a quarter (23%) of these ‘staycationers’ claim that concern about climate change is the main reason. Those people who do plan to travel abroad are considering alternative transport to get to their destination, with one in six (15%) considering other options.

Wouter Van Dijk, Head of Travel at Compare the Market, said about the findings: “The Attenborough effect is making many people wake up to the fact that flying abroad for their holidays may not be having the best impact on the environment. It is great to see that people are beginning to take this into consideration when booking their holidays”.

Van Dijk did however say that there are a few stumbling blocks that make it harder for people to give up flying: “Cost remains the overriding factor for many travellers, and until alternative travel options become more affordable, air travel will most likely remain the cheapest way to get from A to B. Other obstacles for travellers who wish to reduce their carbon footprint include distance and practicality, as far-flung destinations often involve long-haul flights and produce high levels of carbon emissions. In many instances, even travelling to countries closer to home within Europe can prove tricky and time-consuming without flying.”

While emissions from aviation are still relatively small, around 2-4% as globally only 5% of the world`s population has ever taken a flight, it is nevertheless one of the fastest-growing sources of CO2 emissions.

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