We should not feel guilty about using aircraft, says Grant Shapps

Flying is not the “ultimate evil”, the Transport Secretary has said, as Boris Johnson is set to return to Glasgow for crunch climate change talks.

Speaking about plans to reach net zero emissions and unveiling progress on proposals for greener transport, Grant Shapps said travel should be “guilt-free”.

His comments came as the Cop26 conference was expected late on Tuesday to publish a draft statement on what had been agreed.

However, some of the progress so far in Glasgow has been branded “disappointing” by commentators who said the US and EU were “failing to step up”.

On Tuesday night, the Prime Minister urged negotiators to “pull out all the stops”, adding: “This is bigger than any one country and it is time for nations to put aside differences and come together for our planet and our people.”

Boris Johnson is set to return to Glasgow for crunch climate change talks

Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Mr Shapps said some progress had been made on transport, with 24 countries and six manufacturers committing to working towards 100 per cent zero emission new car and van sales by 2040 or earlier.

There have also been pledges on flying, with 14 states, representing more than 40 per cent of global aviation emissions, promising to work towards decarbonisation.

Mr Shapps said: “There are some changes in the way we live our lives. One of those changes should not be the inability to go and visit your friends and family and do business.”

He added: “I believe, as Transport Secretary, that we can get to guilt-free travel in this country. There’s been an idea that’s been allowed to percolate, that somehow if we’re going to meet all these different carbon commitments we are going to need to get to the point where we all stay home, that travel is somehow something which attracts great guilt.

“It gets worse the further you travel, so flying is, of course, the ultimate evil as it’s presented, and that’s just not what we believe as the British government.”

The countries with the largest cumulative emissions

However, Mr Johnson’s arrival in Glasgow on Wednesday to rejoin the talks comes amid concerns that progress is stalling.

The conference, which is scheduled to close on Friday evening but is likely to run later, has seen a raft of high-profile international commitments, but there is concern that these are lacking in substance.

Data released on Tuesday by the Climate Action Tracker, an independent scientific analysis group, found that Cop26 pledges put the world on track for at least 2.4C of warming.

Prof Niklas Hoehne, of the Germany-based New Climate Institute, which co-produced the figures, said the UK-led announcements on coal and transport “move the needle a little bit lower, if at all,” but were “not enough”, urging countries to come back with new commitments next year if ambitious plans could not be made at this year’s conference.

The charity ActionAid accused the UK of presiding over “shiny new net zero targets” which were “unveiled to much fanfare” but not making enough of a difference.

In a transport announcement to be unveiled on Wednesday, the government revealed that Uruguay, El Salvador and New Zealand had committed to making all new cars sold in their countries zero-emissions by 2035.

Which countries are submitting their national climate commitments in the lead up to COP26

However, Doug Parr, the chief scientist and policy director at Greenpeace, said that major nations including the US, EU and China were “failing to step up”.

There had been hopes that other countries might match the UK’s commitment to ban new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, he said.

“There has been a pretty weak response by the global community to the initiative that the UK presidency was trying to deliver, and in that sense, it’s disappointing,” he said.

Commentators have accused powerful wealthy countries of “going missing” at the talks amid concern that Chinese and Saudi delegations were attempting to water down the agreement, particularly around ambitions to reach the 1.5C target.

The conference’s draft final text, which was set to come out on Wednesday morning, is expected to include a provision for countries to make new climate pledges more frequently than the current schedule, which requires them to report every five years.

Alok Sharma, the Cop26 president, said there needed to be ‘urgency’ in the talks to ensure the 1.5C warming target remained in reach

Credit: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

The measure, which takes advantage of a clause in the Paris Agreement allowing countries to update their pledges “at any time”, is designed to encourage states to ramp up their policies more quickly amid concern about the slow speed of change.

The new agreement could involve updates as frequently as every year, though the exact text was being finalised late into Tuesday night.

Many of the world’s largest emitters failed to submit updated plans before this year’s conference, including India, which made a net zero pledge and renewable energy promises at the start of the Glasgow conference but has yet to formalise them in an official document.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Alok Sharma, the president of Cop26, said there needed to be “urgency” in the talks to ensure the difficult-to-achieve 1.5C warming target remained in reach. 

“It is a case of ‘all hands on deck’,” he said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *