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Published on Friday, March 16, 2007

There's nothing green about the Tory's policies

Comment by Jeremy Skidmore (

Just when you thought the blancmange-faced Tory leader might have something to offer, his party announces its environmental policy, the most ill-informed piece of nonsense I"ve read in a long time.

Firstly, I must confess that I"ve not yet signed up to this new environmental religion, which brainwashes everyone in its path, like a 2007 version of scientology.

I use some energy efficient light bulbs (to save money) and recycle because it seems like a good idea. But I also drive a reasonably fuel-efficient 4X4 because I like it and take several flights a year for business and pleasure, and honestly do not give a monkey"s whether anyone approves of that or not.

I"m also very sceptical about whether my, and everyone else"s, little efforts make an iota of difference. I was in Manhattan the other day, where virtually every car is a huge 4x4. That light bulb in my lounge is really going to save us all.

Anyway, back to the Tory"s new policy. Everyone will be allowed one short-haul flight per year at a standard rate of tax, but frequent flyers would have to pay more. In a breathtakingly ignorant statement, shadow chancellor George Osborne said this was designed to target frequent travellers but not families taking one package per year.

I know politicians are notoriously out of touch, but do they not realise that holiday habits have changed? There"s this new thing called the Internet and no-frills flights and now lots of people, even those funny working families, go on more than one flight a year.

This proposal will do nothing to limit flights. Research shows Air Passenger Duty would have to be several times higher to make a dent in traffic figures. All it will do is raise money for the government and it is the least well-off who will feel the pinch.

Airlines will also find ways around the proposed fuel duty by filling up abroad - and burning more fuel in the process! You couldn"t make it up.

There"s going to be VAT on domestic flights to encourage us to use trains. Great, we"d all love to use trains, but have you seen the cost of travelling from London to the North? No wonder people fly. Of course, politicians wouldn"t know this because they wouldn"t be seen dead on public transport.

What riles me more than anything is the hypocrisy of these people. This is nothing to do with saving the planet, otherwise these misguided proposals would at least be backed up by concrete plans for spending the revenue raised on environmental projects. It"s just another way to bring in cash for the government and I"d have more respect for them if they admitted as much.

And can anyone tell me exactly how much fuel has been burned and carbon emissions clocked up by sending over fighter jets and dropping bombs in this pointless war in Iraq which every main party, but hardly any member of the public, supports? I tell you what, I"ll hazard a guess that it"s done more damage than my 4x4.

On the subject of hypocrisy, isn"t blancmange-face the one who cycles to work while a Jaguar brings his papers with him?  And wasn"t the Tory party headquarters recently photographed with just about every light on even though no-one was in the building?

Meanwhile, chief scientologist Al Gore may well talk a lot of sense. But he travels extensively (I wonder how) preaching his gospel before returning home, considerably more wealthy, to his 20-room mansion that uses more electricity in a month than the average US household gets through in a year.

So what should we do?

You can"t stop people from flying and the government has got no business trying to do so. If it really believes that aircraft are the great evil, then incentivise airlines to produce more fuel efficient equipment and tax those carriers that do not invest in cleaner machines.

Educate people and encourage them to recyle or think about whether their trip is necessary. Invest in public transport and subsidise it so that it provides a real alternative to flying.

But don"t patronise us by taking more money from our pockets with ill-conceived taxes and then spending the money on something that is completely unrelated and often, ironically, damaging the planet.

What"s your view?

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  • Cattle Class

    I think the Tories may have got confused, when they were advised that they should raise taxes for cattle class.

    By Nick Cooper, Friday, March 23, 2007

  • Lovin' it

    Mr Carter and I have more common ground than he may imagine. I know the work of the IPCC well and respect much of it. I also agree with his opinion of David Cameron’s proposal. Mr Cameron is no doubt aware of the latest 400 page UN report, ‘Livestock’s Long Shadow’ in which the Food and Agricultural Organisation identifies the world’s rapidly growing herds of cattle as the greatest single threat to the planet’s climate. According to the FAO, some 1.5 billion cattle are now responsible for 18 per cent of all greenhouse gases – more than all cars, trains and other forms of transport put together. Could the fact that he isn’t advocating a head tax on cattle be something to do with the fact that he would be soundly barbecued by the Tory farming lobby?

    By John Graham-Hart, Friday, March 23, 2007

  • Graham-Hart leaves no cliche unused...

    Would that be the same Dr. Patrick Moore with a PhD in Ecology awarded in the early 70s? Hate to break it to you, but that doesn't make him a climatologist. Would you go to a geologist for a preganancy test? Get my point? Is it 'blind faith' to suggest society should listen to the people who actually know what they are talking about? I gave the hyperlink for the IPCC, the UN scientific body, to allow you to find all the relevant facts and figures you feel you need. Despite the other stuff you wrote, it's nice to read you agree use of fossil fuels such as aviation fuel need to be cut back. Anyway, to come back to the issue at hand: this move is a cheap headline grab by the Tories, but I hope they go through with this tax, if they can keep it together long enough to win the election...

    By Mark Carter, Friday, March 23, 2007

  • Who cares?

    Only 0.037% of the atmosphere is composed of carbon dioxide and 96.5% of this comes from natural sources. This means that in respect of CO2, Mankind’s total contribution to composition of the atmosphere is in the order of 0.001295%. Hardly the stuff of which Armageddon is made. But who really cares about the science so long as there votes to be had, taxes to be raised, carbon trading profits to be made and developing countries to be kept in their place.

    By John Graham-Hart, Friday, March 23, 2007

  • Hot air

    Mr Carter’s little hot air rant probably contributed as much to global warming as the mining and casting of the gold for Al Gore’s Oscar. However, as always, it was all blind faith, commendable commitment and no figures. He might note that the co-founder of Greenpeace, Dr Patrick Moore, has stated on numerous occasions that there is absolutely no hard evidence whatever to back the theory that that CO2 drives global warming and, in fact, the chances are it’s exactly the opposite. All that said, a radical reduction in the use of fossil fuels and the resultant general environmental pollution should be major priority worldwide. However let’s make the pursuit of this goal a science rather than a hysterical religion where any desenters who have the temerity to question the prevalent credo are immediately branded as heretics.

    By John Graham-Hart, Friday, March 23, 2007

  • Poor guy...

    John Graham-Hart's recent comment is most factually illiterate thing I've read in a long time. Thats on a par with thinking Osama Bin Laden can't possibly be dangerous because he is only one person out of 6 billion on Earth! John Graham-Hart, if by some chance you aren't just another head-in-the-sand refusnik and you genuinely don't know anything about the science of climate change, check out, the website for the biggest scientific endeavour history has ever known. They are pretty clear about the fact that (A) human induced climate change is a fact, and (B) that serious action now will avert future disaster.

    By Mark Carter, Friday, March 23, 2007

  • Tax on aviation fuel

    Not sure if this is true or not, but I remember hearing several years ago that there is a legal basis for aviation fuel exemption from tax, i.e. it would be illegal to charge tax on aviation fuel, or contravene an international agreement. Perhaps something as archaic as the the 'five freedoms', but still valid. Can anyone back this up?

    By Al Wilkinson, Tuesday, March 20, 2007

  • Amazed

    What a vote loser, utterly amazed at the Conservative's stupidity. A sensible eco-policy could have been worked upon, and one that would not lose votes, but gain them. I would have expected this from the communists.

    By Nick Cooper, Tuesday, March 20, 2007

  • Belated end of the 'gravy plane'!

    Anything that reduces demand for CO2-heavy flights is a very good thing. The travel industry has been having a great time in recent years but now the party is over and the kids are whining- too bad! There is a clear reason why we can fly overseas for the price of a bag of crisps- the original Kyoto Treaty exempts aircraft emmisions from CO2 reduction targets, so the airlines have been getting a free ride with tax-free aviation fuel while every terrestrial enterprise has been paying raised taxes on their fuel (from trains to school busses and ambulances- they only get a part of that tax rebated by the taxman). Tax-free aviation fuel is why flying up north (or anywhere) is cheaper than the train! Forget 'gravy train'- this has been the 'gravy plane'! Tax on aviation fuel would be a belated start towards creating a level playing field in transport, something the airlines seem terrified of. Every industry argues to get special treatment- it's the politicians job to ignore them when public interest is frankly more important. If the airlines had co-operated more with policy formulation instead of just loudly demanding 'free jam forever' and calling anyone who challenges them lame names maybe they wouldn't be so far on the backfoot on this. As for the idea that ever-increasing US CO2 emmisions means we should emmit more too; getting away with things because 'that big boy over there gets to do it' didn't work as an excuse when we were kids so why should it now? The USA will catch up with Europe eventually. By the way Jeremy, are you aware that driving a gleaming 4x4 to the shops makes you look like 'Aga Saga Lady': the (tax & emmisions free) mountain bike is much more 'now'...

    By Mark Carter, Tuesday, March 20, 2007

  • The Tories are out of touch

    Well done Jeremy. Your points are excllent and timely. Back last summer, I seemed to be a lone voice warning the travel industry of the dangers of the eco-Jihadists. Now the leader of the Tory party is pandering to them. Fine for old Etonians who can afford expensive trains and expensive flights. But not for the millions who cannot. 800,000 people in the UK depend on aviation and related industries for their jobs. Cameron seems to hold pople who work in the industry in complete contempt. Happily the Bristish public love flying and will greet Cameron's ludicrous, ill-thought through proposals with the contempt they deserve. So what to do? Write to or email now your local Tory candidate supporting the right of British people to fly.

    By david soskin, Tuesday, March 20, 2007

  • Response to Jeremy Skidmore

    A very large majority of the world's scientists now believe that man's actions, in particular the burning of fossil fuels, are contributing to global warming and that this will almost certainly bring about catastrophic change unless something is done soon. As Doug Andrews comments this will have to affect our lifestyles - if not by direct government action then it will be by oil supplies running out or economic recession. Increases in "green" taxes can play a significant part if the proceeds are used to fund renewable energy projects or if they are substantial enough to increase the price so much that the demand decreases. As one of the developed world countries which has up to now contributed a significant proportion of the world's carbon emissions it is up to us in the UK (together with US, Canada, EU countries, and Australia) to set an example to the world in doing something about massively reducing carbon emissions. There are many ways in which this can be done - limiting the ever increasing amount of air travel has to be one of them.

    By peter stone, Friday, March 16, 2007

  • politicians don’t understand the importance of tourism

    Jeremy Skidmore’s article highlights the fact that our politicians don’t understand the importance of tourism to the UK economy, let alone the world economy. According to current figures tourism is worth &#pound;85 billion to the UK and employs over half a million people. That equals an awful lot of tax revenues for the treasury. It is our fourth largest industry and, when you factor in the huge impact of showcasing the UK to the world through the 2012 Olympic Games, it one that is set to continue growing. Our culture and history are major attractions and we should not forget that tourism goes a very long way to helping us sustain our heritage. There is enormous potential for inbound tourism from the fast growing economies of India and China, and to give that some perspective there is something like 200 million middle class people in India alone. Apart from the financial benefits and jobs that the tourist industry creates travel helps us all understand each other much better and that can only be a good thing for the future of world peace as a whole. Surely, rather than increasing the already heavy burden of taxation on ordinary people, the government should increase the pressure on industry to develop much more efficient and sustainable technologies to power our homes, cars and aeroplanes. Sadly though vision is not something we have come to expect from our politicians, so all we get is a mentality of --silo” thinking where one government department wants more runways and to increase passenger numbers and another increases APD to apparently dissuade people from travelling! As Jeremy Skidmore remarks the Tories are no better and this only re-enforces the view that none of the political parties take tourism seriously or have any concept of benefits and value it brings to our country. In spite of this it remains one of the few success stories we have.

    By Roger Harvey, Friday, March 16, 2007

  • The times, they are a changing..

    Putting our heads in the sand and pretending global warming is something that other countries have to deal with before we need to be concerned is no longer an acceptable answer. It isn't acceptable to much of the world, and increasingly it won't be acceptable to our consumers. We are not the worst polluters by far, but we are an easy target and 2007 could be the year when some of our chickens come home to roost. For the first time in my 20 years in the travel industry I do see changes in the public perception of what we as an industry ought to be doing to reduce carbon ommissions. We will not be able to get away with the argument we only cause 2% of the world's ommssions for much longer, (the 4 x 4 has to go Jeremy, hybrids are the way forward,) and we need to engage with politcians to a far greater extent than ever before as they see 'being green' as a vote winner and for the first time, maybe it will be. The hairbrained scheme of the Conservatives suggests they haven't talked to the industry at all, we need to talk to all politicans and get them to see some sense of the way forward. The benefit for them is that they might get elected and for us as an industy, a chance to be heard and influence our future, and maybe even our own survival

    By Alan Bowen, Friday, March 16, 2007

  • Opposition

    Cameron's position is nothing but posturing to capture the left-wing vote. Considering the UK is one of the biggest flight hubs, it's difficult to believe anything solid will emerge. Besides, with carbon trading our tourist industry stands to gain as one of the most robust on the planet.

    By Michael Tyler, Friday, March 16, 2007

  • times have changed, but it's not set in stone!

    I hedge more towards the climate-change is happening side (a four day winter here in northern Spain this year did little to change my opinion), but nonetheless some good points made. Watching the whole environmental debate a very common thread is that politicians see it as a cash cow to milk and have no real interest in actually doing anything about it, something they clearly have to address if they are to win public support. The main problem we have is that nobody knows for sure if it is happening or not - who do you believe! - but if for arguments' sake we say that it IS happening then I think it is unrealistic to think that we can make substantial changes to our ommissions without it also affecting our lifestyles substantially. You say 'do they not realise that holiday habits have changed?', well maybe they have, but so has the use of central heating, cars, disposable packaging and all the other frills of our current way of living. If climate change is proved to be happening, if we do have to make substantial ommissions cuts, then one flight a year it may have to be - I'm only in my thirties and I remember a day when this was a luxury!! So now it just comes down to the big 'IF'.

    By andrews doug, Friday, March 16, 2007

  • Slight correction...

    Shouldn't that be Al Gore's house uses more electricity in a month than the average house does in a year rather than the other way round? Because of course a huge house will use more in a year than a normal one does in a month!

    By Andrew Tye, Friday, March 16, 2007

  • That's politics though...

    I've never known any group of politicians to be popular with everybody, but something tells me that the travel industry is going to be at the sharp end of environmental policies whoever wins the next election. There seems to be plenty of climate change deniers in this business, but whichever side you are on, change is something we will all have to come to terms with. At, we have seen a big increase in ferry bookings, French gites, and above all, rail bookings, which arguably shows that consumers have a conscience and their habits are changing accordingly. The hard fact is, the consumers are the ones in the driving seat of change, and if your business cannot give them what they want it will not survive, no matter how much you blame the people in Government.

    By Gary Phillips, Friday, March 16, 2007

  • Shifting the problem

    Many good points well made Jeremy. The proposals do indeed highlight just how ignorant politicians are about the reality of the situation. In addition to "spending the money on something that is completely unrelated and often, ironically, damaging the planet", have they considered that mass package tourism is far more damaging to the destination environment and less of an economic benefit to the local community than independent travel? Providing a short haul flight allowance enough for one package holiday a year does not solve any problems - it shifts the focus from emissions reduction to destination sustainability but many of the wider environmental - and ethical - issues remain the same. Such myopic views and political rhetoric that may (or may not) go down well with the voters does not help one bit with the promotion of a responsible tourism industry.

    By Al Wilkinson, Friday, March 16, 2007

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