Issue: January 2021, Better stay on the ground? – Aviation and climate action
Linking people, but sustainably
Editorial by Jan Peter Schemmel, CEO, Oeko-Institut
For now, the times in which the aviation industry experienced nothing but growth are over. As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, countless planes remain grounded. Moreover, many people are asking whether they really need to fly. It has quickly become apparent that many business trips are unnecessary. Video conferencing works. And holidaying in your own country can be a delight.
However, I know from my work in development cooperation how important direct contact with people in other countries and on other continents can be. And thus how important flying is for cultural exchange and the international cooperation that is needed to address the global challenges we face. Meeting face-to-face enhances mutual understanding and helps develop trust. But in view of the harmful impact on the climate, we must all ask ourselves which flights are really necessary and how we can make them as sustainable as possible. In my first months at the Oeko-Institut I was very impressed by the close attention given to this issue at the institute. For example, it is taken for granted that no one will take a domestic flight. But it is also commendable that the need to keep flying to a minimum is considered, too, in the planning of international projects. As a result, maximum emphasis is placed on building the capacity of local partners in an efficient manner so that they can assume responsibility for tasks themselves.
It would be catastrophic for the climate if aviation were to resume its relentless pre-pandemic growth when the pandemic is over. There is therefore no alternative to reducing subsidies and increasing taxes and levies. In addition, there must be climate-friendly options for those flights that are unavoidable. This means new, CO2-neutral fuels and, where possible, electrification.
Jan Peter Schemmel