The aviation industry should not be allowed to expand, the chair of the Climate Change Committee which advises the government has told leaders of the UK hospitality sector.
Lord Deben told the inaugural conference of the Energy & Environment Alliance (EEA) of hoteliers in London: “A world in which people are able to travel is better than one in which they’re not. [But] aviation is very expensive to the environment.
“The Climate Change Committee put aviation in an envelope and made clear it can’t expand or else everyone else will have to adjust. I won’t listen to people who say it must be allowed to expand.”
The committee advises the UK and devolved governments on emissions targets and reports to Parliament.
The EEA coalition of hospitality leaders was formed last year to establish a ‘net zero framework’ of standards for the sector.
Lord Deben insisted: “We have to keep the government’s feet to the fire so ‘outriders’ who don’t want change don’t influence ministers.”
Asked whether he favoured carbon taxes, Lord Deben said: “We should make it expensive to be bad. There is a whole series of areas we should tax. But you should pay less for doing the right thing.”
He argued: “The most difficult thing for business is uncertainty. The thing about climate change is it’s certain. There is no doubt about the direction.”
Deben criticised investors for not waking up to climate risks sooner. He said: “The investment community has suddenly realised what sustainability is about. I’ve never understood why it has taken so long. If you’re buying a company, the first thing you want to know is, is it sustainable?”
He noted most governments have signed up to climate commitments, but said: “Of course, they won’t all do it and there will be greenwashing in a big way. But every year it becomes more clear how damaging climate change is, it becomes more difficult not to do what you’re signed up to.”
Deben argued: “People don’t go in for denying [climate change] now but for delaying, saying ‘We can’t do it now, it’s expensive’. [But] it isn’t. It’s going to cost less than 1% of GDP a year.”
He warned: “In five years, what people demand [of business] will be significantly more. We have to do this or we won’t be in business.
“Sustainability is not an add‑on, not a matter of reputation. Become an industry that lets the environment flourish. Apocalypse is what will happen if we don’t.”
EEA chief executive Ufi Ibrahim noted the “mounting pressure” on businesses to act but said: “The explosion in sustainability declarations . . . has created a vacuum in which it is not easy to distinguish good practice from bad [and] evidence-based sustainability reporting from greenwash.”