International Travel. It’s the tricky issue that countries often like to brush over, with international freight carbon emissions almost always passed on as Somebody Else’s Responsibility.
It was also one of the focuses of a recent BBC programme, featuring Greta Thunberg as she travelled the world to highlight the connections between wildfires, glacier melt, collapsing coral reef and infestations. Lots of the following policies are taken from the programme, such the speed of international freight must be slowed, as if shipping vessels cut their speed by 50%, the carbon emissions that came from them would be cut by over that amount.
This of course, would 1) require regulations applying this rule internationally, to ensure companies that refuse to comply do not get a competitive edge.
Another way of denying this competitive edge to carbon criminal businesses would be 2) similar international legislation introducing a monetary cost to their carbon emissions, meaning climate questions can no longer be called ‘externalities’ and forgotten about.
A different angle with which to achieve the same goal would be to 3) influence supply and demand, by taxing goods with high carbon costs from abroad, and/or 4) subsidising those with lower costs, grown seasonally or from nearer to home. These choices are often positioned as problems for consumers to solve, as if a choice of multi-national supermarket will radically change the economy. Without government support for home-grown (figuratively and literally) produce, consumers won’t be able prioritise sustainable living whenever cash becomes sparse.
Flight is a huge factor in emissions, with an individual flight from London to Rome producing more C02 than the annual emisssions of residents of 17 countries. But the richest 1% of the world is particularly to blame.
If we want to be able to visit those abroad, to do necessary, emergency work – we have to cut out unnecessary trips abroad. This means, somehow, reducing flights.
Again, forcing the consumer to bear the brunt of the changes won’t give us a 10% reduction in C02 emissions, year on year. We need intervention to divert attention away from flights – 5) supporting UK and European holiday making, accessible by rail and if not by rail, then by other public transport. Making local infrastructure more appealing, through 6) investment in activities for local and national communities, such as the Hepworth in my native Wakefield, can make a tourist destination much closer to home for anyone, regardless of area in the country.
Aside from holidaymaking, the other main piece of unnecessary flight is work, normally of high profile businesspeople. Though the carbon and mineral cost of servers and online activity shouldn’t be ignored – 7) switching from weekly or monthly international conferences to internet video calls would save tonnes of C02 per year, providing the software and hardware was treated sustainably.
In Music, this could mean the days of annual, extravagent international tours – from Monaco to Monte Carlo to Switzerland to Bahrain – will need to end. This touring model is unfortunately one of the main ways musicians make ends meet, in an unfavourable copyright and performance environment, and so we will professional justice in order to live the rest of our lives sustainably. We do need a reckoning about the needs of our communities, and how we can best meet them in times of crisis – but we will need public and private power to ensure we have an environment where we can do so without fear of losing our livelihoods. Government and private support of residencies, small-scale tours and local community, not centralised work, whether supplied through 8) hard cash or 9) tweaks to the legislation and to education systems could make a real difference on emissions in the musical economy.
Lots of these changes are positive ones – meaning more connection in our communities, more local activity, maintaining international links – as long as they are carried out justly, practically and compassionately. As always, thanks for reading, and hopefully I’ll be doing more catching up very soon!