Climate change: Will I still be able to fly in a net zero world?

How much of an impact on UK lifestyles will the government’s goal of net zero carbon emissions really have?

A new report says that while the 2050 target will require significant efforts from consumers, these should not result in “massive lifestyle changes”.

The study from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change says that limitations on flying would need people to cut their travels by plane by 6% by 2035.

For cars, the paper says that journeys should be cut by just 4%.

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Net zero is the phrase that is used to mean that any CO2 emissions that can’t be curbed by clean technology by 2050 will either be buried using carbon capture and storage, or soaked up by plants and soils.

This new report poses two key questions about that idea – what changes will people need to make in their lives to achieve it, and are they ready to make these changes?

A “politically deliverable” pathway to net zero, the Blair Institute report says, is one that “focuses on a limited number of specific behaviour changes, minimises the need for massive lifestyle changes such as an end to flying or mass conversion to plant-based diets.”

This view is shared by many environmentalists.

“Most of the solutions needed to beat climate change can and should be designed to bring minimal disruption to our daily lives,” said Caterina Brandmayr from Green Alliance.

“Where some degree of change is required, politicians should be clear with the public about what’s needed and make clear the wealth of benefits that would also follow, from cost savings to more comfortable homes and better health.”

So according to the study, the distance that people fly should be reduced by 6% per person, meaning most will still be able to fly when going on holiday in 30 years time.

“I think you’ll see changes to aviation by 2050, you’ll see sustainable fuels and hydrogen, you’ll see electric planes for shorter journeys,” said Jess Ralston from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit.

“Look at what’s happened in the last 30 years, we have the internet, we’ve changed the power system completely. The world is a very different place than 30 years ago, and it will be again in 2050. So I’ve got no doubt that we’ll also still be flying on our holidays in 2050.”

While the majority may still be able to head for the airport in the decades to come, for a minority it’s likely to be a lot more expensive.

In England in 2018, just 10% of people who flew frequently were responsible for more than half of all international flights.

Just under half the population didn’t take a single flight that year.

If the government really wanted to make a dent in aviation emissions, many experts believe it would make more sense to tax these very frequent flyers.

When it comes to driving the report points out that by 2035 people will need to be behind the wheel around 4% less than they are at present.

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