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March 17, 2007

How to Save the Planet, Michael O'Leary Edition

This all seems entirely fair to me:

Politicians, he believes, are just pandering to these bean eaters. "What annoys me is that the only ones who seem to be targeted are airlines. If the politicians read their own Stern Report they would see that air travel causes less than two per cent of greenhouse emissions. It is neither the cause of or solution to climate change."

Nor is he a fan of trains. "Trains are one of the most inefficient forms of transport. They are incredibly over-subsidised and they don't service people's needs. The trains were fine in Victorian times when if you didn't have a stable you walked, but no one needs to use them now."

So what would he do if he were Chancellor? "It's the Russians, the Chinese and the Indians we have to influence. They keep opening more and more coal and oil-fired power stations.

Soon it won't matter how many lights we turn off or how many bicycles we ride or how many flights we make, the damage will have been done on the other side of the world by a billion people who have only just discovered the delights of turning on lights."


Despite Mr O'Leary's protestations, he still claims his airline is the greenest in Europe. He says the company has reduced its carbon emissions per passenger by 50 per cent in five years by spending \u20AC10 billion on a fleet of new Boeing 737-800s and by packing in the passengers on all its flights.


He is determined that he will find a way to keep people flying. "We will go from 40 to 80 million passengers in the next few years. We will take them off British Airways and the other old carriers who are flying gas-guzzling, ancient aircraft and pack them into fuel-efficient planes. So Ryanair will be saving the environment -- not that we care much."

Certainly gets his views across, doesn't he?

There's an interesting point to be teased out of this as well. He talks about having spent a fortune to upgrade the fleet: they could do this because they were a fast growing company. Technological turnover and replacement is indeed faster in a fast growing economy. So it's possible to get to a slightly perverse result. Faster economic growth will result in the installation of more new technology sooner, and as new technologies tend to be less emittive (for fossil fuels are expensive) this can bring down emissions faster than a more slowly growing or static economy.

I certainly don't claim that this will always happen but it is worth noting (as the IPCC does) that it can.

March 17, 2007 in Climate Change | Permalink


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The boss of an airline complains that trains are over-subsidised. Pots, kettles.

Posted by: Mark Wadsworth | Mar 17, 2007 9:33:28 AM

Airlines aren't subsidised. They don't pay tax on fuel directly, but there are loads of taxes elsewhere.

Posted by: Josh | Mar 17, 2007 12:39:12 PM

"Soon it won't matter how many lights we turn off or how many bicycles we ride or how many flights we make"? It doesn't matter now, if one is talking about climate change, but of course spending on energy and flights does help the economy whereas turning off lights will save you a few pennies and riding a bike should keep you fitter. Modifying your lifestyle to combat climate change might make you feel smug but it won't make a blind bit of difference to the climate.

Posted by: DocBud | Mar 18, 2007 2:43:43 AM