The World Aviation Festival opened to VIP delegates on the 4th Sept 2019, with two days open to the public to follow. Hosting over 400 industry speakers but the programme doesn’t contain a single reference to the environmental impact of flying.

Current climate science is overwhelmingly clear that we need to reduce passenger numbers and flights in order to limit global heating within IPCC recommendations, but flight numbers are still increasing and airports are expanding.

In 2020, airline CO2 emissions are expected to be 70% higher than in 2005, and although air travel is said to make up only 2.4% of carbon emissions overall, this figure doesn’t factor in other greenhouse gases and the effect of aircraft contrails which trap atmospheric heat, so the significance of air travel is much greater.

If you take a single return flight from London to New York your carbon footprint will be similar to the total emissions in a whole year of a single landbound person. While individuals therefore need to recognise the urgency of the situation and reflect on their lifestyles there also need to be changes at legislative level, like a halt on air fuel subsidies, proper taxation on aviation fuel, or more radical ideas like banning business/first class travel (which create fewer seats on each flight) and progressive taxation on frequent fliers. Instead, the industry is proposing greater rewards for frequent fliers from next year.

The protest outside the Aviation Festival – organised by members of Extinction Rebellion – calls upon the festival to tell the truth about the climate emergency and talk about reducing flights and emissions. One of the invited speakers represented FlightFree2020 who are calling for 100,000 people to join a pledge not to take any flights in 2020.

The first day was an industry VIP affair, but the exhibition is open to the public free of charge for the rest of the week.