Should we pay more for flights to improve climate change, as Ciarán Cuffe MEP suggested?

Christine O’Mahony

Image Credit: Flickr

Nearly everyone in Ireland has availed of a cheap flight, offered by Ryanair.

One can take a flight to Spain, Romania, Croatia, etc. for less than €20, which excludes if people want to add extra luggage or extras such as fast track, priority boarding, in-flight meals, etc. This has been a lifesaver for many, especially students who don’t have the budget for more expensive flights.

However, Green Party MEP for Dublin, Ciarán Cuffe has stated that “cheap €10 flights, must come to an end” because the Climate Emergency should be our priority. Airplanes burn fossil fuels, and emissions from airplanes are a significant contributor to climate change. Climate Activist, Greta Thunberg, has suggested that we should take trains, boats, and public transport to travel.

From an Irish perspective, it is not possible to hop on a train to another country, we don’t even have a train to Donegal yet. It requires one to travel to the UK in order to do any interrailing. While Cuffe is correct, climate change should be our priority, rather than cheap holidays, there is no way people are going to make that sacrifice to stop travelling. Even when the Covid-19 pandemic was really, really bad, people still couldn’t prioritise their health and went on holidays to Covid ridden countries like the UK, Italy, Spain, etc.

I would argue that increasing the price could make a difference but it will impact the pockets of students, those from a lower-income background or the working class, and those who are disabled. The pandemic has shown that barely anyone can live on what disabled people get for their disability allowance, some are unable to work because of their disability, but we shouldn’t make life more difficult for them if they want to go on a holiday abroad.

We need to find alternatives, when I was on my Erasmus in Italy, I took the Flixbus to most places, and I had the opportunity to pay a little extra (approximately €2) to offset carbon emissions. Already Ryanair has the option to do that, but it is optional. Perhaps the solution is to make this mandatory. So, passengers can pay for their €10 one-way fare and will have to pay €5-10 extra to offset carbon emissions for the climate change emergency. It is better to not make it so expensive.

As Cuffe suggested, we should use trains as they cut carbon emissions, but we need our government to actually build railway tracks that connect to other countries as well as building railway stations in our own country, which would be a lifesaver for people living in rural Ireland. Our government takes a very Dublin-centric approach, which is not helping the climate emergency either.

Christine O’Mahony

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