Degrowth of Aviation
December 11, 2019

How to reduce air travel in a just way?

On 5th of December, Stay Grounded presented the new report “Degrowth of Aviation. Reducing air travel in a just way” in a webinar. The report had been produced with much input from the conference on Degrowth of Aviation held in Barcelona in July 2019. The report was presented by editor Tone Smith and co-author and Stay Grounded campaigner Magdalena Heuwieser.

Tone Smith presented the report and the various measures analysed: fiscal measures (taxes and frequent flyer/air miles levy), bans on flights, moratoria on airport infrastructure, the fostering of alternative means of transportation and institutional change of travel policies. Also some other measures were mentioned, including the need for better accounting of aviation’s climate impact, bans on flying advertisement, supporting better working conditions for employees in low-cost airlines, and the role of behavioural change campaigns.

The importance of climate justice

Magdalena Heuwieser presented the importance of social and climate justice. In a break-out group discussion, participants of the webinar discussed then the question of how measures to reduce aviation could address justice aspects. It became clear that measures should not harm or burden vulnerable groups more, should target wealthy frequent flyers more, and provide a just transition for workers in the aviation or tourist sector. Still, it must be clear that measures to degrow aviation won’t alone tackle the justice issues society is facing, which would need more changes in our economic system, and in policies related to trade, tourism, transport, energy, and others.

Magdalena Heuwieser concluded the presentation with some recommendations to civil society, and the importance of building a strong and solidary movement of aviation opposition and climate justice, accepting different focuses on demands, strategies and tactics. The report is aimed to spark discussion about such strategies and measures to degrow aviation.

Find a video-clip on Degrowth of Aviation here.

In the following debate, some important points came up:

  • While frequent flyer/air miles levy definitely seems like the best strategies to tackle the justice perspective, they seem difficult to implement in practice since they require some sort of central registration system of travellers. The practical side of this measure might therefore need to be outlined in more detail.
  • It would be useful for members of the movement to have an update on the state of current technologies and their lack of capacity to deal with the problem of climate change and aviation. The reason is that technology is typically the argument activists face when getting involved in resistance work.
  • The report focuses on passenger traffic and almost doesn’t mention cargo. It is important to take notice of what happens at places when passenger planes/lines close down: Immediately, cargo planes come in and take over the slot (to some extent this seems to be linked to the new habits of ordering goods online via Amazon, Alibaba etc. – another thing worth exploring). Passenger and cargo air traffic should therefore be addressed simultaneously.
  • Other measures were proposed, that haven’t been covered in the report: There was the idea to demand the elimination of first class and business class flights, as well as to think more about contingents for personal flights.

In the closing remarks, Magdalena Heuwieser pointed out that the study will be translated into Spanish and German, and possibly other languages. Stay Grounded is happy if the report, the powerpoint presentation, briefing papers, video-clip and illustrations are used by civil society.