“I’m not here to meddle in UK policies, if you don’t meddle in my environment.”
Over at the website China Dialogue is a story about the proposed expansion of Stansted airport, and the contribution to the debate being made by an Inuit politician from Greenland, Aqqaluk Lynge (of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference – Alaska, Russia, Canada and Greenland).
This is (for non-Brits) Stansted, not Heathrow- at which the absurd abuses of the 1997 Protection from Harassment Act and the 2005 Serious Organised Crime and Police Act are in play.
Far enough that one might question the propriety of Inuit commentary. And one did. The motivating exchange for this post:
As spectators’ applause for Lynge’s speech died down, BAA’s lawyers did not seek to question his account of changes in the Arctic. Their argument is that a local planning inquiry is no place to challenge the government’s overall policy on climate change, since allowing more flights from Stansted could be consistent with the overall aim of reducing carbon emissions provided sufficient reductions are made elsewhere. Flying Matters, a group backed by the airline industry, says Lynge’s claims are part of “an apocalyptic campaign of green spin”.
Surely, said Michael Humphries, legal counsel for BAA, Lynge agreed that it was “not for the Inuit Circumpolar Conference to tell the UK government how it should deliver its greenhouse gas totals?”
Lynge proposed a deal: “I’m not here to meddle in UK policies, if you don’t meddle in my environment.”
Lovely. His argument:
If thousands more flights were allowed to take off from Stansted – London’s third airport – each year, he told the inquiry, their impact would be felt in his homeland, in the form of thinning ice, lost hunting grounds and eroded shorelines which are already threatening many Inuit settlements in Alaska, Canada, Russia and Greenland.
“What happens in the world happens first in the Arctic,” said Lynge, a former minister in Greenland’s home-rule government and a vice-president of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC) [actually he is the President], a organization promoting Inuit rights, development and culture. The Inuit – “the people who live farther north than anyone else” – were “the canary in the global coal mine”, he said. Climate change was “not just a theory to us … It is a stark and dangerous reality.” Some Inuit villages have already lost homes as the sea moves 300 metres inland in places, while thinning ice makes hunting increasingly difficult, even dangerous. “We don’t hunt for sport or recreation,” Lynge said. “Hunters put food on the table. You go to the supermarket. We go on the sea ice.”
From the other side of the argument:
BAA is seeking to remove the cap that limits the number of passengers taking off from Stansted to 25 million a year. Opponents say that could see flights increase from 192,000 to 264,000 a year, raising the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from 5 million to 7 million tonnes. The inquiry’s lead inspector, Alan Boyland, will make a recommendation after the process concludes in October, and a government announcement is expected next spring. Stop Stansted Expansion says it will be “the litmus test of the seriousness of the government’s commitment to properly tackling the climate change issue”.
Honestly, I can’t see ordinary people getting that worked up over 2 million more tonnes of CO2, George Monbiot or no George Monbiot (which, I assure you, I think is a dangerous shame). I expect the 66,000 extra flights to be the big problem. BAA may be selling the airport off, anyway.
It would be fascinating to watch a Coasean solution develop here. Purely voluntary (given we’re talking about different sovereign nations) and whereby BAA taxed British travellers and dispursed the money to Inuits as compensation. The trouble of course is that they aren’t losing money, they’re losing land, culture, etc. Monetising that is exactly the reason why Coasean solutions are so difficult to bring about. The information-gathering and negotiating process alone would take so long the bloody ice-caps would probably be gone before an agreement could be reached.