With climate policy taking center stage in European politics, Austrian officials are scrambling to respond to the latest trend: flight shaming. Launched in Sweden late last year as flygskam, the anti-flying movement has created a dilemma for Europe’s public servants, who may want to curb emissions, but also need to get around quickly.
And it seems that Austrian officials are still spending plenty of time in the sky, according to a report in the daily Der Standard.
The Social Democrats (SPÖ) had repeatedly requested information from the ministries, and while exact figures weren’t available, a broad overview was – and is troubling. The Environmental Ministry, which says it pays a voluntarily carbon fee, nonetheless took over 1,000 flight in 2018 alone, many of them domestic. Similar figures were given by the Transport, Education and Finance ministries.
Topping the list (perhaps understandably) were Herbert Kickl’s (FPÖ) Interior Ministry, with over 2,500 flights in the first three quarters of 2018, and Mario Kunasek’s (FPÖ) Defense Ministry with over 3,000. Kunasek and other “flight shamed” Ministers told Der Standard that the high figures could be attributed to their responsibilities during Austria’s EU presidency.
Fighting Climate Change
EU candidate Andreas Schieder (SPÖ) has described the Austrian government’s current climate policy as a “failure”. Leading up to the European elections, the SPÖ demanded a “Green New Deal” for Europe – a 15-page proposal to combat climate change. The suggested measures include an EU-wide CO2 tax and the further development of pan-European train networks, especially in Eastern Europe, to offer realistic alternatives to air travel.
About two percent of all carbon dioxide emissions are connected to air travel, and with European politicians flying short distances within the continent, even the EU Parliament’s top candidates, the Dutch socialist Frans Timmermans and his conservative contender from Bavaria Manfred Weber agree over the need to reduce short-haul aviation in favor of environmentally-friendly solutions.
According to Traffic Club Austria (VCÖ), CO2 emissions from flights within Austria have more than doubled since 1990. But while scientists say we must make “rapid, unprecedented change” to our lifestyles, critics suggest that reducing industrial emissions or pollution in developing countries would have a far greater impact while leading to fewer disruptions. A ban on short flights seems unlikely, although perhaps not as unlikely as consumers voluntarily cutting air travel from their lives.