The Union should discourage staff & students from flying on trips associated with the SU

Date lapsed: March 2023


Date lapsed: March 2023

Proposed by: Grace McMeekin (Sustainability Officer) & Adam Mitchell
Seconded by: Engineering Society, Young Aviators Society, QM Finance and Investment Society, QM Young Conservatives, Rosa Hughes (President of Sustain@BL), Amelia Jones (Treasurer of Sustain@BL), Tala Summar (President of Environmental Society Mile End)

Progress: Not started


What do you want? 

The QMSU have declared a climate emergency and we likewise acknowledge that the climate crisis poses a great threat to the current and future well-being of students, and global humanity alike.

We want the SU to discourage staff and students from flying on trips associated with the Student’s Union. During the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen how effective online communications can be in lieu of travel. When staff or students apply to fly the SU should strongly discourage this and suggest less carbon intensive travel alternatives. When societies plan on flying, their risk assessment must contain the planetary impact and cost to life that this activity causes.

In times of global climate crisis we need to tell the truth to our staff and students. We have an institutional responsibility for sustainability and for disseminating the facts: flying is, at present, one of the most damaging activities a person can do in any 24 hour period in modern society. One transatlantic return flight typically doubles the UK citizens annual carbon footprint - a year's worth of carbon in just 4 hours.


Why do we want it?

‘No-flying’ is a concept that has emerged as a response to the disproportionately high toll of aviation on the climate crisis and thus climate justice. For example, 20 people on a return flight to Palma, Mallorca (eg. sport club’s annual social trip abroad) emit the same amount of carbon in 5 hours as 400 average Ugandan citizens do in one year. The world’s poorest will be the hardest hit by the climate crisis but contribute the least. This aside, all people, in the Global North and Global South, face the possibility of human extinction. Thinking of climate justice, it is inconceivable that our SU would allow our societies to engage in activities that so disproportionately contribute to such a great risk, for very few positive outcomes long term. Aviation will still exist, but given the risks, QMSU cannot employ willful blindness in facilitating such damaging and dangerous activities.

However, we recognise the great cultural shift for the minority of wealthy students who can afford to fly regularly this approach represents - it should be noted that 50% of even Uk citizens have never flown before. Therefore, as a compromise, it is not our intention to act as enforcers of a strict no flying policy for lack of popular support. Instead we can see a way for the SU to still act within the constraints of our system and promote/provoke much more honest conversations amongst the student body about flying.


What impact will this have?

In 2018-19 BL Boat Club was one of the first QM societies to introduce a no flying/carbon conscious travel clause within their society’s constitution. Within the 2 years since this motion was passed, the conversation around flying and general culture about the society’s impact has evolved dramatically.

Just like when institutions and groups recognise racism, sexism and other intersectional struggles, changing a broader culture happens through small changes at the levels of communities and groups. The conversation about aviation is intrinsically one of power and justice and the best thing our SU can do right now is to provide the right conditions for important discussion and reflection on our broader culture.

We dream of a better world where humans are able to meet their needs without compromising others abilities to meet theirs. Reducing your flight itinerary by even one medium-haul flight in a year is similar to a combination of going vegan, driving an electric car and switching to renewable electricity for one year. Therefore, in discouraging flying, the SU can have a huge impact and massively reduce its carbon footprint. This will help to safeguard student’s futures and take steps towards acting on the SU’s declaration of a climate emergency.



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