SG Climate Rally stands in full solidarity with the employees of the airline industry, whose jobs have been disrupted or halted by the ongoing pandemic. We believe that these individuals deserve as much support as possible during this difficult period. In particular, we sympathise with on-the-ground workers like technicians, air stewards, and others, who will be the first to experience reduced wages and job cuts. At the same time, we do not agree with the proposed “flights to nowhere” initiative for two reasons: First, it encourages carbon-intensive travel for no good reason and second, it is merely a stop-gap measure that distracts from the policy and value shifts necessary to mitigate the climate crisis. This initiative is symptomatic of a culture that makes consumers responsible for deep-rooted, structural problems. In reality, the onus should be on SIA executives and policymakers to pivot towards more sustainable and equitable alternatives for its customers and staff.
The rapid decline of the airline and tourism industry, and its proven precarity, should beckon us to question whether carbon-intensive travel is a sustainable source of revenue for our country. Our “new normal” has shown that we should not continue to put faith in the same systems, industries, and practices as before. As a climate movement that prioritises the well-being of people and planet, we believe air travel has always caused environmental harm, and it is now an opportune moment for us to think seriously about transitions instead of yearning to return to a destructive status quo.
Earlier this year, our Greenwatch campaign’s policy brief called for the government to “develop strategic plans to decarbonise our maritime and aviation industries by 2050” and to “account for emissions from our international aviation and marine bunker fuels, which are currently excluded from Singapore’s national greenhouse gas inventory and national greenhouse gas totals”. Our leaders have not yet introduced policies to meet these demands. We are tired of elected leaders doggedly supporting ecologically destructive industries that prove more and more unviable every day. We are also tired of misleading, ill-informed initiatives that are geared to make the everyday consumer responsible for policy oversight and corporate irresponsibility. We can and should do better.