Videoconferencing Our Way to a Greener Future

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 5/27/2008 02:13:00 AM
In the past, I've made posts on the ongoing battle over a planned third runway at Heathrow [1, 2]. To be sure, the point of contention here in the UK is not just over another Heathrow runway, but on adding flight capacity in many other locations.From a political standpoint, it's a real fun quarrel as it involves a large cross-section of society. In favour are airlines, airport operators, and a number of other firms; against are those who live near airports, environmentalists, and other green-minded individuals The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has just come out with a report touching on the economics of expanding air travel in the UK via additional airports or airport terminals. In the report, the WWF argues that the economic case for expanding air travel facilities is specious for the following reasons after contracting a research company to poll FTSE 350 companies:
  • 62% of companies surveyed are already reducing their business travel footprint.
  • A further 24% of companies are currently developing plans to do so.
  • 89% of companies expect they will want to fly less over the next 10 years.
  • 85% of companies say that videoconferencing can help them reduce their flying.
  • 89% of companies believe that videoconferencing can improve their productivity.
The primary criticism made in the report is that firms will not require as much additional air travel capacity as what the authorities say they will need in the future. Besides, technological advancements like videoconferencing will further reduce the need for air travel. However, the report also notes that business travellers make up just 22% of total trips. Aside from the obvious point that intentions noted in a survey do not necessarily reflect future behaviour, then, there are bigger gaps in this counterargument: What about leisure travel in and out of the UK? Also, what about freight and cargo handling? If these two matters could have been included in the equation, then the WWF could have come up with a more comprehensive argument. The latter are economic arguments which cannot be discounted.

You can also view a videoclip on the WWF site that makes the point "we're headed for an economic downturn anway so there won't be as much demand for air travel." Of course, the world's largest airport management company, BAA, has its own blurb on how the environmental impacts of air travel can be mitigated while providing more travel options. Me? I'll take the Trans Europe Express, thank you much.