FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
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I am booked to appear or have been invited to appear at the next Emirates Airline Festival of Literature and am concerned about the issues highlighted by the campaign, but still intend to go. Is there anything else I can do?
The principal aim of this campaign is to raise awareness of the three issues highlighted on our home page. We recognise that not everyone that cares about these issues will wish to boycott the festival. If you still intend to go to the festival, you might use your appearance as an opportunity to raise awareness of these issues with your audience and/or other attendees. If you’d like to offer your support to local human rights activists during your visit, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org and we can help you to arrange this.
Why couple climate change with human rights in the same campaign? They're different issues and authors who are willing to support the campaign on one will not necessarily wish to support the campaign on the other.
Climate change is very much a human rights issue. Amnesty International have described it as “one of the greatest human rights challenges of our time". Here’s what Savio Carvalho, Amnesty’s Senior Advisor on International Development and Human Rights has to say about the direct link between the two in this article.
“What has climate change got to do with human rights?
Extreme weather-related disasters and rising seas will destroy homes and ruin people’s ability to earn a living. What’s more, unless emissions are reduced significantly, around 600 million people are likely to experience drought and famine as a result of climate change. So you can see there’s a direct link between climate change and human rights, including the rights to life, health, food, water and housing.”
We recognise that authors who fly a lot may feel uncomfortable signing up to a campaign that highlights the connection between aviation and climate change. While we hope that these authors would recognise that aviation emissions need addressing, we also hope that, if these authors are concerned about the other human rights issues highlighted by the campaign, they will still feel able to sign our pledge.
Aren’t authors and illustrators that reject the festival cutting themselves off from ordinary UAE citizens who do not support the current regime or who are concerned about climate change?
This campaign is NOT proposing a cultural boycott of Dubai. We are objecting to the festival’s sponsorship rather than its location. We believe that by associating themselves with the festival’s sponsor, respected UK authors and illustrators are giving a sheen of respectability to a government that is oppressing its citizens and a company that is actively undermining efforts to tackle climate change.
We don’t object to authors and illustrators establishing or maintaining links with UAE organisations or events that are not sponsored by Emirates Airline or the Dubai government. However we would encourage UK authors and illustrators to consider virtually visiting the UAE (using software such as Skype) rather than contributing to aviation-induced climate change by flying there. One person’s return flight from London to Dubai generates more CO2 than an entire year's car use for a typical UK household.
Isn't dialogue better than closing the door? How can we expect the UAE government to change its attitude if we're not talking to them?
There is little evidence to suggest that that the festival has helped to moderate its sponsor’s views. If anything, the UAE government has become less tolerant of free speech since the festival was launched in 2009. The festival was in its third year (2011) when the government began its current crackdown on peaceful activists, persecuting and imprisoning UAE citizens who were calling for greater democracy and government accountability. More than 100 peaceful activists and critics of the government have been imprisoned since then. At least 67 of them remain in prison today.
We’d also argue that the “Isn't dialogue better than closing the door?” argument is more appropriate to a country that has some degree of democracy, rather than an autocracy like the UAE. Ordinary Emirati citizens have no say in the way their country is run and – if recent history is anything to by – encouraging them to speak out in favour of greater democratic freedom could well result in them being arrested and imprisoned.
One of the things the UAE government cares about is how it is perceived by the international community. We believe that prominent authors are more likely to effect change by highlighting the government’s oppressive nature than by lending it respectability by attending the festival.
I am a children’s author or illustrator and am booked to appear at this year’s festival. The children that come to my events are not responsible for any of the issues highlighted by the campaign. If I cancel my appearance, won’t I be letting them down?
We have a lot of sympathy for children that might miss out on meeting an author or illustrator as a result of this campaign. However our concern for them is outweighed by our concern for the other people – children and adults – whose interests this campaign is trying to champion: the migrant workers, women and gay UAE citizens whose human rights are currently being abused by the UAE government and the people everywhere who will suffer the consequences of climate change. It’s estimated that over a quarter of a million children are already dying each year* as a result of climate change.
If you’re thinking of cancelling but are worried about disappointing a young audience, you could offer to Skype with UAE schools. If you are new to Skype you can find lots of tips for authors and illustrators at virtualauthors.co.uk. Campaign organiser Jonathan Emmett Skypes regularly with overseas schools and would be happy to give you advice on how to get started.
Festivals are a valuable opportunity for authors and illustrators to promote their work. How are authors and illustrators supposed to make a living if they are expected to reject festivals on ethical grounds?
We realise that for some authors and illustrators rejecting an invitation from the festival may result in a significant loss of income and/or exposure. However campaigns such as the Nestlé boycott show that some authors and illustrators are prepared to forgo income and exposure in order to take a principled stand against a sponsor that they regard to be particularly unethical. Ethics are subjective and individual authors and illustrators will differ on where they choose to draw the line with individual sponsors. This campaign hopes to persuade many authors and illustrators that Emirates Airline are on the wrong side of that line.
Governments have just agreed on a plan to tackle climate change at the Paris Summit. Doesn’t that plan take into account emissions from Emirates and other airlines?
While environmental organisations have been campaigning for the aviation industry to reduce its CO2 emissions for several decades, the industry has lobbied successfully against such action. Early drafts of the 2015 Paris Climate agreement had committed countries to try to limit or reduce emissions from the aviation, however this commitment was cut from the final draft.
Transport & Environment, a coalition of environmental organisations from across Europe, have said that the omission of both aviation and shipping from the plan makes it “close to impossible” to limit global warming to less than 2ºC, the level above which scientists say the world will see the most severe impacts of climate change.
UPDATE 17/2/16: Aviation was excluded from the 2015 Paris Agreement on the understanding that aviation body ICAO would enforce its own industry agreement to reduce carbon emissions. This ICAO emissions agreement, published 8 February 2016, has been recognised as ineffective by industry experts including Transport & Environment and The New York Times reported that it would "do little to reduce the rise in emissions from airlines."
Despite the efforts of environmental groups, aviation was dropped from the 2015 Paris Climate Change agreement. (Image from Transport & Environment web site)
If aircraft become more energy efficient, isn't it possible for Emirates Airline to continue growing while decreasing its CO2 emissions?
Most independent experts agree that it’s not practical for the aviation industry to reduce its CO2 emissions while continuing to grow. Official UK government forecasts predict annual fleet efficiency improvements of less than one percent between now and 2050.
The average lifespan of a commercial jet is 25 years. Planes that are manufactured today will be more energy efficient than those that were manufactured 25 years ago. So if Emirates were to simultaneously replace every plane in their current fleet with brand new aircraft then – yes – technically it might be possible for Emirates to slightly increase the size of their fleet while slightly reducing the airline's fuel emissions. In reality, such a proposal is commercially unviable – new aircraft represent a major investment and large fleets are replaced a few planes at a time. In addition to this, the manufacturing emissions generated by producing hundreds of new Emirates aircraft would cancel out reductions in fuel emissions.
Even the aviation industry’s own most optimistic forecasts (the green line on graph below) of what they will be able to achieve through technology, air traffic management and operational efficiency improvements suggest that, if the industry continues to grow at its expected rate, its fuel emissions will have more than doubled from 2006 levels by 2035 and more than tripled by 2050.
Graph from Transport & Environment web site
Such an increase would seriously endanger the achievement of the 2ºC target needed to avert climate catastrophe.
Emirates Airlines are the number one carrier of international traffic, by a considerable margin.
Authors and illustrators who've already agreed to appear at the 2016 festival may feel embarrassed about going back on this agreement. Why not launch the campaign later in the year and spare them this embarrassment?
Firstly, there is no time of the year to launch the campaign without risking some embarrassment to some authors and illustrators. The festival runs in March each year; by May the organisers have began asking authors and illustrators if they will appear at the following year’s festival. If we launched the campaign in April, before anyone could have agreed to appear, some of the authors and illustrators who’d just appeared at the festival would probably feel embarrassed and might wish that they’d been given the opportunity to think twice before going.
Secondly, the chief aim of this campaign is to raise awareness of the issues highlighted on our home page with as many people as possible (not just authors and illustrators). The campaign is likely to get far more media coverage if we launch it close to the festival itself, when the festival's own publicity campaign will be encouraging media attention.