Scientists Say Vital Planetary Boundaries Are Being Breached as Climate Activists Pie Ryanair CEO: GMPB

Covered in this week’s Green Mobility Policy Brief: New Study Reveals Urgent Need for Planetary Resilience; Climate activists hit Ryanair CEO with pie; France to introduce €49 rail pass; “Bid farewell to diesel vehicles”, Indian Minister announces “bombshell” tax plans.

New Study Reveals Urgent Need for Planetary Resilience. An international team of scientists has unveiled a comprehensive assessment of planetary resilience by delineating the nine boundary processes crucial for humanity’s safe operating space. Their research, published in the journal Science Advances, paints a concerning picture of our planet’s health, as it reveals that six out of nine planetary boundaries are currently being breached, and pressure on all boundary processes is mounting. The planetary boundaries, ranging from issues like global warming and deforestation to pollutants, plastic pollution, and nitrogen cycles, are essential for maintaining the equilibrium of our planet. However, the study demonstrates that we are rapidly surpassing these critical thresholds, posing unprecedented risks to both humanity and the ecosystems we rely on. “This update on planetary boundaries clearly depicts a patient that is unwell, as pressure on the planet increases and vital boundaries are being breached,” warns Johan Rockström, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Professor in environmental science at the Stockholm Resilience Centre. The consequences of crossing these boundaries are potentially irreversible.

Climate activists hit Ryanair CEO with pie. Michael O’Leary, the CEO of Ryanair, received an unexpected reception in Brussels this week. He found himself on the receiving end of two cream pies to the face while he was standing alongside a cardboard cutout of Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Union. These pies were delivered by two female environmental activists while O’Leary was engaged in a solo demonstration outside the European Commission. His protest was in response to the recurring strikes by air traffic controllers in the EU, which were adversely affecting his low-cost Irish airline, the largest in Europe in terms of passenger numbers. One of the activists remarked, “Welcome to Belgium,” as she planted a pie in his face, whilst the other protesters exclaimed “stop the pollution from f**king planes!” as she spread her pie on O’Leary’s head. Climate protesters have, in the past, taken action at commercial and private aviation airports. Public and political pressure has lead EU member states to call for limits on private jet use, and price floors on short-haul flights.  

France to introduce €49 rail pass. France is set to launch a rail pass similar to Germany’s, aiming to promote train travel in the country. French Transport Minister Clément Beaune revealed plans for this initiative, which allows unlimited travel on intercity and regional express trains (TER) for a fixed monthly fee of around €49. The pass can also be combined with city public transportation. Beaune recognizes that high-speed TGV trains are currently too expensive for many families and intends to develop a more affordable option called OUIGO. President Emmanuel Macron has stated support for this effort as a means to address global warming and inflation. In Germany, a similar €49 rail pass was introduced for environmental reasons and has already led to estimated emissions reductions. The fiscal cost of such schemes remains high, however.

“Bid farewell to diesel vehicles”, Indian Minister announces “bombshell” tax plans. India’s Minister of Road Transport announced his intention to suggest an additional 10% tax on diesel vehicles. He also cautioned automakers about the possibility of even higher taxes in the future to discourage the use of diesel-powered vehicles and reduce fuel emissions and pollution. Nitin Gadkari stated that he would be discussing this “additional 10%” goods and services tax on diesel vehicles with the finance minister later that day in an effort to address pollution-related issues. Reports suggest, however, that Gadkari’s plans may not be introduced anytime soon due a significant political uproar regarding his comments. India is grappling with a growing pollution problem, and efforts to reduce vehicle emissions, decrease fuel imports, and combat agricultural stubble burning have not yielded significant results. India currently has one of the world’s highest proposed coal power capacities, second only to China.