In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, the aviation industry is lobbying hard for public bailouts.

Greenpeace Southampton Local Group, alongside climate action charity Possible, is calling for any state support for airlines to include conditions to:

•Protect workers so there are no pay cuts or lay-offs due to the Covid-19 crisis.

•Protect the climate – the airlines need to start cutting their emissions to meet the globally agreed climate targets, without relying on carbon offsetting

•Ensure airlines pay their fair share of taxes in the future, for example by introducing a Frequent Flyer Levy so that those who fly the most, pay the most.

In Southampton, the fewer planes going overhead and the cleaner air is a good reminder of how much more peaceful and pleasant the world could be if we reduce the amount we fly.

However, a return to ‘business as usual’ could wipe out hopes of this way of living in a matter of weeks.

Southampton airport is currently asking for a runway extension which will expand airport operations by allowing larger aircraft to fly to more distant destinations, primarily for leisure, and will have no bearing on regional connectivity in the UK.

Southampton airport’s own studies have calculated that the expansion would generate 300,000 tonnes more CO2 emissions each year, which for mainly non-essential journeys cannot be justified in a climate emergency.

Virgin Atlantic owner Richard Branson is worth £4.2 billion - and yet he’s asking the Government for £500 million, and his staff to take unpaid leave. A few weeks ago, EasyJet distributed £174 million to shareholders, and is now also asking staff to take unpaid leave.

What’s more, aviation is virtually the only sector which refuses to reduce its overall emissions, and its plans for continuing growth jeopardise the UK’s ability to meet our climate commitments.

That’s why, Greenpeace Southampton calls on our local MPs Alan Whitehead, Caroline Nokes and Royston Smith to write to the Chancellor and call for these conditions to be attached to any bailouts.

Right now, people are understandably doing everything they can to protect each other and support NHS and other workers on the frontline.

But once we’re through, the climate and nature emergencies will remain. Let’s make sure that the government’s response to this awful health crisis also helps to create green jobs, and decarbonise our economy.

Rosanna Newey