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Howard's End: Open Skies Over A Warming Planet

As New Zealand and the world debates the impact of greenhouse gas emissions in the Hauge this week, the government has signed an open skies agreement liberalising aviation travel - one of the world's worst air polluters. John Howard writes.

According to a study by the US Institute of Public Policy Research, aviation is the fastest growing source of transport greenhouse gases.

Emissions from air traffic will rise from current levels of around 3 percent of all greenhouse gases to 20 percent by 2005.

Jet plane emissions are deposited directly into the upper atmosphere, where carbon dioxide can linger for more than a century.

Dr Ute Collier, head of the WWF UK's climate change programme says everyone is afraid of opening up a can of worms - which is how they see aviation pollution.

"It's not something politicians want to touch. There is only one way of reducing the problem and that's to cut the number of flights," she said.

The open skies agreement signed by the New Zealkand government on Monday does exactly the opposite - it is the 11th open skies agreement signed by New Zealand.

But we are not alone in our hypocrisy - the environment white knights of show business, the rock stars and actors who are prepared to do their bit to crusade for the planet, are among the worst polluters, with their use of jet travel.

As more and more experts warn that action is necessary to curb the booming rise in international air travel - the most polluting form of transport - jet setting celebrities appear to show no sign of ditching their Lear jets.

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Sting has long battled for action to protect the Amazon rainforests and John Travolta has spoken passionately about raising environmental issues.

But Sting is currently on an 18 month world tour promoting his latest album which has logged-up tens of thousands of hours of air time and John Travolta personally owns three large jet planes.

Sting has also accepted more than $NZ1 million to promote a new holiday complex in Japan which involved the destruction of 100,000 trees and he also advertises Jaguar cars.

Another rock star who is no stranger to both the green movement and private jet pollution is U2 singer Bono. U2 have lent their support to Greenpeace.

Then there's 007 actor, Pierce Brosnan.

Starring on an internet campaign Brosnan, attired in full 007 gear, says: "You don't have to be James Bond to save the planet; just get on the internet and go to Planet Earth."

He urges fans to become shaken and stirred about the environment - but his private jet leaves its own trail of pollution as it regularly travels from the US to retreats in his Irish homeland.

Both Brosnan and Sting have chosen to appear in advertisements that are at odds with their own actions.

Dr Collier says that even driving 20,000 kilometres a year is nothing compared to the pollution generated from a long haul flight.

"Just one trans-Atlantic flight produces emissions equivalent to 40,000 cars travelling from London to Leeds.

Dr Richard Dixon from Friends of the Earth says there are definitely some mixed messages.

The concerns over growing aviation air pollution will not even be discussed by political leaders in the final week of arm-twisting at the UN climate talks at the Hague.

What a bunch of ranting hypocrites!

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