A DECISION by Bournemouth Air Festival organisers to “offset the carbon footprint of all displaying aircraft” has been criticised as ‘a token gesture’ by green campaigners.

Festival bosses announced, yesterday, that Europe’s biggest air event – which takes place at the end of the month – would offset its CO2 emissions by planting around 275 trees in the local area.

Earlier this year BCP Council declared a climate emergency.

BCP Tourism, which puts on the air festival, says it will work in partnership with the organisation Carbon Footprint Ltd in support of a project working to prevent unplanned deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.

However, Angela Pooley, from East Dorset Friends of the Earth, said: “This is a good thing in some respects, but it really is a token gesture.”

Angela told the Daily Echo that she believes much more could be done to make the event more environmentally-friendly.

“I think there are other simple things they could do to cut carbon emissions,” she said. “Such as only using local suppliers for all of the food trucks they have along the prom.

“Just have local ones, so they are not travelling from miles away.”

The Echo understands environmental groups such as Extinction Rebellion may be planning demonstrations for the air festival.

Meanwhile, on the festival as a whole, Angela said: “I think we should be looking at more sustainable alternatives. The argument is often that it is good for the local economy, but I think there are other ways they could do things.”

Green Party councillor Simon Bull, a ward representative on BCP Council, said: “It is good to see the effects of the air festival start to be taken a little more seriously.

“Planting 275 more trees locally is something we should be doing anyway, but, of course, they will take many years to grow to a good size to affect the environment.

“The council has declared a climate and ecological emergency, and in an emergency you deal with the cause.

“In a domestic flood, if you have the option of switching off the water source you do – you don’t turn it half off and buy some mops.

“People enjoy the air festival, but it has got an environmental impact. We have declared an emergency, we have to take it seriously.”

Cllr Bull says he is now looking forward to knowing what the future plans are for the festival.

“I understand this year was all set up, the emergency was only locally declared recently.

“But what are we going to do moving forward?

“Are we going to plant 275 trees every year?”

It is estimated that 110,000 litres of jet fuel will be used in displays by participating aircraft this year, creating 275 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

Air festival director Jon Weaver said: “Since the festival began we have always been aware of the carbon footprint of the event, and working with local experts at the time focussed on persuading people to use public transport to come to the festival and this has proved very successful – particularly for local residents.”

This year organisers are also encouraging festival-goers to bring reusable plastic bottles or purchase a new air festival bottle to use at Dorset refill taps along the seafront site.

BCP Council tourism member Cllr Lewis Alison said: “There is a growing expectation for festivals and events to be more sustainable.

“BCP Council have declared a climate emergency and this decision by air festival organisers demonstrates our commitment to reduce the impact on the environment and make a global difference.”

John Buckley, from Carbon Footprint, said it was great to be working with air festival organisers.

He added: “By supporting our tree planting projects, the festival will compensate for its environmental impact, help protect wildlife and benefit local communities.

“We will be planting around 275 trees in the local area.

“For each tree planted, a tonne of carbon will also be saved in the Amazon Rainforest through the avoided deforestation project selected by the Air Festival – RMDLT Portel-Para REDD project - which is audited and certified by the internationally recognised Verified Carbon Standard.”