Call for frequent flyer tax to tackle emissions

The government should introduce a frequent flyer tax on those who take the most flights as part of measures to ensure the UK meets its commitments to cutting carbon emissions

The Committee On Climate Change, an independent body which advises government on building a low-carbon economy and preparing for climate change, has written to transport secretary Grant Shapps outlining proposals on how to bring international aviation and shipping (IAS) emissions formally within the UK’s net-zero target by a target of 2050.

Aviation is likely to be the largest emitting sector in the UK by 2050, even with strong progress on technology and limiting demand. Aviation also has climate warming effects beyond CO2, which it will be important to monitor and consider within future policies, the committee said.

The committee said aviation emissions could be reduced by around 20% from today to 2050 through improvements to fuel efficiency and some use of sustainable biofuels.

With government projecting that the number of air passengers will grow by 49% by 2050, the issue is critical. Rapid action is required and the committee is calling on policy makers to introduce measures to limit growth in demand to at most 25% above current levels by 2050.

The committee suggested a number of measure, including carbon pricing, a frequent flyer levy, fiscal measures to ensure aviation is not undertaxed compared to other transport sectors (eg, fuel duty escalator, VAT), reforms to air passenger duty (APD), or management of airport capacity.

15%

70% of UK flights are made by just 15% of the population

Cait Hewitt, deputy director at the Aviation Environment Federation, said:  ‘British people currently take more international flights than anyone else in the world, but there’s a growing public recognition that this feels out of step with the action we need to take on climate change, and two-thirds of Britons say they support limiting air travel to address the climate crisis.

‘It’s worth remembering that demand for aviation growth is being driven by a minority of frequent flyers. 70% of UK flights are made by just 15% of the population.’

The government said it will study the recommendations.

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