Airlines should pay environmental costs

The aviation industry should pay for the environmental costs of flying, says a leaked report from the government think-tank Institute for Public Policy Research. The report, to be published this autumn, contains a set of proposals for the government to tax airlines and curb air pollution.

Reporting on the draft leaked earlier this month, the Financial Times said the IPPR “believes the government has lost sight of the environmentally sustainable objectives it set out in its 1998 integrated transport white paper.”

On 11th August Environment Minister Michael Meacher also criticised the government’s failures on sustainable development (see related story).

The draft highlighted the “loose” regulatory approach towards aviation, stating that there was no equivalent environmental policy framework for aviation compared with other industries. The IPPR suggested that a number of steps could be taken such as the auctioning of landing slots, the inclusion of international flight CO2 emissions in the Kyoto protocol, the monitoring of air quality at large airports and an end to the cross-subsidy between airport shops and airlines. The measures would tackle local as well as global pollution, where busy airports such as Heathrow impact upon the local population (see related story).

Carbon dioxide emissions from airplanes are currently not included in calculations of the UK CO2 budget, nor are airlines subject to fuel or value-added tax. Although ticket prices would inevitably rise if the IPPR proposals were implemented, the institute’s draft report pointed out that the majority of leisure air travellers belong to the top three socio-economic groups, who could likely afford the price increases.

In the summer of 2000 MEPs from the Committee on Regional Policy, Transport and Tourism voted overwhelmingly for a tax on airline fuel to encourage “a modal shift from short haul air travel to high speed train” (see related story).

But the Committee recognised the logistical problems of imposing taxes on routes departing from the EU.

Carbon offset company Future Forests recently launched a scheme enabling air passengers to calculate CO2 emissions for their flight and invest in trees to neutralise the emissions (see related story).

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