Flight taxes set to double

Chancellor Gordon Brown is likely to double air passenger duty as part of his spending review, published on Wednesday, in a move that could boost his eco-image and curb the explosive growth in aviation emissions.

Reports of the planned tax hike follow a study that claims doubling airline ticket taxes is necessary to curb the exponential growth in passenger numbers, much of it driven by low flight prices.

Air passengers are now paying less tax than five years ago – the average APD (air passenger duty) has fallen from £13.40 in 2001 to £8.86 in 2005, largely due to a surge in short-haul European flights, think tank Green Alliance points out in the report, Beyond Stern.

Published on Monday in anticipation of the Government’s spending review the report makes a series of recommendations on how to ‘green’ Government spending plans on transport and in other sectors, and calls for a doubling in air passenger duty to reverse current trends.

Aviation is the fastest growing source of carbon emissions in the UK, and its continuing growth will sabotage efforts to curb carbon emissions in other sectors if left unchecked, Green Alliance said.

Emissions from aviation doubled in the last fourteen years (1990-2004) and are set to double again in the next fourteen, according to the report. Research from the Tyndall Centre has shown that aviation growth at current levels would see carbon emissions from flights taking up the UK’s entire carbon budget, calculated with the aim of stabilising CO2 emissions at 450ppm.

Government policy focuses on including aviation in the EU ETS, but this will not happen until 2013 – and the EU could to give in to pressure from lobbyists when it comes to setting stringent targets. Meanwhile, the aviation white paper envisages the number of air passengers trebling by 2030.

The Chancellor could use the pre-budget report as “a springboard for a step change in the Treasury’s commitment and action on the environment,” Green Alliance says.

“The Treasury’s power has rarely been used to further environmental objectives. But there has never been a better time for the chancellor to make a step change on environmental taxes and spending. The environmental movement and the British public will be watching to see whether the chancellor will match his green words with actions,” Green Alliance director Stephen Hale said.

The Green Alliance report can be accessed here.

Goska Romanowicz

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