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Will the Climate Assembly recommend less flying? AEF comment

9th September, 2020


Will the Climate Assembly recommend less flying? AEF comment

Tomorrow’s report from the Climate Assembly[1] is likely, AEF understands, to make recommendations for new policies relating to how we travel, including how often, and how far, we fly. 

Since there are currently no zero-carbon options for aircraft on the market, cutting back on flying, particularly among those who take several trips per year, will be an important step towards achieving net zero emissions. One long-haul return flight can easily be the biggest part of someone’s carbon footprint for the whole year (generating more emissions than a year’s worth of driving, for example, or from a whole year of eating meat rather than having a vegan diet). 

New measures are needed on aviation in order to deliver net zero emissions. While the Coronavirus pandemic put a temporary pause on air travel, emissions are set to rise again if people return to their former travel habits. 

There is some evidence, however, that people may be ready to accept policies from the Government to tackle the impact of flying on the climate. Recent research[2] from Cardiff University’s CAST Unit looking at whether Covid-19 has changed public attitudes to climate change in the UK found that “support for climate change mitigation policies, including measures to decrease meat consumption and flying, was higher during the COVID-19 pandemic than in 2019, which already represented a high point for public concern on climate change”.

Encouraging a shift away from air travel will be one important part of delivering a green recovery from the pandemic. Flying has always been very lightly taxed as an industry – there’s no tax on fuel used by aircraft, and no VAT on tickets – despite being highly polluting. An air miles levy, as suggested in a report commissioned by the Committee on Climate Change[3] would be one way to help redress the balance and include the environmental cost of flying in ticket prices. It could also discourage frequent flying (just 15% of the UK population take 70% of all flights annually) with the tax increasing if an individual continues to rack up their air miles. 


Notes to editor: