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Environmental information needs to be more readily available to consumers, says CAA

24th April, 2023

The CAA recently consulted on proposals to make environmental information more readily available to consumers. This delivers on a commitment made by the Government in the Jet Zero Strategy to work with the CAA to gather evidence on providing consumers with environmental information at the time of booking a flight. 

The CAA call for evidence set out its objective:

“to ensure that people can find: reliable information, at the point of looking for and booking flights, using a standard approach and data, in a format that is understandable, contextualised and accessible, which will give them the confidence to make decisions on whether and how they travel.”

Consumer Environmental Information: Call for Evidence, 2023

AEF strongly supports these aims. Our response to the call for evidence argues that to ensure consumers have the most accurate information, airlines need to start sharing their data so that consumers can compare the performance of different carriers. No extra cost burden would be created since airlines already collect, monitor and verify the relevant information for the purposes of compliance with the UK Emissions Trading System (UK ETS) and ICAO’s CORSIA. On top of this, an estimate would need to be made for non-CO2 impacts. The impact of flying on the climate has historically been three times that of CO2 alone, though there is a wide variability of the non-CO2 impacts, such as from NOx and contrails, generated by individual flights.

Ideally, emissions information should be provided in advance of consumers looking for a flight so as to be most useful in the decision-making process. This could be, for example, on flight and holiday adverts, in the information shared by businesses with their own staff in relation to their policy on travel, or alongside travel journalism. 

Along with information on emissions at the point of sale, key contextual information should be provided. AEF’s report Raising the Public Visibility of Aviation Emissions, which is listed as an information source in the CAA call for evidence, gives some example comparisons. The graphics published by Possible give visual comparisons with other activities commonly thought of as environmentally harmful such as eating certain foods or driving. Illustrative examples such as these could be selected for relevant flight lengths.

While simplicity is important in terms of making information accessible and understandable, we would be opposed to any approach that used a green light or green leaf symbol for a flight. Since flying today remains a very carbon-intensive way to travel there should be no implication that any flights are green.

AEF recommends that any roll-out of consumer information should be discussed with behavioural change and public engagement experts and should be tested in advance with focus groups or alternative social research methods to ensure the best possible results.

To see AEF’s full response click here.