Building Back Better for Aviation: joint NGO briefing on changes needed by the aviation sector
In a joint briefing with Greenpeace UK and other environmental NGOs, the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) has set out the steps necessary for government to create the aviation industry as it recovers from the Covid pandemic. This is a unique opportunity for the sect or to change, in ways that reduce its negative environmental impact. The briefing suggests the sector needs to be fully accounted for, in the economy-wide drive to achieve net zero emissions. It should be equitably taxed to help fund the green recovery and to reduce demand for flying; and it should use technology to mitigate remaining emissions (if possible). There needs to be a commitment now to legislate for formal inclusion of aviation carbon emissions in carbon budgets, at least from the 6th carbon budget onwards. Though most flights are taken by relatively-affluent (or affluent) people, the tax on flying is too low. The rate of APD paid by 78% of air travellers (£13) has increased only £3 since 1997, and, adjusting for inflation, has fallen in real terms. APD only raises £3.8billion for the Treasury each year, and that could be increased substantially, if there was VAT charged, and fuel duty.
Building Back Better for Aviation: joint NGO briefing
In a joint briefing with Greenpeace UK and other environmental NGOs, AEF has set out the steps necessary for government to create a more sustainable aviation industry as it recovers from the Covid pandemic.
Within a green, resilient recovery the aviation sector needs to:
- Be fully accounted for in the economy-wide drive to achieve net zero emissions
- Be equitably taxed to help fund the green recovery and to reduce demand for flying
- Use technology to mitigate remaining emissions
To read the briefing in full, click here.
Below is the section on the need for aviation to pay more taxes, from this very useful briefing:
2. Ensure the sector pays a fair contribution towards public finances to fund the green recovery and reduce demand
Despite the fact that flying is a highly polluting activity undertaken largely by those on higher
incomes, it has always been very lightly taxed, being exempt from both fuel duty, and VAT on tickets.
The Air Passenger Duty rate paid by 78% of air travellers (£13) has increased only £3 since 1997, and, adjusting for inflation, has fallen in real terms. If aviation paid the same level of duty and VAT on its fuel, as motorists currently do on theirs, revenue for the Chancellor would increase to over £11billion a year compared to the £3.8billion that APD raises today.
There are sound business, social and environmental reasons for taxing aviation more in future, to help fund the large-scale public investment needed as part of the green recovery. Low taxes have acted as an indirect subsidy to aviation, artificially boosting its rate of growth. As noted by Fatih Birol from the IEA, aviation represents just 1% of the global economy but 8% of global oil use. In the UK, aviation emissions were, pre-crisis, forecast to exceed the maximum level that the CCC considers compatible with net zero, even without taking account of the sector’s non-CO2 impacts.
Flights from UK airports are overwhelmingly discretionary leisure travel by UK households in the top half of the income spectrum. The 15% of the UK population who fly frequently are responsible for 70% of all of our flights, with the 1% most frequent flyers accounting for close to a fifth of all flights by English residents.
Higher taxes, equitably levied, on flights from the UK would help both to reduce demand and to put the sector on a trajectory compatible with net zero.
There are numerous taxes which could be combined to achieve this including:
● A frequent flier or air miles levy, which would be the most equitable instrument
● VAT on plane tickets
● Introducing excise duty on aviation kerosene
● Raising Air Passenger Duty
Low oil prices have reduced operating costs so the argument for raising taxes as the recovery builds is particularly strong.
Alongside this, the government should announce a moratorium on future expansion of airport
infrastructure including terminals and runways.
A recent Court of Appeal judgement ruled that the Airports National Policy Statement which allows for the expansion of Heathrow Airport was unlawful on climate grounds. Most schemes have already been put on hold and the sector must be sent a clear message that the era of unconstrained aviation growth is over.
See the full briefing at