Climate Change Committee professor says demand for flights will need to be cut, eg. by taxing frequent fliers more
Professor Piers Forster, a climate scientist and a member of the Climate Change Committee, who has taken a keen interest in the problem of aviation carbon emissions has said that the government is likely to have to bring in a tax on frequent fliers and a ban on airport expansion if it is to meet its new climate targets – a 78% cut of carbon emissions on the 1990 levels – for 2035. This new, stricter, target will “squeeze” the amount of emissions the rest of the economy can emit over the coming decades. Prof Forster said: “By including [international shipping and aviation] within the target it actually reduces the allowable emissions that are there for the rest of the economy. So all the rest of the economy gets squeezed quite significantly.” It will be decades ahead, if ever, that flying could be low carbon. In the interim, Professor Forster said the government will need to bring in measures to reduce the amount of flights taken in and out of the UK. Frequent flyers should be deterred, while in the short term, there may be enough carbon budget for the occasional leisure flight.
Frequent flier tax will be needed to hit climate targets, warns leading scientist
Boris Johnson promised to cut UK emissions by 78% by 2035, the most ambitious carbon reduction target of any country in the world
By Madeleine Cuff, Environment Reporter (the i)
April 26, 2021
The government is likely to have to bring in a tax on frequent fliers and a ban on airport expansion if it is to meet its tough new climate targets for 2035, according to a leading climate scientist.
Last week the Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to cut UK emissions by 78 per cent by 2035, the most ambitious carbon reduction target of any country in the world.
For the first time, the UK’s share of international shipping and aviation emissions will be included in the domestic goal, the government also confirmed.
This change will “squeeze” the amount of emissions the rest of the economy can emit over the coming decades, Professor Piers Forster, a climate scientist at Leeds University and member of the UK’s Committee on Climate Change, told i.
“By including [shipping and aviation] within the target it actually reduces the allowable emissions that are there for the rest of the economy,” he explained. “So all the rest of the economy gets squeezed quite significantly.”
The government is pushing the aviation industry to develop green flying technologies, such as electric or hydrogen powered aircraft. But zero carbon commercial flight – particularly on long haul routes – is likely still decades away.
In the interim, Professor Forster said the government will need to bring in measures to reduce the amount of flights taken in and out of the UK.
This is likely to include measures such as a frequent flier tax, which would charge people for additional flights taken each year, he said. Studies have consistently shown that 70% of flights are made by the wealthiest 15% of the population. “If you are getting on aeroplanes ten times each year, perhaps that’s not the best use of precious carbon budget,” he said.
A ban on airport expansion is also likely to be necessary, he said, potentially scuppering plans to expand airports in London Heathrow, Leeds Bradford and Bristol airport.
But he stressed people taking one foreign holiday a year should not worry. “It certainly isn’t my intention, or the Committee on Climate Change’s, to completely destroy the industry,” he said. “We want to live in a world where people can go on aeroplanes.”
“I have tickets to go to Greece myself at the end of June.”
Government inclusion of aviation into carbon budgets heralds the beginning of the end for fossil-fuelled aviation
The UK is to become the first major economy to extend its legal ‘net zero’ emissions commitment to departing international flights, including international aviation and shipping in the Sixth Carbon Budget. AEF Deputy Director Cait Hewitt said: “This should mark the beginning of the end for fossil-fuelled aviation. After many years of slipping the net when it comes to climate change, and expecting special privileges, airlines will now need to start planning for a very different future. Including international aviation in UK climate law gives a strong message from ministers that all sectors of the UK economy need to be on the same path towards net zero emissions. Now the Government will need to make sure that’s delivered.” The Government is expected to consult next month on what measures it plans to introduce to put aviation onto a path of cutting CO2. Options it will need to consider include the setting of annual emissions targets for airlines; a review of policy on airport expansions; and new financial measures to limit flying demand such as an air miles tax. So far, the aviation industry has primarily focused on carbon offsetting as a way to attempt to negate carbon emissions – and aspirations for low carbon flight … many years into the future.
UK to include international aviation and shipping in carbon budgets, and aim for overall UK 78% CO2 cut by 2050
In December 2020 the Climate Change Committee (CCC) published its guidance for the UK government on its Sixth Carbon Budget, for the period 2033 – 37, and how to reach net-zero by 2050. That included the recommendation on aviation that there should be no net airport expansion, and that international aviation and shipping (IAS) should be fully included in the carbon budgets. Now the government has accepted many of their recommendations, including that the UK should cut carbon emissions by 78% by 2035. This is 15 years earlier than had been the original goal. The CCC recommended that IAS should be properly within carbon budgets; also that the target for aviation, instead of being allowed to emit 37.5MtCO2 per year by 2050, should be reduced to 23MtCO2 by 2050, following the BNZ (balanced net zero) pathway. There is no commitment yet by government to insist on that reduction. It would mean a large amount of UK engineered greenhouse gas removals by 2050 having to be assigned to making the aviation sector net-zero. People would have to pay for the carbon they emit being removed, rather than just “fly-tipped into the atmosphere”, which would make flying more expensive. Ways (taxation?) will be needed to make that fair.