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UK citizens push for frequent fliers tax to help reach net zero goal

Oscar Williams-Grut
·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·2-min read
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 22: Travellers arrive at Heathrow Airport on August 22, 2020 in London, England. As of Saturday morning at 4am, travellers arriving in England from Austria, Croatia, and Trinidad and Tobago were required to quarantine themselves for 14 days. At the same time, travellers from Portugal were no longer required to quarantine. (Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)
Travellers arrive at Heathrow Airport on August 22, 2020 in London, England. Photo: Hollie Adams/Getty Images

UK citizens support a progressive tax on frequent fliers and long-haul passengers as part of efforts to hit Britain’s goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Climate Assembly UK, a Parliament-backed group of citizens from across Britain, on Thursday tabled proposals for more taxes and limitations on the airline industry to ensure it shoulders the burden for the greenhouse gases it emits.

In a report delivered to MPs, Climate Assembly UK backed proposals for a tax that would increase as people flew more often and further. Such a policy would mean higher charges on a flight from Heathrow to Japan than one to Switzerland, for example. It would also hit frequent fliers harder, escalating each time they flew.

Additional recommendations include the scrapping of incentives to fly, such as air miles and first class. The group also called on the aviation industry to invest more into greenhouse gas capture technology and cleaner modes of transport, such as electric planes or synthetic fuel.

Air travel accounts for 7% of the UK’s overall greenhouse gas emissions and has grown rapidly as a source of emissions in recent decades.

Climate Assembly UK called for a legal limit on growth in passengers, saying growth should be kept between 25-50% in the decades to 2050. That would represent a radical reduction. Passenger numbers grew by 65% in the decade from 2007 to 2017 alone.

However, Climate Assembly UK stopped short of calling for efforts to curb or reduce air travel.

“Assembly members felt that this would protect people’s freedom and happiness, as well as having benefits for business and the economy,” the executive summary of the report said.

The proposals are unlikely to be welcomed by the UK aviation industry, which has already seen thousands of job losses and plummeting activity as a result of COVID-19. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates global revenues in the industry will fall 50% this year.

Climate Assembly UK’s recommendations on aviation are included in a landmark report delivered to MPs this week, which covers everything from farming to energy generation. The report contains 50 recommendations for the government in total.