Eventia chairman Nigel Cooper has challenged yesterday’s report from Oxford University on aviation and climate change, which called for higher taxes in order to get the Government back on track with its carbon emissions targets.
"Tax is the crudest, bluntest instrument the Government has available," Cooper said. "If they want to raise taxes to make air travel carbon-neutral, fine, but what has happened to the billions that have already been raised in surcharges from other fuel? Has it been invested in high-speed rail links and planting forests? No. Aviation only makes up around 5% of the UK’s carbon emissions, but it’s an easier target than taking individual companies to task over the carbon they produce."
The study, Predict and decide: Aviation, climate change and UK policy, was put together by the University’s Environmental Change Institute and finds that the amounts of flights taken in the UK rose from 42 million in 1994 to 70 million in 2004, and that carbon emissions from aviation doubled in the 1990s while those from all other industry sectors fell.
It goes on to predict that by 2050, carbon emissions from aviation will increase between four and ten-times those from 1990 representing up to two thirds of the Government’s total emissions targets for that year. One of the report’s co-authors, Dr Sally Cairns said: "If the Government wants to reduce aviation growth, it has the power to act now. Raising air passenger duty would help to counter reductions on fares which are estimated to have been responsible for at least 40 per cent of recent aviation growth."
The report’s other author, Carey Newson, told C&IT that despite the study finding that the most of the rise in air travel could be attributed to the rise in low-fare leisure flights, the business sector would still be impacted by higher fares. "Big business is obviously less responsive to price rises, but it would still make them more discriminating when it comes to choosing whether to fly or not. As well as cutting emissions, there’s money to be saved."
Newson also refuted Cooper’s claims about the rail network, pointing to the success of Virgin’s high-speed West Coast Mainline service as an example. The London-Glasgow service achieved record journey time of three hours and 55 minutes in September, and Virgin cites its popularity down to former fliers using the service.
For its part, Eventia is in the process of creating a scheme whereby its members encourage their corporate clients to add 1% to their charges to go into sustainable energy and reforestation projects. Cooper added that the initiative is on track to be up and running in early 2007.
The first reaction from the Government to the report will be in its next pre-budget announcement next month.
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