7th September 2020

Not everybody flies but everybody pays

Adapted from a Press Release by ‘Pledge to Fly Less’.   

Talk of suspending Air Passenger Duty (APD) is a concern.

Flying is not something that everyone does and yet, since the Second World War, aviation has benefited from not having to pay any fuel duty or VAT.

Airlines and airports have been lining up to ask for bailouts and tax reductions from Government and have been handed public money without any environmental benchmarks being set.

More recently we have seen a group of MPs asking for the suspension of APD to encourage more people to fly, burning fossil fuel in the process. Government’s income from APD is £3.5bn.  To allow it to be suspended, even temporarily, would fly in the face of any green policies.

APD would actually need to be 3.4 times its current level to reach tax parity with road users [1].

In 2019 the UK had a record trade deficit of £34 billion on international travel and tourism and the current clampdown on air travel is providing a boost not only for the UK Balance of Payments but also for domestic tourism – estimated at about £3 billion a month [2].

Aviation is a luxury industry (70% of UK flights are made by a wealthy 15% of the population, with 57% not flying abroad at all [3]). If aviation is to be allowed to grow, sustainable aviation fuels will have to play a critical role.  Green energy will also be required by other sectors, so we have to question whether it would be better used to reduce heating costs and eliminate fossil-fuelled cars, rather than for a luxury industry?

Total UK aviation emissions in 2018 were 39.3 million tons. This is up 129% since 1990, during the time we were supposed to begin cutting our national emissions. International flights emitted 36.7 million tons of these, domestic flights 1.5 million and the UK military 1.1 million [4].

Aviation remains the fastest growing source of carbon emissions in Europe, having grown 26% between 2013 and 2018.  Aviation’s non-CO2 effects increase the climate impact of the sector even further [5].

The Government’s commitment to provide £350 million to fuel the green recovery (not just in aviation) has to be welcomed but taken in perspective, HS2 is costing £403m per mile [6] and the new road building budget is £27bn [7].

We watch with interest but, until commercial aviation green fuels become a reality, we should continue to call for no aviation growth as flying is one of the biggest threats that our planet faces today.

Pledge to Fly Less is an initiative by Gatwick campaign group CAGNE 

[1] Analysis by Stop Stansted Expansion (‘SSE’)
[2] ONS data – see SSE Press Release dated 25 May 2020 here.
[3] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49808258
[4] https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/airline-industry-travel-aviation-fuel-tax-carbon-emissions-climate-emergency-a9631921.html
[5] Transport and Environment E-Fuel Position Paper
[6] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/hs2-high-speed-railway-most-expensive-world-403-million-mile-michael-byng-a7843481.html#:~:text=HS2%20%27will%20be%20most%20expensive%20railway%20on%20Earth,expected%20to%20reach%20%C2%A3403m%2C%20according%20to%20Government%20calculations
[7] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/mar/11/chancellor-announces-27bn-for-roadbuilding-in-budget

Campaigning against proposals to expand Stansted Airport