Are aviation emissions really the worst of our problems? Bookmark and Share

The government are planning to increase the tax on air travel to over twice the current amount, in a bid to cut carbon emissions. The new ‘green tax’ will apply to long haul flights and will theoretically be spent on green issues and reducing the effects of global warming. It sounds like a good plan, even if it does mean we’d have to pay more to fly, after all aviation emissions are a huge contributor to climate change and one of the main areas for concern, right?

Well, no actually they’re not. I’m not saying that aircraft emissions are a myth or that they don’t contribute, because they’re not and they do. But looking at the figures it becomes clear that air travel accounts for only two per cent of our total CO2 emissions. Yes, there is certainly room for improvement, and any way to reduce carbon emissions can only be a good thing, but is doubling the tax on air passengers who want to see the world or take tropical or Caribbean holidays really the way to go about it?

I suppose the theory is that luxury holidays are not a necessity in life and those who can afford them can afford to pay extra to help alleviate the environmental cost, but the bottom line is this scheme is not reducing global warming at all, it’s just charging people more for it. An alternative scheme, proposed by the travel industry, suggested that rather than taxing passengers the government could instead tax the airlines for any seats that are left empty. Considering that on average 1/3 of all seats in the sky remain empty, this plan could have actually changed things by encouraging airlines to run less flights and ensure that planes were always as full as possible.

Unsurprisingly this proposal was rejected. Perhaps it was realised that although it could lead to a serious reduction in carbon emissions, there was far less potential for making money out of it than by taxing passengers more. As far as saving the planet goes, although airline pollution could and should be reduced, before this can be done people’s attitude needs to change. And in my experience there is no better way to change the way you feel about the planet than to see it – whether you go exploring in the rainforest, backpacking in Australia or just chilling out on a beach in Jamaica, holidays open people’s eyes to the world and let you see what’s out there worth saving.


Got something to say?