Tax frequent fliers to tackle climate change, report suggests

10 September 2020, 07:12

There are calls for frequent fliers to be taxed
There are calls for frequent fliers to be taxed. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

A tax should be levied on frequent fliers, the UK's first citizens' assembly on climate change has recommended.

The final report from Climate Assembly UK also supports a ban on sales of new gas boilers and new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars by 2030-2035 to help Britain meet its legal goal to cut emissions to "net zero" by mid-century.

The recommendations for tackling climate change from the citizens' assembly also include people taking steps to eliminate meat and dairy from their diets, and planting and managing forests to help soak up excess carbon emissions.

The group of more than 100 people from across the UK also said the shift to net zero must be fair, and allow for freedom and choice where possible for individuals and local areas.

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They called for widespread education and information, government leadership, and cross-party consensus on the issue.

Climate Assembly UK was commissioned by six parliamentary select committees and asked to examine how the country can meet its legal target to cut greenhouse gases to zero overall by mid-century.

The assembly was forced to move online to complete its work because of the pandemic, and at its final session participants discussed the impact of the coronavirus outbreak and lockdown on the net-zero target.

The final report reveals the conclusions the assembly has come to on achieving the net-zero target in a number of areas: travel on land, travel by air, in the home, what we eat and how we use land, what we buy, electricity sources, and removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Four-fifths (80%) of assembly members strongly agreed or agreed that taxes which increase as people fly more often and as they fly further should be part of how the UK gets to net zero.

The report also shows support for a shift to low-carbon cars, improved public transport, using education to help people reduce meat and dairy, and planting forests.

In homes, they backed a ban on new gas boilers by 2030 or 2035 but said local areas should be able to choose what kind of clean heating technology - such as hydrogen heating, heat pumps and heat networks - worked for them.

Efforts to retrofit homes with insulation and technology to cut emissions must minimise disruption and provide financial support and choice for people, they said.

The assembly also backed measures including emissions labelling on food and drink, payments for farmers to use land to absorb carbon, and renewables such as offshore wind.

Assembly Member Sue, 56, from Bath, said: "Even in a year like this, with the country and economy still reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, it's clear that the majority of us feel prioritising net-zero policy is not only important but achievable too.

"Our report takes into account the wide range of views in the UK and represents a realistic and fair path to net zero."

The UK has a legal target to cut greenhouse gases to net zero by 2050, with steep cuts in pollution and any remaining emissions "offset" by measures that remove them from the atmosphere, such as planting trees.

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee chairman Darren Jones said: "This is an extremely important contribution to the debate on how the UK reaches our net-zero target and I hope it gives impetus to policy-makers to take bold action to reduce our emissions.

"The range of voices within these pages reflect our population."