Air travel accounts for about three percent of greenhouse gases, so even if you think the planet is warming out of control, grounding all planes wouldn’t help much. But enviros increasingly are targeting air travel. And the nutty British, led by the once sensible Conservative Party, are following suit.
Harsh new taxes on air travel, including a strict personal flight “allowance”, will be unveiled by the Conservatives tomorrow as part of a plan that would penalise business travellers, holidaymakers and the tourist industry.
The proposals, to be disclosed by George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, include levying VAT or fuel duty on domestic flights for the first time as part of a radical plan to tackle global warming.
David Cameron plants trees in London on the Tories’ Green Action Day
The Conservatives will also suggest – most controversially of all – rationing individuals to as little as a single short-haul flight each year; any further journeys would attract progressively higher taxes, a leaked document entitled Greener Skies suggests.
The Tories’ radical green taxes form one of the most ambitious programmes ever put forward by a mainstream political party. But they sparked an immediate war with Labour last night, while the travel industry branded them a “tax on fun”.
In a further departure from Tory tradition, the party will underline its green credentials by welcoming Al Gore, the Democrat former US vice-president, to a meeting of the shadow cabinet on Thursday.
Mr Osborne’s document will list a series of far-reaching, though uncosted, green tax proposals the proceeds of which will be ploughed into tax cuts “for the family”, said a Conservative source.
Among the proposals, which the Tories insist are options for consultation, are:
Charging fuel duty or VAT on domestic flights. The document notes that there are “no legal barriers” to introducing either levy and adds: “We have pledged that any additional revenues from environmental taxes that we propose at the next election will be offset by equivalent reductions in other forms of taxation.” Replacing the £10 to £80 Air Passenger Duty with a per-flight tax levied on airlines which would penalise the dirtiest engines the hardest. A personal “green air miles allowance” which would punish those who flew more often with a higher tax rate.The document states: “For example, everyone could be entitled to one short-haul return flight per year at the standard rate of tax, but additional flights would be charged at a higher rate.”
The leaked paper claims: “We need to find a policy approach whose side effect is not to make air travel the preserve of the better off.” It also reveals fears that public support for additional environmental taxes on aviation would be undermined if it was interpreted simply as a means of increasing total tax revenues. There is a danger that increases in the cost of flights may put air travel out of the reach of those on low incomes, it admits.
Earth to Tories. If you sharply raise the cost of air travel, you will inevitably return it to what it once was: a preserve of the rich. And you will deny to the great mass of people one of the greatest human advances–the ability to easily traverse the globe for pleasure, knowledge, family, and commerce.