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Missed sustainability targets could increase calls for 'frequent flyer taxes'
Issue #6 of the Sustainability in the Air Newsletter
Airline leaders often talk about aviation accounting for 2-3% of global emissions, as a way of showing that they are not the biggest polluters.
While that is true, that 2-3% figure is arguably a little misleading when you look at it on a country-by-country basis.
In a major industrialised country such as the UK for example, aviation in fact accounts for 7% of emissions.
This comes as climate charity Possible found that all but one of the 50 sustainability targets set by the industry since 2000, had either been missed or revised, at the same time as the industry was growing (and accounting for more emissions).
For example, the charity says that in 2007, Virgin Atlantic set a target of a 30% reduction in CO2 per revenue tonne kilometre (CO2/RTK) by 2020.
In 2020, this was then revised to a new target of a 15% gross reduction in CO2/RTK by 2026.
The perception of constant growth and little action when it comes to sustainability is leading to the so-called frequent flyer tax being raised again by climate change campaigners.
Possible, which commissioned the report, is behind another campaign called "A Free Ride."
The idea here is that everyone gets one carbon tax-free flight a year (e.g. to go on vacation or see family), and then carbon taxes get progressively higher for each extra flight you take.
As the statistics show, most people are not frequent flyers (70% of flights from the UK are taken by 15%), so this idea could seem reasonable to a lot of voters. Yet, at the same time, frequent flyers are a crucial revenue source for airlines.
As a result, to avoid something like a 'frequent flyer tax' being introduced in major industrialised countries, the industry will need to stick to what it says it will do.
There's even more focus on sustainable travel, and the industry risks a major credibility and reputation problem if impressive sounding statements about decarbonization aren't followed through with concrete action, and targets which are kept or even exceeded.
Positive story of the day
Airlines want fry oil to fuel planes, but finding enough is a challenge (Dallas Morning News)
Etihad introduces new sustainability-driven economy experience (Future Travel Experience)