Rishi Sunak cut air taxes and blocked climate levy after airline lobbying

Original article by Lucas Amin and Ben Webster republished from openDemocracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

Rishi Sunak halved has aviation tax on domestic flights 
| Liam McBurney/alenaohneva / Getty / Pexels. Composite by openDemocracy

Rishi Sunak slashed aviation tax on domestic flights and rejected a new ‘frequent flyer levy’ after lobbying by the airline industry, openDemocracy can reveal.

The decision to halve air passenger duty (APD), which takes effect next month, will mean more flights and less rail journeys in Britain – undermining the government’s net-zero commitment.

Clean transport campaigner Matt Finch, the director of Transport and Environment, told openDemocracy: “Simply taxing airlines in the same way that all other UK companies are taxed would bring in precious funds to the Treasury, and stop the ridiculous favouritism shown to airlines.”

He added: “It’s clear that the aviation sector gets preferential treatment from the government, but it’s unclear exactly why.”

In June 2021, when Sunak was chancellor, Ryanair’s director of route development told the Treasury that APD “should be abolished in order to stimulate immediate traffic growth”, documents obtained by openDemocracy under Freedom of Information law reveal.

Ryanair said it could offer “ultra-low” domestic fares if the tax was reduced. It has responded to Sunak’s cut by sharply increasing flights from London, adding three a day between the capital and Edinburgh and three a week to Newquay, Cornwall.

Responding to the Treasury’s June 2021 consultation on the plans, British Airways’ owner, International Airlines Group (IAG), and easyJet also said they supported APD tax cuts. IAG said “positive outcomes could include new routes, increased frequency and larger aircraft on existing routes as well as lower fares”.

EasyJet said: “Our analysis shows that if domestic APD is reduced by 50%, this would

support an overall 31% increase in domestic volume to 10.6 million passengers.”

But the UK’s rail industry warned that cutting air taxes would lead to 222,000 passengers shifting from rail to air each year, equivalent to an extra 1,000 domestic flights. The Rail Delivery Group said that reducing the cost of flying “runs counter to government’s legal commitment to decarbonise” and could increase carbon emissions by 27,000 tonnes a year.

Sunak ignored the warning and in October 2021 announced a 50% cut to APD on domestic flights, from £13 to £6.50.

It’s clear that the aviation sector gets preferential treatment from the government, but it’s unclear exactly why

Matt Finch, Transport and Environment

Silviya Barrett, the director of Policy and Research at Campaign for Better Transport, said: “In the context of the climate emergency, it’s hard to think of a more wrong-headed policy than making domestic flights cheaper. Not only will it encourage more polluting travel, but it will reduce revenue which could and should be invested in sustainable alternatives.”

France is taking the opposite approach by banning domestic flights between cities that are linked by a train journey of less than 2.5 hours.

The railway industry’s ability to compete with cheap flights was further undermined last week when the government increased rail fares by up to 5.9%, the biggest rise for 11 years.

The airline industry already benefits from the absence of tax on jet fuel and no VAT on airline tickets. A study last year estimated that taxing jet fuel in the UK at the same rate as road fuel would have raised £6.7bn in 2019. The sector generates around 8% of UK emissions.

Sunak, who now travels around Britain in a private jet, also rejected a recommendation to introduce a progressive tax on frequent flyers.

The Climate Change Committee has found that a “frequent flyer levy” –which makes those who fly more often pay progressively more tax – is a fairer way of taxing aviation.

Research shows that just 15% of Brits take 70% of flights.

It’s hard to think of a more wrong-headed policy than making domestic flights cheaper

Silviya Barrett, Campaign for Better Transport

Nine in ten people back the idea of a frequent flyer levy, according to a survey by conservation charity WWF and think tank Demos, but Ryanair told the Treasury not to do it.

Ryanair argued that a frequent flyer levy would be “likely only to punish passengers that have an ongoing practical requirement to fly frequently”, while IAG told the Treasury that “taxing aviation does not benefit the environment”.

Grahame Morris, a Labour member of the House of Commons Transport Select Committee, told openDemocracy: “It is counterintuitive of this government to remain committed to ‘Jet Zero’ by 2050 and at the same time to reject a frequent flyer levy while alternative sustainable aviation fuels to replace existing fossil fuels are still under development and evaluation.”

A government spokesperson said: “We are absolutely committed to levelling up the UK and delivering on our net-zero commitments, which is why from April we are cutting duty in half for flights within the UK, except for private jets, and introducing new higher rates of duty for ultra-long haul flights, ensuring that those who fly furthest contribute the most.

“In line with the tax policy-making process, we consulted on a frequent flyer levy in 2021, which a wide range of stakeholders fed into. Having considered views, including around privacy and data concerns of implementing such a levy, we concluded that Air Passenger Duty should remain the principal tax on the aviation sector.”

Original article by Lucas Amin and Ben Webster republished from openDemocracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

Continue ReadingRishi Sunak cut air taxes and blocked climate levy after airline lobbying

The Shutdown of “Luxury Emissions” Should Be at the Center of Climate Revolt


SEVEN HUNDRED SELF-DESCRIBED “climate rebels” breached the chain-link fence surrounding Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, the world’s third-busiest hub for international passenger traffic, on November 5. With bolt cutters they opened holes in the fence and poured in, some of them on bicycles, and raced across the tarmac. Others laid ladders against the 9-foot-high fence and topped it on foot.

“The superrich have got used to polluting as they please with a total disregard for people and planet, and private jets are the pinnacle of these luxury emissions that we simply cannot afford,” Jonathan Leggett, one of the activists, told us. “Our action brought them back to earth. We wanted to show the extremeness and injustice related to this manner of transport.”

In the Netherlands, 8 percent of the population takes 40 percent of flights. Worldwide, the difference is even more stark: One percent of the population is responsible for 50 percent of pollution due to aviation, making air travel a textbook example of how pollution by the rich leads to consequences and injustices for those who have not caused the climate crisis.


Continue ReadingThe Shutdown of “Luxury Emissions” Should Be at the Center of Climate Revolt

COP26 News review day 11

‘We are not on course’: scientists warn action must match words at Cop26

Scientists attending Cop26 have sent a clear warning to policymakers: get a move on, because every moment of delay, every extra fraction of a degree of global heating will have dire consequences.

That message has been reinforced at Glasgow with reports, forums and discussions, but those involved in channelling the science to the world’s leaders are frustrated that words are still not being matched by actions.

Peter Stott, a climate scientist at the Met Office’s Hadley Centre who has been attending Cops since 1998, said he was marginally more optimistic than he had been before the Glasgow summit. “I have mixed emotions. I feel relieved that things have started to move, but I am concerned about the speed,” he said. “The scientific message we have talked about for 25 years is being acted on. That is a vindication. We might be starting to turn the corner. But I feel a strong sense of anxiety I haven’t felt before. I want to see the policymakers get a move on. In the next two years we have got to cut emissions rapidly.”

Cop26 targets too weak to stop disaster, say Paris agreement architects

Current national plans – known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs) – would lead to 2.4C of heating, according to an influential analysis this week by Climate Action Tracker.

Countries are currently expected to return with better pledges in 2025, but many are now demanding the deadline should be brought forward. This is seen as the most closely fought area of disagreement as the UK hosts struggle to broker a deal.

“If that [five years] is the first time that countries are called to increase their ambitions, honestly that’s going to be too late,” said Figueres, founding partner of the Global Optimism thinktank.

COP26 aviation pledges ‘full of scams’, campaigners say

A COP26 declaration to cut aviation emissions is “full of scams”, environmental campaigners have warned.

The International Aviation ­Climate Ambition Coalition agreed to ­support measures to reduce the sector’s ­carbon emissions.

These included promoting the ­development of low-carbon aircraft, sustainable aviation fuels and carbon offsetting. It was signed by 20 countries ­including the UK, the US, France and Spain.

But Greenpeace is calling on ­European leaders not to support it, and urged them to ban short-haul flights and “massively invest” in rail instead.

Better public transport is the only way to cut carbon emissions, unions and campaigners urge

CREATING universal and comprehensive public transport is the only way to effectively cut carbon emissions from travel at home and abroad, unions and campaigners have said during Cop26.

Campaigners and politicians condemned the lack of consideration of rail, bus, ferry and cycle transport during proceedings at the summit today, where the focus was put on cars and planes instead.

Officials and delegates at the gathering in Glasgow made a number of announcements on transport, including on zero-emissions vehicles, so-called green shipping corridors, and on decarbonising air travel.

Tory Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that travel, including aviation, should be “guilt-free.” He also said that the government did not see flying as “the ultimate evil,” after officials, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, were condemned for using planes for short journeys during Cop26.

Continue ReadingCOP26 News review day 11

COP26 New summary day 3

I’m reaching a few conclusions about COP26. It isn’t serious about addressing climate change because governments are sucking up to the filthy rich and powerful. That’s what refusing to address aviation is about, all the private jets and Bezos and actors appearing. Aviation appears to be a good target for climate activism, it’s hugely damaging and far more likely to get public support. I’ll be going to my local airport on Saturday.

In UK and worldwide we need to elect some Greens or e.g. nationalist parties, with strong green policies. It’s happening anyway, Bristol is likely to elect some Green MPs at the next election. The Greens are taking votes from Labour and hopefully people will realise that the current Labour party is undeclared Tory and anti-democratic in party actions, Stalinist really. [ed: Stalinist as an insult: authoritarian dictatorship with a total disregard of others’ perpectives, crushing and destroying people.] It’s a shame that the elections are so far away in 2024.

The Brexit dark money lobby has a new target – climate change action

Officially the UK government has committed to Net Zero by 2050, but behind the scenes an organised, well-funded opposition to climate change action is growing on the Conservative Right. And many of those at the vanguard – and their tactics – come straight from the veterans of Brexit.

A classic example of this appeared in The Telegraph this week: the day before the Budget, it reported a YouGov survey that found a majority of the British public “want a referendum on Boris Johnson’s net zero plans” by the next general election – a majority of those who expressed a preference, that is.

Perhaps it’s because I spent so long looking at the dark money behind Brexit, but the first thing I thought while reading The Telegraph’s story was: “Who has paid a professional pollster to carry out a survey on a question nobody is asking?”

The answer is something called Car26.org. This, The Telegraph informed its readers, is a “new campaign group calling for a referendum on net zero proposals and a pause in eco regulations until such a ballot is held”.

Yep, you read that right. No climate change mitigation policies until a referendum on Net Zero. Sound familiar?

The taxpayer-funded European Research Group of Conservative MPs – which played a starring role in the UK’s exit from the EU – has largely morphed into the Net Zero Scrutiny Group. The Global Warming Policy Foundation — which long promoted climate change denialism — has been relaunched as Net Zero Watch. Wycombe MP Steve Baker, the “Brexit hardman”, is a leading light in both.

Boris Johnson races back from COP 26 on private jet to meet climate change sceptic pal


Hours after telling world leaders in Glasgow to stop “quilting the earth in an invisible and suffocating blanket of CO2”, Mr Johnson controversially hopped on board a chartered private plane.

His spokesman defended the decision saying: “It is important that the prime minister is able to move around the country and we have obviously faced significant time restraints.”

A No 10 spokesperson said: “All travel decisions are made with consideration for security and time restraints.

Boris Johnson’s luxury private plane habit laid bare as he spends £216k on flights

‘I was jailed for protesting against climate change but Johnson refuses responsibility’

As world leaders come together this week at COP26, I write this from a cell in Wandsworth Prison where I am serving a 12-month sentence for a peaceful climate protest, after climbing on an aeroplane during Extinction Rebellion’s October Rebellion in 2019.

‘Reality check’: Global CO2 emissions shooting back to record levels

The world’s “carbon budget” is the total emissions allowed to retain a 50% chance of keeping global temperature rise below 1.5C, but analysis shows this will be blown in 11 years if the current rate of emissions continues.

COP26 protests in Glasgow see five people arrested by police

Police have made five arrests as hundreds of climate activists marched through Glasgow as part of demonstrations around the Cop26 summit.

The protest was one of several in Glasgow on Wednesday, as the Cop26 summit discussed the financial system.

Police Scotland said on Wednesday evening that five arrests had been made.

Two of the arrests took place after a number of officers were sprayed with paint. Cans of spray paint were also seized.

COP26 Glasgow: Greta Thunberg and 58,000 activists expected

More than 58,000 activists including Greta Thunberg are set to protest in two COP26 rallies in Glasgow this weekend. 

It wasn’t just fancy world leaders and smug glossy fossil fuel parasites attending Cop26

First Dog on the Moon

Continue ReadingCOP26 New summary day 3