Or at least slow the increase.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, according to an article in 2002 by friends of the earth aircraft emissions in 1990 were 17million tonnes of Carbon Dioxide, and that is expected to increase 70-80million tonnes by 20-30. You can read the article here. In a similar article in the Guardian on October 6th, Ian Sample says that while aviation only contributes 7% of CO2 emissions from private vehicles it is on course to equal other transport methods by 2012. That is only six years away.So what is the point in the rest of us cutting our emissions if the aviation industry is only going to make up the difference? Richard Branson’s gesture of donating all profits from Virgin Atlantic to invest in research for cleaner fuel is a good start but seeing the fruits of this is at least 5 years and probably 10 years away. Action needs to be taken now. No airline is going to ground its planes voluntarily; they don’t make money that way. So what can be done, environmentalists have been calling for a tax on aircraft fuel for years and it certainly would push up the cost of flying and put some people off, but I doubt that there would be the political will for the level of tax required. According to a Department of Transport forecast written in 2000 the introduction of a 10% fuel tax would cut estimated growth in air travel by 10% (I think that I have read that right), however growth has outstripped the forecasts in every estimate since 1994. One example of why a fuel tax wouldn’t work on aviation is that during the high oil prices of 2004, British Airways registered an increase in passenger numbers of 8.1% even though they had to increase prices by up to £10. Well let’s face it; £10 isn’t going to break the bank for someone paying £200 for a flight.
So if increasing the cost of flying by a fuel tax isn’t the answer then what is?
Well according to someone I was chatting to in the pub the other night, I forget who and where it was, most of the fuel is used up during take off and landing, so perhaps one solution would be to ban all flights under 500 kilometres. So all those short hops from London to Newcastle, and sadly London to Dublin, would be out of the question (although you could still fly from London to Cork or Belfast). This could then be extended to 1,000 kilometres later with special exceptions for light aircraft servicing had to reach places such as the Outer Hebrides or routes without an alternative solution, such as London to Ireland. The distances measured would have to be airport to airport and as the crow flies. And you never know this might lead to companies developing high speed rail links instead, besides it would give Eurostar a boost since London to Paris flights would be out of the question as well.