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More air taxis than aviation taxation: New aviation strategy fails to address the climate impact of flying

Published 27 January 2022 by Transform Scotland

Transform Scotland has today published its response to Transport Scotland’s proposals for a new Aviation Strategy for Scotland. [1] [2] Transform found the document to be woefully lacking in effectively addressing aviation’s role in the climate crisis. Bizarrely, the document has more to say on ‘air taxis’ than it does on aviation taxation.

The Scottish Government states in the document that they are “under no illusion about the enormity of the challenge” that Covid-19 and decarbonisation pose to the sector. However, given the content of the proposals, Transform Scotland seriously questions this commitment.

“It’s not good enough for the aviation sector to continue to be given a free pass when it comes to climate policy. It would be grossly inequitable to expect other sectors to make up for the aviation sector’s failure to decarbonise.”

Transform Scotland spokesperson Marie Ferdelman said:

“The proposals put forward to tackle the climate crisis are entirely removed from reality. They rely on technologies such as sustainable aviation fuels, air taxis and electric planes, most of which will not be ready to be deployed at a large scale within this decade. We need to make cuts in emissions now, not wish away action to the far future. 

“The paper makes speculations about air taxis but fails to address aviation taxation. It focuses on speculative technological responses when there are very clear options available now to make major cuts in short-haul flights from Edinburgh and Glasgow to London. Unfortunately this is left ignored in the document.

“It’s not good enough for the aviation sector to continue to be given a free pass when it comes to climate policy. It would be grossly inequitable to expect other sectors to make up for the aviation sector’s failure to decarbonise.”

The full response is available at https://transform.scot/wp/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Aviation-Strategy-discussion-paper-Transform-Scotland-2022-01-21.pdf

Firstly, the document is not clear about the scale of the problem and the legally-binding emission reductions that are required in the aviation sector. 

Secondly, the range of policy tools to address emission reductions discussed is almost exclusively focused on technological fixes that will not be ready to be deployed at scale within this decade. Whether or not this omission is deliberate, it certainly helps to obscure the fact that the proposed tools for achieving emission reductions will not be able to deliver the reductions that are necessary in the short and medium term. This limitation is not discussed nor are alternatives, such as Frequent Flyer Levies or shifting travel from air to rail. 

Finally, the discussion document fails to address the just transition aspects specific to decarbonising the aviation sector. Flying is primarily the privilege of a well-off minority of the population while the cost of flying to the climate affects the wider population. Just 1% of the UK population take 20% of all international flights and nearly half the population (48%) not taking any international flights within a year. It would therefore be unjust to allow the aviation sector to continue its climate-damaging practises while carbon reductions are made elsewhere.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

[1] Transform Scotland is the national alliance for sustainable transport. We campaign for walking, cycling and public transport to be the easiest and most affordable options for everyone. Our diverse membership brings together public, private and third sector organisations from across Scotland. See <https://transform.scot/who-we-are/> for further information.

[2] Transport Scotland ‘Discussion document to inform the development of an Aviation Strategy’: https://www.transport.gov.scot/publication/disability-and-transport-findings-from-the-scottish-household-survey-1/

[3] According to the emission reduction targets in the Climate Change Plan update, emissions from the transport sector are required to be reduced from 14.8 MtCO2e in 2018 by approximately 56% to 6.5 MtCO2e in 2028.

[4] The Element Energy ‘Decarbonising the Scottish Transport Sector’ report, commissioned by the Scottish Government, found that emissions from aviation assigned to Scotland need to be reduced by 33% between 2019 and 2030 to meet climate targets.

END OF NEWS RELEASE

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