Azara Blog: Blair is not keen to reduce air travel

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Date published: 2006/02/07

The BBC says:

Tony Blair says it is unrealistic to think the tax system can be used to reduce air travel in the UK.

The prime minister said it would take a "fairly hefty whack" for people to cut back on flights in the UK and abroad.

He told the Commons liaison committee that it would be hard to sell, and said he would not be keen on such a move.

Instead, he said, the best way to tackle climate change was to invest in more environmentally friendly aircraft and to invest in other new technology.

It had been put to Mr Blair that the rise in aircraft emissions were threatening the overall plans to cut back on greenhouse gases.

Mr Blair told the MPs that the world would be in "serious trouble" unless there was a new agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

He said it was vital to come up with a framework for when the Kyoto Protocol comes to an end in 2012.

Mr Blair said he thought that with a "significant uplift" in investment in new and alternative environmentally-friendly technologies the emissions savings could be found fairly quickly.

He said emissions targets would have to form a part of a future agreement on climate change.

It was understandable that the US was very wary of having targets imposed on it, and instead wanted to concentrate on the use of clean technology - on which it spends more than any other country - he said.

However, there were "real signs of change" in the US on the issue, he said.

But on air travel, the prime minister conceded: "It is unrealistic to think that you will get some restriction on air travel at an international level.

"The best way to go is to recognise that is a reality and see how you can develop the technology that is able to reduce the harmful emissions."

Well most of that is obvious, if somewhat fanciful, but the UK could, if it wanted, reduce air travel from UK airports. Just put 200 pounds per passenger on the cost of each takeoff and each landing. The real question is whether that makes any sense or is desirable. Sure airplane flights should have a carbon tax imposed (and there is a crude passenger tax which covers part of that but ignores the real point of a carbon tax which is to make the tax proportional to the damage caused). But railway and bus journeys should also have a carbon tax, and nobody ever seems to talk about that. And gas and electricity in homes should also have a carbon tax, and nobody ever seems to talk about that. The chattering classes instead fixate on cars (where there is already a whacking great tax which more than covers any putative carbon tax) and planes. But why should the UK taxpayer subsidise someone who (say) commutes from Bristol or Cambridge to London every day? (And not paying a carbon tax is a big subsidy, on top of the direct taxpayer subsidy of train travel.)

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