Ministers urged to raise air travel taxes to curb demand

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Ministers should act now to curb demand for low-cost flights to stop Britons becoming addicted to highly polluting cheap air travel, researchers warn today.

A report by a team from Oxford University called on the Government to consider raising taxes on aviation, warning that urgent action was needed to halt rapid expansion of the industry, which threatens to produce vastly more greenhouse gases by the middle of the century.

The report, commissioned by the government-funded UK Energy Research Centre, called for a radical shift in policy to cut the overall level of air travel. Yesterday The Independent revealed that ministers and officials had clocked up 6.5 million air miles on official business abroad in the last financial year, the equivalent of 14 return trips to the moon.

Today's report, produced by the Oxford University Environmental Change Institute, warned that the Government's support for airport expansion was at odds with ministers' aim of cutting CO2 emissions. It said emissions from aviation could rise by up to 10 times by 2050 if demand for cheap air travel was allowed to increase unchecked.

The report said there was growing public support for increasing tax on aviation. It said the Government should "pursue vigorously" European agreements on increasing aviation fuel tax or air flight emissions charges. The researchers also found "compelling arguments" for an increase air passenger duty and called on ministers to impose VAT on domestic air tickets. They warned: "If action is postponed now, tackling air dependence in future is likely to become more difficult. As a society we will enter an era in which frequent [flying] is the norm." They warned that Britain would not be able to meet its targets for reducing climate change without action to "retrain" demand.

Sally Cairns, one of the authors,added: "Raising air passenger duty would help to counter reductions in fares, which are estimated to have been responsible for at least 40 per cent of recent aviation growth."

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