The Royal Commission on Pollution: Rapid growth of air traffic challenged

The anomoly in which airlines pay no tax on aviation fuel should end, the commission says. The Government should negotiate with the European Union member states and possibly others to introduce an environmental levy on the kerosene used by jets.

The inexorable growth in international air transport, like the rise in road traffic, was challenged by the commission.

Acceptance that projected demand for additional air services and airport facilities must be met was said to be incompatible with the aim of sustainable development.

Air travel consumes a sixth of the energy used by the transport sector and is the most rapidly growing mode.

The number of passengers on international flights to and from United Kingdom airports has more than doubled in the past 10 years.

Although the commission accepted that it was difficult to assess environmental damage caused by aircraft emissions, it concluded that there were risks to the upper atmosphere.

'There is a powerful case on environmental grounds for regulatory action to avert what could be irreversible damage to the earth's atmosphere from the growth of air transport, or at least serious damage of a long-term nature,' it reports.

The commission recommends that international regulations are extended to cover aircraft emissions at all phases of flight, not just landing and take-off, that Britain supports more stringent noise certification standards and that the Government collaborates in research into the possible effects of supersonic aircraft on the stratosphere.

The commission says any deregulation of the European air market should not follow the American pattern which resulted in the use of smaller aircraft, lower load factors and an increase in emissions per passenger-kilometre. It recommends that all proposals for deregulation are accompanied by a full environmental assessment.