Aviation fuel is untaxed and the industry does not have to pay to maintain the rails or roads as other forms of transport do. The aviation industry is our sector’s Achilles’ heel, flying is not the issue the dirty fuel is. Airlines do not pay tax on the fuel they burn and there are not penalties for the polluting gasses they emit.
The polluter pays principle, when applied, reduces pollution. The greater the cost, and the certainty of having to pay it, the greater the reduction in pollution. Setting aside the dubious value of carbon offsetting, efforts to encourage passengers to buy offsets have been unsuccessful and in any case they are too cheap to make much difference. The consumer has little choice, they cannot effectively choose to fly and not to pollute. The aviation industry has failed to adopt new technology and to rapidly reduce and then eliminate emissions. Government regulation secured rapid change in the car industry – similar pressure from taxation and regulation will be required to secure change in the aviation industry.
On 21st September Airbus revealed three concepts for new ZEROe zero-emission aircraft. There is little detail beyond a commitment to have the first in the sky by 2035. As Guillaume Faury, Airbus CEO has reminded us “The transition to hydrogen, as the primary power source for these concept planes, will require decisive action from the entire aviation ecosystem. Together with the support from government and industrial partners, we can rise up to this challenge to scale-up renewable energy and hydrogen for the sustainable future of the aviation industry.”
At Virtual WTM we have a panel discussing Decarbonising Aviation (Wednesday 11th November 15:30 – 16:30) addressing some critical questions about the development and adoption of zero pollution aviation. How should the travel and tourism sector respond if aviation, a major supplier, fails to adopt clean technology fast enough, presenting a significant risk to our industry in general and the many destinations dependent upon it? How can we best encourage the aviation industry, manufacturers, airports and airlines to make rapid change?
It will not be enough to be carbon neutral or to achieve net-zero by 2050. We are emitting greenhouse gases into our atmosphere faster than nature can remove them, at this rate we can expect to have to live with average temperature of +2-3°C and that will be very painful. The aviation sector must be pressed by travel and tourism to reduce the total amount of carbon pollution it emits, it will not be enough to reduce emission per passenger kilometre.