UK airlines: not paying for pollution

(Transport and Environment, 16 Feb 2023) Why is the Government letting airlines off the hook?

The polluter pays principle is a long-established concept that has recently been reaffirmed by the UK Government, via its environmental principles policy statement. Carbon pricing is also a core component of the Jet Zero Strategy, but – unlike all road transport – no fuel duty is applied to jet fuel and most emissions fall outside the current scope of the UK and EU emissions trading schemes (ETS). It is completely baffling that the Government fails to charge airlines for a large proportion of the greenhouse gases they emit. 

T&E has analysed the 2021 emissions from UK registered commercial airlines, and found that this Government failure favours some airlines more than others.As can be seen below, the UK and EU ETS’ cover varying levels of emissions from airlines.

Both Virgin Atlantic and British Airways do not have to pay anything for the vast majority of the environmental damage they cause: in Virgin Atlantic’s case it gets away with not paying anything for 99% of the emissions it produces. British Airways does not pay for 88% of its emissions. Conversely, easyJet does not pay for 7% of emissions, whilst Jet2 does not pay for 6%.

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Transport and Environment, 16 Feb 2023: UK airlines: not paying for pollution