Air travel levy to adapt climate change: IIED

Air travel levy to adapt climate change: IIED

Mumbai: The UK-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) has suggested an air travel levy could provide a multi-billion dollar boost to countries and communities that need to adapt to climate change now.

The authors of the paper “Fairer flying: an international air travel levy for adaptation" of IIED Muyeye Chambwera and Benito Muller, argue that an air travel levy on international air passengers could contribute significantly to existing adaptation funding without burdening national budgets.

“A small per-trip payment by passengers could contribute $8 billion to $10 billion a year towards adaptation," they said.

Similar schemes in France and elsewhere show that this kind of ethical solidarity and polluter pays approach would be simple to implement in practical and institutional terms.

“Given that wealthier people travel most by air while the poor bear the brunt of the impacts, redressing the balance is key, both ethically and practically," they said.

As aviation grows, so does its impact on climate change. As planes release carbon dioxide and other warming gases such as water vapour at high altitude, the impact of aviation emissions is amplified.

Taking into account these multiplier effects, aviation will contribute about 5% of the total warming effect by 2050.

Known as the International Air Travel Adaptation Levy (IATAL), this proposal is a distinct win-win solution. The IATAL concept demonstrates two key principles: solidarity and polluter pays.

“It is an innovative way for relatively wealthy international air passengers to show their solidarity with the poorest, most vulnerable countries and communities and compensate those countries and communities for the climate impacts they generate through international air travel," they added.

The funding to help poor countries and communities adapt to climate impacts does not match projected needs.

Oxfam has estimated that at least $50 billion will be needed to support adaptation in developing countries each year.

This figure will be even higher if greenhouse gas emissions are not cut soon. In any case, it is many billions over what’s actually available.

The last decade has seen air travel grow by 45%. In the European Union, aviation emissions of greenhouse gases rose by an average 4.3% a year from 1990 to 2003. Greenhouse gas emissions from all aviation now account for about 1.6% of the global total.

Meanwhile, the International Air Transport Association (ATA) forecasts that international passenger demand is expected to rise from 760 million in 2006 to 980 million in 2011 and overall demand will grow by 620 million to 2.75 billion passengers by that year.

This forecast growth and the limited options to drastically cut emissions indicate that aviation emissions will increase in absolute terms. Greenhouse gas emissions from aviation are excluded from the Kyoto Protocol, as the international nature of aviation and the complexity and rules of the industry make the choice of appropriate carbon tax instruments difficult.