According to the Guardian, the BAA have been denouncing aviation taxes at Tory Party conference in favour of emissions trading.
Sounds fair enough – I think emissions trading is a good idea as well (indeed, the Lib Dems have been flying that particular flag long before it was fashionable). But I can’t help but get the feeling they are actually trying to confuse the debate rather than play a constructive part in it.
Firstly, bringing aviation into emissions trading will take years. Aviation is specifically excluded under the Kyoto protocol and numerous treaties over the years have made taxing aviation fuel illegal since the twenties(?). So, what BAA are actually saying is that we shouldn’t do anything for a decade (and that’s assuming an international agreement can be made).
Secondly, Lib Dem policy is for an Aircraft Tax to replace Air Passenger Duty. Instead of charging each passenger Â£X (which budget airlines always conveniently remove when mentioning their cheap fares), the whole aircraft is levied a charge which then will be distributed for each passenger. This gives the airline an incentive to fill the plane as much as possible and, subsequently, pass the cost onto the passenger as little as possible. It is the current system that penalises passengers.
Thirdly, under the current system, big business has been able to force the government to set as high a carbon emissions target as they can possibly get away with. I can’t help but feel that was at the back of Roger Wiltshire’s mind when he made these proposals.
What this all adds up to me is a smokescreen, an opportunity for BAA to sound green while being anything but. We could introduce an aircraft tax tomorrow; it will be many years before aviation can be brought into emissions trading and that scheme is in need of being toughened up. Aircraft taxes don’t price passengers out; the status quo passenger levy does. BAA must know all this, so the question is, why do they turn up to Tory Conferences and say the opposite?