A new levy on the aviation industry should be introduced to pay for the planting of new trees in the UK, according to a new report from the Committee on Climate Change.
The committee gives independent advice to the government on how to build a low-carbon economy and prepare for climate change, including looking at ways land use needs to be transformed.
In its new report, Land use: Policies for a Net Zero UK, the committee recommends that annual tree planting in the UK should rise to between 90 and 120 million trees to help meet the government’s commitment to become a “net zero” carbon emission country by 2020.
“This should be funded by a levy on greenhouse gas-emitting industries like aviation, but must not offset emissions reductions needed to meet net zero in other parts of the economy,” said the report.
Justin Francis, chief executive of Responsible Travel, called the recommendation a “breath of fresh air where aviation is concerned”.
“I welcome the recommendation that airlines could fund vast tree planting schemes across the country via a levy,” he added. “This is consistent with the important ‘polluter pays’ principle which has been heavily overlooked by this industry until now.
“Urgent action is needed to tackle aviation’s soaring emissions. The fact that aviation fuel is untaxed has helped keep prices artificially low and this has to end.
“We’ve been calling for a reform to Air Passenger Duty to increase the cost of flying and manage demand, thereby reducing overall emissions from the industry.”
Airlines UK, which represents UK-based carriers, said in a statement: “We support the concept of UK nature-based projects as long as they meet key principles of offsetting and robust sustainability criteria.
“The United Nations global carbon offset scheme, Corsia, will enable the industry to meet its target of carbon neutral growth from 2020 and generate over $40 billion in climate funding between 2021 and 2035, and we fully hope that UK based projects such as these will be eligible for this global scheme.”