For 20 years, the government and its climate policy advisers have told us that behavioural change can play little part in climate mitigation. The last two weeks have shown that this is not the case: global emissions from fossil-fuel flights have dropped radically, largely by voluntary choice.
The fossil-fuel aviation business is, inevitably, now asking for subsidies to continue operations (“Coronavirus pushes aviation sector into ‘crisis zone’”, March 5).
However, fossil-fuel aviation must be phased out by 2050 so should be halved by 2030. Any subsidies should reflect this future, and so be made conditional on two actions to reinforce the recent reductions in demand. First, the relevant provisions of the 1944 Chicago Convention must be cancelled and fuel tax imposed on aviation fuel to a level at least equivalent to road tax.
Second, the full global warming potential of international aviation must be included in national total emissions reports to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Given the recent court decision to cancel the third runway at Heathrow, it only makes sense for taxpayers to subsidise fossil-fuel aviation operators which support these two conditions and which have meaningful plans for operating without fossil fuels by 2050.
Professor of Engineering and the Environment, Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge, UK
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