Press release

Forget promise of ‘guilt free’ flying; Transport Secretary urged to end low-tax flying


12 January, 2023

While Grant Shapps pledged to deliver ‘guilt free’ flying, current Transport Secretary Mark Harper is being urged to review the tax status of flights to avoid spiralling aviation emissions this decade.

A new report Reforming transport taxes: the case for change by environment think tank Green Alliance warns that the failure of the UK tax system to reflect the climate impacts of different modes of transport leaves it unfit for net zero and misses an opportunity to drive behaviour change. [1]

Despite producing eight per cent of UK greenhouse gas emissions, the aviation industry effectively receives a £7 billion tax break annually through exemption of VAT and fuel duty, according to the New Economics Foundation. [2]

The government is set to allow a 74 per cent increase in passenger numbers by 2050, with all the emphasis on the development of as yet untested zero emission aircraft and sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs). It has no plans to manage demand until it knows whether this approach will work or impose any new taxes.

The Green Alliance report argues that ensuring flying is taxed fairly is crucial to reducing emissions in the short term and encouraging the switch to more sustainable modes of transport, such as train travel. The UK government should commission an independent taskforce to evaluate the options and consider how they might be implemented.

Stuart Dossett, senior policy adviser at Green Alliance:
“It’s difficult to imagine guilt free flying in the next couple of decades without a fairer tax system. Despite the huge climate impact and the fact that the richest ten per cent of people take most of the flights, flying remains largely untaxed. The government needs to start having a conversation about how to ensure we tax different types of transport fairly.”


[1] Green Alliance, Reforming transport taxes: the case for change, January 2023

[2] New Economics Foundation, Crisis support to aviation and the right to retrain, 2020

Green Alliance
Green Alliance is a charity and independent think tank, focused on ambitious leadership for the environment. With a track record of 40 years, Green Alliance has worked with the most influential leaders from the NGO, business, academic and political communities. Our work generates new thinking and dialogue, and has increased political action and support for environmental solutions in the UK.

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