Air passengers could be charged a carbon tax on all UK flights under government plans to combat greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
According to the Times, ministers are considering measures that could require airlines to automatically include carbon offsetting charges at the point of sale.
The Department for Transport says it is looking at an ‘opt-out’ system for the carbon tax rather than ‘opt-in’ to increase uptake, meaning passengers would have to pay the charge unless they choose not to during the booking process.
A similar system is also being considered for trains, buses and ferries.
Under the plans, a flight between London and New York could increase by about £30, but the Times reports this could drop to half that if travelling with the most fuel-efficient airlines. A flight between London and Madrid could go up by £5.
The government revealed the plans as part of its proposed reforms to raise public awareness of carbon emissions from different modes of transport while increasing payments to offset gasses.
The measures could force airlines to inform passengers about the carbon emissions associated with their journey when they book their tickets.
France has recently announced it will impose a similar ‘eco-tax’ on all outbound flights from 2020, with the fee potentially adding up to €18 for a long-haul business-class flight. IATA said it was disappointed at the French government’s decision, adding that the tax would not help the country’s competitiveness in the European market.
The UK government has committed to cut the country’s emissions to almost zero by 2050 amid pressure to tackle climate change.
According to research, transport accounted for around a third of Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions last year.
Some airlines operating in the country offer offsetting schemes, such as Virgin Atlantic and Ryanair, but take-up among passengers has been low.
It has been suggested in the past that carriers in the EU should be charged a tax on fuel in an effort to curb emissions, but Airlines for Europe (A4E) slammed the proposal after saying a leaked report it was based on was flawed. The association believes the answer to cutting CO2 levels in aviation lies in regulation rather than taxation.
Air passengers in the UK already pay the highest rate of Air Passenger Duty (APD) in the EU – something the travel industry has said damages Britain's competitiveness in the face of Brexit.