OffsetMyFlight - A modest proposal for a mandatory air travel carbon tax in ticket prices

2 minute read

Without question, one of the worst things for the environment is air travel.

Air travel is the world’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, which cause climate change. Globally the world’s 16,000 commercial jet aircraft generate more than 700 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2), the world’s major greenhouse gas, per year. Indeed aviation generates nearly as much CO2 annually as that from all human activities in Africa. One person flying a return trip between London and New York generates between 1.5 and 2 tonnes of CO2.

The huge increase in aircraft pollution is largely due to the rapid growth in air traffic which has been expanding at nearly two and half times average economic growth rates since 1960. It is expected the number of people flying will virtually double over the next 15 years. This means increasing airport capacity, more flights, more pollution and increasingly crowded airspace. from Airport Watch

Despite my attempts to live a low footprint lifestyle, my travel jonezing and unavoidable need to travel for business across oceans and even just domestically with Canada being the second largest landmass in a timely manner (train would take 4 days and appears to be scheduled on the fortnight not daily) make it impossible to avoid here in Canada (though definitely not in Europe).

Personally, I’ve started donating to carbon offset programs whenever I fly though flying out here on the western edge of civilization has been a lot less frequent than in other years. Carbon offset is cheap, makes me feel a whole lot better about flying and, well… let’s face it, should be included in the price of tickets if we want to count the true economic and ecological costs of flying.

So, why not just do it ? Hell, we already pay a fortune for air travel anyway, so why not just add a nominal carbon tax on flights which would be donated directly to carbon offset programs ? Judging from the likes of calculators like Carbon Care the price is extremely modest (£16/$32 CDN for a return flight between Vancouver and London for example).

If not legislatively, perhaps even getting companies to give people the option to voluntarily pay for it ? For a range of websites, it would be just as easy as that stupid “do you want added insurance ?” question.

Sounds like a campaign to me… anyone? (UnCO2Air maybe?)

green politics econ