Possible, a UK-based climate charity, has detected a disturbing pattern revealing that only a minority of priviledged, elite flyers from around the world, are responsible for an enormous chunk of the airline industry's carbon emissions. In the UK, around 70% of the flights are taken by only 15% of the population. Similarly in the US, 12% of the population have been responsible for 66% of the flights. The inequality is even more stark in countries like India where only 1% of the population takes 45% of the flights.
Possible’s Campaign Manager, Alethea Warrens said:
While the poorest communities are already suffering the impacts of a warming climate, the benefits of high-carbon lifestyles are enjoyed only by the few. A lot of people travel. But only the privileged few fly often.
So, what’s the solution?
Given the results, Possible suggests that the best solution is to introduce a frequent flyer levy. According to their proposed protocol, the first flight should have little to no tax at all, but every additional flight should be taxed proportionately. While many environmental organisations are in support of taxing frequent flyers, authorities in the airline industry have argued against it. Executive Director at the International Air Transport Association told The Guardian:
Taxes have proved to be an ineffective way to tackle emissions. The focus instead should be on practical means to mitigate the CO2 impact of aviation, while still enabling people to fly for business and family reasons.
The key to fighting the climate crisis
John Sauven, Executive Director of Greenpeace, also agrees that though imposing a tax may be a feasible option, it is not enough to create a dent on this damaging pattern of consumption. He explained to the BBC:
Taxing frequent fliers is a good idea - but we also have to do something about air miles, which reward frequent fliers for flying more frequently. This is obscene during a climate crisis - and it should be stopped.
Director of Possible, Leo Murray highlighted that air travel releases more emissions in one hour, than any other activity in the world. Hence, addressing, and fixing this problem, could be vital in fighting the battle against climate change.