Why do we subsidise air travel for the wealthy?

emissions from airplanes

It’s an inconvenient truth that most of us choose to forget; it is our own behaviour that is responsible for carbon emissions and the resulting change in our climate.

After all, while we might be aware that driving a car and having children are both significant sources of pollution, we consider both to be a right.  In the absence of a tax on carbon that sees environmental damage accounted for, the decision on how considerately to live rests with the individual. Without doubt the single most environmentally damaging habit of ours that remains unchecked is air travel. It’s a problem compounded by the fact that aviation is subsidised. And it’s a situation that’s getting worse.

air travel subsidy

The aviation sector accounted for 1.5 per cent of Europe’s emissions in 1990, but had grown to 4.5 per cent by 2015. Its total emissions grew 8 per cent in 2016 alone. And it’s compounded by the fact that for all the talk of efficiency gains and operational improvements, the policy measures to rein in the sector’s incredible growth in emissions are not in place.

The Paris agreement commits developed countries to raise at least US$100 billion a year to finance developing countries’ transition to clean growth.

According to European environmental lobby group T&E, that target will be even harder to reach thanks to Trump, and EU member states should be looking at what is the most effective and fairest way to raise the needed cash. On their website, T&E illustrates how a revised emissions trading scheme could both reduce emissions and help raise this much-needed capital.

Alternative to long haul flights

Long haul flights account for 750 million tons of CO2 emitted into our atmosphere each year and there is currently no practical alternative for those wanting to minimise their contribution towards climate change.

VoyageVert wants to offer travel by fast sailing ships as stepping stones between continents so that travellers do not have to fly or use fossil-fuel powered vessels. The team aims to have a trans-Atlantic passenger service in operation by 2020. Perhaps the ubiquitous fly/drive holiday will face competition from a sustainable alternative. Sail/cycle trip anyone?

Ethical insurance

The ETA has been voted to be an ethical company in Britain for the third year running by the Good Shopping Guide.

Beating household-name insurance companies such as John Lewis and the Co-op, the ETA earned an ethical company index score of 89.

The ETA was established in 1990 as an ethical provider of green, reliable travel services. Twenty six years on, we continue to offer cycle insurance, travel insurance and breakdown cover while putting concern for the environment at the heart of all we do.


  1. Jim Clark


    Delays, lost luggage, diversions, poor service, over booking, getting beaten up by security.
    The question should be why fly at all? People wouldn’t put up with this if they had any brains, but of cause most don’t, otherwise they would heed all the skin cancer notices instead of their two weeks annual in Sunny Spain.
    By the way as stated previously I have never flown.

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