In recent years, air travel has become cheaper but the real costs are masked.

Many flights are sold with misleading headline prices which encourage people to take trips they might not normally have considered. CIWEM believes that air fares should be advertised with the final price that will be charged to the consumer, alongside the carbon emission associated with the flight. The prices paid by customers do not reflect the environmental costs due to subsidies, tax breaks and the lack of a real economic value attached to the environmental damage done by aviation’s emissions.

CIWEM believes that the Government needs to add VAT to fuel, helping make aviation pay for its environmental costs and provide significant funds to reinvest in other transport infrastructure. This could amount to £9 billion per year for the UK Treasury and help meet the UK’s target of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent by 2050. UK domestic flights and international departures are one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions and are currently responsible for around 6 percent of our total emissions.

Although one in five of the world's international flights depart or land in the UK, air travel is mostly undertaken by the wealthiest 20 percent of the population, with people on low incomes rarely flying; therefore calls for aviation to pay for its environmental costs are not necessarily regressive.

CIWEM’s Executive Director, Nick Reeves OBE, says: “Whilst aviation is important for global commerce, CIWEM believes there needs to be a wider debate in the UK about the role of aviation in achieving a low carbon global economy. There must be an end to misleading advertising of air fares that encourage air travel, replaced with headline prices that reflect the true cost to the consumer. And UK subsidies, taxes and duties need to be reassessed to help aviation pay for its environmental costs, deter short haul aviation and provide funds to reinvest into other transport infrastructure like high speed rail.”

The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management ( CIWEM ) is an independent professional body and a registered charity, advancing the science and practice of water and environmental management for a clean, green and sustainable world.

CIWEM’s newly published PPS on Aviation can be downloaded from

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