British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh has sparked controversy by demanding that all airline passengers pay more for their flights to compensate for their environmental impact.
The airline becomes the first in the world to propose that all airline passengers pay the additional sum, which would be used to combat tropical deforestation and help the developing world adapt to climate change. It proposes that the tax would raise in the order of £3bn annually.BA is teaming up with Air France, Cathay Pacific, Qatar Airways and Virgin Atlantic to call for aviation emissions to be included in a global deal on climate change scheduled to be agreed at the United Nations conference in Copenhagen this December.
The consortium is proposing that the conference should set an emission reduction target for international flights, which were excluded from the Kyoto climate change agreement.
However Walsh’s measure extend even further than the others by stating that passengers should pay more for their flights to compensate for their environmental impact.
In an interview with The Times, he said airlines should be forced to buy permits to cover their carbon emissions in a global emissions trading scheme.
“It would increase [airline] costs. It has to increase fares. For the industry to play its part the people who benefit from that industry - the passengers - are going to have to pay.
“Airlines can’t escape the responsibility of addressing the impact that aviation has on the environment. We accept that our industry has got to improve.”
Mr Walsh said the carbon tax would vary according to the length of the flight and the efficiency of the aircraft.
He said: “The critical thing is to cap overall carbon dioxide and then provide financial incentives to industries that have other fuel sources and technologies to reduce their CO2 output.”
The levy would be expected to promote investment in low-carbon technology in industries which would find it easier to use alternatives to fossil fuels. Airlines would buy unused permits from these industries.
The move by BA, which comfortably beat targets set by the IATA, is being cheered by environmental groups.
The number of air passengers globally will more than double to 6bn by 2026, up from 2.5bn in 2007, according to report published yesterday by the consultancy Oxford Economics.