Cutting passenger duty incompatible with new pledge to cut carbon emissions to net zero by 2045
— The Scottish government has dropped controversial plans to cut its taxes on aviation after Nicola Sturgeon declared last week the world faces a climate emergency.
Roseanna Cunningham, the Scottish environment secretary, said cutting air passenger duty would be incompatible with its new pledge to cut Scotland’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2045.
The Scottish government faced intense cross-party pressure to keep the levy in place after Sturgeon accepted recommendations from the UK committee on climate change (CCC) last week that Scotland should adopt a 2045 target date.
Chris Stark, chief executive of the CCC, told the Guardian cutting the levy would undermine efforts to combat climate change by making it harder for Scotland to reduce its overall emissions.
Keeping the tax in place “would help immensely with the emissions challenge there is in Scotland” he said.
The CCC recommended the UK government should aim for a UK-wide net zero target of 2050, five years later than Scotland. The CCC believes Scotland has far greater scope to sequestrate its CO2 emissions by planting forests and to capture and store CO2 in disused North Sea oil fields.
Critics of the proposed aviation tax cut, which the Scottish National party had pledged to introduce in successive elections, said reducing the levy by 50% would increase CO2 emissions from aviation in Scotland by at least 60,000 tonnes and cut tax income by about £150m.
That figure did not account for the sharp increase in flying which Scotland’s airports hoped that would lead to; Scotland’s enterprise agencies also provide subsidies to airlines such as Ryanair, and the government owns Prestwick airport, which is heavily indebted, and small airports in the Highlands and islands.
The Scottish government has faced a long delay implementing the policy after running into unforeseen problems with EU rules on state aid but Ryanair and BA, and Edinburgh and Glasgow airports, had pressed the Scottish government to cut the levy.
Cunningham announced the switch before a Scottish Labour party-sponsored debate on retaining air passenger duty in Holyrood tomorrow. She said the Scottish government’s change of stance highlighted the need for all parties to support radical measures to reduce CO2 emissions, including a tax on parking spaces at workplaces which Labour opposes.
Colin Smyth, Scottish Labour’s transport spokesman, said this policy should have been reversed years ago. Patrick Harvie, the co-convenor of the Scottish Green party, said: “Greens have led the case against this ill thought out tax giveaway from the moment it was first proposed, so we very much welcome the Scottish government’s huge U-turn.” The Greens will be pressing for an even tougher net zero target date of 2040, tabling amendments to the new climate bill going through Holyrood.
Gordon Dewar, the chief executive of Edinburgh airport, was furious about the decision, accusing Scottish ministers of hypocrisy for continuing to support Prestwick airport, which owes the taxpayer more than £40m. He said airlines were already cutting their emissions by supporting carbon offsetting.
“We’ve gone from personal commitments to all-out cancellation in the space of just two weeks, which shows just how reactionary this decision is. It does not show leadership and means airports and airlines have been led down a path of failed promises for three years by this Scottish government,” Dewar said.
by Severin Carrell | The Guardian