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Last Updated: Monday, 7 August 2006, 09:11 GMT 10:11 UK
Raise air travel tax, report says
Air passengers
The report said air travel was the fastest growing source of CO2
Taxes on air travel and "gas guzzling" cars should be raised to cut greenhouse gas emissions, says a committee of MPs.

The MPs' report criticises the Department of Transport for adopting a "fatalistic" attitude towards cutting emissions caused by increased travel.

The report also calls for speed limits to be dramatically cut or rigorously enforced on motorways and trunk roads.

Transport Minister Stephen Ladyman said taxes on gas guzzlers had already been raised and could go up further.

The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee said that transport was the only sector of the UK economy where carbon emissions have risen consistently since 1990.

Unless the Department for Transport raises its game, transport will go on rising so fast that almost anything else we do is going to be really useless
Tim Yeo
Environmental audit committee

Emissions from air traffic have doubled over that time, it says.

It accuses the Department for Transport of seeming to accept that little can be done to stop the rise in CO2 emissions due to the increase in travel caused by economic growth.

The report notes that emissions from air traffic are projected to rise five-fold and suggests that the duty should be charged per flight, rather than per passenger.

They suggest that it could also be extended to cover air freight.

Tax hike

The MPs welcome the recent introduction of variable Vehicle Excise Duty, which means that the lowest-carbon cars pay no road tax, while gas-guzzling 4x4s pay an increased rate of 210.

Jaguar X type 2.0 petrol saloon auto
Porsche 911 Carrera Coupe 3.6 litre petrol
Renault Espace 2 lite petrol
BMW X5 4.8 litre petrol
Range Rover 4.4 V8 petrol auto
Source: Department for Transport, examples of cars in top new VED band

But they say the measure should be extended, highlighting proposals by the Sustainable Development Commission which suggests increasing the top band of VED to 1,800.

Under the plans, lower bands would be at 300 intervals down to the least-polluting cars which would be tax-free.

The report says the purchase of zero-tax cars fell between 2004 and 2005.

It also suggests a return to the fuel tax escalator, which increased the cost of petrol above inflation to deter road usage and caused widespread protests six years ago.

Road tax hikes

Committee chairman Tim Yeo said: "Unless the Department for Transport raises its game, transport will go on rising so fast - and particularly aircraft - that almost anything else we do is going to be really useless."

He said car pollution was relatively easy to tackle by penalising drivers of gas guzzling cars and rewarding people who use low polluting cars.

But the variable road tax introduced by the government barely amounted to the cost of filling a fuel tank, he argued.

Mr Ladyman said the government did not "rule out doing more in the future" on the variable levels of excise duty.

But he was not sure the measure would be as effective as the MPs thought because many people with "gas guzzling" cars were already prepared to pay thousands of pounds for extra fuel.

'Hitting the poor'

Mr Ladyman said cutting the speed limit was the most cost effective way of fighting pollution - the limit was best enforced for safety reasons.

And he argued that taxing people off planes would hit poorer people and stop them taking holidays abroad.

"What we need is a system which effectively taxes inefficient airlines or taxes those airlines that don't invest in the more modern aeroplanes," said Mr Ladyman.

That was why ministers wanted aviation included in a European emissions trading scheme.

Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Chris Huhne said the MPs' report backed his party's plans for using green taxes to change behaviour without raising overall taxation.

Hear what the committee of MPs has recommended

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