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Breaking link between economic growth and air traffic

2 July 2003

UK must pave the way

The UK should act now and take the lead in addressing the environmental and social impacts of aviation, says the Sustainable Development Commission.

In a paper published today, the Commission has advocated a basket of targeted measures, aimed at applying sustainable development principles to aviation policy and breaking the link between economic growth and pollution from increased air travel.

The Commission's Chairman, Jonathon Porritt, said:

'Over the past 10 years, air traffic has grown by 5% per annum, and continues to increase rapidly. Whilst there are significant economic and social benefits to this, there are also major costs. Congestion, noise and air pollution around some airports remains a significant problem, and emissions from aircraft are a major contributor to climate change. These can no longer be ignored, and the Government must act now to decouple economic growth from increased air travel and associated pollution.

'The Government's consultation paper on economic instruments is a good starting point. But we now need to see Ministers committing to real action, in the Air Transport White Paper later this year. A tax on aviation fuel is one possibility for bringing home to the aviation industry and its customers the pollution costs they impose on the rest of society.

But we're also talking about a whole host of targeted measures, such as trading schemes and information disclosure, that could incentivise airlines to tackle climate change and put the onus on airports to address local air quality and noise more purposefully."

'The UK has an opportunity to take a strong lead here; effective instruments and regulation in this country can pave the way for EU-wide measures and, eventually, a global scheme to tackle the adverse impacts of air traffic.'

Notes to editors:

1. Sustainable development provides a framework for redirecting our economies to enable everyone to meet their basic needs and improve their quality of life while ensuring that the natural resources upon which they depend are maintained and enhanced, both for their benefit and for that of future generations.

2. The Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) is the Government's independent sustainable development advisor, reporting to Tony Blair and the devolved administration leaders. For more information visit http://www.sd-commission.org.uk. The SDC's remit is to advocate sustainable development across all sectors in the UK, review progress towards sustainability, and build consensus on the actions needed for further progress. The SDC is currently working in the areas of climate change and energy policy, economic growth, health, food and agriculture, and regeneration.

The SDC's six principles for sustainable development are:

- Putting sustainable development at the centre
- Valuing nature
- Fair shares
- Polluter pays
- Good governance
- Adopting a precautionary approach.

3. The SDC submitted its views to the Government review of air transport policy and subsequent consultation on aviation policy - see Aviation and sustainable development (April 2001) and Air transport and sustainable development - a submission from the SDC.

4. The joint HM Treasury and Department for Transport consultation paper on Aviation and the Environment: Using Economic Instruments is available here.

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