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Climate study: Airline frequent flyer programs are 'high-polluting' luxuries

By
Sommer Brokaw
Frequent flier programs only encourage travelers to take flights and increase demand, which facilitates more carbon emissions, the study said. File Photo by Brian Kersey/UPI
Frequent flier programs only encourage travelers to take flights and increase demand, which facilitates more carbon emissions, the study said. File Photo by Brian Kersey/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 14 (UPI) -- British environmental experts say in a new climate change study the frequent flyer mileage programs offered by virtually all carriers worldwide should be banned because they encourage greater carbon emissions.

The British Committee on Climate Change commissioned Imperial College London to conduct the study, to evaluate lifestyle impacts on the climate. The analysis, titled "Behavior Change, Public Engagement and Net Zero," said frequent flyer programs encourage more air travel and, by extension, more pollution. It also recommends an "escalating" tax for the use of air miles. The tax would be used to invest in cleaner aviation technologies.

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The study, issued last week, said its recommendations are designed to restrict 15 percent of wealthy British flyers who are responsible for 70 percent of the nation's flights.

"Frequent flyers engage in additional flights to maintain their privileged traveler status," the report said. "Flying is a uniquely high-impact activity and is the quickest and cheapest way for a consumer to increase their carbon footprint."

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A frequent flier tax, the report said, would "encourage shifting from long-haul to short-haul destinations" and spare most travelers added costs.

"There is a finite budget of carbon emissions allowable if global warming is to be held below 1.5 degrees (Celsius) so this highly uneven distribution of emissions due to flying raises equity concerns," the study states. "The greatest beneficiaries of aviation's generous tax treatment in the U.K. are therefore those who pollute most and could most easily afford to pay more.

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"The norm of unlimited flying being acceptable needs to be challenged and, as a very highly-polluting luxury, it is suitable to taxation."

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The college made several recommendations to help the British government achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, including regulations to "ban frequent flyer reward schemes that stimulate demand."

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