APD: Industry should ‘stop bleating about carbon tax’

The travel industry should stop “bleating about APD”, forget carbon offsets and accept increased taxes on flying.

That is the view of Tim Williamson, director of marketing at Responsible Travel, who dismisses well-publicised industry moves to cut single-use plastic as “tokenism”.

Williamson will address Abta’s Travel Convention in Tokyo in October when he will issue a call to action on global warming, warning: “We have 10 years to limit warming to 1.5 degrees.”

He will argue: “Companies can’t measure themselves on growth [any more], we have to change the business model. Banning single-use plastic on cruise ships that continue to burn bunker fuel or removing plastic straws from aircraft smack of tokenism.”

Instead, Williamson advocates making APD a carbon tax, raising rates enough to cut the number [of people] flying and using the money “to fund sustainable aviation”.

He insists: “Stop bleating about APD. Transform it into an eco-tax and accept it’s going to go up. Then the industry can exist for the next 20-30 years with taxation helping to develop sustainable fuels.”

Williamson says: “We’re a travel company. We’re not saying, ‘Don’t fly’. But we have to do it differently and price it at the real cost.”

He argues it’s “bonkers” that a holiday overseas can be cheaper than one in Britain, insisting: “It’s artificially cheap.”

Williamson adds: “Make your carbon count. Go where your money can have the maximum impact and be conscious of the impact your carbon will have.”

He notes: “The biggest carbon impact [of travelling] is around food and water. The biggest impact you can have is to eat local food.”

He is conscious flying to Tokyo to make this argument may appear hypocritical, pointing out: “I’ll be burning 3,000kg of carbon to get to Japan. We [at Responsible Travel] agreed to it because it’s a chance to address the industry. There aren’t any flights put on for the convention, so we’re not adding to the problem.”

Williamson won’t be offsetting the carbon from the flight, dismissing offsets as “rubbish” even though global airlines will make these central to their carbonreduction plans from next year through a scheme called Corsia.

He says: “They don’t work. Plant an oak tree in your garden and see – it won’t absorb much carbon for 20-30 years. The take-up of schemes is so low. Trees get cut down. Offsets are unrealistically cheap. You can fly guilt-free for 50p? It isn’t credible.

“They also put the emphasis on the customer when it should be on the airline. Airlines need to spend billions to develop sustainable flying or they can put a few million into offsets.”

He insists: “The industry is not acting fast enough. We’re trading in a market that is underregulated and undertaxed. If we only have 10 years, the government has to use taxation to slow demand.”

Otherwise, he warns: “We have to recognise we’ll have no planet for our grandchildren.”

The Travel Convention 2019: October 7-9, Tokyo, Japan;

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