By Bruce Parry

Business aviation sustainability: Tax vs Carbon Offset

In this unprecedented global downturn, there are calls from some quarters to ensure that as part of the recovery and return to normal operations process, aircraft operators do so, whether they have received assistance or not, with an improved environmental profile.

With these unilateral discussions, the big picture benefits of aviation are left out of the conversation, such as to society in general, connecting people, regions, bringing prosperity, cargo, humanitarian activities, repatriation, the list goes on. In most cases, apart from passengers, Business aviation has been able to contribute in many positive ways during the pandemic and although similarly affected as commercial aviation, has shown some resilience.

Business aviation has had its own commitment on climate change since 2009, where it calls for market-based measures (MBMs), including offsets, that would supplement improvements in technology, that includes sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), operations and infrastructure that in the natural cycle of things take time to introduce, where MBMs are more immediate and have tangible societal benefits.

The decarbonisation of aviation has always been a very topical subject. Prior to the pandemic, there was chatter from individual member states on the prospect of bilateral taxation of aviation. In addition, the Brussels-based NGO Transport & Environment have called for tax on kerosene. However, The Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation states that for international flights shall be exempt from national or local duties and charges. This also applies to Business aviation flights. My colleague Vanessa Rullier recently addressed this question further within the EBAA views on the recent review of the EU Council Directive 2003/96/EC.

Let’s abandon for a moment the idea completely of taxation on aviation and first of all recognise that there are already statutory instruments/MBMs already in place that include the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU-ETS), and the about to be introduced International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) amongst others. In the case of the EU-ETS, the revenues collected contribute directly to the EU Innovation Fund, which is expected to grow to €10 billion by 2030 and will support innovation in energy, energy storage, renewables and carbon capture and storage. Operators impacted by these schemes are already contributing to widespread environmental improvements.

Consider for a moment supplementing these statutory mechanisms through a specific programme of voluntary offsetting, instead of taxation. This could be supported with education to demystify the offset process for operators, which would of course use verified emission units, affording the Business aviation community to improve its business model by including the notion of offsetting its emissions outputs across its business. This would show that it can add to an already responsible sector, contributing to green funding that offsets provide.

This is not a request as a licence to pollute for Business aviation, but a call to “do good” and be a valuable and integral part of the “basket of measures” of overall environmental improvements already in place across our sector, through and beyond the recovery process. This will directly invest in the local infrastructure, jobs, prosperity, innovation, communities, connectivity, education and wellbeing of the areas of the world that business aviation operates in, who would truly benefit from this investment as well as contributing to lowering its emissions, rather than any taxation that may not necessarily be invested in improving environmental infrastructure.

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