Wednesday, April 05, 2006

British Airline Executive Argue for Green Taxes

From the Guardian via Green Diary, an argument that we wouldn't expect to see from the CEO of an airport company: raise the taxes on our tickets. BAA's Mike Clasper's op-ed serves mainly to refute George Monbiot's criticism of air travel from a few weeks ago; after that, though, he clearly shows that he's not just another chief executive looking to avoid any responsibility for the environmental impact of his industry. Rather, he's got an idea on how to externalize the environmental costs of air travel:
What is the right action? It is to put a price on all carbon emissions and to ensure that there's a well functioning global market in order that we can trade our way to a lower total. This approach will produce the maximum environmental benefit for any given economic cost. By pricing carbon, the cost of flying - along with the cost of many other carbon-emitting activities - will rise.

The environmental cost will be priced into our decisions. We will be able to choose between dirty power stations, gas-guzzling cars or flying.
On one level, Clasper's argument is purely pragmatic: he believes that air travel will win out if the British government and the EU tax all carbon emissions. Still, he's arguing for a concept that could have major environmental impact -- many of us have read the arguments for green taxes in The Ecology of Commerce and Natural Capitalism, and, in theory, they seem like a near-ideal way to use markets to address environmental degradation. Certainly, there are details to consider, including the heavier burden such taxes place on those at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder, but it's awfully refreshing to see a major player in the transportation industry arguing for this solution. Now, if we could only get the automakers and oil barons to join in...

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