Just transitions and air travel: air travel inequality and distributional impacts of flight taxes

Large demand reductions need to be realised in the transport sector for the UK to meet its climate targets. Scholars and policy makers increasingly acknowledge that demand reduction needs to be designed in a socially fair way that focuses responsibility on those who have contributed more to climate change and have more capacity to bear cost, while ensuring that the needs of poorer people in society are met. In this presentation I ask what some of the implications of a just transitions perspective could be for tackling air travel emissions. Based on survey data analysis, I will examine the inequality of air travel and present results from modelling distributional impacts of taxes on air travel in the UK. Findings show that richer, more educated, younger people, and those in urban areas are significantly more likely to fly, fly more often, and hence to have higher flight emissions than their counterparts. As a result, carbon taxes on air travel have progressive distributional impacts which means that they burden richer people more than poorer people relative to income. However, some people, especially recent migrants, are likely to be more affected by flight taxes too. I will end by discussing policy implications and justice implications of these findings.