Group expresses optimism at new Climate Bill from Scottish Government to reduce effects of pollution
THE climate and environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth Scotland (FoES) has welcomed the sections of the Scottish Government's programme for government that focus on tackling air pollution and climate change.
However, it expressed reservations about the plans by the government to halve and, eventually, abolish Air Passenger Duty (APD), which is the right to tax airliners for the transportation of passengers on their carriers.
The charity outlined that, although progress has been made in Scotland in tackling pollution and climate obligations, the reduction of APD could effectively begin reversing that process.
"It is disappointing that the government plan to halve and eventually abolish Air Passenger Duty. Their own figures show that reducing APD would increase climate change emissions, and all the other parties in the parliament are opposed to reducing it." Richard Dixon
Reacting to the publication of the programme for government, Dr Richard Dixon, director of FoES, said: "It is quite right that the new Climate Bill is one of the early priorities of this government. Nicola Sturgeon’s strong words on the need for action on climate change are very welcome.
"The new bill needs to increase Scotland’s ambition in light of the Paris climate agreement, set new targets for 2020 and beyond, and pave the way for every sector of the economy to deliver carbon savings.
"It is great news that the SNP have reaffirmed their manifesto commitment to deliver the first Low Emission Zone by 2018. This is a vital tool in reducing the air pollution death toll in our cities and there are 200 of these zones across Europe. We expect there will be tough competition between Scotland’s cities get the first Low Emission Zone.
"It is disappointing that the government plan to halve and eventually abolish Air Passenger Duty. Their own figures show that reducing APD would increase climate change emissions, and all the other parties in the Parliament are opposed to reducing it."
"Cutting Air Passenger Duty should not be a priority given its negative environmental and social impact." Patrick Harvie
The power to raise or reduce Air Passenger Duty was recommended as a devolved power by the Smith Commission in 2014 after the referendum on independence.
In its report, the Smith Commission recommended that "the power to charge tax on air passengers leaving Scottish airports will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Government will be free to make its own arrangements with regard to the design and collection of any replacement tax, including consideration of the environmental impact."
Since then, the Scottish Government has led consultations for business, charities, campaigners and the public on August of last year and March and April of this year.
On Tuesday it released its programme for government, covered by CommonSpace, which along with the draft budget for 2016 to 2017 confirmed the Scottish Government's wish to reduce APD in Scotland by 50 per cent. However, the reduction will only start when a Scottish replacement will be introduced between April 2018 and 2021.
The government, for its part, has consistently said that reduction of APD is important for its economic strategy for Scotland and for forging a greater number of international connections for growth.
A report by Common Weal, written and researched by Dr Craig Dalzell, found that the aviation industry’s analysis on which the Scottish Government had based much of its calculation had not accounted for the impact of a fall in domestic tourism from a cut in the APD.
The report, which focused on the case made by the airport lobby groups, saw that the case for a 50 per cent cut in Air Passenger Duty omitted key facts and, in reality, the tax cut could damage the Scottish economy while reducing funding for public services.
'APD Cut: A Flighty Economic Case' published by Common Weal and authored by Dr Craig Dalzell can be accessed in full here.
The Greens responded to the programme for government with Patrick Harvie, co-convenor, who said: "Cutting Air Passenger Duty should not be a priority given its negative environmental and social impact.
"Investment in energy efficient housing, which could slash fuel poverty and tackle climate emissions, must be dramatically increased given the slow progress to date."
Picture courtesy of Paisley Scotland
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