This article was co-authored by Philippa Tizard, Trainee Solicitor, London.
Against a backdrop of countries grappling with the impacts of climate change, many individuals are acutely aware of the impact of their individual carbon footprint, especially when it comes to travel.
The travel and tourism sector is directly impacted by a multiplicity of pressures caused by climate change, and the need to adopt new measures to reduce carbon emissions is more pressing than ever.
In this article, we will consider the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA), the UK’s aviation regulator, recently launched Call for Evidence in relation to consumer environmental information, and the steps those in the travel sector should be taking in advance of the upcoming changes.
Context to the Call for Evidence
Following the launch of the UK Government’s Jet Zero consultation in July 2021, a year later the government published its Jet Zero Strategy, which aims is to achieve net-zero carbon emissions from the aviation sector by 2050. This strategy includes (but is not limited to):
- Investing in research and development of electric and hybrid aircraft.
- Implementing measures to improve air traffic management.
- Reducing emissions from aircraft operations.
The ultimate goal is to reduce the environmental impact of aviation while also supporting the growth of the UK aviation industry, and also trying to work with international partners to reduce emissions worldwide. Part of the strategy is to ensure consumers become better informed in order to make reasoned decisions about their own travel.
On 30 May 2022, the CAA published its Environmental Sustainability Strategy, setting out how it will work with the aviation system, both domestically and internationally, to address environmental performance in aviation. The strategy identifies how the CAA will prioritise sustainability in its work, across the following areas:
- “Enabling development of Jet Zero technology;
- Co-leading the modernisation of airspace;
- Reporting on the sustainability performance of industry, including noise, and providing information to consumers on the environmental impact of aviation;
- Advising and supporting the UK government on domestic and international policy;
- Reducing the impact of our corporate activities and operations;
- Assessing local environmental impacts in relevant regulatory activity and monitoring how industry is adapting to climate change; and
- Taking into account the environment in regulation and oversight”.
The CAA’s Call for Evidence – key objectives
The CAA has a leading role to play in the provision of environmental information to aviation consumers, and has therefore produced a Call for Evidence in order to better their understanding on what information should be provided to consumers when they are looking for, and booking, flights. The document follows consumer research conducted by the CAA in 2021.
The Call for Evidence, which closes on 7 April 2023, specifically seeks answers on the presentation, standardisation and availability of consumer environmental information, with a hope that they can work towards a standard methodology (and potentially a presentation format too) for airlines and other publishers of this information so that it is meaningful. In terms of next steps, following the closing date, a set of proposals will be drawn up and a consultation will launch later this year.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) expects traveller numbers to reach four billion in 2024, exceeding the overall number in 2019. Although the appetite for travel is enormously encouraging for the travel sector, those operating in the travel industry must stay abreast of the real issues they face. By supplying consumers with the environmental information they need to make more sustainable travel choices, the industry can work towards reducing its carbon footprint and meeting the goals of the UK Government’s Jet Zero Strategy.
The results of this Call for Evidence will provide a much needed indication on how best to present this information. In the meantime, travel operators should consider to what degree they display, or make this information available to their consumers going forwards as the world continues to navigate a new age of climate responsibility.