Sunak’s cut to domestic flight tax won’t accelerate low carbon transition

Just days before the UK hosts perhaps the most important climate summit in history, Rishi Sunak has just made it cheaper to fly there.

Not only that, it was 20 minutes into his budget speech before he mentioned the country’s net zero ambitions.

In emissions terms, the chancellor’s cut to air passenger duty on domestic flights may be partly cancelled out by the £5.7 billion he announced for regional public transport (much of which isn’t new money) and the rise in air passenger duty on long-haul flights.

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Image: Rishi Sunak announced changes to domestic air and rail travel

But giving travellers high-carbon options won’t accelerate the low carbon transition and may not raise much revenue to help pay for it.


After recent government strategies on net zero, low carbon heating and hydrogen, few were expecting big tranches of cash to go towards net zero in this spending review.

However, the Green Alliance think tank estimates an extra £21bn needs to be spent each year on net zero to make it credible and none appears to have been promised today. Nor too were hoped-for cuts in VAT for improving home efficiency.

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On the other hand, scientists will be delighted to see a big slice of Mr Sunak’s public spending splurge coming their way.

Rishi Sunak unveils tax cuts and benefits boost as he warns of ‘challenging’ months ahead

The increase in research and development (R&D) investment, R&D tax relief and an improved visa system is significant – and necessary.

Brexit led to a potentially huge research funding gap and a worrying brain drain of international scientists and engineers.

Today’s investment honours the Conservatives’ manifesto commitment on R&D.