UK gave airlines 4.4m free pollution permits in 2021, study finds

Government generosity meant industry could pollute for free, and airlines were left with 900,000 excess permits they could keep or sell

The UK government gave airlines nearly a quarter of a billion pounds in free pollution permits in a single year, enough for the entire industry to dodge a carbon emissions cap and trade scheme entirely, according to research.

In 2021 the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (UK ETS), which charges polluters per tonne of carbon emitted, handed airlines 4.4m free allowances and the industry only surrendered 3.4m back. In effect, UK taxpayers covered the entire cost of aviation industry emissions, plus some to spare.

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