Here’s a blog I wrote for the Guardian’s Travel website yesterday. To add a comment, click on this link…

Breaking news: Butlins are replacing their red coats with green coats. No, not really, but the British holiday camp operator has come up with a novel way to try and drum up more business – it is trying to convince us that to do our bit for the environment we should give up our foreign flights and holiday at one of its camps instead. (And there I was thinking that its line up of round-the-clock family entertainment was enough to pull in the punters.)

Butlins is puffing out its chest this week as its visitor figures for this year are up 5% on last year, despite the bad weather. It has commissioned a survey by to find out why some of us are shunning foreign flights and choosing to holiday at home instead – but is a little surprised to see that the reasons given rarely include “to save the planet”. In fact, only 1% of the 1,500 respondents gave this as their reason. Much more popular were airport delays (39%), luggage restrictions (27%), driving on the wrong side of the road (11%), foreign food (9%) and fear of flying (7%).

“Given current concerns over climate change, it’s a surprise that people are so much more deterred from going abroad by everyday things like driving on the wrong side of the road and not liking foreign food,” says Richard Bates, managing director of Butlins. “But the good news is that the overall net effect will be a reduction in people’s carbon footprints.” (I totally get the hatred of airport delays, but is “driving on the wrong side of the road” really worth giving up a trip abroad for? Irrationality, evidently knows no bounds.)

Butlins’ top brass may be scratching their heads, but it comes as no surprise to me that people don’t cite “climate change'” as a reason for giving up flying. I have never bought this idea that enough people are voluntarily going to raise their hands in the check-in queue and forego their flight just because you’ve made a convincing argument about aviation’s environmental impact. No one dares take a bone from a dog once it is in its mouth.

The people who do volunteer are always going to remain a single-percentage-figure phenomenon. That’s precisely why there is so much political discussion about green taxes for aviation.

Flying quite simply has to be much more expensive than it is now before a significant number of people start making greener holiday choices. Remember that the large majority of people who fly in the UK are the affluent middle class – there is little, if any, evidence that cheap flights have suddenly filled the skies with “the poor” enjoying multiple trips abroad each year, as the aviation lobby’s argument says. And even if that were true, it still isn’t a strong enough argument against price hikes as an effective way of deterring people from flying.

Some form of demand management is desperately required to slow down the runaway growth that aviation is experiencing due to artificially low pricing. Green taxation seems to be the best short-term answer, bar not building any more runaways.

Groups such as Aviation Environment Federation say that surveys show that green taxes would have to reach as much as £75 per flight before they start to have a serious impact on demand. The bottom line in this – as with any polluting act – is that the cost of flying should represent its cost to the environment, something it clearly does not do at the moment.

If, for argument’s sake, you accept Sir Nicholas Stern’s estimate that the environmental cost of each tonne of CO2 we emit should be priced at $85 (£45), then you can start to put a sensible environmental price on aviation. Therefore, one London-Miami return flight emitting broadly two tonnes of CO2 per passenger would need to add £90 to the current price – a hike that would surely make many passengers rethink the need to do that journey. (And this is ignoring the so-called “uplift multiplier”, which accounts for the additional climate change impact of emitting the pollution at 30,000ft – according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we would need to multiply the CO2 impact of aviation by a factor of 2.7.)

Crucially, I think that any revenue raised should be ring-fenced for environmentally positive initiatives such as grants for improving the energy efficiency of your home, or simply lead to tax cuts elsewhere so that green taxes are seen as “revenue neutral”. This way you at least have a chance of bringing some of the electorate with you. A huge mistake was made with the recent rise in Air Passenger Duty (APD) in that it convinced no one – not even environmentalists – that it was anything other than a cynical act of revenue raising by the chancellor.

It amuses me that today easyJet is trying to argue in its new report called Towards Greener Skies: The Surprising Truth About Flying And The Environment that the no-frills airlines such as itself already pay the full environmental costs of their flights more than four times over, due to being disproportionately hit by APD. It is instead arguing for a tax that reflects that some airlines – including easyJet, just in case you were wondering – operate less emitting fleets than others.

“The time has come to scrap APD and replace it with a ‘polluter tax’ that has at its heart a very simple notion – those that fly on airlines that pollute less, like easyJet, should pay less,” says easyJet’s chief executive Andy Harrison.

I don’t disagree with this sentiment at all, but we are talking about a saving of probably no more than a few pounds, pence even, due to the marginal differences in fuel efficiency between the different fleets. It is simply nonsense to say that easyJet passengers already pay more than four times the environmental cost of their flight. No matter how much you want to cook the figures, the simple truth is that we all need to start flying less – and 66% of flying by UK passengers is for discretionary leisure purposes – than we do now if we are ever to be serious about trying to reduce our carbon emissions.

But if you’re not sold on the idea of green taxes being applied to aviation, what else would you propose to reduce demand? Or will you not let anything – not even climate-change concerns – get in the way of your next holiday flight?