Toronto – As the Greater Toronto Airport Authority launches its lobby campaign to reduce the rent at Pearson International Airport, Environmental Defence today urged the federal government to reject the rent break, noting that subsidizing air travel runs counter to Canada’s commitments to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 
“While a rent break would undoubtedly increase Pearson’s profits, it would drive Canada further away from its international obligations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director, Environmental Defence. “If politicians are seriously considering this proposal, they must have their heads in the clouds.”

Last week, the Greater Toronto Airport Authority, the corporation which manages and operates Pearson under an agreement with the federal government, launched an advertising campaign at the airport to encourage the traveling public to lobby the federal government in favour of the rent break.

Air travel is the most greenhouse gas-intensive form of transportation, and one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions.  Greenhouse gas emissions have a greater effect at higher altitudes, as much as two to four times the effect of emissions released on the surface. For example, a return trip from Victoria to Halifax in a 747 contributes the same warming effect as about three tonnes of carbon dioxide per passenger. To create the same amount of carbon dioxide driving a small car, one would have to drive for approximately a year.

In 1992, air travel contributed two per cent of the total global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that by 2050, air travel will contribute between 1.6 and 10 times the 1992 emission levels. Natural Resources Canada has reported a 30 per cent increase in carbon dioxide emissions from air travel between 1990 and 2004. 

Environmental groups across Canada have urged governments to increase taxes on aviation fuel as a means of curbing air travel, and to help pay for climate change commitments.  Rent subsidies would run counter to this objective.
“Governments and businesses everywhere should do whatever they can to reduce the amount of air travel in their operations,” Smith said. “Governments should also do their part in holding all polluters accountable for their emissions.”
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For more information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 x 232; (647) 280-9521 (cell)