Allowing a customer to pay for carbon emissions so they avoid paying for an airline ticket but not the rising costs of car and train travel is wrong, European Co-ordinator for the European Climate Foundation Matthias Meyer said on Saturday.
Meyer’s comments at the French Ambassador’s Residence in London contrasted with Prime Minister Theresa May’s promise this week to consider how to encourage more Britons to travel by rail in response to the previous week’s bombing.
Meyer called instead for EU governments to harmonize prices for air and train tickets to encourage people to use rail travel.
“You can charge a fair price for CO2 emissions but not the rising prices of car or air,” Meyer told Reuters on Saturday, at the annual meeting of the European Council on Europe in Paris.
“If you are Europe and as a believer in democracy and the single market you cannot allow this to happen.”
The UK voted for Brexit in June last year and has since prompted concerns in European capitals as its main trade partner prepares to withdraw from the European Union.
A day after the attack on the London Bridge on June 3, May said the loss of life and the public’s reaction showed how Britain had “never been more British” and that the bombings showed the need to show solidarity and reject any causes to pull in opposite directions.
The attacker who killed seven people on London Bridge and stabbed people in nearby Borough Market had come from a number of European countries, including France, Germany and Belgium.
Meyer said while rail travel provided a greater environmental benefits, people preferred to use their car, bus or train because they were quicker and more convenient.
“If you allow your price to fall to a level where it’s cheaper to have a plane ticket but not by a lot cheaper to use the train, then I think that you are morally wrong,” he said.
Britain’s Conservative government has previously advocated an overhaul of road pricing that could introduce an air user charge or toll that operators would pay to pay for highways.
Rail fares have been increasing far faster than inflation but rail providers are allowed to increase passenger rail fares by no more than inflation.
Trevor Borys, director general of Transports and Cities for Sustainable Development, said railways were the most environmentally sound mode of transport.
“You don’t have a one in 1,000 risk of air attack, a one in 1,000 risk of hydrocarbon pipeline failure, a one in 1,000 risk of failure of high-voltage transmission lines,” he said.
Borys said that since U.S. President Donald Trump announced in January that he would withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change, there was a greater sense of urgency among European governments and companies to take action against climate change.
Paris, Germany, France and Spain have all announced plans to boost transit system investment. May is due to unveil detailed plans on rail fares at the Conservatives annual conference in October.
“There is no other big area in the UK to show support for progress on climate change,” Meyer said.
Britain’s government argues that air travel is also important to the economy. May announced after the attack on London Bridge that Britain would increase military personnel on the London Underground and in the capital to provide security.