Why Green Taxes Aren’t The Answer To Aviation Emissions

Earlier today, easyJet CEO and new Chairman of Airlines for Europe (A4E), Johan Lundgren, spoke to Aviation Week Network’s Karen Walker. During the interview, Mr Lundgren said that while aviation certainly needs to play its part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, governmental ‘green’ taxes are inefficient and will only succeed in creating more social inequality.

easyJet Airbus A319
The easyJet CEO believes that green taxes are not sufficiently invested in R&D for the decarbonization of aviation. Photo: Getty Images

Inequality and inefficiency

While on the topic of environmental strings attached to government bailouts, Mr Lundgren said that utilizing tools to make air travel more expensive would only succeed in making it inaccessible to a large group of people. Some might argue this would reduce overall air traffic. However, Mr Lundgren believes it would only lower load-factors, not the actual numbers of flights.

The people who would be traveling would be the ones who could afford it. This would ‘turn back the clock’ to when air travel was accessible only to the wealthy, as it was before deregulation. In turn, this would then contribute to greater inequality in society.

Mr Lundgren also believes ‘green’ taxation to be inefficient in the long-run for other reasons. The additional funds generated by such measures are very seldom invested in research and development in areas that could help decarbonize aviation.

Rather than come up with taxation schemes, governments should invest in new technology, such as hybrid and hydrogen planes. They should also support airlines in making the transition to scale when the technology is ready.

easyJet Johan Lundgren
The new chair of Airlines for Europe is concerned over protracted measures also making air travel less accessible to a large group of people. Photo: Getty Images

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.

Expensive test-regimes also foster exclusion

Green taxation is not the only thing that could make air travel prohibitively expensive for many in the years to come. One of the greatest fears the new A4E Chairman has for the near future is that residual measures not based on science will haunt the industry for longer than necessary.

It is of particular concern when industry voices say ‘just putting testing into place and let’s go’. Taking a PCR-test twice – once on departure and once before returning – would be prohibitively expensive for, say, a family of four, again restricting air travel to the already privileged.

“Restrictions should only be in place where it is evidently, medically, scientifically proven that they should be,” Mr Lundgren said. “The key thing is that with a population that has vaccinated the elderly and the most vulnerable, and a big part of the adult population, a lot of these restrictions should fall away.”

Restrictions should be lifted when the elderly and vulnerable have been vaccinated, the easyJet CEO said. Photo: Getty Images

No point focusing on things out of control

easyJet is currently operating at only 10% of 2019 levels. However, the airline is keeping 85% of its fleet, along with the majority of its crew, in flight-ready mode, prepared to scale up at a moment’s notice.

Meanwhile, it is not only up to easyJet to ramp up operations smoothly. If airports, with staff and ground handlers, as well as air traffic control, have not been doing the same, a speedy reinstating of capacity might not be accessible.

“You know, there’s no point of staying up at night thinking about the things that you actually can’t have an impact on. All your focus and dedication of yourself for the team and the organization has to be on the things that you actually can influence and control,” Mr Lundgren said in response to the question of what is keeping him awake at night.

Do you think the easyJet CEO is correct in his assessment of so-called green taxation? Tell us what you think governments should be doing instead.