France’s Proposed Eco Tax Is A Great Idea

Next year, in 2020, the French government will introduce a new aviation tax. This tax will reportedly add €180m of investment for other modes of transport that have a lower environmental impact. Of particular focus is rail. Is this a good idea? Let’s dive deeper and find out!

Air France claims that they will be significantly penalized. Photo: Flickr user bribri

Tax details

According to RunwayGirl Network, the new “eco-contribution” tax on flights that depart France is to start at €1.50 for domestic and European flights in economy, while the charge goes up to €9 in business. For long-haul flights, we will be seeing charges of €3 in economy and €18 in business.

In Germany, the equivalent tax is between €7 and €40 and is dependent on distance. That tax generates about €1 billion per year according to the website Airport Watch. The UK equivalent begins at £13 for economy trips of under 2,000 miles and goes up to £172 for long-haul non-economy flying. According to Bloomberg, flights to Corsica, Overseas France as well as those transiting through France will not be taxed.

Taxes collected will support air travel alternatives such as high-speed rail. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

IATA and Air France opposition

It should be no surprise we are seeing some opposition from IATA. The International Air Travel Association is slamming the new eco aviation carbon tax saying that it goes counter to helping airlines transition towards cleaner fuels. The website BioFuels Digest says that the tax will also negatively impact the €100 billion that aviation generates for the French economy, as well as risk the 500,000 new jobs from the lack of competitiveness of French aviation.

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IATA is saying that it will hold the French government to account in spending this tax money on accelerating aviation sustainability, particularly in prioritizing more efficient air traffic control and promoting sustainable fuels.

Air France is quoted in RunwayGirl’s article saying:

“This new tax would significantly penalize Air France’s competitiveness, at a time where the company needs to strengthen its investment capacity to more rapidly reduce its environmental footprint, notably as part of its fleet renewal policy,”

Aviation and climate change

According to Wikipedia, The International Panel on Climate Change estimates aviation accounts for roughly 3.5% of anthropogenic climate change. This figure includes both CO2 and non-CO2 induced effects.

Whether or not this is a good idea or a bad one depends on whether you believe in climate change and the role/impact of aviation in warming the planet. If you believe 97% of climate scientists then you’re more likely to think this is a good idea.

Photo: Flickr user Mathieu Marquer

You might even think that this tax doesn’t go far enough. In fact, French aviation taxes and fees are relatively low when you look at examples in the UK and Germany. Furthermore, the aviation industry is exempt from charging VAT (currently 20%) on ground services like fuel. This exemption is worth billions.

A quote from the Climate Action Network reported in Euronews says that this isn’t enough:

“The government is finally targeting tax breaks for the most polluting industries such as trucking and airlines, but these modest measures will not significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” – Climate Action Network’s Lorelei Limousin.

Conclusion

Believe it or not, I (along with everyone else at Simple Flying) love air travel. However, speaking for myself (and possibly some other travelers), I would love to ensure that the destinations we enjoy traveling to are spared from the devastating effects of climate change. Some carriers feel the same; KLM is even encouraging passengers to fly less.

Yes, there are worse offenders out there – larger emitters of CO2. But the problem should be approached from all angles, and placing a small fee on a flight seems like a small sacrifice.

At €3 for outside-EU economy flights and €18 in business, it doesn’t feel like it would “significantly penalize” Air France, especially if this tax applies to all airlines. Within the EU, I don’t think anyone will choose to fly to Vienna instead of Paris just because they will pay €1.50 more for their economy ticket. Its more likely that this will be a tax everyone will get angry about, then get used to, then forget about.

My own criticism as someone who loves aviation is that this tax should go more towards investing in cleaner air travel than rail services. Maybe funding can expedite an electric-hybrid narrowbody?

What do you think- is this tax a good idea or a bad one? Maybe you think it’s not enough? Let us know by leaving a comment!

13 comments
  1. This tax will just end up in the pot like everything else, it’s has nothing to do with the environment, just a way to increase government revenues, particularly a government that has a big budget deficit. It will also increase significantly, the same as APD in the UK.

    1. Agreed! That’s what always happens with specific-purpose taxes. It will just serve to make life difficult for Air France, who’ll have to trim on personnel, who’ll then get unemployment benefits, which will be paid for by this tax.
      Such an aviation tax was tried in The Netherlands a few years ago. To avoid it, families just took a relatively short drive to Germany or Belgium, and flew from there instead.

  2. Air France is absolutely right. It will make them less competitive. These extreme liberal governments are determined to eliminate Western society. You see it everywhere. Not only are they blocking new infrastructure, but destroying old infrastructure. Don’t kid yourself that it has anything to do with the environment. Even hydroelectric dams aren’t safe from these extremists. In Washington state, self proclaimed climate change solver Jay Inslee is destroying everything he can while claiming he is the only one that can solve climate change. What’s hilarious is that Washington was one of only three states that had an increase in carbon emissions. So much for fighting climate change. You pay an extra tax to fly commercial, but they are so concerned, they will fly their private Jets everywhere.

    For those that say climate change is real, you’re right. It has been changing for millions of years.

    1. I DO believe that climate change is an issue (let’s not get into an argument about that), but I also agree that there are currently lots of seemingly random climate-driven policies/actions that are contradictory at best and counter-productive at worst. For example, a diesel car that has an A energy label in Germany (because of its relatively low CO2 emissions) has a D energy label in The Netherlands (because of its relatively high soot and NOx emissions); as a result, this “dirty” diesel car is taxed to the hilt in The Netherlands, despite its low CO2 footprint. But the people who are in favor of this tax will happily barbeque this evening, despite the fact that charcoal combustion produces quite a lot of NOx and soot.
      So, why is the French tax just on aviation, and not on all modes of fossil-fuel transport?

  3. I must say I strongly disagree for the sole reason that the tax is just that – a TAX. It serves no purpose other than being another stream of income for the government. Had the tax-money been ear marked to push R&D in greener aviation (bio-fuel, better engines, electricity, aerodynamics etc.) it would absolutely be a great idea, as long as it is not something that is bound to stay forever.

  4. Has anybody tracked what the German government has done for the environmental tax they are imposing for years now? And it’s not 1 point something euros it starts with 8€. I guess we have the question answered here…
    Yes it will be nice to see that they are sound something for the environment but it just a bureaucratic line that doesn’t do anything in the end…

  5. Here’s a possible alternative to these eco taxes:
    The OECD DAC total annual donated amount is 132 billion dollars. Aid to developing countries arguably fosters (explosive) population growth, which is the last thing that the climate needs at the moment. So why not divert a (large) portion of these development funds into projects that research/develop more environmentally-friendly energy sources and industrial/agricultural practices? That would be a serious gesture instead of a “penny here, penny there” eco tax.

  6. OK, you believe climate change is an issue. Without debating it, there are MANY who just don’t buy the rigged, junk “science”. Even if we all believed it, and followed the Paris accord to the letter, taxed everyone (except the 2 biggest polluters China & India), spent trillions on “green initiatives”, we MIGHT lower the earth’s temperature 1-2C in a century. And, since every global warming prediction has been fantastically wrong for over 30 yrs, (always far less severe, if any change at all), why should we believe this prediction? It’s far easier to believe it’s just one more tax to try and prop-up tge unsustainable social experiment that is the French Gov’t — that taxes virtually everything (Facebook is next!). This is a stupid idea, which will hurt an already hurting airline…

  7. it’s only 3 pct of global emissions but 6,400 million of us have never been in an airplane even once in their life yet. as long as it is such a horrific emissions source, that cannot be mitigated in time or scale because of sir safety testing and fleet rollout periods… and is not as essential as all the other things we consume…. as ling as one person is still emitting 385 grams of carbon per kilometer fllown…. every other sector as eell as most all individuals will balk, as we have already done for decades, ar any serious mitigation efforts.

    1. I presume that those people who are so anti-aviation will make a sincere effort to avoid consuming any product that is transported by plane — such as fresh produce, medications, electronic components, etc. — and will also refuse any post/mail item that has been transported by plane. As such, I therefore presume that they’ll make a sincere effort to distance themselves completely from products manufactured using a just-in-time model.

      More importantly, I assume that they’ll also diligently avoid any activity that has an even greater carbon footprint than the aviation industry! For their convenience, here’s a list of activities that they can consult, so as to see which ones to avoid associating with (the relative carbon footprint is in parentheses):
      Air transport (excluding additional warming impacts) (1.7% )
      Road transport (10.5%)
      Other transport (2.5%)
      Fuel and power for residential buildings (10.2%)
      Fuel and power for commercial buildings (6.3%)
      Unallocated fuel combustion (3.8%)
      Iron and steel production (4%)
      Aluminium and non-ferrous metals production (1.2%)
      Machinery production (1%)
      Pulp, paper and printing (1.1%)
      Food and tobacco industries (1.0%)
      Chemicals production (4.1%)
      Cement production (5.0%)
      Other industry (7.0%)
      Transmission and distribution losses (2.2%)
      Coal mining (1.3%)
      Oil and gas production (6.4%)
      Deforestation (11.3%)
      Reforestation (-0.4%)
      Harvest and land management (1.3%)
      Agricultural energy use (1.4%)
      Agricultural soils (5.2%)
      Livestock and manure (5.4%)
      Rice cultivation (1.5%)
      Other cultivation (1.7%)
      Landfill of waste (1.7%)
      Wastewater and other waste (1.5%)

  8. Pure, unadulterated rubbish. Carbon taxes/offsets are nothing but modern-day indulgences for those wealthy enough to buy their way out, and are almost solely designed to make those hysterical over climate change feel good while accomplishing absolutely nothing to solve the problem.

  9. Railroad can damage the environment badly. High speed railroad demand very large amount of electricity . For those country using fossil fuel to produce electricity, high speed railroad could be environment disaster.

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