France’s Proposed Eco Tax Is A Great Idea

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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.

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:

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“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.

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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!

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