FAQ

Why do I have to give my ID number to sign the initiative? 

This petition is officially certified by the EU. You must provide a justification of your identity because you need to prove that you are an EU citizen and thus have the right to cast your vote for this European Citizens’ Initiative. You can rest assured that your personal information will not be used outside of this initiative.

What about the islands that are not connected by tunnel or bridge?

We acknowledge that islands are a special case that is why we want to protect them. We propose that aviation fuel used on flights to and from islands remain tax exempt or be taxed at lower rates due to the lack of alternatives to air travel.

Will a kerosene tax for flights within the EU create a distortion of competition in favour of non-European countries?

‘There is already a similar situation with the European Union Emissions Trading System because the EU carbon market is already applied to flights within the EU (for example on flights from Belgium to Spain, but not on flights from Belgium to Turkey).
In 2017, the European Commission published an impact assessment on whether the European Trading System (introduced in the EU to reduce aviation emissions) was causing any distortion of competition (see page 37 here), and found that it was not, and that even an increase in allowance price out to 2030 is unlikely to cause a distortion. The European Union should introduce a kerosene tax with rates that are progressively increased every year until there is actual evidence of distortion.’
– Andrew Murphy

We should tax kerosene on all flights and not only on flights within the EU!

Kerosene has been tax exempt in the aviation sector since the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation in 1944. All efforts toward reaching an international agreement to use taxation as a means of mitigation aviation emissions have been fruitless so far, because amending the Chicago convention would require the agreement of the 193 signatory states.

What do you propose exactly?

If you are interested in knowing what our project will look like, take a look at our draft legislative proposal. Please note that this is only our proposal, not the official legislative draft that will be put to the vote. https://www.endingaviationfueltaxexemption.eu/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Fairosene-Draft-legal-act.pdf

Wouldn’t this just hurt working people hardest, meaning they can’t afford to fly for vacation or to visit family, while the rich are unaffected?

The policy change that we propose would bring an end to the lucrative tax exemptions that have allowed the aviation sector to monopolise travel and suppress competition of more sustainable travel alternatives, such as trains for instance. As a result, the fuel tax would indirectly increase the price of plane tickets, but simultaneously we propose that the tax revenues be used to finance the transition to a green mobility in Europe. More specifically, it would be a regressive tax, which means that the tax would be higher for short distance flights. In this way, we can incentivize people to disregard planes for short distances, as trains represent a much more viable alternative.

Taxing fossil fuels can indeed become unfair to customers if they have no alternatives; as the yellow vest movement in France showed. This is why developing and subsidising the railway industry simultaneously with ending the kerosene tax exemption is a twofold necessity to reduce transport emissions in the EU which is the only sector whose emissions rose since 1990. 1 Aviation plays a central role in today’s globalised world and we recognise that fully. Nevertheless, we believe that substitutes to trains should be promoted by our governments. We propose to keep the tax exemption for flights from and to islands not connected by bridge or tunnel as no viable alternative exist.
Furthermore, if we wanted to target passengers directly, we would have launched an ECI to implement an EU-wide VAT on plane tickets as member states don’t apply VAT on plane tickets now. Instead, we want to incentivise airlines to reduce their CO2 emissions, hence the taxation of their fuel. Consequently, it will also financially incentivise to use environmental-friendly means of transport such as trains.

Finally, we must not forget that climate crisis is an immediate threat that respects no geographical borders nor social boundaries. Unless we start fighting here and now to prevent the irreversible climate change, the devastating consequences of global warming would hit, first and foremost, the most vulnerable members of our society. We must make our stand and ensure that we never come to that point. Our proposal does not wish to create unnecessary burdens for the hard working people across Europe, but the tax provides funding necessary for the shift to a carbon-free EU. What we seek to achieve is to create a foundation upon which all citizens and policy makers can build on in order to create a greener and more sustainable world, starting from the aviation sector.

Ultimately what impact do you expect such a tax to have, regarding CO2 and flight reduction?

We expect the number of flights, especially short distance ones, to gradually reduce. We also hope that next generation plane engines will be much more carbon-efficient, which should be facilitated with the part of the tax revenue invested in research and development. Airlines will also be much more incentivised than today to buy the most sustainable planes on the market, which will incentivise aircraft manufacturers to innovate. Finally, we expect the number of long distance train travels to be largely increased, due to the investments in developing and improving European railways, especially those transnational, financed by the kerosene fuel tax. We also hope that EU national governments will implement domestic policies to incentivise green mobility, for example by reducing VAT on train tickets.

Who receives the tax – the individual countries, or EU?

We propose that the EU receives the tax revenue, similarly as with the Common Tariff duties. The kerosene tax revenue would therefore become an EU resource. However, member states would only keep a small part of it as administrative cost, exactly as with the customs revenue.
In addition, we believe that these funds must be used responsibly. Such responsibility would entail increasing funds on research and development in key sectors of the economy that are central to the creation of not just a more sustainable economy but also a more sustainable world, altogether. More specifically, we propose to use the tax revenue to finance more programmes of research and development in more carbon-efficient planes engines such as the SES2+2. Additionally, considering the clear environmental detriment of the aviation sector, we must consider alternatives for the mobility and transport needs of all citizens within the EU. Therefore, our proposals clearly emphasizes the need to invest heavily, using the revenue from the kerosene tax, in the modernisation, diversification and expansion of the train fleets servicing Europe and the network of railways spanning all across our continent. A list 3 of transnational railways that need to be developed or improved can be found

Presumably such a tax would only apply within the EU – how would this affect the international competitiveness of the EU, regarding business and tourism?

The EU Emissions Trading System is not only applied to flights within the EU but within the European Economic Area (EEA) – the 28 EU Member States, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. 4 If these three countries accept it, the kerosene tax would also apply to them.
We must reaffirm to the public that our proposal does not wish to undermine the competitiveness of EU companies and organisations, nor work towards their detriment. However, leading organisations on climate change such as the UNFCCC and the IPCC warn that we have less than 15 years before the effects of global warming become not only permanent and irreversible, but potentially catastrophic. As members of the youth population we can no longer ignore the issues that will soon come to dominant not only the political agenda, but also societal considerations. A line must be drawn in the sand and the time to do that is now. It is simply unsustainable environmentally, and we have already begun facing the consequences of our actions. We must finally put sustainable development over endless economic growth, and we must strike a balance that protects the international competitiveness of EU companies, but at the same time considers its effects on our climate and our environment. Moreover, the EU has already shown its resilience in international tourism competitiveness from the introduction of the aviation emissions in the Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). The EU tourism industry should have been disrupted by the introduction of the aviation emissions in the EU ETS in 2012. However, this did not create a distortion of competition at the expense of EU tourism. ‘In 2017, the European Commission published an impact assessment as to whether European Trading System, which was introduced in the EU to reduce aviation emissions, was causing any distortion in this regard (see page 37 5), and found that it was not, and that even an increase in allowance price out to 2030 is unlikely to cause a distortion. The European Union should introduce a kerosene tax whose rates are progressively increased every year until there is actual evidence of distortion.’ (Andrew Murphy, aviation manager at Transport & Environment). Lastly, we remain confident that when our proposal succeeds in collecting the mandatory number of signatures, the EU Commissions and the rest the Union’s institutions will create a policy that incorporates the proposals of our initiative, but at the same time defends the competitive integrity of the Union’s firms, both domestically and internationally.

Roughly, what cost might such a tax add to an average flight within Europe?

First of all, the Commission will be invited, once we reach the one million signatures threshold, to propose to the EU finance ministers its own legal act. However, the proposal that our initiative supports, entails a regressive tax that fluctuates depending on the distance travelled. More specifically, our initiative aims to place a higher tax on short flights (up to 600 km), which will gradually decrease as the travelled distance increases. The rationale behind this, is based on the promotion of more sustainable alternatives for travels, especially for short distances.
To find out more on the increased cost per passenger if kerosene were taxed at the rate set in the Energy Tax Directive (Council directive 2003/96/EC of 27 October 2003 restructuring the Community framework for the taxation of energy products and electricity):
‘Ticket prices are already very low and the impact on consumers of such a tax would be minimal. Low cost carriers like Ryanair, Easyjet, and Wizz account for over 50% of the intra-EU market with an average one-way ticket price of €80.6 If the cost is assumed to be passed on to the consumer, a €0,33 per liter kerosene tax on an average intra EU flight would add €14 to the average ticket price.7 If VAT at 15% was applied in isolation to air tickets and the cost fully passed through by carriers, then the €80 average one-way ticket price would increase by €12. Considering that average ticket prices have fallen dramatically from hundreds of euros over the past decade or so, and by 16% in the past 5 years alone8, these measures are manageable and politically defensible as a means to fund budgets and cover aviation’s unmet external costs (e.g. climate change, noise and air pollution)’ (Transport & Environment, 2018)9.

What is the historical background to the aviation fuel tax exemption – why is it exempt?

Historically, kerosene has been tax exempt for international flights since the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation in 1944, which was signed by a total of 52 states. The aim of this exemption was understandable at the time: make aviation more affordable in order to reduce distances and increase exchanges of people. The aim at the time was also to help develop the industry which was at its early steps.
The agreement, and more specifically Article 15, has been the basis of objections from airline companies when Member States, individually tried to introduce a per-ticket tax (Faber & Huigen, 2018, CE Delft)10. Furthermore, a potential amendment to the Chicago Convention has been proven impossible throughout time, as all 52 signatory states have to agree unanimously, an extremely cumbersome process.
The ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation – UN agency) has been trying for years if not decades to reach an agreement with all the Convention signatories, but without success.
Since the aforementioned Convention, efforts of reaching an international agreement to use taxation as means of mitigation aviation emissions have been fruitless. However, in 2016, the ICAO Assembly agreed to implement a global market-based measure called Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA). Resultantly, CORSIA aims to stabilize net emissions at 2020 levels referred to as carbon neutral growth 2020 (CNG2020) while also ‘requires airlines to offset their emissions of international aviation above the baseline level and will start in 2021, from which year ICAO Member States can voluntarily participate’ (van Velzen, TAKS, 2018)11.
Nevertheless, there have been multiple criticisms from Member States that CORSIA lacks ambition and does not incentivize airlines to pollute less as it has been described as a ‘weak nudge for in-sector carbon reductions’ (Pavlenko, ICCT, 2018).12 It appears not to be enough to solely rely on it in order to reduce the aviation sector GHG emissions, as aviation emissions have not documented a decline yet. More specifically, ‘Transport & Environment has obtained letters from six EU countries informing the UN aviation agency ICAO that they may pull out of a global carbon offsetting scheme for aircraft emissions if its environmental safeguards are weakened any further. In separate letters, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Finland, Norway and Portugal state that if sustainability rules governing the use of offsets and alternative fuels are watered down any more in negotiations, they will reconsider their participation. T&E has also seen documents that suggest six other EU countries have similarly told ICAO that they will pull out of the scheme, known as CORSIA’ (Transport and Environment, 2018)13.

  1. https://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/transport_en.
  2. https://ec.europa.eu/transport/modes/air/ses_en.
  3. https://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/en/atlas/programmes?search=1&keywords=&periodId=3&countryCode=ALL&regionId=ALL&objectiveId=13&tObjectiveId=ALL.
  4. https://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/transport/aviation_en#tab-0-0.
  5. https://ec.europa.eu/transparency/regdoc/rep/10102/2017/EN/SWD-2017-31-F1-EN-MAIN-PART-1.PDF
  6. Calculated from 4 annual reports FY16 representing the highest market shares of low cost carriers.
  7. T&E analysis. The average intra-EU flight sector is 1200 km. Fuel burn from a 737-800 from the ICAO Carbon Emissions Calculator Methodology V.9 with an assumed load factor of 85% yields 43 litres of kerosene per passenger.
  8. EU average of all available carriers in all available countries (24 of the EU28) from Euromonitor data. Disclaimer: While every attempt has been made to ensure accuracy and reliability, Euromonitor International cannot be held responsible for omissions or errors of historic figures or analyses.
  9. https://www.transportenvironment.org/publications/green-tax-shift-transport-can-help-fix-eu-budget.
  10. https://www.ce.nl/en/publications/2208/a-study-on-aviation-ticket-taxes.
  11. https://www.transportenvironment.org/publications/un-aviation-climate-scheme-threatens-gaping-hole-eu-2030-targets.
  12. https://www.theicct.org/blog/staff/corsia-carbon-offsets-and-alternative-fuel.
  13. https://www.transportenvironment.org/publications/european-countries-say-they-may-pull-out-weakened-aviation-co2-scheme.