European Finance Ministers, Let's End the Airlines' Unfair Fuel Tax Exemption Now!

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While flying is the fastest way to fry the planet, it is also the cheapest because airlines benefit from unfair and environmentally harmful tax advantages. We call on European governments to agree with each other to finally make airlines pay for the pollution they cause by taxing their fuels from 2021.

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My name is Tassos, and I am a Greek 22 year old student studying in the Netherlands. I love travelling, meeting new people and experiencing new cultures but like most of you, I would like to be able to do it without slowly frying the planet.

Unfortunately that is not the reality today as the number of people using airplanes for flying has dramatically been increasing, hand-in-hand with the sector’s CO2 emissions. We all want to travel cheaply, but this relief in our pockets is at the expense of our planet as airlines such as Ryanair, KLM, Easy-jet and all the others enjoy tax gifts that allow them keep their ticket prices artificially low. It’s true, air transport benefits from unfair and environmentally harmful tax benefits. Airlines do not pay tax for their fuel while at the same time they benefit from a lack of VAT on international air tickets.  

As a result, airlines today are responsible for at least 5% of man-made global warming. In Europe alone, its CO2 emissions have risen by 26.3% in the last five years and are expected to continue to rise dangerously, threatening the important targets set by the Paris Agreement. Putting an end to this social and climate injustice is very important to reduce the emissions of the most carbon-intensive mode of transport but also to provide necessary financial resources for the transition to green mobility. Think about it, why should airplanes that pollute so much be ridiculously cheap to travel with when trains that pollute up to 45 times less are usually much more expensive?

This climate injustice can’t continue any longer. That’s why I decided with friends from all around Europe to launch a European Citizens’ Initiative. After one year of campaigning for a kerosene tax in the European Union, we managed to achieve our first goal as the new European Commission has committed itself to proposing to the EU Member States the taxation of kerosene throughout the Union. Our campaign was even awarded the “Citizen Lobbyists of the Year 2019” prize.

Despite these successes, airlines are still far from paying a fair price for the pollution they cause. Negotiations on the proposal should not start within the two next years. Moreover, while EU taxation policies are agreed upon unanimously, several EU member states already announced they could use their veto power to stop an EU-wide taxation of aviation fuels. The introduction of a kerosene tax in the entire Union therefore is quite unlikely whereas the climate emergency is forcing all sectors to drastically reduce their emissions. Our CO2 emissions must fall by 7.6% per year over the next 10 years to avoid dramatic and irreversible climate change and to comply with the Paris agreement, so how can we justify these tax gifts to the most CO2-emitting mode of transport, which is increasing its emissions in Europe by more than 5% per year?

We don’t have time to lose but we do have the means to act. This is why we are calling on the countries that have already spoken out in favor of taxing together airlines, including Sweden, Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium and Ireland, to finally start taxing kerosene from 2021 where it is already possible: through agreements between individual countries. This can happen fast without having to change European legislation, it only requires the governments of these countries to be willing to finally act!

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