The aviation industry's impact on the environment is only going to grow over the coming years as air travel increases across the world. Increasing taxes might force airlines to find new solutions while also raising money to fund more sustainable forms of transport.
EasyJet has joined European rival Air France in condemning France’s plans to add a new eco-tax to flights.
The new charge, which ranges from $1.70 (€1.50) to $20 (€18), is part of a government plan to raise money to fund improvements in public transport across the country. France hopes to bring in $202 million (€180 million) a year from 2020.
Somewhat predictably airlines hate the idea of more taxes — even if the amount is modest and even if passengers up paying.
“That is not the right approach. I don’t think there’s any evidence to say that taxes…and even so-called eco taxes have done anything good for the environment,” Johan Lundgren, EasyJet CEO, said on an earnings call on Thursday.
“On the contrary I think that by adding taxes on to companies you are removing funds that can be used to invest in technology that will have a positive impact on the environment.
Of course not everyone shares Lundgren’s view.
“It’s good first step from the French government — a recognition that action is needed at national, not just international, level to rein in emissions growth from aviation, and that the sector’s tax free status needs to end,” said Andrew Murphy, policy officer at Transport & Environment, a Brussels-based NGO.
“But the rates are extremely low, especially in comparison to the rates in the UK and Germany for their ticket taxes.”
Lundgren then went on to complain about the already high level of ticket taxation — over $785 million (€700 million) a year — before admitting that something had to be done to make flying more environmentally friendly and that aviation needed to “reinvent itself” in the long-term.
“I believe that electric and hybrid technology will make a big difference and we want to make sure that we play a leading part in that. I think biofuel will make a difference here as well,” he said.
The problem with any of these innovations is that they are some way off. Last year the aviation industry contribution to global energy-related CO2 emissions stood at 2.4 percent, according to climate science website Carbon Brief.
That might seem like a small number now, but passenger numbers could double to 8.2 billion in 2037.
The dream of replacing conventional jet fuel with something greener still seems a long way off, especially as only a handful of airports have the ability to distribute biofuels.
EasyJet has a partnership with U.S.-based manufacturer Wright Electric and expects to be flying electric planes on some routes by 2030, but this assessment seems wildly optimistic.
The reality is that we’re probably going to have to get used to flying less, and one way to do that might be higher taxes.
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Photo credit: An EasyJet plane landing at Liverpool John Lennon Airport. The airline isn't in favor of the new French airline tax. Catherine Singleton / Flickr