Germany’s main political parties are coalescing around proposals to increase the cost of flying, potentially doubling the tax on short-haul flights to slash greenhouse gas pollution.
Alarmed that the country is falling short of emissions-reductions pledges it made under the Paris Agreement on climate change, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats are drawing up policies with their Social Democrat coalition partners and focusing on air transport for some of the most dramatic reductions.
A proposal by Merkel’s CDU to double levies on domestic flights was announced by the party’s finance expert, Andreas Jung, in a press conference in Berlin. They’re part of a broader package that ministers are due to consider at a September 20 meeting of Merkel’s cabinet meeting dealing with climate policies.
“We want a doubling of the ticket tax for domestic flights which would build on the current regulation,” Jung said. “And in the current regulation, feeder flights are exempt. This exemption would be continued.”
Endorsing the policy on aviation would add to momentum within Europe to hit the aviation industry with stricter emissions rules. The French government in July unveiled taxes of as much as €18 on flights departing from France, sending airline shares lower.
The levy on those flights currently starts at €7 per seat and rises to as much as €40 with the distance travelled.
“We want to double the existing ticket tax of €7.40 for domestic flights,” Jung said. “The previous plan for short domestic flights is no longer in the proposal, so that there will only be a doubling of ticket taxes.”
The ambition is for ticket prices to more accurately reflect the environmental cost of flying compared to train travel and to make those choices more transparent to consumers. Some of the measures were first reported by local media.
Olaf Scholz, the government’s finance minister and a lawmaker from the Social Democrat Party, said in an interview with Germany’s Bild Zeitung that he favours increasing taxes on airplane tickets.
“This we want to increase,” Scholz said in an interview with Germany’s Bild newspaper. “That is, technically speaking, the cleanest solution.” The move could alter the competitive landscape between Germany’s national carrier Deutsche Lufthansa AG and the low cost carriers Ryanair Holdings Plcand Easyjet Plc.
Earlier this summer, Lufthansa chief executive officer Carsten Spohr blasted his rivals for offering tickets as low as €10 each, saying prices that low are economically and ecologically irresponsible.
Analysts have said Lufthansa would likely benefit from an increase in the cost of flying. The introduction of Germany’s first ticket taxes in 2011 forced Ryanair to retreat from the German market, with Lufthansa increasing its market share at the Irish carrier’s expense.
While new passenger jet aircraft are more fuel efficient, pollution from the industry are rising as more people chose to fly. Carbon emissions from Lufthansa and Ryanair rose to a record last year as passenger volumes increased – even though they both made fuel efficiency gains by using newer jets, sustainability reports from both companies showed.
By 2020, CO2 emissions from airlines will be 70% above 2005 levels.
Global output is set to increase by a minimum 300% through 2050. If aviation was a country it would rank among the top 10 emitters.
Someone flying London-New York and back generates the same level of emissions as a person heating their home for a year. Aviation will become the most-polluting industry within three decades, assuming energy firms extend de-carbonisation plans.
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