MEP calls for unilateral EU aviation tax

Environment committee member says even marginal environmental improvement worth the cost

The EU should unilaterally introduce taxes on aircraft fuel for environmental reasons while lobbying for a similar move worldwide, a member of the European Parliament's environment committee said this week.

Swedish centrist MEP Karl-Erik Olsson told fellow assembly members on Monday that the European Commission was wrong to reject the idea in a policy paper published earlier this year (ENDS Daily 13 March). The paper said a unilateral EU aviation fuel tax would harm the bloc's airlines while bringing only marginal environmental benefits. It advocated instead a global tax or the introduction of different air transport levies such as emissions charges.

"It's a weak argument to say that [an EU tax] would not have much effect. You've got to start somewhere," Mr Olsson said. In a resolution which he hopes the rest of the parliament will endorse, the MEP stresses that "relatively minor measures can never be regarded as insignificant" and EU governments "ought to agree on common excise duties on aircraft fuel in the union."

Mr Olsson's views drew support from all parts of the committee's political spectrum, though one prominent dissenter was UK conservative Roger Helmer. "Airlines already have enormous incentives to save fuel," he said, since prices were so high. Mr Olsson's proposal comes just two weeks after the parliament passed a resolution on air transport which called for stronger action on the environmental impact of planes but stopped short of calling for a unilateral fuel tax (ENDS Daily 7 September).

Follow Up:
European Parliament environment committee, tel: 284 2111, and the Olsson report.

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