NGOs push for EU to tax aviation fuel

Campaigners look to Germany to take first steps to EU-wide charge on air travel

Friends of the Earth (FoE) Europe today called on the EU to introduce a tax on aviation in the first half of next year. The group is organising two days of action later this week to ram home its message.

At a press conference to launch the second international action day of the "Right Price for Air Travel" campaign, FoE Europe said it hoped that Germany would put the issue on the agenda for a summit meeting of EU heads of government due to be held at the end of its EU presidency term next June.

The group said it had been encouraged by a recent statement by Germany's new Social-Democrat/Green governing coalition in favour of a tax for intra-European flights. Also, by early next year, the European Commission will have published its report in the economic impact of taxing the aircraft fuel kerosene, which is currently exempt from tax under an international agreement.

FoE says air travel benefits from hidden subsidies through a combination of tax-free fuel, no VAT on tickets and duty-free sales revenue. It is proposing adding a US$0.10 (Ecu0.08) tax to the price of a litre of kerosene, which currently sells for around US$0.13-0.15, and then assessing what impact this has over a five-year trial period.

The NGO believes it would be legal for the EU to impose a fuel tax for internal EU flights - more than half of all flights from EU airports - and that this would be the simplest way to suppress demand. However, opposition to such a tax might necessitate levying, instead, a charge based on the kilometres flown by an airline in EU airspace. FoE suggests that this might be added on to the navigation charge already paid by airlines.

Paul de Clerk of FoE Netherlands said the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the UN body which governs international air traffic regulations, was acting too slowly on the issue and that the EU should assert its right to act on its own. At its recent assembly (ENDS Daily 7 October) - which occurs only once every three years - ICAO reiterated its opposition to fuel tax and called on countries not to take bilateral action until it had developed guidelines on the issue, by 2001.

FoE's action day on 6-7 November will involve protests at airports in 23 countries. The campaigners are calling for measures that will slow down the growth in air traffic which is predicted to triple in the next 20-30 years. FoE claims air transport currently contributes up to 7% of global warming.

Follow Up:
'The Right Price for Air Travel' Campaign, FoE Netherlands, tel: +31 20 550 7300.

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