Nine European finance ministers have called on the incoming European Commission to make progress on a European aviation tax as part of efforts to reduce the airline industry’s environmental impact. 

The finance ministers of Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Sweden urged the commission to propose a European Union (EU) initiative to raise the price of commercial aviation. 

“Compared to most other means of transportation, aviation is not sufficiently priced,” the ministers said in a Nov. 7 statement. “Aviation transport is exempted from excise duties, no VAT is levied on international flights, there is no coordinated ticket tax, and economic instruments to curb greenhouse gas emissions can be strengthened in the aviation sector.” 

They added that carbon emissions and other negative impacts, such as noise and air pollution, are not sufficiently covered by the price of international tickets. 

“We believe that more coordination on pricing of negative externalities of aviation could ensure that the polluter pays a fairer price for the use of aviation transport. To be effective and create a level playing field, we are convinced that EU coordination on this matter is the most effective for all member states,” the ministers said.

The commission should take into account “existing national systems, the competitiveness of the sectors concerned, and the geographical position and development of the transport infrastructure in member states,” they said. 

A Europewide tax on aviation, which accounts for about 2.5% of global carbon emissions, has been in the spotlight in recent months. 

In July, France’s then-transport minister Elisabeth Borne announced an “eco-tax” on flights departing French airports beginning in 2020. The tax would be calculated progressively, starting at a €1.50 ($1.68) per ticket on domestic and intra-European flights, rising to as much as €18 on a business-class seat to a non-EU destination.

Airlines criticized the move, saying they already pay environmental taxes and need to be able to invest in new, more-sustainable aircraft to reduce their emissions.

European civil aviation is already part of the European emissions trading scheme, and the pilot phase of ICAO’s Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) begins in 2021.

Helen Massy-Beresford,