Rhein on Energy and Climate

Air transport and shipping are the two major sectors with high and rising C02 emissions that have been universally exempt from curbs, due to the absence of an appropriate international agreement on how to tackle the issue. Negotiations within the competent international shipping and air line organisations have been dragging for many years without success. The EU has also failed so far to include the two sectors into its climate policy.

Now, for the first time a major industrial country, Germany, makes a try. The German government has decided to introduce a levy on all air tickets for flights from German airports as of January 2011. The levy will amount to € 8 for intra-European flights, € 25 flights for medium distances (e.g. Egypt) and € 45 for long-distance flights.

The decision has been taken essentially for budget reasons. Germany hopes for about € 1 billion extra receipts to balance its budget. Low cost flying offers an ideal target for some extra charges. The decision has raised little opposition from airlines, which have simply decided to incorporate the new charges in their future rates.

The climate impact is likely to be nil. The low charges will hardly deter many citizens from taking the plane for their summer holidays or business people from flying to China or the USA.

But hopefully the German action might induce other countries to follow suit and also discover that air transport offers an easily accessible source of extra revenue. If that were to happen and levies to rise progressively they might in future exert some restraint on flying and force air lines to accelerate the modernisation of their fleets.

More importantly, the German decision will prepare the way for the EU discussion in 2011 when the Commission will submit proposals for the insertion of air transport into the EU emission trading system.

Brussels 08.09 2010 Eberhard Rhein

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