Denmark is proposing a small tax on all flights, half the revenue to produce SAF and half for pensions
Denmark has announced a new proposal to implement a “green tax” on all flights in an effort to fund a sustainable-energy transition for its domestic air travel. The plan is to charge passengers (in Danish krones) around $9 for flights within Europe, $35 for medium-distance flights and $56 for long-distance flights by 2030. The policy would come into effect at the start of 2025. The tax might raise 1.2 billion krones (about €160 million) per year, and it is alleged this would help airlines to fuel all domestic flights (Denmark is a small country …) with so-called Sustainable Jet Fuel by 2030. Part of the revenue would support pension increases for elderly citizens. Denmark’s Minister for Climate, Energy and Utilities said “The flight sector in Denmark must — as all other sectors — lower its carbon footprint and get on board a green future.” Initiatives to lessen air travel are generally more popular in Europe than in the US, where lack of government initiative and there is less good alternative high-speed travel infrastructure. Magdalena Heuwieser, co-founder of the Stay Grounded network, said Denmark has enough rail connections to ban all domestic flights, and that would be much more sustainable than a push for SAF.
Denmark is proposing a ‘green tax’ on all flights
The effort is the latest by a European country to limit flying’s negative effects on the climate
By Sofia Andrade (Washington Post)
November 14, 2023
Denmark has announced a new proposal to implement a “green tax” on all flights in an effort to fund a sustainable-energy transition for its domestic air travel. Released Thursday, the plan by the Scandinavian country would charge passengers (in Danish krones) around $9 for flights within Europe, $35 for medium-distance flights and $56 for long-distance flights by 2030. The policy would be phased into effect beginning in 2025.
Half of the revenue from the “green tax” — which is expected to bring in around 1.2 billion krones — would be used to support a transition to have all domestic flights use 100% sustainable fuels by 2030. (The country plans to have its first all-green-fueled domestic flight route in operation in 2025.) Another portion of the revenue would support pension increases for elderly citizens.
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“Flying takes a toll on the climate, which is why we need to equip our flight sector with green wings,” Denmark’s Minister for Climate, Energy and Utilities Lars Aagaard said in a statement. “The flight sector in Denmark must — as all other sectors — lower its carbon foot print and get on board a green future. We will create that change and make green flights our reality.”
Globally, the aviation industry accounted for 2 percent of all energy-related CO2 emissions in 2022, according to the International Energy Agency. Pre-pandemic, this number was even higher. A 2020 study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on the aviation industry found that “global air travel and transport is responsible for 3.5 percent of all drivers of climate change from human activities.” Some estimates see aviation’s share in global carbon emissions rising to 22 percent by 2050.
The move by the Danish government follows similar policies elsewhere in Europe that aim to limit the negative climate effects of air travel. At the start of this year, the government of the Netherlands tripled its passenger tax on air travel in another bid to curb carbon emissions.
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And earlier this summer, France became the first country in the world to enact a legal ban on any domestic short-haul flights between places where an easy train alternative exists, and where the train trip is less than 2.5 hours. Though a legal first, climate advocates found the law lacking, as routes banned by the law accounted for less than 3 percent of domestic flight emissions. The original proposal that came from the French climate “citizens’ assembly” applied to flights where the train travel was under four hours, but the plan was watered down in the legislature.
Though short-haul flights especially are extremely energy-intensive and make up about 25 percent of U.S. air traffic, similar proposals have not yet made way in the U.S., where the aviation industry accounts for about 3 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions.
Initiatives to stop or lessen air travel are generally more popular in Europe than in the U.S., where lack of government initiative and alternative high-speed travel infrastructure such as trains has limited action. Though the Inflation Reduction Act passed by Congress in 2022 included tax credits and research funding to support the U.S. production of “sustainable aviation fuels” (SAFs), for example, it doesn’t cut down or attempt to manage flight frequency.
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Recent years have also seen a growing international movement of scientists, professionals and consumers advocating for less air travel, some going as far as to stop traveling by plane altogether. We Stay on the Ground, a Sweden-based group, had 26,000 people sign up for its “flight free” campaign in 2020, for example. And in the United States, NASA data scientist Peter Kalmus started No Fly Climate Sci, a loosely organized group of “scientists, academics, and members of the public who either don’t fly or who fly less” in order to cut down their carbon footprint and limit their contribution to climate change. The website began in 2017 and has since grown to include a few dozen entries from across the globe.
Despite some vocal supporters and high-visibility public efforts — like Greta Thunberg’s trip across the Atlantic via high-speed sailboat — the movement for less flight travel hasn’t reached the mainstream.
Still, governments, especially in Europe, have taken clear steps to regulate the climate impacts of the aviation industry, both through policies like Denmark’s proposed tax and by cracking down on “greenwashing” airlines misrepresenting their sustainability practices, as was the case in an EU-wide complaint filed by consumer groups this fall.
“This proposal is little more than greenwash that will ultimately fuel the industry’s growth. The tax is too tiny for demand reduction, and most of it will be swallowed by the industry,” Magdalena Heuwieser, co-founder of the Stay Grounded network, said in an email.
Heuwieser said Denmark has enough rail connections to ban all domestic flights. “This would be much more sustainable, as flying is always more energy intensive, no matter which technology might come up in the future.”
Denmark wants to tax air passengers to fund greener aviation
by Deborah O’Donoghue (Travel Tomorrow)
16 November 2023
The Danish government is set to introduce new aviation taxes for passengers in a move it says will raise funds for the transition to greener air travel, helping to bring about the first completely green-fuelled domestic route in Denmark by 2025.
Sliding scale, split priorities
From 2025, flyers will pay the tax on a sliding scale, depending on how far they travel and when. Three different categories of flight have been touted. While they are not yet defined, “within Europe” could be Paris, according to the proposal. The example for “Medium” is New York and “long distance” is exemplified by Bangkok.
In the first three years of the plan, the tax will average around 70 kroner per flight, but will go up to around 85 kroner after that, and will hit around 100 kroner (13.40 euros) in 2030.
The initiative is eventually expected to raise 1.2 billion kroner per year, of which the government has earmarked around half for the subsidised development and growth of green aviation fuels by the end of the decade. Through the scheme, state support will be made available to sustainable power solutions, such as the renewable energy conversion method known as “power-to-X”, as well as bio fuels and hydrogen technology.
In the initial phases of the strategy however, only about a third of the money raised will go to aviation and green industries, with the remainder destined to boost pension payments for less well-off older people – something tax minister Jeppe Bruus said on Thursday would mean ”two good causes” could get something out of the arrangement.
But the split in priorities has caused criticism to be levelled at the policy. Jens Meilvang, transport spokesperson for the generally anti-taxation Liberal Alliance, told TV2, “It’s being sold as if it’s being done for green transition. Now money is being taken out of the industry.” Meilvang urged the government to ensure all the money gained from aviation should be ploughed back into the source. “All the money should be given back to the sector so they can switch [to green energy] because it’s expensive,” he said.
If we are to have an airline ticket tax, and we should, the money must go back to the industry. All the revenue must go back into the industry.
Samira Nawa, Social Liberal, told Ritzau
Copenhagen airport too has weighed in, agreeing that a green transition is needed but that aviation will need the majority of the money and not just a portion of it, to make real change happen. It urged the government to work more closely with the Aviation Climate Partnership.
Though a range of opposition parties have found something to dislike in the plan, Denmark’s majority government is likely to push through. “The aviation sector in Denmark must – just like all other industries – reduce its climate footprint and move towards a green future,” the country’s Minister for Climate, Energy and Utilities, Lars Aagaard, commented in a press statement.