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Taxing Aviation is the Wrong Way to Tackle the Industry’s CO2 Emissions

By  Brussels, — Last updated on 5 December 2023
  • EU Ministers meeting to discuss proposals for EU-wide environmental taxes on aviation in the Netherlands on 20–21 June.Conference on carbon pricing and aviation taxes
  • A4E members including Europe’s largest airlines say investment in new aircraft, technology and more efficient operations are most effective at reducing CO2 emissions.
  • N. global carbon offsetting and reduction scheme for aviation (CORSIA) will result in the mitigation of around 2.5 billion tons of CO2 between 2021 and 2035.

Days before EU Ministers gather in The Hague to discuss proposals for an EU-wide tax on aviation — industry executives from Airlines for Europe (A4E), Europe’s largest airline association, refuted the idea that aviation taxes are an effective tool to reduce CO2 emissions.

Speaking at the Paris Air Show, A4E members including Airbus, Air France, easyJet and Norwegian said the best way for aviation to address climate change is through continuous investment in technology for new aircraft and sustainable fuels and reformed air traffic operations.

A recent study for the Netherlands’ Finance Ministry,CE Delft ( found that aviation taxes have a limited effect on reducing emissions. In fact, a number of so-called “green taxes” introduced in some Member States have not helped to reduce emissions nor been used to fund environmental initiatives.

“Europe needs to focus on funding research & development to support the new technologies that will be needed to deliver lower emissions”, said François Bacchetta, Country Director for France and Italy at easyJet.

Sustainable growth is a top priority for European airlines so that aviation can continue to create social and economic value for Europeans. The aviation industry currently supports 9.4 million jobs and contributes €615 billion to the EU’s GDPSource: ATAG ( (4.2% of total GDP). European airlines have also been paying for their emissions since 2012 via the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS). Aviation is currently the only transport sector that is part of the ETS.

“The single most important thing an airline can do to reduce its emissions is to invest in new aircraft. With an average fleet age of 3.8 years, Norwegian has one of the newest and greenest fleets in the world. This combination of a modern fleet, direct flights and high load factors has enabled us to reduce our emissions per passenger by 30 percent since 2008. Taxes weaken airlines’ ability to further invest and also hurt consumers by making it more expensive to fly”, said Bjørn Kjos, CEO, of Norwegian Air Shuttle.

In fact, since 2009, airlines have invested some €889 billion in over 12,200 new aircraft, with a flight taken today producing half the CO2 emissions it did in 1990. In addition, a number of A4E airline members have set up innovative partnerships to produce sustainable aviation fuel plants in Europe and hybrid electric aircraft.

“easyJet is one of the first commercial airlines to support an electric aircraft programme through our partnership with Wright Electric, launched in 2017”, Bacchetta added.

Sustainable aviation fuels can play a significant role in reducing CO2 emissions, with a recent studySource: Sustainable Aviation UK, 2019 showing that up to 30% of emissions savings can be achieved by 2050 thanks to such fuels.

From 2020 onwards, the UN’s global aviation carbon emissions reduction scheme, CORSIA, will enable airlines to deliver on the industry’s goal of carbon-neutral growth by early 2020. As of May 2019, 80 states representing 77% of international aviation activity have voluntarily signed up to CORSIA — and more than half of these states are European. CORSIA will result in the mitigation of around 2.5 billion tons of CO2 between 2021 and 2035.

“Another vital lever for reducing CO2 emissions is the implementation of Europe’s eagerly-awaited ATM reform. In 2018, Air France registered over one million minutes of delay linked to air traffic control, negatively impacting not only our customers but our sector’s environmental footprint. It is time for politicians to put their national differences aside and implement the Single European Sky for the sake of our climate, with the aim of reducing C02 emissions by 10%”, said Alain-Hervé Bernard, COO and EVP Operations and Cargo, Air France.