„Climate Justice is not clever calculation“ - The implementation of an air ticket tax by the German government

A comment by EED Tourism Watch

(Bonn, 30/06/2010) The recent decisions taken by the German government in order to restore the federal budget also include a tax on air tickets to be levied from 2011. Even though only two percent of the world's population take flights at all, aviation is a significant contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. EED therefore generally welcomes the introduction of an air ticket tax by the German government as a first necessary step. However, the revenue has to benefit the people most affected by climate change: "Climate justice is not clever calculation. The revenue generated by an air ticket tax needs to feed into the UN adaptation fund", said Heinz Fuchs, director of EED's Tourism Watch desk.

In the international climate negotiations, the least developed countries (LDC) proposed an international air passenger levy (IAPAL) to be introduced globally. The revenue generated should feed into the existing UN fund to finance adaptation measures in developing countries suffering from the consequences of climate change. "The German government should give a credible signal, support the demands of the poorest countries and, as a pioneer, promote a global air ticket tax and more climate justice internationally. This first step would indicate the right direction", said Mr. Fuchs.

The revenues from the air ticket tax now introduced, however, go to the federal budget. The German government had pledged 420 million euros per year for developing countries. Civil society organisations have criticised that only a maximum of 70 million euros are actually "new" commitments, while 350 million had already been promised earlier in other contexts. In the current budget planning, even this money has become subject to cuts and reallocations.

The air ticket tax is to be levied for an interim period until aviation enters the existing European Emissions Trading System (ETS) in 2013/14. It is planned as a national environmental air ticket tax for all passengers departing from German airports. The government hopes to generate an additional one billion euros annually. Experts assume an average increase in air fares of 14 euros per ticket.

The Netherlands' example shows the importance of finding at least a European solution: After the introduction of this kind of ticket tax, passengers preferred to use nearby airports in Germany, Belgium, and Luxemburg, not far from the Dutch border. The revenues the Dutch government had hoped for did not materialise, so that after one year it backpaddled and withdrew the tax.

Though the air ticket tax is a positive and ecologically sensible step, the German government falls way behind the scope of available policy options: It could introduce an air fuel tax in Germany which has long been overdue. At European level, it should promote the full auctioning of emission rights for aviation. According to current regulation, only 15 percent of these emission rights are to be auctioned while the remaining 85 percent are to be allocated free of charge.

The overall picture is rounded out by Germany's lack of commitment with regard to poverty alleviation during the G8 meeting in Toronto: The German government is in the process of gambling away its credibility with regard to climate change mitigation and the Millennium Development Goals.