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Dutch Airport Calls For Air Traffic Polluters To Pay For CO² Emissions

Schiphol is taking a stand.

Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport has published new research which shows the need for a strong reduction of air traffic in order to halt the ongoing climate crisis. In a move likely to shock other airport companies, Schiphol proposes the ‘polluter pays’ principle, with measures such as a worldwide kerosene tax and a tax for business class and private flights.

Schiphol Airport: Going Rogue

Schiphol’s research showed that at least a 30% CO² reduction (when compared to 2019) is needed for Schiphol and European aviation to be on track in 2030. That’s more than the current Dutch goal of a 9% reduction.

Welcoming the report, Magdalena Heuwieser from the global campaign network Stay Grounded said:

This report is a ray of light on the aviation horizon. It is rare that the industry, in this case one of the five biggest European airports, actually acknowledges the need for degrowth. We hope this opens the eyes of further airports and policy makers to the urgency of implementing the proposed measures.

The Netherlands Aerospace Centre (NLR) and research institute CE Delft were commissioned by Schiphol to investigate what is needed in order to bring Schiphol’s CO² emissions in line with the Paris Agreement.

The CE Delft report explains why “technological breakthroughs will come too late” and so-called “Sustainable Aviation Fuel” production has limits. It concludes that:

management measures are necessary to align the aviation sector with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

A Series Of Measures

The following measures are proposed by Schiphol Airport:

  • Convert the Dutch air passenger tax to a distance-based tax. 20% of flights (long haul) are responsible for 80% of emissions. This tax would be in line with existing distance-based taxation in Germany and the UK.
  • Additional tax for business class and private flights.
  • Divert flight tax proceeds back to help the Dutch aviation sector accelerate its move away from fossil fuels. This would also create a competitive advantage for the development of sustainable aviation initiatives in the country.
  • Expand the European emissions trading scheme to include intercontinental flights. This currently only applies to flights within Europe.
  • Introduce a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) in Europe to prevent carbon leakage and maintain a level playing field.
  • Commit to a worldwide kerosene tax and blending obligation through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

A “Great Deal More Realistic”

Heuwieser concluded:

These measures are a great deal more realistic about the scale of change needed than most industry proposals are. Aviation is the pinnacle of climate injustice, with 1% being responsible for 50% of aviation emissions. It is mostly the global elite who are super-emitters, and they should pay for it via taxes, and extra charges for business class.

Still, these are mostly market-based measures, which fall short of actually reducing flights in a fair way: instead of a tax on private flights, we need a ban on private flights as well as short-haul flights, a frequent flying levy and clear caps on flights at airports. And the tax revenues should be used to invest in reliable, sustainable train networks.

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