Europe's Climate Policies Could End Cheap Flights but Leave Private Jets Unchecked

By Ivan PetrenkoMay 21, 2024 17:30 PMNews
Private jets emit more CO2
Private jets emit more CO2. Source: Unsplash

Recent EU environmental policies may spell the end of low-cost air travel in Europe. While this benefits the climate, it impacts low- and middle-income travelers, potentially limiting their ability to travel within the EU. However, these policies seem to spare the more polluting private jets, which often cover routes served by commercial airlines and trains. This discrepancy highlights an unfair burden in the pursuit of climate action. Addressing this inequity should be a priority for the next EU legislative term to ensure a just and inclusive climate transition.

According to the European Commission, intra-EU airfares last summer were 20% to 30% higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic, due to high consumer demand, rising fuel costs, and disrupted supply chains influenced by recent geopolitical events. Prices are expected to rise further as the EU phases out free emission allowances for airlines between 2024 and 2026, under the "Fit For 55" package. Additionally, reforms to the 2003 Energy Taxation Directive (ETD) might remove tax exemptions for aviation fuels, and some countries, like France, propose a fixed minimum price for intra-EU flights.

Rising costs will likely decrease air travel demand. Airlines for Europe estimates that the cost of complying with new EU regulations will be significantly higher in 2030 than in 2019. Research from SEO Amsterdam Economics suggests that if these costs are passed onto consumers, intra-EU air traffic could drop by over 8% in 2030 and around 12% in 2035.

While reducing air travel is crucial for the EU's net-zero CO2 emissions goal, it limits travel options for low-income individuals. Low-cost airlines have democratized travel, fostering international experiences and family ties across the EU. This accessibility is now under threat, while private jets, which emit significantly more CO2 per passenger, remain largely unaffected by these policies.

National initiatives to regulate private jets are emerging. France has proposed banning private flights and implementing a luxury flight tax. Amsterdam Schiphol Airport plans to limit private jet access, and Spain is considering a ban on short-term private flights as part of its net-zero CO2 emissions plan by 2050. The next European Commission should consider similar measures to ensure climate actions are equitably shared among all citizens.

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