European airlines have slammed a “flawed” report that suggests adding a 10 per cent aviation fuel tax to cut the industry’s CO2 emissions, saying it undermines climate change.

The EU-commissioned report, which was leaked last month, claims levying a tax on aviation fuel sold in Europe would reduce emissions by 11 per cent and have no impact on jobs or the economy.

But Airlines for Europe (A4E) – which includes member carriers such as Air France KLM, Easyjet, Finnair, British Airways owner International Airlines Group (IAG), Lufthansa and Ryanair, among others – says the answer to cutting CO2 levels lies in regulation rather than taxation.

MD Thomas Reynaert commented: “Politicians also have a role to play. We need to urgently reform Europe’s airspace, as it would enable airlines to fly more direct, efficient routings and lead to a 10 per cent reduction in CO2 levels. The Single European Sky has been delayed for 18 years. It’s time to put national interests aside if Europe wants to play a leading role in tackling climate change.

“European governments should support aviation’s ongoing initiatives to decarbonise by providing economic incentives for sustainable jet fuels and low-carbon aircraft.”

The association says airlines have invested US$1 trillion in new, more fuel-efficient aircraft since 2009 and claims a flight taken today produces half the emissions compared to 1990.

Several of A4E’s member airlines have also invested in research into sustainable aviation, with Easyjet working on the development of electric aircraft and others supporting alternative fuel plants in Europe.

A4E says the report suggesting an aviation fuel tax “contains simplistic assumptions and does not accurately reflect the negative impact such taxes have on the economy while exaggerating their environmental contributions”.

It also claims that other “green taxes” introduced in some EU member states have not helped to reduce emissions nor been used to fund environmental initiatives.

Furthermore, the association says it is “remarkable” that the study did not include the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS), which its members claim to have paid into since 2012. The cost of emissions allowances has tripled in recent years to €25 per tonne of CO2, according to A4E.

And contrary to the report, A4E says the jobs lost resulting from an aviation fuel tax “cannot be easily replaced” and that the move would have a knock-on effect across the tourism industry.

Reynaert concluded: “Going forward, smart policies are needed to achieve sustainable mobility whilst maintaining EU competitiveness. Our focus should remain on finding ways to reduce CO2 emissions rather than short-sighted and ineffective measures such as new taxes. It’s very simple: taxing passengers or flights will not cut emissions.”

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