“Flight shame” – expression of a bad conscience

Image: COP21

Air traffic has come under fire in the discussion about climate protection, also through “Fridays for Future”. Among other things, French President Emmanuel Macron called for kerosene to be taxed throughout Europe. In an interview with Zeit online, the CEO of the Federal Association of the German Air Transport Industry (BDL) said that air traffic is already bearing its full costs for society. This is not true, writes energy economist Sebastian Timmerberg in a guest article for Zeit online and calls for a kerosene tax.

Foto: DW

In the meantime, environmentally conscious people have developed a feeling that they call “flight shame” this is the expression of a bad conscience when boarding an airplane. But this individual view is not enough. Climate change is not a consequence of the CO2 emissions of individuals, but of all people on the planet together. This is why states in particular should act and make particularly harmful means of transport such as flying more expensive, demands Timmerberg. They should also promote technologies that will make CO2-neutral flying possible in the future.

Even if the state makes kerosene more expensive through a tax or levy, the government should not abolish the aviation tax, but supplement it. This tax would also apply to long-haul flights for which kerosene cannot be made more expensive in the foreseeable future due to international agreements. Nor is the Corisa emissions trading law, which has already been passed internationally for air traffic, an argument against an additional tax or levy on kerosene.

Some customers would simply accept a higher ticket price

According to Timmerberg, a higher kerosene price for domestic flights and, if possible, for all flights within the EU would have several positive effects. Ticket prices for air connections would rise slightly. Some customers would travel less and others would switch to alternatives such as bus or train. But a large proportion of passengers would simply accept a higher ticket price. In the past, fluctuations in kerosene prices did not have a major impact on passenger numbers.

Higher kerosene costs would also make airlines more efficient with kerosene. For example, it would be more worthwhile for them to purchase more efficient aircraft or to optimize climb and descent flights. (Lufthansa has been doing this for several years now). It would also make alternative aviation fuels relatively cheaper. These are necessary in order to come closer to the goal of CO2-neutral air traffic. Low-CO2 kerosene is still very expensive. Biokerosene costs at least three times as much. This would not change even if a kerosene tax were introduced, so further measures would have to follow to slowly introduce low-CO2 alternatives into air travel.

Quota for biokerosene using Norway as an example

Norway could be a role model here (as with so much, e.g. electromobility)! From 2020, a biokerosene quota of 0.5 percent is legally required. The biokerosene must have been produced from organic waste or residues in order to avoid negative consequences for the environment. This quota regulation means that these fuels must actually be produced, traded and used. Companies would gain experience that would lead them to improve processes and reduce the costs of kerosene alternatives. Such a quota would also be an opportunity to promote the use of power-to-liquid.

Power-to-liquid – the great hope

The aviation industry is also placing great hopes in this technology. They are synthetic fuels that bind CO2 on the basis of electricity from renewable energies. If an aircraft turbine uses this fuel, the previously bound CO2 is released again – a zero-sum game and thus CO2-neutral! However, this process has so far only been tested on a small scale and many questions remain unanswered if larger quantities are to be produced.

If climate protection is to be taken seriously, it is important both to promote these approaches to climate-neutral aviation and to reduce the tax benefits for the industry. jwm

Source: Zeit online

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