• Air ticket charge approved but concerns remain over lack of environmental incentives

    The German cabinet has approved the country’s proposed air ticket charge. Environmental groups have described it as ‘a step in the right direction’ but have criticised the fact that it is a flat tax that is not differentiated for environmental impact.

    [mailchimp_signup][/mailchimp_signup]The new charge will come into effect on 1 January, and will mean passengers on domestic flights will be charged €8, those on medium-haul flights will pay €25, and those on long-haul will pay €45. Tickets for international flights departing from Germany are currently exempt from VAT so the charge goes someway to correcting this distortion. But air freight will not be included.

    The measures were announced in June, and are part of a programme to reduce the German budget deficit by €80 billion by 2014. The air ticket charge is expected to raise €1bn next year, but it is not clear whether it will be extended into 2012 when aviation enters the EU’s Emissions Trading System.

    An element from the original proposal to include a noise charge appears to have been abandoned.

    T&E’s German member VCD said the charge was ‘a step in the right direction’ and ‘absolutely justified’. But it said a ticket charge linked to ecological criteria could do more, in particular by creating incentives for the ‘long overdue boost to innovation in the air transport sector’.

    The VCD also said the ticket tax should not distract attention from the need to end aviation’s exemption from fuel taxes. A spokesman said the introduction of minimum levels of tax on kerosene across the EU would be ‘politically decisive in sending out the right environmental signals’.

    The air ticket charge still has to be approved by the German parliament, which should be no problem, but it could be challenged legally by one of the country’s 16 federal states. A study for one of the states, Rheinland-Pfalz, suggested the ticket charge could be anti-constitutional and breach EU law.

    The German government has abandoned an agreement to raise motorway tolls for more polluting lorries and reduce tolls for cleaner trucks. A law passed in 2008 that came into effect in January 2009 envisaged raising tolls for Euro-III lorries by €0.02 per kilometre from January 2011 and reducing tolls for the cleanest heavy vehicles by €0.01/km. But the government has decided to leave all motorway tolls unchanged until the 2013 elections, a move that has angered environmental groups, who say it amounts to a €163 million gift to the road haulage industry.