A number of EU countries – as well as Nordic neighbours Sweden and Norway – have introduced extra tariffs on flights in order to compensate for commercial aviation’s contribution towards global warming.
Somewhat surprisingly perhaps, as Denmark likes to think of itself at the vanguard when it comes to green initiatives, there are no plans to follow suit.
Not good enough
Bill Hemmings, the head of the aviation arm of a European climate NGO, Transport & Environment, suggests that by not doing so, Denmark is indirectly supporting the aviation industry.
“Considering that flying is a very damaging activity climate-wise, it doesn’t make any sense that some countries are giving commercial aviation duty-free status,” he told DR Nyheder.
No real effect
The transport minister, Ole Birk Olesen, rejects the criticism and in a written reply to DR argues that surcharges on flights have a negative effect because they don’t create incentives for airlines to become greener. Rather, they attempt to regulate passenger behaviour, not CO2 emissions.
“We’ve seen in both Sweden and Norway, where surcharges have been introduced, that the largest airports continue to have positive growth and that people haven’t stopped flying, even though it has become more expensive.”
Hemmings points out that there is also an element of sending a signal in the move.
“If it is okay that a family of four pays a petrol surcharge when they drive to Italy, why is it not okay if they pay a surcharge if they fly?”
Euro MP candidates split
It is not only governments who can’t agree when it comes to surcharges on commercial aviation – or the lack of them.
Amongst the ten main candidates standing for election to the European Parliament in May this year, six are against the idea and four in favour.
Socialdemokratiet, Dansk Folkeparti and Konservative all argue that surcharges would hit poorer people disproportionately.
“A surcharge on flying would create inequality because, first and foremost, it would hit Danes on low incomes that perhaps only fly once a year. Perhaps it would be better to trust in greener developments within the aviation industry,” Dansk Folkeparti’s candidate Peter Kofod told DR Nyheder.
Back on the train
Amongst the candidates in favour, all think that surcharges are one of the many means that can be used to tackle climate change. Another element is increased investment in greatly improved public transport between countries.
“Trains should be cheaper, and imagine if it was once again possible to take the night train across Europe,” said Alternativet’s Rasmus Nordqvist.