Toespraak staatssecretaris Snel tijdens Ecofin

Staatssecretaris Snel (Financiën) hield tijdens de Ecofin in Brussel op 12 februari 2019 een pleidooi voor het maken van Europese afspraken over vliegbelasting. De toespraak is alleen in het Engels beschikbaar.

Thank you Mr Chair for the opportunity to speak here about a topic which is of great importance to us. I hope you have all been able to take a look at the discussion paper that the Netherlands has drafted to fuel the discussion today.

The discussion is relevant. Aviation is growing rapidly as it has become accessible for an ever growing part of the global population.  We currently tax transport by car, train and subway, but in most countries you can fly untaxed even though aviation is far more polluting than other ways of transport. To quote environmental activists: “Tax bads, not goods”.

Currently, around 2,5% of global CO2 emissions stem from aviation. And due to global economic growth, even more people will be traveling by plane in the years to come. CO2 emissions are therefore expected to increase by 68% percent this decade, 185% by 2040, and even 300% by 2050.

These numbers show that we face a challenge to achieve our climate goals. Goals which we agreed should be ambitious. We therefore pledged in Paris to take measures to keep global warming below 1.5 °C, while the latest UN reports tell us that if we fail to intensify our efforts, the temperature will rise by 3 degrees in 2100. Also the Commission has recently published an ambitious strategy for the EU to become climate neutral in 2050.

So, aviation will obviously play a major role in respect to the challenge that we are facing. And to take up that challenge, we should look at how we design our tax systems and how we fit our climate and environmental goals in this.

Because at this moment, environmental costs are not included in the price of air transport and air travel and that’s a flaw in our system. It should be included. And that is not about taxing more or collecting more money, it is about taxing pollution and shifting away from taxing labor. According to me, the principle that the polluter pays is simple and fair.

And looking at the EU, you see that several countries have already taken the step to tax aviation. Of course, these taxes are not identical. A possible outcome is that we end up with 27 different aviation taxes. The internal market would be better off with a harmonized approach. I see a chance to work together. Emissions do not stop at borders.

Together we can prevent a fragmented internal market. Together we can avoid tax uncertainty and maintain a level playing field. Together, we have the best chance of living up to the agreements we made in Paris. So let’s put our minds together.

Let’s make it practical: what do we want? We would like to have a more in-depth discussion on this topic, for instance at the informal EcoFin in April. To facilitate this discussion, the Netherlands offers to map the different types of aviation tax in the different EU-countries.

We also would like to invite the Commission to include further work on this subject. I have spoken to Commissioner Moscovici on this and Pierre, I fully take your point that this is a topic which cannot be addressed by this Commission, but I would be grateful for your support to have this topic addressed by the incoming Commission.

By joining forces we can explore the possibilities for an EU coordinated approach of taxing aviation. And to eventually find a fair price for flight tickets that includes environmental costs.

And to sharpen the minds even more, the Netherlands are organizing a high-level conference about carbon pricing and aviation tax on the 20th and 21st of June this year. I am very pleased to invite you all for this conference that will take place in The Hague. I would be very happy if I could receive you there. Thank you.