France plans to put an “ecotax” on nearly all airline flights starting in 2020, French Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne said Tuesday. The new tax could bring in some $200 million that would support modes of travel that pollute less — such as trains.
“With the eco-contribution, air transport will play its part in financing the daily transport of all our citizens,” Borne said via Twitter. She added, “It is a response to the ecological urgency and sense of injustice expressed by the French.”
The new tax will not apply to connecting flights or flights that land in France — only ones that originate in the country. Trips to Corsica and French territories overseas would also be exempt from the tax.
The green tax’s cost would shift along with the travel distance and ticket type. For example, the price for a domestic flight would rise by as little as 1.50 euros — about $1.70. Under the tax, a business-class ticket for a flight bound out of the European Union would cost 18 euros more — about $20.
Similar airfare taxes already exist in other countries. In Germany, a green tax adds between 8 and 45 euros ($9-$50) to ticket prices, according to Deutsche Welle. Sweden announced a comparable flight tax in the spring of 2018.
Soon after the French government unveiled the plan, Air France announced that it “strongly disapproves” of the tax, issuing a statement in which it said the initiative would cost its combined airlines more than $67 million each year. The airline is partly owned by the French government; its corporate group also includes Dutch airline KLM.
“This measure would be extremely penalizing for Air France, of which 50% of its flights are operated out of France, and notably for its domestic network, where losses amounted to above 180 million euros [$202 million] in 2018,” the company said.
In response, Borne said, “there will be no disadvantage for French airline companies,” adding, “the chosen arrangements aim not to penalize them.”
Air France’s stock price tumbled after Tuesday’s announcement, finishing the day with a 3% fall.
On the global stage, French President Emmanuel Macron’s government has taken a leading role in fighting climate change. But Macron has also faced criticism and setbacks as his cabinet tries to adopt new policies.
A planned tax on gas and diesel, for instance, sparked such an intense backlash that even after it was suspended, yellow vest or gilets jaunes protesters have become a force in France’s public debate over how the government should be run, and how people should respond to a changing climate.