Sweden to hit flights with ‘world’s first’ emissions-based charges

Sweden to hit flights with 'world's first' emissions-based charges
Passengers waiting at Gothenberg's Landvetter airport. Photo: Adam Ihse/ TT
Sweden plans to become the first country in the world to impose tapered emissions charges on flights leaving and departing from its airports, the government has said.

Airlines would potentially pay a lower charge if their planes are more efficient, use biofuels or are flying a shorter distance.

“As the first country in the world, we are now bringing in climate-related levies on take-offs and landings so that aviation can truly be led by the companies which have the least impact on the climate,” said Sweden’s climate minister Per Bolund, who is one of the two leaders of Sweden’s Green Party, told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper. 

“This is going to have a big impact on reducing aviation’s burden on the climate.”

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The new charges, which will come into force on July 1st, are based on the results of an analysis published by the Swedish Transport Agency in June 2020. 

Before the pandemic, flights taken by people in Sweden generated as many tonnes of carbon equivalent as all the country’s cars, with each Swede’s flights in 2017 generating on average 1.1 tonnes of carbon dioxide, five times the global average.

The government has put proposed legal changes to parliament that would make it possible to bring in the levies at Stockholm Arlanda and Gothenburg Landvetter airports.

According to a press release, the proposed levies will be set according to the emissions generated by different flight routes and different plane models, and may also take into account how much biofuel is blended with fuel in the planes tanks.

Tomas Eneroth, Sweden’s infrastructure minister, said that the levies would allow lawmakers to “directly reward those companies which have a fleet which generates fewer emissions, and which, for example, are increasing the proportion of biofuels they use”.

Sweden’s government, he added, wanted to send “a strong signal that we want to take the lead in the transformation of aviation”.

Arlanda and Landvetter together generate roughly half of Sweden’s emissions due to aviation, and they are the only two airports currently covered by the law on aviation charges, which the government is proposing to amend.

Eneroth said that if the levies were a success, they would be extended to other, smaller airports.

Before the pandemic, environmentally conscious consumers in Sweden launched the concept of flygskam or “flight shame”, a trend or movement that saw many take the decision to stop flying and instead taking foreign holidays by train.

Bolund noted that there was a demand from consumers for less polluting flights.

“Even aviation consumers want aviation to be more sustainable, so there is pressure from consumers,” he said. “I think that the airports also understand that there is a demand that aviation needs to be more sustainable.”


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