June 3, 2019 / 11:53 AM / 15 days ago

France wants EU to seek end to jet fuel tax exemption to curb emissions

PARIS (Reuters) - The French government wants new European Union executives to push for an end to the global tax exemption for jet fuel to reduce CO2 emissions but has dismissed opposition calls for a ban on some domestic flights to encourage train travel.

A TGV high-speed train operated by state-owned railway company SNCF speeds on the LGV Atlantique railtrack outside Orsonville, western Paris, France, September 20, 2018. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann/Files

The 1944 Chicago Convention on Civil Aviation exempts kerosene from taxation, but environmental activists say the aviation fuel should be taxed to reduce air travel and limit the emissions that are causing global temperatures to rise.

French “Yellow vest” protesters demonstrating against President Emmanuel Macron’s economic reforms have demanded higher taxes on airline travel and jet fuel, rather than hiking taxes on diesel for automobiles.

“Under the 1944 convention there can be no tax on kerosene in any country in the world, but this was introduced at a time when climate change and greenhouse gases were not an issue,” Environment Minister Francois de Rugy said on BFM television.

“That convention needs to be changed, it is a priority that we will want to see for the next European Commission,” he said.

A new Commission is due to take office in November after European Parliament elections in May saw Europe’s Green parties make their strongest showing.

Earlier attempts by the EU to tax CO2 emissions by airlines have not succeeded. A 2011 proposal that would have forced airlines to buy carbon emission permits for flights in and to the EU foundered over resistance from China and other countries.

Opposition lawmakers, including former Socialist Environment Minister Delphine Batho and far-left La France Insoumise politician Francois Ruffin, have proposed banning domestic flights for trips that could be made by high-speed train.

“That is not very serious,” De Rugy said. “I am and have always been a green activist, but this proposal would mean we could no longer take the plane in France.”

He said air traffic between destinations connected by France’s high-speed TGV train network had already fallen without any official ban.

“When the TGV arrived in my home town Nantes, air traffic virtually disappeared. The same has happened on Paris-Bordeaux, where airline travel fell 40% thanks to the TGV,” he said.

But he said the train was not fast enough to offer an alternative on some domestic journeys.

Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Richard Lough and Edmund Blair

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