France to impose green tax on plane tickets to curb emissions

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"France is to impose an 'eco-tax" of up to €18 (£16) on plane tickets for all flights leaving domestic airports to fund greener transport projects, the country's transport minister has announced.

The tax is expected to raise about €180m ($202m; £162m) from 2020, said Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne.

Shares in Air France/KLM and budget airlines EasyJet and Ryanair dropped following the announcement.

Borne told a news conference that she expects the new tax will raise raise 180million euros (£160million) per year from when it is introduced.

The tax will not apply to connecting flights or those to Corsica and France's overseas departments and territories, which include Caribbean and Indian Ocean islands, where flights are vital to maintaining connectivity, Borne said.

Flights within France or the EU will be taxed €1.50, economy flights out of the EU will be taxed €3, while €9 will be the price of the tax for business class flights within the EU and it will go up to €18 for business class flights outside the EU.

"This alone won't do much, but it's at least a recognition by the French government that more is required", said Andrew Murphy, an air travel expert at Brussels-based group Transport and Environment.

Air France slammed the measure, which it said would "strongly penalise its competitiveness" at a time when it needed to invest, notably in renewing its fleet, to reduce its carbon footprint.

"The government is finally targeting tax breaks for the most polluting industries such as trucking and airlines, but these modest measures will not significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions", said Climate Action Network's Lorelei Limousin. It has also linked up with the Netherlands to try to convince fellow European nations to tax airline travel more.

"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 more than €180 million in 2018". Transit flights will not be taxed.

French President Emmanuel Macron is seeking to cast himself a champion of the fight against climate change and ensuring that the 2015 Paris accord on fighting global warming is respected.

The French government has tried to tighten environmental regulation, but a year ago abandoned its plans for fuel tax rises after the widespread protests from the "yellow vests" ("gilets jaunes").

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