Greenpeace claims that “outrageous” tax breaks given to airlines in the European Union have given travelers incentive to choose to fly rather than taking the train, according to a report by The Guardian.
The decadeslong tax exemption on jet fuel has given airlines the ability to sell tickets at a lower price, but it’s costing governments and citizens alike.
Greenpeace analyzed 112 routes over nine days and found that, on average, the train was more expensive on 79 of those routes. In some cases, the difference in price was astonishing. For instance, to get from London to Barcelona was 30 times more expensive to take the train rather than hopping on a plane.
The biggest price to pay in the short term is paid by the governments. According to a study by Transport and Environment, European governments reportedly lost over 34.2 billion euros ($37.2 billion as of mid-August) in revenue last year alone. That could pay for nearly 870 miles of high-speed rail.
The long-term cost is the damage to the environment. Commercial airliners contribute a huge amount of harmful gases into the atmosphere. One round-trip flight between New York and California produces about 20% of what your car does in an entire year, according to The New York Times.
In 2019, international flights in the EU contributed 81.6 million metric tons (89.9 million tons) of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Rail transportation, on the other hand, emitted only 3.5 million metric tons (3.9 million tons) in 2020.
The EU is working to start taxing jet fuels, but the member states are struggling to agree to make cleaner fuels cheaper and the fuels airlines currently use are more expensive.
Lorelei Limousin, a climate campaigner at Greenpeace, urged governments to act, saying: “For the planet and people’s sake, politicians must act to turn this situation around and make taking the train the more affordable option.”
“Ten Euro [roughly $11] airline tickets are only possible because others, like workers and taxpayers, pay the true cost,” Limousin told The Guardian. “Planes pollute far more than trains, so why are people being encouraged to fly?”
The International Energy Agency has also called on governments to “tax aviation fuels according to impact, acknowledging that only a minority of the world flies.”
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