New carbon fee may boost airfares

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Norwegians may soon face slightly higher airfares, but response was generally positive after Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg announced the introduction of mandatory carbon offset fees on airline tickets as of January 1, 2012.

The new carbon offset fees will be imposed on most all flights within Norway and Europe. PHOTO: SAS

The carbon offset fees (akin to what the Norwegians call “buying climate quotas”) will apply to all domestic flights, as well as flights to and from countries in the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA).

Just days after Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre dismissed concerns about Norway’s relationship with the EU, it was announced that the previously voluntary purchase of carbon offsets on flights will now be mandatory, in line with EU regulations on the matter.

The regulations are part of a carbon gas offset system intended to lower greenhouse gas emissions, a stipulation of the Kyoto protocol. According to EU estimates, the so-called “climate quotas” will mean an increase of between NOK 40 and NOK 320 (about USD 7-53) on the price of airline tickets, depending on the length of flights.

It has been possible to purchase climate quotas at the same time as tickets from Norwegian airlines since 2007. The sale of voluntary climate quotas, however, has not been as successful as hoped. Newspaper Verdens Gang (VG) reported last week that a projected sale of 70,000 quotas was in fact closer to 1,000 in 2008.

“The climate battle is too important to be left up to voluntary efforts,” Stoltenberg told newspaper Vårt Land, “which is why we need mandatory carbon emission offset fees on airline travel.” He hopes the fees will encourage airlines to fill up their aircraft, reduce the number of departures and develop new and more efficient technologies.

The mandatory climate quotas will also be taking effect in all EU countries as of 2012, and representatives for the Norwegian airline industry are generally positive to the new regulations. “The person who pollutes should have to pay for it” says Synnøve Aga, a special adviser with the Federation of Norwegian Aviation Industries (NHO Luftfart).

According to Aga, the quotas are not expected to have much of an impact on the cost of flights in Norway, because they should simply replace existing Norwegian environmental taxes and fees already included in the price. It remained unclear, though, how the airlines would implement the fees.

Views and News from Norway/Liv Buli
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