Public strongly supports aviation tax to address climate impacts, poll finds

Friends of the Irish Environment director says findings are ‘a welcome sign’

There is widespread support among the Irish public for taxing all air passengers to address the impacts of climate change, a poll carried out for an environmental group has found.

The study, conducted by RedC during the first week of December for Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE), found that 55 per cent of respondents believed “airplane fuel should be taxed as much as fuel for any other mode of transport”. Just 9 per cent of respondents “strongly” disagreed with the statement.

Support for heavily taxing private jets came in at 79 per cent, with 5 per cent disagreeing with such a proposal. Some 47 per cent were in favour of a frequent flyer tax to penalise those who take more flights.

More than one in three people (34 per cent) agreed that climate change would mean people in wealthier countries such as Ireland would have to fly less, with 30 per cent disagreeing with that statement.


Carbon pollution from flying within Europe rose by 23 per cent in 2005-2021, far outpacing other transport modes, a 2021 European Union aviation taxation report found.

Improvements in aircraft energy efficiency are seen as being nowhere near sufficient to counterbalance the increased amounts of CO2 emitted due to the growth in air traffic.

The report recommended a defined minimum EU-wide ticket tax applicable to passenger services and, potentially, to air freight services. The latter are not affected by national taxes on international competitiveness grounds.

The UK, France, Germany, Italy and Portugal – as well as Norway and Sweden – all tax departing air passengers, while there is no prohibition on these taxes, though their purposes vary.

FIE director Tony Lowes said the findings were a “welcome sign that the Irish public is increasingly aware of the need to address the environmental impact of aviation”.

In a letter to the Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan urging the Government to join other EU member states in taxing aviation, he said: “earmarking the revenues to a dedicated fund for loss and damage, that you have so effectively supported, would make such a tax acceptable to the vast majority of people.”

Mr Lowes said: “Aside from bringing some sense of equity between flying and all other forms of transport, the reparation funding would go some way to satisfying the public’s genuine desire to directly help those already impacted by climate chaos. In your own words after Cop28: ‘It means we can secure real delivery of funds to support and protect the most vulnerable countries and states.’”

The aviation taxation report specifically examined Ireland as a case study under “peripheral and island regions”, addressing concerns of those including Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary who said islands with a high tourism dependency would suffer. It also considered the Canary Islands, Crete and Malta.

The report suggested a “high dependency” would be Malta’s 15 per cent of GDP; Ireland was significantly less dependent at 5-6 per cent. It found that “the introduction of a carbon tax was most likely to affect (that is, lead to the cancellation of) short-stay tourism visits, which tend to have a smaller contribution to overall tourism expenditure”.

“Secondly the flight taxes are most likely to affect price-sensitive visitors, which similarly, tend to have a lower overall contribution to overall tourism expenditures,” it said.

Taxing aviation kerosene sold in Europe would cut aviation emissions by 11 per cent (16.4 million tonnes of CO2) and have no net impact on jobs or the economy as a whole while raising almost €27 billion in revenue every year, a report for the European Commission, leaked in 2019, showed.

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Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times