A €3,000 tax on “luxury emissions” should be imposed on private jets departing Irish airports to change the behaviour of the wealthy living “carbon-intensive lifestyles”.
Sinn Féin Senator Lynn Boylan said luxury emissions have to be pursued to demonstrate to wider society “that we are serious about a just transition. It would also help to bring people along in the enormous challenge for society of tackling climate change.”
Raising the issue in the Seanad on Thursday, Ms Boylan said that Switzerland plans to tax private jet flights and Canada now imposes a luxury tax on the sale and importation of high-value cars, planes and boats. She said that in 2019 almost 6,000 private aircraft departed from Irish airports.
Minister of State for Finance Seán Fleming told her the Swiss proposal is well advanced, although authorities have not yet set the levy.
He added that France is also considering such a levy and its minister for transport may raise the matter at the informal meeting of EU transport ministers in Prague later this month.
Referring to a possible tax on aviation fuel used by private jets, the junior minister said there is “effectively no scope” for Ireland to unilaterally impose such a levy but “once there is agreement with another countries, it could be done”.
It is currently being looked at as part of EU negotiations on a revision of the energy tax directive. The tax would apply to all aviation fuel if changes are agreed, but “there is still a long way to go with this proposal”.
Ms Boylan said emissions from private jets have shown a 31 per cent increase in CO2 emissions over 15 years up to 2019, faster than the rest of the aviation industry.
She added that, in one hour, a private jet can emit two tonnes of CO2 while the average Irish person emits 12.3 tonnes of CO2 in a year, while the aviation emission output alone from some celebrities was as much as 1,000 tonnes.
‘Absurdly short journeys’
Claiming that “not all emissions are created equally”, Ms Boylan said climate action had for too long “been about punishing ordinary working-class people and heaping guilt on them for living in a society that has locked them into a carbon-centric lifestyle and makes it very difficult and expensive for them to change”.
But “at the same time the wealthy seem to be exempt and continue to live carbon-intensive lifestyles”, she said citing the “outrageous carry-on of celebrities like Taylor Swift, Drake and Kylie Jenner and their absurdly short journeys by private jets from as little as 10 minutes”.
She said “it points to the deep hypocrisy that currently exists around climate action where wealthy people seem to be exempt from any sort of change”.
The junior minister told her the Department of Transport would have to get accurate annual figures of the number of private jets departing from Irish airports, to determine the feasibility of the proposed levy.
Currently, the department does not have such data because “non-commercial operations are not required to apply for a flight authorisation prior to landing in an Irish airport”.