Public understanding that air travel is problematic from a climate perspective seems to be increasing. One manifestation of this is that a new calculator, which was launched a couple of weeks ago, has already been used by over 10000 people. On the site you can calculate your air travel emissions for the past 12 months in under one minute

Alongside the increases in individual awareness comes to some extent a demand for new and more efficient policy instruments. Drastically decreasing air fares [ ]also call for new policies to internalize the external effects of aviation, especially on climate change. This also seems to be an increasing priority among political leaders in many countries – such as France, the Netherlands, and Sweden – to find better policies for tackling the climate impact from aviation. However, how policy instruments can be designed in ways which are both legally feasible and environmentally effective is quite complicated. We have analyzed this in our recent article in Climate Policy “International and national climate policies for aviation: a review”

In 2016, ICAO decided to implement a Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) and in 2017 the EU decided on faster emission reductions in its Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), which since 2012 includes the aviation sector. According to our analysis these policies will, in a European context, reduce carbon emissions in the aviation sector by about 0.8% per year. However, if the non-CO2 emissions are also included in the analysis, then emissions from this sector will increase. An unresolved question is also how CORSIA and EU ETS will be aligned in the future.

Nationally decided policies are also analyzed in the article . Tax on jet fuel is an option for domestic aviation and for international aviation if bilateral agreements are concluded. Air passenger taxes are easier to implement for international flights. Different versions of ticket taxes exist in the UK, Germany, Sweden, Austria, and Norway and will be introduced in the Netherlands in 2021. Due to the price elasticities, these taxes can be expected to reduce the demand for air travel and thus reduce emissions. There are good arguments for a harmonized tax level and the Dutch finance ministry recently argued for that .

The paper argues that policymakers who want to significantly push the aviation sector to contribute to meeting the 2°C target need to work towards putting in place tougher international policy instruments in the long-term, and simultaneously implement temporary national policy instruments in the near-term.


Jörgen Larsson is a Researcher and Assistant professor at Chalmers University of Technology