European Parliament Elections Q&A – flying, trains and climate

Back on Track and Stay Grounded work for better cross‐border rail connections instead of an ongoing growth of flights. To inform the voters at the coming European Parliament election in May 2019, we have asked the same questions to all parties across Europe about flying, trains and the climate change challenge.

Between Febuary and April 2019, we tried to get answers from all countries tied up with the European railway network where we had the capacities to contact the parties. We received some answers from individual candidates, some from parties.

The good news: All answers are in favour of better trains and a majority is ready to work for a more even taxation.

The bad news: When it comes to actually cutting the unjust privileges of the aviation industry (like a kerosene tax) or actually taking steps to reduce aviation, many parties are still rather hesitant. However, parties are talking about a better balance.

Overview of positions

Overall, green and left parties have most convergence with our positions. Christian democratic and conservative parties are following our positions rather long, liberals not. Actually it is strange that the liberal parties are able to ignore a system of uneven competition between airlines and other modes of transport. See individual responses below for more details.

Many parties are rather sceptical concerning the benefits from the EU railway packages; complete liberalisation seems not the first thing on the agenda. Most praise EU efforts to fight the many national technical standards; they say make it »easy to use« for the customer – getting the tickets, getting refunds, and being cared for if anything happens.

Denmark is lagging behind among the countries, which is also mirrored by the fact that Denmark still is not ready to implement any taxation scheme on air transport.

Taxation of aviation

Christian democrats and conservatives as ruling parties say they will work for taxation schemes on air traffic, German CDU/CSU say: “This also includes a tangible price signal – as international and broadly based as possible for greenhouse gas emissions.”

It is not widely understood that the low (tax free) fossil jet fuel price itself is blocking any technical improvement on green jet fuels. The optimistic (or blind?) belief in technical improvements is unrealistic and seems to be a welcome excuse not to do anything.

Excuses for inaction

Talking about doing nothing: With the words from the Austrian ruling conservatives, they are suddenly very social in their approach to the subject, and they are against the situation where “flying would no longer be affordable for some social classes”. That view is also shared by social democratic parties. It looks like a card player with a deck of cards, where this card can be presented at any time to avoid actions in favour of the climate. It is a very dangerous approach, since it neglects the social injustices which are actually propelled by climate breakdown.

Responses by countries

The responses are listed in alphabetic order. For some countries there are reports with all answers included; the majority is answers one by one. That leads us to a major political appeal: Don’t wait for all EU countries to agree, let the alliance of willing countries go ahead to show climate responsibilities!

 

Austria: overview report (German); FPÖ English language; FPÖ German language; Grüne English language; Grüne German language; JETZT English language; JETZT German language; NEOS English language; NEOS German language; ÖVP English language; ÖVP German language; SPÖ English language; SPÖ German language

Belgium: French region, English language; French language; Dutch region groen English language

Denmark: A report gives an overview of the many answers. English language; Danish language (with enclosed original answers).

France: Les Verts (the Green Party) English language; French language.

Germany: Die Grünen English language; Die Grünen German language; CDU-CSU English language; CDU-CSU German language; Die Linke English language; Die Linke German language; FDP English language; FDP German language; SPD English language; SPD German language

Netherlands: CDA English language; CDA Dutch laguage; ChristenUnie-SGP English language; ChristenUnie-SGP Dutch language; D66 English language; D66 Dutch language; SP English language; SP Dutch language; GroenLinks English language; GrooenLinks Dutch language

Sweden: Kristdemokraterne English language; Kristdemokraterne Swedish language; Socialdemokraterna English language; Socialdemokraterna Swedish language; Sverigedemokraterna English language; Sverigedemokraterna Swedish language; Centerpartiet English language; Centerpartiet Swedish language; Vänsterpartiet English language; Vänsterpartiet Swedish language; Partiet Vändpunkt English language;
Partiet Vändpunkt Swedish language; Miljöpartiet English language; Miljöpartiet Swedish language; Moderaterna English language; Moderaterna Swedish language; Feministisk Initiativ English language; Feministisk Initiativ Swedish language

Pan-European parties: Volt Europe English language


These are our original questions to all parties:

1: Since air travel is the most climate harming form of transport, what do you propose in order to make more people use trains instead of planes for trips up to 1000 km in the EU and which role should night trains play in this concern?

2: What will you do in order to level the playing field between the different modes of long-distance travel or would you even give stronger support to the more climate friendly modes of transport – and how?

3: How do you judge the success of the hitherto existing EU-policy of liberalization of the rail market as the way to achieve good national and cross-border train connections? Do you support this policy or would do you plan to introduce an alternative?

4: There are ideas for a Europe wide interconnected day and night train cross-border network (e.g. the “LunaLiner”) as an alternative to short and mid distance flights. What do you think about these plans, and if you support them what would you do in order to implement this?

5: The European Court of Auditors calls the European high-speed rail network an “ineffective patchwork” that does not lead to good connections on the EU level (see report No 19 from the European Court of Auditors). What do you plan in order to improve this situation?

6: Recently EU rail passenger rights were under debate. What is your position concerning the future of passenger rights in rail and other modes of public transport? This particularly concerns cross-border services and a journey chain involving two or more operators? Should operators be able to refuse compensation if a service is cancelled or severely delayed because of “exceptional circumstances” and, if so, how should “exceptional circumstances” be defined?

7: What is your position on a kerosene tax, either EU‐wide or between EU member states? And if you support it: What will you do in order to get it implemented?

7.1: Would you support a general ban on short distance flight in the EU? If yes: Which should be the minimum distance to allow flights? If no: Which other measures to limit short distance flights do you plan to implement?
7.2: Since the new international agreement CORSIA (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation) and the EU-ETS (Emissions Trading Scheme) are not sufficient to tackle aviation emissions, what other measures do you envisage in order to regulate aviation (e.g. a tax on kerosene, tickets, VAT; a frequent flyer levy; a moratorium on airport infrastructure expansion; a ban of certain flights, e.g. short haul flights, …)?

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