Aviation tax initiative heads to Parliament

The number of signatures doubled within two days, reaching the required 50,000 late on Thursday.

Support for the petition took off in recent days. Image: Daniel Reinhardt / EPA

More than 52,000 people have signed a citizens' initiative calling for an aviation tax, surpassing the 50,000 certified signatures needed to send it to MPs for consideration.

Any Finnish citizens aged 18 or over can sign or start such an initiative, which lapses if sufficient signatures are not collected within six months.

The flight tax initiative was launched on 2 May, so would have lapsed on Saturday. As of early October, the initiative had only collected around 7,000 names. By Wednesday, that was up to 25,000. As Thursday began, that had risen to just over 33,000. In its final spurt on Thursday, it gathered more than 17,000 signatories to break the 50,000 barrier around 11pm. Signatures can be collected either in paper form or via a secured online system.

Revenues would be earmarked for environment

According to the initiative, an eco-tax or fee would be tacked on to all flight tickets. The revenues "should be earmarked so as to most effectively guide environmental policy" toward cutting emissions. As virtually all other forms of transport are now taxed, proponents argue that this amounts to a tax break or indirect subsidy for airlines.

The initiative calls for the fee to variable and based on "the climate impact of various types of flights". It does not propose any specific tax rate but points out that the flight fee in neighbouring Sweden ranges between six and 40 euros per passenger.

Sweden adopted an aviation tax last year, which was followed by a decline in flight passengers and rapid growth in train ridership.

Austria, Britain, France, Germany and Norway also levy some form of aviation tax. Supporters hope that the growing number of national fees will lead to an EU-wide scheme. If no EU deal is found, the Netherlands plans to introduce a 7.50 euro ticket tax for departing passengers from 2021.

Support among government parties

Last December, the Finnish News Agency STT surveyed views on an eco-tax among the main parties in the Finnish Parliament.

The strongest support was among MPs from the Left Alliance and the Greens, which both joined the new government in June. Taking the dimmest view were those from the opposition Finns Party and the Centre, which carried over from the past government into the current one. At the time, Centre MPs called for an international rather than national agreement.

An Yle survey of European Parliament candidates last spring showed similar results, with the Greens and Left most supportive and the Finns Party the least enthusiastic.