From the Student Dorm to the Priorities of the European Green Deal: The Incredible Story of a Young Climate Activists’ Initiative to Tax Jet Fuel in the EU

In less than a year the student-led idea ‘Ending the aviation fuel tax exemption in Europe’ made it from a discussion among friends passionate about the environment to an officially registered European Citizens’ Initiative; and to the European Green Deal’s list of priorities.

Story by Timothée Galvaire & Tassos Papachristou, initiative representatives

From January 2019 when our initiative took form in our dormitory, to winning a lobbying award and to our policy proposal being taken up by the European Commission, the past year has been a testament to our efforts as an organisation that is only just beginning its journey.

A students’ long shot

In 2019, we decided to use the EU's only citizens' participatory democratic instrument to tax one of the most rapidly growing source of CO2 emissions by setting a price on the detrimental kerosene fuel. Little did we know how challenging and mentally gruesome launching a European citizens’ initiative would be. Despite the difficulties in campaigning after classes and across an entire continent, our citizen lobbying experience was incredibly enriching and, in the end, extremely rewarding.

From building a coalition of like-minded organisations, to having the European Parliament’s committee of petitions hear first-hand all the arguments in favour of kerosene taxation and collecting signatures in the streets, we experienced challenging as well as wonderful moments.

Overlooked emails, language barriers, balancing campaign and university responsibilities, extremely low budget for a pan-European campaign and many mistakes due to inexperience were all worth it in the end. Thankfully, commitment and determination are always recognised. Our grassroot advocacy work was recognised with the Citizen Lobbyist of the Year Award by The Good Lobby.

From a University Dormitory to The Commission`s Heart

Against all odds, our initiative was given a successful conclusion to its story with its inclusion in the final European Green Deal programme. Taking into account the underachievement of past European citizens’ initiatives,

"We believe our adventure offers strong evidence to all EU citizens that this tool, despite criticism, can be very impactful, even when started by underfunded students" - Timothée Galvaire

In December 2019, the new European Commission committed itself to proposing an EU-wide review of the kerosene status as tax exempt. However, the proposal will not begin discussion before June 2021 and some countries have signalled their willingness to veto such reforms.

Next Campaign, New Adventures

With the climate in crisis we cannot afford the privilege of waiting another couple of years before aviation CO2 emissions finally shrink. This is why we have decided to launch a new campaign. This one no longer targeting the European Commission, but national governments. Indeed, kerosene taxation for domestic flights is already possible; and so are international flights, if the receiving country agrees. Yet, no EU country taxes kerosene for domestic flights or has agreed with another EU state to tax kerosene bilaterally. It is with these motivations that we are launching our new campaign to tax now aviation fuel used for flights connecting the continent’s main carbon emitters.

Timo

Picture, from left to right: Timothée Galvaire, Tassos Papachristou, Sandro Esposito

Contributors

Timothée Galvaire & Tassos Papachristou

Tassos, from Greece and Timo, from France, became friends last year while leaving in the same dormitory in Maastricht, Netherlands. Driven by the will to fight for a liveable future, they decided to take climate action to help avert climate crisis. Given that both study European affairs, they decided to use the European Citizens’ Initiative that they had discovered during their studies to become citizen lobbyists.

Timo and Tassos are active users of the Forum. Connect with them! 

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