GroenLinks (UK)

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?

Firstly, by tackling the price difference: flying must become more expensive, train travel cheaper.

Secondly, by making train travel more comfortable. Among other things, by making it easier to book tickets for international journeys. We must ensure that there are good connections (between trains, but also between train and plane). And of course, that also means that there must be many more night trains.

Thirdly, by prohibiting flights if there exists a good and fast train connection. For example between Brussels and Amsterdam.

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?

Air travel must be taxed much more heavily. External costs must be internalized. Flying is currently exempt from kerosene tax and VAT. Both exemptions must end.

In addition, international aviation to and from the EU receives all emission rights under the European Emissions Trading System (ETS) free of charge. Intra-EU flights are covered by ETS, but far too little (only a small amount must be paid). These exceptions must come to an end.

There needs to be more support for climate-friendly transport. A simple way, for example, is to use the revenues that we already receive from ETS from the aviation sector (15% of the emission rights are being sold, 50% from 2020 on) for more and better train connections, including night trains. From 2021, this will amount to around 60 million euros per year for the Netherlands. This is a start. Now the money that is collected by ETS disappears in the general funds of the Netherlands.

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?

We are very critical of the policy. Liberalization has become a goal in itself, as GroenLinks we are against concentrating on the free market; passengers and the environment should be the main focus. In addition, it is important that EU member states maintain sufficient opportunities to subsidize connections.

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?

We strongly encourage these type of initiatives.

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?

More money needs to be freed up (see point 2 for a concrete example on how to get that done). In addition, more money needs to come from EU funds. For example via EFSI. There is also an urgent need for a European railways agenda, with the aim of removing obstacles and mobilizing investments to improve the situation considerably.

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?

Consumers must be well protected. And that right must be easy to enforce. Regardless of the number of operators involved.

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?

Groenlinks strongly supports this. Tax requires unanimity in the EU, so this is not an easy measure to realize. We are against unanimity in this regard, but since only a Treaty change (which we are in favor of) can change this, it is unlikely that this will change in the short term.

The biggest opportunity for change is to create frontrunners. Those countries also benefit from changing European rules and advocating an EU tax. The Energy Taxation Directive offers the possibility for EU countries to levy a kerosene tax through bilateral agreements with other countries. We focus on that. For example, by getting the Netherlands to make bilateral agreements with other benevolent countries, such as France and Sweden, and continuing to expand on that.

8: 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?

Yes. Our election program includes a ban on flights of up to 750 kilometers.

9: 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, …)?

We are in favor of all the measures you mentioned: tax on kerosene, tickets, VAT; a frequent flyer levy (a good proposal to keep additional policy socially acceptable); a moratorium on the expansion of airport infrastructure; a ban on certain flights, for example short-haul flights. And they must also be combined.

An additional measure that we are considering is to set stricter requirements through the slot regulation: auctioning of slots, minimum requirements for environmental performance of aircraft when selling slots, and so on.

Moreover, ETS also continues to play a role for us, because it sets a maximum limit on emissions (a limit that has to decrease every year, and in addition all rights must of course be auctioned). Furthermore, ETS is still much better than CORSIA, so we also see an important role for ETS in regulating international flights to and from the EU.