Tag Archives: carbon tax

Environmental Taxes for Other Countries’ Emissions?

Since a couple of months, any airplane that lands in the European Union has to pay a tax on its emissions. China and India plan to boycott this regulation and many other countries, including the US, are outraged as well.

There are a lot of pros &cons for such a tax but I want to pick out just one issue. Some claim that the EU infringes on the national sovereignty of other countries by introducing such a tax. Whether a country decides to tax its airlines should be its own business, it is said. Europe should not paternalistically impose its environmental values on other nations. Europe would thereby impermissibly diminish other nations’ self-determination.

While I admit that other nations might justifiably complain about the unfair distribution of costs that such a tax brings about, I think that the specific complaint about an infringement of national sovereignty is completely groundless from a moral perspective. Why?

  1. We might consider sovereignty to be overvalued in the first place. Especially those with cosmopolitan inclinations might think so.
  2. But even those who consider national sovereignty to be an important value must admit that whatever rights sovereignty includes, it surely does not include the right to fly into the territory of others without paying a tax (and this is so even if the EU taxes emissions occurring over others’ territory). National sovereignty is primarily about authority within one’s own territory, not about rights in other territories
    Neither does national sovereignty include a right to be spared from being affected to the worse by other countries. After all, any European decision in any area of life affects other countries. This includes even the European decision to impose an environmental tax on its domestic industries.
  3. Europe has a particularly strong argument for its right to tax foreign airplanes since the emissions of these airplanes also affect Europe. These emissions contribute to global climate change and global climate change affects Europe.

Any thoughts on this are highly welcome.