Council Resolution on

Environmental Charges and Taxes


Adopted by the Council on 9 December 1996 at the 16th Meeting of its 149th Session

Whereas aircraft engine emissions are contributing to air pollution and to global atmospheric problems such as climate change and depletion of stratospheric ozone, as indicated by recent international scientific assessments, and the scientific community is working towards a better definition of the extent of aviation's impact;

Whereas in recent years there has been increasing recognition by governments of the need for each economic sector to pay the full cost of the environmental damage it causes;

Whereas the 31st Session of the ICAO Assembly in 1995 requested the Council to consider the application of environmental charges or taxes to aviation and report to the next ordinary Session of the Assembly in 1998;

Recognizing that the subject of environmental charges or taxes on air transport has also been raised in other international policy-making bodies, in the context not only of controlling greenhouse gas emissions but also of mobilizing financial resources for sustainable development, and that it is necessary to make clear ICAO's position on environmental charges and taxes at this time;

Noting that ICAO policies make a distinction between a charge and a tax, in that they regard charges as levies to defray the costs of providing facilities and services for civil aviation, whereas taxes are levies to raise general national and local governmental revenues that are applied for non-aviation purposes;

Considering that once aircraft engine emission-related problems are better defined, developments in technology and new approaches to aircraft operations may offer a means of mitigating these problems in the long term;

Having in mind:

  1. that ICAO has established emission standards for new aircraft engines and the work programme of the Council's Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP) is aimed at addressing emission-related problems and identifying appropriate solutions, taking into account technical feasibility, economic reasonableness and environmental effectiveness;
  2. that work on emission-related charges is in progress within CAEP, the results so far indicating that the environmental impact of aircraft emissions needs to be understood and quantified before determining the best method for reducing their impact and that both regulatory measures and charges can provide effective instruments in reducing emission levels, but that it is not possible to make any general conclusion at this time as to which of these is preferable;
  3. that Article 15 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation contains provisions regarding airport and similar charges, including the principle of non-discrimination, and that ICAO has developed policy guidance for States regarding charges (Statements by the Council to Contracting States on Charges for Airports and Air Navigation Services, Doc 9082/4); and
  4. that ICAO has developed separate policy guidance to States on taxation (ICAO's Policies on Taxation in the Field of International Air Transport, Doc 8632), which recommends inter alia the reciprocal exemption from all taxes levied on fuel taken on board by aircraft in connection with international air services, a policy implemented in practice through bilateral air services agreements, and also calls on States to the fullest practicable extent to reduce or eliminate taxes related to the sale or use of international air transport;

  5. The Council

    1. Notes that the use of levies to reflect the environmental costs associated with air transport is considered desirable by a number of States, while other States do not consider it appropriate in the present circumstances;
    2. Considers that the development of an internationally agreed environmental charge or tax on air transport that all States would be expected to impose would appear not to be practicable at this time, given the differing views of States and the significant organizational and practical implementation problems that would be likely to arise;
    3. Reaffirms that ICAO is seeking to identify a rational common basis on which States wishing to introduce environmental levies on air transport could do so;
    4. Strongly recommends that any environmental levies on air transport which States may introduce should be in the form of charges rather than taxes and that the funds collected should be applied in the first instance to mitigating the environmental impact of aircraft engine emissions, for example to:

      1. addressing the specific damage caused by these emissions, if that can be identified;
      2. funding scientific research into their environmental impact; or
      3. funding research aimed at reducing their environmental impact, through developments in technology and new approaches to aircraft operations;
    5. Urges States that are considering the introduction of emission-related charges to take into account the non-discrimination principle in Article 15 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation and the work in progress within ICAO and, in the meantime, to be guided by the general principles in the Statements by the Council to Contracting States on Charges for Airports and Air Navigation Services (Doc 9082/4) and the following principles adapted from those agreed by the 31st Session of the ICAO Assembly:

      1. there should be no fiscal aims behind the charges;
      2. the charges should be related to costs; and
      3. the charges should not discriminate against air transport compared with other modes of transport.
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