Less flying in the Swiss Climate Action Plan

The Swiss Climate Strike just presented their Climate Action Plan. It includes 138 measures to effectively tackle climate change. With them, it presents pathways for Switzerland to move towards zero net carbon emissions by 2030.

It includes bold measures to curtail aviation in a socially acceptable way. Notably, they advocate for a frequent flyer levy. This form of taxation is progressive relative to the amount of flying by an individual in a four-year period.

Banning private jets is also part of the plan. The proposed ban includes other forms of luxury aviation. People should not be allowed for instance to fly up a mountain for skiing or down-hill biking. See below the details.

Another goal of the plan is to provide incentives for synthetic fuel from renewable energy. It foresees synthetic fuels quotas, and emissions caps and taxation on fossil fuel use.

Obviously, the plan also asks to stop any subsidy or tax break for aviation, to ban short flights and to consider other climate change effects of aviation besides CO₂.

The Climate Strike movement grew out of the Fridays for Future demonstrations in Switzerland. They drafted the Climate Action Plan together with scientists and external advisors. BanPrivateJets.org contributed to the parts on aviation.

The details

The entire Climate Action Plan is available in English. The parts on aviation start at pages 12 and 95.

You can also surf the plan at Climate Strike’s website, in German, French or Italian (details always in English).

As an example, you have below the subsection on private jets.

Policy 2.24: Ban Private Jets and other Forms
of Luxury Aviation


Most private jets are smaller than regular passenger planes and, while they each use less fuel, they are less efficient in terms of emissions per transport capacity. Some very rich people even use normal-sized jets with hotel-like furniture for private transportation. Private Jets mostly fly below their passenger capacity and often even empty (Harvey 2019). An average private jet journey within Europe emits 10 times as much greenhouse gases as the same journey made by an economy class flight, and roughly 150 times more than an equivalent high speed train journey (Beevo and Murray, n.d.).

Unlike many other things, no one really needs private jets, in fact only a tiny fraction of the global elite gets to use them. Therefore, we demand an immediate ban on private jets and expect their current users to switch to airline flights. The goal is to also ask the richest elite to take steps to combat the climate crisis and lower their contribution to it and therefore making the other measures more socially acceptable (Leandros 2019). A few exceptions may be made for non-commercial general aviation services in the public interest.

A similar logic applies to flights with helicopters or propeller machines for personal transportation or recreation. This includes taxi-flights, heli-skiing or flights to move mountain bikes uphill. We consider these flights luxury aviation because they provide services nobody really needs or can easily be substituted by less polluting alternatives. As such they should also be banned. Moreover, beyond climate change considerations, all these flights also produce noise and smog.


The emissions of CO2eq directly saved by this measure might seem marginal, however, put in relation to the low number of people affected, they are very high. Most importantly, enacting this measure would give legitimacy to climate policies that affect larger numbers of people. The indirect impact by virtue of its political messaging is big.

Social Compatibility

Since only very few are impacted, and only the richest elite, the policy should be very socially acceptable. It also sends a signal that everyone has to adjust, and even more so those with the largest emissions footprint. It is thus compatible with the idea of climate justice and makes the other policies even more socially acceptable.

Estimating the three tax breaks for Swiss airfare

In Switzerland, tickets for international aviation enjoy fiscal exemptions from three different taxes that could otherwise apply to them. Without these indirect subsidies, tickets would be at least 10% more expensive.

Domestic flights in this small country are rare and short. Additionally, some exemptions extend to domestic aviation too. As a consequence, most aviation in Switzerland ends up benefiting from these tax breaks.

The three taxes

The value added tax (VAT) applies to domestic flights within Switzerland to the regular rate of 7.7%. As the example below shows, it covers at least the fare proper and some charges.

The petroleum tax, that applies to domestic some domestic flights, is CHF 739.50 per 1000 L kerosene [The webpage by the Swiss Federal Custom Administration is available in German, external confirmation that “Flugpetrol” is Kerosene].

The CO₂-levy, CHF 96 per metric ton, covers fossil heating and process fuels but exempts motor fuels, although it is meant to incentivize reductions of greenhouse emissions.

Example ZRH-JFK with Swiss

This flight from Zurich to New York with Swiss in economy class, if booked on March 6, 2020, would have costed CHF 1’628.25.

If the VAT applied to all items but the fees and taxes levied in the USA, the taxable price would be CHF 1594.

The ICAO Carbon Emissions Calculator estimates for this flight CO₂-emissions of 333.9 kg per passenger. Their methodology assumes that burning a kg of aviation fuel emits 3.16 kg of CO₂. Thus their estimation of fuel consumption per passenger for this flight is 105.7 kg. The density of kerosene is 0.8 kg/L, hence the corresponding fuel consumption is 132.1 L (in other words, burning 0.396 L of kerosene emits 1 kg of CO₂).

Applying the rates cited above gives the hypothetical amount of three taxes as shown in the table below. Assuming airlines would just charge all taxes to the customers, their sum represents the increase in ticket prices if aviation were to lose these tax exemptions.

The same applies for business class, for which ICAO and others estimate fuel consumption as twice as much as in economy.

CO₂ (kg)333.90667.7
kerosene (L)132.1264.1
petroleum tax97.67195.32
Total taxes252.47800.57

Without the tax exemptions, the economy flight would have costed CHF 1880 instead of CHF 1628, that is, 15.5% more.

Other examples

Following the same method, here two other examples with other destinations.

routeclasspriceincrease if taxed
Zurich – New Yorkeconomy1628.2515.5%
Zurich – Singaporeeconomy1085.0024.4%
Geneva – Beijingeconomy1438.7016.7%

Additional sources: