Guarulhos, in São Paulo, approved last week the creation of an environmental preservation tax that will be charged to airlines as a result of operations carried out at the city’s airport. The measure applies to both cargo and passenger aircraft, with military aircraft exempt from paying the fee.
The airlines say they will appeal in court against the charge, and it is possible that the amount will be passed on to the final consumer who buys tickets.
The fee provides for the collection of three UFGs (Fiscal Units of Guarulhos) per ton of the aircraft’s total weight (including fuel, passengers and cargo) at the time of takeoff. Each UFG has a value of R$ 3.9381, which would oblige companies to pay R$ 11.8143 per ton.
An Airbus A320 plane, carrying 174 passengers, has a maximum take-off weight of up to 78 tons. If it takes off with 90% of its maximum weight, at each departure the airlines would have to pay about R$ 830 in an environmental tax to the city of Guarulhos.
A Boeing 777-300, with capacity for about 410 passengers, has a maximum take-off weight of 299 tons under the same conditions and would have to pay R$3,180 per take-off.
The estimated impact on airlines annually is around R$ 200 million, according to the balance of representatives of the sector and the city hall of the city of São Paulo. The tendency is for this to be passed on to passengers in a diluted way in the value of the tickets.
In 2016, the aviation sector was responsible for about 2.4% of total carbon dioxide emissions worldwide, according to the International Energy Agency, with 900 billion tons released into the atmosphere. In the same period, in Brazil, 16.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide were emitted by aviation.
Aviation-related emissions are concentrated in fuel combustion. It is mainly from there that the gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect are released.
The sector adopts programs to try to offset the pollution generated, such as Fly Net Zero (led by IATA) to achieve zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.
The ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization, a body linked to the UN) has applied since 2019 a program called Corsia (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation), to accelerate the reduction in pollution involving the sector.
Sector criticizes more costs
Representatives of airlines issued a note against the collection of the fee in Guarulhos and intend to judicialize the collection. The sector points out that the municipality invades an issue of exclusive competence of the Union, which is to legislate on aeronautical issues.
To UOLDany Oliveira, director general of IATA (International Air Transport Association) for Brazil, says that the sector has already been increasing its environmental concern over the years, and aviation today is much less polluting than that was decades ago.
According to Eurocontrol (European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation), there has been an 80% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions per kilometer flown since the first jets, still in the 1950s. Only between 2005 and 2017, there was a reduction of 24% in the amount of fuel consumed per passenger.
This measure was achieved by the use of new engines and improvements in the aerodynamics of the planes, which increase the efficiency of fuel consumption, for example.
Also according to Oliveira, the similar rates existing around the world were prepared by the governments of the countries, and not by one of their federated entities, as is the case of Guarulhos, which would increase legal certainty. There is a fear that there could be a ripple effect, leading other cities to do the same, making it difficult to operate in these places.
“We understand that this fee is unconstitutional. All this issue about aeronautical law and environmental issues in the aviation sector in Brazil are very well handled by Anac (National Civil Aviation Agency), including environmental compensation programs. understand it as unconstitutional, the legal path will be sought to overturn this tax”, says Oliveira.
In a note, GRU Airport, which manages the airport, also pointed out the measure as unconstitutional, in addition to the possible flight of companies from the place.
“Without prejudice to support for the adoption of measures of an environmental nature, some of them of international relevance that have been adopted by airlines, the concessionaire warns of the negative economic effect that such a measure can bring to the city of Guarulhos, such as the foreseeable fall in operations at the airport, and, consequently, a decline in tax collection, as well as a reduction in jobs”, says the note.
Companies can move away from the airport
Dany Oliveira also says that the charge can drive airlines away from the airport, especially those with less frequent flights.
“There is an airport close to Guarulhos, which is Congonhas (for domestic flights) or even Viracopos, in Campinas (SP). A company with, for example, about six flights in the morning in Guarulhos, may think that it’s worth paying this fee and changing the destination airport, reducing the number of connections possible at that location”, he says.
City Hall rules out problems
According to Rafael Prandini Rodrigues, attorney general of the municipality of Guarulhos, the amount to be transferred to passengers will be very low, and companies will hardly leave the airport due to this charge.
“Despite the value of the fee, Guarulhos is still the main airport logistics center and a neighbor of São Paulo. If you put people in Viracopos, for example, they will have another cost of transporting passengers to São Paulo. a plane to Rio de Janeiro by air shuttle: it will not go to Viracopos”, says Prandini.
In addition to the cost, the extra time of the connection between Viracopos and São Paulo will also be taken into account by the passenger, says the prosecutor.
Prandini says that, due to the new forecasts of the National Framework for Basic Sanitation, the city government was faced with the obligation to create a solid waste collection fee for the municipality. This fee, although mandatory by national regulations, has been strongly criticized by the population, he says.
Established in 2020, the framework provides that cities that do not charge a fee or tariff for this purpose must prove the origin of resources to pay for sanitation in their territories. If they fail to do so, the mayors can be tried for a crime of responsibility.
“The only way to suspend the collection of this solid waste fee is through the creation of compensatory measures, under the terms of the fiscal responsibility law. In this context, the specific environmental preservation fee at Guarulhos airport serves as a compensation mechanism in the municipal budget”, says Prandini
Also according to the prosecutor, in the face of popular pressure, the city’s City Council resumed the project that had been proposed in 2019. With this, the amount collected can make it possible to reduce the direct collection of other environmental taxes from Guarulhos.
Despite its size and occupied area, the airport brings little return in direct taxes to the municipality, says the attorney general. The IPTU itself, for example, was not charged until recently.
This was due to the fact that the airport was exempt from the tax because it was operated by Infraero until its concession to the private sector, in 2012. The collection of IPTU from the airport only became legally viable for the municipality in 2018, after favorable decisions of the STF in similar cases, in which the collection of IPTU from privatized airports was authorized.
The concessionaire has been administratively challenging the charge due to the fact that the airport land is a public asset owned by the Federal Government.
On the possibility of changes and on the regulation of the law, which will still be done by means of a decree, Prandini is optimistic: “We are always open to dialogue with the airlines”, says the Attorney.