- Canada adds a 10% tax on the purchase of luxury planes, cars and boats.
- It comes at a time when US celebrities are being questioned about the environmental impact of using their private jets.
- Some experts argue that focusing on individuals distracts from the need for larger climate initiatives.
As stars like Taylor Swift and Drake come under fire for using private jets, Canada has revealed new details about how it hopes to make the wealthy think twice about contributing to the climate crisis with their extravagant modes of transportation.
The Select Luxury Goods Tax Act, which takes effect Sept. 1, will add a 10% tax to the full value of all Canadian purchases of airplanes and cars over $100,000, and boats over $250,000. These thresholds are in Canadian dollars and convert to approximately US$78,000 and US$194,000 respectively.
The Canadian government has argued that the tax will not only discourage the wealthy from buying emission-intensive vehicles, but also reduce inequality.
“Some Canadians have lost jobs or small businesses, while some sectors of the economy have thrived,” the government website said in a statement. “So today, it’s only fair to ask those Canadians who can afford luxury goods to give a little more.”
Details of the tax come from a recent report by UK marketing firm Yard, titled ‘Celebrities with the Worst Private Jet CO2 Emissions’. Using flight data from a popular Twitter account @CelebJets — which tracks the jets of the rich and famous — the report details the biggest “offenders” and their carbon footprints.
Pop star Taylor Swift came in at number one. In a July 29 report, her private jet had flown for 22,923 minutes, or 15.9 days, in 2022, releasing the carbon dioxide equivalent of more than $8,000 metric tons, more than 1,000 times the annual emissions of the average person. The 2021 Transport and Environment Report found that a private jet can emit the same level of carbon dioxide in four hours as the average person in the European Union produces in an entire year. Swift was followed on the list by boxer Floyd Mayweather, musician Jay-Z and former baseball player Alex Rodriguez.
However, some celebrities have questioned the report. For example, Swift’s representative told The Washington Post that the musician’s plane is “regularly loaned out to other individuals,” suggesting that many of the trips were not hers. Meanwhile, Jay-Z’s lawyer said the rapper does not own the plane in question.
Although Yard’s analysis is not comparative and, as the authors emphasize, “it is not possible to determine whether these celebrities were on all recorded flights,” the report highlights the environmental impact of celebrities, politicians, business leaders and other wealthy individuals. individuals can do by using a substantial private jet and other activities. An Oxfam analysis in 2021 found that in 2015, the richest 1% accounted for 15% of global carbon emissions. The Yard report, along with Canada’s luxury tax law, suggests that this scrutiny isn’t going away anytime soon.
The luxury tax has been criticized for hurting the aviation industry and placing too much responsibility for the climate crisis on private individuals.
Canada’s new tax has drawn criticism from the business community. Some have argued that this could have a “serious impact” on the aviation industry, which has already faced challenges during the pandemic, which could lead to the loss of at least 900 jobs.
“The economic impact of the luxury tax will be significant and has not been examined with a comprehensive understanding of our industry,” Anthony Norejko, president and CEO of the Canadian Business Aviation Association, said in a statement.
As for celebrity criticism, some experts say that too much focus on individual actions can distract from policy changes that are needed to make real progress, such as the landmark climate legislation currently making its way through Congress. Others have pointed to the way, for example, the oil company BP introduced a carbon footprint calculator in the mid-2000s to place more responsibility for climate change on individuals than on the fossil fuel industry.
“My feeling is that while I’d like to see Taylor Swift make more responsible decisions about transportation, yelling at celebrities on the Internet is not on my top 10 list of political levers,” Kate Marvel, a NASA climate scientist, told Axios.