European Commission Includes Airlines in Pollution-Cutting Emissions Trading Plan
STRASBOURG, France The European Commission approved plans on Tuesday to include airlines in the EU's emissions trading program aimed at cutting carbon dioxide.
The plans, which still need approval from the European Parliament and EU governments and will not come into effect before 2008, are part of the EU's implementation of the Kyoto Protocol.
The 1997 Kyoto accord, which took effect in February, aims to cut greenhouse gases emitted by industrialized nations by 5.2 percent below their 1990 levels by 2012. Europe is committed to reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 8 percent.
The commission wants the program to cover all emissions from any flight departing from the EU, whether to another EU destination or a third country. EU and non-EU carriers would be treated equally.
It is unclear what costs the new system would have on Europe's carriers, many of which are struggling with high fuel costs.
British Airways said that while the EU's proposals would be the most environmentally effective and economically efficient way to manage carbon dioxide emissions from aviation, the plans should apply initially to internal EU flights only.
"There is no international agreement to introduce emissions trading for global aviation and we do not want the EU scheme to be sidelined by international disputes or for EU airlines competitiveness to be jeopardized," said Andrew Sentance, British Airways chief economist and head of environmental affairs.
Stefan Schaffrath, a spokesman for the Cologne, Germany-based Lufthansa AG, said the EU was overlooking a key component.
"Road traffic is completely missing. To tackle climate protection it needs a global and overall approach," Schaffrath said.
According to the commission, a round-trip flight for two from Amsterdam to the Thai resort of Phuket produces considerably more of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide than the average new car does in a whole year.
"The boom in flying is bringing with it a rapid rise in greenhouse gas emissions," EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said. "Extending emissions trading to the aviation sector will limit these emissions and ensure that aviation, like all other sectors, contribute to reducing the harmful greenhouse gases."
The 25-nation EU implemented its emissions trading program in January, involving some 12,000 industrial sites.
Emissions trading provides economic incentives for reducing air pollution in which an agency sets limits on specific pollutants. Those who intend to exceed the limits can buy emissions credits from others who are able to stay below their limits.
All EU countries are now implementing "National Allocation Plans," setting ceilings to their greenhouse gas emissions. EU leaders agreed earlier this year to bring their carbon emissions of greenhouse gases 15 to 30 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.
Environmental groups have for years urged EU governments to levy a fuel tax on airlines, in an effort to cut their emissions. However, the airline industry argued such a tax would cripple their competitiveness and would add to the price of tickets.
Aviation's share of overall EU greenhouse gas emissions is only about 3 percent, but its emissions are growing faster than any other sector
EU emissions from international flights grew by 73 percent from 1990 to 2003. This increase could widen to 150 percent by 2012.
Source: Associated Press