Those who fly or are planning to fly to Europe nowadays will find that there is a heavy tax to pay loosely called environmental fees. European rules forcing all airlines to pay for carbon emissions are within the law, an adviser to Europe's highest court said on Thursday (October 6), in the latest stage of a bitter battle between the European Union and the aviation industry. From January next year, all airlines will have to buy permits under the EU's emissions trading scheme (ETS) to help cover the carbon cost of all flights that land or take off in Europe.
Europeans are not calling this a tax, but an "emissions trading scheme." Whatever the term, the Canada-based International Air Transport Association has estimated that the tax would add $21 to $45 per passenger to fares for flights to Europe from the United States. U.S. airlines estimate that the tax could cost them, or their passengers, up to $3 billion through 2020.
Because there are more non-European aircraft that fly to the continent, the levy would raise more revenue from them than it would raise from European carriers.
"EU legislation does not infringe the sovereignty of other states or the freedom of the high seas guaranteed under international law, and is compatible with the relevant international agreements," said the opinion from Advocate General Juliane Kokott
The 1997 Kyoto Protocol on combating climate change ruled countries should try to regulate aviation emissions through the industry body International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), but talks with the body have not yielded progress.
The European Union -- regarded as the vanguard of efforts to reduce planet-warming emissions -- therefore decided to include airlines in addition to factories, power plants and other installations in its carbon trading scheme.
The EU scheme sets a cap on the level of emissions allowed.
Utilities, factories and, from January, airlines that emit carbon above their cap have to buy carbon permits to cover these emissions. If they emit less than their limit, they can sell spare permits from their emission allowances.