10th Dec 2022

Aviation industry attacks EU emissions plan that effects airlines worldwide

  • From January 2012, all flights taking off from Europe or landing there will be included in the ETS (Photo: Wikipedia)

With airlines struggling to maintain their businesses in an era of skyrocketing fuel prices, the aviation industry has attacked European plans to include its carbon pollution in the emissions trading scheme.

The head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Giovanni Bisignani, in a speech on Wednesday (16 July) to an international conference on sustainable aviation in the UK said: "The airline industry is in crisis. With a fuel bill of US$190 billion [€120 billion] - one third of its costs - saving fuel is a matter of survival. Still Europe is fixated on punitive measures supposedly designed to reduce emissions.

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"There is a rush to implement taxes, taxes and more taxes. They all have an environment label, but do nothing to reduce emissions," he continued.

Last week, MEPs voted overwhelmingly (640 to 30) for aviation to be included in the ETS from 2012. The plan, including both EU and non-EU airlines, must yet be ratified by the member states, who agreed to the idea in June.

"Taxes don't reduce emissions. Only better operations and technology can do that," said Mr Bisignani, lashing out at UK and Dutch passenger duties and associated taxes.

"If this weren't enough, the European Union emissions trading proposal will add another layer of penalties," he said.

"What will all this do for the environment? Precious little. It's time for some political honesty about where the billions are going and what they will achieve," he added.

A total of 24 airlines have gone out of business this year, unable to continue in the face of climbing fuel bills.

From January 2012, all flights taking off from Europe or landing there will be included in the ETS. A total of 85 percent of emissions permits will be allocated for free and 15 percent auctioned.

In the first period, until 2012, airline emissions are to be cut by three percent, and from 2013 onwards, the emissions will have to decrease by five percent.

Aviation is the first industry from the transport sector to be included in the scheme.

The director-general of IATA was particularly incensed that the EU's plans would affect airlines - and ticket prices - around the world, not just in Europe.

"This will create an international legal mess," he said. "States outside Europe are already threatening legal action. Why should a US carrier have to pay Europe for emissions over US territory?"

He instead called for a worldwide agreement: "Going global is the only way to success. The drafters of the Kyoto Protocol understood this and tasked the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to deal with aviation and the environment.

"But this wisdom did not make it to the European Parliament," he said.

Meanwhile, environmental campaigners say the measures approved by the parliament will actually lead to increased emissions.

"This might look like good news - after all, it is the first and only international emissions agreement to include air transport," said a spokesperson for Plane Stupid, the UK pressure group who helped organise the anti-aviation camp set up near Heathrow Airport in London last year. "But don't get too excited just yet - because this measure is not actually intended to reduce aviation emissions."

The group complains that the extra warming impact of aviation emissions over ground-based CO2 emissions is unaccounted for in the plan. Greenhouse gas emissions released in the atmosphere have a much greater effect than emissions from sources on the ground.

"[This] means that permits to pollute that are sold to airlines by, for instance, power companies, will actually lead to two to five times more global warming than if the power companies had never reduced their emissions in the first place," said the spokesperson.

"MEPs had proposed a way to factor this in to the scheme, but, somewhat unsurprisingly, the aviation lobby successfully got that thrown out by the commission," the spokesperson added.

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