24th Jul 2021

Airlines should have own emissions trading scheme, MEPs say

  • EU air traffic movements are expected to more than double by 2020 and triple by 2030 (Photo: Airbus)

Europe's growing air-transport industry must do more to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions by joining the bloc's carbon trading scheme and start paying tax on jet fuel, EU lawmakers said on Tuesday (4 July).

A large majority of MEPs meeting in Strasbourg voted in favour of a draft report by UK green MEP Caroline Lucas proposing to limit the impact of air traffic on climate change.

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Air traffic is not part of the Kyoto Protocol - an international agreement adopted in 1997, which seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emission by industrialised nations by 8 percent by 2012, compared to 1990 levels.

"The strong majority in favour of the report on climate change and aviation sends a clear signal to the commission that strict and binding legislation is needed to curb the fast-growing climatic damage caused by airlines," Ms Lucas said at a press conference after the vote.

"Doing nothing is clearly not an option," she added.

Between 1990 and 2003, the EU's international aviation emissions have increased by 73 percent by an average of 4 percent a year.

EU air traffic movements are set to more than double by 2020 and triple by 2030, according to Eurocontrol – Europe's air safety navigation agency.

"At this rate the increased emissions from aviation will neutralise more that a quarter of the reductions required by the EU's Kyoto target by 2012," said Ms Lucas.

Brussels preparing legislation

The parliament is proposing a separate trading scheme for the air-transport industry as many are worried about the effect of the air industry entering the existing and already wobbly carbon trading exchange.

"A separate closed system for aviation is crucial at the very least as a pilot scheme," said Ms Lucas.

The European Commission on the other hand favours a wide system within the existing trading scheme arguing that the existing scheme "seems to be working fine."

"Therefore it doesn't really make sense to have a separate scheme," said commission environment spokeswoman Barbara Helfferich.

The EU's carbon emissions trade market was set up in early 2005, providing a place where permits to pollute one tonne of carbon dioxide can be bought and sold between Europe's main polluting industry such as the energy sector.

The European Parliament's draft report is not legally binding but the commission is preparing legislation on the same subject, which will have to be approved by the parliament and the 25 EU governments.

EU environment ministers in December last year endorsed a commission proposal to include all airlines and EU airports as part of the bloc's key climate change strategy.

Airlines lobby

Uk liberal MEP Chris Davies said in a statement "Our message is that airline operations can continue to expand, but only as fast as improvements in technology and better operating practices permit. Total carbon dioxide emissions must increase no further."

Dutch MEP Johannes Blokland said he agreed with the setting up of a separate trading scheme but that all airlines and airports had to be included in order to avoid unfair competition.

"Efforts already made by airline companies to reduce their emissions must be taken into account," Mr Blokland added.

"It is particularly welcome that the EP endorsed my proposals for a separate Emissions Trading Scheme for the aviation industry, in spite of heavy lobbying from airlines in recent weeks," Ms Lucas stated.

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