Aviation emissions plan an ‘important first step’

The first legally binding framework for tackling the environmental impact of international aviation has been proposed by the Commission.

Sketch of some documents (default image for news

[mailchimp_signup][/mailchimp_signup]In a communication published last month, both the environment commissioner Stavros Dimas and his transport colleague Jacques Barrot committed themselves to bringing aircraft emissions into the European greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme (ETS).

T&E director Jos Dings said: “The Commission has taken six years to study this issue and it was high time to act. We welcome the communication as an important first step and urge the Commission to follow-up with a legislative proposal as soon as possible. It is also important that this measure is seen as the beginning not the end. Emissions trading alone will not be enough to combat the rapidly growing emissions of the aviation sector..”

The ETS sets an overall limit for climate changing emissions, and participants in the scheme – currently around 11 500 industrial installations – can only exceed their permitted limit if they buy allowances from other participants who are below their limit.

It is not yet clear what the overall limit and allowances will be in relation to the aviation sector. This will be worked out after the Commission receives the report of a working group of member states and stakeholders it proposes to set up soon. This group will probably start work while the overall proposal is considered by ministers and MEPs.

TICKET TAX

Meanwhile France says it will introduce a levy on airlines to finance development aid next year, even if there is no support from its EU partners.

The tax, expected to fall on tickets, was first proposed by France’s president Jacques Chirac earlier this year. Though he said it would have the effect of reducing demand for air travel and thus help reduce aviation’s impact on the environment, its main aim was to raise money for development and anti-Aids initiatives in Africa and other parts of the Third World.

At an EU finance ministers meeting last month (before the ETS proposal was agreed), France and Great Britain said there was support from Spain, Germany, Brazil, Chile and Algeria for the idea of coordinated levies on air travel to fund aid to poor countries. But Germany and Spain said they were not yet committed to the French initiative.

France’s finance minister Thierry Breton said some countries would join the French scheme but without an obligatory tax. He said passengers would be offered the option of donating a few euros to development funds when buying their tickets.

T&E has issued a statement supporting the principle of the ticket tax, and emphasising that there is no conflict with the proposal for aviation to join the ETS – “both can be implemented in parallel and reinforce each other,” said Dings, “but it must not be seen as a substitute for dealing with the tax exemptions and subsidies the sector currently enjoys.”

• A survey for a British on-line magazine says it is possible to travel four times as far by air than by rail for the same money. The BBC News Magazine gave two passengers €290 and asked them to travel as far as they could, one by air, the other by train. The air passenger did 6900km, while the rail traveller did just 1700km. The survey said the tax paid on rail fuel compared to none paid on aviation fuel accounted for a large part of the difference.

This news story is taken from the October 2005 edition of T&E Bulletin.