MEPs call for far-reaching action on aviation

The European Parliament has taken a step that may accelerate efforts to tackle the environmental impact of air travel

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[mailchimp_signup][/mailchimp_signup]Earlier this month, the full parliament voted by 439 to 74 (102 abstentions) in support of a package of measures to address the impact of aviation on the global climate and apply the “polluter pays” principle to flights.

The resolution, based on a report by the Green MEP Caroline Lucas, has two central recommendations: that aviation should join an emissions trading scheme specifically for air transport, and that kerosene should be taxed.

The vote is not legally binding, but with the Commission currently working on proposals due to be published by the end of this year on how to deal with aviation’s impact on climate change, it puts pressure on Commission officials to come up with proposals that genuinely tackle air transport’s contribution to climate change.

Lucas said: “The strong majority in favour of the report sends a clear signal to the Commission that strict and binding legislation is needed to curb the fast-growing climatic damage caused by airlines. Doing nothing is clearly not an option. At this rate the increased emissions from aviation will neutralise more than a quarter of the reductions required by the EU’s Kyoto target by 2012.”

The Lucas report’s recommendation that a separate emissions trading system should be created exclusively for aviation reflects concerns in the Parliament that the existing EU ETS is not strict enough to cause major changes in behaviour.

Reacting to the vote, Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus of the Association of European Airlines said the Parliament had opted, “for the systematic dismantling of a key industry by political manipulation of its price structure.” If the measures were introduced, “the economies of Europe’s tourist regions would be devastated“ he said.

Airlines unsure over support for aviation in ETS

Environmental groups generally welcome the inclusion of aviation into the EU ETS, but as a first step, while the airlines seem to be hoping joining the ETS will end pressure for further environmental action. Yet not all airlines are singing the same tune.

In recent months, British Airways, Air France/KLM have supported the idea of air transport becoming part of the ETS. But last month the German airline Lufthansa rejected the idea. Wolfgang Mayrhuber, Lufthansa’s chief executive, told The Times newspaper that global warming needed a global, not European solution, adding: “It would be better to work on improving technology to reduce emissions,” he said.

A spokesman for British Airways said Lufthansa had severely overestimated the costs to airlines of joining the ETS.

This news story is taken from the July 2006 edition of T&E Bulletin.