Anthony Concil of IATA says air travel is responsible for 2 per cent of emissions. That was true in 1992, and only for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. In 2000, aviation was responsible for between 4 per cent and 9 per cent of the climate impact of human activity (depending on the impact of cirrus clouds). Since 1990, the base year of the Kyoto agreement, CO2 emissions from international aviation in Europe have grown by 83 per cent. Meanwhile, other sectors have been busy cutting emissions. To put Mr Concil's words another way, this is about the environment, not about politics.
The industry accuses the EU of acting unilaterally, saying a global solution is needed. In fact, at its last general assembly the ICAO said it "endorses the further development of an open emissions trading system for international aviation". But it has ruled out the setting up of an emissions trading system by itself. The reality is that, if Europe does not propose and set up a workable system, we can forget about international action on this issue. That would be a disgrace.
With no fuel taxes to pay, no VAT on tickets, €20bn in rescue aid from EU governments since 1991 (according to Lufthansa) and almost a decade after Kyoto was signed, the aviation industry is still living in the clouds. Emissions trading alone will not be enough to bring it into line with other sectors of the economy, but it's a welcome first step.