New figures show airlines failing to cut emissions

European Parliament to vote on emissions trading for aviation sector, 4 July

Emissions from aviation in Europe continue to rise, a new report shows. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from international flights departing from EU airports increased by 7.5% in 2004. The overall increase between 1990 and 2004 now stands at 86%, an average increase of 4.5% per year.

The increase in CO2 emissions from aviation cancels out almost one quarter of the reductions made over the same period by other sectors in Europe under the terms of the Kyoto protocol.

The new CO2 data was released by the European Environment Agency (EEA) and analysed by Transport and Environment, a federation of sustainable transport citizens groups.

The EU’s Kyoto target is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 8% by 2010 based on 1990 levels. Emissions from international aviation were excluded from the Kyoto protocol and are not currently subject to regulation anywhere in the world.

Tomorrow, Tuesday 4 July, the European Parliament is set to vote on proposals from the European Commission to combat the climate change impacts of European aviation.

Jos Dings, director of T&E said, “Since Kyoto was signed, other sectors have been cutting emissions, while those from the gas-guzzling aviation sector have almost doubled. Meanwhile, governments have showered the sector with subsidies and tax breaks. It is high time Europe got its head out of the clouds, got the aviation sector in line with other polluters and started demanding emissions cuts.”

One of the proposals to be considered by the European Parliament is to include the aviation sector in the European Emissions Trading System (EU-ETS). Under such a system, airlines would be obliged to hold permits for their emissions. Airlines that emitted more or less would be able to trade permits with other airlines (a ‘dedicated system’) or with all businesses that emit CO2 . A dedicated system for aviation would be much more effective.

“The only way to tackle spiralling aviation emissions is to introduce a dedicated trading system for the sector and to remove the numerous tax exemptions and subsidies that have been fuelling emissions growth for decades.” said Dings

Notes to editors

  • The growth figure for 1990-2004 (86%) is an increase of 13 percentage points over figures published by the European Commission last year which showed a 73% increase in CO2 emissions over the period 1990-2003.
  • CO2 emissions from international aviation in the EU25 were 63.6 MT (million tonnes) in 1990, 110.2 MT in 2003 and 118.4 MT in 2004. The increase between 1990 and 2004 was 54.8 MT. This is 22% of the emissions reductions from other sectors over the period, which amounted to 251 MT.
    (Source: EEA )
  • While the increase in CO2 emissions from aviation cancels out almost a quarter of reductions made by other sectors, the increase in the total climate impact of aviation, although not yet accurately known, is certainly higher and could even completely offset reductions made by other sectors.

Clearing the Air: The Myth and Reality of Aviation and Climate Change

T&E and Climate Action Network Europe’s latest report on aviation and climate change can be downloaded here.

Executive Summary

Section 1 gives an overview of the impact of aviation on climate change, and also examines the economic importance of the aviation sector.

The main conclusions of this section of the report are as follows:

  • In 2000, aviation was responsible for 4 to 9 per cent of the climate change impact of global human activity – the range reflecting uncertainty surrounding the effect of cirrus clouds
  • aviation has by far the greatest climate impact of any transport mode, whether measured per passenger kilometre, per tonne kilometre, per € spent, or per hour spent
  • today’s passenger aircraft are no more fuel-efficient than those that flew half a century ago
  • the importance of aviation for the economy and employment is far less than its importance for climate change
  • every segment of the aviation industry including manufacturers, airlines and airports is subsidised and enjoys major tax exemptions

Section 2 examines some of the policy options under consideration to combat the climate impact of aviation.

    The main conclusions of this section of the report are:
  • regional initiatives, such as those under discussion at EU level, provide the best hope for a multi-lateral solution to international aviation emissions for the foreseeable future
  • EU-level action does not affect the competitive position of EU airlines compared with their non-EU competitors, provided that policies do not discriminate between EU and non EU carriers flying the same routes (which is obligatory anyway under the Chicago Convention)
  • including aviation in the European Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) can be a good first step, provided the system is designed right
  • additional measures like kerosene taxation and Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) emissions charges at airports are not only environmentally important but also justified in terms of cost effectiveness
  • aviation is overwhelmingly an activity of the richest elements of society, measures to combat the environmental impact of aviation would not adversely impact the poor
  • a ‘development tax’, such as the system introduced on 1 July in France, is a good way to make up for the VAT exemption of international air tickets and would benefit poor regions, not hurt them

The full report can be downloaded here.


Contact the press team

Nico Muzi
Communications Director
+32 (0)484 27 87 91 
nico.muzi@transportenvironment.org

Share