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Bid to reduce impact of aviation on climate change

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  • mtneuman@juno.com
    Bid to reduce impact of aviation on climate change Tuesday, 26 July 2005 Source: WBCSD European Commission services believe it is high time that air transport
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 27, 2005
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      Bid to reduce impact of aviation on climate change
      Tuesday, 26 July 2005
      Source: WBCSD

      European Commission services believe it is high time that air transport
      is involved more fully in efforts to combat climate change. A draft
      communication on the issue (initially due to be adopted by the Commission
      on July 20 but finally deferred) outlines a series of options for
      integrating this previously protected sector in efforts to combat climate
      change, notably through Kyoto Protocol instruments.

      On the basis of an in-depth examination of the various available options,
      Commission services express their preference for the inclusion of the air
      transport sector in the European emissions trading system. Even before
      these proposals are formally presented, the Association of European
      Airlines (AEA) has rejected the argument that growth in air traffic de
      facto implies an increase in polluting emissions, arguing like the motor
      industry, that the aviation sector is developing increasingly efficient
      and cleaner aircraft.

      Whereas overall EU greenhouse gas emissions fell by 2.9% between 1990 and
      2002, emissions from international flights rose by 67%, 4.4% a year.
      Experts do not deny the energy efficiency of aviation, which has improved
      by 70% over recent years, but argue that the total volume of fuel
      consumed and increased steadily, owing to an even greater increase in
      traffic. These facts have been known for some time. Notwithstanding, the
      aviation sector has not been bound by the rules and requirements
      introduced through the international convention on climate change and
      more specifically the Kyoto Protocol on reducing greenhouse gas
      emissions, owing to the absence of a consensus regarding where and how to
      apportion liability for the sector's CO2 emissions. Only the parties'
      domestic emissions are considered, emissions due to international flights
      being mentioned in the form of a memo.

      The parties to the Kyoto Protocol did agree to an explicit obligation on
      developed countries to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions from
      aviation through the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO),
      but the organisation's 188 members have thus far failed to agree on a
      regulatory standards and/or the level of CO2 emissions applicable to the
      sector, or on the definition of an efficiency indicator. The ICAO has
      nevertheless endorsed the concept of an emissions trading system
      applicable to the aviation sector, as well as the notion that member
      states might include civil aviation emissions in their national emissions
      trading system.

      On this basis, Commission services set to considering how to include the
      aviation sector in the fight against climate change and in February 2005
      made the issue one of the cornerstones of future policy in this area,
      notably with a view to negotiations on efforts beyond 2012 (Commission
      Communication "Winning the battle against climate change" (COM2005)35) -
      see Europe Information 2936, section IV; document available on our EISnet
      site at: www.eis.be > Advanced search > Reference=EURE;2936;401).

      New means of reducing emissions

      Whilst acknowledging that there is no rapid and simple technical
      solution, the draft communication highlights the need to address the
      problem through a global approach aiming to both enhance existing
      measures and examine fresh options for action. These include research,
      better air traffic management, energy taxation and integration of the
      sector in the European emissions trading system.

      Research: some 350 research projects have been undertaken since 1990 at a
      cost of euro 4 billion, at least 30% of which have addressed the problem
      of reducing CO2 and Nox (nitrogen oxide) emissions from aviation.
      Extending and developing this work with a view to "greening" the air
      transport sector will be one of the priorities of the 7th Framework
      Programme for Research and Development.
      Air traffic management: Improving air traffic management with the
      immediate effect of cutting waiting time before take-off, engines
      running, and reducing bottlenecks at airport approaches will be key to
      reducing fuel consumption and polluting emissions: European single sky
      initiatives and the establishment of SESAME, a European air traffic
      control system, will be central to such efforts. Their speedy
      implementation is a priority.
      Energy taxation: Though generally imposed by member states for fiscal
      ends, the introduction of a kerosene tax for civil aviation might also
      contribute to reducing CO2 emissions. The Commission recalls that is has
      repeatedly expressed a preference for rapid and harmonised fiscal
      treatment of aviation fuel. It points out that following the adoption of
      directive 2003/96/EC amending the structure of taxation for energy
      products and electricity, the member states are at liberty to introduce a
      tax on kerosene for domestic flights. Such a tax on fuel used for
      domestic flights is already applied by certain third countries - the
      United States, Japan and India - whereas the option has only been pursued
      in the EU by the Netherlands. Subject to mutual agreement, such taxes can
      also be applied in the context of existing EU legislation to flights
      between member states. The Commission nevertheless acknowledges that
      difficulties can arise where a third country operator enjoys traffic
      rights and continues to benefit from exemptions under bilateral aviation
      service agreements (ASAs).
      Preference for emissions trading system

      Commission services have therefore identified a need to go further and
      consider new approaches, notably new market-based instruments such as a
      tax on airline tickets and tours, though it is concerned that such
      measures might "stifle" demand without encouraging operators to improve
      their environmental performance. They have therefore placed emphasis on
      emissions trading and charges, regarded as the most promising means of
      responding to the aviation sector's impact on climate change.


      Although at this stage they only include the "leads" and not the formal
      legislative proposals, the proposals suggested by the Commission services
      in this Communication are enough to make hardcore industrialists, who see
      any consideration of environmental impact as a threat, to shudder. The
      decision to postpone the debate and the adoption of this communication,
      originally scheduled for July 20, has been officially justified because
      of the general policy debate on the environment, scheduled on the same
      date but nevertheless betrays the current Commission's excessive
      reticence in all matters environmental and its fear of antagonising a
      hitherto protected industrial sector. The delay could have consequences
      on an international level, with the position of EU leader in the fight
      against climate change is in danger being seen as weak and losing respect
      just at a time when, on the eve of the second phase of negotiations on
      the Kyoto Protocol one would expect it to be stronger and more committed
      than usual.


      Airline companies on the defensive

      The Association of European Airlines (AEA) are up in arms against those
      who believe that airlines have no conscience when it comes to pollution.
      It has defended the policy of introducing emission quotas per sector, a
      policy which it believes to hinge on four main points:

      - efforts undertaken over the past ten years by aeroplane manufacturers
      and motorists to develop new technologies which are both cleaner and more
      efficient in terms of energy consumption and emission reduction. The
      current goal being to reduce CO2 emissions and noise pollution by half
      and all other pollution inducing emissions by 80% by 2020.

      - the EU's decision to implement the Single European Sky policy, which
      could lead to a 12% reduction in CO2 by unit, further emission reductions
      can be expected following the reduction in airport congestion.

      - Recognising the importance of good practices, airline operators have
      pointed out that aeroplanes should be driven and maintained in line with
      the automobile sector practices and regulators should make more effort to
      promote and encourage people to do so.

      - associations are evaluating market-based options, in particular, the
      trading of emission rights, not currently foreseen in the aviation sector
      and claim to be actively seeking ways to reduce emissions whilst not
      negatively impacting growth.
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