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EU Parliament Backs CO2 Caps on Aviation

5 July 2006

In a report adopted by 439 votes in favor to 74 against and 102 abstentions, Members of the European Parliament (MEP) proposed that the EU takes action to reduce the climate change impact of aviation by adopting the measures proposed in a report written by MEP Caroline Lucas (Greens/EFA, UK).

International aviation is neither subject to Kyoto or other commitments nor to fuel tax or VAT. The MEPs advocate devising a scheme for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from aviation, and the possible eventual inclusion of that aviation scheme in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

The vote also backed the immediate introduction of kerosene taxes by requiring a tax on all domestic and intra-EU flights (with the possibility to exempt all carriers on routes on which non-EU carriers operate).

Recent research from Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) (UK) suggests that carbon emissions from aviation could triple to 0.40 Gt carbon/year to account for 3% of the world’s anthropogenic carbon emissions by 2050. (Earlier post.)

The International Air Carrier Association reacted swiftly to the vote, saying that the European Parliament had “missed the opportunity to promote a realistic strategy addressing aviation and climate change.

Any approach to aviation and the environment which calls for the simultaneous introduction of taxes on aviation fuel, VAT on airline tickets, environmental charges at airports and [emphasis original] emissions trading scheme (ETS) totally ignores economic realities. Moreover the recommendation to set up a separate ETS scheme for aviation is totally unrealistic.

—Sylviane Lust, IACA Director General

Parliament has accepted the need for a comprehensive package of measures to address the impact of aviation on the climate, as well as applying the “polluter pays” principle. The House emphasized the need for a method which also properly reflects the sector’s dynamic nature and rewards past and future good performance.

MEPs asked that special attention be paid to the situation of the most isolated territories which are particularly dependent on air transport services, and especially to insular or outermost regions, where alternative solutions are limited, or do not exist.

MEPs stressed that the environmental effectiveness of any emissions trading scheme will depend on it having sufficiently broad geographical scope; a rigorous cap; full auctioning of initial allocation; the technological level and early actions taken into account in the allocation; and addressing full climate impact.

Parliament is proposing the introduction of a separate dedicated scheme for aviation emissions, recognizing that, due to the lack of binding commitments for international aviation emissions under the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) and the Kyoto Protocol, the aviation sector would be unable to sell into the ETS.

The report stressed that, if aviation is to be eventually incorporated into the wider ETS, there should at least be a pilot phase of a separate scheme covering the period 2008-2012.

Should aviation be eventually incorporated into a wider ETS, special conditions should be applied to ensure it does not distort the market to the detriment of less protected sectors, according to the MEPs. These include a cap on the number of emission rights it is permitted to buy from the market, and a requirement to make a proportion of the necessary emissions reductions without trading, before being allowed to buy permits.

The House asked the European Commission to present immediately an impact assessment on the specific parameters of its design proposals, e.g. level of cap for aviation, compliance, choice of participating entity (aircraft operators, airlines or airports), and to present proposals to ensure that the ETS will be applicable to airlines from outside the European Union.

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July 5, 2006 in Aviation, Climate Change, Emissions, Europe | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)

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Note that both the EU parliament and the EU council of ministers (in effect, the governments of its member states) must approve EU directives before they can become law. However, only the EU commission has the right to formally propose new directives. The commissioners are nominated and confirmed in a convoluted process involving both the member states and parliament, which also has the formal right to fire the entire comission. In other words, we'll have to see what becomes of this "proposal" by the EU parliament. The political winds certainly favor something along its lines.

Taxing kerosene on those routes on which there are no non-EU competitors would be a good first step to curbing unneccessary city hopping for business or especially, for pleasure. Long-standing international treaties are preventing a blanket tax on kerosene throughout the EU for the moment.

However, introducing such taxes very and other fees related to environmental protection too rapidly could indeed drive some of the weaker airlines out of business, with the loss of thousands of jobs. Unlike road traffic, the aviation industry has long been required to fund its infrastructure, i.e. airports, noise abatement and civilian air traffic control.

A more fruitful avenue would be banning subsidies paid by regional governments to budget airlines to encourage them to use secondary airports. The environmental damage is particularly severe for short-hop flights (<~350km) due to high fuel use during take-off and landing and, due to typically lower capacity utilization. Unfortunately, establishing routes to and from a regional airport tends to increase property values beyond the noise-afflicted zone by 20% or more.

Some countries (eg. the Netherlands, Germany) have worked around this by offering excellent (high-speed) train connections to hub airports, with check-in at the train station. Unfortunately, you still have to run the security gauntlet at the airport - preferential treatment for passengers that arrived by train would help discourage the use of short-hop flights.

Seems like another argument for PRT or high speed rail to eliminate the need for most short-hop flights.

Trains still use fossil fuel in one way or another, even electric trains. I suppose the solution would be to take away everyone's passports and ban travel. As long as people aren't allowed to travel, we can stop CO2. It's a small price to pay in order to save the world.

Sid -

"I suppose the solution would be to take away everyone's passports and ban travel. As long as people aren't allowed to travel [...]"

There are still places where this is the case, e.g. Cuba and North Korea. In Suadi Arabia, women are not allowed to drive. Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge would be another example. Did you fully consider the implications when you posted your comment?

I suspect that few on this forum - or anywhere, for that matter - would be prepared to completely forgo high-speed travel, let alone give up their passports (!), just to curb global warming. The challenge is to come up with fuels and prime movers that can sustain something akin to our present level of mobility for goods as well as people while minimizing the damage to the environment at all scales - local (HC, CO, NOx, PM), regional (acid rain) and global (climate change).

Not flying unless you have a legitimate reason to do so makes sense. Shutting down rail services is a rather more extreme concept.

Sid:

Do not forget that every human been consume oxygen while breezing and exhaust sizable amount of carbon dioxide – clearly man-made GHG emission. Probably Rafael can share with us his vision how to impose carbon taxes for breezing, especially on biggest in the world polluters –fat Americans, and save the world from the imminent catastrophe. Or probably diesel cars already taking care of this particular problem?

Andrey, your comment is so pathetic its not evern worth replying to other than to say what I've said.

Andrey may have a point.

Most of us prefer to ignore that feeding, transporting and caring for 100+ millions 320 pounders requires much more energy and produces much more GHG than would the same number of 160 pounders. (you may use 300 and 150 lbs if you prefer, but the comparative results may be almost the same)

A similar analogy is that driving 100+ milions 5000+ lbs gas guzzlers dinosaurs requires much more energy and produces much more GHG than driving the same number of more efficient 2500 lbs smaller vehicles.

Our life style is part of the equation.

Sid,
Trains that use electricity such as the French TGV (train a grande vitesse) capable of ~200 mph (300kph) are much more efficient than jet airplanes per passenger-mile. Furthermore, electricity in France comes mostly from nuclear stations, while 20% in Denmark comes from wind turbines. Eventually, electricity will be more and more produced from renewable energy sources.

For ZERO-CO2 AVIATION transport, use Liquid Hydrogen in jetplanes. All carbon-based fuels are too heavy for aircraft use. For long-range flight, over 1/3 to 1/2 of an aircraft's gross weight is devoted to fuel, while ~1/6 of the gross weight is payload. Liquid Hydrogen has 3 1/2 times the energy per unit weight than kerosene. If converted to LH2, the payload of a commercial jet can double for a given unit of fuel energy. So, even if LH2 is to cost double that of kerosene per unit BTU, it will still come out even commercially, but will be a lot better for the environment. GE and others are developing ways to make H2 cost competitive with petroleum fuel in the near future. A modified gas turbine should be able to run on hydrogen equally well. Given the high detonation potential of H2, a novel detonation jet engine of the future can even cut fuel usage by 30% or more. The LH2 takes up more volume than kerosene, at about 1.75x the volume of kerosene fuel volume, and all the LH2 should be stored in a large tank inside the fuselage, due to the fact that a LH2 airplane has 1/2 the gross weight of a kerosene jetplane for the same payload. The wing thus is reduced to 1/2 of previous area, and now only has 1/3 of previous volume, thus too little internal wing volume for storing LH2 in the wings. Storing of LH2 requires thick insulation layer.

So you see, Sid, you do not have to stop flying in order to halt CO2 release from aviation. In fact, the future hypersonic space-plane capable of NY to Tokyo in under 2 hours will use LH2 as fuel. It will use a SCRAMjet (or Supersonic Combustion ramjet) engine design that has shown some success in recent testing.

TO INFINITY AND BEYOND !!!(Sorry, Sid, your name reminds me of a character in the movie "Toy Stories" by Pixar studio)

Rafael:

"However, introducing such taxes very and other fees related to environmental protection too rapidly could indeed drive some of the weaker airlines out of business, with the loss of thousands of jobs."

The jobs argument is used by airlines and airports to scare governments. When people fly less, they have more money to do other things. The jobs will reappear in other sectors. There will be a shift of jobs, not a loss of jobs.

Anne -

you are right, but economics isn't politics, especially in (continental) Europe. Here, many elected officials still cling to the antiquated notion that they are directly responsible for "creating" or "saving" private sector jobs. Indeed, many voters still expect them to.

Labor markets in Germany, France and Italy in particular are so ossified that it is extremely hard to find a decent new job after being made redundant. Unsurprisingly, those who have jobs hang on to them for dear life, even when that makes no sense for the business they are employed by. In the airline sector, consider e.g. Alitalia. In the automotive sector, consider e.g. Volkswagen.

Hence, coming from an industry association, the threat of job losses carries more weight than it would in most Anglosaxon countries. Then again, the US has chapter 11 bankrupcties, and many of its airlines have availed themselves of this mechanism to somehow stay aloft - much to the relief of cities whose airports they use as transit hubs.

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