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EU plans to curb aviation emissions will not work 04.09.07

Current proposals to include aviation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme will have very little impact on aviation’s contribution to climate change, a new report by leading climate scientists warns today.

Friends of the Earth, which commissioned the research, is urging the EU to substantially strengthen its ETS proposals, and calling for additional measures to curb the growth in flights. The environmental campaign group also wants the UK Government to include international aviation emissions in its proposals for a new climate change law .

The authors of the report - experts from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Manchester - and Friends of the Earth campaigners, will brief MEPs on the findings at a special meeting in the European Parliament in Strasbourg later today (Tuesday 4th September).

The event will be hosted by Chris Davies MEP, a member of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee. The European Parliament and Council are due to discuss and vote on amendments to the EU proposal to bring aviation into the ETS over the coming weeks. A range of amendments that could either strengthen or weaken the ETS proposal have been tabled by MEPs .

The Tyndall Centre’s new report, Aviation in a Low-Carbon EU investigates to what extent EU proposals to include aviation in its Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) would help deliver a low-carbon EU future. The EU plans to include aviation in the EU ETS from 2011 for intra-EU flights, with ALL flights departing from or arriving in the EU included from 2012.

The EU ETS was launched in 2005 and covers around 45 per cent of EU carbon dioxide emissions . Under the scheme, power stations, refineries and heavy industry across Europe are given a limit to how much carbon dioxide they can emit. Participants in the scheme must hold sufficient carbon dioxide permits to match their levels of pollution. Companies that exceed their permits must buy extra allowances from those companies who have managed to reduce their emissions - or pay stiff fines. The EU Emissions Trading Scheme is currently under review.

Dr. Kevin Anderson, Director of the Tyndall Centre’s Energy Programme said:- "We delude ourselves if we believe the proposed framing of the EU ETS is in keeping with the EU’s own and repeated commitment to limit climate change to a two degrees Celsius rise. The current aviation ETS proposal must be significantly strengthened so as to both drive down emission growth rates and force the adoption of more efficient aircraft technologies and operation"

Friend of the Earth’s aviation campaigner, Richard Dyer said: "Current proposals to include aviation within the EU Emissions Trading Scheme are a totally inadequate response to the threat that the growth in aviation emissions poses to efforts to tackle climate change. MEPs and EU Council Ministers must show vision and leadership and substantially strengthen the aviation ETS during the legislative process this autumn."

"Other political measures are also needed to tackle the growing climate impact of flying. This should include VAT on air tickets, a tax on aviation fuel and opposition to new runways. The UK Government must also strengthen its plans for a new climate change law to include Britain’s share of international aviation emissions." says Lib Dem MEP Chris Davies, a member of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee.

The Tyndall Centre’s research found that: o In order for aviation to play its part in keeping EU carbon dioxide below dangerous levels - the EU must considerably strengthen the aviation ETS proposal.

o Current and envisaged carbon dioxide permit prices of less than €50 per tonne will have little impact on the demand for flights - and hence will barely affect the rapid growth in aviation emissions.

o Even a much higher carbon price of €300 per tonne would only result in a moderate increase in ticket prices, and therefore only a moderate reduction in demand and emissions growth.

o The aviation ETS proposal will not provide sufficient incentives for the aviation industry to make the necessary efficiency improvements in order for the sector to be part of a low carbon EU future

Tyndall recommends:

1. That the EU ETS for aviation must be strengthened:

o Aviation should be brought into the ETS earlier, by 2010 at the latest . EU passenger numbers have recently grown at around 6-7 per cent per year, with emissions growing by six per cent annually. By 2012 EU aviation emissions are likely to have increased by 25%-60% from 2005 levels.

o The EU should use a 1990 baseline for measuring carbon dioxide from aviation. This will make the ETS more effective at cutting emissions and bring aviation into line with other sectors and the Kyoto Protocol.

o To maximise the economic efficiency of the EU ETS carbon permits should be auctioned – not allocated to airlines for free - in line with the ‘polluter pays’ principle and recommended in last year’s Stern report .

2. That efficiency improvements in aviation must happen more quickly than in the past:

o Improvements to aircraft and engine technology must happen faster than ever before .

o Operational changes such as improved air traffic control and measures to improve aircraft loading must also be introduced.

Friends of the Earth backs Tyndall’s conclusions, but says that even with improvements to the proposal, including aviation within the EU ETS is not enough. The environmental campaign group is calling on the EU and member states to introduce additional measures including:

o A clause in the ETS proposal to ensure that the aviation industry meets its stated combined technology and operational efficiency improvement target of 3.5per cent per annum before being allowed to buy carbon permits from other sectors ;

o Making the cost of flying reflect its environmental impact. This should include a tax on aviation fuel and VAT on air tickets;

o A presumption against new airport infrastructure, especially new airports and runways; If air travel levels (passenger km) were kept stable, emissions would fall through technology and operational improvements;

o The UK Government must include the UK’s share of international aviation and shipping emissions in its proposals for a new law to cut the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions. The environmental campaign group says that the new law, which it has led the campaign for through The Big Ask climate campaign, must also require at least a three per cent cut in UK emissions every year.

Peter Shield

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Aviation in a Low-Carbon EU (PDF)

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