EU to persevere with airline carbon tax

2012-02-18 08:02

Brussels - Governments opposed to the European Union's new carbon emissions tax for airlines should not underestimate its determination to curb climate-changing gases, the EU's climate chief warned Friday.

Connie Hedegaard, the European commissioner for climate action, also challenged nations that don't like the EU programme to propose their own ways of cutting carbon emissions, rather than just criticising the plan which went into effect on January 1.

"We must hear from the parties that don't like the EU scheme... what exactly do they want, what do they like, rather than saying just what they do not like," she said.

Under the system, which went into effect at the start of the year, airlines flying to or from Europe must obtain certificates for carbon dioxide emissions.

They will get free credits to cover most flights this year but must buy or trade for credits to cover the rest.

The United States, China, Russia, India and many other countries say the bloc cannot impose taxes on flights outside its own airspace. They are due to meet in Moscow next week to consider a joint response.

EU officials have cited a doubling of aviation carbon emissions in Europe between 1990 and 2006 and the inability of governments to forge a global deal on reducing emissions as reasons that prompted them to act.

Exaggerated claims

Hedegaard said that rather than attempting to derail the only functioning system to address aviation's carbon emissions, the countries meeting in Moscow should come forward with concrete suggestions for an even better, global solution. She recommended they should work with UN aviation agency the International Civil Aviation Organisation to achieve such a solution.

"If this law leads to what could not be agreed before, namely a global system, then it's a very good perspective," she said in a telephone interview from Danish capital Copenhagen.

"But if anybody thinks they can threaten Europe to abolish its own laws, then they are underestimating Europe."

China has said it will prohibit its airlines from paying the EU fees, and in Washington Congress has voted to exclude US airlines from the emissions cap-and-trade program.

This has ratcheted up the dispute over the cost of combatting climate change, leading some analysts to warn it could spiral into a global trade war.

Tom Enders, chief executive of Airbus, the world's largest commercial airplane maker, said on Monday that he was worried that "what started out as a solution for the environment has become a source of potential trade conflict".

Hedegaard described as "wildly exaggerated" claims by the scheme's detractors that the fees would add between $50 to $60 to the cost of a trans-Atlantic airfare. She said that on the London-New York route the fee would in fact amount to just two dollars.

"It's actually less than the price of the coffee you would buy at the airport," she said.

  • Larry - 2012-02-18 08:37

    Its still only a money grabbing exercise, but this time I think it will backfire.

      Gary - 2012-02-18 10:50

      Sigh Larry, the EU has a history of trying to reduce carbon emissions and has the best track record in terms of putting its money where its mouth is. They are also one of the only groups to back another Kyoto protocol. They have taken responsibility that the rest of the world hasn't. As a matter of interest, in the past South Africa has been been awarded a lot of money for green projects by the EU. That is where the money for this will go... Green projects. Considering that South Africa is looking to become a global leader in this regard I can only see good things for us with added money coming our way, creating more jobs and with any luck reducing our own carbon footprint in the process.

      Ernst - 2012-02-19 13:31

      @Gary: Well said.

  • Jeff - 2012-02-18 18:59

    An urgent reality check is needed to offset the notion that the entire aviation industry is a collection of anti-environment ETS-refuseniks. They aren’t: there are already a significant amount of global airlines in full compliance with the EU Aviation ETS regulations. In fact, “significant” in this case means 100%, as every single airline that flies in and out of the EU has already registered under every aspect of the ETS with their respective regulator in each EU member state; they have met every deadline along the way; and many are active in carbon markets.And here is a snapshot of how ticket prices are already being impacted: • Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, United Continental and US Airways say they have already added a $3 surcharge each way on tickets for flights between the United States and Europe • ryanair introduced a €0.25 levy per passenger per flight from 17th January to cover its’ ETS costs • Air France/KLM, British Airways and Lufthansa have each added ETS costs to ticket prices via an increasein their existing fuel surcharge although the actual amount is a little opaque These are low, low pass through levels that will not bring about the collapse of air transport as we know it! Now call me naive but this is compliance, is it not? Jeffrey Gazzard Board Member Aviation Environment Federation

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