IHT: EU reaches landmark deal to cap airline emissions

六月 27, 2008

By: James Kanter, INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE
Published: June 26, 2008

BRUSSELS: The European Union reached a landmark agreement Thursday to cap emissions from aircraft, raising the stakes in an increasingly ferocious battle with the United States over how to regulate global greenhouse gases.

In the first requirement of its kind, all airlines arriving or leaving from airports located in the EU would be obliged to buy some pollution credits beginning in 2012, joining other industrial polluters that trade in the European emissions market. That includes non-European carriers like American Airlines and Singapore Airlines.

Including airlines in that system is the boldest move yet by the EU to stamp its environmental policies on the rest of the world.

For consumers, such rules could mean further fare increases in the wake of a steady rise in fuel surcharges imposed by airlines – a trend that looks set to continue. On Thursday the president of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries warned that oil prices could reach levels of up to $170 a barrel this summer.

“At the end of the day it’s the people who fly” who will pay more under the new system, warned Anthony Concil, a spokesman for the International Air Transport Association, the industry’s biggest lobbying group.

U.S. officials immediately warned that the requirements probably would be illegal under the convention governing international civil aviation.

“The mandatory application of the European Emissions Trading System to U.S. airlines and airlines of other non-European countries is, we think, both contrary to international law and ultimately unworkable,” said Robert Gianfranceschi, a spokesman at the U.S. Mission to the EU in Brussels.

The compromise was reached Thursday by representatives of the European Parliament and by EU governments represented by Slovenia, which currently holds the revolving presidency of the EU. It states that the EU “should continue to seek an agreement on global measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from aviation,” according to a copy of the text seen by the International Herald Tribune.

But EU plan “may serve as a model for the use of emissions trading worldwide,” the draft law states.

The proposal still needs the assent of the full European Parliament and individual EU governments. But people involved in the negotiations said those steps were likely to be a formality, given the political agreement.

Including airlines also is a victory for European regulators, who are seeking to include more polluters in the system. That could help blunt criticism of the EU by those who see it as unfairly targeting heavy industry. The carbon trading market, which was started in 2005, caps the overall amount of pollution emitted by industries like electric utilities and steel makers in the EU.

Concil, the IATA spokesman, said the costs to the airline industry of buying permits to comply with European emissions regulations would be more than $4 billion. Imposing new, costly rules on airlines was “incredible” at a time when the industry is expected to lose more than $6.1 billion this year, he said.

Opponents of the plan argue that it will be an ineffective regional attempt to tackle a problem that requires a global solution. European airlines and charter companies also have said they would be at disadvantage to overseas competitors that operate fewer European routes.

Giovanni Bisignani, the director general of IATA, took out full-page advertisements in newspapers this week calling the plans “crazy” and saying that support for the proposals by European governments meant that they had “lost the plot.”

Bisignani said that the aviation industry already was doing enough to reduce its carbon footprint by investing in new technology and using less fuel. He said negotiations on the creation of an emissions trading program for the world’s airlines should be conducted by the International Civil Aviation Organization, or ICAO, a United Nations body.

Including airlines in the current European system “will only invite international legal battles,” he warned.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, which first proposed the rules, has said a global deal would take too long for Europe. EU officials were determined to put forward their own plans, which would cover the emissions from aircraft flying both legs of journeys to and from major destinations like London, Paris and Frankfurt.

Even so, the agreement reached Thursday reduced the chances of international disagreement, said one person closely involved in the negotiations. He would not be identified in order to allow EU governments to make an official announcement about the accord in the coming days.

He said that if other countries introduced approximately similar measures, the EU would drop its jurisdiction covering emissions on flights leaving non-EU countries like the United States, to avoid double regulation.

Most of the initial permits would be allocated to airlines by the European authorities, but airlines would be obliged to buy 15 percent in auctions. A decision on whether airlines would be obliged to buy more permits in later years could be made in coming months depending on negotiations on overhauling the European trading system and the price of oil, he said.

The aviation industry in general has long sought to play down its impact on the environment, saying it accounts for just 2 percent of global emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas. Environmentalists say that measure underestimates the true impact of flying.

Aircraft release other gases and vapor trails at high altitudes, meaning the CO2 impact from aviation should be multiplied up to four times and could equal up to 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Europe, James Leape, the director general for the World Wide Fund for Nature, said at a conference on aviation in April.

Concerns also surround aviation because the industry is growing so rapidly – driven in large part by the expansion of low-cost carriers.

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One Response to “IHT: EU reaches landmark deal to cap airline emissions”

  1. 药师 Says:

    这是cap-and-trade system的一大步,值得欢呼万岁。

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