Carriers support appeals to back European Union scheme, as fears rise over pollution tax pushing up costs

Airline groups look likely to back British Airways' call for aviation to be included in a European Union emissions trading scheme, rather than allow the industry to be taxed.

The Association of European Airlines (AEA) has not adopted a position, but many feel its members will eventually come down in favour of emissions trading through fear of its alternative. UK airlines are already involved in a national emissions trading initiative and BA chief executive Rod Eddington's vocal support for an EU-wide scheme is backed by Virgin Atlantic chairman Sir Richard Branson. Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) supports an end to aviation's exemption from the EU trading scheme, which started on 1 January.

The European arm of Airports Council International (ACI) announced last week that its board backs a move to "extend the scope of the EU emissions trading scheme to include the climate change impact of aircraft in flight". AEA's environment committee is expected to reach a common position in the second quarter. The EC has made clear it wishes to tackle aircraft air pollution this year and the AEA is expected to back emissions trading as a better alternative to a flat tax that could push up operating costs.

However, there are those wary of emissions trading. Roland Steisel, director of the European Express Association (EEA), which represents package carrier companies, says his association has yet to reach a position, but adds that both methods have advantages and disadvantages.

"Trading is attractive, but it is a leap of faith, as we don't know how large the market is, or what the sanctions will be if targets are not met. On the other hand, while no-one likes a tax, if the charge is properly modulated so that it punishes the worst polluters, then it would push research into more efficient engines," he says. The EEA advocates finding a solution at International Civil Aviation Organisation level, so as not to create an uneven playing field with other parts of the world, notably the USA.

Environmental campaigners feel the EC is slipping towards a preference for trading, and that their punitive tax arguments are losing ground. Jeffrey Gazzard, International co-ordinator for the GreenSkies Alliance pressure group, says: "Charging passengers just the cost of CO2 from aircraft operations at today's market levels of c10/t [$13/t] would, we estimate, add a mere €2.73 to an intra-European return ticket price."


Source: Flight International