European Commission vice-president and head of the Transport Directorate Loyola de Palacio has put reform of the European air traffic management (ATM) system at the top of her agenda for sustainable development in the air transport industry.

Speaking at the European Policy Centre in Brussels on 31 March, she said that pushing ahead with a unified ATM system has become a centrepiece of transport policy.

De Palacio is frustrated at the lack of progress on ATM harmonisation among the 15 European Union (EU) states and has made a single European sky a specific objective of the EU commitment to meeting agreed cuts in carbon dioxide emissions contained in the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

The lack of an integrated ATM system is seen as a significant contributor to aviation pollution in Europe because of the inefficient routeings and delays it forces on aircraft, resulting in unnecessary fuel use.

De Palacio also wants EU member states to improve civil and military sector co-ordination.

De Palacio has also hinted for the first time that the EU should adopt "fiscal incentives" as a means of forcing the air transport industry to cut emissions.

"It will be one of the most important instruments as it is market oriented and allows the principle of 'the polluter pays' to be established", she told the meeting.

The policy is viewed with alarm by the air transport industry, however, which points to the difficulty of establishing how, and by whom, pollution taxes would be levied.

Source: Flight International