Airlines could pay emissions levy via route charging

Eurocontrol is studying the use of its route-charging system as a means of making airlines pay for environmental damage caused by aircraft emissions.

In its latest business plan, Eurocontrol's central route charges office (CRCO), the body responsible for collecting en-route air traffic control charges from member states, points to the possibility of a charging regime as an interim measure while the idea of aviation emissions trading is pursued by the European Commission.

The CRCO says: "As there appears to be strong resistance by various aviation and non-aviation parties against this intention [emissions trading], the application of alternative market-based measures, including environmental revenue-neutral or revenue-generating charges cannot be discarded".

The CRCO already has a sophisticated system for identifying aircraft as they cross European airspace, to ensure airlines pay their en-route ATC charges. The charge takes into account the distance flown and the weight of the aircraft.

As the use of three-dimensional navigation technology becomes more prevalent, the CRCO would be able to impose charges related, for example, to the flight level. Emissions research has indicated that the atmosphere might be more sensitive to aircraft engine pollutants at some altitudes than others. One study found that the production of contrails might be altitude-sensitive while another found that a reduction of cruise altitude might reduce production of ozone, a greenhouse gas contributor.

Meanwhile, Eurocontrol has begun developing a new training course aimed at providing ATC staff with "a good understanding of the issues associated with the environment and aviation, as well as indications of what action to take to mitigate the impact of aviation on the environment". Specifications for the course will be completed by the end of the year.

Eurocontrol environment work is also being carried out in its Pagoda programme, which aims to provide the first estimate of fuel burn and greenhouse gas emissions within the European air traffic management network and basic data necessary to help ICAO's Committee for Aviation Environmental Protection set targets for future emissions levels.

Source: Flight International