IATA chief: EU carbon tax tilting playing field


SINGAPORE – The aviation industry emits as much as about 600 million tons of carbon every year, and with more planes set to take to the skies, there’s been a push towards creating a carbon neutral sector.

The initiatives include the European Union’s emission tax on airlines, to trials and tests with alternative fuels.

The aviation industry has in fact, committed to reducing its carbon emissions by some 50 per cent by 2050, compared to 2005.

However, in recent months, the issue of the environment and aviation has suffered some controversy with a tax being imposed on airlines by the European Union.

International Air Transport Association director general Tony Tyler said: “Well, the situation with airlines inclusion in the EU ETS is very complicated, and it’s complicated because governments see it as an infringement on their sovereignty to have the extra territorial tax imposed on them.

“Airlines, of course, also see this as a problem because it is introducing distortions into the market.

It’s tilting the playing field and this is something that airlines find very difficult to live with.

“Airlines are now planning to fulfil their obligations under protest, but they will have to do that. But in some countries such as China, we see that the Chinese government has passed a law which prevents their airlines from taking part, so the Chinese airlines are really now in the forefront.

“And they are bravely going into the battle having to take the charge and they are having to make a decision — do I comply with Chinese law or do I comply with European law?”

And while most industry players say that a global standard would be the best solution, they agree it will take some time to get all involved parties to agree to a standard.

In the meantime, airlines and aircraft manufactures understand there is a need for airlines to be not only efficient but also to source for alternative fuels.

Airbus Public Affairs and Communications SVP Rainer Ohler said: “I would say that 30 per cent of the fuel that we need for aviation in 2030 could be biofuel or alternative fuel.”

According to IATA, between 2008 and 2011, nine airlines and several manufacturers performed flight tests with various blends of up to 50 per cent renewable fuel.

IATA said these tests demonstrated that no adaptation of aircraft was required to use renewable and that it can be blended with existing fuel.

In mid-2011, 11 airlines have performed commercial passenger flights with blends of up to 50 per cent renewable/bio fuel.

The airlines which performed these flights are KLM, Lufthansa, Finnair, Interjet, Aeroméxico, Iberia, Thomson Airways, Air France, United, Air China and Alaska Airlines.