STRASBOURG, France, July 8 (Reuters) – To howls of protest from airlines, European Union lawmakers approved a deal with governments on Tuesday to include aviation from 2012 in the EU’s Emission Trading Scheme, a key tool to fight climate change.
Aviation generates 3 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions in the 27-member bloc but has been left out of the ETS so far due to fears the scheme would damage the industry’s ability to compete in international markets.
With air traffic set to double by 2020, however, Europe is keen to apply the “polluter pays” principle as it struggles to reduce output of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.
The European Parliament voted 640 to 30 in favour of making airlines cut emissions of carbon dioxide by 3 percent in the first year, and by 5 percent from 2013 onwards.
All airlines flying into and out of the EU, including non-European carriers, would be included, and would have to pay for 15 percent of their emissions permits initially.
The vote was the last step to turn the proposals into law.
A spokesman for German airline Lufthansa, one of Europe’s biggest flag carriers, said: “From our perspective, the Emission Trading Scheme is ecologically counter-productive and economically harmful.”
Lufthansa estimates the scheme will distort competition and cost it hundreds of millions of euros a year.
DEARER AIR TRAVEL?
Environmentalists said parliament had not gone far enough.
“The final deal is so weak it will have little impact on the rocketing growth in carbon dioxide pollution from flying,” said Friends of the Earth aviation campaigner Richard Dyer.
Green party lawmaker Caroline Lucas said her group accepted the deal reluctantly, but only on condition that curbs on emissions from aviation were rapidly scaled up.
The decision seems bound to raise the price of air travel and pit consumer-friendly policies that have brought cheap flights to the masses against the EU’s ambition to lead the world in fighting climate change.
EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas hailed the vote, saying: “Greenhouse gas emissions from international air transport are increasing faster than from any other sector in the EU, and this growth threatens to undermine our overall progress in cutting emissions.”
The Commission estimates the deal will add between 2 euros and 9 euros to the price of a return flight with the EU.
But Ryanair (nasdaq: RYAAY – news – people ), Europe’s largest budget airline, said the impact could be as much as 50 euros per flight.
“It will just raise the cost of air travel for ordinary European consumers and their families…,” said Chief Executive Michael O’Leary.
“When airlines like Ryanair have invested heavily in new aircraft to reduce our emissions per passenger by 50 percent, there is no justification for this tax theft,” he added.
EU officials contend that charging for airline emissions will hasten the switch to using greener planes.
But an organisation representing 38 airlines serving the holiday industry said the scheme would strip them of the money needed to invest in cleaner technology.
“Today’s vote creates the worst of all worlds — even more financial pressure on airlines without any proven benefits for the environment,” said Sylviane Lust, director general of the International Air Carrier Association.
The Lufthansa spokesman added that the EU would have a far greater impact by pushing forward its Single European Sky plan, which would cut fuel consumption by straightening out aircraft routes that currently zig-zag around national airspaces.