MEPs vote for tough action to curb pollution by airlines

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Airlines should pay tax on aviation fuel and face a special system of financial penalties for emissions that contribute to global warming, the European Parliament said yesterday.

Despite lobbying by the European airline industry, MEPs gave overwhelming backing to a demand for new measures to curb the environmental impact caused by the spectacular growth in air travel.

Yesterday's proposals, drafted by the Green MEP, Caroline Lucas, would end the anomaly under which aviation fuel is exempt from taxes and duties.

But it proposed going much further than proposed by the European Commission - which plans to include airlines in an existing emissions trading system for industry. This forces firms that exceed caps to buy permits from those that pollute less, or pay a fine.

Yesterday, MEPs backed Ms Lucas's proposal for a specially designed, polluter-pays, scheme for the aviation sector to operate until 2012. Under these plans the airlines could not receive free credits or buy them cheaply from other users.

The vote is not legally binding but sends a strong message. Ms Lucas said: "While aviation has brought a great many benefits to society, its current growth rate is completely unsustainable. Action is urgently needed."

Carbon-dioxide emissions by aircraft on international flights from EU airports rose by 85 per cent between 1990 and 2004. Last year, the EU introduced its carbon-dioxide quotas on 11,400 power plants and factories. The Commission says that including aviation in its system would add around €9 (£6) to a round-trip ticket.

Supporters of Ms Lucas's scheme acknowledge it would probably cost the traveller more, but argue that it would be more effective in curbing emissions.

British Airways, which backed the inclusion of aviation in the wider trading scheme, criticised moves to single it out. The airline saidthat if the recommendations were followed, aviation would suffer a more punitive regime than other sectors. Aviation should be allowed to trade with other sectors to support its own efforts to reduce emissions.