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A step in the right direction - euro airlines to pay for pollution

by Jerome a Paris Sat Jul 30th, 2005 at 07:10:27 PM EST

This is a few days old, but definitely worth a mention:

EU pollution penalty could add to price of air tickets (FT, 24 July)

Ticket prices for return flights out of European airports could rise by up to €9 under a proposal by Brussels to make airlines pay for the pollution they cause.

The European Commission wants to include airlines in its strategy to tackle climate change, putting them in the same category as power generators and oil refineries.

It's about time!

Under plans seen by the Financial Times, the Commission wants airlines included in Europe's emissions trading scheme, which caps the amount of carbon dioxide an industry is allowed to produce.

The proposal has the backing of the British European Union presidency and is accepted by some leading airlines, including British Airways.


Mr Dimas [the EU environment commissioner] said that including airlines in the emissions trading scheme was “the most promising way forward”, preferable to alternatives such as a tax on kerosene or a new ticket tax.

His draft proposal accepts that the cost of the emissions crackdown was “likely to be passed on to air transport users” with a surcharge on a return ticket of up to €9. Mr Dimas hopes to present his plan in the autumn after a wide-ranging environmental programme was approved in principle by the Commission last week. However, new legislation is unlikely to come into force until several years after the original 2008 target date.


Mr Dimas said that, although airlines contributed only 2-3 per cent of EU emissions, that share would grow as air travel increased and undermined Europe's efforts to comply with the Kyoto climate change treaty.

So, despite the fact that it sounds like "too little, too late", it's still a step in the right direction and should be encouraged. I have never understood why kerosene is not taxed at least as much as gasoline, considering that its effects are just as noxious and widespread (it's not just the carbon dioxide, it's the air pollution, the dimming, and many other things that i am sure some of you will help me fill out).

As a frequent flyer myself, I console myself with the fact that I (well, my bank) pay(s) the full price ticket for these flights and thus, in a way, I pay the "real" price for using an airplane and burning kerosene. But I would be more comfortable knowing that this amount was actually paid towards a proper valuation of externalities.

Of course, you can argue that this is a pretty selfish line of thought - I don't care what I pay, whereas any kerosene tax would hurt individual travellers who benefit from cheap travel, so it would not impact me whereas it would others. But that's precisely the point. Travel IS expensive, resource-wise, and this should be reflected money-wise, and cheap travel should certainly be targetted. Business travel can make sense even when it costs a lot, whereas not-so-cheap travel may not, thus wasting resources. And believe me, a return trip within the day to London or Amsterdam, waking up at 5am, to have 4 meetings in a row, eat airplane food in and out, and back at home at 9 or 10 in the evening is probably not your best idea of glamorous...

I use my car and I take planes and I think these activities should be taxed a hell of a lot more, and I will pay these taxes without a peep. They are waaay overdue.

maybe I should move BACK to Europe.  Its seems like that is where the logic is.

Ei lakia tarvita kun sovinnossa eletäen.
by environmentalist on Sat Jul 30th, 2005 at 09:41:37 PM EST
I wholeheartedly agree with you, Jérôme. Though I wouldn't have said or even thought this ten years ago, I now think we should only take planes when absolutely necessary, and I think tickets should be at "real" prices that reflect energy reality (ie cheap oil is finished) and the externalities (which also include noise pollution and growing concreting-over of open spaces, think new airports and their road infrastructure).

That isn't "democratic"? Well, rising sea water won't be either. You can bet the rich will get the higher ground.

Just a query: is there anyone who understands global dimming enough to do a diary on it?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Jul 31st, 2005 at 02:22:03 AM EST
.. but an absolute dearth of time, and skill to write will hinder me from making contributions any time soon. In fact, the whole range of global climate change is a subject I'm vastly interested in.

However. I'm not sure whether people would actually like my diary if I'd write one, since I don't agree at all with the tone of debate that is held on many fora. My background is geology and I'm with one leg in the industry and with the other in research.

Although I feel that global warming is irrefutably proven, the reasons behind that shift are to me still in a mist. It's easy to point a finger to a probable cause, that doesn't make it true. The Earth is a system that is extremely complex and dynamic and we're still far away from perceiving every causality in the climate. For example, 20-25 years ago no one would've expected that a vast reservoir of frozen hydrocarbons is stored at the bottom of the oceans, a gigantic depository of methane. (And now Japan is already making attempts to mine it.)

What I mean to say is that my stand towards global warming caused by greenhouse gasses is rather hesitant and I remain to this day unconvinced of the data that link the present global warming with 90-100 percent to exhausted greenhouse gasses. I remain critical, and I wish everyone would be a little more critical - (including the industry). The weapon of the industry related research is to cause doubt. The weapon of environmentalist agencies is doomsday scenarios. All I'm seeing is that both sides have perfected their tools and are getting blind-sighted.

And then again, it's not the earth we should worry about. It's us. The earth will manage perfectly without us. To quote Jerome's sig-line: "In the long run we're all dead."

by Nomad (Bjinse) on Sun Jul 31st, 2005 at 06:19:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not using airplanes is a good way to reduce pollution and oil usage. But trains are so much slower that there is a significant cost issue. The real proposal here is "not moving around so much." Which I agree with, but is going to be a very tough sell...

Here's an interesting web site that compares planes and trains, and has a bunch of other stuff about global warming...

by asdf on Sun Jul 31st, 2005 at 09:03:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In most of Europe, it is faster to take the train than the plane, thanks to high-speed lines and the fact that train stations are conveniently situated in the center of the cities whereas the airports are a number of kilometers outside.

Take Paris London. The train ride is just a little more than 2h30 from Gare du Nord to Waterloo, both in the center. The plane takes 1h15 (when it's not late, which is often), to which you must add one hour on each side to go to/from Charles de Gaulle and Heathrow and the check in time.

As it were, I mostly take the plane to London, because Air France runs another service between secondary airports which are conveniently located on both sides for what I need (Orly, nor far from home in Paris, and City Airport close to the city in the East of London)- but there are no cheap ticket on these flights, so it's pretty much business class or full price economy (the same thing these days in terms of price) only.

Below 3 hours of travel, i.e. up to 500 miles, trains are available AND more convenient in Europe - and I am pretty sure that they are more sustainable, energy-wise.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Aug 1st, 2005 at 03:30:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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