Flying into an Environmental Crisis

Greenhouse gas emissions from air traffic are entirely uncontrolled. Aircraft emit greenhouse gas at a high level in the atmosphere and it is believed that these emissions are particularly damaging. Aircraft fuel is entirely untaxed, so there is a limit on making the polluter pay. Air Passenger duty is becoming increasing used as a means of taxing civil aviation flights, but it is a crude measure the proceeds of which go to the general fund of tax collected rather than to any anti greenhouse gas measures.

The European Union is trying to grapple with this problem. It has decided that all airlines flying to or from Europe should have to join a scheme which will comprise either taxes, emissions trading or carbon offsets or a combination of some or all of these measures. The details remain unwritten; the page is blank. Negotiations will begin in earnest in 2016 and will probably take several years. At the end of the negotiations it is likely that there will be some watered down version of the EU ETS that applies to European aviation. A watered down EU ETS will clearly be more effective (if that is possible) than the present EU ETS.

If the experience of the Emissions Trading Scheme is anything to go by, the airlines will use any regulations as an opportunity to get some free money, and I doubt if any environmental benefit will come from all this in the long run.

We are running, no flying, into an environmental crisis.  We are failing to curb greenhouse gas emissions form a sector that is responsible for 10% of them, arguably the most damaging 10%.

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