The European Union Parliament has agreed to include the aviation sector in its EU Emissions Trading Scheme, which will make it mandatory for all airlines operating to and from the EU to cut carbon dioxide emissions from 2011, a year earlier than expected for foreign carriers.
Every airline, with the exception of military flight, will be allowed 90% of its emissions, averaged between 2004 and 2006. Emissions above those levels will have to be offset by the company through the purchase of carbon credits.
The plan will now have to be approved by individual member states before it becomes law. It is unclear what impact, if any, the proposed emission standards will have on India-based airlines. Air India says there will be no impact and Jet Airways Ltd said it needs to study the proposals.
In 2004, greenhouse gas emissions from the EU’s share of international aviation increased by 7.5% compared with 2003. Cumulative growth of CO2 emissions, meanwhile, is at 87% since 1990, in stark contrast to the EU’s overall 8% greenhouse gas reduction target under the Kyoto Protocol.
The aviation industry reacted quickly to the proposed legislation. The International Air Transport Association (Iata) urged the European Union to get its priorities in the right order and focus on practical steps to help reduce aviation’s CO2 emissions.
“Climate change is a serious problem and hypocrisy is not the answer. Europe is single-mindedly pursuing a political agenda of emissions trading that does nothing to improve environmental performance. I don’t see the European Parliament planting many trees, but somehow they have got lost in the woods,” said Giovanni Bisignani, director general of Iata. “With fuel making up 28% of operating costs, airlines have a $132 billion (Rs5.18 trillion) economic incentive to reduce fuel burn and CO2 emissions. We are 2% of global CO2 emissions and we have a clear strategy to address this.”
Meanwhile, some environmentalists said such cuts are not drastic enough. “Aviation is the fastest growing sector in terms of carbon emissions. Moreover, carbon emissions at higher altitudes are more potent in climate change. Theindustry’s reaction is not the right attitude,” said Saumyabrata Rahut, a climateand energy expert with Greenpeace India.
“EU norms are unlikely to result in any impact on the airline because most of its aircraft by that time will be new,” said Jitender Bhargava, spokesperson, Air India, which has the most overseas flights for any Indian airline.
“When you talk about the emission norms by 2011, all of Air India’s fleet will be new. All of them will meet those parameters. We have just no problem on this score. All the airlines flying 25-year-old aircraft come into the ambit of these rules. The most concerned are the aircraft manufacturers and they have full cognizance of all these when they deliver the aircraft.”
Air India is looking at establishing an international hub in Europe and is in talks with Munich and Frankfurt, among others.
Jet Airways Ltd, which recently created an international hub in Brussels, said it will have to study the fineprint of the proposed policy to assess any potential impact. “We are totally new to it,” said the airline’s executive director Saroj Datta.
Ties between India and Europe have also been growing steadily, pushing the twogovernments to look into having an Open Skies policy for the airlines of the two regions on the lines of a similar agreement India has with the US.
So far India has one-on-one bilateral arrangement with each of the EU countries but those are expected to be rolled into one umbrella agreement with the EU.
At least four rounds of talks have already taken place between the regulatory authorities of the two countries having one single bilateral arrangement for the entire EU, according to a senior civil aviation official who did not wish to be quoted.