Airlines vow to fight emissions trading scheme

Less light more planes

It had to happen. After months of pleading to be included in the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), major international carriers have declared that they will fight any European plan to make them take account of their spiralling emissions.

Just days after the EU fought tooth and claw to undermine the ETS, the International Air Travel Association (IATA) has laid down the gauntlet, promising to throw its toys out of the pram if MEPs don't stop trying to avert climate change.

The IATA has cobbled together a Coalition of the Polluting: 170 countries who have rejected a European-only trading scheme. Giovanni Bisignani, Iata chief executive, said: "This is a global industry and we need a global tool. Regional trading schemes will not work. That is why 170 countries will challenge Europe. Instead of working together to build a global trading scheme, governments will be discussing legal issues." Oddly, Mr. Bisignani omitted to mention that any discussion of "legal issues" was only taking place because his mates in the aviation industry weren't playing ball.

It's hard to imagine why they're so opposed (other than a general hatred from big business for restrained bottom lines). As Caroline Lucas points out, "It doesn't take a Nobel Prize winner in physics to work out that the only way this can possibly reduce aviation emissions is if there is a sufficiently rigorous overall emissions cap" - and the ETS is hardly likely to achieve that. At best, the scheme isn't going to reduce current flight numbers, but is instead likely to reduce projected growth from 83% by 2020, to 78% growth by 2020. A 5% reduction in growth? Hardly worth writing home about, is it?

Of course, to be really effective, the ETS would have to focus on sectoral caps, requiring airlines to buy credits off other airlines. The current scheme is designed to ensure that any gains made by changing lightbulbs or turning the thermostat down by 1 degree are absorbed into aviation growth. Essentially it's a license for airlines to pollute.

As usual the IATA is claiming that it opposes the scheme because a reduction of 5% growth would cripple the industry's ability to buy new planes and increase their efficiency. And as usual, this is just a smokescreen. The industry is fighting this because it's there - and they know that there are stronger measures to come.

In related news, here's something to cheer you up: BAA's response to the Government's CO2 / aviation consultation