Emission limits

The UK government has announced plans to fine airlines that do not comply with the European Union’s (EU’s) carbon-emission limits.

The EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) caps net CO2emissions from aviation at average 2004-06 levels and will come into force from 1 January 2012.

According to the transport secretary, Geoff Hoon, the scheme will address the need to reduce the environmental impact of aviation alongside the increasing demand for air travel.

‘We know that people want to fly and it would be wrong to deny them the great social and economic benefits that aviation brings.

‘Our challenge is to balance that demand with aviation’s environmental impacts.

‘Emissions trading is key to meeting that challenge’, he said.

The proposal follows a recent announcement by the government to reduce UK aviation emissions in 2050 to below 2005 levels.

The new rules will mean that businesses will have to buy allowances from other sectors to compensate for any emissions above the agreed target.

As regulator of the scheme, the Environment Agency has been tasked to ensure that operators monitor their emissions in the lead-up to 2012.

Environment Agency chairman, Chris Smith, said: ‘Including aviation in Europe‘s greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme is an important first step in regulating the emissions from aviation that contribute toward climate change.

‘It is vital that the emissions from this sector are not allowed to grow unchecked and that aviation contributes to meeting our target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent by 2050.

‘The Environment Agency operates the greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme in England and Wales and with the inclusion of aviation, we will continue to manage the system effectively.’

Commenting on wider global plans, Hoon said: ‘The UK lobbied hard to get aviation included in the EU ETS.

‘Now we must demonstrate to the rest of the world that the scheme is an effective means of capping aviation CO2 emissions so that we can progress towards a similar global arrangement.

‘I know that the Environment Agency, with the advice of the Civil Aviation Authority, will ensure that the scheme is properly enforced in the UK.

‘Aircraft are already much greener and cleaner than they were 30 years ago.

‘Independent forecasts suggest that this trend is set to continue and through ETS, our new 2050 target, and our work with the industry, we are helping to drive this change along.’

The government has begun a 10-week consultation on the regulations under which EU ETS will operate in the UK, providing an opportunity for stakeholders to express their views before legislation is proposed to parliament in July.

Responding to the proposals, Ian Godden, Society of British Aerospace Companies (SBAC) chief executive, said: ‘Aviation is determined to address the demands of its customers for greener air travel.

‘We have already set ourselves ambitious targets and are determined to meet them.

‘Calls from environmental groups to penalise aviation are counter-productive.

‘The £2.5bn per year that the aerospace industry invests in research and development will deliver improvements much more quickly than the punitive and dogmatic demands to restrict or heavily tax air travel.

‘The inclusion of aviation in the EU-wide emissions trading scheme is a move in the right direction towards a fully international scheme.

‘Such a programme should recognise improved environmental performance in aviation and act as an inspiration to action across the globe.’