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Tackling aviation emissions in the EU


London, UK – The EU’s long-awaited decision to include the aviation sector in its Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) will be an important first step to tackling emissions from aviation.

WWF supports the concept of the inclusion of aviation in the ETS, but is extremely concerned that only approximately 3 per cent of the emission allowances will actually be auctioned when the sector joins the scheme in 2011, with the other 97 per cent being handed out to airlines for free.

A new WWF report — Allocation of allowances for aviation in the EU ETS — shows that the European Commission’s proposals to hand out free allowances to passenger flights could have a perverse effect.

Allocation of allowances will effectively be based on the number of people on flights in the year ending two years before each trading period. So, the scheme could encourage airlines to reduce the price of tickets in this year to increase the number of people taking flights in order for them to get their hands on as many emissions allowances as possible for future trading periods.

“The current proposal from the European Commission has one important flaw in it that may actually encourage people to fly more during specific years, without adequately reducing emissions,” said Dr Keith Allott, head of WWF-UK’s climate change programme.

Aviation is due to join the scheme in 2011 so this could happen next year and then again in 2010 (two years before the start of the 2013-2017 period). In these years, the trading scheme could actually drive up emissions from aviation.

The report also shows that if airlines had to pay for all of their carbon allowances, there would be little or no impact on their profit margins. This approach would deliver greater emissions reductions from the sector itself. Furthermore, WWF estimates that requiring airlines to pay upfront for their allowances could raise between €3.3 and €9.8 billion per year, which could be used to fund the development of low carbon technologies and aid developing countries in adapting to the impacts of climate change.

“The aviation sector is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions and as such the sector should be paying the full price of carbon" Dr Allott added.

"Until this happens, we are essentially subsidising the industry to pollute the planet.”


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