The [Committee on Climate Change](http://www.theccc.org.uk/news “”) today set out its views on how emissions from aviation should be tackled at an international level suggest the industry should pay fully for their carbon emissions. Last year The European Union made a half-baked attempt to tackle rising emissions by including flights in their Emissions Trading Scheme. But they decided to give 85% of the permits they would require away for free.
This makes no sense. The massive subsidy the airlines receive from using untaxed fuel gives them an obvious advantage over less polluting, land-based alternatives. A global tax on aviation fuel is not currently on the table so requiring payment for pollution permits is the obvious alternative. Take away the subsidy in this way and the runaway expansion the sector is predicting would be seriously curtailed and targets more easily met.
Any idea that the industry can’t be required to pay because alternative fuels and engines are not yet readily available is a nonsense. Emissions trading schemes have nothing to say about where emissions reductions must occur – the market uncovers that by finding the cheapest savings across all participants in the scheme. What should determine how airlines are treated is not can the sector reduce its own emissions but can it afford the cost of paying others? And the answer is clearly yes. The fuel tax subsidy the sector receives alone more than covers it. The fact that they can fully pass costs on and it’s the richest in society that fly the most also makes the ability to pay very high relative to other sectors.
Unlike electricity, flying is not a basic requirement of every day life and yet from 2012 we will require all our power stations to fully internalize the cost of their pollution while the aviation industry continues to get away with it. This cross subsidy from end users of electricity (ie all of us) to the frequent fliers is highly regressive and shouldn’t be allowed to continue.
Europe must re-visit the deal they struck with the industry and they should have an opportunity to do this next year after the Copenhagen negotiations are concluded. Let’s hope the advice of the Committee is heeded. They didn’t go far enough in terms of the levels of caps they are recommending but the requirement to pay is a no-brainer and could be an important source of income for other climate solutions.