The European Commission decided to cap airline emissions from 2012 on which will cost the industry and passengers billions of dollars. European and foreign airlines will be added to the European emissions-trading system which imposes fix CO2 quotas on businesses and forces them to buy emission permits in auctions for those emissions exceeding the quotas. CO2 emissions for European aviation will be limited to 97% of their levels in 2005 and to 95% in 2020. Thus, from 2012 on all airlines taking off and landing at European airports – be they from EU countries or from overseas – will have to buy 15% of their emission permits from the EU.
That this foolish idea is not really aimed at reducing carbon emissions but should just generate billions of dollars for the EU budget is obvious. European politicians have discovered green taxes as a new tool to get Europeans to pay more and more. If saving the environment were the target of the European Commission, they’d rather try to push forward the Single European Sky initiative which would trim emissions twice as much immediately and even save the airlines money by harmonising the European air space and making it more manageable and efficient. The main mess with European aviation is the patchwork of national air spaces across Europe which makes planes burn extra fuel and cause more emissions by waiting in unnecessary holding patterns and flying detours. There are 58 air traffic control centers using 22 different operating systems in 30 programming languages in Europe. The US have just 21 control centers using one operating system. There are 47 air navigation providers in Europe handling about 9 million flights annually while there’s only one in the US handling more than 18 million flights. Therefore it is not surprising that the cost of traffic control per flight is as expensive as 742 euros in Europe while in the US the cost is 386 euros per flight.
The Single European Sky project would be the largest and cheapest climate protection project of the EU. Besides, an exclusive EU attempt to curb aviation carbon emissions – which only account for 2% of the world’s CO2 emissions while supporting up to 8% of world GDP, generating hundreds of thousands of new jobs every year and connecting people around the world – would be a distortion of competition harming the competitiveness of European airlines and airports as well as hurting European travellers who will have to pay more to travel around the united Europe. Furthermore, more regulation does always more harm than good by tying up money by bureaucracy and leaving the airlines less money to spend on more fuel-efficient aircraft and technologies. Another point is that the aviation industry is suffering right now from the enormous increase in operating costs due to the sky-high price for kerosene which already forces them to cut their fuel consumption. The new EU rules on carbon dioxide emissions will cost the airlines 4.8 billion euros which is definitely over the top compared with the European airlines’ 3.7 billion euros profit in 2007 which was a very good year for the European airlines. Facing the challenges of soaring oil prices and a possible economic downturn, the outlook is worse for the years to come and most airlines might not survive the negative impacts of the oil price explosion and foolish EU regulation. Eliminating the European air space mess – a measure which would bring immediate relief for both, the aviation industry and the environment – seems to be out of reach with national governments maintaining their egoistic attitudes and unwillingness to give up sovereignty of their skies.