Airlines express outrage at Europe's carbon revenue plan

by Search Gate staff. Published Tue 27 Sep 2011 16:13
Airlines say Europe is wrong on trading scheme

European airlines have hit back against the European Commission’s latest comments on aviation’s entry into the European Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS), arguing that the comments are grossly misleading.

Climate Action Commissioner Hedegaard this week claimed airlines will benefit from €20bn worth of free carbon permits during their first decade in the EU ETS, which aviation will join on 1 January next year. She refers to these free allowances as “revenues” and suggests airlines could channel these funds into fleet modernisation.

These statements have caused uproar among the leading airline bodies. “To refer to carbon permits as revenue is totally absurd,” says Association of European Airlines Secretary General Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus, voicing the united view of the three airline bodies. “This is simply not true. The allocated certificates have to be surrendered; this is not money which airlines can re-invest.”

The Commission is capping aviation emissions below 2004-06 levels. Initially it will grant 82% of the permits that airlines would have needed in 2004-06 for free, while the remaining 18% must be bought at auction or from other sectors. This means that even if an airline maintained its emissions at 2004-06 levels, it would still need to buy that remaining 18%. But the industry has grown since 2004-06, widening that shortfall.

“The Commission has got this completely wrong. Far from profiting from the scheme, an average airline will need to acquire 27% of its permits from the market,” argues Mike Ambrose, who is Director General of the European Regions Airline Association. “Contrary to the Commission’s statement, this will hamper industry investment in new technologies and biofuels.”

Carbon permits are expected to increase in price, hitting around €28 by 2020. On this basis, the airline industry will be left footing a €17.5bn bill between 2017 and 2020. This would be a tough pill for any industry to swallow, but according to IATA’s latest forecast, European carriers will post a meagre 0.8% margin in 2017. “Companies depend on air links to do business. Adding costs against a backdrop of economic uncertainty will only hinder the recovery,” says International Air Carrier Association Director General Sylviane Lust.

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