Voluntary aviation CO2 cut deal in pipeline

EU airlines, manufacturers, to propose joint agreement while ruling out absolute emission cuts

Aircraft operators and manufacturers are to present the European Commission with proposals for a voluntary agreement with the EU to reduce the sector's contribution to climate change, according to Association of European Airlines (AEA). No targets or timetables have yet been elaborated but any commitment to cutting emission levels absolutely has already been ruled out.

The air transport sector is one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gases and shows no sign of slowing down. A report by the UN's inter-governmental panel on climate change suggested earlier this year that the impact of air transport on global warming could grow four-fold by 2050 (ENDS Daily 3 June).

The idea of an EU-level voluntary agreement to control aviation carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions was mooted last year by then transport commissioner Neil Kinnock at the AEA's annual meeting in Berlin. The suggestion was made shortly after the EU struck a similar deal with car manufacturers (ENDS Daily 6 October 1998). Although airlines greeted the idea positively, manufacturers were more reluctant (ENDS Daily 30 October 1998).

This summer, however, the two groups have worked "closely" to "develop a clearer picture" of the technological possibilities of reducing emissions, chairman Fausto Cereti told new commissioner Loyola de Palacio at this year's annual meeting held last month.

The talks will allow airlines and manufacturers "in partnership" to "present the Commission with a commitment to targets which are realistic, which not only contribute to the Kyoto process, but continue to deliver benefits beyond the 2012 horizon," he said.

A spokesman for the AEA told ENDS Daily that no targets or timetables for emission reductions had been floated and stressed that the industry would preserve its "right to expand." An absolute reduction in emissions compared the Kyoto baseline level of 1990 would be out of the question, he added. The most immediate means of reducing emissions would be to make improvements to current air traffic control systems, he suggested.

A Commission official confirmed today that talks had been held with airlines and manufacturers, but that "conceptual difficulties" would make an agreement more difficult to reach than the ones with European and subsequently Japanese and Korean car makers. He said, however, that "efficiency improvements" would "not be sufficient to replace economic or regulatory action." The Commission is due to publish a communication on air transport and the environment before the end of the year in which it will assess the merits of such measures.

Follow Up:
Association of European Airlines, tel: +32 2 639 8972.

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