European aviation action day takes off

Green groups protest at airports, call for "serious measures" to tackle aircraft emissions

A coalition of green groups is urging the European Commission to take "serious measures" to reduce the environmental impact of air traffic. In an open letter sent to European Commissioners today, they call for a tax on kerosene (aircraft fuel), international action to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from aircraft, differentiated landing charges at airports and EU legislation to cut noise emissions from new aircraft.

The plea comes on the first day of a Europe-wide protest against air traffic growth, organised by Friends of the Earth Netherlands (ENDS Daily 13 October). The campaign is backed by the European Environment Bureau (EEB) to which Friends of the Earth belongs, Transport and Environment (T&E), and the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF). More than 75 environmental and citizen's groups in 17 European countries, as well as Australia, Japan and the USA, are taking part in the campaign, which ends tomorrow.

As environment ministers assemble in Kyoto to discuss measures to combat climate change, the open letter is also meant to draw attention to the contribution aircraft make to global warming. Although carbon dioxide emissions from aircraft are expected to double by 2015, environmental groups claim that the aviation sector will not be covered by the emission targets being discussed in Kyoto. "This is ridiculous," says T&E's Ton Sledsens, "because achieving sustainable transport will not be possible without effective actions in the aviation sector".

The green groups are calling on governments to ensure that the "nice words" spoken at the recent UN/ECE conference on transport and the environment in Vienna (ENDS Daily 13 November) are followed by "concrete actions". In particular, the groups urge the Commission to use economic instruments to make the aviation sector pay its environmental costs. "Especially for aviation there is a serious mismatch between the prices currently paid and the environmental costs caused," say the green groups in their letter. EEB, T&E and AEF would like to see the Commission introduce a tax on aviation fuel, VAT on tickets and variable landing charges at airports according to aircraft emission levels.

The groups also call on the Commission to adopt a draft directive to cut noise emissions from new aircraft by at least 3 decibels (ENDS Daily 4 November) and to put pressure on the International Civil Aviation Authority to set global NOx emission limits from aircraft 16% lower than at present, the same tightening proposed for the EU by the Commission yesterday (ENDS Daily 4 December).

Follow Up:
European Environmental Bureau, tel: +32 2 289 1090; Transport and Environment, tel: +31 30 2331 328.

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