Is Flying Becoming Greener?

Good news first: “Europe’s airlines face the imposition of pollution limits.” The downside is: “you can’t solve a problem with the thinking that created it.”

Starting from 2012 airlines who fly to European airports will have to participate in the trade-market for emission permits.

The idea is, to reduce gradually the certificates handed out to airlines which leaves them with two options: either they reduce the level of pollution or they buy certificates on the free market. “The ‘polluter pays’ system provides flexibility within an unbreakable maximum national CO2 allocation.” So who pollutes more, has to to pay more for buying permits to do so. So which emissions are covered by this new law? “The whole of international flights starting or ending in EU territory will be considered to be covered by the deal, and not just the part of the flight taking place in EU airspace.” Sounds good?

When we have a closer look at the story, it does not look so rosy. The quote above has actually been taken from a Guardian article from 2007. It is nevertheless still very relevant because it is taking five years for the decisions made in that year to be implemented. From an article in the German TAZ we learn more about it: The airlines get around 85% of their ‘pollution-rights’ for free. The rest they can simply add to the ticket prices. Until 2020 they are supposed to reduce 5% of their emissions comparing to 2004-2006. Not enough, say critiques. Others believe that this is not encouraging the aircraft economy to develop more sustainable alternatives since it is cheaper to just buy certificates.

Another critique put forward in TAZ comes from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, they say that since airplanes leave their emissions high up in the atmosphere, they impact is 2-4 times bigger than on the ground – they should pay more as well.

The idea behind emission trading is that even the negative side-effects of our market-driven system (so-called negative extarnalities) such as pollution and over-use of resources can be solved by the market. Therefore, trading – a market-mechanism – is used to solve the problems of pollution. Companies are suppposed to be encouraged to pollute less, because otherwise they need to acquire certificates on the market which works with supply and demand.

There are many critiques of this mechanism. Check out the Story of Cap and Trade to get a first idea of what is wrong with it:

Speaking of protection for the environment, support Avaaz to push Australia to keep going into the right direction, no matter what the big companies say.


2 thoughts on “Is Flying Becoming Greener?

  1. And for the carbon trade, our Professor Lane will definitely say “Yeh, you know, China has huge money, they can buy what they want”. It seems to me that European really do a lot to environment protection, while the similar developed country, like US and Canada seems do less. How to balance this uneven ideology? How to judge who should be charged a lot ? It’s difficult. For example, my country, China consumes huge fossil fuels, but when you search more information, you will find most of them are consumed by industries instead of our people. The consumption of our average people is half or even less than American. Lots of industries belong to the international company and their products benefits people all over the world. That’s the dilemma that most high growth developing countries face. But the good point is that Europeans are really doing sth.

  2. Pingback: Neologisms | Kosmos 9

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