No free emission rights for airlines

21 December 2006

No free emission rights for airlines

The Dutch government must do all in its power to resist the free give-away to airlines of rights to pollute. This proposal from SP Member of Parliament and environmental spokeswoman Krista van Velzen was adopted with the support of a sizeable majority of members. “Air transport is an enormous source of CO2 emissions and the 'polluter pays' principle should apply there as elsewhere," she said.

Krista van VelzenThe Netherlands must take a lead in Europe in opposing the granting of free emission rights. The European Commission has proposed that from 2011 air transport should be included in the system of trading in CO2 emissions. In the first year, 90% of the tradable rights (which enable companies to buy 'right to pollute' quotas from companies underusing them) would be free while only 10% would be sold. In later years a greater proportion would be sold by auction. In recent years it has become clear that corporations from sectors already participating in the system are able to record substantial profits as a result of free emission rights, rather than passing savings on to the consumer.

The government has, after long pressure from the SP in parliament, taken measures to put a stop to these so-called ‘windfall profits’. “If rights to pollute are to be given away free then the measure will not be sufficient to force airlines to minimise the damage to the climate they cause," says Ms Van Velzen. "This is supposed to be aimed at reducing emissions, not increasing profits. Climate policy mustn't become a milch-cow for industry.”

In the first instance the traded rights will apply only to flights within Europe. From 2012 CO2 emissions will be counted for all flights to and from Europe. American and Asian airlines are up in arms about this. Emission trading is seen as a disguised tax on aircraft fuel. Whether the European Commission's proposal in its present form will survive remains to be seen. “There's a lot of opposition internationally to the European proposal," Van Velzen notes. "And even if it is introduced intact, it won't be until 2011. I was therefore also very pleased that parliament had supported my motion in favour of a tax on aircraft fuel.”

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