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EU Puts A Carbon Tax on Flights

2012/02/13

The European Union is, in my opinion, the part of the world that has done the most to address climate change.  And, once again, the have demonstrated their ability to pass tough, but necessary, legislation to reduce carbon emissions.

On January 1st, 2012, the EU put in place a program called the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) which requires any airline flying in or out of the EU to obtain certificates for their carbon emissions.  Most certificates will be free for the first year of the program, but as of 2013, airlines will have to either purchase or trade for the certificates.  The cost of those certificates will proportional to the distance of the flights.

EU officials have stated two reasons for implementing the ETS.  First, the EU has seen its aviation-related carbon emissions double from 1990 to 2006 and wishes to address the problem.  Second, the EU has felt compelled to act as national governments have been unable (or unwilling) to deal with carbon emissions in any meaningful way.  Here is a quote from Matthew Baldwin, director of aviation and international transport affairs for the European Commission: “ETS will be implemented.  We recognize just how strong the opposition is.  If there is a global deal [on carbon emissions], we can amend the ETS.”

And there certainly is opposition, most of which has come from the US and many Asia countries.  There are complaints that the “scheme was ill-founded” and that it amounts to “bludgeoning”.  The CEO of the International Air Transport Association went as far as calling it an “attack on their sovereignty”, referring to the countries that will have to pay the fees.  China has actually barred its airlines from paying the fee.

Me, I call it a step in the right direction.  As a concerned citizen, I am tired of politicians and people with vested interests using every possible excuse to block concrete actions that would reduce carbon emissions.  As a society, we have to realize that “business as usual” is unacceptable and sacrifices must be made.  That includes paying the true cost of services such as air travel, the most carbon intensive form of transportation.

Source: ABC News

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. 2012/02/14 1:59 am

    I think it’s a fair deal – free for first 2 years!
    Airlines can look at it this way: That “extra” cost can be accounted for in the “Expenses” category. It will only remove that much revenue that will be required to obtain the certificate.
    If nothing else, this will give them something to save thier face in this intensive petro-chem industry.

    • 2012/02/14 5:23 am

      I agree. And if that cost is passed on to the consumer in the form of increased air fair, I believe that is a good thing. It will reduce the number of flights (lower emissions) and hopefully will create pressure on manufacturers to work on more efficient planes.
      Putting a price on carbon has to be done, whether we like it or not.

    • klem permalink
      2012/02/14 12:49 pm

      You don’t seriously think airlines will pay for it. They won’t account for it as an expense, it will simply be another item on your ticket. The passensgers will pay for it directly in the ticket price. This means less wealthy people will not be able to buy a ticket, and the more affluent will fly as often as ever. Once again the EU lefties sticks it to poor people, and leave the affluent alone. I don’t know why leftys like to kick poor people around so much but there it is.

      • 2012/02/14 2:08 pm

        I have no illusions that the airlines will pay for it. And that is the point. You want the cost of a service to better reflect its actual impact. That means taking into consideration the environmental impact of burning huge amounts of fossil fuels – things like acide rain, ocean acidification and climate change. All those environmental impacts have quantifiable impacts on a country’s economy. Acid rain impacts plant growth, that means forestry and agriculture will be affected. Ocean acidification affects the health of ocean ecosystems which affects the fishing industry. Climate change… well in 2011 alone, the financial cost of extreme weather events was incredible. Then you can add the cost to health care systems due to illnesses (and deaths) caused by air pollution. And I am just scratching the surface of the financial impacts of burning fossil fuels.

        The point is, when something costs more, people do it less. If air travel is more expensive (because of a carbon tax), people will travel BY AIR less. But, by saying that “less wealthy people will not be able to buy a ticket”, you assume that the tax will be some incredible amount like 5000$ per flight. It won’t.

        As to your “lefties like to kick poor people around” comment, I believe you are missing the entire point of this carbon tax. The point is to reduce carbon emissions by discouraging the use of fossil fuels. The ultimate goal is to stop climate change which, already, affects the poorest people in the world. If it means that I need to save up a little more before I fly off for a vacation, I have no problem with that.

  2. Martin Lack permalink
    2012/02/15 6:16 am

    Can you see if you can get them to sort out the Common Agricultural Policy?
    See: If the CAP does not fit we should not wear it (27 January 2012)

    • 2012/02/15 9:23 pm

      Interesting situation (to put it politely). It seems like governments can get a lot of things wrong. I wonder if it’s because we don’t have enough qualified individuals working in important political positions? I look at Canada and our natural resource minister is an economist. Our environment minister was a broadcast journalist! And since our (Canada) political system is based on yours, I assume you have similar situation.

      By the way, you mentioned how your “fist-past-the-post” electoral system didn’t work and yet was not being replaced. We have the same problem with our senate. Everyone complains about it. Every person running for Prime Minister and every party say they want to change it. Yet it’s still there. (The problem is Senators are appointed and have a lot of power. They actually blocked a carbon emissions bill a couple of years ago.)

      But, to finally answer your question, I don’t think I can be of any help : )

      • Martin Lack permalink
        2012/02/16 4:36 am

        Thanks for taking the time to type that illuminating reply.

      • 2012/02/16 1:10 pm

        Umm… that sounds either like a compliment or sarcasm. I’m not sure which it is…

      • Martin Lack permalink
        2012/02/16 1:22 pm

        Compliment. Why would I be sarcastic to you? Geee, and I thought I was paranoid! (i.e. irony not sarcasm) 🙂

      • 2012/02/16 2:03 pm

        I just didn’t think I had said anything to “illuminating”! My appologies for the paranoia 🙂

      • Martin Lack permalink
        2012/02/17 7:47 am

        It was the additional explanation of the reasons for Canada’s government being so resolutely anti-scientific…

      • 2012/03/01 12:33 pm

        Regarding the political problem — the free market fundamentalist nutjobs (in particular) are all for ‘small government’. Because of population increases, the government we (in the UK, and I suspect the same in your neck of the woods) is, proportionally, a lot smaller all the time (as Albert Bartlett pointed out in his seminal documentary Arithmetic, Population and Energy).

        It’s no surprise to me that fewer people are unable to get the same amount of work done (especially when those few are mostly economists praying at the Altar of Eternal Growth).

  3. 2012/03/02 6:28 am

    The following is a comment by Pendantry, which, for some reason, WordPress blocked:

    China has actually barred its airlines from paying the fee (typo corrected).

    Do you happen to know what penalty (if any) will be imposed on airlines refusing to pay the fee? Will the aircraft from such airlines be barred entry? (Escorted from the EU’s borders by military fighter escort, perhaps?) Or… will this just be another toothless initiative*, cynically implemented to make it look as though action is being taken where there is, in reality, nothing but business as usual?”

    • 2012/03/02 6:34 am

      (How weird to respond to my own comment 🙂 )

      If I remember correctly, the fine was a much larger fee on the carbon emissions.

    • 2012/03/02 7:19 am

      Thanks for adding my comment, JP. The footnote on my original is missing, however:

      * According to the UNFCCC, the Kyoto Protocol was adopted on 11 December 1997 and ‘sets binding targets’. Canada ‘withdrew’ from the protocol in 2011 — just in time to avoid the penalties… go figure.

      Regarding your response to your (my! lol) comment; logically, if (eg) China’s airlines are barred from paying the original fee, they’ll be barred from paying the increase, too. So what will the EU do, declare war when the total of unpaid fees reaches a certain sum? Sounds toothless to me!

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