Globally, air transport contributes to the greenhouse effect and at a regional level aviation contributes to acidification, eutrophication and to the formation of tropospheric ozone by emissions of air pollutants. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report “Aviation and the Global Atmosphere” (1999) noted that aviation’s impact on climate while modest was growing. It estimated, based on 1992 data, that globally carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from aviation would grow at 3% annually over the period from 1990 to 2015 – slightly lower than the rate of traffic growth as improvements in fuel efficiency and technology would reduce the impact. And that this would increase to 5% if no action is taken.
While these proportions may seem small, what matters is the radiative forcing (warming) effect, not the volume. The IPCC Report estimated that this could be 2-4 times greater than that from aviation’s CO2 emissions alone. Moreover
Following a review of the policy options, the Commission adopted a Communication in September 2005 setting a strategy for reducing the Climate change impact of aviation . The Communication, which was accompanied by an impact assessment, concluded that a comprehensive approach was necessary. Most elements of this were already in train but needed to be strengthened. They include
- giving research into ‘greener’ technology highest priority in the 7th Framework Programme for Research & Technical Development
- improving the efficiency of European Air Traffic Management (ATM) through the Single European Sky SESAR initiative
- removing legal obstacles to the taxation of aviation fuel to facilitate more consistent transport energy taxation policy
- working in ICAO on developing more stringent technical design standards to reduce aircraft emissions at source
But the main conclusion was that the EU Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) should be extended to include aviation. This conclusion drew on detailed studies of taxation, emission charges as well as emission trading as possible means of incentivising the aviation sector to limit or reduce its emissions.
Since the Communication was published, a Working Group has considered the design options for doing this and published a report. The Council of Ministers and the European Parliament have also given their views on the Communication. The Commission is working towards publishing a specific legislative proposal by the end of 2006 or as soon as possible thereafter.
Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social committee and the Committee of the Regions - Reducing the Climate Change Impact of Aviation [COM(2005)459]
Study: Lower NOx at Higher Altitudes. Policies to Reduce the Climate Impact of Aviation NOx Emission.