Who Should Pay the Price of Pollution in Europe’s Airspace?
The Singapore Airshow became the scene for a battle between Asian airlines and the European Union over plans to charges all airlines for their greenhouse gas emissions. Mr Siim Kallas, vice-president of the European Commission and its Transport Commissioner said there is now a sense of urgency among the various parties to tackle the reason behind the scheme – the need for airlines to put in place concrete measures to reduce carbon emissions. Boeing is playing its part by introducing its cleaner, greener jet, the Dreamliner, which it showcased in Singapore. Read More
By Karamjit Kaur, Aviation Correspondent Straits Times, Singapore (14 February 2012):
THE European Union (EU) will stick to its guns on its unpopular carbon emissions scheme, unless the aviation industry can propose a concrete alternative, a key official said yesterday.
Mr Siim Kallas, who is the vice-president of the European Commission and its Transport Commissioner, added that some good has come out of all the unhappiness over the scheme.
He noted that there is now a sense of urgency among the various parties to tackle the reason behind the scheme – that is, the need for airlines to put in place concrete measures to reduce carbon emissions
‘At least, the issue has become much more high-level. It has also become much more urgent now due to the declarations from countries to introduce retaliatory measures,’ he said.
He was speaking to The Straits Times at an aviation conference ahead of the Singapore Airshow 2012, which opens today.
In 2008, the EU made known its intention to charge airlines flying in and out of Europe for carbon emissions. It would do this by adding aviation to the bloc’s market-based carbon trading scheme.
What this means is that airlines will have to keep to a stipulated amount of carbon emissions or buy extra units from the carbon trading market.
The scheme kicked off on Jan 1 this year but airlines need to start paying for extra units only from April next year.
SIA and other carriers have so far not said how much they expect to pay.
Opposition to the EU scheme by airlines and governments has been mounting since, with the pace picking up of late.
Last week, China declared that it has banned its airlines from complying with the scheme. More than 40 other countries including the United States, Russia, India and Singapore are also objecting to it.
A few have threatened retaliation, including exploring legal action against the EU’s unilateral move. Others have accused Europe of trying to regulate the world.
Defending the EU position, Mr Kallas said that a lack of action on the global front was what drove Europe to make its decision.
He told The Straits Times: ‘This has been discussed for years and years… but it was limited only to talks.’ Thus, the EU decided to take its own concrete measures to deal with the issue, he added.
Mr Kallas, who was invited to speak at the Singapore Airshow Aviation Leadership Summit held at Raffles City, also touched on the emissions scheme in his speech.
But some of the other delegates, who included airline and airport chiefs, clearly did not buy his argument.
Mr Tony Tyler, director-general and chief executive of the International Air Transport Association (Iata), said that while airlines understood the need for measures such as emissions trading, it must be a global initiative led by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (Icao) – the United Nations arm that oversees the aviation sector.
Airbus chief executive Tom Enders said he was ‘very worried’ that the EU’s move ‘could spark a trade war between Europe and the rest of the world’.
‘What started out as a solution for the environment has become a source of potential trade conflict,’ he said during a panel discussion.
Airlines, especially Asian carriers like Singapore Airlines, have also pointed out that the scheme penalises airlines that operate long haul non-stop flights.
They are charged for the carbon they emit during the entire flight instead of just what they burn over Europe.
There was no logic to that, said Singapore Airlines’ chief executive officer Goh Choon Phong, who spoke to reporters on the sidelines of the conference.
‘In our case, we are charged for the whole Singapore-Europe journey but another carrier that has an intermediate stop is charged only from there to Europe. Who is burning more fuel? Obviously the airline that has a stop. The whole principle does not make sense,’ he said.
Asked by The Straits Times to comment on Mr Goh’s remarks, Mr Kallas was initially at a loss for words, then said: ‘You should ask the authors who wrote the directive which was adopted.’
He later added: ‘If it is the objective to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, then the scheme should be for the whole flight. Our policy is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.’
Michael Richardson writing in the Straits Times (13 February 2012):
AIRLINES that carry passengers and cargo around the world contribute only a small, although growing, portion of the global warming gas emissions from human activity. So should they pay for their pollution and, if so, how?
This industry plays a key role in tying the world together. It contributes over US$3.5 trillion (S$4.4 trillion) to global economic activity, equivalent to about 7.5 per cent of global gross domestic product.
Yet the major players are politically divided and may be heading for a trade war, pitting Europe against a rainbow coalition of non-European states, including Asia’s leading economies.
Later this month, 26 countries are meeting in Moscow to decide how to react to a controversial new European Union scheme to start charging all airlines that land in the EU for their emissions of carbon dioxide, even though they might have flown for much of the way over other nations.
Starting this year, European law has brought all these airlines into the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme, the 27-nation bloc’s main policy to combat global warming.
Countries meeting in Moscow strongly oppose their airlines’ inclusion in the scheme, arguing that it ‘violates the cardinal principle of state sovereignty’ over airspace laid down in the Chicago Convention governing civil aviation. Leading the fight are China, India, Russia and the United States. But other concerned countries include Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa as well as Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea. Asian representation is strong because civil aviation is growing fast in this region.
China last week banned its airlines from taking part in the European scheme if the EU continues to calculate the carbon cost over the whole flight, not just within Europe. Beijing has denounced the EU move as a trade barrier and warned that retaliatory action might follow.
In October, the United States House of Representatives passed legislation that would make it illegal to comply with EU law. Such moves could put international airlines in the invidious position of being in breach of one authority or another, severely disrupting operations and raising costs in an industry beset by high fuel prices.
The first year of the EU scheme may cost the industry between US$825 million and US$1.5 billion. Initially, airlines will be given allowances by the EU to cover some 85 per cent of their emissions. But the charge will become progressively heavier and airlines have complained the bill could amount to nearly US$24 billion over eight years.
Europe has acted out of frustration. Under the United Nations climate change negotiations, advanced economies that have signed the Kyoto Protocol are supposed to control aviation greenhouse gas emissions by working through the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), a UN agency with 190 member states.
Yet the ICAO has dithered and disagreed over how to proceed, reflecting many of the divisions – especially between developed and developing nations – that have slowed the UN negotiations on how to cope with climate change.
Meanwhile, aviation emissions are set to grow. Climate scientists advising the UN say aviation currently produces about 2 per cent of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. By 2050, this figure could rise to 3 per cent. If aviation’s other greenhouse gases are included, the industry could be responsible for 5 per cent of warming by then.
However, the ICAO has so far failed to produce a credible emissions control plan. Developing countries led by China and India refuse to be bound by the same obligations as those of developed countries. The last ICAO assembly in 2010 proposed a global action plan, based on national plans to be submitted by mid-2012. It also decided that its governing council should develop a framework for market-based measures, including emissions trading, for the next ICAO assembly due by 2013.
Market-based measures to reduce aviation emissions can include a wide range of actions from increased engine efficiency, lighter aircraft and renewable energy fuel to improvements in air traffic management and airport systems.
However such advances may not be sufficient to reach even ICAO’s aspirational target of stabilising aviation CO2 emissions at 2020 levels. ICAO itself has forecast that the annual number of passengers worldwide will rise from 2.5 billion to five billion over the next 20 years, and the number of flights from 26 million to 50 million.
A 2009 report by the US Government Accountability Office concluded that even if many of the planned improvements in civil aviation performance are adopted, they are unlikely to greatly reduce global warming emissions from aircraft by 2050.
Foreign airlines landing in the EU are not due to be billed for their emissions until April 2013. So there is still time for reaching a compromise solution. One way to do so for the non-EU countries is to cut aircraft pollution and so earn exemption from the EU scheme.
However, the gulf between the two sides is wide and seems to be growing wider. It may be an uphill battle to stitch together a patchwork quilt of equivalent measures for curbing aviation emissions inside and outside the EU, in time to head off a tit-for-tat trade conflict.
The writer is a visiting senior research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
Boeing made it an event to show off its dream of an airliner the new lighter weight carbon fibre shell and fuel efficient 787, while Singapore Airlines gave its jumbo jet 747 fleet a send-off.
Singapore Airshow, Asia’s largest and one of the three most important aerospace and defence exhibitions in the world, drew a record number of trade and public visitors at this year’s edition of the biennial event.
Over the six-day show from 14-19 February, Singapore Airshow 2012 welcomed some 145,000 visitors. Visitorship over the four trade days from 14-17 February stood at nearly 45,000 from 128 countries/regions, with over 30% coming from overseas.
Singapore Airshow 2012 also played host to the largest ever number of top level delegations, with 266 from over 80 countries. Tickets for the public day weekend over 18 and 19 February, were completely sold out, and Changi Exhibition Centre, the Airshow site, saw some 100,000 visitors over the two days, thronged the grounds where they were treated to breathtaking aerial displays and had the opportunity to view an impressive array of aircraft in the static display.
The aerial display included show-stopping performances from the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), the Royal Malaysian Air Force “Smokey Bandits”, the United States Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force “Roulettes”. Australian pilot Tony Blair of Blair Aerosports also made his debut appearance in the first stunt aerobatic performance in the history of airshows in Singapore. In addition, visitors had a chance to interact with the aerial display pilots in person during autograph and photo-taking sessions. Singapore Airlines also hosted guided tours on one of their last three remaining Boeing 747-400s, which was here at Singapore Airshow to commemorate the retirement of its B747 fleet.
“Singapore Airshow 2012 has been a success for everyone. We have set a new record for the value of deals announced, as well as the number of visitors on both trade and public days. As a testament to the show’s achievements, over 70% of exhibitors have already reaffirmed their commitment to take up exhibition space in 2014. The response from the record crowd that visited the event over the two public days was also overwhelmingly positive. We are looking forward to the next show and hope to deliver a more enhanced experience for all our visitors in 2014,” said Jimmy Lau, Managing Director of Experia Events, organiser of Singapore Airshow.
Singapore Airshow returns from 11 to 16 February 2014 at Changi Exhibition Centre.