Despite crises and terrorism, air transport is booming – and with it concern about its impact on the environment, such as greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, concern alone won’t do anything to mitigate global warming and soothe its potential consequences for grippled national economies and generations to come. Voluntary offsetting programmes seemed like a nice approach but never really took off (some found them too expensive, others – probably the majority – not transparent and accountable enough). What else can we do? Force aviation engineers to produce a zero carbon emissions plane ‘pronto’? The European Union, arguably the only region with the political will and regulatory strengh to get things moving, is all for carbon trade, its Emissions Trading Scheme giving us a glimpse of what might come on a global scale, sooner or later. From 2012 on, airlines will be included in the scheme, which means financial, political and diplomatic struggles are guaranteed. As Celsias reports, “According to figures published by market intelligence provider Thomson Reuters Point Carbon, airlines which engage in the 2012 EU’s emissions trading scheme will jointly foot a bill that could rise as high as 1.1 billion Euros € in just the first year. This is equivalent to £953.17 or $1.48 billion. The airline carbon trading scheme, which is part of the greater European Union Emissions Trading Scheme, is based on €12 per tonne of carbon emissions, for a total of €10.4 billion between now and the end of 2020, assuming the rate of carbon trading remains unchanged from €12 per tonne over the course of the next two decades.”
The problem with carbon trading, of course, is that a) it only works if applied on a global scale and b) it creates an artificial bubble of permission swaps and deals few people will be able to see through let alone control. Too many emission permits distributed, fraud and lack of control already make headlines over in Europe. No wonder so many people of different couleur and inclinations have been wondering how trading pollution instead of getting rid of it will get us anywhere close to mitigating global warming. In terms of airlines, let’s hope that the political and legal battles ahead (US airlines refusing to pay under the ETS etc.) will be a learning curve that eventually leads us to a next level of global action against anthropogenic climate change.
Picture credit: saturnism (via flickr, creative commons)