Fasten Your Seatbelt: Carbon Emissions Ahead

EU carbon emissions aviationDespite 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.

EU Emissions Trading Scheme – Implications For Aviation

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 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 surprise thus that 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)

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2 thoughts on “Fasten Your Seatbelt: Carbon Emissions Ahead

  1. “wondering how trading pollution instead of getting rid of it will get us anywhere” is exactly the point James Hanson had got to when he condemned carbon traduing as the great cure-all for CO2 emissions. It is too corruptible and takes the political focus off where we actualy want to go with our economy. Crazy options like CSG and nuclear power start to get unwarranted halos of virtue placed around them never mind their poisonously destructive collaterals. Nuclear is OUT for me and I don’t care how many CO2 molecules it is supposed to not emit: trading a tractable stream of waste in CO2 (which belongs within a natural cycle) for an intractable stream in nuclear waste is barking mad. Climate Science that spruiks a nuclear remedy appears intellectually bankrupt and feeds suspicion that the nuclear plutocrats are funding it.
    A carbon price that squeezes CO2 emissions and feeds proceeds back to local economies putting power to act back to the local level where we all live and have some hope of a say is the most transparent and ultimately politically acceptable method of taming greenhouse gases. We can decide whether we want to live next to a nuclear power plant or not without having some plutocrats deciding our back yards are the best place for it for the Greater Good and Saving the Planet. The way we live is what makes the difference and power in the hands of Local Government is the most effective way to make the necessary changes.

    • Local and regional solutions might indeed prove the most promising. I know that in Germany city electricity providers try to get back control from the big four (EON, EnBW, Vattenfall and RWE). Smart grids and citizen engagement (have citizens share responsibility, for example by helping them become solar entrepreneurs) – and the electric car. If Angela Merkel’s plan for 1 million electric cars by 2020 works out (and why should it not), that will mean 1 million powerful batteries driving around the country. Surely those can be used to balance electricity needs.

      The idea of a carbon emissions trading scheme isn’t bad as such, the danger lies in weak execution and too much lobbying and vested interests influencing quotas. New Zealand’s scheme, for instance, has been watered down so much that it resembles a Swiss cheese – loads of holes and bubbles.

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