At a special meeting held in Brussels on Monday evening, a large group of MEPs debated with representatives of the other EU institutions and industry stakeholders the process aimed at integrating aviation into a European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).
At a special meeting held in Brussels on Monday evening, a large group of MEPs debated with representatives of the other EU institutions and industry stakeholders the process aimed at integrating aviation into a European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). The meeting was initiated by Hartmut Nassauer, Vice-Chairman of the EPP-ED (European Peoples Party European Democrats) group within the Parliament. Keynote speaker at the event was Jukka Hienonen, President and CEO of Finnair and Board Member of the Association of European Airlines. He told the assembled MEPs that the package of proposals adopted by the Parliaments Environment Committee in May would be not only ruinous for the European airline industry, but would severely impact European consumers and Europes regions, while delivering questionable benefits for the environment. Said Jukka Hienonen: ETS has always been viewed by the airlines as a tool to manage emissions, in the context of a containment programme which also looks at tackling the problem through technology advances, infrastructure improvements and operational best practice. Unfortunately, ETS has been transformed into a tax, at a time when it is difficult to imagine a tax as brutally effective as the fuel price. We are all cutting back on emissions whenever and wherever we can. Mr Hienonen told his audience that an unprecedented shift in business conditions, notably rocketing fuel prices and the weakening economy, had left the airline sector in turmoil. Every day, we read about bankruptcies, job cuts, route closures and aircraft being grounded because they cant make money. This is not the economic scenario for which ETS was designed. Political decisions were being taken, said Mr Hienonen, with no regard to their impact. Any impact assessments the regulators may have made were based on a fuel price less than half what it is now, he said. In any case, we are faced with the prospect of a bargaining process in which the Parliament says X, the Commission says Y, and we end up with a compromise half way between the two yet neither side has any idea of the consequences in terms of consumer prices, business losses, jobs or the environment. Moreover, he said, there were clear indications that the scheme would not deliver its intended benefits. Aviation is a global business and European airlines face competitors from around the world. If European passengers can save themselves money by by-passing the scheme and changing planes in the Gulf on the way to Africa and the Far East, this is what they will do. Their carbon footprint will not be smaller, indeed it may be bigger. Europes political institutions had at their disposal a huge reservoir of environmental benefits in the shape of the Single European Sky proposal to rationalise air traffic management, continued Mr Hienonen. More than one-tenth of the European airlines carbon footprint was caused by fuel wastage in the mismanaged airspace, he said. Mr Hienonen called upon the MEPs to seriously consider the impact of any subsequent proposal. Aviation brings benefits to every European citizen, he said. In some regions, and in some economic sectors, it is absolutely indispensable. Parliamentarians have a responsibility towards the electorate, the environment, and to the European ideal. So do airlines. It has got to be in the interest of all three targets that we work together to confront the pressing issues we face.