Tuesday, March 07, 2006

EUPolitix.com - Climate change: clipping wings

The true environmental and social costs of flying are not being borne by EU aviation industry, argues Caroline Lucas MEP.

Climate change represents a bigger threat to our way of life than terrorism, according to, amongst others, the UK government’s own scientific advisor Sir David King – and it is being fuelled by the untrammelled emission of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

The UN International Panel on Climate Change reckons we must cut global emissions by 60 per cent by 2050 – and if we are to do so in a way which places the largest burden on those countries most responsible for the emissions, that means cuts of at least 80 per cent in the EU.

Aviation is the fastest growing source of emissions: it is currently responsible for between five and ten per cent of the EU’s emissions – and this is growing at a staggering 4.3 per cent a year. They are scheduled to double by 2020 and triple by 2030. Though the industry is delivering some operational and technological improvements to help combat this, the rapid growth in total flight numbers means emissions will remain on an upward trajectory.

In addition to being a pollution- heavy means of transportation, aircraft emit a very large proportion of their pollutants directly into the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere, where the pollution is disproportionately damaging.

Since the only international treaty designed to cut GHG emissions, the Kyoto Protocol, omits the aviation industry, the growth in aviation emissions, if left unchecked, will wipe out the reductions in all other economic sectors.

Incredibly, recent research suggests that the growth in aviation will produce more than 60 per cent of our total emissions by 2050, meaning that CO2 emissions from other sectors would have to be reduced to zero if we are to cap global temperature rises. Clearly that’s impossible – and the only way governments have kept this reality out of the headlines is by ignoring it: excluding the aviation sector from Kyoto and EU and national legislation, and letting the airlines get on with business as usual.

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