- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 20, 2006

2:16 p.m.

BRUSSELS (AP) — Airlines that fly within the European Union will have to trade pollution allowances beginning in 2011, the European Commission said today. That could cause travelers to pay more for popular short-break trips.

Expanded rules covering all airlines that fly into the 25-nation European Union will take effect the next year, a move that would hit U.S. airlines on their lucrative trans-Atlantic routes.

Airlines generally are in favor of the plan because European officials warned them that refusing to back a carbon-emissions trading program would result in an aviation tax.

However, the European Commission, the union’s governing body, urged the airline industry to cut down on releasing the greenhouse gas that causes climate change.

“EU emissions from international air transport are increasing faster than from any other sector,” it said. “This growth threatens to undermine the EU’s progress in cutting overall greenhouse gas emissions.”

The plan could add $2.40 to $11.80 to a typical return flight within Europe, with higher price increases for long-haul trips. The commission said this would be “significantly lower” than recent oil price increases passed on to air travelers.

Bowing to pressure from trade partners, the European Union’s executive arm will give all flights to and from European airports an extra year to join the program.

All airlines — based in Europe or elsewhere — will have to trade emissions beginning in 2012 for all flights to and from European airports, it said.

The emissions trading program gives airlines a financial incentive to reduce emissions because they can sell allowances they don’t use. If they fail to convert to low-carbon technology or simply increase their flights, they will be punished by being forced to buy additional allowances to release more carbon dioxide.

The European Union said aircraft emissions make up 3 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions — higher than any other industry — but are increasing fast as cheap flights multiply and likely would double by 2020.

“Without action, the growth in emissions from flights from EU airports will by 2012 cancel out more than a quarter of the 8 percent emission reduction the EU must achieve to reach its Kyoto Protocol target,” it said.

EU governments must back the plan — and can make changes — before it takes effect.

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