In a bold editorial, the New York Times assesses the role of aviation emissions, and lauds the EU ETS, the European Union’s program under which airlines will have to start paying for the environmental impact of their flights:
“Aviation amounts to about 2 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, a share projected to rise quickly as air traffic surges. The European Union wants to cut these emissions by 3 percent next year compared with a 2004-2006 base line, using a cap-and-trade scheme that would force airlines to buy permits to cover emissions that exceed their target… The Obama administration has objected, and a bill barring American airlines from participating in the scheme has bipartisan support in the House…These arguments are not very strong. Airlines will be given a ceiling and allocated permits; they will have to buy additional permits only if they exceed the cap. Those that boost efficiency could have a surplus of permits to sell.
American airlines are already making progress. The Transportation Department says American airlines have emitted 15 percent fewer emissions from 2000 through 2009 while carrying about 15 percent more passengers and cargo. Further, the European scheme is no more intrusive on foreign sovereignty than, say, the tax the United States levies on travelers who enter or leave the country.
A global deal would be great. But international talks to regulate airlines’ emissions have been going on fruitlessly for almost 15 years. The European Union’s plan is a much needed first step to controlling a growing source of dangerous emissions. It may even encourage nations to work toward something broader.”