Yesterday the European Union voted to place quotas on carbon dioxide emissions by airlines. Under the plan, airlines flying to and from Europe will have to buy carbon offsets to account for some of their emissions on the open market, beginning in 2011. Overall, the goal will be to reduce future greenhouse pollution from jets to 90 percent of recent overall average emissions, or to offset amounts in excess of that limit.
Airlines been stressing new fuel economies over any kind of regulation, but observers say that won't be enough to mitigate the CO2 from jets. While aviation accounts for only about one percent of current global greenhouse gas pollution, it's a full six percent of global emissions due to transportation. And the industry is growing at a rate of about 4.4 percent a year, which offsets recent fuel efficiency gains of around 1.3 percent.
"The cost of this proposal to the airlines is hard to estimate, because the price of carbon allowances has varied widely, as has the value of the currency in which they are denominated, the euro...The backers of the plan said they hoped other countries would emulate the European approach.
"'We want a worldwide system as soon as possible,' said Peter Liese, a German member of the Parliament who helped to guide the legislation through the assembly, which met in Strasbourg, France. 'There must be an end to the status quo that nothing is done in the aviation sector and which has predominated for many years now.'”
Source: Matthew L. Wald and James Kanter, reporting in today's edition of The New York Times