Following up on an earlier post on commercial aviation and global warming: the European Parliament voted 439 yes / 74 no / 102 abstain last week to tax jet fuel used on cross-border, intra-European flights, to allow member states to impose VAT (sales tax) on jet fuel, and to apply a cap-and-trade system to carbon dioxide emissions from aviation. (Currently, international flights, including those within the EU, pay no tax on their jet fuel.)

Airlines predictably condemned the maneuver, calling on the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization to issue a proposal that would apply globally.

According to Crain’s Chicago Business, ICAO favors a trading system that would allow airlines to buy carbon credits from other industries, something the European Parliament proposal would not allow. Analysts in the UK report that ticket prices could go up a mere $3 if airlines could buy credits from other industries, but up to $35 if buying from other airlines.

Although new, lighter aircraft promise 20% increases in fuel efficiency, there is little that airlines can do to dramatically cut carbon emissions. This suits Caroline Lucas, a Green Party representative from the UK and author of the proposal, just fine: “the [legislation’s] implication for the aviation industry as a whole would be to slow its growth.”

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Under the arcane rules of Brussels, the parliament’s vote is merely advisory; the European Commission and member states ultimately would draft and enact any legislation.

According to the World Resources Institute, the EU accounts for 20.3% of global carbon emissions from aviation, compared with 39.6% for North America. Overall, aviation accounts for 2% of global emissions, but is growing faster than any other sector.

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