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UK wants airlines to join EU carbon trading by 2008

The aviation industry should join the European Union's greenhouse gas trading system as early as 2008, UK Environment Secretary David Miliband said.

Flights taking off in EU member states should begin paying for their carbon dioxide emissions earlier than 2013, the date expected for the inclusion of airlines in the pollution permits system, Miliband said in a speech in Berlin. „Aviation should be included in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme at the earliest opportunity: our starting point is 2008, but if not in 2008 then well before the beginning of the third phase in 2013,” Miliband said. „We should consider how to apply similar principles to surface transport, including looking seriously at whether to bring it into the EUETS.” He added „aviation represents a relatively small percentage of current emissions, around 5% for the UK, but it is the fastest growing.” Anticipating possible resistance from Germany, which takes over the rotating six-month EU presidency on January 1, the UK government is urging „energy and drive” in pushing ahead the timetable for reducing business carbon emissions, Miliband said. „There is an opportunity during the German Presidency to speed up implementation of the Environmental Technologies Action Plan, for example by moving towards ambitious targets in areas such as green public procurement and product performance.”

Under the EU emissions trading system, industries are given allowances to produce a fixed level of carbon emissions. Any excess must be paid for and spare capacity can be traded. The system began last year for factories and power plants. The second phase of the program, which has been blamed for higher power prices, runs for the five years through 2012. Prime Minister Tony Blair is under pressure to go further and raise taxes on flying after a report this week said Britain won't meet its goals on climate change without curbing demand for air travel. An Oxford University research team said the UK is becoming „air dependent” as competition drives down fares and that carbon dioxide emissions from aircraft will account for quarter of the national total in 2050 without new policies. Blair has set a target of cutting Britain's carbon emissions to 40% of 1990 levels by 2050, but has ruled out raising taxes on airlines. Miliband said the pollution permit system should be simplified and harmonized, creating a „standardized allocation methodology” and „more auctioning of allowances.”

David Henderson, a spokesman for Association of European Airlines, said the industry is working hard to reduce emissions. „The entire aviation industry has a number of task forces working towards this challenge,” he said. „We have initiatives in place to decouple the growth of emissions from the growth of traffic. We are working very hard alongside the EU to design a financial instrument that will close the gap.” Miliband said the trading system should be linked to other emerging carbon markets and extended to other sectors, beyond aviation. He said the UK government is considering extending emission trading further and will shortly be consulting on an emissions trading system, the Energy Performance Commitment, for medium sized public and private emitters within the UK Miliband argued the EU must use its political clout to advance change. „An environmental contract has to stretch beyond each nation. We have to embed a shared willingness to tackle climate change across Europe and beyond,” he said. „This is a challenge that the European Union was designed for: addressing global problems that require cooperation across borders. The European Union must become the Environmental Union,” he said. Energy will top the agenda at the EU summit in Finland this weekend, the Prime Minister's official spokesman, Tom Kelly said yesterday. „Energy, not just climate change, but the need for energy security and the implication of that for Europe,” Kelly said. (Bloomberg)