Carbon tax takes flight

The prospect of a worldwide carbon tax for airline passengers is gathering pace after the Australian government demanded the inclusion of the aviation industry in the global climate change treaty.

Canberra has proposed that a carbon dioxide reduction target is set for airlines as part of the treaty that will emerge from the Copenhagen summit this year.

The plan would see responsibility for any aviation deal handed to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is overseeing the treaty talks.

The proposal is one of four ideas for dealing with aviation emissions that will be discussed in Copenhagen. If the Australian plan is accepted, it is likely that airlines will join a global emissions trading scheme.

British Airways backed a global scheme last week and its chief executive, Willie Walsh, said it would force up fares as airlines pass on the cost of acquiring carbon credits.

Under a carbon trading scheme, airlines would be set an emissions limit — for instance, no more than 97% of the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted by carriers in 2005 — and would be given free carbon credits equivalent to 85% of that total.

The rest would be acquired in an open auction, with the proceeds going to developing countries. The idea is gathering momentum because the body representing airlines at the talks is struggling to form its plan due to internal wrangling.

Environmental campaigners welcomed the Australian proposal. Joss Garman, of Greenpeace, said: ‘Scientists project that unless world leaders take action, ships and planes would eat up 50% to 80% of the world’s carbon budget by 2050, making it essential that governments end these industries’ special treatment.” —

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