Blair’s plan to cut aviation emissions could be bushed

The US will try to block Tony Blair's plans to introduce an aviation emissions trading scheme during his chairing of the G8 Summit, a grassroots organisation has claimed this week.

In a speech last month, the Prime Minister pledged to put climate change at the top of the agenda during his Presidency of the EU next year, saying of the aviation issue: “A big step in the right direction would be to see aviation brought into the EU emissions trading scheme in the next phase of its development.”

Mr Blair added that he would argue strongly for this cause so that airlines would have to pay for the climate changing gases that they emit into the world’s atmosphere.

However, the US government has failed to support the proposed trading scheme, recently urging States to “refrain from unilateral action to introduce emission-related levies” in a draft resolution.

The resolution adds that it will be necessary for the Council to carry out further research into the proposed scheme, and suggests that either some guidelines or a “voluntary trading system” be developed. But there is no mention of the Bush Administration developing any other legislation.

Amendments made to the proposals by the US have been supported by a number of other nations, including Japan, Saudi Arabia and Brazil, according to Friends of the Earth (FoE), and are likely to be passed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

Although the US resolution would not be legally binding in the EU, aviation campaigner for FoE, Richard Dyer stated that rejecting it would reportedly be “unprecedented”.

Following Tony Blair’s statement last month that global warming was the world’s greatest environmental challenge and needed to take priority at the top of the international agenda (see related story), Mr Dyer said the Prime Minister now needed to use his power to stop the US from sabotaging Europe’s environmental efforts.

“Once again the US is trying to scupper international efforts to combat climate change,” Mr Dyer said. “It’s time Tony Blair used his special relationship with George Bush to get the US to stop putting the interests of US airlines ahead of the long-term security of the planet. America must start to take its international responsibilities seriously and wake up to the threat of global warming.”

And it is not only Mr Blair and the EU that consider the trading scheme to be a good idea either, as spokesperson for the British Airports Authority (BAA) Sam Birmingham told edie.

“There is a need for more research to be conducted, but the aviation emissions trading scheme has received considerable support throughout the UK industry, and we have been lobbying hard for other countries to give their support,” Ms Birmingham said.

She added that the proposed scheme would be a much better way of making the aviation industry tackle its own emissions than, for example, taxing aviation fuels, which had been previously suggested.

Despite the Bush Administration recently changing their stance on the true causes of global warming (see related story), President Bush still refuses to join the Kyoto Protocol to reduce global carbon emissions (see related story).

Russia finally announced last week that it had now approved the protocol and that ratification was impending (see related story), now leaving the US as one of the last remaining large global powers still refusing to sign up.

By Jane Kettle

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