Carbon tax on aviation: opponents lose

O.Podosenova

Since January 1, all airlines flying over the EU territory will pay for greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft engines. This rule takes effect despite the opposition of the Russian air carriers and dissatisfaction of the Russian government. On December 21, the European Court upheld the collection of quotas.

The quotas are introduced to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Already in 2012, the EU plans to reduce with this measure the carbon dioxide emissions by three per cent as compared to 2004-2007, and in 2013 - by 5%.

The EU emissions trading system (ETS) for greenhouse gases and air pollutants in relation to aviation found a large number of opponents. More than 20 countries, among which the most ardent are the U.S., China, India, Canada and Russia, spoke against. These states have accused Europe of trying to regulate the aviation industry by non-market methods.

In autumn 2011, the U.S. Congress prohibited by law the country's airlines to pay for emissions hydrocarbon quotas to authorities of the European Union. The country's authorities advised airlines to plead with the EU to recognize innovation unlawful. China followed the U.S. by banning payments for the EU quotas. Chinese airlines also assessed that the EU tax measures will cost them $ 2.8 billion by 2020, calculating the amount of $ 47.50 for a flight ticket between China and Europe. Ministry of Commerce of the PRC even threatened the EU with "trade war", however not specifying what exactly was meant. The Chinese authorities have not yet gone further than threats. United Continental, American Airlines and Air Transport Association of America filed lawsuits against the EU, but the European Court upheld on December 21 the collection of the quotas.

Russian airlines do not want to agree with the innovation of the EU as well. The Ministry of Transport announced the need to introduce the legislation similar to the one in the U.S.. In October, the Deputy Minister of Transport of Russia Valery Okulov said that it is planned to enact relevant legislation before the end of 2011. In this case, Russian companies would be exempt from paying for the quotas not "voluntarily", but by the Russian authorities. The Law has not been adopted yet.

During 2011, the media has repeatedly suggested that the EU authorities will abandon quotas for greenhouse gases due to international pressure. But now it became clear that this will not happen.

This EU measure certainly cannot be called popular. In the first place, because, as always happens, the tax will result in higher prices for passengers. According to various assessments that appeared in the media, the airfare will rise by an average of $ 5-25. According to the Ministry of Transport of Russia, the increase will be from 5 to 40 euros.

Connie Hedegaard, the European climate commissioner, said that she was "very pleased" by the European Court decision and added that she expects international airlines to comply with the European legislation. According to her, the extra expenses for carbon credits would amount to an increase in the ticket price for up to $ 16.30 for a transatlantic flight.

Representatives of public organizations agree with Connie Hedegaard, and believe that the EU measure could be called revolutionary in the best sense, because it is the first practical attempt to create real money equivalent to emissions and to make pay for them.