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Air France president: Latest EU ETS proposal treats airlines as 'idiots'

ATW Daily News by Cathy Buyck 11 Jun.08

While stressing it supports "the principle" of the inclusion of aviation in the EU emissions trading scheme, Air France lambasted proposals by a European Parliament committee as unfair, discriminatory and potentially damaging to the financial health of European carriers.

"We do not want to be taken for idiots," President and COO Pierre-Henri Gourgeon told ATWOnline during an environmental workshop at the carrier's Paris Charles de Gaulle headquarters. "We did support the [inclusion of aviation in an] ETS from onset, to the surprise of and in contrast with some of our counterparts, because we believe it is a better solution than taxation and because it is a scheme that respects market rules, it is a neutral system and it motivates [airlines] to reduce emissions."

But he added that the debate has gotten out of hand, pointing to the recent proposal to include all flights within, leaving or landing in EU territory in the ETS from 2011 and to lower the CO2 emissions cap to 90% of 2004-06 levels .

"It seems to be a simple logic here in Europe that we have to set the [environmental] example for the entire world," Gourgeon complained. "In order for the ETS to remain virtuous, it must apply in the same way to all airlines in the world. A carrier whose hub is located outside the European Union yet flies passengers from one side of the planet to the other while circumnavigating Europe, would have an unfair advantage over airlines with a hub in Europe. Some traffic flows would be diverted from European to non-European hubs and the efforts asked of European airlines in the fight against climate change would be wiped out."

Whereas a fair and balanced ETS for only intra-European air transport might work, according to Gourgeon, he questioned "seemingly direct contradictions between this concern to limit air transport-related CO2 emissions and the attempts of local authorities to attract LCCs at any cost. There is a lack of consistency in those two attitudes."

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