Germany, Sweden mull aircraft

ENDS Environmental Daily
September 19, 1997

Germany and Sweden have put the controversial issue of taxing dirty aircraft firmly on the European agenda, in separate initiatives this week

The German government called for investigation into a system of variable landing charges at German airports according to aircraft emission levels in a wide-ranging programme on reducing environmental impacts from air transport. The move has been strongly welcomed by environmental groups but equally strongly criticised by the airline industry.

Friends of the Earth Germany endorsed the government's plan as a new and positive approach to tackling the problem of pollution from aircraft. But aircraft industry associations have attacked the idea as an "environmentally useless measure designed simply to raise revenue."

Meanwhile, Sweden's civil aviation administration is planning to introduce charges from 1 January 1998, based on a scheme developed in Switzerland.

In August, two Swiss airports announced the introduction of variable landing charges based on emissions of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds (ENDS Daily 29 August). The International Air Transport Association (IATA) greeted the move as a "dangerous precedent." IATA is now considering legal action against Zurich and Geneva airports, according to an industry source, though a spokesperson for the association would confirm only that it is "looking at the options".

The German government's expressed interest in emission-related landing charges is part of a wider national plan to increase aircraft efficiency and reduce noise and air pollution from air travel.

Aircraft fuel efficiency should be improved by 10-25% by 2010 from a 1994 baseline, according to the plan. Aircraft emissions should be reduced by 10-25% and noise cut by 12 decibels. A 12 decibel noise reduction will mean cutting by half the subjective experience of noise around airports, the government says.

Beyond 2010, substantial additional improvements will be sought, though the government has set no precise timescale. "New, innovative engines" should be able to deliver a further fuel efficiency increase of 20-25%, a cut in nitrogen oxides emissions of 85% and a 10 decibel reduction in noise levels, according to the programme.

Improved transport planning, extension of noise-related landing charges and stronger European Union and international rules for new aircraft are all proposed as measures to meet the plan's targets. The government has also said that it will push for a further tightening of EU limits on sulphur in aviation fuel, as well as EU action to tax aircraft fuel.

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