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Europe Leads the Way in Greener Airlines

heathrowairportThe airline industry will be the first in the U.S. to face a cap on its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as the European Union readies a list of airlines it will regulate under its cap-and-trade system for carbon dioxide, reports the New York Times. More than 700 airlines registered in the U.S. are on the preliminary list, though smaller carriers will likely be dropped.

All international flights landing in the European Union will have to meet the regulations starting in 2012, with total aviation emissions capped at 97 percent of the baseline, which will fall to 95 percent in 2013, reports the New York Times. Fifteen percent of the CO2 allowances will be auctioned, the remainder are free permits.

Airlines facing carbon shortfalls will be able to purchase additional permits from the European market or invest in clean development mechanisms, according to the newspaper. Andreas Arvanitakis, an analyst at the carbon market monitor Point Carbon, said in the article that the overall cost to the industry could be about €1.1 billion.

The move to regulate an international business, which is typically governed by treaty, has raised some concerns among airlines and governments that see the move as a violation of national sovereignty or bad for business.

Despite concerns from airlines, EU governments approved the law last year.

Philip Good, an environmental policy expert at the European Commission, said in the article that while planes account for up to 3 percent of the EU’s total CO2 output, without caps these emissions could almost double within a decade, which could jeopardize the European Union’s low-carbon goals.

U.S. carriers are concerned with the possibility of double taxation, based on provisions in the House’s recently passed climate bill that could be seen as an indirect tax on aviation, reports the newspaper. But European officials say their fears of double counting are unfounded, and when other nations adopt similar caps, the EU will take steps to exclude those international flights from its system, reports the New York Times.

Instead some airlines propose a single global carbon emissions cap for the aviation industry.

Despite the debate over carbon caps in the aviation industry, European airports are moving forward with plans to reduce their emissions. As an example, BAA is giving its airport terminal Heathrow East, a $1.65 billion green makeover, which is expected to reduce carbon emissions by 40 percent compared to the other buildings, reports Alternative Energy News.

The Heathrow terminal, now called Terminal 2, will be the new home of the Star Alliance Airlines. Some of the upgrades include large north-facing windows on the roof to bring in more natural lighting, solar panels on the roof to reduce energy use, and a new energy center that will use renewable resources to heat and cool the building.

Other airports have also been looking at ways to reduce their emissions. Some of them include more unique methods such as using buses that run on biofuel and heating systems that rely on wood chips.

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