Airlines Called to Account over Pollution

Article excerpt

AIRLINE CHIEFS from around the world have been called to an emergency summit next week to address the growing impact of aeroplanes on the Earth's climate.

There is now overwhelming evidence that international air travel is the fastest-growing and most polluting form of transport, yet governments have so far exempted it from the treaty to combat global warming. Yesterday, American scientists announced that the area of thinning ozone above Antarctic is now three times bigger than the US, thanks to the presence of polluting chemicals in the stratosphere.

The meeting of regulatory authorities, which takes place in Seattle, will recommend ways of controlling the emissions of gases including carbon dioxide - the main cause of the climate change.

Air travel has been doubling every eight years since 1960, growing two- and-a-half times as fast as the world economy. Planes now emit more carbon dioxide worldwide than all the cars, homes, offices and factories in Britain put together.

Their emissions are expected to triple between 1990 and 2015, counteracting attempts to cut pollution elsewhere. But aviation fuel is exempt from taxation, and the industry is estimated to receive pounds 30bn each year in direct and indirect subsidies in Europe alone.

Though countries must control pollution from domestic flights under the Kyoto Protocol - the treaty in fighting global warming agreed three years ago - international aviation has been excluded.

Next week's meeting - under the auspices of the UN's International Civil Aviation Organisation - is designed to counter growing protests at this special treatment, by drawing up the organisation's own scheme for controlling emissions. If approved by the organisation's governing body next year, it will be presented to a meeting of the parties to the treaty in November 2001. …