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Tue 22 Aug 2006 04:00 AM

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Fuelling the debate

The European Union has taken on the role as environmental leader by pledging to reduce CO2 emissions and greenhouse gases by taxing various offending industries.

The European Union has taken on the role as environmental leader by pledging to reduce CO2 emissions and greenhouse gases by taxing various offending industries.

Last month, members of the European Parliament voted in favour of adding the aviation industry, given its growing contribution to climate change. With airlines under pressure to make the most of their cargo operations, the airline industry would, it might seem, be ignoring the need to save the planet.

The position in the Middle East is highlighted by the fact that the region’s carriers and aviation fuel companies remained tightlipped on the subject
when pressed.

The region is more interested in the profits it can make, but climate change is a global problem. Greener skies in Europe won’t make all the difference, because the aviation industry generates between 2% and 4% of global CO2 emissions.

It’s just as well aircraft manufacturers are continuing to make improvements to airplane design, new technologies and composite materials. Airplane fuel efficiency has improved by more than 70% over the last 40 years.

A research fellow based in the UK, whose specialist subject is aviation and the environment, strongly believes that it’s time the Middle East played a part in the environment debate and formulated an environment policy. It has the wealth and technology - but less of the wisdom - to use its power, he says.

The oil rich region of the Middle East is reliant on fossil fuels and not having a policy to reduce the emissions from aviation fuel, is hardly surprising.

But the region could get involved by formulating a climate change policy, addressing the issue of aviation fuel, signing up to the Kyoto Protocol and getting involved in the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the combined United Nations organisation advocating the reduction of C02 emissions.

The air freight industry is growing and airlines are under pressure to increase their cargo operations, but it’s looking unlikely that curbing emissions will be top of the agenda in this region for now.

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