European airlines are said to be “reeling” after amazing developments at the EU yesterday over the environmental impact of flying. MEPs voted in favour of the “immediate introduction” of a tax on jet fuel for flights within the 25 member states of the EU. Because the cost of “cheap flights” is so low the charge effectively doubles the cost of millions of “budget” flights.

Air passengers will be charged up to £40 extra for a return ticket within Europe to pay for the environmental impact of their journeys . MEPs also accepted a recommendation for a special emissions trading scheme for the aviation industry, which would see airlines buying permits to cover their output of carbon dioxide. Although we have blogged recently that the airlines don’t think an ETS scheme would reduce their emissions as they would just buy in credits, they were against a special ETS scheme for the industry.

MEPs voted by 439 to 74 to adopt proposals drafted by Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MEP for southeast England. Dr Lucas had told fellow MEPs the EU must take action to curb airlines’ greenhouse gas emissions if we are to stand any chance of avoiding devastating climate change: “Doing nothing just isn’t an option. We simply have no choice but to clip the airlines’ wings and force them to reduce their impact on the climate, if we are to stand any chance of cutting our emissions by the level that’s needed to halt the deadly march of climate change”.

The GreenSkies Alliance, a coalition of environmental groups that opposes the growth of aviation, said passengers would have to pay up to £20 per flight, or £40 return, to cover the cost of purchasing just the CO2 permits for flights within Europe. Jeff Gazzard, of the GreenSkies alliance, said: “The huge European Parliament majority shows that MEPs overwhelmingly recognise that air transport’s greenhouse gas emissions are out of control and urgent action to control them is long overdue.”

The airline industry had fought the proposals all the way, but concedes that aviation could account for almost half of Britain’s total CO2 emissions by 2050, compared with 6 per cent today.

Although the taxes are likley to be introduced on all EU flights in the short-term, flights to the US will not be affected though becasue of fears over legal action from American carriers. But after yesterday’s vote, their time will come.