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Airlines that fly to European Union member states are to begin in about four months' time to report their greenhouse gas emissions, as part of the EU's European Union Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Scheme. In 2012 the airlines, which until now had largely managed to evade compliance with international agreements designed to reduce emissions of gases believed to contribute to global warming, will have to knuckle under or face stiff penalties.

In the developed nations, greenhouse gas emissions rose by two thirds in the past two decades. Passenger aircraft account for nearly 3 percent of all greenhouse gases.

ETS sets maximum permissible emission levels for airlines, in a bid to reduce overall greenhouse gas levels. The EU uses 2004-2006 as the baseline period for calculating greenhouse emissions generated by aviation. Overall emission levels are set to decline by 3 percent in 2012 from their baseline level, and by 5 percent in 2013.

Under the rules of ETS, airlines will be given free permits to cover 85% of their emissions. The remaining 15 percent are to be sold at auction, in which all the airlines are eligible to bid.

The idea behind the scheme is to offer airlines a financial incentive to improve their fuel consumption efficiency. Airlines that succeed in reducing their greenhouse emissions will be able to sell emission credits to ones that have exceeded their emission quotas.

Another option for airlines, albeit one that is still in the development and testing stages, involves adding biodiesel fuel to ordinary jet fuel. According to EcoTraders chairman Roni Komar, whose company trades carbon credits on the international market, "Test flights have been conducted and New Zealand's national carrier says that in two years' time 10 percent of its fuel will be biodiesel. That said, no biodiesel has received formal approval as aviation fuel," Komar said.

The challenges of compliance with the EU demands in this area will be a focus of a conference tomorrow at the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, located at the Israel Air Force Center in Herzliya. The conference, "Future Aims and Directions for Civil Aviation in Israel," is being held jointly by the Fisher Institute and the Civil Aviation Authority.

Komar will address practical aspects of emissions reporting compliance at the conference. As he explains, "In four months' time every airline will have to submit its emissions data for 2010, including emissions generated while on the ground."