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Environmental pressure group Friends of the Earth has warned the travel industry that it must do more to reduce the environmental impact caused by its activities, especially aviation growth, as the European Commission announced a 7% cut in carbon emissions targets.
Tony Juniper, the director of the environmental campaign group, told 1,600 delegates at the Association of British Travel Agents' annual Travel Convention, in Marbella, Spain, that many European trips currently taken by British tourists by plane could be done by rail.
Mr. Juniper said that aviation is the fastest growing source of carbon dioxide emissions.
He quoted last year's report by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research that warned if aviation continues to grow at the current rate, it could account for 100% of the United Kingdom's emissions quota by 2050.
This would make it virtually impossible to meet targets on tackling climate change, as all householders, motorists and businesses would have to reduce their carbon dioxide pollution to zero in order to accommodate this level of pollution from flying, he said.
Mr. Juniper pointed out that 80% of all UK visits abroad last year were by plane, yet four fifths of visits and nine of the top 10 most popular destinations were to Europe, many of which could be made by rail.
"In common with other business sectors the British travel industry must play its part in helping to cut the emissions causing climate change, the biggest threat the planet faces. Aviation can continue to be an important part of the travel sector, but the growth expected in the coming years is not compatible with protecting climatic stability. Unless urgent action is taken to avoid the anticipated and unsustainable growth in air travel, we will not be able to prevent the build up of emissions in the atmosphere from reaching dangerous levels," said Mr. Juniper.
Meanwhile, the European Commission has decided on its first set of national allocation plans for carbon emissions for the 2008-2012 trading period that reduce allowances by almost 7% below current national allocation plans and the 2005 level.
The 10 new plans cover Germany, Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovakia, Sweden and the United Kingdom and account for 42% of the allowances allocated in the first trading period of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, from 2005 to 2007.
The Commission recently started infringement procedures against Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Italy and Spain for not submitting their plans yet.The deadline was 30 June 2006.