ETS will cover EU airspace only under new proposals

The European Commission today proposed to reduce its Emissions Trading System (ETS) for aviation to cover flights in European regional airspace only, following international pressure.

The proposal would cover 35% of aviation emissions compared to the original aviation EU ETS.

The adjustment in the legislation would apply from January 1 2014 and until a global market-based mechanism (MBM) becomes applicable to international aviation emissions by 2020, as planned by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

European Commissioner for Climate Action, Connie Hedegaard, said: “In the light of the recent progress made at ICAO, not least thanks to Europe’s hard work and determination, the European Commission today has proposed to adjust the EU ETS so that emissions from the aviation sector would be covered for the part of flights that takes place in European regional airspace.

“The European Union has reduced greenhouse gas emissions considerably, and all the economic sectors are contributing to these efforts. The aviation sector also has to contribute, as aviation emission are increasing fast – doubling since 1990.”

Hedegaard said she was confident that the European Parliament and the Council will “move swiftly and approve the proposal without delay”.

“With this proposal, Europe is taking the responsibility to reduce emissions within its own airspace until the global measure begins,” she added.

However, during the ICAO’s annual assembly in Montreal earlier this month, the European Commission’s proposal to have foreign airlines included in the EU ETS was opposed by China, India, Russia and the US.

Commenting on today’s proposal, aviation manager at Transport & Environment (T&A), Bill Hemmings, said: “It is disgraceful that foreign and industry pressure has obliged Europe to shrink its own aviation emissions law to the bare minimum. While aviation emissions are skyrocketing, Europe’s aviation climate measure has had its wings clipped.

“This is a grey day for the climate and for those that are serious about tackling aviation’s fast-growing warming impact,” he added.

Aviation is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector and the most climate-intensive form of transport. Aviation emissions have more than doubled in the last twenty years and now account for 2% of global CO2 emissions.

The Commission’s proposal comes shortly after the conclusion of the ICAO assembly, where delegates, in a political decision, agreed to talk about the details of a global market based measure for 2020 but rejected interim measures like the EU ETS.

According to the T&A, the Commission’s proposal to restrict regulation to emissions in its airspace acknowledges the concerns of ICAO members but fails to include a fallback provision should the ICAO process fail to agree global implementation details in 2016.

It suggests that in such a case the EU should make clear that it will regulate intercontinental flights on a 50/50 basis: the first 50% of any departing flight and the last 50% of any arriving flight.

Currently, airspace leaves the vast bulk of EU aviation emissions – which come from long-haul flights – unregulated. On a global scale, 78% of aviation emissions would remain uncovered because of flights over international waters.

T&A aviation policy officer, Aoife O’Leary, added: “The ICAO outcome on a global measure is full of holes, and many uncertainties about any deal in 2016 remain. In these circumstances, we urge the European Parliament and Member States to include an option to extend the aviation emissions coverage of the ETS to a 50/50 basis in 2017. Only then will regional measures, like the EU ETS, be environmentally effective.”

Leigh Stringer

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