European Parliament votes to continue with partial inclusion of aviation in weakened ETS – for intra-EU flights only till at least 2016
The European Parliament voted on 3rd April to alter the ETS so that, instead of airlines being charged for all the carbon of flights into and out of the EU, the scheme will only cover carbon emissions for intra-EU flights. This is the “Stop the Clock” (STC) deal, which started in 2013. It means charges for CO2 emissions will be made for flights by European airlines, and for the very few by non-EU airlines between European airports. This severe weakening of the ETS has been caused by relentless pressure from foreign powers (USA, China, India and Russia as the main opponents), and means the ETS will only cover a small fraction of total aviation carbon emissions associated with flights to and from all European countries. The vote on 3rd reverses the position taken by the European Parliament’s environment committee last month, when it rejected the change to intra-EU flights only, and very narrowly voted on a compromise that would have required non-EU flights to still pay for their CO2 emissions within EU airspace. The “Stop the Clock” weak version of the ETS will now run until the end of 2016 and the agreement allows for a return to the original full scope of the scheme from 2017 should an agreement at ICAO to implement a global market-based mechanism from 2020 not be reached at its Assembly in 2016.
The decision will now go back to the Council for adoption at a meeting of ministers on April 14 before the legislation is published in the Official Journal of the EU by the end of the month.
MEPs back deal to change ETS rules for aviation
By Dave Keating (European Voice)
MEPs voted today (3 April) to back a deal reached with member states to alter the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) so that foreign airlines will not have to pay for the CO2 emissions they emit in EU airspace. The change was demanded by China, Russia, India and the United States.
The vote reverses the position taken by theParliament’s environment committee last month. The committee rejected the change and sided instead with a compromise idea from the European Commission which would make non-EU flights still pay for their emissions within EU airspace.
The foreign powers have been lobbying European capitals to change the law, which was agreed by MEPs and member states in 2008. After aviation came under the scheme on 1 January 2012 as planned, the foreign powers said that making airlines pay for emissions from flights that either land or take off at an airport outside the EU is a violation of national sovereignty. Airbus has also been lobbying national capitals and MEPs – fearful of losing order from China in retaliation, according to sources.
After the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) agreed a timeline toward a future global mechanism to reduce aviation emissions in September, the European Commission proposed a compromise that would exempt emissions taking place outside EU airspace, but still make foreign airlines pay for their emissions taking place within EU airspace. The Parliament backed this approach.
However this ‘partial retreat’ was not good enough for the foreign powers. They demanded that their airlines be completely exempt. The UK, Germany and France agreed, and demanded that the ETS law be changed to completely exempt any flight that lands or takes off outside the EU. Centre-right German MEP Peter Liese, leading negotiations for the Parliament, agreed to this demand on the condition that this arrangement ends at the end of 2016, when ICAO is next scheduled to meet.
The environment committee rejected Liese’s deal last month. With a temporary exemption for foreign flights set to end next month, there were fears that if the full Parliament rejected the deal today it could spark a trade war.
Following today’s vote, Liese suggested that the Parliament is still leaving with some dignity intact. “Negotiations have been very difficult, but in the end, we succeeded, also in Parliament,” he said. “Parliament could not accept the Council’s wish to ‘stop the clock’ until 2020. We have the next International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) assembly in 2016, and if it fails to deliver a global agreement, then nobody could justify our maintaining such an exemption for another four years. Our system will then automatically snap back to full scope.”
However environmental campaigners were furious with what they called an ‘EU surrender’.
“European governments and politicians have chosen to effectively scrap the only law in the world that attempts to curb aviation’s soaring emissions,” said Bill Hemmings, aviation manager with green transport group T&E. “Regulating emissions in European airspace is not only our right, but also our obligation – something those who cried wolf about a ‘trade war’ seem to have forgotten.”
Small European airlines which operate only in Europe also condemned the change. Both the European Low Fares Airlines Association and the European Regions Airline Association say it is unfare to charge intra-EU flights to charges while foreign airlines in the same skies are exempt. But the European Airlines Association, which represents large airlines which operate routes that leave Europe, welcomed the adoption.
The vote passed at plenary level because the full centre-left S&D group did not take the same position as their counterparts on the environment committee. Centre-left MEPs were allowed a free vote on the issue. The liberal ALDE group was also split on the issue. Liberal MEPs on the environment committee such as Chris Davies from the UK and Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy from the Netherlands tried to convince their colleagues to vote against the deal, but in the end were unsuccessful.
“We should not allow the EU to be bullied by the Chinese threatening trade wars over what we do in our own airspace,” Davies said last week. “Here we are going into elections. What is the point of getting elected to the European Parliament if we’re simply going to do what the Chinese tell us?”
Feisty exchanges over Aviation EU ETS as European Parliament votes to continue with ‘Stop the Clock’
Thu 3 Apr 2014
The European Parliament today voted in favour of a compromise agreement brokered between Parliament rapporteurs and EU member states, represented by the European Council. The vote will see a resumption of the ‘Stop the Clock’ (STC) scope in which only intra-European Economic Area (EEA) flights will be covered by the Aviation EU ETS, rather than the proposal by the European Commission to also include emissions from international flights within EEA airspace.
Despite the large majority in favour of the compromise – 458 for, 120 against and 24 abstentions – the vote was preceded by feisty exchanges between MEPs in a debate on the issue. STC will now run from 2013 until the end of 2016 and the agreement allows for a return to the original full scope of the scheme from 2017 should an agreement at ICAO to implement a global market-based mechanism from 2020 not be reached at its Assembly in 2016.
Speaking after the vote, the Parliament’s lead rapporteur, Peter Liese, said he was not entirely happy with the outcome of the negotiations with the Council but it had been correct to adopt the compromise. A failure to have reached a compromise could have led to the end of the whole Aviation EU ETS directive as member states would have been unlikely to implement the airspace approach, although this was challenged by his Environment committee (ENVI) Chairman, Matthias Groote, who believed a better deal could have been struck with the member states.
Liese told the Parliament in the debate last night that it had been far from easy to find a compromise between the various Parliamentary committees and the Council on the issue but all sides had moved. “I changed my original proposals to find a compromise although my colleagues and I are not all of the same opinion but we have managed to achieve a great deal.”
He said the agreement with the Council was to limit the scope to intra-European flights for four years from 2013 and from 2017 revert to the full scope covering all international flights arriving and departing from Europe depending on whether ICAO reached a satisfactory outcome on a global MBM.
Liese said an ICAO agreement in 2016 had to lead to reduction in emissions and must be non-discriminatory and apply to all states, “so a second Kyoto won’t do”. He said he and his colleagues were sceptical of ICAO reaching such an agreement unless there was a successful conclusion to the UNFCCC COP meeting in Paris in 2015 that all countries signed up to.
Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard told the Parliament that it was regrettable that the Council had not supported the Commission’s airspace proposal. “The Commission fought for and would have preferred a higher level of ambition,” she told MEPs. “It would have been better for Europe’s self-respect and reputation, and even better for the climate. But we are where we are and the compromise provides a basis for continued European regulatory action to reduce GHGs from aviation and provide much-needed legal certainty for all stakeholders before the compliance deadline.
“In return, we expect our international partners to recognise the constructive and flexible attitude the EU has shown and will now focus all attention on making progress on delivering a critical global deal by 2016.”
She said from contacts with third countries there had already been a positive response to the compromise reached.
She added the decision taken at the ICAO Assembly last year was as a result of European pressure and must now lead to the adoption of a global measure from 2020. “The Assembly in 2016 must therefore pin down the details of a fully-fledged global market-based mechanism for international aviation.”
She told the MEPs: “I share some of the frustrations around this file but I hope you will vote for this compromise text without further amendments.”
MEP Jacqueline Foster said she would support the compromise “under duress” but told Hedegaard the original proposal had been “a stupid and ill-conceived idea and nothing more than a tax on industry that had threatened much-needed jobs. We are global traders, not global dictators.” In a scathing attack on the Commission’s handling of the issue, she told Hedegaard: “You came across as arrogant and incompetent. You’re approach was naive and it was patronising.”
Eija-Riita Korhola, rapporteur on the file for the Industry committee (ITRE) said the Commission had been too ambitious with its proposal and an example of how things could go wrong. “Hopefully, this will not be repeated in future.”
However, a succession of MEPs said they could not support the compromise deal with the Council and would be voting in favour of the airspace proposal, including Matthias Groote, a shadow rapporteur alongside Liese.
Groote said ENVI had rejected the compromise as there were too many negative points but the 50/50 split on its vote showed how divided Parliament was on the issue. He added Europe was “genuflecting” to other powers.
On behalf of the Greens, Satu Hassi said it was a brave attempt to reach an agreement with the Council but she could not support the compromise. “It’s a shame the EU is taking a backward step due to pressure from Russia and China, whipped up by airlines.”
An angry Chris Davies, who had a feisty exchange with fellow UK MEP Foster, said the threats from China and others had left Europe looking weak and support for the compromise would be “absolutely shameful”, adding: “Of course we want a global deal but ICAO has been talking about wanting a global market-based mechanism since 2001. We have as much chance of getting one in 2020 as there are fairies in the bottom of garden. We are going to have to take national and regional action and this [airspace approach] is exactly the kind of initiative we should be taking – it sets a good example to the world and shows European leadership. The Council has completely let us down.”
However, with the Social Democrat group split on the issue and the centre-right EPP group, the largest in the Parliament, behind the compromise trilogue agreement, the vote proved a comfortable victory for Liese, himself a member of the EPP group.
The decision will now go back to the Council for adoption at a meeting of ministers on April 14 before the legislation is published in the Official Journal of the EU by the end of the month. Aircraft operators still included in the scheme will not have to report their 2013 emissions until the end of March 2015 or surrender emissions permits until the end of April 2015.
The scope of the EU ETS will be reduced still further with the exemption of small aircraft owners, such as business jets, with intra-EEA CO2 emissions of less than 1,000 tonnes. Also excluded are flights between EEA airports and the outermost regions of EU member states and also Switzerland.
Reaction to the vote from European airlines has been, at best, mixed, while environmental NGOs expressed their disappointment:
Association of European Airlines (AEA):
“Although AEA welcomes that the EP has taken a realistic approach which provides clarity for airlines for the next three years, we would have preferred legal certainty and planning stability until 2020 when the global market-based mechanism is due to come into force,” said Athar Husain Khan, AEA’s CEO. “The new scope puts an additional burden on airlines primarily serving intra-European routes but by amending the aviation ETS, the EP has paved the way for further progress at international level. AEA fully supports the ICAO process as it is the only way to ensure a global solution for a global problem.”
European Regions Airline Association (ERA):
Simon McNamara, Director General of the ERA, said: “By agreeing to this compromise, rather than suspending the entire scheme, Europe is penalising and damaging European operators flying intra-European flights. The scheme’s coverage is also reduced to only around 20% of EU aviation emissions which destroys any environmental credibility. ERA’s members will be hit hard by what is an extremely disappointing ruling.”
Boet Kreiken, ERA President, added: “ERA’s position has always has been that the entire scheme should have been put on hold for all flights pending a satisfactory agreement at ICAO level on a genuinely global scheme. We continue to support the objectives of addressing aviation’s impact on the environment and the role ICAO should play, but implementing a purely intra-European ETS until at least 2016 is not good news.
“This decision will mean that Europe’s citizens taking intra-European flights will have to pay more for their flights. The bottom line of Europe’s airlines will also be hit resulting in less money available to invest in environmentally efficient aircraft and procedures. The end result will damage the very environment and citizens that it is supposed to protect.
“This decision illustrates clearly that Europe does not yet have a true aviation policy. ERA is looking forward to working to develop with the European Commission and other stakeholders an integrated vision for aviation that is coherent, consistent and fair to Europe.”
European Low-Fares Airline Association (ELFAA):
A statement said: “ELFAA registered its disappointment at the outcome of today’s vote in the Parliament to further extend the very reduced scope of EU ETS to 2016. The casualties of this political compromise are the environment (less than 20% of EU aviation emissions being captured by intra-EU scope); intra-European operators; and European consumers who alone bear the cost penalty of this highly discriminatory outcome, with no meaningful environmental gain.
“ELFAA now calls on the Council to re-think their position on the draft trilogue agreement to further extend the discriminatory ‘Stop The Clock’ until 2016, failing which, ELFAA will have no option but to reactivate its currently stayed legal challenge against such discrimination.”
Transport & Environment (T&E):
Bill Hemmings, T&E Aviation Manager, said: “Just when the IPCC’s latest report shows how climate change is already affecting every aspect of human life, European governments and politicians have chosen to effectively scrap the only law in the world that attempts to curb aviation’s soaring emissions. Regulating emissions in European airspace is not only our right, but also our obligation – something those who cried wolf about a ‘trade war’ seem to have forgotten.
“If no meaningful progress is made in ICAO in 2016, the pressure on decision-makers to stand by their promise to revert back to a full aviation ETS will be overwhelming.”
Jason Anderson, Head of European Climate and Energy Policy at WWF European Policy Office said: “A continuation of ‘Stop the Clock’ in order to achieve a global agreement at ICAO is making the environment pay the price as aviation emissions coverage in the EU ETS will now be reduced by 75%. The EU has compromised too much in pursuit of this aim, with no guarantee of success.
“What we need to see now is the BRICS, US and other countries to take a more constructive role within ICAO to ensure the adoption of a market based measure for aviation, ideally one that generates revenue to help developing countries take climate action. We also need to see the airline industry continuing to stand firm in their support of global and regional measures to reduce aviation emissions. Only then will the EU’s sacrifice not have been in vain.”
Some earlier news stories about the ETS:
EU Parliament ENVI committee narrowly votes against compromise of extending ETS “Stop the Clock” to 2016
March 19, 2014
The European Parliament’s Environment Committee (ENVI) has very narrowly voted to reject a deal to exempt long-haul flights (those into and out of Europe) from paying for their carbon emissions until the end of 2016 – the so-called “stop the clock” measure. This is intended to prevent the EU from bowing to international pressure from the USA, China, India etc. Currently only intra-EU flights are included, (no long haul) so the only aviation carbon that is being paid for is from these flights. The aviation ETS is the only international climate measure in place today that tackles aviation’s soaring CO2 emissions. The compromise of an extension to 2016 would effectively have dismantled the ETS, and was not the best way forward. The vote was a clear signal to political leaders in member states, industry and foreign countries that the EU’s sovereignty is not to be undermined by external bullying, and threats of trade sanctions. The next stage is for a vote in the full Parliament on 3rd April. If the Parliament agrees to reject the compromise, then the existing law would automatically apply, requiring all flights using EU airports to pay for all their emissions.
EU compromise on inclusion of long haul flights in the ETS faces opposition – vote on 19th March
March 15, 2014
A number of EU politicians plan to vote against a deal to exempt long-haul flights, to and from Europe, from paying for carbon emissions until the end of 2016 in an attempt to prevent the EU from bowing to international pressure. The European Parliament’s 71-member Environment Committee will vote on March 19 on a deal brokered by EU diplomats earlier in March to extend a so-called “stop the clock” measure exempting intercontinental flights from regulation under its ETS. The vote on the 19th will be a preliminary indication of whether the proposal can win enough support in the full 766-strong EU Parliament, a step required before it can become law. If there is no agreement by the end of April, this is likely to reignite tensions with Europe’s major trading partners (US, China, India) and risk a trade war. Failure to reach agreement on continuing to allow flights into and out of the EU not to pay for their carbon emissions would be good news for environmentalists, as it would mean that an existing law that requires all aviation to pay for emissions would automatically apply. There is a lot of internal European politics involved.
Vote on ETS in European Parliament on 19th March on whether “stop the clock” continues to 2016 or 2020
March 13, 2014
MEPs on the European Parliament’s environment committee will next week (19th) be faced with a difficult choice on aviation and the ETS – accept a humiliating surrender to America, Russian and Chinese bullying, or risk a trade war with grave economic consequences. Last week negotiators reached a deal to exempt non-EU airlines from paying for their CO2 emissions, in deference to pressure from Washington, Moscow and Beijing. The EU “stopped the clock” on the scheme, except for intra EU flights, and a decision on the next stage has to be made on when, and if, the carbon emissions from flights to and from the EU can again be included. Sticking with “stop the clock” gives advantages to hub airports just outside EU airspace, such as Istanbul, at the expense of EU competitors. The Parliament is demanding that the exemption should end in 2016 rather than in 2020, and the text agreed with member states says only an ICAO agreement which reduces emissions – rather than just halting the rise in emissions – would meet the conditions to allow carbon from flights to and from the EU to continue to be excluded. The UK wants the 2020 date. If the agreement is passed in the March 19 ENVI meeting, it will be presented at the Parliament’s plenary session on April 3 for a full vote by MEPs. If passed, the regulation will come into immediate effect.