MEPs take faltering first step on aviation emissions

(13.11.2007   WWF and FoE press releases)

The European Parliament voted this morning on proposed legislation to include
the aviation sector in the EU’s carbon trading scheme. WWF and Friends of the
Earth  feel that the legislation as it stands, and as approved by the vote today,
doesn’t go far enough towards curbing the sector’s emissions.

EU plans to tackle aviation’s increasing climate change impacts through the Emissions
Trading Scheme remain inadequate after MEPs failed to significantly strengthen
European Commission proposals in Strasbourg earlier today (13 November).   Aviation
is the fastest growing source of carbon dioxide in Europe, and failure to cut
it will seriously jeopardise EU plans to cut European emissions by 30% by 2020.

"The European Parliament today had the opportunity to show that Europe has real
teeth when it comes to tackling global warming, ahead of the UN negotiations on
the future of the Kyoto Protocol.  Instead they voted to only slightly improve
the proposed legislation but missed the perfect opportunity to really curb the
emissions from the sector that is the fastest growing contributor to climate change,"
says Kirsty Clough, Climate Change Policy Officer at WWF-UK.

MEPs voted for the following:

  • 25% of emissions permits to be auctioned with option to increase later (Friends
    of the Earth and other NGOs wanted 100% from the start of the scheme).   The rest
    will be given out for free.
  • 2011 start date for all flights (NGOs wanted 2010)
  • Pollution permits to be `capped’ at 90% of aviation carbon dioxide emissions
    [based on the average of 2004-6 emissions] (NGOs wanted a 50% cap).   So this is
    only a 10% reduction compared to their emissions in 2004-6, when   they join the
    scheme in 2011.
  • A multiplier of at least two, to be used to compensate for the additional impacts
    of emissions from aircraft at altitude; (NGOs wanted this)
  • Exemption from the ETS for planes weighing less than 20,000kg, like many business
    jets (NGOs wanted no exemptions)

To be in line with other sectors covered by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS),
the effort for aviation should be a 50% reduction from 2004-2006 levels, rather
than the 90% cap agreed today.  

However, a WWF commissioned report showed that full auctioning would have little
impact on the profit margins of airlines and yet still provide the most incentives
to reduce emissions. It would also create a level playing field within the sector,
while potentially generating revenues worth between 3.3 and 9.8 billion Euros
per year.

The relatively weak stance that the EU parliament has chosen to take today only
serves to highlight that the UK government’s current position concerning aviation
emissions is not acceptable.   The Emissions Trading Scheme alone is an insufficient
solution to aviation emissions.

"It has always been clear that the ETS was only ever going to be a first step
in tackling emissions from aviation," continued Kirsty Clough. "There must be
other policies and measures put in place.   Aviation emissions must be included
in the UK’s Climate Change Bill right from the very start."

The European Parliament’s aviation proposal will now pass on to the EU’s Environment
Ministers in the European Council in December.   In 2008, Parliament and Council
consider the legislation again (2nd reading).

It is crucial that they do not opt to water down this proposal further, if the
ETS is to be a strong enough first step towards tackling aviation emissions.


WWF press release

Friends of the Earth press release