MEPs place limits on aviation ETS exemption and put airlines on intra-EU flights CO2 reduction path


MEPs place limits on aviation ETS exemption and put airlines on emissions reduction path

MEPs voted today to limit the exemption from the EU ETS of flights to and from Europe until 2021, pending further information regarding the UN aviation body ICAO’s global offsetting measure known as ‘CORSIA’. Sustainable transport group Transport & Environment (T&E) welcomes this vote as essential to safeguarding European climate goals. MEPs also endorsed a number of reforms to aviation’s inclusion in Europe’s emissions trading scheme which will start to cut back on the sector’s special treatment on climate policy.

Andrew Murphy, T&E’s aviation manager, said: “An indefinite exemption would have been a blank cheque to ICAO and a reckless move given how little we know about how the global measure will operate, and how reliant it might be on the questionable practice of offsetting. Europe now has a leverage to make aviation contribute to our collective climate efforts as proportionally as other sectors of the EU economy shall the global measure fail.”

The full Parliament endorsed the report by MEP Girling, in charged of the aviation ETS file and passed by the Parliament’s Environment Committee in July. The Girling report accepted the Commission’s proposal to continue to exclude flights to and from Europe from the EU’s ETS, but time limited this exemption to 2021. This reflected continuing uncertainty regarding the the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), which still lacks clear rules on offset quality and enforcement.

MEPs also voted through important reforms to the EU ETS for flights within the Union which are covered by the scheme. They joined the Council in endorsing the Commission proposal to start reducing the cap in aviation emission allowances from 2021, thus bringing aviation into line with other sectors covered by the scheme. All three institutions agreeing on the need for aviation to cut its emissions represents an important shift in the EU’s approach to aviation’s climate impact.

Andrew Murphy said: “Today’s ETS vote is a strong signal that aviation emissions need to decline, and ultimately go down to zero. This is very important since the question now shifts from ‘if’ to ‘how’ aviation decarbonises. The ETS is one part of the puzzle, but it cannot be the sole instrument. Just like for other sectors of the economy we’ll need other regulations to encourage efficient aircraft, cleaner fuels and measures to reverse the sector’s sky-high emissions growth.”

T&E also welcomes Parliament’s call on the Commission to take action to address aviation’s substantial non-CO2 climate effects, which the Commission itself acknowledges have been estimated to have several times the impact of CO2 emissions yet to date remain totally unregulated.

The file now moves to negotiation between the Commission, Council and Parliament, known as trilogue, with the aim to reach agreement before the end of this year.



European Parliament backs stricter aviation pollution rules

13 Sep 2017 (Carbon Market Watch)

BRUSSELS.  Today, the European Parliament adopted its position on aviation’s role under the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). Lawmakers agreed to continue the exclusion of international flights from the EU ETS until 2021 but took steps to ensure that the sector will have to reduce and pay more for its soaring emissions.

Decision makers backed the Parliament’s environment committee position adopted in July.

They voted to continue the exclusion of flights to-and-from Europe while the rules for a global aviation deal adopted last year are being drafted. However, they want to limit the exclusion to January 2021 when the global measure will enter into force.

In another welcome move, the Parliament supported the Commission’s proposal to introduce a declining cap for aviation emissions from 2021 and proposed to increase the share of auctioning from 15% to 50%, earmarking all revenues for financing climate related projects.

Kelsey Perlman, Policy Officer for Aviation at Carbon Market Watch said:

“So far, aviation has been given special treatment, and its pollution is increasing at an alarming rate.Today, EU lawmakers took a welcome step towards levelling the playing field with other modes of transport and signalled that an ineffective international deal will not replace European climate action.” 

The proposed measures are, however, not enough to rein in the sector’s emissions which could grow by 300% over the next 30 years.

Kelsey Perlman concluded:

“To bring aviation in line with the Paris Agreement climate goals, we need a robust carbon price to incentivise efficiency and a shift to more sustainable transport modes. This means full auctioning and an end to subsidies, tax exemptions, and generous state aid.”

Informal negotiations between the EU Member States and the Parliament will start on 25th of September. They must agree on the law by April 2018 when airlines need to surrender allowances to cover their emissions in 2017.



Kelsey Perlman, Policy Officer – Aviation
+32 487 13 02 80

Kaisa Amaral, Press Officer
+32 485 07 68 90

Notes to editor:

In February, the European Commission proposed to continue to exempt international aviation from paying for its emissions under the EU’s carbon market rules in response to a global offsetting deal reached at the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) last year. The EU Member States support the Commission proposal, having adopted their position in June.

The position adopted today by the European Parliament includes the following elements:

  • Stop the clock reinstated: The exclusion of international flights is not indefinite, but only until the end of 2020 and subject to a review
  • An annually declining cap, the so called Linear Reduction Factor applied for aviation from 2021
  • Auctioning increased to 50% and all revenues earmarked for climate finance
  • Addition of a more detailed review examining the ambition, transparency and overall environmental integrity of the global deal and a report on how the EU could implement the international agreement through a revision of the EU ETS

Aviation accounts for approximately 2.1 % of global greenhouse gas emissions. With the anticipated growth in air traffic, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) projects the emissions in 2050 to be seven to ten times higher than in 1990. In the EU, emissions from aviation account for about 3 % of total emissions.

See earlier:

Time to upgrade Europe’s aviation pollution rules – it should not be allowed to risk the Paris agreement

The European Parliament’s environment committee (ENVI) has voted on how the aviation sector should be treated under the EU’s Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), in response to a decision by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to set up a global offsetting mechanism. The ongoing revision of Europe’s carbon market rules for aviation is a critical opportunity to ensure that one of the biggest global polluters starts to contribute its fair share to EU climate action. While the term ‘sustainable aviation’ seems to be spreading, the reality is that the sector’s emissions are growing unsustainably and will continue to do so. Even if the global aviation deal is fully implemented and enforced, it will not curb the industry’s rising emissions. Though just intra-EU flights are included in the EU ETS, unlike other sectors – aviation is not expected to annually reduce its emissions. Add the fact that the industry is exempt from fuel taxes, VAT or legally-binding fuel efficiency requirements, and it becomes clear aviation enjoys very special treatment. While greenhouse gas emissions from all other sectors in the EU carbon market fell in 2016, those from aviation grew by 8%. This risks putting the goals of the Paris climate agreement out of reach. With no quick solutions in sight, the sector needs to pay a real price for its pollution. A high enough carbon price would help.  Carbon Market Watch blog.

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Calculator by T&E helps show how a reformed aviation ETS could work better (and raise climate finance)

Transport & Environment (T&E) have produced a new calculator which aims to show how the inclusion of aviation into the EU ETC could be helpful. (Only flights between EU countries are included at present, not others). T&E says if all flights were included, and paying a reasonable price for their carbon allowances, this would not only help reduce the sector’s major and growing climate impact, but it would also help Europe to raise climate finance it needs. T&E says European decision-makers should seize this opportunity offered by the ongoing reform of aviation provisions in the EU ETS. The aviation sector made up 4.5% of EU carbon emissions in 2015, and they rose by 8% in 2016. Though tiny improvements are made in fuel efficiency, operational changes etc, these are dwarfed by the huge annual growth in numbers of flights. The industry expects to continue to grow by about 4.7% per year. There are no realistic measures in place, or in the pipeline, to rein in aviation CO2 in the EU. But the aviation provisions in the EU ETS are currently being amended in response to the ICAO CORSIA deal to establish a global offsetting scheme from 2021 onwards. The new T&E calculator enables different components to be varied, to see the effect on CO2, and on raising climate finance.

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European aviation CO2: there should be no free ride for the aviation sector – Peter Liese

Peter Liese, who has been the rapporteur on aviation carbon legislation in the European Commission, has commented that the aviation sector should be doing more to cut carbon. He said the proposal by the European Commission to at least keep intra-European flights in the ETS is a basis for negotiations but the sector should contribute as much to emission reductions as other industries do. He said the Parliament will continue to exert pressure for ambitious climate protection measures in intercontinental flights. He welcomed the proposal to have a reducing cap on the carbon of intra-European flights, as this imposed the same linear reduction factor to aviation as for other industries. “The previous treatment was unfair to other sectors, like the steel industry, where many people are worried about their jobs. How can you tell a steelworker that his company has to meet high climate protection requirements, while other economic sectors do practically nothing?” However, the deal planned by ICAO “is by no means ambitious.” He proposes that the EU “should continue to exempt intercontinental flights until 2021, but then reinstate them if the ICAO rules are not clear. We should also include flights to countries which, like Russia, refuse to join the ICAO agreement.” Trump and Putin should not dictate what we do in Europe.

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EU to continue with only intra-EU flights in the ETS, and all long haul excluded – at least for several years

The European Commission has published its proposal for aviation in the EU ETS, covering both the remainder of the 3rd trading period and the 4th trading period (that was left out of last year’s proposal). This says that flights to and from Europe will remain excluded from ETS, this time indefinitely. But flights within Europe remain in the ETS, and from 2021 onwards they’ll be subject to a declining cap (until now this cap was static). That is welcome, as it is the means by which emissions are reduced. However, this hugely diminished version of aviation inclusion in the ETS has meant, since 2013, excluding flights to and from Europe, which represent about 75% of the sector’s CO2. The Commission will review things in a few years to see how ICAO’s global market based measure [offsetting] is getting on. The review might even decide to apply ETS to all flights, or it could abolish aviation ETS entirely. Commenting on the EC proposal, Bill Hemmings from Transport & Environment (T&E) said: “The Commission has chosen to again suspend the only effective measure to regulate aviation emissions, all for a voluntary deal which is years from coming into operation and which may never actually reduce the climate impact of flying. By letting aviation off the hook again, other sectors will now have to do more on cutting their climate emissions even while air travel demand soars.”

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