European Parliament make progress on dealing with aviation non-CO2 impacts

The meeting on 17th October between the European Council and EU Parliament has finally come to an agreement on how to deal with non CO2 emissions. This is at least 9 years overdue.  It opens a fundamentally new and important avenue of aviation climate mitigation work. The non-CO2 impacts on climate forcing are short-lived but they are potentially of great magnitude – potentially more than double CO2 according to the EC’s own assessment. A research consortium led by Professor David Lee will publish early next year a fresh report on non CO2 climate impacts. Then it will be necessary to follow through with further research including into ways to mitigate. The non-CO2 impacts issue is much more important in the northern hemisphere than the southern as there is where most land, and most flights, are. Europe is well placed to begin assessing what measures could potentially be implemented, such as operational re-routeing (altered flight levels) action on NOx, particulates and black carbon. The meeting reached a provisional agreement on a regulation to extend existing ETS provisions covering  aviation beyond 2016 and to prepare for the implementation of CORSIA from 2021. 


Extending current aviation rules in the EU emissions trading system – provisional deal reached

By Ana Crespo Parrondo (Concilium – Council of the European Parliament)
Press officer

On 18 October, the Estonian Presidency reached a provisional agreement with European Parliament representatives on a regulation to extend existing provisions covering  aviation activities in the EU emissions trading system (ETS) regulation beyond 2016 and to prepare for the implementation of the global market-based measure as of 2021. The provisional text will be submitted to the EU ambassadors for political endorsement.

This new regulation is the follow up to the decision reached in October 2016 by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to introduce a global market-based measure from 2021 in order to regulate international aviation emissions through an offsetting system, also referred to as CORSIA (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation). The EU supports this measure and aims to join the ‘pilot’ phase of the scheme in 2021 on a voluntary basis.

In the meantime, the adoption of this new regulation before the end of the year is an indispensable requirement to avoid any legal gap as regards compliance with the current ETS regulation in 2017. Today’s agreement enables this adoption to happen on time. The dates for reporting and surrendering allowances from emissions in 2017 would be 31 March and 30 April 2018 respectively.

“The EU believes all flights must contribute to cutting greenhouse emissions. We fully support ongoing ICAO negotiations for the development of comprehensive and unified international rules to turn this into a reality. In the meantime adopting this regulation is crucial. We will provide legal certainty to aircraft operators and make sure European flights keep cutting emissions beyond 2016.”

Siim Kiisler, Minister for the Environment of the Republic of Estonia

The main elements of the provisional agreement are as follows:

  • maintain current limitations within the scope of the EU ETS, particularly by prolonging the derogation for non-intra European Economic Area (EEA) flights until 31 December 2023, when the ‘first’ phase of CORSIA will begin;
  • establish provisions for a review once all ICAO decisions have been taken on the implementation of the global market-based measure within the EU, particularly concerning how to incorporate this measure into the ETS directive;
  • subject to this review, foresee the application of the Linear Reduction Factor, as set out in the ETS directive, to the aviation sector from 2021 onwards.

A statement was also issued emphasising the need for ICAO to act in full transparency and to reach out to all stakeholders to inform them about the progress and decisions in a timely manner.

In addition, the Parliament and the Council have agreed safeguard measures to preserve the integrity of the EU ETS in case that obligations of aviation operators and other operators from a member state cease.

Timeline and next steps

The Commission submitted its proposal on 3 February 2017 and presented it to the Environment Council on 28 February. On 21 June, EU ambassadors agreed on the Council mandate for negotiations with the European Parliament. The latter voted during the plenary of 13 September. Subsequently, both co-legislators attended a first trilogue meeting on 25 September.

Once the deal is approved by EU ambassadors, the Parliament and the Council will be called on to adopt the new regulation at first reading. Thereafter, it will enter into force on the day of its publication in the official journal.

ETS and ICAO – background

The emissions trading scheme (ETS) was launched in 2005 to promote the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions at EU level. The aviation sector is part of the existing ETS regulation. Emissions from aviation also form part of the EU’s goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels.

In 2014, the EU decided to reduce the scope of the ETS scheme to apply only to intra-EEA flights, in order to facilitate progress in the negotiations within the ICAO, and in the hope of achieving clarity regarding emissions from international flights connecting the EEA and third countries. It was then decided that the derogation for non-intra EEA flights would apply only until the end of 2016.

The ETS reform is currently under negotiation for the 2021-2030 period. A review of the reform is planned for when ICAO legal obligations with regard to the implementation of the global market-based measure become clear. Consistency will also be ensured with the EU’s commitment under the Paris Agreement to reduce emissions by at least 40% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.

The ICAO global market-based measure aims to slow the growth of greenhouse gas emissions in the aviation sector and keep emissions at the same level from 2020 onwards. The application of the measure will become compulsory for major aviation countries in 2027, but a voluntary ‘pilot’ phase will be launched in 2021.



Eurpoean Parliament document:

Proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2003/87/EC to continue current limitations of scope for aviation activities and to prepare to implement a global market-based measure from 2021

Aviation accounts for approximately 2.1 % of global CO2 emissions – roughly equivalent to Germany’s total emissions. International flights account for around 1.3 % of emissions. With the anticipated growth in air traffic, emissions in 2050 are expected to be seven to ten times higher than 1990 levels, according to ICAO projections.3 In the EU, direct CO2  emissions from aviation account for about 3 % of total emissions. At the same time, the sector supports around 5 million jobs and contributes €110 billion per year to EU GDP.

Besides CO2 , aviation is responsible for other greenhouse gases (such as water vapour, aerosols and nitrogen oxides) that contribute to global warming. A 1999 special report on aviation, prepared by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), estimated the impact of aviation on the climate to be two to four times higher than that of CO2 emissions alone. However, the contribution of non-CO2 emissions on warming can vary depending on the conditions (such as flight altitude, time of day or year) under which they are emitted, and understanding the mechanisms through which their impact is accomplished would require further research.


See also

EU ETS: tightening regulations

Also in international news, the European Parliament has recently endorsed the views of its environment committee to agree that aviation’s inclusion in the EU emissions trading scheme should be subject to an annually declining emissions cap from 2021 with 50% of the allowances obtained through an auction rather than being distributed freely (with revenues earmarked for climate finance), and a request for the European Commission to come forward with proposals to address aviation’s non-CO2 effects by 2020. The parliament will now try to negotiate these changes with the Commission and European member states over the coming months.