EU ETS aviation emissions

Efforts to rein in aviation emissions continue to spur disagreement

If you thought last year’s agreement at ICAO to adopt the world’s first market-based measure to control international aviation emissions had put an end to the disputes that have characterized this controversial issue, think again.

The European Parliament voted yesterday to place a firm time limit on the continued exemption of intercontinental aircraft emissions from participating in the European emissions trading system (ETS), putting it at odds with the more flexible approach backed by the European Commission.

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted to keep aircraft emissions from outside the European Economic Area out of the ETS until December 2020, pending the introduction of ICAO’s Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) in 2021.

Imposing a deadline, they argue, puts pressure on ICAO to deliver a meaningful global market-based measure that will avoid the double burden for airlines of paying in to both schemes.

The Commission has taken a less rigid approach and wants to carry out a review of CORSIA post-2020 before making a decision on how, or whether, to include aviation in its cap-and-trade system going forward.
Either way, if Europe is not satisfied that CORSIA will prevent international aviation emissions from rising it could try again to force all airlines operating to and from the bloc to pay into CORSIA and the EU ETS simultaneously. Or it could maintain the status quo, which European airlines argue would put them at a competitive disadvantage.

Airlines for Europe (A4E) supports the Commission’s approach while the industry transitions to the new ICAO measure, but argues that the “potential coexistence of two systems puts European carriers at a global disadvantage”.

However, environmentalists are siding with the Parliament’s tougher stance. Transport & Environment welcomes yesterday’s vote, describing it as “essential to safeguarding European climate goals”. The green lobby group swats aside concerns that a return to full-scope ETS participation could derail ICAO’s efforts and set progress back to square one.

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EU ETS aviation emissions