EU Emissions Trading Scheme to Include Air Transport

BRUSSELS, Belgium, December 20, 2006 (ENS) - The European Commission today proposed legislation to bring greenhouse gas emissions from civil aviation into the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. The proposed directive will cover emissions from flights within the EU from 2011 and all flights to and from EU airports from 2012. Both EU and foreign aircraft operators would be covered.

Like the industrial companies already covered by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, EU ETS, airlines will be able to sell surplus allowances if they reduce their emissions and will need to buy additional allowances if their emissions grow.

The Commission says EU emissions from international air transport are increasing faster than from any other sector. This growth threatens to undermine the European Union’s progress in cutting overall greenhouse gas emissions.


Planes on the runway at London's Heathrow Airport (Photo by Ian Britton courtesy FreeFoto)
Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said, “Aviation too should make a fair contribution to our efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The Commission will continue to work with our international partners to promote the objectives of a global agreement on aviation.

He said, "Any increase in ticket costs resulting from the scheme is expected to be limited, and significantly lower than rises due to oil price changes in recent years."

"Bringing aviation emissions into the EU Emissions Trading Scheme is a cost-effective solution that is good for the environment and treats all airlines equally," Dimas said.

Someone flying from London to New York and back, said Dimas, generates roughly the same level of greenhouse gas emissions as the average person in the European Union does by heating his or her home for a whole year.

"Air France supports the principle of emissions trading schemes," Jean-Cyril Spinetta, chairman & CEO of the Air France-KLM group, said today.

"This solution appears to be the most environmentally sound way of reducing the impact of air transport on climatic change, without compromising the economic growth of this sector and the vital role it plays in the global economy."


Air France planes (Photo by Philippe Noret courtesy AirTeam Images)
British Airways chairman Martin Broughton called on the European Commission to "rethink its latest plans for aviation carbon trading."

In a speech at the Aviation Club December 12, Broughton said the Commission was considering a package that was “overly ambitious and self-defeating.”

It would delay meaningful action to combat climate change and weaken Europe’s airlines against competitors based elsewhere, he said, urging commissioners to drop the current plan to apply the scheme to all flights into and out of the European Union.

Broughton advocated confining the scheme to flights within the EU. He suggested allocating initial carbon allowances to airlines free of charge – as has occurred for industries already within the scheme.

From its Washington, DC office, the Air Transport Association of America, ATA, the industry trade organization of U.S. airlines, called the proposed legislation illegal under international law.

“ATA is disappointed that the European Commission remains intent on unilaterally covering the flights of non-European Union carriers in its emissions trading scheme," the organization said in a statement. "This misguided decision clearly violates international laws and bilateral air service agreements, and deferring its implementation by one year does not change that outcome."

“The International Civil Aviation Organization is working on appropriate multi-lateral solutions to address greenhouse gas emissions of international aviation, including emissions trading guidance," ATA said. "The EU is alone in its efforts to bypass that ongoing work. We urge the EU to join with the rest of the world in working through ICAO to find constructive solutions to this issue."

But Dimas says including civil aviation in the EU trading scheme implements an approach endorsed by the International Civil Aviation Organization, ICAO.

ICAO President Roberto Kobeh Gonzalez, says the impact of aircraft gas emissions "could generate enough public pressure to halt the growth of air transport."


ICAO President Roberto Kobeh Gonzalez (Photo courtesy ICAO)
In his keynote address at the World Civil Aviation Chief Executives Forum of the Singapore Aviation Academy on December 11, Gonzalez said, "The problem is that while aircraft today are 70 percent more energy efficient than they were in the 1970s, the sustained growth in the number of flights means that aviation will be polluting more."

But Gonzalez made no mention of including aviation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. Instead, he outlined solutions that include the implementation of improved communications, navigation, surveillance and air traffic management systems.

"The concept is simple," Gonzalez said. "If aircraft are allowed to fly the most fuel-efficient routes, we help the environment and we save time and money in the process. Every minute saved in flight, saves 160 kilograms of CO2 emissions. Over the past few years, achieving shorter routes has led to the reduction of millions of tonnes of CO2 emissions."

In 2005, governments worked with the International Air Transport Association to shorten 300 routes worldwide.

"For the upcoming 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, routes over Russia into Weixian, China could also be reduced by 20 minutes," he told the Singapore meeting.

Gonzalez said a fully optimized European air transport management, ATM, network could result in annual CO2 savings of about 12 million tonnes, equivalent to removing three million cars from European roads.

"The bottom line with all these statistics is that implementation of ATM improvements could make a substantial contribution towards reducing fuel burn, with corresponding reductions in CO2 emissions and fuel costs for airlines," he said.

While emissions from European domestic flights are covered by the Kyoto Protocol targets, which European countries are legally bound to meet, international aviation is not.

Without action, said Dimas, the growth in emissions from flights from EU airports will by 2012 cancel out more than a quarter of the eight percent emission reduction the EU-15 must achieve to reach its Kyoto Protocol target. By 2020, aviation emissions are likely to more than double from present levels.

Moreover, jet fuel for international flights has historically been exempted from taxation. Bilateral air agreements between EU Member States and third countries are being changed to allow this possibility, but this will take time to implement, he said.

Emissions from aviation currently account for about three percent of total EU greenhouse gas emissions, but they are increasing fast – by 87 percent since 1990 – as air travel becomes cheaper without its environmental costs being addressed.