International flights to stay free from EU carbon fees until 2021, MEPs vote

With no further efforts, aviation emissions are expected to increase by 300% by 2050. [Shutterstock]

International flights to and from the EU will remain free from paying CO2 emissions permits but the exemption will cease in 2021 unless EU bodies meanwhile decide otherwise, the European Parliament’s environment committee agreed on Tuesday (11 July).

The committee voted on aviation’s future role under the EU’s Emissions Trading System, following a decision adopted last year by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to set up a global offsetting scheme.

“Today the environment committee sent a strong signal to the ICAO that if their scheme does not yield good results, we are willing to put flights leaving the EU again under the EU’s emissions trading scheme by the end of 2020,” said Seb Dance, an MEP for the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group in the European Parliament.

The EU was the world’s first region to address CO2 emissions from international aviation when it included all flights landing and departing from Europe in its EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) from 2012.

Bu the application of the scheme to international flights was suspended until the end of 2016 in order to appease growing opposition from the US, China and other foreign countries, and allow time for the ICAO to develop emission-reduction measures at global level.

Global deal to curb aviation emissions 'not enough', MEPs warn

European lawmakers on Wednesday (12 October) gave a lukewarm reception to the landmark deal reached by the 191 members of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to limit aviation emissions.

Voting on Tuesday (11 July), EU lawmakers agreed to exempt international flights until 2020, as proposed by the European Commission, but voted to bring them back under the scheme from 1 January 2021, unless otherwise decided in a review comparing the EU ETS with the international agreement.

“It is sensible that we extend the exemption for international flights to and from the EU until there is greater clarity on the ICAO scheme. However, unlike the European Commission, I believe it must be time-limited so that we can be sure that the CORSIA will deliver its objectives,” said Julie Girling, a UK MEP from the Conservatives and Reformists group.

CORSIA is the proposed new global Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation.

In another move welcomed by environmentalists, the committee increased the share of pollution permits that airlines have to buy from 15% to 50%.

“While not asking the aviation industry to pay anything close to the full price for its huge climate impact, the decisions taken today show the resolve of EU lawmakers to ensure all sectors contribute to the efforts of meeting the Paris Agreement goals,” said Kelsey Perlman, aviation policy officer at Carbon Market Watch NGO.

Parliament is expected to adopt its final position on the draft law at a plenary session in September. It then has to reach a final compromise with EU member states so that the law is agreed on by the end of April 2018, when airlines need to surrender allowances to cover their emissions in 2017.

Aviation accounts for approximately 2.1 % of global CO2 emissions, with more than a half generated by international flights. With the anticipated growth in air traffic, emissions in 2050 are expected to be seven to ten times higher than in 1990, according to ICAO projections.