MEPs give international flights respite from EU carbon fees until 2021

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

The European Parliament approved on Wednesday (11 September) a plan to keep commercial flights in and out of Europe exempt from the EU’s carbon emission controls until 2021, in a move likely to be welcomed by the aviation industry.

MEPs signed off on a report by Tory MEP Julie Girling, environment coordinator for the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), which extends the exemption until 2021, when the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) is due to introduce a global carbon offsetting scheme for the sector, CORSIA, capping emissions at 2020 levels.

Aviation emissions account for about 3% of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions and are one of the fastest growing sources of CO2. 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.

But the application of the scheme to international flights was suspended 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 the global level.

“It is sensible to maintain the status quo until there is further clarity on the ICAO scheme. At that point, we will be able to judge whether it can deliver its objectives. The EU is already leading the way on tackling this issue and we must not let the pace slacken,” Girling said in an emailed statement.

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.

The Socialists and Democrats said that although the vote extends the exemption, it also puts a time limit, thereby “sending a strong signal to the ICAO” and a warning about CORSIA, the proposed new global Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation.

“If CORSIA is not up to the job of reducing emissions from international flights, then Parliament is willing to put flights leaving the EU back under the EU ETS,” said Seb Dance, S&D spokesman for aviation ETS.

Parliament next needs 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.