The Commission’s Head of Unit for clean air and transport Marianne Klingbeil stressed that "including aviation in the ETS is not the worst thing that could happen to the industry" but added that the EU would continue to push for a global agreement that would minimise the competitive disadvantage for European airlines. She denies that airlines were being treated any more unfavourably than other sectors, pointing to legislation currently under preparation to limit emissions from cars and ships.
The aviation sector has some of the fastest growth rates today, "and this attracts attention", she said, adding: "You ask: does aviation deserve the attention? But does the steel sector deserve it? Does Europe deserve more and more CO2 emissions? The more coming from one sector, the more other sectors already under the ETS have to pay for it. Is this a fair deal?"
Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas defended the inclusion of all intra and extra EU flights in the scheme, insisting that his plan is in line with international rules. He said: "I expect that United States airlines or other airlines will not challenge legally something that they know they are not going to win."
However, US officials stressed that the inclusion of non-EU airlines in the scheme without their consent would be illegal and President of the Air Transport Association of America James May said it was "sure to spawn a legal challenge" as it contravened the Chicago Convention. Carl Burleson, environment director of the US Federal Aviation Administration added that the move amounted to forcing foreign airlines to subsidise the EU aviation industry. A spokesman from the US Mission in Brussels further said the EU's unilateral action would "undercut rather than support international efforts to implement system improvement to manage the impact of aviation emissions".
A study commissioned by the airline industry finds that the current proposal would slash airlines' profits by more than €40 billion from 2011 to 2022 "jeopardising the long-term viability of the European aviation industry" (EURACTIV 06/06/07). They say the baseline on which caps are to be calculated (2004-2006) is too far removed from the trading period (2011-2022) and will leave 17 years of growth unaccounted for, forcing the industry to buy massive amounts of credits even if these are given away for free in the beginning.
AirFrance Chairman and CEO, Mr. Spinetta, who has welcomed the ETS as "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", underlined that the devil lies in the detail: "The success of the ETS will very much depend on the choice of its technical characteristics. A 'closed' market, on which trading schemes would be negotiated exclusively within a single industrial sector, is not adapted to the context of the air transport sector. This sector, currently undergoing growth and already having recourse to the latest available technological developments, is unable to reduce its CO2 output alone. It is and will long continue to be fully dependent on one single energy source, kerosene."
Giovanni Bisignani, Director General of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), stressed that emissions trading must be just one of a package of solutions for reducing CO2 emissions: "Europe has the power to reduce aviation CO2 emissions 12% by implementing the Single European Sky. We have 34 air traffic control centres in Europe but only one in the USA for a similar traffic and land size. This leads to inefficiencies, delays, and too much time in the air."
"It will be a burden and it might be a heavy burden," Association of European Airlines (AEA) spokeswoman Francoise Humbert said about the scheme. "We operate in a very competitive sector, and we cannot afford to offload the costs on passengers," she said. AEA Secretary General Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus, nevertheless welcomed the amendment of the "more extreme elements of the original proposal…the postponement of the controversial inclusion of flights between the EU and the rest of the world into the proposed scheme."
The European Regions Airline Association (ERA) criticised the legislation as it would place an additional €7 billion burden on the industry. "It is a mark of the failure of the legislative process that this legislation has been adopted without a thorough assessment of its economic and social impact: this is not responsible law-making," said ERA Director General Mike Ambrose.
Olivier Jankovec, Director General of Airport Council International Europe (ACI Europe), said the Emissions Trading Scheme was the right approach but lamented that the compromise deal had been "agreed without any serious impact assessment" and left "an open door to litigation from third countries."
Chris Davies MEP, Liberal Democrat spokesman on climate change in the Parliament, accused the Commission of window-dressing: "A cynical industry sees this as a PR exercise to deflect criticism while doing nothing effective to curb the headlong growth in air travel…The aviation sector should be required to pay fuel taxes and VAT just as other means of transport," he commented.
The UK's Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) says that giving airlines emissions credits at no cost will give them "a cheap flight": "If the airlines are simply given the credits they will pass on costs to passengers, leaving the industry to pocket up to £2.7 billion in windfall profits," it stated in a study published in December 2006. In a separate study, global conservation organisation WWF estimated that EU airlines would make up to €3.5billion per year from inclusion in the ETS (EURACTIV 19/12/06).
The European Federation for Transport and Environment (T&E) said the proposal was "too weak" and would only lead to emission reductions of 3% - less than one year's growth of the aviation sector's emissions. Jos Dings, director of T&E, added: "It is stunning that the aviation industry can talk about 'fairness' with a straight face. Not only does the industry stand to get double the permits of other sectors, the fuel tax exemption enjoyed by the sector is worth another €35 billion alone, not to mention the lack of VAT on tickets and the €20 billion European taxpayers have paid out in rescue aid to airlines."
Friends of the Earth Aviation Campaigner Richard Dyer agreed that the compromise reached was so weak "it will have little impact on the rocketing growth in carbon dioxide pollution from flying".