EU ‘committed’ to reaching accord on aviation ETS

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This article is part of our special report Greening aviation.

The European Union is "totally committed" to reaching a global deal on carbon emissions from airlines, the Commission said yesterday (12 July) as efforts resumed to defuse an international row over the issue.

Commission President José Manuel Barroso, EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) President of the Council Roberto Kobeh held talks in Brussels on Thursday.

"The EU is very committed, totally committed, to reaching an agreement that fully respects the conditions that we have put forward," Commission spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen told a briefing.

"We have an objective that is very firm and very clear to reach and to work towards reaching a global agreement."

In the absence of a global scheme to curb emissions from the aviation sector, the EU since January this year has been including all flights in and out of Europe in its Emissions Trading System (ETS).

The decision has led to an international outcry, including threats of a trade war, and the Commission has looked to ICAO to come up with an alternative scheme.

The EU would stop including all aircraft in its ETS either in the event of an ICAO alternative or if other nations prove they have found alternative ways of curbing airline emissions, the Commission has said.

"The ETS is there as it stands, and there is no suspension of this agreement and there should be no action or retaliation against EU carriers," Ahrenkilde Hansen said.

The European Union decided to include aviation in its ETS after years of talks at ICAO had failed to deliver a solution. But Hedegaard has said she stands by the ICAO as the way out of the current dispute.

An ICAO meeting last month achieved limited progress, narrowing its broad focus to three market-based options to address emissions.

Apart from nations such as China and India which have accused the European Union of trespassing on their sovereignty, airlines and aviation companies have said the scheme is a threat to them in a difficult business climate.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) welcomed an ICAO deal on a CO2 standard for new aircraft as a step towards improved fuel efficiency.

"The ICAO process is working," IATA CEO and Director General Tony Tyler said in the statement, adding ICAO was moving forward with discussions on market-based measures that could provide an alternative to the EU ETS.

But he also criticised the European Commission and its ETS for "putting this process at risk".

"It is a divisive scheme, forced through at a time when the global community needs to unite and deliver a global solution," he said.

The EU emissions trading system (ETS) already applies to more than 10,000 energy and industrial plants. Starting 1 January 2012, it applied to aviation.

Emissions from most other sectors have fallen, but those from airlines have doubled since 1990 and could triple by 2020, European Commission figures show.

The ETS allows for "equivalent measures", meaning that incoming flights to Europe would be exempt if the nation from whence they came had measures in place to offset the international emissions.

Airlines initially would be required to pay for only 15% of the carbon they emit and would be allocated free allowances to cover the other 85%.

From 2013 to 2020, airlines are expected to buy around 700 million permits, according to Thomson Reuters Point Carbon data.

The initial cost is expected to be minimal but would rise to an estimated €9 billion by the end of 2020.

  • March 2013: ICAO secretariate expected to present a draft proposal on a global emissions scheme based on recommendations made by ICAO experts in June 2012.
  • October 2013: Next regular meeting of the ICAO Council.
  • Association of European Airlines: AEA
  • European Low Fares Airline Association: ELFAA

International organisations

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