MEPs will vote this week on whether Europe should exercise its sovereign right to regulate aviation emissions in the EU’s own airspace. In a full plenary vote on 3 April, parliamentarians will consider the leading environment committee’s decision to support ‘airspace’ scope for the aviation emissions trading system (ETS), which overturned the recommendation from the trilogue to restrict coverage to intra-EU flights only.
The EU trade commissioner Karel de Gucht has ordered a public consultation on a legal clause in the emerging EU-US trade agreement that campaigners say could undermine environmental and consumer protection. The legal provision, known as ‘investor-state dispute settlement’, would give companies the right to take legal action against governments if they feel their investment potential or profits are being hindered by regulatory or policy changes at national level. What’s more, such disputes would be judged by special panels made up of people acceptable to business interests, and bypass national laws.
MEPs from the socialist S&D group are still deciding on next week’s vote to only regulate CO2 emissions of intra-European flights which, T&E argues, effectively dismantles the aviation emissions trading system (ETS). The Parliament’s environment committee will consider the trilogue deal, which reflects EU governments’ giving in to pressure from third countries, the aviation industry and Airbus.
Foreign airlines that failed to comply with the EU’s aviation emissions trading system (ETS) must be forced to pay for their pollution, environmental NGOs have told authorities in Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK.
Yes, this editorial has an unlikely title. If you have been following us, or the issues we work on, a little bit, the overwhelming impression is that things have been scaled back (emissions-trading aviation), postponed (the Fuel Quality Directive, possibly NOx from ship engines, truck CO2 emissions) and watered down (CO2 from cars, biofuels).
The European Commission has published a proposal to amend once again the rules governing emissions trading for aviation. This latest amendment follows the failure of the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) triennial assembly to agree a global emissions reduction scheme. T&E says the latest revisions to the EU’s emissions trading system (ETS) would only cover 35% of the aircraft emissions included in the original ETS, and described the pressure the EU is under as ‘disgraceful’.
Twenty-one Nobel prize winners have urged the EU to immediately implement the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) which would label tar sands as dirtier than other fuels. ‘The extraction of unconventional fuels – such as oil sands and oil shale – is having a particularly devastating impact on climate change,’ wrote the laureates in a letter to European commissioners and environment ministers earlier this month.
The French government has delayed by three months the introduction of its distance-based eco-tax on lorries. The tax was to have come into effect on 1 October, but has been put back to the start of 2014. The French transport minister blamed technical difficulties, but one of T&E’s French members – France Nature Environnement – said this is just the latest in a series of delaying tactics by hauliers and shippers who want the tax either delayed indefinitely or severely watered down. The eco-tax, which will apply to lorries over 3.5 tonnes using about 15,000km of main roads that are not part of the tolled Péage network, is expected to earn the French government €1.2 billion a year – which means the three-month delay will cost it around €300 million.
Suddenly Karel de Gucht is the most talked-about figure in Brussels. The Belgian trade commissioner is very busy. He is trying to finish a free trade deal with Canada; his boss and Obama are pressing for a deal with the US to be next. And then there is China – where the direction is towards less, not more, free trade. The EU has just imposed an anti-dumping 12% tariff on Chinese solar panels, with a threat to go to 47%. In its response, China is trying to play the usual divide-and-rule tactic by threatening tariffs on wine (annoying for the French), and luxury cars (annoying for the Germans).
The EU’s decision to ‘stop the clock’ on including emissions from intercontinental flights in its Emissions Trading Scheme appears to have been influenced by Chinese threats to cancel orders for new planes from Airbus. A letter from the president of the French aircraft maker to China’s leading aviation official – seen by Reuters – says Airbus played an influential role in persuading the EU to give the world’s governments another year to reach agreement on how to tackle carbon emissions from air transport. T&E says European governments have effectively given China ‘a veto over European policy’.