Flights to and from Europe have been automatically re-included in EU ETS since the start of 2017. In February the Commission proposed, in response to development at ICAO, to once more exempt these flights, this time indefinitely. The environment committee (ENVI) of the European Parliament adopted its report on this file in July, and the full Parliament will vote on it on September 13th.
Aviation is a substantial and growing driver of climate change, currently responsible for almost 5% of global warming. The objectives of the Paris Agreement cannot be achieved without action to rein in its emissions growth. This T&E briefing outlines how, at its triennial assembly, ICAO has an opportunity to adopt a global market-based measure which can be a starting point for greater global ambition. However, negotiations dominated by the need to protect industry and favour historic emitters is weakening the prospect of a credible deal.
This independent study, commissioned by T&E, finds that Europe risks seriously undermining its 2030 climate targets if, as industry argues, it implements a UN offsetting scheme for aviation in full and without reservations. The measure, known as CORSIA, risks creating a gap of 96.2Mtonnes CO2 – equivalent to Europe’s steel and iron emissions in 2015 – with the EU’s 2030 target due to its weak target and reliance on discredited offsetting. To avoid missing its target, other sectors will have to increase their climate ambition to compensate for aviation’s inaction.
European NGOs working on aviation climate policy (EuroICSA) today wrote to the European Commission as it prepares a response to rules circulated for the global offsetting scheme for international aviation, known as CORSIA.
T&E has obtained letters from six EU countries informing the UN aviation agency ICAO that they may pull out out of a global carbon offsetting scheme for aircraft emissions if its environmental safeguards are weakened any further. In separate letters, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Finland and Norway state that if sustainability rules governing the use of offsets and alternative fuels are watered down any more in negotiations, they will reconsider their participation. The letters are available to download here. T&E has also seen documents that suggest six other EU countries have similarly told ICAO that they will pull out of the scheme, known as CORSIA.
In this letter, NGOs Aviation Environment Federation, Carbon Market Watch and Transport & Environment tell European ministers for climate and transport that the excessive environmental and climate implications of supersonic flight are beyond doubt. They call on the ministers to make clear that Europe’s commitment to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement will require the environmental performance of all new supersonic aircraft to at least meet existing and future environmental standards applicable to subsonic aircraft and so avoid any deterioration in aircraft environmental impacts. Given aviation’s already considerable environmental impact, it is imperative that Europe’s regulators act firmly and without delay to protect European citizens.
A number of companies have announced efforts to bring back commercial supersonic transport. But, as this briefing outlines, the extraordinary negative environmental impact of these aircraft, especially the climate impact, is often overlooked. Such aircraft have very heavy fuel consumption demands and generate extreme non-CO2 effects, far exceeding those of sub-sonic aircraft. Policymakers should therefore be wary of facilitating the return of supersonic commercial flight, and devise measures to ensure that any potential reintroduction does not result in a net increase in civil aviation's climate impact compared to a 'no supersonic' scenario.
As the rule book for the Paris Agreement is finalised, T&E produces a paper which proposes the full inclusion of emissions from international shipping and aviation in national climate targets, known under the Paris Agreement as nationally determined contributions (NDCs). States should pursue decarbonisation of these sectors through a combination of measures adopted at international and national level.
Transport is Europe’s biggest climate problem, representing 27% of the bloc’s greenhouse gas emissions. In order to meet its climate targets and avoid the severe impacts of climate change, stronger EU action on transport emissions is needed and fiscal policy has a key role to play – especially in the aviation sector which enjoys fuel tax and VAT exemptions and copious amounts of state aid.
Environmental organisations have long been concerned about the current rules relating to passenger transport VAT. The transport sector now accounts for the largest share of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions, and the growth of aviation emissions now outstrips almost all other GHG sources. Yet member states oversee a VAT system which, through voluntary derogations, further inflates aviation’s rapid growth while also distorting competition with less carbon-intensive transport modes.