This blog post was originally published on Euractiv.Is it a good idea to fly on an aircraft powered by plant-based fuel? This is one avenue being explored by many in the aviation sector, including the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the industry itself. They see biofuels as a key way, perhaps the biggest way, to cut the sector’s emissions.
Flights to and from Europe would continue to go unregulated, indefinitely, within the EU emissions trading system (ETS), under a proposal last month from the European Commission. The proposal was made following the Commission’s assessment of the ICAO agreement reached last October ostensibly to address global international aviation emissions.
The contribution flying makes to climate change is finally starting to slow down plans to expand a number of airports across Europe. Two recent decisions in particular – one in Vienna, the other in London – suggest that commitments to reducing climate changing gases are causing rethinks over the growth of airports.
The EU’s Environment Council meets Tuesday to discuss Europe’s emissions trading system. The EU ETS is often described as the “flagship” of Europe’s climate policy and is currently the largest carbon market in the world. However it has been malfunctioning since a systematic oversupply of credits built up as a result of both Europe’s economic crisis and weak ambition in setting the cap when the ETS was first established.
The aviation sector, both in Europe and internationally, is a top polluter that has not contributed to European climate objectives under the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) to the same extent as other sectors. The European Commission recently published a proposal revising the sector’s participation in the EU ETS. The proposal followed the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) decision to establish a global offsetting measure for aviation which will enter into force in 2021.
· MEPs also back tightening cap on aviation emissions.Support from ports and cargo owners for last week’s vote by MEPs to include shipping emissions in the EU emissions trading system (ETS) has been sharply criticised by shipowners. The European Community Shipowners' Associations (ECSA) said it ‘deplores’ the shipping industry’s backing for Europe regulating ship CO2 as a ‘first move’ to kick start action at global level. Shipping in Europe has CO2 emissions equal those of the Netherlands.
Director-general of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Alexandre de Juniac, recently called on the EU to replace the current EU emissions trading system (EU ETS) for flights within Europe with the UN offsetting scheme, CORSIA. In a letter in response, T&E, Climate Action Network Europe and Carbon Market Watch state that such a move would constitute a substantial cut in Europe’s climate ambition, reducing the emissions reduction obligation on airlines operating in Europe by three quarters. It would also represent a weakening of Europe’s international climate commitment and a distortion of competition within Europe’s single market.
In a plenary vote on 14 February, the European Parliament will adopt its position on reforms to Europe’s emissions trading system (EU ETS) for the 4th trading period (2021-2030). These reforms aim to fix major issues with EU ETS such as the need for tighter reduction caps and the oversupply of allowances which has depressed the carbon price.