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  • Emails show Airbus writes aircraft CO2 rules; Commission, France, Germany and Spain complicit

    Emails between Airbus and the European Commission show that, when drafting climate rules for new aircraft, Airbus was given special privileges in determining essential aspects of the EU’s position at the United Nations’ aviation body (ICAO). The result is a global aircraft standard which will do nothing to cut the sector’s soaring emissions and a regulatory process steeped in secrecy and corporate interests, entirely removed from the normal European democratic process. NGO Transport & Environment obtained the emails via an access to documents request, after Airbus and ICAO opposed the public disclosure of the emails. The correspondence was finally released after an 18-month appeal process.

    Back in 2016, the UN’s ICAO agreed behind closed doors a completely ineffective CO2 standard for new aircraft, which was essentially the result of negotiations between the US, the EU and the Boeing/Airbus duopoly.

    The correspondence with the Transport Directorate of the Commission (also known as DG MOVE) strongly suggests that Airbus directly amended the EU’s negotiating position for ICAO –  even though Airbus is a major aviation player to be regulated by the rules under negotiation.

    One email even states that Airbus accepted the track changes made by the Commission – the regulator – while proposing “final comments”. These changes were done, the email states, after checking with Germany and Spain, known in aviation circles along with France as the ‘Airbus nations’. Another email also shows that Airbus explicitly requested confirmation that the EU would “respect those red lines”.

    Andrew Murphy, aviation manager of Transport & Environment, said: “Now we know: when it comes to the climate, Europe lets Airbus write its own rules. The result of this direct interference in lawmaking is a standard tailored to Airbus’ needs, with climate and public health the losers.

    Aircraft environmental standards are adopted into law in Europe through the EU aviation agency EASA but currently the EU does not have power to go beyond ICAO rules. Standards for aviation must be literally copied and pasted into EU law. Unlike road transport, the European Parliament effectively has no say. No other state in the world restricts their own sovereignty in such way, particularly not the US, which even exceeds ICAO standards at times.

    This Wednesday member states meet this week to change this and give the EU the power to adopt  standards that go beyond ICAO‘s lowest common denominator requirements – rules on CO2 emissions but also noise, NOx, PM and potentially the sonic boom of supersonic jets. The European Parliament supports giving the EU the power to regulate but Airbus and France are leading the Airbus nations’ charge to stop this from happening.

    Andrew Murphy concluded: “These emails and the latest EASA episode show there is a clear need to reform the way decisions are taken in Europe regarding aircraft environmental regulations. The Commission must act in an independent and transparent manner giving proper weight to environmental and climate considerations. Parliament must insist that European rules are decided in Europe through full parliamentary scrutiny and that officials in member states and the Commission act with complete transparency. Without this, industry will continue to write its own rules and aviation emissions will continue to soar.”