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  • EU to hold off joining UN aircraft CO2 scheme

    Today’s proposal that EU member states hold off on signing up to a UN carbon offsetting scheme for aviation protects the EU’s aviation climate legislation and gives the EU time to fully evaluate the scheme before taking a final decision by 2020, as required by EU law, European NGO federation Transport & Environment (T&E) has said. Journalists were briefed this afternoon on the European Commission proposal for a Council position.

    The Commission wants EU governments to notify the UN aviation body ICAO of their reservation before the 1 December deadline because EU laws differ. Without filing a reservation, EU countries could be locked into the scheme, known as Corsia, and potentially compromise Europe’s ability to regulate emissions itself.

    Corsia begins on a voluntary basis in 2021 but airlines are required to monitor their emissions from January 2019. The Commission is proposing changes to facilitate reporting without prejudice to a final EU decision on participation. That final decision by the European Council and Parliament is not due until mid-2020 – after the Commission has evaluated the emissions impact of joining Corsia. But the EU is coming under pressure from airlines and other countries to fully and unconditionally commit now to Corsia, which would threaten the legal basis of the EU aviation ETS.

    Bill Hemmings, aviation director at T&E, said: “The EU must not sign up unconditionally to CORSIA. At stake is not just whether the EU thinks Corsia is good enough, but whether we retain the right to regulate aviation emissions in Europe. The Commission did the right thing. Now member states need to make it clear that Europe won’t sacrifice our existing legislation or our right to regulate for Corsia by ‘filing a difference’. It’s a hugely important technicality that will protect the EU’s climate legislation and keep its legal options open.”

    Airlines – with the support of the Trump administration and the UK government – are pressing EU member states to replace the EU emissions trading system (ETS) with Corsia. But if the EU were to fully join Corsia now and remove the emissions of intra-EU flights from the EU ETS, it could create a gap of 96.2 Mtonnes CO2 in its 2030 climate target – equivalent to Europe’s annual steel and iron emissions, according to an expert study.[1] In addition, Corsia is based on offsets which, according to a recent Commission study, may not reduce emissions in 98% of cases.[2]

    Bill Hemmings concluded: “The ETS is the largest functioning international measure addressing aviation emissions covering over 500 airlines. The ETS isn’t perfect, but it’s the essential backbone for other European measures to clean up aviation such as cleaner fuels, ticket taxes or measures to reduce non-CO2 effects.”

    EU governments will meet later this month to discuss the Commission’s proposal. A reply to ICAO is due before 1 December. Last month the European Parliament called on the EU to hold back any decision on participating in Corsia pending a review of the scheme as provided for in EU legislation agreed last year.

    Note to editors:

    [1] CORSIA, EU ETS and the EU2030 aviation emissions target (2018) by TAKS consultancy for Transport & Environment.

    [2] How additional is the Clean Development Mechanism? (2016), a study prepared for the European Commission, found that only 2% of offsetting projects under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) clearly reduce emissions.