• EU prepares for battle with America on aviation

    European transport ministers have said they will fight for the EU’s right to include non-European airlines in the Community’s carbon Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

    [mailchimp_signup][/mailchimp_signup]The 27 made their commitment earlier this month in agreeing a common EU position for September’s triennial general assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (Icao). T&E’s director Jos Dings said he hoped the ministers’ “strong statement signals the drawing to a close of a shameful decade in international aviation”.

    Aviation and shipping emissions are not subject to mandatory emissions targets under the Kyoto protocol, and instead left to Icao and the International Maritime Organisation to resolve. But both bodies have made very little progress in the 10 years since Kyoto was first signed, and environmental groups have become intensely frustrated with what they see as a limited willingness to tackle climate change.

    At Icao’s 2001 and 2004 assemblies, members voted to discourage all options for reducing aviation’s environmental impact except regional emissions trading. The EU thus views the ETS as its only current option, and is keen to ensure it is not blocked – or made effectively unviable through non-EU nations having the right to opt out – at September’s assembly.


    As such, the ministers’ statement commits the EU to including international aviation in the European ETS. It also allows EU states to “reserve their position in order to keep all options open”, which is diplomatic language hinting at unilateral European action if no agreement is reached within Icao.

    The German transport minister Wolfgang Tiefensee said: “Every mode of transport, including aviation, has to make its contribution to tackling climate change. It is true that the aviation industry has, in the past, helped to limit emissions by improvements in engine technology. However, these measures alone are not adequate.”

    The proposal to bring aviation into the ETS in 2011 appears to have divided Europe’s airlines. Some are keen, hoping it will reduce the pressure for other measures such as en-route charges or a fuel tax, while others see it as a threat to airlines’ profitability. Earlier this month, a study for the industry attempted to highlight the potential reduction in airlines’ profits, but the study showed that the growth in demand for aviation would only fall by 1% in a high price scenario and 3% with “extreme” prices.

    In the meantime, negotiations on the detail of aviation’s entry to the ETS are continuing; an official of the German presidency said they are “progressing well”. The Commission and presidency are keen for the entry to be clear and simple, and not complicated by too many rules.

    T&E was alarmed by one element of the transport ministers’ statement, which suggested the ETS “could prevent the need for other [EU] measures to reduce CO2 emissions from aviation”. Dings said: “The idea that emissions trading alone is going to solve this problem is just bonkers. The Commission’s own figures show that trading will offset just one year’s growth by the sector.”

    This news story is taken from the June 2007 edition of T&E Bulletin.