• EU ready to take a stand against international failure on aviation emissions

    Transport and Environment (T&E) welcomes a commitment by EU transport ministers to defend Europe's right to include foreign air carriers in a proposed emissions trading scheme in the face of American-led international opposition.

    [mailchimp_signup][/mailchimp_signup]In a strongly-worded statement released on Friday that comes ahead of key international talks at the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) triennial assembly in September, ministers said EU member states should do “everything they can…to ensure that any agreement reached in ICAO does not prevent (the EU)…from including international aviation in the European emissions trading scheme in line with the principle of equal treatment”.

    Importantly, the statement also said “EU Member States would be ready to reserve their position in order to keep all options open in this essential policy area”, diplomatic language meaning the EU is prepared to go ahead with its plans even if ICAO fails to come to a satisfactory agreement.

    Jos Dings, director of T&E said: “We hope this strong statement from transport ministers signals the drawing to a close of a shameful decade in the history of international aviation.”

    “Ever since it was given responsibility for cutting aviation emissions under the Kyoto protocol in 1997, ICAO has done everything in its power to prevent international action on what is and has been the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet. EU transport ministers have finally said enough is enough. We sincerely hope that they don’t go weak at the knees when ICAO meets behind closed doors in Montreal in September.”

    But in a worrying development, T&E strongly rejects the transport ministers’ assertion in the same statement that emissions trading “could prevent the need for other (EU) measures to reduce CO2 emissions from aviation”.

    Jos Dings said: “The idea that emissions trading alone is going to solve this problem is just bonkers. The European Commission’s own figures show that emissions trading will offset just one year’s growth by the sector, analysis confirmed by an industry impact assessment published last week. Europe must acknowledge that this is just a first step and that other measures such as fuel taxes will also be needed in the future.”

    Notes to editors:

    1. ICAO – a decade of efforts to derail action on aviation and climate change

    Under the terms of the 1997 Kyoto protocol, responsibility for reducing emissions from international aviation was given to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), a UN body.

    Over the last decade ICAO has successively failed to endorse, or issued negative statements on every serious policy option for cutting greenhouse gas emissions from the sector.

    – In a resolution in 1996, reconfirmed in 2001, ICAO requested states not to apply fuel taxes as an environmental measure.

    – In 2001 ICAO rejected the concept of CO2 emissions standards for planes The same year the organisation refused to endorse a closed emissions trading scheme for aviation.

    – Having previously said so-called ’emissions charges’ were preferable to taxes, by 2004 ICAO had also removed them from the list of favoured options, at least until the 2007 ICAO assembly examines them again.

    – Finally, in 2004 ICAO ruled out the setting up by itself of a global emissions trading scheme for aviation.

    The result of the above decisions was that by the end of 2004, states wanting to act on greenhouse gas emissions within ICAO’s guidelines had just one option left, an initiative by states or regions to include aviation into their own emissions trading schemes.

    ICAO offered to provide guidance for regional emissions trading schemes such as the EU system currently being developed. But even this final option is now under threat.

    2. What is the significance of the 2007 ICAO assembly?

    On the table at the ICAO assembly in Montreal in September is a document giving guidance for emissions trading for aviation. Although this will not be a legally-binding regulation, only a set of recommendations to so-called contracting states. However up until now, the EU has had a long-standing commitment to act within the ICAO framework.

    Discussions of the guidelines over the last year have stalled on a fundamental disagreement between states on one of the most important issues. Namely, the ability of a country to apply an emissions trading scheme to all carriers flying within, from or to its territory, regardless of their nationality.

    Some states, such as America, that do not want their carriers to be part of an EU emissions trading scheme, argue that their carriers should only be obliged to enter the system under the basis of ‘mutual agreement’ between the states concerned. These states are intent not to give such agreement, making the scheme instantly unfair and unworkable.

    It would also be illegal. According to Article 11 of the Chicago Convention, the rules that govern international aviation, “the laws and regulations of a contracting State relating to the admission to or departure from its territory of aircraft engaged in international air navigation (…) shall be applied to the aircraft of all contracting States without distinction as to nationality”.

    Unlike the guidance on emissions trading, the Chicago Convention is legally-binding, and this principle of non-discrimination based on nationality is one of its key elements.

    The importance of this principle is easily understood when one considers security laws. Clearly it would be unacceptable for a state to have different security laws for planes depending on the nationality of the carrier.

    In practice the ‘mutual agreement’ approach to the inclusion of foreign carriers in Emissions Trading Schemes currently under discussion would be in opposition to Article 11 of Chicago Convention, since there would be the potential for differentiated treatment of airlines based on nationality.

    To ensure the EU’s proposed emissions trading scheme is effective and workable, ICAO must not effectively close the door to the last remaining policy option it has not ruled out already: integration of aviation into emissions trading systems.

    ICAO should encourage contracting states to introduce emissions trading schemes, rather than constrain their ability to do so and endorse the principle that measures to tackle climate change should be as global as possible, and based on the principle of non discrimination stated in the Chicago Convention.

    3. Impact of the European emissions trading scheme on aviation emissions

    T&E calculates that the effect of the proposed EU-ETS system will be to reduce aviation emissions by just 3% which is equivalent to less than one year’s growth of the sector’s emissions. Aviation emissions would be reduced by 3% based on a CO2 price in the EU-ETS of €15 per tonne, equivalent to €0.04 per litre of kerosene. These figures are in line with the European Commission’s Impact Assessment.