This vote effectively prolongs until 2017 what was supposed to be an interim one-year freeze of the law known as ‘stop the clock’. Stop the clock was a substantial political concession by Europe in late 2012 which gave ICAO, the UN’s aviation body, time to agree a global measure to cut aviation emissions at its 2013 triennial assembly.
Bill Hemmings, aviation manager at Transport & Environment, said: “Just when the IPCC’s latest report shows how climate change is already affecting every aspect of human life, European governments and politicians have chosen to effectively scrap the only law in the world that attempts to curb aviation’s soaring emissions. Regulating emissions in European airspace is not only our right, but also our obligation – something those who cried wolf about a ‘trade war’ seem to have forgotten.”
The vote today also envisions a ‘snapback’ to the original ETS in 2017, if ICAO fails to agree details of a meaningful global measure to reduce emissions at its next assembly in September 2016. Last October, however, ICAO failed to make any meaningful progress, merely agreeing to ‘develop’ (which is not the same as implement) a global deal for 2020.
When the inclusion of aviation in the ETS entered into force in 2012, threats of trade wars and fierce industry criticism led by Airbus as well as third countries such as China, Russia and the US led the EU to backtrack on keeping intercontinental flights in the system.
“If no meaningful progress is made in ICAO in 2016, the pressure on decision-makers to stand by their promise to revert back to a full aviation ETS will be overwhelming,” Hemmings concluded.
Aviation is the most carbon-intensive transport mode, responsible for about 5% of man-made climate change. If aviation were a country it would be ranked 7th in the world for CO2 emissions – between Germany and Korea. EU aviation emissions, a third of global totals, have doubled since 1990 and will triple by 2050 if unchecked.