• European Parliament strengthens aviation emissions plan

    The European Parliament has strengthened an EU plan to cut aviation emissions but the changes do not go far enough to address the rapidly growing climate impact of the sector according to T&E.

    [mailchimp_signup][/mailchimp_signup]In a plenary vote this afternoon, the parliament decided to ‘cap’ aviation emissions around 70% higher than their 1990 level, when the sector is integrated into the EU Emissions Trading Scheme . Although MEPs improved on the original legal proposal from the European Commission, the vote represents a step back from an earlier resolution by the European Parliament in July 2006 that said the sector should cut emissions in line with Kyoto Protocol targets. The decision also comes in contrast to an earlier EU commitment to cut overall greenhouse gas emissions by 20-30% by 2020 that was supported by all political groups in the Parliament.

    João Vieira of Transport & Environment said: “MEPs are in danger of losing credibility on climate change. Just last year they acknowledged the need for a robust approach to address rapidly rising aviation emissions with a separate trading system and targets in line with other sectors. Sadly they have bowed to industry pressure and severely weakened the plans.”

    On a positive note, T&E acknowledges the Parliament’s partial recognition of the climate impact of aviation beyond CO2 emissions. MEPs said that until other measures are in place to deal with the impact of Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) emissions, the sector should be subject to a two-times ’emissions multiplier’. MEPs also said that the impact of aircraft contrails and cirrus clouds on climate change should be dealt with in the future. The Parliament also agreed that the aviation sector can only buy permits from other sectors if it first improves its own fuel efficiency.

    The parliament has wisely left the door open on future measures to combat the climate impact of aviation. T&E says the lack of a kerosene tax alone equates to a EUR 35 billion subsidy to the industry every year and has unfairly boosted the growth of the sector.

    The European Parliament was voting on a report on a legal proposal published by the European Commission in December 2006. Before the proposal becomes law, agreement must be reached between the European Parliament and member state environment ministers. They will discuss the proposal at their December meeting in Brussels.

    Notes to editors

    1. Aviation and Climate Change

    – Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions from EU international aviation increased by 90% between 1990 and 2005, and are the fastest growing source in the EU. (Source: EEA, Annual European Community greenhouse gas inventory 1990–2005 and inventory report 2007, Submission to the UNFCCC Secretariat, European Environment Agency, Copenhagen, June 2007)

    – The most comprehensive assessment of the impact of aviation emissions was carried out by Sausen et al. in 2005 in “Aviation Radiative Forcing in 2000”. One of the main results of the report concerns the contribution of aviation to climate change – from direct emissions of carbon dioxide, water vapour, sulphate or soot particles, as well as indirect effects of nitrogen oxides emissions on the concentration of ozone and methane and the impact on the formation of clouds (contrails and cirrus clouds). This data has been confirmed by the latest IPCC Report and implies a Radiative Forcing Index for aviation of 2.7 (i.e. that aviation emissions have a climate change impact 2.7 times higher than CO2 emissions from land-based sources, all else equal), within a range of 2 to 5. The European Commission’s December 2006 proposal to integrate the sector into the EU-ETS states that, by the end of 2008 and after an impact assessment, the Commission will put forward a proposal to address the NOx emissions from aviation, but at present there is no mention of a multiplier. Environmental NGOs believe that until robust additional instruments are actually introduced which address the full climatic impact of aviation, a multiplier should be used.

    – Every segment of the aviation industry including manufacturers, airlines and airports is subsidised and enjoys major tax exemptions (notably the lack of VAT on international tickets and taxes on kerosene). The exemption from taxation on aviation fuel is worth EUR 35bn per annum if airlines paid the average duty applied to motor fuel in the EU. (Source: “Clearing the Air: the myth and reality of aviation and climate change” T&E and CAN-Europe, 2006)

    2. Comparison of the European Parliament vote – 13 November 2007

    with the European Commission proposal – December 2006

    – MEPs supported the inclusion of all flights in the EU ETS in 2011; the Commission proposed the inclusion of Intra-EU flights in 2011 and all flights in 2012.

    – MEPs said the proposed emissions cap should be set at 90% of the baseline emissions (2004-2006). This cap represents emissions around 70% higher than their 1990 level.

    – The Parliament also proposed that only 25% of emissions permits should be auctioned. However, auctions represent the implementation of the polluter pays principle and are a superior way of distributing permits, the only one that avoids market disruptions and does not penalise new market entrants or the faster-growing aviation markets.

    – The proposal of the Commission ignored the non-CO2 impacts of aviation. The Parliament voted in favour of a multiplier to address NOx emissions on a provisory basis, until the Commission adopts legislation to specifically address these emissions.

    – The Impact Assessment for the European Commission and a report from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change clearly show that the original European Commission Proposal is unlikely to reverse the current upward trend in emissions from aviation, and further measures are going to be needed. (Sources: European Commission: “Proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2003/87/EC so as to include aviation activities in the scheme for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading within the Community, Com (2006) 818 Final”; Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Manchester: “Aviation in a low carbon EU: How the Emissions Trading Proposal must be improved” – report for Friends of the Earth.)