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  • ‘MEPs must resist airlines’ rebuff of global climate measure’

    Environmentalists have warned Europe’s policymakers that they need to ensure the environmental integrity of the current EU ETS for aviation is not abandoned in return for nothing from the global aviation industry. The caution followed comments by the airline trade association, IATA, that a global market-based mechanism to tackle aviation’s carbon emissions won’t be ready by 2016 as agreed.

    Members of the UN body for aviation, ICAO, agreed in 2013 to ‘develop’ a global measure for 2020 to reduce airlines’ CO2 emissions, with the details to be agreed by its next assembly in 2016. As part of those negotiations, the EU agreed to suspend its directive requiring flights between Europe and destinations or places of origin outside the EU to report their emissions and surrender allowances for some of them. The directive remains in force for flights exclusively within Europe.

    IATA’s assistant director of environment policy, Andreas Hardeman, told last week’s Carbon Expo in Barcelona: ‘Will there be a fully developed scheme in time for ICAO? No. There has been a lot of progress but there’s still a lot of work to be done next year to get states and operators ready to take this on.’

    But a key provision in this agreement was that EU ETS will automatically ‘snap back’ to cover all emissions in January 2017 unless ICAO reaches a deal with tangible emissions reductions.

    Andrew Murphy, aviation policy officer at T&E, said: ‘The aviation industry’s efforts to soften up the EU for a weak outcome at the 2016 ICAO assembly must be rebuffed. Europe must make clear to airlines that it has a right and an obligation to regulate carbon emissions from European flights, and that right will no longer be forfeited after 2016.’ 

    ‘Now is not the time to be making excuses. The main barriers to a successful deal are political and institutional, and with enough will it is possible to overcome these before the 2016 assembly. While states are raising ambition ahead of the Paris climate talks, it is time for the aviation industry to do likewise and redouble its commitment to an environmentally effective global measure.’

    Meanwhile, non-European airlines are coming under increasing pressure to comply with ETS rules for the current scope – intra-EU flights. Earlier this month it was confirmed that Saudia Airlines had been fined €1.4 million by a regional Belgian government for breaching EU carbon emissions rules, making it the first big non-EU carrier to be fined for ETS non-compliance.

    Some airlines from China and India are reported to have finally complied for flights that took place in 2012, as well as for 2013 and 2014. Air China, China Eastern and China Southern, as well as India’s Jet Airways had previously been ordered by their respective governments not to pay into the ETS. These airlines are believed to have also received fines but details are not yet publicly available.

    However, despite these developments it is unclear whether Air India and Aeroflot are complying. Saudi Arabian Airlines, despite paying a huge fine, also remains unable to demonstrate compliance. In Britain, an independent adjudicator rejected an appeal by India’s Jet Airways against the UK over the unilateral inclusion of the airline in the EU ETS. Jet Airways had argued that this contravened the global consensus reached at the 2013 ICAO assembly and it remains to be seen whether they will accept the findings.

    Andrew Murphy commented: ‘The news that Belgian authorities have recovered a substantial fine from a non-EU airline is a welcome development, demonstrating a will from that member state to ensure full and fair enforcement and showing that non-EU airlines are beginning to accept that they must comply with EU environmental legislation.

    ‘Other states, especially the UK, the Netherlands and Germany, must now clarify this confusing situation and publish a list of non-compliant airlines and prove that these airlines have paid fines and are prepared to comply with the current legislation.’