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  • MEPs place limits on aviation ETS exemption and put airlines on emissions reduction path

    MEPs voted today to limit the exemption from the EU ETS of flights to and from Europe until 2021, pending further information regarding the UN aviation body ICAO’s global offsetting measure known as ‘CORSIA’. Sustainable transport group Transport & Environment (T&E) welcomes this vote as essential to safeguarding European climate goals. MEPs also endorsed a number of reforms to aviation’s inclusion in Europe’s emissions trading scheme which will start to cut back on the sector’s special treatment on climate policy.

    Andrew Murphy, T&E’s aviation manager, said: “An indefinite exemption would have been a blank cheque to ICAO and a reckless move given how little we know about how the global measure will operate, and how reliant it might be on the questionable practice of offsetting. Europe now has a leverage to make aviation contribute to our collective climate efforts as proportionally as other sectors of the EU economy shall the global measure fail.”

    The full Parliament endorsed the report by MEP Girling, in charged of the aviation ETS file and passed by the Parliament’s Environment Committee in July. The Girling report accepted the Commission’s proposal to continue to exclude flights to and from Europe from the EU’s ETS, but time limited this exemption to 2021. This reflected continuing uncertainty regarding the the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), which still lacks clear rules on offset quality and enforcement.

    MEPs also voted through important reforms to the EU ETS for flights within the Union which are covered by the scheme. They joined the Council in endorsing the Commission proposal to start reducing the cap in aviation emission allowances from 2021, thus bringing aviation into line with other sectors covered by the scheme. All three institutions agreeing on the need for aviation to cut its emissions represents an important shift in the EU’s approach to aviation’s climate impact.

    Andrew Murphy said: “Today’s ETS vote is a strong signal that aviation emissions need to decline, and ultimately go down to zero. This is very important since the question now shifts from ‘if’ to ‘how’ aviation decarbonises. The ETS is one part of the puzzle, but it cannot be the sole instrument. Just like for other sectors of the economy we’ll need other regulations to encourage efficient aircraft, cleaner fuels and measures to reverse the sector’s sky-high emissions growth.”

    T&E also welcomes Parliament’s call on the Commission to take action to address aviation’s substantial non-CO2 climate effects, which the Commission itself acknowledges have been estimated to have several times the impact of CO2 emissions yet to date remain totally unregulated.

    The file now moves to negotiation between the Commission, Council and Parliament, known as trilogue, with the aim to reach agreement before the end of this year.