• MEPs sceptical of UN aviation scheme while strengthening ETS

    The European Parliament's environment committee voted today to strengthen the EU’s emissions trading system (ETS) for aviation while also demanding a review in 2019 of the UN’s voluntary aviation offsetting scheme, known as CORSIA. The vote underlined the considerable scepticism surrounding the effectiveness of the global scheme while reinforcing Europe’s right to maintain an environmentally meaningful and strengthened regional measure, green group Transport & Environment (T&E) said.

    While MEPs endorsed the Commission’s proposal to extend the exemption for flights from or to airports outside Europe, they however voted to limit this exemption until the end of 2020, at which time a further review by the Commission will be needed.[1] The committee also wants the Commission to undertake a thorough assessment of the CORSIA global scheme, particularly the level of participation, the quality of carbon offsets, the transparency of the scheme, and safeguards against the use of unsustainable aviation biofuels. The review would be carried out within six months of the ICAO 2019 assembly. Should CORSIA not stand up to scrutiny, it may trigger a return to a full-scope ETS.

    Andrew Murphy, aviation manager at T&E, said: “With a continuing lack of detail on how the UN aviation scheme will operate, and serious doubts about the effectiveness of offsetting, MEPs’ scepticism is well justified. Their vote today means that, whether by global or regional action, aviation must make a fair contribution to global climate efforts.”

    The committee also voted to reduce the cap on aviation emissions by 2.2% annually, backing the linear reduction factor proposed by the European Commission. The amount of aviation emissions allowances in circulation to be auctioned would increase from 15% to at least 50%, ending aviation’s unfair advantage over other modes of transport such as road and rail.

    Andrew Murphy concluded: “For too long aviation has evaded effective climate measures, so it’s no surprise that the sector’s share of European emissions tripled between 1990 and 2015. The environment committee’s vote is a modest step towards addressing this unsustainable growth and ending the special treatment. But it needs to be backed up with further resolute measures such as stopping state aid to the sector as well as airlines’ tax breaks on fuel duty and VAT.”

    The Commission would also be charged with further assessing the climate impact of non-CO2 emissions from aviation, under the proposal. NOx, black carbon and contrails from aircraft can equal or exceed the impact of CO2, according to the latest research. The Commission would be required to bring forward a proposal by 2020 to address the issue.

    The parliament’s plenary is due to vote on the committee’s report in September, with a view to reaching an agreement with national governments and the European Commission by the end of the year.

    Note to editors:
    [1] Currently emissions from flights to and from airports outside Europe are exempt from the ETS. Known as stop-the-clock, prior to the Commission’s proposal this exemption had been time-limited and conditional on progress being made at ICAO. MEPs now want this time limit reinstated and the EU to review progress on the ICAO global scheme in 2019.

    [2] Lee, Fahey et al, Aviation and global climate change in the 21st century (2009)