Speaking at an event in Brussels yesterday organised by an international coalition of environmental groups, Mr Delbeke also said that suspension of the EU-ETS, as demanded by the United States, was “out of the question”. “That’s not how we work in Europe,” he added.
Mr Delbeke went on, for the first time, to lay out the conditions under which a global system could eventually replace the EU-ETS for aviation. He said any system would have to deliver more emissions reductions that the current EU system, in place since 1 January. It would also have to be non-discriminatory in nature, and also include not just targets but also measures (mandatory requirements for action). The EU would consider “modifying its legislation” if ICAO made significant progress towards a global deal later this year, he concluded.
Professor David Lee, co-author of the recent UNEP report ‘Bridging the gap’, underlined the urgency of global action on greenhouse gas emissions from aviation earlier in the day in a presentation of new emissions data. He noted that, contrary to popular belief, aviation emissions have continued to grow strongly throughout the financial crisis with an 11.2% increase seen over the period 2005-2010.
Particularly in light of the financial crisis facing many countries, Jon Strand, co-author of the World Bank-IMF report to the G20 on climate finance, noted that aviation is currently “lightly taxed” and could contribute more, particularly to cover its environmental impacts.
In a heated exchange, Dr Peter Liese, a German conservative MEP, challenged the US administration for, on the one hand, accusing the EU of acting unilaterally while, on the other, staying silent on the need to consult third countries when Congress passed the Waxman-Markey bill which has similar implications for international aviation.
Speaking for the US government, the deputy head of the US mission to the EU Thomas White said international discussions on aviation emissions could not continue with the EU plan “hanging over everyone’s head”.
Henry Derwent, head of the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA), a trade body, said a global system would not be difficult to design; getting political agreement would be the challenge. He said he had tried to get airlines to discuss how a global aviation ETS might work but they were “not interested”.
Jonathan Counsell of British Airways sounded a conciliatory note by saying that a part of auction revenues (of a global scheme) could be used to address the concerns of poorest countries.
Bill Hemmings of Transport & Environment, commenting on the outcome of the conference, said: “The ball is now firmly back in ICAO’s court. The international community needs to come up with a timely, effective and workable global solution through a transparent process that all stakeholders can contribute to.”