ETS aviation gains likely to be wiped out by stage one ‘open skies’ deal

EU transport ministers have approved a partial liberalisation of transatlantic air travel, which T&E says is “a serious setback to EU climate policy”.

Sketch of some documents (default image for news

[mailchimp_signup][/mailchimp_signup]The 27 ministers last month approved stage one of the so-called “open skies” agreement to make it easier for more airlines to fly between Europe and America. The news was welcomed by many airlines currently not allowed to fly between major European and US cities, and some newspapers said it signalled an era of low-fares transatlantic flights.

The agreement means that any EU airline will be able to fly to any city in America from anywhere in the EU, while any US airline can fly to any EU airport and operate on intra-EU routes. But EU airlines will not have access to intra-USA routes, and there will remain restrictions on the ownership of American aviation companies.

The Commission estimates that the open skies agreement will lead to 25 million extra EU-US air passengers over the next five years, plus an increase in air freight. This will lead to around 3.5 million tonnes of extra CO2 emissions every year. 3.5m tonnes falls in the middle of the range of the expected reduction in emissions caused by the aviation sector’s entry into the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) in 2011.

This prompted T&E to highlight that the open skies deal could completely offset emissions reductions from integrating aviation into the ETS. T&E director Jos Dings said: “Just two weeks after the EU announced major new climate targets, it has given away airspace to American carriers but hasn’t gained a clear mandate to combat emissions from those flights. This deal is therefore a serious setback to EU climate policy.”

Taxation of fuel used by American airlines within Europe is no longer illegal under open skies, but the fact that an arbitration procedure will be necessary means taxing kerosene will remain impractical. Dings added: “The EU must ensure that no environmental measures are ruled out in the second round of open skies negotiations, and that inclusion of aviation into the ETS is used to maximum environmental effect.”

Stage one of open skies comes into effect in April 2008.


Meanwhile, the MEP who will be responsible for the legislation on aviation’s entry into the ETS says the European Parliament will insist on other measures, including a tax on aviation fuel, and addressing tax breaks that distort competition between aviation and other transport.

Peter Liese said last month that his report would be based on the resolution passed by MEPs last July, which he said makes it clear that the inclusion of aviation in the ETS “will not be enough” on its own. Liese also wants a strict limit to the number of emission rights airlines are permitted to buy from the market.


A report by a British pressure group has added to the evidence that the growth of flying is benefiting the rich, not those on low incomes.

The World Development Movement has published “Dying on a Jet Plane”, which says the richest 18% of the British population take 54% of flights, while the poorest 18% account for 5% of flights. The average annual income of passengers at UK airports is €71 000, it says.

The report recommends that current subsidies enjoyed by aviation should be paid to improve insulation in homes occupied by low-earners, so they can save on heating fuel.

This news story is taken from the April 2007 edition of T&E Bulletin.