MEPs to vote on EU’s right to regulate aviation emissions

MEPs will vote this week on whether Europe should exercise its sovereign right to regulate aviation emissions in the EU’s own airspace. In a full plenary vote on 3 April, parliamentarians will consider the leading environment committee’s decision to support ‘airspace’ scope for the aviation emissions trading system (ETS), which overturned the recommendation from the trilogue to restrict coverage to intra-EU flights only.

As well as ‘airspace’, a variety of amendments that could undermine the environmental effectiveness of the future ETS will be voted on at plenary. If MEPs accept the deal previously pushed through trilogue (but since rejected by the environment committee), coverage of emissions will be reduced by three-quarters to those from intra-EU flights only.
 
Environmental groups say covering emissions of all flights in EU airspace would result in 27 megatonnes of additional CO2 reduction compared to the weaker intra-EU proposal. The intra-EU option also ignores the bulk of the emissions, as it exempts all long-haul flights from coverage.
 
T&E refuted claims that rejecting the trilogue conclusions would cause a trade war as, just like with airspace, the intra-EU option does not exclude foreign carriers from the ETS. Most foreign airlines have intra-EU flights, therefore, according to the Commission, only three fewer foreign airlines would be affected if intra-EU was adopted instead of airspace – down from 145 to 142. Furthermore, carriers responsible for 98% of emissions complied with all ETS requirements in 2012, demonstrating that airlines are able to meet the rules.
 
Campaigners also highlighted the US’s past acceptance of airspace as an acceptable solution for regional emissions-reduction measures. They said that in this context the Commission’s airspace proposal is the obvious compromise.
 
In the Council of Ministers, member states, led by the Airbus countries UK, France and Germany, had argued that conceding on the EU’s sovereign right to regulate in its airspace was preferable to upsetting third countries like Russia, China, the US and India. But T&E countered that the risk to Airbus’s business is overblown, with the company boasting an order book for 5,559 aircraft. Last week, China unblocked orders for all 27 Airbus aircraft which it had delayed, and also placed further orders.
 
Earlier this month, the result of the vote by the environment committee was tied, with 29 MEPs supporting the more environmentally effective ‘airspace’ proposal and 29 members voting for the weaker trilogue deal. It meant the weak deal was rejected and the leading MEP on the proposal, Peter Liese (EPP), must now take the original committee position in favour of the airspace decision to plenary this Thursday.
 
Aoife O’Leary, policy officer for aviation at T&E, said: ‘The clamour surrounding a ‘looming trade war’ on the aviation ETS is nothing but hyperbole: last week China unblocked outstanding orders for Airbus planes, and last Friday’s Reuters article shows that the United States is OK with airspace as a middle-way solution. There are no more political or commercial excuses preventing an effective ETS to curb aviation emissions in EU airspace. We strongly urge the full Parliament to stand up for the environment and EU sovereignty and support the airspace proposal.’
 
Aviation is the most carbon-intensive transport mode, responsible for about 5% of man-made climate change. If it were a country, aviation would be ranked 7th in the world for CO2 emissions – between Germany and Korea. EU aviation emissions, a third of global totals, have doubled since 1990 and will triple by 2050 if unchecked.