Thu 2 Feb 2017 – International flights between Europe and major aviation countries that do not participate in ICAO’s CORSIA global carbon offset scheme from the start in 2021 should be covered by the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), said the European Parliament’s top lawmaker on aviation carbon policy. Peter Liese (right), former rapporteur on the inclusion of aviation into the EU ETS and environment spokesperson for the Parliament’s biggest political group, indicated this could include flights between Europe and countries such as India and Russia, which have said they do not intend to join CORSIA until the mandatory phase commences in 2027. Liese also fully expects all flights within Europe to continue to be included in the EU ETS post-2020 under more stringent emission reduction targets than currently. Tomorrow, the European Commission is due to present proposals on the future direction of aviation’s inclusion in the scheme as new legislation is required from 2017 if it is not to automatically revert to its full original scope.
Speaking to journalists yesterday, Liese said the CORSIA (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation) agreement reached by ICAO States in October was unsatisfactory to the Parliament as it fell short of what was required by the Paris Agreement since its ambition was merely to stabilise emissions growth rather than target emission reductions. He also expressed disappointment that the climate change resolution adopted by States at the ICAO Assembly did not go far enough in deciding a long-term target called for by the industry of halving emissions by 2050.
The quality of offset mechanisms to be used under CORSIA also remained unclear, he said, and experience had shown a prevalence of unsustainable offset credits under the UN CDM and even fraudulent misuse. Other misgivings he held were that the ICAO agreement was legally unsafe and was only binding after 2027.
However, he said, “It is much better than nothing and we should work with partners on the basis of CORSIA – but it is far away from what is necessary after the global commitment to address climate change in Paris.” The scheme was a starting point and should be supported, he added.
Crucial to the success of CORSIA was the participation of both China and the United States, said Liese. China, he noted, had volunteered to join the scheme from the start in 2021 but had stated at the Assembly that it disagreed with the goal of holding international aviation emissions at 2020 levels on which the scheme is based. “China is now an important ally on climate change,” he said. “We need China to commit to carbon-neutral growth.”
With the new Trump administration, it was also unclear whether the United States still intended to join CORSIA but he was cautiously optimistic it would do so as CORSIA had strong US airline industry backing.
He said as far as the EU was concerned, a prior fundamental requirement of the CORSIA agreement was that nothing could prevent the EU from continuing with the EU ETS after 2020. “Legally speaking, not only can we continue with intra-European flights but also intercontinental flights,” he insisted. “That is very clear, otherwise EU Member States would not have supported a resolution that prevented us. There may be political expectation from some third countries that we will completely abolish our scheme but we are not obliged to. This is a red line for the European Parliament and also for the EU as a whole.”
Liese expects the Commission’s proposal released tomorrow to carry on until 2020 with the current ‘stop the clock’ arrangement that limits the scope of the EU ETS to intra-European flights.
“Extending it is logical as it makes sense to give more time for negotiations to continue at ICAO on developing CORSIA,” he said. “As yet we don’t know what kind of offsets will be agreed or which countries will definitely participate.”
However, from 2021 he is expecting the Commission to propose a ‘carrot and stick’ approach by which intercontinental flights to and from third countries that participate in CORSIA would not be subject to the EU ETS, although they would be included if those countries failed to join from 2021. If the proposal did not contain this stipulation then this would be taken up by him in the co-decision negotiations on the next step in the EU legislative process between the EU institutions, he warned, adding that a failure to agree a compromise would result in a snap-back to the full scope of the EU ETS in which all flights to, from and within Europe would be covered under the scheme as of 2017 and airlines would have to surrender allowances accordingly in 2018.
“I think we should have the same legal situation in two or three years’ time whereby we have the option to snap back to the full scope if we don’t see the necessary progress at an international level,” he said. “It is clear to me that the Commission cannot propose to abolish the EU ETS.”
A full plenary session of the Parliament is shortly to debate and vote on proposals to strengthen the EU ETS in general after 2020, which include raising the overall emissions reduction target for all industries. This would involve allowances that can be used by fixed installations to cover emissions to be 43% lower in 2030 compared to 2005, with 100% auctioning. However, the proposals for aviation are considerably less stringent, with just a 5% reduction target, which Liese said was an unfair contribution.
“In two weeks’ time, we are going to vote in Strasbourg on the general review of the EU ETS,” he said. “My group [the centre-right EPP] is fighting strongly for a better protection of energy-intensive industries like steel. How can I explain to a steel worker who is afraid of losing his job that his sector will be covered by a 43% reduction target while another industry is getting away with almost no ambition?”
Liese said he would like to see the aviation reduction target doubled to 10% and the level of auctioning of allowances increase from 15% to 50%. “This would deliver more for the climate than CORSIA, at least until the period 2030 to 2035,” he believed.
Another important issue for him would be to apply the same ‘Linear Reduction Factor’ to aviation as is proposed for other industries in the next phase of the EU ETS, under which the total quantity of allowances reduces linearly over the period 2021-2030.
“This would be a direct help to other industries that are under threat from carbon leakage,” he said.
In 2014, the aviation sector emitted more CO2 into the atmosphere than the combined emissions of the 129 lowest emitting countries, noted Liese.
“It is necessary that the aviation industry participates in the efforts to limit climate change from the point of fairness to other modes of transport. Unfortunately, aviation is the least climate-friendly and while other modes are highly regulated and subject to many taxes and fees, aviation has not been addressed at a European level.”
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