EU environment ministers discuss aviation emissions proposal
Thu 20 Dec 2007 – In a unanimous vote of all 27 member states, EU environment ministers have agreed to include aviation emissions in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) but have watered down several key proposals put forward by MEPs last month.
The main points include:
· Airlines to join the ETS in 2012, not 2011 as proposed by the EU Parliament last month.
· Ministers agreed that airlines should buy 10% of permits upfront at auction, substantially lower than the 25% demanded by MEPs.
· The cap on emissions was set at the average level of the period 2004-2006, although MEPs had called for the cap to be set at 90% of that level.
· Smaller operators and new start-ups to be exempted from the scheme.
Francisco Nunes Correia, Portuguese environment minister and whose country currently holds the presidency of the Council of the European Union, pronounced the agreement “a great success” and the first opportunity for the EU to show real leadership on climate change after Bali.
“Aviation raises very significant issues when it comes to CO2 emissions,” he commented after the Council meeting. “The transport sector in general is one of those in urgent need of measures when it comes to the control of emissions and climate change.”
The EU Environment Commissioner, Stavros Dimas, said: “Emissions from the aviation sector represent about 3% of the European Union’s total greenhouse gasses. That is higher than those from other industries such as steel, which are already covered by the ETS. Emissions from aviation have risen very fast over the past few years, roughly doubling since 1990 and are expected to double again by 2020. If we do nothing to stop this rapid growth then we shall undermine the progress we have made in cutting emissions in other sectors. All sectors should contribute in a fair way in fighting climate change.
“Today’s political agreement backs the general thrust of the Commission’s proposals. Most of the changes proposed by the Council are technical improvements which the Commission welcomes. This includes exemptions for commercial operators with very low traffic levels and the introduction of an allowance reserved for new entrants and very fast-growing airlines.
“We have agreed a starting date of 2012 for all flights, dropping the plan of an introductory starting date of 2011 for intra-EU flights proposed by the Commission.
“The agreement will strengthen our position in the very difficult two years ahead when we will be negotiating the Bali roadmap, so we are doing what the European citizens are expecting of us and we should not forget that citizens around the world are looking to see what Europe is undertaking to fight climate change.
“This is the first step in anticipation of a broader review of the ETS system that should take place by 2013. In view of the size of the problem [of aviation emissions], other steps may be taken later.
“I have to underline that aviation is very important in today’s world. I don’t say we have to stop the growth of aviation but we must stop the growth of emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses caused by aviation.”
As to why the Council proposed the later start date of 2012, Dimas said some countries wanted 2011 but others had argued for postponement until 2013, so a compromise had been reached.
The draft directive will now pass back to the European Parliament and final agreement is expected in 2008.
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