EU proposal to unilaterally regulate international flights in EU ETS puts global scheme at risk, says 'shocked' IATA
Fri 20 Dec 2013 – The proposal by the European Commission to include international aviation in its ETS without any international consultation could re-open the threat of trade wars and distract States from focusing on working together to develop a global market-based climate scheme, says IATA. “Following an historic agreement by ICAO States in October to develop a market-based measure (MBM) and a rejection of unilaterally-imposed national or regional schemes, it was with disbelief and shock that we received the news that Europe is returning to its misguided intentions,” Director General Tony Tyler told journalists at the IATA Global Media Day.
“For me the outcome of the ICAO Assembly on climate change was a major step forward for both aviation and for the planet,” said Tyler.
He said the Commission proposal to include emissions from all flights within EU/EEA airspace in the EU ETS was already causing political tensions. “We hope this will not distract governments from the important work to achieve the big prize – finding a global agreement on a market-based measure for aviation.”
Paul Steele, Senior VP Member and External Relations for IATA, said the Assembly had specifically rejected, by a vote of 97 to 37, a proposal promoted by the EU whereby a State or group of states would be able to regulate the flights of airlines from a third country in its own airspace without the agreement of that third country.
He said the Commission proposal also raised many legal and operational questions, such as how accurately the portions of flights entering EU airspace would be calculated. “However, our concerns go way beyond that to the political level,” he added. “It would take us back to the brink of a trade war, a situation the industry certainly would want to avoid.”
Steele noted that there were signs that EU Member States were questioning the Commission’s approach, preferring instead to continue the Stop-the-Clock (STC) scope of applying the EU ETS only to intra-European flights. This, he argued, would give ICAO the space to move the global MBM forward.
Speaking in a meeting of the European Parliament’s environment (ENVI) committee this week, the rapporteur of the Aviation EU ETS directive, Dr Peter Liese, maintained the European airline industry, however, was split on the issue as an intra-European scope carried competitive disadvantages and distortions for them.
Parliament, too, was divided, he said, with some saying the Commission’s proposal was too ambitious and wanted to continue with STC, and others that it was not ambitious enough and wanted a return to the directive’s full scope. The airspace approach was a good compromise between the two positions, he argued. Amendments to the proposal he would like to see were to revisit the legislation after the 2016 ICAO Assembly and for auction revenues to be earmarked for technology development and international climate finance.
Liese maintained the United States, for one, did not have a problem with the airspace approach, since the issue of sovereignty over one’s airspace was “holy” to them.
“EU law has to be applied and we can’t give in to threats. We must not capitulate and be bullied by third countries,” he said, adding EU Member States had a responsibility to implement EU laws.
Liese’s support for the Commission proposal and his amendments was backed by Matthias Groote, his shadow rapporteur on the Aviation EU ETS directive and Chair of the ENVI committee.
ENVI MEP Martin Callanan voiced a different opinion and said a global deal at ICAO should be the priority and there were serious concerns over non-compliance by some third countries that EU States had been reluctant to deal with, and the inclusion of third countries could ultimately lead to the EU backing down again and being humiliated. He said EU States would never agree to the hypothecation of auction revenues. ENVI member Chris Davies also had misgivings over the airspace proposal and said the EU could not afford to crumble again to outside pressure.
“We might be right legally,” said MEP Holger Krahmer, who favoured a continuation of STC, “but we could end up with legislation we can’t implement. It’s no secret there are those at ICAO who don’t want an agreement on a global deal but the obstinacy of the EU plays into the hands of those opponents.”
Eija-Riitta Korhola, Aviation EU ETS rapporteur on the Parliament’s industry committee (ITRE), said she was opposed to the Commission proposal and backed a continuation of STC until 2016.
Elina Bardram, for the Commission, reported a strong compliance, representing 98% of all emissions covered, with the Aviation EU ETS in 2012. She said the airspace approach was a good way forward and was legally and technically solid.
Voting on the proposals and amendments in the ENVI committee will take place on January 23, with a full vote of Parliament in April. Meanwhile, the co-decision process with the Commission and the European Council, representing Member States, continues.
A group of European environmental NGOs yesterday sent a letter to the heads of the UK, French and German governments, urging them to support Liese and drop their proposal to reject the airspace approach in favour of continuing with STC.
“Doing so will confirm that Europe has listened to ICAO by modifying the ETS while retaining the sovereign rights and responsibilities conferred through the Chicago Convention,” said a spokesman for Brussels-based Transport & Environment. “More crucially, by requiring the EU to regulate emissions in regional airspace, they will be publicly upholding the urgent need for early and effective action, confirming Europe’s right to do so and reinforcing the ICAO principle of equal treatment of carriers.
“We also call on their Governments to ensure that appropriate enforcement procedures are taken against those airlines that have failed to comply with the 2012 legislation and to confirm to us that this action has taken place. Without effective enforcement of the 2012 statutory obligations, carriers from both within and outside Europe cannot be expected to comply with future legislation.”