Angry MEPs threaten to derail Aviation EU ETS negotiations with EU states over airline non-compliance
An angry Matthias Groote, Chair of ENVI, slams EU member states over airline compliance enforcement
Wed 29 Jan 2014 – Politicians in the European Parliament have demanded EU member states get tough with airlines that failed to comply with the EU ETS in 2012. The Parliament’s rapporteur on the Aviation EU ETS, Peter Liese, has threatened to derail the forthcoming negotiations with the Council, which represents member states, over the future of the directive if enforcement steps are not taken. The trilogue process is expected to be challenging as Liese and a majority of MEPs are supporting the European Commission’s airspace ETS proposal whereas EU states – in particular France, Germany and the UK – want a scaling back. Airlines from China, India and Saudi Arabia were named as operating intra-EU flights during 2012 but did not comply. Meanwhile, EU Competent Authorities are advising all aircraft operators with flights to, from and within the EU/EEA during 2013 to report full scope emissions by March 31.
According to the European Commission, compliance with the first year of the Aviation EU ETS – under the reduced one-year, intra-EU/EEA ‘Stop the Clock’ (STC) scope – reached 98% of total CO2 emissions. However, there were a number of “politically motivated” airlines that did not comply, reported the Commission’s Elina Bardram to the Parliament’s environment committee (ENVI) at a meeting last Thursday.
She said it was the responsibility of each EU member state to enforce the legislation and timelines on enforcement varied from state to state but so far no deadlines had been broken. She said the Commission had agreed with member states to coordinate enforcement and formal notices had been sent to non-compliant aircraft operators in June 2013, including Chinese airlines. It had also been agreed at EU level, she added, that no fines would be imposed before the ICAO Assembly last October.
“Since then there has been general agreement that we will aim to proceed with the next enforcement step as of February 20,” she told MEPs. “The Commission has no reason to doubt member state commitment to implement EU legislation. This said, we will not hesitate with our infringement procedures in the case that enforcement is not followed through by member states.”
This did not mollify ENVI MEPs, including the Chair of the ENVI committee, Matthias Groote, who demanded unsuccessfully to be told which member states were not enforcing the EU ETS directive, and blamed the Commission and states for an “entirely unsatisfactory” situation.
Satu Hassi, who tabled the enforcement question, said that having reduced the scope of its legislation because of pressure from outside countries, at the very least non-EU operators should comply when operating within the European Union.
Liese told the committee it was the member states through the Council who had insisted from the beginning of the legislative process in 2007 that airlines not observing the EU law should have their operating licences withdrawn.
“I am not ready to conclude a trilogue [with the Commission and Council] when we don’t know at all whether the current legislation is being implemented or not. I am frankly shocked at how little attention member states have paid to this,” he said.
At a press conference, Liese added: “It is crucial there is compliance with the existing ‘Stop the Clock’ directive in order for us to make any progress with the Council and Commission. This is a strong message from the European Parliament to member states and the Commission for them to implement existing law and then we can talk about the necessary steps to possible amendments.
“If we don’t amend the legislation then there will be a return to the full scope of the directive.”
Although it is unlikely the EU institutions will fail to find a compromise by the time the current STC directive expires at the end of April, most – although not all – Competent Authorities in the member states responsible for administering the Aviation EU ETS have advised all aircraft operators under their control to report emissions according to the full scope of the directive by the March 31 deadline (February 28 in the case of Spain). This is despite the Commission’s proposal that allows for a one-year postponement in the reporting of 2013 emissions and surrendering of allowances as well as new exemptions for small operators and those from least-developed countries.
It is unclear to what extent operators would be penalised for not reporting full scope Annex 1 emissions by March 31, with CAs varying in their advice. The French DGAC has said operators can report if they wish to but will not be penalised for not doing so by the deadline.
The UK Environment Agency is taking a tougher line, advising in a circular: “Current UK and EU law remains in force until changed and penalties apply for failure to submit a verified emissions report by 31 March 2014 and to surrender allowances by 30 April 2014. Unless and until changed, reporting and surrender obligations for 2013 are for the full scope of the directive and include flights to and from the EEA.”
Julien Dufour of verification company VerifAvia, which has published latest guidance from most of the CAs on its website, advises: “Since the final vote of the proposed new legislation is expected in April 2014, so after the requirement to report but before the requirement to surrender, if and when the new Directive is passed operators will be able to downsize their report to the applicable geographical scope (for example intra-EEA) so as to surrender the correct amount of allowances.
“Consequently, we recommend operators to plan to report their full scope Annex 1 emissions before 31 March 2014 with an option to downsize the report to intra-European Annex 1 emissions for re-submission by March 2015. In addition, so as to avoid over-surrendering, we recommend operators to wait until the new directive is passed before entering their emissions into the Union registry and surrendering.”
Added Dennis Mes of PwC: “Given the short time frame towards the upcoming deadlines, we advise all our clients to prepare for verification of the full scope emissions within the current deadlines in order to avoid the risk of non-compliance. We are closely following the developments about the requirements and we will inform our clients about the impact of potential changes based on guidance from Competent Authorities or the European Commission.”
ENVI MEPs are voting tomorrow (Jan 30) on the Commission’s proposals and the committee’s own amendments, taking into account opposing views of members of the transport and industry committees (see article). Trilogue discussions with the Council will then follow during February, with EU transport and environment ministers meeting in March. Assuming an agreement between the institutions, a full vote of the European Parliament is due to take place in the middle of April.