EU states get their way as deal struck with Parliament negotiators to continue with 'Stop the Clock'
Tue 5 Mar 2014 - Negotiators from the three European institutions - the Parliament, Commission and the Council - have reached an agreement that is likely to see an extension to 2016 of the one-year ‘Stop the Clock’ (STC) suspension of the full scope of the Aviation EU ETS. The Commission, backed by members of the Parliament’s environment committee (ENVI), supported an airspace approach that would have seen all airlines flying to and from Europe covered by the EU ETS for the portion of flights taking place in EEA airspace. However, worried about international repercussions, a majority of EU member states - led by France, Germany and the UK - have won their fight for a continuation of STC without appearing to have made any meaningful concessions beyond a commitment to return to the full scope from 2017 if no binding agreement is reached on a global market-based measure at ICAO.
The co-decision agreement will now be put to ENVI members on March 19 before it reaches a plenary meeting of the Parliament in April for a full vote of MEPs. The Parliament’s rapporteur on the legislation, Peter Liese, believes the deal will be accepted although the ENVI Chairman, Matthias Groote, said it was only “50-50” that it would be passed by a majority of the committee.
Justifying the climbdown, Liese said a continuation of STC until 2016 and an automatic return to full scope in 2017 - he is pessimistic that a binding international deal can be reached by ICAO member states at the Organization’s Assembly in late 2016 - could ultimately prove to be better for the environment in terms of aggregated emissions covered in the 2013-2020 period than the proposed airspace coverage from 2014 until 2020.
A demand by Liese and his colleagues for EU states to earmark auction revenues for climate purposes appears to have largely been rejected although text could be inserted into the revised legislation that requires states to be more transparent on how the revenues are used.
Details on proposed exemptions from the scheme for smaller aircraft operators have so far not been disclosed.
Commented Bill Hemmings of Brussels-based NGO Transport & Environment: “With the deal, European governments have conceded again to international pressure without getting anything meaningful in return, let alone guarantee that soaring international aviation emissions will one day be tackled. Shrinking the aviation ETS to cover intra-EU flights effectively amounts to the dismantling of a European climate law.”
He urged MEPs to reject the deal - a move that could see an automatic snap back to the full scope of the EU directive.
Update Fri 7 Mar 2014:
Further details on the agreement have been released, including the following:
1. Member states should take no action against aircraft operators in respect of all emissions from flights to and from countries outside the European Economic Area (EEA) in each calendar year from, and including, 2013 to, and including, 2016. The derogation also applies to flights to and from so-called “outermost regions” of the EU.
2. The deadline for the surrender of allowances corresponding to verified 2013 emissions from flights between EEA countries is 30 April 2015 instead of 30 April 2014, and verified 2013 emissions for those flights being reported by 31 March 2015 instead of 31 March 2014.
3. Aircraft operators will have their free allowances reduced in proportion to the reduction of the surrender obligation. As regards activity in 2013 to 2016, member states shall publish the number of free allowances allocated to each operator four months after entry into force of the new regulation.
4. The number of allowances to be auctioned by each member state in respect of the 2013-2016 period will be reduced to correspond with its share of attributed aviation emissions for flights which are not subject to the derogation.
5. On earmarking of auction revenues, member states “should” use revenues “or their equivalent in financial value” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, for adaptation to the impacts of climate change in the EU and third countries, especially developing countries. They should also be used for funding R&D, “including in particular in the fields of aeronautics and air transport, to reduce emissions through low-emissions transport and to cover the costs of administering the Union scheme.”
6. The Commission is to report at least once a year to the Parliament and Council on progress of the ICAO negotiations “as well as on its efforts to promote the international acceptance of market-based mechanisms among third countries.”
7. Following the 2016 ICAO Assembly, the Commission is to report to both institutions “on the actions to implement an international agreement on a global market-based measure from 2020 that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from aviation in a non-discriminatory manner, including on information with regard to the use of revenues submitted by member states.” That report should include proposals in reaction to the Assembly outcome on the appropriate scope for coverage of emissions from activity to and from countries outside the EEA from 2017 onwards.
8. From 1 January 2013 until 31 December 2020, intra-EEA flights performed by non-commercial aircraft operators (for example business jet owners) with total annual emissions lower than 1,000 tonnes of CO2 - taking into account all flights to, from and within the EEA (so-called Annex 1 flights) - should be exempted.
9. Where an aircraft operator has total annual emissions lower than 25,000 tonnes, its emissions can be considered verified if determined using the approved Eurocontrol small emitters tool.
The trilogue deal has been attacked as discriminatory between airlines by the International Air Carrier Association, which represents 28 leisure carriers mainly based in Europe. Said its Director General, Sylviane Lust: “The effects of CO2 are worldwide. Whilst the rest of the world is working towards an ICAO solution, Europe has chosen to hurt its own interests in order not to lose face.”
If the agreement is passed in the March 19 ENVI meeting, it will be presented at the Parliament’s plenary session on April 3 for a full vote by MEPs. If passed, the regulation will come into immediate effect.
Peter Liese MEP, rapporteur on Aviation in the EU ETS, talks to environment journalist Sonja van Renssen of viEUws.eu about the provisional trilogue agreement and enforcement of the scheme on non-compliant airlines: