Aviation EU ETS agreement to continue with 'Stop the Clock' stumbles as Parliament's ENVI MEPs narrowly vote to reject
Wed 19 Mar 2014 - MEPs on the European Parliament’s environment committee (ENVI) today narrowly rejected a compromise agreement reached with EU member states and the European Commission to extend the ‘Stop the Clock’ scope of the Aviation EU ETS until 2016. The deal, if passed, would have paved the way for the scheme’s scope to be restricted to flights within the European Economic Area (EEA) to allow ICAO room to agree the introduction of a binding global market-based measure (MBM) from 2020. Green and left of centre ENVI members decided at a party level to reject the deal brokered during trilogue negotiations by the committee’s rapporteur on the legislation, centre-right German MEP Peter Liese. The deal fell short of an earlier agreement by ENVI members to back a Commission proposal that would see EEA airspace coverage of the emissions from all international flights departing and arriving EEA airports. However, Liese is confident a plenary of the full Parliament next month will vote for the compromise.
The ENVI vote was 29 for and 29 against the agreement but this meant there was no majority to support it and so was therefore deemed rejected.
The rejection is a victory for lobbying group Transport & Environment (T&E), which mounted a concerted campaign in the days leading up to the vote with a slogan aimed at ENVI MEPs to ‘Fly in the face of bullying on the aviation ETS’. Describing the trilogue agreement as flawed, T&E urged MEPs to back “the more environmentally effective and fair airspace proposal” and not to cave in to international threats from Russia, China and the United States. It argued that as the Commission has stated no enforcement of the scheme was required by EU states until new legislation had been agreed, there was still time for a better deal to be negotiated with member states through the Council. T&E is in favour of the airspace approach.
“The aviation ETS is the only international climate measure in place today that tackles aviation’s soaring emissions,” commented Aoife O’Leary, T&E’s Policy Officer. “The trilogue compromise, which would effectively have dismantled the ETS, was a bad deal and rightly rejected by the Parliament. This decision sends the clear signal to political leaders in member states, to industry and to foreign countries that the EU’s sovereignty is not subject to external bullying.”
However, the rejection of the deal agreed with the Council angered Finnish MEP Eija-Riita Korhola, rapporteur on the legislation for the industry committee (ITRE). “Once again a shameful example of our democracy deficit,” she tweeted of the minority ENVI committee vote.
It was also condemned by the Association of European Airlines (AEA), which represents major carriers in the region. “The ENVI result is most worrying,” said Athar Husain Khan, AEA’s CEO. “ENVI today missed the chance to provide clarity on the way forward for the aviation ETS. If the trilogue agreement is not formally adopted before April 30, the full ETS would be applicable. Given the international controversy around the aviation ETS that we have witnessed during the past years, we believe that a full ETS is not a realistic option and that it would have a negative impact on European airlines, their operations and their employees. Moreover, this move would put at risk the agreement reached during the ICAO Assembly last year and undermine the efforts to reach a global deal on reducing emissions from international aviation.”
The European Regions Airline Association (ERA) said the ENVI vote “only adds to the confusion on the future of the EU ETS.”
ERA Director General Simon McNamara said if the compromise proposal had been voted through it would have created an intra-European trading scheme. “The EU ETS in this format would have had little or no environmental gain and would just penalise European carriers,” he said. “ERA’s position has always been that the entire scheme should have been put on hold for all flights, pending a satisfactory agreement on a global scheme at ICAO level.”
The agreement as it stands, together with any proposed amendments, will likely be put to a plenary session of the full Parliament when it meets on April 3. According to T&E, Liese must now take the original ENVI position favouring the airspace proposal to the plenary.
However, in a statement after the vote, Liese said he was optimistic the plenary would support the compromise agreement he agreed with the Council rather than the Commission’s airspace proposal supported by ENVI.
“I understand that many colleagues are unhappy with the attitude of member states and the poor ambition of the EU environment and transport ministers on this issue,” he said. “But in politics you have to live with to the reality. The European Parliament itself cannot enforce the legislation and many colleagues who now reject the compromise raised concerns in a debate that even a more limited approach could be implemented. Many of my colleagues unfortunately have not been very coherent in this debate.
“I am confident that my political group [EPP] will table the compromise to plenary and we will support it with an overwhelming majority. Given that colleagues from the other political groups in TRAN [the transport committee] supported an even less ambitious proposal, I am very optimistic that we will have a majority in the plenary. The right signals from the Commission and Council would be helpful in this respect.”