Critical week for the Aviation EU ETS as MEPs hear arguments on which proposal to support
Mon 31 Mar 2014 – With a crucial vote in the European Parliament this week, MEPs will be presented with two choices that will likely determine the future of the Aviation EU ETS until at least 2016. As the lead environment committee (ENVI) voted by the narrowest of margins on March 19 (see article) to reject a trilogue compromise agreed with EU member states to continue with the ‘Stop the Clock’ (STC) scope of the scheme, the airspace proposal put forward by the European Commission and supported by a majority of ENVI members will be the text presented to the plenary session. However, the STC trilogue deal is expected to be tabled as an amendment and may well achieve majority support. Meanwhile, NGOs are urging MEPs to vote for the airspace approach while representatives from the aviation industry are calling for a vote against and in favour of the trilogue deal. The debate on the issue will be held on Wednesday evening (April 2) with the vote taking place the following morning.
Having previously strongly supported the airspace proposal, in which an amendment to the Aviation EU ETS would see coverage of emissions from all flights taking place within European Economic Area (EEA) airspace from 2014, the Parliament’s rapporteur on the directive, Peter Liese, is now backing the STC scope that would apply to intra-EEA flights only until 2016. The agreement with EU states would see a reversion to the full international scope of the scheme from 2017 should ICAO fail to come up with an agreement to go ahead with a global market-based measure from 2020.
The concessions gained during the trilogue negotiations with the Commission and Council have convinced him to change his stance and will now, in effect, vote against his own pre-trilogue proposal.
The German Christian Democrat MEP, who is a member of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) group in the Parliament, the largest such grouping, believes there will be a majority support for the trilogue deal.
“I am confident that my political group will table the compromise to plenary and we will support it with an overwhelming majority,” said Liese after ENVI had rejected the deal. “Given that colleagues from the other political groups in the transport committee (TRAN) supported an even less ambitious proposal, I am very optimistic that we will have a majority in the plenary.”
However, Brussels-based NGO Transport & Environment (T&E) have not given up hope that a majority of MEPs will still vote for the airspace approach, which it says would achieve an additional reduction of 27 million tonnes of CO2. It said there had been too much ‘crying wolf’ about an international trade war if the trilogue deal was rejected and the risk to Airbus orders from China had been overblown. Last week, China unblocked orders for 27 Airbus A330 aircraft worth $6 billion.
“There are no more political or commercial excuses preventing an effective ETS to curb aviation emissions in EU airspace,” said Aoife O’Leary, Sustainable Aviation Officer at T&E. “We strongly urge the full Parliament to stand up for the environment and EU sovereignty and support the airspace proposal.”
She pointed out that rejecting the trilogue deal would not mean an automatic reversion to the original scope of the Aviation EU ETS. “That’s scaremongering,” she said. “The Commission’s airspace proposal is the obvious compromise. Failure to regulate in airspace shows weakness, invites more pushback and takes any pressure off ICAO.”
An industry group argues though that failure to adopt the STC compromise would mean the original legislation coming back into force and the inclusion of the entirety of flights to and from the EU. “This would be perceived as a move backwards and would divert resources from the work carried out at ICAO towards a global measure,” said a statement from the Global Air Cargo Advisory Group (GACAG), whose members include IATA and international associations representing freight forwarders and shippers.
GACAG said it welcomed the change in approach from the EU institutions that had led to the trilogue agreement and called on the Parliament “to overturn the Environment Committee vote and accept the compromise and ensure its rapid adoption.”
GACAG, an industry advisory group formed to provide a unified voice on behalf of the air cargo sector in dealings with regulatory authorities worldwide, said its “ongoing engagement with EU policymakers, including high level contact with Commissioner Hedegaard and her advisors” had yielded results that included the trilogue agreement.
“We strongly endorse a continuation of this spirit of engagement, to allow the global aviation industry and regulators to collaborate in the development of a historic global measure on aviation emissions.”