European Commission recommends EU States object to CORSIA exclusivity provision to protect EU ETS
Thu 12 Sept 2019 – The European Commission has recommended EU Member States file a reservation at the upcoming ICAO Assembly against an attempt by a majority of ICAO’s Member States to ensure the CORSIA carbon offsetting scheme is the only market-based measure applying to CO2 emissions from international flights. The EU has signalled its intention to continue applying its own scheme, the Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), to flights within the European Economic Area after 2021 when CORSIA is due to start. This would contravene an ‘exclusivity’ clause in a draft revision of the CORSIA resolution for consideration at the Assembly. The purpose of a reservation would be to inform ICAO that EU States do not intend to comply with the stipulation if adopted. However, three EU States have so far declined to support the move, which requires EU unanimity, fearing the impact on relations with third countries over an already fragile political agreement.
Speaking at a press briefing today, Pascal Canfin, the newly-elected Chair of the European Parliament’s environmental committee (ENVI), said the exclusivity provision was a threat to the EU’s sovereignty and its capacity to ensure the aviation sector contributes more to the fight against climate change and to deliver on EU climate commitments.
“The position of the European Commission aligns therefore with what we are after, which is to allow the EU and its Member States to continue legislating on international flights covered by the EU ETS,” he said. “The debate now is not about how we do this but about having the capacity to do so after the ICAO resolution vote.”
Canfin said at a meeting of the EU Council on Tuesday, a large majority of Member States either supported or did not oppose the reservation, except for France, Ireland and Italy, which opposed. The French MEP, who has an international climate and environmental background, said he has since spoken to the French government and is hopeful its position will change. Dialogue was continuing with the two other countries, he added.
He believes the French opposition to the reservation is partly guided by its Airbus interests. In 2011, China threatened to pull a large Airbus aircraft order if the EU went ahead with plans to include emissions from international flights to and from third countries in the EU ETS. In a move known as ‘stop the clock’, the EU subsequently reduced the scope of the scheme to intra-EEA flights only. Canfin believes the opposition also has to do with the mixed diplomatic signals it might send to third countries of the EU supporting CORSIA yet seeming to oppose it through a reservation.
“Our counter-argument to this is that the EU has always been a driving force for having a functioning CORSIA mechanism that has teeth,” he said. If CORSIA did not permit States to take further action to deal with growing emissions from international flights, he argued, then it was a weak agreement. “The global floor should not also be the ceiling and prevent parties from going beyond.”
Without unanimity among the 27 States, revealed Canfin, it would not be possible to file the reservation and said the EU position had to be finalised by September 18. He said the EU remains fully supportive of CORSIA, “as long as it works,” but not if the price to be paid was to reduce its capability to strengthen the capacity to deal with aviation emissions through the EU ETS.
The exclusivity clause in the draft Assembly resolution (A40-WP/59, para 18) “determines that the CORSIA or any other scheme decided by the Assembly is to be the only global market-based measure applying to CO2 emissions from international aviation so as to avoid a possible patchwork of duplicative State or regional MBMs, thus ensuring that international aviation CO2 emissions should be accounted for only once.”