In a critical year for the Aviation EU ETS, European emissions fall in first half of 2010 compared to 2009
(photo: Deutsche Lufthansa)
Thu 12 Aug 2010 – Overall carbon emissions within the scope of the Aviation EU ETS fell by 1.8 percent in the first half of 2010 compared to the same period in 2009, according to data compiled by consultancy RDC Aviation. Total aviation CO2 emissions across 27 EU states amounted to nearly 113 million tonnes in the first half of 2010 compared with 115 million tonnes last year. The impact of the volcanic ash cloud that severely affected air traffic in northern Europe in April is not easy to measure although the UK and France experienced falls of around 4 percent in emissions over the period, whilst Germany and the Netherlands saw smaller increases in total emissions. This is reflected in airline terms with British Airways and Air France showing decreases in emissions while Lufthansa and KLM had rises. As 2010 is the benchmarking year for calculating the allocation of free emission permits, airlines are perversely incentivized to ensure their emissions are kept high to maximize their share.
The UK, followed by Germany, France and Spain are the biggest emitters of aviation carbon emissions, with Lufthansa holding the dubious distinction of the airline with the most emissions (see tables below). Lufthansa’s emissions for the first half rose marginally from 9,416,661 tonnes in 2009 to 9,423,761 tonnes this year. In fact, of the four top European airlines by emitters – Lufthansa, British Airways, Air France and KLM – only Lufthansa showed a rise in emissions during April 2010, when the impact of the ash cloud took hold. Lufthansa’s CEO, Wolfgang Mayrhuber, has been vocal in calling for a delay to the implementation of the Aviation EU ETS due to perceived distortions caused by the grounding of aircraft.
Ireland would appear to be where the ash cloud had a big impact, with total aviation emissions in April 2010 of 263,402, compared with 311,748 in the corresponding month of 2009, a fall of 15.5%. The UK, on the other hand saw emissions fall by around 5% in the same month, from 5,045,882 in 2009 to 4,840,555 in 2010. However, the European economic malaise is also a certain contributor to the decline in traffic activity and therefore emissions.
Airlines based in southern Europe were expected to be the gainers in the allocation of free emission permits under the Aviation EU ETS, having been largely unaffected by the ash cloud. Spanish carrier Iberia actually showed a 5.46% overall drop in emissions during the first half of 2010, although TAP Portugal and Alitalia showed modest increases. Of the North American carriers, Delta Airlines and Air Canada recorded 6% increases in emissions, whilst American, Continental and US Airways showed lower emissions.
Europe’s leading low-cost airlines – Ryanair (4.97%), easyJet (9.26%) and airberlin (26.53%) – all showed substantial increases in emissions in the first half, despite the effects of the ash cloud.
RDC Aviation has calculated total emissions for 2009 at 235,175,830 tonnes, although this would exclude the many small operators who make a small contribution to the overall total.
The European Commission has yet to publish the overall emissions cap for the scheme, which is the average of the 2004-2006 total, but has been estimated at around 220 million tonnes. Taking RDC’s 2009 figure, Andrew Pozniak of EU ETS consultants Green Aviation International says operators would theoretically therefore have been required to purchase permits to cover around 58.5 million tonnes of carbon emissions if the Aviation EU ETS had been in operation.
At the current price of around €15 per tonne, this would have cost airlines around €878 million ($1.12bn). However, Pozniak forecasts the price of carbon is expected to rise to around €23 by the time the Aviation EU ETS starts in 2012, so airlines could be facing annual costs of over €1.34 billion ($1.72 billion) to cover current levels of emissions.
"On average, this may represent the need for airlines to purchase around 25% of their carbon allowances, although we still have two years' worth of growth to consider," he says.