Possibility of serious delays puts implementation of the Single European Sky at risk, warns EC Vice-President
Fri 29 Oct 2010 – Speaking at this week’s European Aviation Summit in Bruges, organized by the Belgian EU Presidency, European Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas suggested differences between EU states could create serious delays in delivering the Single European Sky (SES). He said the accelerated implementation of the SES was crucial as present inefficiencies and fragmentation were responsible for 16 million tonnes of unnecessary CO2 emissions and costs to the air transport sector of 3 billion euros ($4bn). A Commission statement on the Summit said the recent ICAO agreement had confirmed Europe’s entitlement to go forward more quickly than others in plans to reduce aviation greenhouse gas emissions. The Bruges Declaration issued at the end of the Summit called upon a group of experts to identify the impact of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme on the competiveness of the European aviation industry.
Kallas, who is also responsible for transport, said SES implementation was not an option – “it is an essential requirement for an efficient and sustainable air transport system in Europe.”
However, he described “worrying developments” following a meeting last Monday of the Single Sky Committee, which is composed of two civil and military representatives from each EU member state and chaired by an EC representative. Kallas suggested differences between the Commission and the Committee on cost-efficiency targets, resulting in the withdrawal of a Commission proposal.
“Coupled with worrying feedback on the development of FABs [Functional Airspace Blocks], this negative outcome shows that the implementation of the Single European Sky is at risk,” he told delegates.
He said he would consult with European transport ministers on finding a way forward and report to the European Parliament.
Commenting on the Kallas Summit address, Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus, Secretary General of the Association of European Airlines (AEA), said: “The absence of a Single Sky is anti-European, anti-consumer and also anti-environment. After the mismanagement of the ash crisis, the least we expect is that efforts are now focused on accelerating the creation of a Single Sky for Europe.
“We have no understanding at all for member states who seek to water down and slow down efficiency gains. We are also concerned that SES is not listed by the Commission in its top innovation projects when we consider the broad economic and environmental impact it represents.”
Sylviane Lust, Director General of the International Air Carrier Association (IACA), urged EU states to listen to the call from the industry that they cannot endure any further delay in fixing the ATM system.
“EU member states have committed to the SES-I package, then to SES-II,” she said. “We have heard their promises many times – it is now time for implementation. Their political commitment must be honoured.
“IACA and its member carriers will be watching progress closely in the coming months and will continue to try to ensure that a more efficient ATM system and the Single Sky will at last be implemented fully.”
The Bruges Declaration welcomed the recent ICAO Assembly agreement, describing aviation as the first sector where states, together with industry, had agreed a global environment action plan. “Europe is committed to make an effective contribution to this collective effort and to take more ambitious action than others within this framework.”
The Declaration called for the pursuit of a comprehensive approach towards aviation’s impact on climate change through:
working on new standards;
investing in research and technology;
improving air traffic management procedures and operational performance; and
pursuing market-based measures through the inclusion of aviation in the EU ETS from 2012 onwards.
In addition, it continues, “The participants recognize the critical importance of ensuring consistency between national market-based measures and those adopted at EU level, and of avoiding market distortion, including between EU and non-EU competitors, and carbon leakage. Therefore, a proposal was made to establish a working group to enable the EU Council of Transport Ministers to better assess the mechanisms and impact of the European Emission Trading System on the competitiveness of the European aviation industry.”
The Declaration also called for action to “Maintain and improve a competitive European aviation industry to create additional employment opportunities in Europe; in that context, avoid additional burdens (for example, taxes on aviation) affecting European carriers’ competitiveness.”
Responding, AEA’s Schulte-Strathaus said: “The EU ETS is a regional approach to a global issue and therefore by definition distorts the market. Instead of disadvantaging European airlines, we must strive for a global consensus. The current project set up does not recognize aviation’s global characteristics and will only result in a weakening of the European economy with no relevant impact on the environment.”
Bernard Gustin, Co-CEO of Brussels Airlines and a panellist at the Summit, added: “We are keen to contribute to such a working group which will hopefully promote a better understanding with the Council of EU Transport Ministers of the consequences of taxes, and of the EU ETS, on European competitiveness. All European airlines are convinced that imposing further taxes will not secure employment, economic prosperity, nor will it contain emissions, but only displace them.
“A same level playing field is the prerequisite for a sustainable and competitive European aviation industry and therefore for a strong European economy. We will fully support the action plan the EU Presidency will outline to the Council of Ministers in December.”
En route to the Summit, EC Vice-President Kallas presented Brussels Airport with a certificate marking its accreditation within the Airport Carbon Accreditation scheme. The airport achieved level 2 status in the scheme as a result of reducing CO2 emissions by over 10,000 tonnes in the past year.
“In transport, sustainability is not an optional extra – it has to come as standard,” said Kallas. “We can only succeed in tackling climate change if the actions of regulators are complemented by citizens and businesses taking action of their own. With over 550,000 tonnes of CO2 reduced so far, I believe that Airport Carbon Accreditation is playing a crucial role in helping move European aviation onto a more sustainable footing in line with the historic agreement reached in ICAO thanks to Europe’s leadership.”