Environment MEPs support airspace approach

The European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) will cover CO2 emissions from intercontinental flights to or from EU airports for the emissions over EU and EEA airspace from April 2015 to April 2016, under new rules backed by environment MEPs last week.

The current full “stop the clock” regime, covering intra-EU flights only, will continue until April 2015.

“This approach is much better than the current ‘stop the clock’ solution, because not only are inter-European flights included, but also flights to non-European countries, even if only for the part of the trip in European airspace,” said Peter Liese, the rapporteur.

“A flight from Paris or London to the new hub in Istanbul would be almost completely included. Under the ‘stop the clock’ regime, it is not included at all. The same is true for flights to hubs in the Emirates, which are not included under the ‘stop the clock’ regime, but at least partly covered by the Commission proposal,” he added.

MEPs stress that the derogation will only last until 2016, in order to facilitate international agreement on a global, market-based solution designed to make the aviation sector contribute to efforts against climate change.

They point out that new EU legislation will only be needed if the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) adopts an agreement at its assembly in 2016. If not, the derogation will lapse and the original EU ETS will automatically apply in full.

“We need to be prepared to fully implement our scheme after 2016 in case there is no global agreement. This would mean that we also cover intercontinental flights in full under our scheme. If there is a substantial agreement at the ICAO in 2016 we need to reconsider the situation,” said Mr Liese.

The environment committee also wants EU member states to use revenues generated from the auctioning of emissions allowances to pay for efforts to tackle climate change. These measures should be taken at international level, in particular, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the impact of climate change in developing countries as well as to fund research and development for mitigation and adaptation.

The time gained by stopping the clock for an extra year before the derogation is removed should be used to get non-EU countries to agree to an approach based on airspace to be applied by the EU after 2016.

The ICAO agreed at its 38th assembly to adopt a global market-based measure (MBM) in 2016, to be implemented by 2020. In response, and in order to further promote the global MBM momentum, the European Commission proposed to reduce the proportion of emissions (from flights to and from countries outside the EU) to which the EU ETS applies for the period up to 2020, when the global MBM begins.

The committee voted by 46 to 6, with 1 abstention, to open negotiations with the Greek Presidency of the Council. The final vote in Plenary should take place in April, in order to get the legislation in the Official Journal before the end of the parliamentary term.

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