The European Commission today proposed legislation to bring greenhouse gas emissions from civil aviation into the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS).
EU emissions from international air transport are increasing faster than from any other sector, threatening to undermine the EU’s progress in cutting overall greenhouse gas emissions. According to an EU statement, including civil aviation in the EU ETS is a cost-effective way for the sector to control its emissions and implements an approach endorsed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
The proposed directive will cover emissions from flights within the EU from 2011 and all flights to and from EU airports from 2012. Both EU and foreign aircraft operators would be covered.
Like the industrial companies already covered by the EU ETS, airlines will be able to sell surplus allowances if they reduce their emissions and will need to buy additional allowances if their emissions grow.
While the Kyoto Protocol targets cover emissions from domestic flights, international aviation is not included. Jet fuel for international flights has also historically been exempted from taxation. Bilateral air agreements between EU member states and third countries are being changed to allow this possibility, but this will take time to implement.
Emissions from aviation currently account for about three per cent of total EU greenhouse gas emissions, but they are increasing fast. Since 1990 emissions from aviation have increased by 87 per cent as air travel became cheaper.
Without action, the growth in emissions from flights from EU airports could by 2012 cancel out more than a quarter of the eight per cent emission reduction the EU-15 must achieve to reach its Kyoto Protocol target. By 2020, aviation emissions are likely to more than double from present levels.