The European Parliament’s Environment Committee voted to back the European Commission’s decision to suspend the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) for flights into and out of Europe for one year.
Lawmakers made clear, however, that the suspension—intended to give breathing room for the negotiation of a global solution on aviation carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions through ICAO—will be lifted at the end of 2013 if serious progress has not been achieved on the international front.
The proposal backed Tuesday by the EU parliamentary committee stated that prolonging the exemption for flights to/from EU airports beyond this year would “cause significant distortion of competition and would not be environmentally ambitious enough … Not any result [at the ICAO Assembly in September] can be seen as a satisfactory result.”
It added that the “EU should not accept a situation” in which it is asked to continue to exempt certain flights from the EU ETS beyond 2013 if “only a potential agreement under ICAO” is put forward. The committee stated that the one-year suspension makes “unambiguously clear that it is not the EU which stands in the way of an international agreement.” It said that if a compromise remains elusive at ICAO this year, it means non-EU countries “are not really committed” to curbing aircraft CO2 emissions.
“On the other hand, if ICAO comes to an agreement this would be the preferred option for everybody including the European Union,” the committee said.
Speaking Tuesday in Hong Kong, IATA director general and CEO Tony Tyler said that with the EU ETS “roadblock removed we are well positioned for a breakthrough” at ICAO. Tyler noted that ICAO has identified three potential options for an agreement on aviation emissions: carbon offsetting, carbon offsetting with a revenue-generating component and a full global emissions trading scheme.
“Offsetting appears to be the simplest to implement,” he said. “But, for any of the options, the devil will be in the details of implementation. We will be vigorous in reminding governments that aviation is a very competitive industry. Last year, the industry generated a net profit margin of just 1%. So it is critical that governments agree to a system that preserves fair competition. With razor thin margins, the consequences of even a small skewing of the competitive playing field could be severe.”