The European Commission has announced plans to continue to limit the future coverage of the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) to intra-EU flights. Under the terms of the existing legislation this temporary “Stop the Clock” arrangement designed to improve the chances of a successful UN deal on a global market-based measure (GMBM), was due to revert to full coverage of all emissions from flights to and from airports in the EU from the 1st January 2017. But ICAO’s agreement of CORSIA in October 2016 has prompted a change which has been disappointing to AEF and other environmental groups who were seeking wider coverage.
One of the primary justifications for the EU looking to show more ambition was the Commission’s own impact assessment which concluded that “While the GMBM is meant to address international emissions on a global scale, it will not by itself contribute to the EU’s 2030 objective of reducing emissions by at least 40% through domestic efforts, as set out in the EU’s commitment to the Paris Agreement based on its currently agreed basic features and nature.” This is an important conclusion with relevance for both EU and UK aviation climate policy.
Other changes are more welcome. These include the proposal to steadily reduce the number of free allowances granted to aircraft operators after 2021, increasing the number of carbon permits that must be bought. The Commission has also stated that it reserves the right to revisit the decision on coverage if CORSIA does not deliver an effective scheme. While the proposal has been agreed in outline, important decisions on issues of environmental integrity – such as which offsets will be eligible – will not be taken until 2018.