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In February of this year, the European Commission proposed to prolong the current intra-EU scope of the aviation Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS).

The 19 members of the Airlines International Representation in Europe (AIRE) hope that the European Parliament and Council will endorse soon the continuation of the current intra-EU aviation EU ETS until 2020. This will enable ICAO to finalize the remaining tasks in order to implement the historical agreed Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) in due time.

AIRE members expect that the European Union will now focus on a smooth transition from the current EU ETS towards ICAO’s CORSIA as from the year 2021.

AIRE believes indeed that the following arguments against the continuation of the intra-EU ETS beyond the year 2020 should be taken into account by Parliament and EU Member States:

  • CO2, irrespective of where it is emitted, has a global impact on climate change. Therefore, if a tonne of aviation CO2 is subject to a market-based measure, this should be universal in character and scope. This is exactly the principle that is enshrined in the design of CORSIA.
  • The European Union and its Member States played an instrumental role in brokering the ICAO Resolution that has established CORSIA, the first-ever agreement to reduce CO2 emissions in a global sector. After all, ICAO was asked to find a solution after it became clear that the EU could not impose its ETS on flights to/from its territory.
  • The EU Member States not only welcomed the ICAO Resolution, but also volunteered to be part of CORSIA as from 2021 (in the first phase). As such, they gave a clear indication they were in favour of a genuine global offsetting scheme to mitigate the effects of aviation on climate change, as indeed all CO2 emissions have a global impact.
  • In the immediate future, expertise from the European Commission and EU Member States will have a key role to play in contributing to ICAO’s remaining tasks to make CORSIA operational.
  • Any extension of the intra-EU ETS after 2020 (and certainly if such scheme would be more stringent) would
    • contrast sharply with the EU’s enthusiast backing of ICAO’s CORSIA and would create a “not-in-my-own-backyard” backtrack for international flights within the EU territory itself,
    • would create an unacceptable precedent. If the EU would run an own market-based measure within its geographical zone, it will not take long before other economic blocs elsewhere in the world set up similar schemes, with probably less ambitious targets. Such initiatives may “carve-out” the overall ambitions of CORSIA and result in a patchwork of measures, and
    • create a situation where European airlines are faced with the burden of 2 schemes.

For these reasons, AIRE members hold the view that the high level of ambition of CORSIA should replace entirely the EU ETS for aviation.

Finally, a market-based mechanism is only one out of a basket of measures. As part of such set of measures to mitigate the effects of aviation CO2 emissions on the climate, the implementation of the long-overdue genuine Single European Sky, technology and sustainable alternative fuels as well as operational efficiency of aircraft would indeed bring immediate and significant CO2 reductions.

Koen Vermeir
Director Aeropolitical and Industry Affairs
Tel: +32 (0) 2 546 10 64
e-mail: koen.vermeir@aire.aero