The European Parliament’s Environmental Committee has backed a proposal to officially suspend the European Union’s emissions trading scheme as it applies to airlines.
In November, the European Commission proposed to “stop the clock” on the ETS, providing the International Civil Aviation Organization with enough time to come up with a global solution.
The ETS’ aviation component, which took effect last year, was to create a fine for airlines flying into Europe based on carbon emissions. For the first year, airlines were given emissions credits, so that no one had to pay fees to fly into Europe. Before the program was tabled late last year, due to international backlash, 2013 was to be the first year high-emitting carriers paid to fly into Europe.
Carriers would have passed this new charge onto customers, but legislative action from nearly every corner of the world prevented the program from getting that far. U.S. Congress passed a law that would have effectively prevented U.S. carriers from paying the tax.
"Today's vote is a clear signal that the European Union wants an international solution,” parliament member Peter Liese, who drafted the official report, said in a statement. “There are no more excuses for third countries not to engage in the issue. Third countries have given the impression that it is the European Union that stands in the way, but we shall see if they have enough commitment.”
Parliament members have said this delay in enacting the ETS can’t go on for ever. They’ve proposed waiting up to a year, and if progress hasn’t been made by ICAO in that time frame, the ETS will be reenacted as it applied to aviation.
Critics have said the ETS was a cash grab by EU member states and that there were no guidelines for how to use the money collected from carriers. Parliament members said this money should be used to fund research into low-emission transportation, adapt to the effects of climate change and further cut CO2
The International Air Transport Association was a big voice of dissent. At the recent Greener Skies conference in Hong Kong, association head Tony Tyler called the EU ETS a “roadblock” that prevented the industry as a whole from developing common tools to tamp down emissions and improve aviation’s environmental outlook.
“Governments are fully focused on the International Civil Aviation Organization to agree upon a global solution at their upcoming assembly. And the industry is united and working hard to support that by finding an equitable way to share the burden of achieving (carbon neutral growth by 2020.) A lot of hard work lies ahead, but we are committed to achieving a positive result,” he said during the conference.
Tyler also said that focusing on lowering the cost and increasing the supply of biofuels, while improving air traffic management practices around the world, will go a long way toward creating a greener aviation.
“Our license to grow is contingent on our ability to do so sustainably,” he said. “That means managing our emissions and other environmental impacts effectively.”
ICAO’s sustainability approach could encompass either carbon offsetting, with or without a revenue-generating component, or a full global-emissions trading scheme. The next ICAO assembly will be held in September. - Jon Ross