The European Commission on Monday launched a public consultation on policy options for using market-based measures (MBMs) to cut CO2 from international aviation, including during the years before the proposed 2020 start of the global mechanism due to be agreed by the sector’s UN body later this year.
The consultation is a stark reminder that the EU is due to bring non-European flights back under its emissions trading scheme from 2017 unless the bloc’s lawmakers extend the law’s suspension.
The EU, claiming that little progress was being made at the international level to curb the aviation sector’s rising emissions, in 2008 passed a law to regulate through its ETS from 2012 all civil aircraft using airports in the EEA-EFTA and the CO2 emitted during their entire flights, whether in European airspace or outside it.
But the rules proved divisive, sparking several lawsuits against the EU, threatening to trigger an all-out trade war with its largest trading partners including US, China, India and Russia, and leading to the bloc to announce its “Stop the Clock” measure. It effectively put the law on hold to give the UN’s civil aviation body ICAO more time to design its own MBMs.
“This is a temporary measure that will expire at the end of 2016. Any adjustment to the EU ETS thereafter will depend on progress made on the [global] MBM at the [Sep.] 2016 ICAO Assembly,” the Commission said in the consultation’s preamble.
ICAO is due to agree its plan for a global MBM later this year, after which the European Commission will report back to the European Parliament and Council on the progress made and, in particular, actions to implement an international agreement on a global MBM from 2020 that will reduce aviation GHGs in a non-discriminatory manner.
The EU’s ETS Directive also calls for the Commission to “consider, and, if appropriate, include proposals in reaction to, those developments on the appropriate scope for coverage of emissions from activity to and from aerodromes located in countries outside the EEA from 1 January 2017 onwards”.
“It is important to recall that in the absence of an amendment being adopted by the European Parliament and the Council, the EU ETS reverts to its original scope once the temporary derogation established by … the Directive ceases to apply [at the end of 2016],” the Commission said in the consultation’s preamble.
The consultation, which runs from Mar. 7 to May 30, seeks to “collect experiences, suggestions and opinions … [particularly] from stakeholders and experts in the field of aviation or climate change”, but the Commission said it is open to all citizens and organisations.
Amongst the questions in it are:
- Following the Paris Agreement and considering the agreed long-term goal, what kind of effort should come from international aviation and how should this develop over time?
- In what ways could action being taken by countries and groups of countries to achieve their respective climate goals, notably by addressing emissions from domestic aviation, complement and interact with a GMBM addressing emissions from international aviation?
- Which should be the main principles and criteria guiding a review of the EU ETS following the 2016 ICAO Assembly?
- Which options should be considered for the EU ETS for the period 2017-2020?
- Which options should be considered beyond 2020?
- Should small non-commercial aircraft operators (emitting less than 1000 tonnes of CO2 per year) continue to be exempted from the EU legislation from 2021 onwards? If so, what alternative measures, if any, should be considered?
A global MBM is one track of ICAO’s two-track approach to climate action, with an agreement on CO2 standards inked last month making up the other.
Government negotiators at the two-week ICAO meeting in Montreal agreed to global standards for newly-built planes from 2020, but they included loopholes that mean it will take until 2028 before all manufacturers’ models are forced to comply.
CO2 emissions from international aviation are expected to grow by at least 250% above 2005 levels by 2050, putting the sector firmly in the cross hairs of environmental campaigners and some governments.
Other countries and subnational governments, including South Korea, China and Shanghai, are seeking to tackle the sector’s emissions via their carbon markets.
By Mike Szabo – firstname.lastname@example.org