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MEPs back emissions exemption for intercontinental flights

Airlines will remain exempt from paying for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions for intercontinental flights, but only until December 2023, under rules voted on by European Members of Parliament (MEPs) on December 12.

The legislation, which will prolong the current exemption for intercontinental flights until 31 December 2023, was informally agreed by Parliament and Council negotiators on 18 October. Without it, the EU exemption would expire at the end of this year.

Prolonging the EU exemption will bridge the time gap until the start of the first phase of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)’s Carbon Reduction and Offsetting Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) scheme.

In talks with ministers, MEPs ensured that more will be done to reduce emissions from intra-EU flights by means of a “linear reduction factor” – a yearly reduction of emission permits placed on the EU carbon market.

MEPs also ensured that the European Commission will have to review the legislation with a view to including the CORSIA scheme in the EU Emission Trading System (ETS), so intra-EU and intercontinental flights are covered by a single system.

This legislation will give time for CORSIA to take shape and will bring the aviation sector more in line with others covered by the EU ETS. The European Parliament will also use this time to ensure that the details of the scheme deliver the climate benefits that we need, said lead MEP Julie Girling (ECR, UK).

Swiss ETS link approved

Girling’s report was adopted with 544 votes to 54, with 31 abstentions. MEPs also adopted on December 12 a report by Christofer Fjellner (EPP, SV), on a separate legislation giving Parliament’s consent to an agreement with Switzerland, in order to link the country’s carbon market with the EU ETS.

Swedish MEP Christofer Fjellner (EPP) here seen addressing delegates at the recent European Biomass Association (AEBIOM) European Bioenergy Future (EBF) conference in Brussels, Belgium.

The Agreement sets out the institutional framework as well as the key objectives and principles for linking the two systems. Fjellner’s report was adopted with 547 votes to 50, with 56 abstentions.

EU aviation emissions and ETS

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from all flights to and from airports in the European Economic Area (EEA) have been included in the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) since 2012. Although this would include flights between an airport within the EEA and an airport outside it, the application of the ETS to such flights was temporarily suspended, until the end of 2016, to allow for the development of emission-reduction measures with a global scope by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and to avoid conflicts with international trading partners.

In October 2016, ICAO adopted a global market-based measure (GMBM), which would become operational in 2021. In February 2017, the European Commission proposed a regulation to prolong the derogation for extra EEA flights, gradually reduce the number of aviation allowances from 2021 onwards, and prepare for the implementation of the GMBM. A provisional agreement between Parliament and Council was reached on October 18, 2017.

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