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EU countries urged to reject UN scheme that could thwart action on aviation emissions

In an article for Euractive News, Dave Keating reports that there are differences of opinion between the United Nations and the EU Commission on tackling aviation emissions.

The European Commission has asked EU countries to reject a UN resolution this week that could forbid the bloc from going further than the CORSIA aviation emissions reduction plan currently being developed at international level.

EU member states should participate in an initial voluntary phase of a new carbon offsetting scheme developed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) – but not if it hampers the EU’s own efforts, transport ministers were told on Friday (20 September).

The European Commission’s warning came ahead of an ICAO summit in Montreal on Tuesday at which countries are being asked to sign a resolution that could prevent parties from imposing their own policies to curb aviation emissions.

“For global impact we need also global actions,” EU transport commissioner Violeta Bulc told a meeting of transport ministers discussing how to decarbonise aviation. But she said the Commission intends to push forward its own scheme to curb aviation emissions, regardless of global actions. The Commission is therefore asking EU member states to reject any ICAO resolution that would prevent the EU from expanding the aviation sector’s obligations under the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

“President-elect Von der Leyen has announced the intention of the new commission to decrease the amount of free allowances for aviation over time,” she told the ministers, referring to the inclusion of aviation in the ETS, which was delayed in 2012 after a barrage of criticism from China, India and other foreign countries.

EU efforts

The UN agency’s new CORSIA scheme would cap aviation emissions at 2020 levels. An initial phase from 2021 to 2027 is voluntary. So far 81 countries, covering 77% of global aviation activity, have signed up to the initial voluntary phase. But China has not signed up. The scheme was devised after the European Union tried to go it alone in regulating aviation emissions by including aviation in the ETS, the EU’s cap-and-trade scheme for carbon emissions.

Though airlines were meant to have to purchased emissions allowances for all flights using an EU airport from 2012 – even those flying outside EU airspace – the EU backed down after intense opposition from the United States and China.