The European Union won't implement its controversial aviation Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) for flights originating from or departing to non-E.U. countries, according to the E.U.'s climate commissioner.
Instead, the European Union is providing "a window of opportunity" for the creation of a global system developed through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
ETS automatically would once again cover all flights to and from non-European countries should no global deal be in place following ICAO's general assembly in autumn 2013.
Internal E.U. flights will continue to be included in ETS, regardless of whether the operating airline is from within or outside the European Union.
ETS requires airlines to purchase permits should they exceed predetermined annual emissions quotas.
Connie Hedegaard, the European Commission member in charge of climate action, told journalists during a Monday press briefing that the proposal, which sprang from "encouraging" dialogue at last week's ICAO meeting, has been discussed with the 27 E.U. member states with the intention for it to be finalized and implemented "very, very soon."
"Nobody wants an international framework on aviation more than we do," Hedegaard said. "Now it seems that because of some countries' dislike of our scheme, many of these countries are now prepared to move in ICAO and even to move toward a market-based mechanism at a global level."
Hedegaard said the recent ICAO meeting produced an agreement to establish "a high-level policy group" to tackle aviation emissions.
"Finally we have a chance to get an international regulation on emissions from aviation," Hedegaard said. "This is indeed progress. A lot of tough negotiations lie ahead of us. Now the time for talking and positioning is over, and it is time to pave the way for strong decisions to be taken at the next ICAO general assembly."
According to a European Commission statement, "The E.U. will stop the clock on the implementation of the international aspects of its ETS aviation [program] by deferring the obligation to surrender emissions allowances from air traffic to and from the EU by one year. This means that the E.U. would not require allowances to be surrendered in April 2013 for emissions from such flights during the whole of 2012.
"The monitoring and reporting obligations will also be deferred for such flights. The obligations relating to all operators' activities within E.U. will remain intact and compliance with the E.U. law will be enforced in this respect."
The European Commission described the decision to suspend implementation for incoming and outgoing flights as "a gesture of good faith."
Hedegaard said that while there are "no guarantees," recent developments have been encouraging.
"More countries understand why we should try to get the international framework around these things and why global and regional-based market mechanisms make sense," she said.
She specifically referred to a U.S. Senate decision that "encourages their government to pursue an international deal. There are many good forces that understand why it makes sense now really to invest in this."
According to a statement issued by Jason Anderson, head of European climate and energy policy at the World Wide Fund for Nature's European Policy Office, "The Commission's move on aviation in the ETS buys some time for ICAO, who were arguably galvanized into action by the E.U. in the first place after years of foot-dragging on this issue. Now it's up to other countries who have been opposing action on tackling the climate impacts of aviation, especially the United States, to show that they are serious about pushing for a global solution."
The European Union ETS in early 2012 prompted several airlines to raise fares or apply surcharges to offset the costs they said they would incur. They included Lufthansa, Ryanair and South African Airways.
A fare hike instituted by Delta and joint venture partners Air France-KLM and Alitalia during the first week of 2012 also was attributed to ETS.
Source: Business Travel News