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Airlines get an easy ride from EU climate deal

8th July, 2008

Aviation emissions are set to soar, but the EU scheme supposed to tackle them will have little impact on the sector’s growing carbon footprint. A deal approved today by the European Parliament will, from 2012, see the aviation sector becoming part of the European emissions trading scheme (EU ETS).

In future, every tonne of CO2 produced by aircraft going into or out of Europe will need to be matched by a permit to pollute. Airlines exceeding their allocation will need to buy a proportion of their permits from sectors that have reduced their emissions or from accredited carbon offset projects in countries outside Europe, such as schemes to install cleaner technology in China.

Most of the allowances, however, will be given to airlines for free, despite evidence that allocating free permits to the power sector in earlier phases of the ETS allowed them to make windfall profits.

MEPs had been hoping for a tougher scheme with fewer free allowances, a tighter cap and measures to take account of the extra global warming impact of emissions at altitude, but they failed to win the support of environment ministers from European member states.

AEF supports the inclusion of aviation in the emissions trading scheme as a first step towards the sector paying its environmental costs, and acknowledges the important role the UK government has played in pushing this forward. But the final agreement falls short of many of the demands we and other NGOs were making. AEF will continue to press for other measures to be implemented alongside ETS to help tackle the full range of the sector’s environmental impacts.

Please see our updated table for a summary the different positions of the Parliament, Council and others as this legislation has developed.

The NGO position paper, prepared while this legislation was being debated, was last updated in April 2008.