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EC resists calls for special treatment for airlines following Iceland volcano

There will be no changes to plans to include aviation in the EU emissions trading system as a result of the shutdown of airspace following the Icelandic volcano, the office responsible for European climate policy has said. The emissions trading system will be extended from 2012 to cover all flights arriving in or departing from the EU. Aviation activity in 2010 is being monitored to allow the EC to calculate a benchmark for allocating free emissions permits to airlines, and some airlines have been pleading for special treatment as a result of the recent disruption to European air traffic.

But Maria Kokkonen, spokeswoman for Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, has said in a statement: “This benchmark is calculated from the amount of passengers and freight that the airline carries and the total distance travelled (measured in tonne kilometres). Allowances are not allocated on the basis of emissions in 2010.

“The reduced activity could result in small changes in the distribution of free allowances between aircraft operators. However, any such impacts are likely to be tiny as most operators have been impacted by the flight restrictions.

“Furthermore, the most disrupted airlines are likely to be much busier over the coming weeks, carrying very high amounts of passengers and freight as travel patterns return to normal. The increased level of activity for these airlines should to a certain extent compensate for the reductions in activity over the [week of disruptions].”

The Climate Action directorate is a new EC body, and AEF is pleased to see it flexing its muscles over this important policy, which will be a world first in bringing international aviation within a cross-border climate policy. Following the announcement that a group of airlines from the US and Canada are bringing a court action against the UK (as one of the first EU states to transpose the legislation) over the decision to impose the measures on airlines from non-EU countries, AEF has joined a group of environmental organisations, including some from the USA, that will file papers in support of EU ETS. The case is expected to be referred to the European Court of Justice.