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Non-EU airlines in spotlight after Saudi carrier breaches emissions rules

19th May, 2015

Aviation Environment Federation and Transport & Environment press release

Saudi Arabian Airlines has paid a €1.4 million fine levied by a Belgian regional government for not complying with the EU’s aviation emissions trading system (ETS), prompting calls for all member states to disclose non-European airlines in breach of the rules. Countries are required to do so under a 2008 EU law.

In 2012 more than 100 non-EU aircraft operators carried out intra-EEA flights, which fall under the ETS, according to the European Commission. While it is unclear how many breached requirements, earlier this year Germany published a list of 44 air operators fined for non-compliance in 2012 – some of which were from outside Europe. Absent from this list were non-EU carriers, such as Air China and Aeroflot, which operated intra-EEA flights in 2012 but have yet to demonstrate compliance with the scheme.

Bill Hemmings, clean aviation manager at Transport & Environment, said: “EU member states must vindicate Europe’ s right and obligation to regulate emissions in its own airspace by naming and fining all airlines, European and non-European, flouting emissions trading rules. Let’s not have a second European capitulation to third countries after last year’s cave-in on shrinking the emissions trading system.

Saudi Arabia and some other countries had ordered their national airlines not to comply with European emissions-trading rules in protest at the EU’s inclusion of ‘third country’ carriers in its carbon market. This is despite a vote last year by MEPs to temporarily ‘stop the clock’ and exclude long-haul flights from the ETS, meaning only carriers operating intra-EEA flights had to comply.

Tim Johnson, director of the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF), said: “It is important that the likes of the UK, France and Germany now act to ensure compliance for all carriers operating within the EU. Doing so would demonstrate that a market measure can be fairly enforced and so set a precedent for delivering a global scheme to control emissions which is currently being negotiated internationally by the EU and other states.”

Aviation is the most carbon-intensive transport mode, responsible for about 5% of man-made climate change. If aviation were a country it would be ranked 7th in the world for CO2 emissions – between Germany and Korea. EU aviation emissions, a third of global totals, have doubled since 1990 and will triple by 2050 if unchecked.


Note to editors
In 2014 MEPs voted to temporarily exclude long-haul flights from the ETS, but also to ‘snapback’ to the original ETS in 2017 if ICAO fails to agree details of a meaningful global measure to reduce emissions at its next assembly in September 2016. In 2013 ICAO failed to make any meaningful progress, merely agreeing to ‘develop’ (which is not the same as implement) a global deal for 2020.