EU Lawmaker Seeks Clear Rules on Aviation Carbon Curbs Freeze

The European Union must not prolong a freeze on emissions-trading obligations on foreign flights beyond 2013 to keep pressure on countries worldwide to impose pollution curbs on the industry, according to an EU lawmaker.

The EU should clarify in draft legislation that it expects the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization to agree this year on “a global market-based measure with a realistic timetable for implementation,” Peter Liese, a German member of the European Parliament, said in a report. Countries in ICAO should also agree on national and regional systems before a global deal is enacted, said Liese, who oversees the measure in the EU parliament.

The assembly’s environment committee is considering a proposal by the European Commission, the EU’s regulatory arm, to defer by a year compliance with the bloc’s carbon rules for flights into and out of the region. The freeze proposed in November is intended to facilitate international talks about emission curbs on airlines.

“The commission proposal gives the opportunity to make unambiguously clear that it is not the EU which stands in the way of an international agreement,” Liese said in the draft report published on the parliament’s website. He recommended a “quick” adoption on the measure with seven amendments aimed at ensuring legal security.

The 27-nation EU decided in 2008 that flights to and from European airports should be included within the bloc’s emissions trading system, the world’s largest, from 2012 after airline emissions in the region doubled over two decades. The enlargement of the European cap-and-trade program triggered opposition from countries including the U.S., China and Russia, who said ICAO is the forum to decide about pollution curbs.

EU Expectations

Should negotiators worldwide fail to reach a deal this year, the EU ETS requirements for all flights will automatically resume, obliging carriers to submit permits to cover all their 2013 carbon discharges by April 30, 2014, under the commission’s proposal last year. The measure should include an amendment to clearly define EU expectations regarding the outcome of the ICAO meeting, Liese said in his report.

“It has to be clarified that a global agreement that satisfactorily covers airlines’ emissions will not be in place by the end of 2013,” according to the document. “That is why in the meantime a framework for regional and national schemes needs to be adopted. However, the EU should not accept a situation where the current legislation is just abolished in the light of an only potential agreement under ICAO.”

Draft Measure

The draft measure proposed by the commission will need support from member states and the parliament in a process that can take several months. A delay in approval beyond the compliance deadline of April 30 should not impact the proposed freeze as national governments don’t act against a proposal tabled by the commission in such situations, the EU has said.

The parliament has set April 15 as an indicative date for a plenary vote, according to its website.

The EU ETS is the cornerstone of the bloc’s plan to cut greenhouse gases that scientists blame for global warming. It imposes pollution limits on about 12,000 manufacturers and power companies, leading to a cap in 2020 that will be 21 percent below 2005 discharges. Emitters have to submit one emission permit for every metric ton of CO2 they discharge or pay a fine of 100 euros per ton.

The annual limit for the aviation industry began at 97 percent of average discharges from 2004 to 2006 and will fall to 95 percent in 2013. Under the region’s law, the commission should consider whether changes to the emissions program are necessary in the light of a global agreement.

Airlines that joined the ETS this year were given emission permits making up 85 percent of the industry cap for free and will have to buy the remaining 15 percent at auctions. They can also trade among themselves. The proposed freeze would affect around two-thirds of flights, the EU has said.

To enable the auctioning of a reduced number of allowances Liese proposed member states sell 15 percent of “the overall amount of aviation allowances in circulation in the year 2012,” according to the report.

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