EU Lawmaker Liese to Seek Changes to Draft Aviation Carbon Law

European Union lawmaker Peter Liese plans to propose changes to a draft law on emissions from airlines to shorten the period in which curbs on international carriers are limited to the bloc’s airspace.

Liese, a German member of the European Parliament who oversees the aviation measure in the assembly, said in an interview he wants to present his amendments on Nov. 27 in Brussels. The draft law that he wants to be changed was proposed by the European Commission last month and would narrow the scope of greenhouse-gas curbs on flights to and from the region’s airports from next year through 2020.

The aim was to keep pressure on nations worldwide to agree on a deal to cut aviation emissions. The EU also wanted to scale down the risk of a trade war after the original design of the bloc’s carbon market, which covered emissions the entire length of all flights to and from European airports, triggered opposition from the U.S. to Russia and India.

“I will support the commission’s approach in general but I don’t think we need to wait that long and give other countries time until 2020 to move,” Liese said in an interview in Warsaw yesterday. “The International Civil Aviation Organization pledged to aim for a deal in 2016. Either we have an agreement and then our law will change accordingly or we don’t and we return to full emission curbs.”

Stop the Clock

ICAO, which is the United Nations aviation agency, agreed on Oct. 4 in Montreal on a roadmap to a decision on a global carbon measure at its next triennial assembly. It also declined to validate the EU carbon market, calling instead on member states to engage in consultations when designing new or implementing existing emission-reduction programs.

The outcome of the ICAO meeting was weaker than expected by the EU, which was seeking approval of carbon programs run in regional airspace, such as its 53 billion-euro ($71.7 billion) Emissions Trading System. To facilitate talks in the UN agency, Europe suspended carbon curbs on foreign flights from 2012, the year of the expansion of the cap-and-trade program into aviation. That is known as the stop-the-clock initiative.

Under the latest proposal by the commission, which followed the ICAO assembly, stop-the-clock provisions will be extended until the end of 2013 before the carbon program is limited to European airspace. It will still be less stringent than originally designed after countries including Russia and India flagged the risk of a trade war. Airbus SAS said in June that 27 orders from China for Airbus A330 wide-body jetliners are still in limbo after the government there froze the contracts as part of a campaign against the EU plans.

Under Pressure

“Now the commission is under pressure from two sides: low-cost airlines want the original legislation to be restored and Airbus argues for prolonging stop-the-clock,” Liese said. “The commission proposal is balanced in between.”

The draft legislation is in line with international law, according to Liese. “It may be against the letter of the ICAO resolution of October but this resolution is not binding and many countries, including the EU members, made reservation on the respective part,” he said.

Europe, which wants to lead the global fight against climate change, included airlines in its carbon market last year after aviation emissions in the region doubled over two decades. Companies in the system are subject to a decreasing cap on their emissions and have to submit allowances by the end of April each year to cover discharges for the previous year.

There will be an extraordinary two-year compliance cycle for airlines from 2013 through 2014, according to the commission proposal. Allowances for emissions in those two years need to be surrendered by April 30, 2015. Carriers in the ETS are given free emission permits making up 85 percent of the industry cap and have to buy the remaining 15 percent at auctions.

The proposed legislation also reflects special exemptions for flights to and from developing states, as agreed by ICAO. Routes to and from those states whose share of international civil aviation is less than 1 percent should not be subject to carbon-market measures until a global program is implemented, ICAO decided earlier this month.

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