Germany Levies Fines on Aircraft Operators Over Emissions

Germany ordered 61 aircraft operators from countries including Russia and the U.S. to pay fines for breaching European Union emissions-trading rules.

The penalties are the first since the EU included aviation in its carbon market, the world’s largest, in 2012, drawing protests from the U.S. and emerging countries. The emissions-trading system allows sanctions at the EU level and by individual governments for actions including failure to submit emissions permits to cover greenhouse-gas discharges.

German regulators sent sanction letters, which order the recipients to pay fines, to 17 operators in Germany and 44 in other countries in and outside of Europe for not observing ETS rules in 2012, a spokesperson for emissions trading at the German environment agency said yesterday.

Total penalties amount to 2.7 million euros ($3.7 million), said the spokesperson, who asked not to be identified according to agency policy. German officials declined to name the recipients of the sanction letters.

Emitters that fail to surrender the required number of permits face fines of 100 euros per metric ton of carbon under EU law. Member countries can also impose further penalties. EU emission permits for delivery in December rose 0.2 percent to 5.48 euros a metric ton at the ICE Futures Europe exchange as of 1:15 p.m. in London today.

EU governments have delayed the decision on penalties, risking the credibility of the ETS, according to the Transport & Environment green lobby. The group earlier this year asked authorities in the U.K., the Netherlands and Germany to take steps to ensure airlines comply with the EU carbon rules.

‘Equitably Applied’

“We now need to see details of all offenders to ensure the law has been fairly and equitably applied,” said Bill Hemmings, Brussels-based sustainable-aviation manager at Transport & Environment.

Germany is responsible for overseeing about 500 aircraft operators under the ETS, including international airlines such as Delta Air Lines Inc., Air China Ltd. and Russia’s OAO Aeroflot, as well as companies or individuals who own an aircraft. Operators have one month to object to the sanction notices, according to the agency.

In the U.K., officials said there are no formal deadlines for the issuing of civil penalties in emissions cases.

“The regulators will publish details of penalties issued in relation to a failure to surrender sufficient allowances in the event of any such penalties being issued, and once the appeal process is complete,” a spokesperson for the U.K. Department of Energy and Climate Change said by e-mail.

International Agreement

The inclusion of aviation in the EU cap-and-trade program sparked opposition from countries including the U.S., India, China, Russia and Brazil, which said any curbs on discharges from airlines should be regulated by an international agreement.

The EU subsequently agreed to freeze emissions-trading obligations for flights into and out of Europe and keep them only on flights within the bloc in 2012. The program originally covered the entire length of flights originating or ending at EU airports. Earlier this month, the EU prolonged the exemption and decided to spare carriers ranging from U.S. Airways to Air India Ltd. the need to pay for emissions from foreign flights for an extra four years, through 2016.

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.

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