Session of the Council of the European Union
Fri 10 Oct 2008 – At a European Union Council meeting in Luxembourg yesterday, transport ministers called for the European Commission to engage with third countries on international aviation emissions. The Commission was urged to persuade them to adopt equivalent measures to the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, which should be included in the framework of aviation bilateral agreements. The Council appears to have backtracked on an agreement with the European Parliament that ETS auction revenues must be ring-fenced for environmental measures.
The Council recognizes that the the high cost of fuel has put an economic burden on airlines but this, it says, should “constitute an incentive for them to accelerate their fleet modernization programmes and make the most of other short term efficiency measures in order to improve their energy performance.”
In a statement released after the meeting, the Council says that despite the current pressures facing the sector, overall traffic growth is still likely to exceed the rate of emissions reduction due to performance gains from improved technology. Taking economic measures “will contribute to limit this sector’s emissions and is therefore justified,” it notes, believing the inclusion of aviation into emissions trading schemes has been “recognized at an international level” to be the most cost-effective solution compared to other economic and fiscal measures.
The Council says the agreement it reached with the European Parliament at the end of June “strikes an appropriate balance between the environmental integrity of the ETS scheme for aviation, on the one hand, and the international competitiveness framework in which the aviation sector operates, on the other hand.”
It states the ETS is only a first step towards the implementation of international measures to reduce aviation emissions and the EU is willing, if necessary, to adapt it to fit a global framework. In order to set up a global system, the Council requests the European Commission “to continue to engage with third countries on the EU ETS to explore possibilities for such States to introduce equivalent measures as provided for under the relevant section of the Directive. It should promote the application of these provisions in particular in the framework of aviation agreements with third countries.”
The Council statement notes the work of the ICAO Group on International Aviation and Climate Change (GIACC), which it expects to produce “far-reaching proposals” in developing an action programme and common international strategy by next year in time for decisions to be taken at the UNFCCC Copenhagen meeting in December 2009.
The last-minute agreement back in June between the Council and Parliament over EU ETS aviation directive included a hard-won proposal by Parliament, reluctantly conceded by the Council, that revenues raised by Member States through the auctioning of allowances must be used for environmental measures. Slovenian Environment Minister, Janez Podobnik, whose country held the EU Presidency at the time, issued a statement after the agreement saying auctioning revenues “are to be used to tackle climate change in the EU and third countries, including measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to fund research and development for mitigation and adaptation in the aeronautical and low-emissions transport field. While the precise amount to be used for these measures has not yet been set, revenues must be used to fight climate change, and the Member States are required to report to the Commission on the use of these revenues.”
However, it appears ministers have backtracked on the agreement. In the statement released yesterday, the Council says: “It is for the Member States to determine, in accordance with their constitutional and budgetary provisions, how revenues generated by the auctioning of aviation sector emission allowances are to be used, and that in this context, they undertake to combat climate change.”
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