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European Parliament backs CO2 emissions plan
Amsterdam Schiphol airport. © Schiphol Group

European Parliament backs CO2 emissions plan

Airlines would remain exempt from paying for CO2 emissions from intercontinental flights until 2020 under plans backed by the European Parliament on Wednesday.

The European Parliament has voted to prolong the intercontinental exemption from EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) rules until December 2020, pending the introduction of a worldwide scheme to offset CO2 emissions from air transport.

However, from 2021 onwards, the aviation sector should receive only half of its EU ETS allowances for free, say MEPs, as against 85% today.

Parliament also wants EU member states to earmark revenue from the auctioning of emission allowances for climate change policies.

The European Commission will have to report on the setting up of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s global scheme (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation - CORSIA) and if necessary, propose to amend, delete or extend the intercontinental flight exemption.

"It is sensible that we extend the exemption for international flights to and from the EU until there is greater clarity on the ICAO scheme. However, unlike the European Commission, I believe this exemption must be time limited so that we can be sure that the CORSIA will deliver its objective”, said lead MEP Julie Girling (ECR, UK).

MEPs introduced an amendment to ensure that in the event of a so-called “hard” Brexit, EU ETS CO2 allowances given free to UK airlines and stationary installations cannot be used for compliance. The amendment would function as a safeguard against UK allowances flooding the ETS market.

The EU was the world’s first region to address CO2 emissions from international aviation, by including aviation in the EU ETS, with effect from 1 January 2012. However, the USA and other nations opposed the inclusion of intercontinental flights in the EU ETS.

The application of the ETS to intercontinental flights was temporarily suspended, until the end of 2016, to allow the ICAO to develop global emission-reduction measures and avoid conflicts with international trading partners.

In October 2016, the ICAO approved a global market-based measure (GMBM), which is to take effect in 2021. In February 2017, the EU Commission proposed a regulation to prolong the exemption for intercontinental flights, gradually reduce the number of aviation CO2 allowances from 2021 onwards, and prepare to implement the GMBM.

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