EU environment ministers have failed to seize a key opportunity to curb emissions from the aviation sector through the European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), WWF said at the conclusion of the EU Environment Council in Brussels.
Whilst all industrial sectors included in the ETS are required to do their share to put the EU on track to meet its Kyoto emissions reduction target, the ceiling on carbon emissions from airlines proposed by the Council is almost 90 per cent above 1990 levels, WWF reports.
“This is a Christmas gift to the aviation industry which should be required to do its fair share in tackling climate change. The sector’s carbon emissions are growing by four to five per cent per year, and ministers failure to grapple with this is completely at odds with the European pledge to reduce emissions by 20-30 per cent by 2020,” said Delia Villagrasa, Senior Advisor at WWF European Policy Office.
“Europe took a strong stance at the Bali climate talks, but seems to have taken a backward step with this lenient approach towards the aviation sector.”
Whilst the European Parliament had asked airlines to take part in the scheme from 2011, the Council postponed the start date to 2012, giving the aviation sector even more time to pollute, according to WWF.
In the first phase of the broader EU Emissions Trading Scheme, the power sector reaped windfall profits of many billions of Euros because companies were given free pollution allowances but were able to pass on the costs to consumers. Now the Council looks set to let this happen again with airlines, because it has opted for very low levels of auctioning of pollution permits – only 10 per cent.
WWF says that full auctioning of allowances would eradicate the potential for the accrual of windfall profits, provide the most incentives for airlines to seek to reduce emissions, and would generate substantial revenues of around 3.3. to 9.8 billion Euros per year which could be used for positive action against climate change.
Scientists estimate that the effect of aviation emissions on the climate is up to five times the impact of emissions occurring on the ground. But again, the Council failed to address this problem, in direct contrast to the European Parliament who agreed to apply a ‘multiplier’ of 2 on allowances bought by airlines from other sectors. The multiplier of 2 means that for every tonne of CO2 emitted above the cap, airlines would have to buy 2 allowances from other land based sectors within the wider Emissions Trading Scheme.
The aviation proposal now goes back to the European Parliament for a second reading vote likely to take place in spring next year. In this second phase of the decision-making process, WWF urges the EU to show that it is serious about its commitments on climate change by significantly beefing up the aviation proposal.
The EU has pledged through the Kyoto Protocol to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 8 per cent by 2012 from 1990 levels.
Revenues estimated by WWF are based on aviation sector being allocated allowances based on emissions in 2005 (217.69MtCO2) and an allowance price of €15 and €45.
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