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18th Sep 2021

EU ministers to include airlines in emissions trade

  • The avian sector accounts for 3 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Europe (Photo: Airbus)

EU environment minister on Friday (3 December) endorsed a European Commission proposal to include airlines systems as part of the European emission-trading scheme.

The move is aimed at curbing emissions of so-called greenhouse gases, blamed for causing global warming.

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The commission proposed in September that all planes taking off from EU airports should be included in the scheme.

The decision would bring the sector in line with around 10,000 CO2-emitting firms in other industry areas, which have been already trading emission quotas since January.

"The aviation sector must take its share of responsibility for tackling the problem of climate change," British Transport Secretary Alistair Darling said in a statement welcoming the environment ministers' support.

Making airlines take part in the bloc's carbon dioxide emissions trading scheme is expected to draw opposition from the United States and international airlines, who have announced that "emission trading must not be allowed to distort competition or create additional burdens for Europe's airline industry".

Mixed signals

Airlines account for about 3 percent of emissions in the EU, and the flight industry is expected to become the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases by 2050 without curbs, according to the Airports Council International Europe.

The emission trading scheme, put in place in January, is a centrepiece of EU efforts to comply with the Kyoto Protocol which limits the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that big polluters like power plants and oil refineries can emit.

Companies buy more rights to pollute if they overshoot their target or sell them if they come in below the cap.

Critics of the scheme, have said that emissions trading in its current state makes member states put national interests over common environmental goals, arguing that when free emission quotas are handed out cost-free among member states, each state does its best to give national companies as many quotas as possible - against the aim to actually reduce emissions.

The Greens in the European Parliament want to auction the quotas among the companies so that the company who wants to trade quotas will have to buy them first.

On the other hand, an overwhelming majority of MEPs adopted a report in November on climate change, suggesting even more binding targets to reduce CO2 emissions and to include the aviation sector in the overall emissions trading scheme.

Only a few days later however, British environment secretary Margaret Beckett, suggested that voluntary targets for cutting emissions should be introduced when the Kyoto climate agreement ends in 2012, saying it would be impossible to achieve a consensus on compulsory targets.

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