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10th Dec 2022

MEPs give final blessing to airline emissions deal

MEPs on Tuesday (8 July) approved a plan to include airlines into a pollution-reducing Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) from 2012 in a bid to cut the greenhouse gases emitted by the fast-growing sector.

The move was approved by 640 votes in favour and 30 against and means that airlines will have to cut their CO2 emissions by 3 percent in 2012, and by 5 percent from 2013 onwards.

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Additionally, they will have to pay for permits covering 15 percent of their allowances to emit CO2 – the remaining 85 percent will be allocated for free.

Following an agreement with EU governments last month, all steps have now been completed for the proposal to be transformed into law and it is to apply to all companies flying in and out of the EU, including non-European ones.

"This can be considered a revolution because until now we have not yet included products from third countries," said the MEP in charge of the dossier, German Christian Democrat Peter Liese.

"We are striving for an international agreement but we will have to wait until the US will have elected a new president called John McCain or Barack Obama who takes climate protection seriously," he added.

The proposal is part of the EU's emissions trading system, seen as the cornerstone of efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent by 2020.

Mixed reactions

The European Commission welcomed it as an important step in the general fight against climate change.

"This agreement will enable the aviation sector to make a fair contribution to Europe's climate change targets as many other sectors are already doing," stated Stavros Dimas, EU environment commissioner.

"Greenhouse gas emissions from international air transport are increasing faster than from any other sector in the EU, and this growth threatens to undermine our overall progress in cutting emissions," he added.

But the deal drew strong criticism from air carriers who fear the new rules would harm their competitiveness.

"Today's vote creates the worst of all worlds - even more financial pressure on airlines without any proven benefits for the environment. Policymakers have succeeded in diverting any potential investment by airlines in new fleet and technology," said Sylviane Lust, director general of the International Air Carrier Association (IACA).

"The scheme's starting point is wrong… It will be crippling for many airlines especially in today's era of high fuel price and weakening demand," she added.

US officials and US-based airlines have also criticised the plan in the past in particular its extension to non-EU airlines.

G8 agree to halve emissions by 2050

Meanwhile, G8 leaders agreed on Tuesday to work together with the countries involved in the UN climate change talks toward cutting current greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2050.

UN-led talks on fighting climate change are set to conclude in Copenhagen in December 2009.

The leaders of the group of eight largest economies in the world - US, Canada, Russia, Japan, the UK, Germany, Italy and France – also said they would need to set mid-term goals, but did not commit to any at this stage.

Their announcement was met with criticism by environmentalists.

"At this rate, by 2050 the world will be cooked and the G-8 leaders will be long forgotten," Antonio Hill, spokesman for Oxfam International, told The Associated Press.

Kim Carstensen, director of the WWF Global Climate Initiative, said the G8 leaders' statement did not represent significant progress.

"The G8 are responsible for 62 per cent of the carbon dioxide accumulated in the Earth's atmosphere, which makes them the main culprit of climate change and the biggest part of the problem… WWF finds it pathetic that they still duck their historic responsibility and refuse to turn from the main driver of the problem into the main driver of the solution," he said in a press release.

"So little progress after a whole year of ministerial meetings and negotiations is not only a wasted opportunity, it falls dangerously short of what is needed to protect people and nature from climate change," he added.

Aviation industry attacks mandatory 'polluter pays' principle

The aviation industry has reacted angrily to a fresh deal between the European Parliament and EU governments to make airlines a part of a pollution-reducing scheme from 2012, saying that policymakers have "completely disregarded the future" of the sector.

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