The European Union has provoked a new international row over airline emissions by deciding to go ahead with the expansion of its emissions trading scheme (ETS) from January 2014.
The EU is planning to charge all airlines under ETS for the part of flights over European airspace from January 1, despite such a measure being struck out of an agreement made by ICAO last month which set out proposals for the launch of a global emissions trading system for airlines by 2020.
The planned extension of ETS from next year would run until the global system is implemented at the end of the decade. Currently the EU is just charging ETS for airlines flying between airports within the European Economic Area (EEA) which includes the 28 member countries plus Norway and Iceland.
Originally, the EU had planned to charge all flights to Europe for the entire length of their journeys which led to protests from major trading partners elsewhere in the world including the US, China, India and Russia. The EU backed down from this plan last November to wait for a solution to be agreed through ICAO.
Connie Hedegaard, European commissioner for climate action, said: “In the light of the recent progress made at ICAO, not least thanks to Europe's hard work and determination, the European Commission has proposed to adjust the EU ETS so that emissions from the aviation sector would be covered for the part of flights that takes place in European regional airspace
“The aviation sector also has to contribute, as aviation emission are increasing fast – doubling since 1990. I am confident that the European Parliament and the Council will move swiftly and approve this proposal without delay.
“With this proposal, Europe is taking the responsibility to reduce emissions within its own airspace until the global measure begins'.”
The EC wants the proposed extension of ETS to be agreed by the European Parliament and Council by March 2014 to “provide clarity for aircraft operators”.