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February 2022, Virtual
The future of the European Union’s emissions trading scheme (ETS) is in doubt despite a deal being reached to create a global emissions plan for airlines.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), which is part of the United Nations, has struck a deal at its assembly in Montreal to come up with a global carbon emissions scheme by 2016 which would then be implemented by 2020.
But in a rebuke to the EU, delegates refused to endorse the EU’s plan to include foreign airlines within its regional ETS before the global scheme is activated at the end of the decade. Although this is not legally binding and it will be up to the EU to decide what to do next with its ETS.
The EU had wanted to start charging foreign carriers for their emissions within European airspace. EU-based carriers are already being charged under ETS for flights between European cities.
Despite this blow, European commissioners took credit for driving the debate on emissions trading and reaching a worldwide deal at the ICAO assembly.
EU commissioner for transport Siim Kallas said: “If it hadn't been for the EU's hard work, wouldn't have got decision to create a global market measure.”
The EU had provoked fears of a trade war with the rest of the world last year by planning to include non-EU airlines flying to Europe within its regional ETS. But the EU backed down in favour of reaching a global deal through ICAO in November 2012.
Connie Hedegaard, EU climate change commissioner, added: “After so many years of talks, ICAO has finally agreed to the first-ever global deal to curb aviation emissions.
“If it hadn't been for the EU's hard work and determination, we wouldn't have got this decision to create a global market-based measure. What matters to us is that the aviation sector also contributes to our efforts to reduce emissions.
“While we would have liked more countries to accept our regional scheme, progress was made overall and we will now factor this in when, together with the member states and the European Parliament, we decide on the way forward with the EU ETS.”
ICAO’s council will now draw up a plan for a global carbon market for airlines which will be submitted to the next assembly in 2016.
IATA’s director general Tony Tyler hailed the ICAO decision as a “great day for aviation” and a “landmark agreement”.
“Industry, civil society and governments have worked hard to reach this point and keep aviation at the forefront of industries managing their climate change impact,” added Tyler.
"Now we have a strong mandate and a short three-year time frame to sort out the details."