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Industry comment

A regular opinion piece from ERA Director General Simon McNamara, featured in ERA magazine Regional International, March/April 2017 issue

The environment strikes back

Since the agreement at the ICAO Assembly last October on a global economic system to reduce aviation’s CO2 emissions, there has been little official word on what the EU would do with its own Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) in light of this development. Despite the lack of public comment, there has been much input behind the scenes by the industry, including by ERA, and the European Commission (EC) finally published its proposal in early February.

In summary, the EC’s proposal is for an extension of its current limited scope system that only captures European flights in the scheme until at least 2021 when the ICAO scheme comes into force. Importantly, the EC proposal doesn’t guarantee replacement of the EU scheme with the ICAO scheme, raising the prospect of two schemes for European operators with potentially double compliance.

Within ERA, we have always been upfront about our frustration with the fact that the EU ETS, in its current form, has limited environmental effectiveness but adds additional compliance complexity to operators and that position has not changed. We will see where the proposal by the EC goes, but at all costs, we need to avoid the prospect of a dual scheme and that will be an important focus for ERA.

It is also important not to lose sight of the other means of reducing our CO2 footprint – namely new technology, operational measures and air traffic management. It is time for EU states to make the same commitment they have made to economic measures and put a renewed effort into delivering major infrastructure projects such as the Single European Sky that have been gaining little headway recently. Arguably, these projects have much more potential to reduce aviation’s CO2 emissions and improve flight efficiency than economic instruments such as the EU ETS.