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Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council debate

On 20 September 2019, the Council held an extensive policy debate on transport aspects of the EU's long-term strategic vision for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and meeting its climate commitments under the Paris Agreement. The discussion was organised in three rounds, one of which focussed on air transport, with the aim to inform the European Council in the preparation of the EU’s long-term climate strategy to present to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) by 2020, and guide the Commission in the preparation of new legislative proposals.

The Presidency prepared the following questions for air transport:

  • The final preparations for the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) are ongoing in the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). In your view, what impact will CORSIA have in reducing aviation emissions and how should it be integrated with the EU's existing Emissions Trading System (ETS)? 
  • In your view, which measures would be most efficient for reducing aviation emissions, while maintaining socially accessible connectivity and competitiveness for the aviation sector and other economic sectors that depend on it? What additional measures could the EU take to reduce GHG emissions in aviation within the next five years (e.g. taxation, blending obligation for sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), air navigation charges)?

Discussion summary

Violeta Bulc opened the floor and mentioned the need to replace connectivity up to 600km with high-speed trains and, therefore, decarbonise regional connectivity.

  • Many member states (MS) confirmed the support for CORSIA, arguing that a global problem requires a global solution. However, global measures do not mean that the EU should not take action. In fact, all of the MS stated that CORSIA and EU ETS need to be integrated as they actually represent complementary measures. The EU needs to continue to lead by example and maintain its regional measure whilst ensuring the avoidance of double counting. Some raised the issue of the extra administrative burden that two schemes would present and that only one scheme should be considered for the future.
  • The use of clean technology was also discussed and that it needs to be reinforced and promoted. Aviation needs to focus on electrification, consulting the industry and electrifying the regional traffic. The use of SAF was very welcomed, but the supply is still too low and needs to be incentivised.
  • Alternatives to short/medium haul flights need to be considered, many MS mentioned that rail would be the best alternative to aviation, while Sweden stated that electrification of the regional connectivity should be the way to go.
  • Many highlighted the importance of SES and ATM improvement to reach carbon reductions.
  • Taxation was also addressed. Some MS were not supportive while others (e.g. FR, SE, DE, HU) mentioned the need to be able to tax aviation. France mentioned that EU ETS cannot be considered as a tax and that we need a balanced tax system. Germany followed- taxation at MS level would be disadvantageous and an EU tax should be considered to avoid any market distortion.