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A4E’s Position on Aviation ETS Following the 2016 ICAO Assembly

By  Brussels, — Last updated on 30 March 2020


A4E has welcomed the historic agreement reached by governments at the 39th Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) on a global scheme to address carbon emissions from international aviation. This unprecedented agreement is a milestone in the history of international climate change policy. We applaud States, the European Commission and the various stakeholders for working persistently through the ICAO system and finding the necessary compromises to establish the first sectoral deal to mitigate CO2 at global level. European airlines, the aviation industry, other stakeholders as well as European institutions have been consistently advocating a global solution for many years. Following the ICAO agreement, there is now an opportunity to have a fresh look at environmental regulation in Europe and to review existing measures such as the EU ETS for aviation (aviation ETS).

The “stop the clock” regime (Regulation 421/2014) expired at the end of 2016 with an automatic snap back to the full scope of aviation ETS, i.e. all flights arriving in and/or departing from the EU territories will be subject to aviation ETS requirements from a legal point of view. As we understand that the European Commission is currently assessing the ICAO outcome and preparing a legislative proposal to amend the aviation ETS, we would like to share A4E’s observations:

  • The European Commission has welcomed the ICAO agreement and A4E recognises the commitment and perseverance of the European Commission to reach this global solution. The Bratislava Declaration of 44 ECAC States expressing a commitment to join the global measure from the very start underlines the European support of the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for Internal Aviation (CORSIA). We fully trust that the European Commission will keep providing this strong support to the new global measure and will therefore ensure that any decision will be taken considering the priority of having the new agreement in place. In this context, A4E considers that the European Commission, in line with point 19 of the ICAO Assembly resolution, should not impose a unilateral measure addressing carbon emissions from international aviation by re-instating the full scope of aviation ETS. As witnessed in the past, this would result in detrimental effects on European trade relations.
  • Operators need clarity about the requirements for 2017 and beyond. A4E strongly encourages the European Commission to present their proposal to conclude the necessary legislative process which involves the European Parliament and the Council as soon as possible. A4E asks for additional guidance from the Commission to the national competent authorities to minimise uncertainty for operators, e.g. regarding monitoring requirements related to 2017 emissions, until the legislative process is concluded.
  • During the aviation ETS review, the European legislator should ensure the competitiveness of European carriers, avoid adverse financial implications and facilitate the transition of aviation ETS towards the ICAO offsetting scheme. Therefore, we expect the continuation of the aviation ETS in its “stop the clock”-form until 2020.
  • A4E’s expectation is that the ICAO scheme will replace the aviation ETS in Europe with CORSIA. The European legislation should therefore be amended to prevent regulation with separate, overlapping measures and a duplication of administrative obligations as this would place an economic burden on European operators.

Against this background, A4E calls upon the European Commission to:

  • Issue a legislative proposal as soon as possible;
  • Continue to restrict the scope of aviation ETS to intra-EEA flights from 2017;
  • Provide guidance for operators for their 2017 requirements until the legislator provides clarity.