Airlines For America (A4A) does not foresee softening its stance on the European Union's controversial emissions trading scheme (ETS) any time soon, said the trade association's VP environmental affairs Nancy Young at a 20 June panel organised by the Royal Aeronautical Society's Washington branch.
The EU ETS went into effect for the aviation sector on 1 January and has since received much international backlash from airlines-especially those in the US, China, India and Russia.
Young stands by A4A's view that the EU's emissions trading scheme is "unilateral" and "extraterritorial," violating the sovereignty of non-EU member states because aircraft will fly through non-EU airspace during long-haul flights. Young gave the example that on a flight from San Francisco to London, less than 9% of emissions take place in EU airspace.
Günter Hörmandinger, environment counsellor for the European Union Delegation to the US, said that the ETS does not limit the sovereignty of non-EU countries because it is only applied when the aircraft land in the EU, instead of being calculated based on the emissions that airlines expel within EU airspace.
On 6 June, Young testified to the US Senate commerce, sciences and transportation committee on behalf of the trade organisation in opposition to the EU ETS. She urged the US to induct a legal challenge to the scheme under Article 84 of the Chicago Convention, a long-standing international aviation agreement that allows ICAO to deal with violations of the treaty.
"We do want the Article 84 to be a fulcrum for getting the parties to the table," said Young. The EU testified to Congress the same day that the ETS is "fully consistent" with the Chicago Convention. European Union overturned legal challenges from airlines in Dec. 2011, and A4A retired a private lawsuit against the scheme.
Legislation to include aviation into the EU ETS entered into force in 2009 and became effective for airlines on 1 Jan. 2012, but airlines will not incur charges for emissions until 2013. By 2020 the goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to at least 20% of the levels seen in 1990. The EU said in its Senate testimony that by 2020, it expects aviation emissions levels to be 70% higher than they were in 2005. It states that it expects reductions of 27.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in 2012 alone by applying the ETS to the aviation industry.
Under the ETS, airlines receive allowances for a certain amount of emissions. The EU says that in 2012, 85% of aviation allowances will be given to the airlines for free, and they will receive 82% for free until 2020. Operators can increase their emissions by offsetting them with credits.
Hörmandinger reiterated that the EU's decision to include aviation companies in the tax is a step forward until the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) further develops its framework for reduction.
"This was very decidedly the second best option," said Hörmandinger, speaking of ICAO's decision to not adopt its own legal instrument to reduce emissions after formally adopting a goal in 2004 to limit or reduce their impact.
The EU has stated that there is no chance of suspending the legislation, but Young told the audience "we think it should be withdrawn, period." The trade association believes that ICAO is the appropriate body to mandate greenhouse gas rules in aviation, as it is represents the global aviation industry.
Hörmandinger noted that A4A and ICAO have communicated separate targets from each other for emissions reductions, stressing that consistency is necessary.
ICAO plans to lay out the details of its emissions reduction plan at its assembly in 2013. It has set a target for emissions reductions of 2% year-on-year by 2020 followed by carbon-neutral growth. It has a set of 15 principles that its members should follow and is considering four options for reducing carbon emissions: mandatory offsetting, offsetting combined with additional revenue raising mechanisms, an emissions trading scheme and an emissions-trading baseline and credit system.
A4A and IATA laid out its own goal in 2009 to set targets for reducing emissions, which included an annual carbon dioxide efficiency improvement of 1.5% per year on a revenue per mile basis through 2020, when aviation emissions would be capped. After 2020, the association's goal is to have cut emissions from US operators in half by 2050 when compared to 2005 levels.