AAPA welcomes ETS suspension, but remains cautious

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The Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) "cautiously welcomes" the EU's decision to suspend the inclusion of intercontinental flights in its Emissions Trading System.

Aviation was included in the EU ETS on 1 January 2012, obliging all carriers to document their CO2 emissions and purchase permits in the event that they exceed their allowances. The first payments had been due in April 2013, but this will now be deferred until after the next general assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in October 2013.

While the UN body has been opposed to Europe's regional initiative, the EU says that a global "market-based mechanism" that could be agreed at the ICAO appears within reach. If no global solution can be found during the one-year timeframe, however, the EU ETS will "automatically" apply again for intercontinental flights, it adds.

"In making this long overdue move, the EU has finally bowed to the inevitable, in effect acknowledging that it cannot unilaterally impose the scheme on non-EU airlines without the consent of other governments," says the AAPA director-general, Andrew Herdman.

"Temporarily suspending the scheme is obviously a positive gesture by the EU, but may not go far enough. The implied threat of an automatic snapback in a year's time means that the EU will still be seen by some as negotiating with a gun on the table."

Herdman says that the AAPA believes that a coherent global policy framework on aviation emissions is needed and ICAO is the right forum to reach such an agreement.

"The alternative would be disastrous - a patchwork of overlapping national schemes and punitive taxes. However, we must recognise that, in line with the wider debate on climate policy, this is an inherently political process, and one in which the diverse interests of countries large and small, rich and poor, need to be reconciled," he adds.

"The announcement by the ICAO Council of the establishment of a high-level group is a positive step towards addressing, and hopefully resolving, these difficult issues."