A lack of vital information on the complex procedures governing how airlines report their carbon emissions has forced the UK to postpone the first critical deadline set down in the Brussels blueprint.
All airlines flying into European Union airports are required to send their reporting plans to various supervising national authorities by a 31 August deadline under rules that will see the EU emission trading scheme (ETS) extended to include international aviation from 2012.
The majority - about 750 operators - will be allocated to the UK, including most of the large US carriers, such as American Airlines, Continental Airlines and United Airlines, Middle Eastern airlines such as Emirates and Etihad, Asian airlines such as Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines and Singapore Airlines, as well as Air New Zealand, Qantas and South African Airways.
But delays in the European Commission's validation of the Eurocontrol ETS Support Facility to track fuel burn have caused the UK to give airlines a further three months to register and submit their plans from the time the Commission finalises an updated list of airlines that fall within the scheme - which is now expected in early August.
"In order to require aviation operators to submit monitoring plans under the Aviation EU Emissions Trading System, there needs to be a firm and agreed list of operators to be regulated by each member state," the UK environment department stated in early July. "This list was originally scheduled to be published in February. Until this list is formally published, we are legally unable to lay the first-stage regulations transposing the Aviation EU ETS Directive."
The UK was one of the few administering states that had begun to implement ETS into its national laws and although no other EU member state is currently thought to be taking similar delaying action, others could soon follow suit given the UK's leading role in its implementation.
The delay was confirmed at a recent workshop at Eurocontrol in Brussels attended by Commission environment chiefs, following which a senior source told Flight that despite the postponement, regulators were likely to remain on track for the January 2010 milestone when airlines start to monitor their revenue-tonne-km figures, which will ultimately determine their all-important free allowances when carbon trading goes live.
The UK is also determined that the scheme will start on schedule, saying: "We remain committed to including aviation in the EU ETS from 2012."