Uncertainty fogs first EU ETS deadline

Washington DC
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Questions remain for US carriers preparing to comply with the European Union's emissions trading scheme (ETS) even as the United Kingdom has instituted an extension for the programme's first deadline.

Airlines flying into EU airports are required to submit their emissions monitoring, reporting and verification plans to their assigned administering country by 31 August as the EU plans to fold aviation into its ETS from 2012.

Delays in the European Commission's validation of the Eurocontrol ETS Support Facility to track fuel burn caused the UK to give airlines three additional months to register and submit their plans from the time the commission finalises administering assignments. Initially expected in June or July, firm assignments are now likely in early August.

Despite the lag, the United Kingdom remains "committed to including aviation in the EU ETS from 2012."

However, the UK postponement could trigger other EU countries to also offer an initial extension given that the United Kingdom was one of the few administering states to begin implementing ETS into its national laws.

While the Air Transport Association of America (ATA) contends that the UK postponement was "extremely warranted", ATA vice-president of environmental affairs Nancy Young cautions that there are "still questions outstanding as to what this postponement means".

Chiefly, she would like more detail as to how the delay will impact other ETS deadlines. Airlines are currently required to begin tracking their emissions from January 2010 in accordance with the monitoring plans they submit this year.

Flight has been told by a senior source at the European Commission that regulators will likely maintain the January 2010 deadline.

It remains unclear if other EU countries plans to offer similar extensions to the UK. Young of ATA says the association has received no indication of other nations announcing similar delays.

"ATA has member airlines reportedly subject to France, Germany, Italy and possibly even the Netherlands. Presumably the same issues coming up in the UK are coming up in those other countries," she says.

The majority of airlines-some 750 operators-will likely be subject to the UK's jurisdiction, including American Airlines, Continental Airlines, United Airlines and Air Canada.

US Airways, Delta Air Lines and cargo operators Atlas Air and UPS will likely report to Germany while FedEx has been tentatively delegated to France.

The preliminary list also shows that Delta subsidiary Northwest Airlines would file to the Netherlands but it remains unclear how last year's merger of Delta and Northwest will affect those carriers' submission requirements.

While carriers await more information regarding ETS deadlines, there also is concern about errors in the preliminary list of affected operators.

One ATA carrier on the list currently provides no service to the EU while another ATA operator with EU service has been omitted. Young declined to identify either airline.

Meanwhile, the association still contends that aviation's inclusion in the ETS violates international law.