Airlines are being urged to collect the most accurate emissions data possible between city pairs so they do not risk missing out on free carbon credits when Europe's emissions trading scheme comes into force.

Even though the final shape of the continent's trading regime is yet to be determined, the vote by the European Parliament on 13 November supporting a launch date of 2011 means that operators could need more precise monitoring and reporting data from as early as 1 January 2008.

Speaking at an Aviation Emissions Trading Scheme conference in London last week, lawyer Nicholas Rock of Dewey & LeBoeuf warned that if independent validators disagree with their annual tonne-kilometre data (distance x payload) calculations, airlines could be forced to surrender their claim to free allowances and be forced to buy them on the market.

Assuming a 2011 launch, airlines will be able to apply in April 2009 using 2008 data. "Levels of aviation activity in 2008 should therefore be assumed to be of particular significance," said Rock.

The European Commission is still in the process of developing detailed guidelines for monitoring and reporting of emissions. This is expected to be ready by March.

Member states will be responsible for policing the system with excess emissions attracting penalties of �100 ($148) per tonne plus an obligation to surrender any shortfall the following year.

Rock therefore recommends that distance is calculated on the basis of great circle measurement between airports of departure and arrival and that payload data features total mass of freight, mail and passengers. Fuel consumption should be calculated on the basis of amount of fuel in tanks on uplift, and uplift once each subsequent flight is completed.

Danielle Chapman, tour operator TUI UK's head of industry affairs, says that as a business that sells holidays in advance with a lead-in of 18 months, it has prepared for the scheme by developing a daily fuel monitoring system, perfecting the presentation of monthly data, which it already collected. She adds, however, that until the details of the final directive are known, including standardised formulas and data availability, an estimation of scheme costs was impossible. "The margin of error is substantial," she says.

Source: Flight International